George Psalmanazar (1679?-May 3, 1763) claimed to be the first Formosan to visit Europe. For some years he convinced many in Britain, but was later revealed to be an impostor.
George Psalmanazar was born in southern France to Catholic parents sometime between 1679 and 1684. His birth name is unknown. He was educated in a Jesuit school, but discontinued his education after becoming bored with his studies. In order to gain safe and affordable travel in France, he decided to pretend to be an Irish pilgrim on his way to Rome. After forging a passport and stealing a pilgrim's cloak, he set off, but soon found that there were too many people who actually knew something about Ireland.  Then he switched to being first a Japanese convert and then a heathen to sound even more exciting. He walked hungry around Europe as a beggar and sometimes even a soldier.
He appeared in northern Europe, around the year 1700. He looked European but claimed he came from the faraway island of Formosa, followed a foreign calendar and worshipped the Sun and the Moon.
In 1702 the man arrived in the Netherlands and met Scottish priest William Innes, who was a chaplain of a Scottish army unit. Afterwards he claimed he had converted the heathen into Christianity and christened him as George Psalmanazar (in reference to biblical Assyrian king Shalmaneser). In 1703 they left for London via Rotterdam to meet the bishop.
In London, the foreigner gathered even more fame by his strange habits. He ate raw meat with lots of spices and slept upright in a chair. He claimed he had been abducted from Formosa by Jesuits and taken to France, where he had refused to become Roman Catholic.
In 1704, Psalmanazar published a book An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan which revealed a number of strange habits. Formosa was a prosperous country of wealth with a capital city called Xternetsa. Men walked naked except for a gold or silver plate to cover their privates. Their main food was a serpent that they hunted with branches. Formosans were polygamous and husbands had a right to eat their wives for infidelity. They executed murderers by hanging them upside down and shooting them full of arrows. Annually they sacrificed the hearts of 18,000 young boys to gods and priests ate the bodies. They also used horses and camels for mass transportation. The book also described the Formosan alphabet.
He lectured on Formosan culture and language and pretended to translate religious literature into Formosan. The Bishop of London supported him. He spoke before the Royal Society, where he was challenged by Edmund Halley. Here is an example of one of his religious translation from 1703, the Lord's Prayer:
Amy Pornio dan chin Ornio vicy, Gnayjorhe sai Lory, Eyfodere sai Bagalin, jorhe sai domion apo chin Ornio, kay chin Badi eyen, Amy khatsada nadakchion toye ant nadayi, kay Radonaye ant amy Sochin, apo ant radonern amy Sochiakhin, bagne ant kau chin malaboski, ali abinaye ant tuen Broskacy, kens sai vie Bagalin, kay Fary, kay Barhaniaan chinania sendabey. Amien.
Psalmanazar did not go unchallenged, but he managed to deflect most of the criticism. He explained that his pale skin was due to fact that he was of upper class and did not have to work in the sun. In fact, he claimed to have lived underground. Jesuits who had actually worked as missionaries in Formosa were not believed due to their rather unwholesome reputation in the anti-Catholic atmosphere.
Innes eventually went to Portugal as chaplain-general to the English forces. Psalmanazar got mixed with bad business ventures. Eventually either the pressure became too strong or he grew tired of the deception. In 1706 he confessed, first to friends and then in public.
Psalmanazar spent the rest of life as a writer and editor of books. He counted Dr. Samuel Johnson as his friend. For a time he worked as a clerk in an army regiment until some clergymen gave him money to study theology. He learnt Hebrew, co-authored A General History of Printing (1732), and contributed a number of articles to the Universal History. He even contributed to the book Geography of the World and wrote about the real conditions in Formosa, pointedly criticising the hoax he had earlier perpetrated. He also apparently became increasingly religious.
He also wrote a book titled Memoirs of ** ** , Commonly Known by the Name of George Psalmanazar; a Reputed Native of Formosa. It was published posthumously. These memoirs omit his real birth name, which is still unknown.
Before he died in England, he was supported by an admirer's annual pension of £30.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Followed by a sickening crunch and screams of pain: Welcome to Action Park!
