Links, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 17

Model Monique Van Vooren bowling with her kangaroo (1958).

We’re back with our bizarre culture column, bringing you some of the finest, weirdest reads and a new reserve of macabre anecdotes to break the ice at parties.
But first, a couple of quick updates.

First of all, in case you missed it, here’s an article published by the weekly magazine Venerdì di Repubblica dedicated to the Bizzarro Bazar web series, which will debut on my YouTube channel on January 27 (you did subscribe, right?). You can click on the image below to open the PDF with the complete article (in Italian).

Secondly, on Saturday 19 I’m invited to speak in Albano Laziale by the theater company Tempo di Mezzo: here I will present my talk Un terribile incanto, this time embellished by Max Vellucci’s mentalism experiments. It will be a beautiful evening dedicated to the marvelous, to the macabre and above all to the art of “changing perspective”. Places are limited.

And here we go with our links and curiosities.

  • In the 80s some lumberjacks were cutting a log when they found something extraordinary: a perfectly mummified hound inside the trunk. The dog must have slipped into the tree through a hole in the roots, perhaps in pursuit of a squirrel, and had climbed higher and higher until it got stuck. The tree, a chestnut oak, preserved it thanks to the presence of tannins in the trunk. Today the aptly-nicknamed Stuckie is the most famous guest at Southern Forest World in Waycross, Georgia. (Thanks, Matthew!)

  • Let’s remain in Georgia, where evidently there’s no shortage of surprises. While breaking down a wall in a house which served as a dentist’s studio at the beginning of the 20th century, workers uncovered thousands of teeth hidden inside the wall. But the really extraordinary thing is that this is has already happened on three other similar occasions. So much so that people are starting to wonder if stuffing the walls with teeth might have been a common practice among dentists. (Thanks, Riccardo!)
  • The state of Washington, on the other hand, might be the first to legalize human composting.
  • Artist Tim Klein has realized that puzzles are often cut using the same pattern, so the pieces are interchangeable. This allows him to hack the original images, creating hybrids that would have been the joy of surrealist artists like Max Ernst or Réné Magritte. (via Pietro Minto)

  • The sweet world of our animal friends, ep. 547: for some time now praying mantises have been attacking hummingbirds, and other species of birds, to eat their brains.
  • According to a NASA study, there was a time when the earth was covered with plants that, instead of being green, were purple
  • This year, August 9 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most infamous murders in history: the Bel Air massacre perpetrated by the Manson Family. So brace yourselves for a flood of morbidity disguised as commemorations.
    In addition to the upcoming Tarantino flick, which is due in July, there are at least two other films in preparation about the murders. Meanwhile, in Beverly Hills, Sharon Tate’s clothes, accessories and personal effects have already been auctioned. The death of a beautiful woman, who according to Poe was “the most poetical topic in the world“, in the case of Sharon Tate has become a commodity of glam voyeurism and extreme fetishization. The photos of the crime scene have been all over the world, the tomb in which she is buried (embracing the child she never got to know) is among the most visited, and her figure is forever inseparable from that of the perfect female victim: young, with bright prospects, but above all famous, beautiful, and pregnant.
  • And now for a hypnotic dance in the absence of gravity:

  • Meanwhile, Hollywood’s most celebrated actors are secretly 3D-scanning their faces, so they can continue to perform (and earn millions) even after death.
  • In the forests of Kentucky, a hunter shot a two-headed deer. Only thing is, the second head belonged to another deer. So there are two options: either the poor animal had been going around with this rotting thing stuck between its horns, for who knows how long, without managing to get rid of it; or — and that’s what I like to think — this was the worst badass gangster deer in history. (Thanks, Aimée!)

  • Dr. Frank Netter’s illustrations, commissioned by pharmaceutical companies for their fliers and brochures, are among the most bizarre and arresting medical images ever created.
  • This lady offers a perfect option for your funeral.
  • Who was the first to invent movable-type printing? Gutenberg, right? Wrong.
  • Sally Hewett is a British artist who creates wonderful embroided portraits of imperfect bodies. Her anatomical skills focus on bodies that bear surgical scars or show asymmetries, modifications, scarifications, mastectomies or simple signs of age.
    Her palpable love for this flesh, which carries the signs of life and time, combined with the elegance of the medium she uses, make these artworks touching and beautiful. Here’s Sally’s official website, Instagram profile, and a nice interview in which she explains why she includes in all her works one thread that belonged to her grandmother. (Thanks, Silvia!)

Sfere cinesi

Fra gli oggetti più curiosi custoditi nelle wunderkammer antiche e moderne, figurano senz’altro le sfere cinesi. Queste palle, spesso chiamate “rompicapo” (puzzle balls), sono in realtà dei puri esercizi di virtuosismo scultoreo e artistico.

Questi oggetti sono costituiti da diverse sfere identiche e concentriche, contenute l’una nell’altra; ma la particolarità che lascia a bocca aperta è che le sfere sono tutte scolpite a partire dallo stesso pezzo d’avorio. La procedura è minuziosa e incredibile: ricavata dall’osso la palla più esterna, lo scultore pratica i primi fori, quelli che saranno comuni a tutte le sfere. Poi con degli scalpelli ricurvi comincia all’interno di questi buchi a scavare in senso orizzontale, separando a poco a poco uno strato dal successivo, e formando così una serie di palle concentriche.

Una volta separate le sfere, ognuna viene decorata in modo differente, sempre operando attraverso gli angusti fori praticati all’inizio. Nell’oggetto finale, le palle concentriche sono perfettamente libere di muoversi, e il “rompicapo” starebbe nel riuscire a riallinearle secondo la posizione originaria utilizzata per scolpirle, utilizzando la punta di una penna d’oca (o un più moderno stuzzicadenti) per non rischiare di rovinarle.

Se le sfere antiche venivano ricavate dall’avorio di elefante o di mammuth, i cui scheletri erano piuttosto comuni in alcune parti della Cina, oggi vengono spesso prodotte in avorio sintetico (polvere d’osso e resina) e in molti altri materiali come giada, resina o legno. Anche in epoca recente, comunque, il lavoro artigiano di scultura è imprescindibile e perfino quelle ricavate da stampi vengono intagliate e rifinite a mano.

Meraviglie fragili e prive di un vero e proprio scopo che non sia suscitare stupore, le sfere cinesi sono talvolta davvero impressionanti: le più grandi, di livello museale e di grosse dimensioni, possono contenere più di 20 sfere interne.