I know these kind of lists are getting old really fast, but I thought that by narrowing my scope to the cultural output of my own largely irrelevant little country I might find myself with something vaguely original. Despite being a puny little nation with a meager 9,6 million inhabitants we have produced some films that I think people might appreciate, but might not have heard of before now.
I’ll try to avoid wasting your time with movies that are wildly popular or widely known outside of Sweden and instead focus on relatively recent movies that didn’t really make a significant impact outside our borders. They are probably known to most swedes, however.
I’m starting off with two movies by the same director and comedy troupe, simply because they’re two of the greatest films ever made. I considered leaving one of them out, but I just couldn’t decide which of them to leave out, so I decided to just use both of them, despite the lack of variety that might cause.
Sometimes I get sick of poetry and my interest kind of drops off. And then I’m reminded of Charles Bukowski; the author of my favourite book of poetry.
I was reminded thusly just now, which inspired me to post this long poem and a reading of it by Bukowski himself set to a video composed of found footage and excerpts from the works of Arthur Lipsett and Gregory Markopoulos.
There is something about octopuses that unnerves me. Whenever I see one, I almost feel as though I should grovel before it and bring it gifts. In recent years, there have been many signs that cephalopods (and octopuses in particular) might be superior to humans and just lets us think we are the kings of the hill because we are beneath their notice.
First of all, biologists can’t seem to agree exactly how intelligent octopuses really are. All they know for sure is that they are quite intelligent indeed. They are highly analytic and curious and when faced with an obstacle to something they want, they carefully investigate and attempt to solve the problem. For example, in one instance when scientists presented an octopus with a lidded jar containing food, the octopus fiddled with it and figured out how to unscrew the lid and get to the food in a disconcertingly quick manner.
They have also been known to crawl out of their tanks at exhibits and raid nearby tanks of shellfish and other tasty prey. Being invertebrates, they can squeeze through almost any opening. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re also capable of using tools such as empty shells, and as Australian scientists recently observed, coconuts which are carried around and used as little makeshift fortresses when threatened (as seen in the video below).
The octopus brain is another sign that they might be superintelligent creatures from another dimension. You see, only a small part of their very complex nervous system is located in their brain; the majority is actually located throughout their tentacles. This grants an exceptional level of autonomy to each individual tentacle. Research suggests that the brain only sends out very basic instructions to each tentacle and that each one actually decides on its own how to carry out those intructions. Not to mention that the myriad of suction cups on each arm require a lot of brain power, considering they’re incredibly powerful suction devices that can create a pressure to up to 100-200 kPa (kilopascals; 100 kilopascals is approximately equal to one atmosphere). They’re also actuely sensitive; they allow the octopus to taste their surroundings. The tentacles are not only smart and perceptive, they’re also strong and agile. They’re made almost entirely out of muscle and without those irksome bones that we vertebrates have, their range of motion is almost unlimited. Certain species of octopus are strong enough to break through plexiglas and/or wrestle down and eat sharks. Yes, that’s right, there are octopuses that hunt and devour sharks. If you don’t believe me, here’s a video to prove it.
The only hope we have in the face of the imminent cephalopod takeover is the fact that octopuses doesn’t live very long. Some species only live for roughly 6 months, while some can live up to five years. Their reproductive habits also limits their capabilities as planetary overlords; males die within a few months after mating and after the female has laid her 200,000’ish eggs, she watches over them for around one month, during which time she doesn’t hunt or feed. Sometimes the female even has to ingest one of her own arms to survive. After the eggs hatch, the female leaves the area, and being weak from malnourishment, she often succumbs to other predators.
Did you know that the average US resident consumes more corn than the “Corn People” of Mexico and South America, every day? There are almost no items in a US supermarket today that do not contain corn in any form – processed, perfected, enchanted, et cetera – and scientists have ways to tell what a person’s diet are made up of. By investigating dead skin cells (hair, nails) of US residents, they find that a significant percentage
of the nutrition comes from corn – even through the meat they consume, where most of the cattle have been fed with corn, and the sweets, where corn syrup and the likes have provided the sweetening. I guess it’s safe to say that you pretty much are what you eat, and most US Americans are corn cobs with fat legs.
In Mexico and a large part of South America, where people identify themselves as the Corn People, and eat corn in a non-processed, natural form just about every day, the same studies of dead skin cells have been conducted – and these people are less like their food than the US Americans are. Their cattle are mostly fed on grass. Their peripheral foodstuffs don’t contain much processed corn. They, who’ve lived off the corn for hundreds, or thousands of years, are more varied and diverse in their diets than the US Americans who exploit them. So who are the real corn people, really? Those who revel in it and embrace it… or those who unknowingly resemble it?
The most famous example of the Dancing Plague is the one of 1518 in Strasbourg, France, but it is not the most interesting case to date. No, the more interesting one is one of the earlier outbreaks, i Aachen, Germany, 1374 – not that the illness was much different, but certainly the cure. Continue reading The Dancing Plague
Indian Yellow is a transparent yellow pigment, used in oil paint and watercolours. Nowadays it’s a pretty boring pigment: a mixture of nickel azo, hansa yellow and the tongue-twister ‘quinacridone burt orange’, but it’s been at the centre of a historical claim of animal cruelty: disputed as early as 1830 (the pigment was introduced to India in the 15th century, and from there to Europe in the 18th), the myth still lingers today and is reprinted in (among other works) the Royal Academy of Arts books on traditional fine arts. It is agreed upon by almost every person who’ve done some kind of independent research that the origin of the pigment is another and that the animals were never hurt. But what is the myth then?
The myth is that the Indian Yellow pigment is produced from the urine of cows fed only mango leaves and only scarsely watered, kept extremely underfed and malnourished, and the urine then dried for the pigment. In 1844, chemist John Stenhouse concluded that the pigment was indeed “the juice of some tree or plant, which, after it has been expressed, has been saturated with magnesia and boiled down to its present consistence.“
The interesting thing here is therefore not the myth itself, but that it has survived merely because it involves tormenting of cows by people seen as less civilised by the British, Dutch and German painters who used the pigment, ant then kept alive by authors throughout the centuries, and taught as fact despite the obvious Urban Legend quality of the myth.