Action Park was waterpark/motor themed park open from 1978 to 1996 in Vernon Township, New Jersey, on the property of the former Vernon Valley / Great Gorge ski area, today Mountain Creek. It featured three separate attraction areas: an alpine slide; Motoworld, where patrons could operate motorized vehicles on land and water; and Waterworld, with many water-based attractions such as waterslides. The latter was one of the first American waterparks.Its popularity went hand in hand with a reputation for poorly-designed, unsafe rides; inattentive, underaged, underpaid and sometimes under-the-influence employees; equally intoxicated and underprepared visitors — and the poor safety record that followed from this perfect storm of circumstances. At least six people are known to have died as a result of mishaps on rides at the park, and it was nicknamed "Traction Park", "Accident Park", "Class Action Park", "Danger Park" and "Death Park" by doctors at nearby hospitals due to the number of severely injured parkgoers they treated. While little action was taken by state regulators despite a history of repeat violations, in its later years personal-injury lawsuits forced the closure of more and more rides and finally the park itself.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
James Steranko (born 5 November 1938, Reading, Pennsylvania, United States) is an American graphic artist, comic book writer-artist-historian, publisher and film production illustrator. His most famous comic-book work was with the 1960s superspy feature "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." in Marvel Comics' Strange Tales and in the subsequent eponymous series. Steranko earned lasting acclaim for his innovations in sequential art during the Silver Age of comic books, particularly his infusion of surrealism, op art, and graphic design into the medium. His work has been published in many countries and his influence on the field has remained strong since his comics heyday. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
Monday, June 23, 2008
John Sedgwick (September 13, 1813 – May 9, 1864) was a teacher, a career military officer, and a Union Army general in the American Civil War.
Sedgwick fell at the beginning of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, on May 9, 1864. His corps was probing skirmish lines ahead of the left flank of Confederate defenses and he was directing artillery placements. Confederate sharpshooters were about 1,000 yards (910 m) away and their shots caused members of his staff and artillerymen to duck for cover. Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, "What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Although ashamed, his men continued to flinch and he repeated, "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Just seconds later he fell forward with a bullet hole below his left eye.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
From Thomas Kuebler's site:
After two and a half decades of working in the corporate world of toy design prototypes and bringing robots to life in the animatronics field, Thomas Kuebler opted to explore his full creative potential as a freelance artist. Armed with the tools of his trade, a very supportive and patient wife, and the odd inhabitants of his own personal fiction, he set forth on a new mission to bring the world inside his head to life. His highly detailed life-size characters range in venue from pirate museums to private homes to the offices of DC Comics and have been featured in publications such as Spectrum and Rue Morgue. Kuebler and his wife currently reside in North Carolina.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Top Gear is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and Emmy Award-winning BBC television series about motor vehicles, mainly cars. It began in 1977 as a conventional motoring magazine show. Over time, and especially since a relaunch in 2002, it has developed a quirky, humorous style. The programme is estimated to have 385 million viewers worldwide and 11 million viewers each week, with one episode (Series 7 Episode 5) having 21 million viewers in the UK on BBC Two. The show is presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver. In 2007 it was one of the most pirated television shows in the world.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
If you like the Welcome to Weirdsville stuff here then head on over to the always-fun Dark Roasted Blend for a new article on exploding lakes, busting toads, and suicide bombing ants.
A Face in the Crowd (1957) is an epic motion picture starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Walter Matthau, and directed by Elia Kazan. The screenplay was written by Budd Schulberg, based on his own short story "Your Arkansas Traveler". The story centers on a "country" comedian, a common thug named Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Griffith, in a role starkly different from the amiable "Sheriff Andy Taylor" persona), who is discovered by the producer (Neal) of a small-market radio program in Piggott, Arkansas.
And here it is on the IMDB
Lonesome Rhodes: This whole country's just like my flock of sheep!
Marcia Jeffries: Sheep?
Lonesome Rhodes: Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers - everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don't know it yet, but they're all gonna be 'Fighters for Fuller'. They're mine! I own 'em! They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. Marcia, you just wait and see. I'm gonna be the power behind the president - and you'll be the power behind me!
Lonesome Rhodes: A guitar beats a woman every time.
Lonesome Rhodes: Listen, I'm not through yet. You know what's gonna to happen to me?
