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Links and Thoughts (June '23)
Buckle up boys and girls, we’re getting REAL weird this month.
1. Artist: RedruM
2. A strange and ghastly tale:
Craniopagus parasiticus is an extremely rare type of parasitic twinning occurring in about 2 to 3 of 5,000,000 births. In craniopagus parasiticus, a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped body is attached to the head of a developed twin. Fewer than a dozen cases of this type of conjoined twin have been documented in literature.
From “The Two-Headed Boy of Bengal” (emphasis mine):
In May 1783, in a small village named Mundul Gaut, in Bengal, India, a strange child was born. He had two heads.
The midwife assisting the birth was so horrified by the child's appearance that she tried to kill the monstrosity by throwing him into the fire. Fortunately, the baby was rescued with some burns in one eye and ear. The parents, after recovering from the initial shock, began to see the newborn as a money making opportunity, and with that in mind, left their village for Calcutta where their deformed baby could be exhibited.
Between shows, to prevent the crowd from taking a peek without paying, his parents kept the unfortunate child hidden, usually under a sheet, sometimes for hours at a time. As his fame spread across India, several nobleman, civil servants and city officials invited the child and his parents to their homes for private exhibitions, where their guests could examine the curious specimen up close. One of these observers was a Colonel Pierce who described the encounter to the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks and it was Sir Banks who later forwarded the account to the surgeon Everard Home.
The second head had a few irregularities— the ears were malformed, the tongue was small, and the lower jaw was rather small, but otherwise both heads were of the same size, and were covered by black hair at their junction. Both heads seemed to function independently. When the child cried or smiled, the features of the upper head were not always affected and did not match the emotion of the child. When the child slept, the second head might be awake and its eyes moving as if observing the surrounding.
The second head reacted to external stimulus; a pinch in the cheek produced a grimace, and when it was given the breast, its lips attempted to suck. It also produced plenty of tears and saliva.
One day when the child was 4 years old, his mother left him alone to fetch water. When she returned, she found the child dead by the bite of a cobra. Many anatomists offered to buy the corpse, but the religious parents could not allow such desecration. The child was buried near the Boopnorain River, outside the city of Tumloch, but his grave was robbed by Mr. Dent, a salt agent for the East India Company. He dissected the putrefied body and gave the skull to a Captain Buchanan of the East Indian Company. The captain later brought the skull to England and gave it to his friend Everard Home. The skull of the Boy of Bengal can still be seen at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of London.
One can only hope that Mr. Dent and Mr. Home and/or their descendants suffered terrible misfortune.
When Mr. Dent dissected the heads, he discovered that the brains were separate and distinct. Each brain was firmly covered in its own dura mater and was supplied by large vessels which delivered nutrition to the upper head.
I can’t trace it back to the original source but some of the articles/posts floating around on the internet claim that, “The boy claimed he could hear the other brain telling him things.”
3. The best version of the trolley problem
4. The art and life of Forrest Bess:
Forrest Clemenger Bess (October 5, 1911 – November 10, 1977) was an American painter and fisherman. He was discovered and promoted by the art dealer Betty Parsons. He is known for his abstract, symbol-laden paintings based on what he called “visions.”
In the 1950s, he also began a lifelong correspondence with art professor and author Meyer Schapiro and sexologist John Money. In these and other letters (which were donated to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art) Bess makes it clear that his paintings were only part of a grander theory, based on alchemy, the philosophy of Carl Jung, and the rituals of Australian aborigines, which proposed that becoming a hermaphrodite was the key to immortality. He was never able to win any converts to his theories or validation from the many doctors and psychologists with whom he corresponded. In his own home town of Bay City, he was considered something of a small-town eccentric.
The events of the night in 1955 or the late 1950s on which Forrest Bess became a pseudo-hermaphrodite are not clear. According to Bess, he paid a local physician, Dr. R. H. Jackson, $100 and several paintings to perform the necessary surgery. Sex researcher Dr. John Money later corresponded at length with Bess and concluded that Bess, who exhibited an extensive knowledge of anatomy, medical procedures and painkilling drugs, had operated on himself and invented the doctor's participation to legitimize his experiment. The doctor apparently did attend Bess on the night in question. Jackson died shortly after supposedly performing a second operation on Bess in late 1961.