Mel Miller: Suppose I tell you exactly what's gonna happen to you. You're gonna be back in television. Only it won't be quite the same as it was before. There'll be a reasonable cooling-off period and then somebody will say: "Why don't we try him again in a inexpensive format. People's memories aren't too long." And you know, in a way, he'll be right. Some of the people will forget, and some of them won't. Oh, you'll have a show. Maybe not the best hour or, you know, top 10. Maybe not even in the top 35. But you'll have a show. It just won't be quite the same as it was before. Then a couple of new fellas will come along. And pretty soon, a lot of your fans will be flocking around them. And then one day, somebody'll ask: "Whatever happened to, a, whatshisname? You know, the one who was so big. The number-one fella a couple of years ago. He was famous. How can we forget a name like that? Oh by the way, have you seen, a, Barry Mills? I think he's the greatest thing since Will Rogers."
[Mel turns and starts to leave. Then, he turns back towards Lonesome]
Mel Miller: Beanie!
[Beanie, who is manning the automatic appalause machine, instinctively pulls the switch, unleashing a massive abundance of cheers. The machanical jubilation continues as Mel joins Marcia in the waiting elevator, leaving Lonesome alone in the empty penthouse with his broken dreams]
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
A trap street is a fictitious street included on a map, often outside the area the map covers, for the purpose of "trapping" potential copyright violators of the map, who will be unable to justify the inclusion of the "trap street" on their map.
Sometimes, rather than actually depicting a street where none exists, a map will misrepresent the nature of a street in a fashion that can still be used to detect copyright violators but is less likely to interfere with navigation. For instance, a map might add nonexistent bends to a street, or depict a major street as a narrow lane, without changing its location or its connections to other streets.
Trap streets are routinely denied and rarely acknowledged by publishers. This is not always the case, however. A popular driver's atlas for the city of Athens, Greece warns inside its front cover that potential copyright violators should beware of trap streets.
In an edition of the BBC Two programme Map Man, first broadcast 17 October 2005, a spokesman for the Geographer's A-Z Street Atlas company claimed there are "about 100" trap streets included in the London edition of the street atlas. One such street, "Bartlett Place", a genuine but misnamed pedestrian walkway, was identified in the programme, and will appear in future editions under its real name, Broadway Walk.
Monday, June 16, 2008
For instance, if one were sailing the Torres Strait, Mer Island was definitely to be steered clear of. Do not land, do not anchor on that forbidding outcrop of land - especially if you’re of the male gender: it was far better to swim away through the shark-infested waters or risk drowning in the tumultuous sea than set foot on that island.
For you see, the people of Mer Island had a God, a very special God. Like an exaggerated idol lifted straight from the pages of a pulp horror, it towered over their crude village: face carved on a massive turtle shell, ferns painted in blood as a headdress. Human rib bones hung down from the top of its primitive head, and severed arms and legs were strung about its waist.
Ugly, yes … and hungry. But this God wasn't satisfied with the simple human remains that decorate its bulk, or the blood that’s liberally painted onto its decorative ornaments. Every year, for eight days, a special celebration took places to honor this God and it is during these eight days that every man on that island quakes in fear, and it is during these eight days that this miserable little rock in a stormy sea should be desperately avoided. For during these eight days men’s genitals were horribly sacrificed, torn from the bodies of prisoners, foreigners, and those simply unlucky enough to be found desirable to this ravenous effigy. The rites continued until their ritual bowl overflows with blood and severed genitals until their God is happy, or there are no more men left to sacrifice.
Not as comprehensive, or fatal but certainly not pleasurable, it was also best to avoid dalliances with the women of Truk Island, Micronesia. While they certainly are fetching and more than sexually accommodating, they were also in possession of a certain erotic behavior that can be quite distressing -- and very, very painful. During sexual intercourse, you see, the ladies of this idyllic island had a fondness for inflicting extreme, burning pain on their sexual partners, and so to further ‘inspire’ their fevered performance. Some time ago, they used to wield small pieces of red-hot charcoal, but with the advent of trade with the West they switched quite readily to cigarettes to prod their partners. On Truk Island, incidentally, a man with certain burn scars is considered sexually appealing, experienced -- so much so that self-burning has become commonplace as a way to enhance sexual allure.