The anatomical facts, however, are clear. In accordance with the aborigine ritual, an opening or fistula was created beneath Bess's penis at its junction with the scrotum. This opening led through an incision in the urethra to the bulbocavernous urethra, a naturally enlarged section of the urethra that Bess insisted was capable of intense orgasmic stimulation. According to Bess's theories, the bulbous section of the urethra could, if sufficiently dilated, receive another penis in what would be the ultimate, eternally rejuvenating form of sexual intercourse. This physical manifestation of his theory never achieved the results he had hoped for and this quest for immortality was the beginning of a slow decline in both his health and his creative output.
5. The comic book art of Philippe Druillet
6. “Inferno I, 32” by Jorge Luis Borges
From the half-light of dawn to the half-light of evening, the eyes of a leopard, in the last years of the twelfth century, looked upon a few wooden boards, some vertical iron bars, some varying men and women, a blank wall, and perhaps a stone gutter littered with dry leaves. The leopard did not know, could not know, that it yearned for love and cruelty and the hot pleasure of tearing flesh and a breeze with the scent of deer, but something inside it was suffocating and howling in rebellion, and God spoke to it in a dream: You shall live and die in this prison, so that a man that I have knowledge of may see you a certain number of times and never forget you and put your figure and your symbol into a poem, which has its exact place in the weft of the universe. You suffer captivity, but you shall have given a word to the poem. In the dream, God illuminated the animal's rude understanding and the animal grasped the reasons and accepted its fate, but when it awoke there was only an obscure resignation in it, a powerful ignorance, because the machine of the world is exceedingly complex for the simplicity of a savage beast.
Years later, Dante was to die in Ravenna, as unjustified and alone as any other man. In a dream, God told him the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, astonished, learned at last who he was and what he was, and he blessed the bitternesses of his life. Legend has it that when he awoke, he sensed that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something he would never be able to recover, or even to descry from afar, because the machine of the world is exceedingly complex for the simplicity of men.
7. Book Review: Geography of Madness - Scott Alexander at his best.
Around the wide world, all cultures share a few key features. Anthropologists debate the precise extent, but the basics are always there. Language. Tools. Marriage. Family. Ritual. Music. And penis-stealing witches.
9. Sleep by Haruki Murakami - really enjoyed this one, best short story I’ve read in a while.
10. Artist: Chewy Stoll
11. The Temples of Humankind and the Federation of Damanhur
The Temples of Humankind are a collection of subterranean temples buried 30 metres (100 ft) underground built by the Federation of Damanhur. They are decorated in several motifs stressing peaceful human collaboration. The Temples are located in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 50 kilometres (30 mi) from Turin, in the valley of Valchiusella.
The temples were created under the direction of Oberto Airaudi who, having claimed visions of ancient temples at age 10 from a previous life, began excavation and building in August 1978. By 1991 most of the chambers were reportedly complete when Italian police, acting on a tip from villagers, conducted a raid on the Temples. However, since the temples were so well hidden, police were unable to locate them until state prosecutor Bruno Tinti threatened “show us these temples or we will dynamite the entire hillside.” Eventually the Italian government reportedly gave them retroactive excavation and erection privileges and the Temples are now open to visitors.
The Federation of Damanhur, often called simply Damanhur, is a commune, ecovillage, and spiritual community situated in the Piedmont region of northern Italy about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of the city of Turin. Damanhur is named after the Egyptian city of Damanhur which was the site of a temple dedicated to Horus. It was founded in 1975 by Oberto Airaudi with around 24 followers, and by 2000 the number had grown to 800. The group holds a mix of New Age and neopagan beliefs.
The constitution began with 3 bodies of Damanhur: The School of Meditation (ritual tradition) Social (social theory, social realization) and The Game of Life (experimentation and dynamics, life as a game, change). A fourth body was recently added, Technarcate (individual inner refinement).
Citizens participate in one of 4 levels, depending on their desired involvement: A, B, C, or D. Class A citizens share all resources and live on site full-time. Class B citizens contribute to financial goals and live on site a minimum of 3 days a week. Class C and D citizens live anywhere. (page 102, Merrifield, 2006) Class A & B citizens participate fully in The School of Meditation, Social, and the Game of Life. Class C citizens participate fully in The School of Meditation.
Citizens participate in one of several ways, depending on their personal nature. Ways include the Way of the Oracle, the Way of the Monk, the Way of the Knight, the Way of Health, the Way of the Word, the Way of Art & Work, and many others. Most citizens live in houses of 10-20 people each, federated together into the Federation of Damanhur.
Marriage works on a renewal basis, for a period of so many years before renewal. Conception is timed for auspicious birthdays of children.
From 1983 onwards, members have assumed animal names (Sparrow, Prawn, Mole, etc.).
12. From the journal of Sylvia Plath
“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of “parties” with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter—they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”
13. Shintaro Kago