For similar, though not exactly identical, reasons it is earnestly advised that male travelers avoid the Topinamba tribe’s regions of Brazil -- especially if they find themselves in an amorous situation with one of their females. Obsessed with penis size, they have taken to a severe means of enlarging the male organ that, while effective and pleasurable to the women, is conversely excruciatingly painful to the men. In the bedroom, you see, or what passes for such a space among the tribe, they introduce a small, rather venomous snake, which is then encouraged to bite their mates and partners on their members, thus causing severe swelling and much pain. It is rumored that the men tolerate this for two reasons, one being that it gives so much pleasure to their women -- but also because no man would ever turn down a way of making themselves bigger ... despite the pain.
In conclusion, I feel it necessary to also give a sincere warning to the females who also might travel to sexually dangerous areas -- one region in particular. Among the people of the Micronesian (again) island of Ponape it is customary to give the women enhanced pleasure through the application of a certain kind of stinging ant. While not as obviously painful as the use of a small, poisonous snake, the Ponape people still manage to rate in this article because of the placement of this ant: on the clitoris, which they report to cause some pain, but also some form of pleasurable sensation as well.
There are many wondrous places on this world worth visiting -- lands full of charming people and quaint customs. There are amazing sights, and fantastic experiences awaiting those willing to explore but there are all also dangers and risks that can reach up and bite you on the ... well, suffice to say that it’s always best to be a cautious traveler.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Business Plot (also known as the Plot Against FDR or the White House Putsch) was an alleged political conspiracy in 1933 in which several wealthy businessmen planned to overthrow the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Details of the alleged plot came to light in early 1934, when retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testified before the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee. In his testimony, Butler claimed that a group of men had approached him as part of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a military coup. One of the alleged plotters, Gerald MacGuire, vehemently denied any such plot. In their final report, the Congressional committee supported some of Butler's allegations, but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.
Major General Butler claimed that the American Liberty League was the plot's primary source of funding. The House Un-American Activities Committee found no evidence of this. The main backers of the American Liberty League were the Du Pont family, as well as leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The 2007 BBC radio documentary The White House Coup alleged that Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to the 41st and 43rd US Presidents respectively, was also connected with companies owned by Fritz Thyssen.
Several scenarios have been proposed in explaining why the affair did not become a cause celebre, among which are:
- The story was an embarrassment to people of influence, who felt it best to deflect attention from the matter as quickly as possible.
- Some of Roosevelt's advisors were in on the plot, and downplayed it to prevent exposure.
- As part of the BBC Radio Document program The Whitehouse coup, John Buchanan suggests that Roosevelt stopped the investigation as part of a political deal: "The investigations mysteriously turned to vapor when it comes time to call them to testify. FDR's main interest was getting the New Deal passed. And so he struck a deal in which it was agreed that the plotters would walk free if Wall Street would back off of their opposition to the New Deal and let FDR do what he wanted."
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Approaching their remote domain via treacherous and rarely-policed trails, the casual tourist may occasionally pass a weary-appearing local official who will extend a happy, if exhausted, greeting before descending down towards the harsh and inhospitable lands of these charming people.
What the Maritime Koryaks lack in basic human hygiene and palatable dining, they more than make up for with their quaint, and very welcoming customs. Male travelers are especially advised to prepare themselves for the experience by stocking up on a supply of oysters or similarly blood-fortifying foods before attempting the journey.
You see, it is the attitude of the Maritime Koryak males that nothing is more honorable than to have their wives become...intimate with a stranger to their remote domains. So desirable is this custom, in fact, that it is not uncommon for the husbands of these charming peoples to follow any stranger to their village, pleading with them to partake of their wives. Before you think this an arrangement that only benefits their husbands, rest assured that for each spouse that begs for a strangers ministrations, he is echoed by the eager postures and demanding advances of their wives. Theirs, it is true, is a society that knows how to show a tourist a good time. If you should happen this way again, say in a year or so, be sure to stop by again–for if your partaking of this local custom has produced a happy baby boy then you will be rewarded with a feast and numerous fabulous gifts. And if you happened to produce a girl...well, you can always try again!
Alas, the intervention of outside culture has all but eliminated this practice, save for the most remote tribes. But for those truly interested in fully exploring the depths of a rare, and fascinating, culture, there are definitely rewards to be found in such a pursuit.
For those interested in a similar vacation, it is recommended that one travel to Babylon of prehistory. There, it is reported, female virgins are considered to be the worst of possible sexual, and marital, partners. To prove that a potential lover or mate has rid herself of this burden of purity, it is the common custom for ladies to become...intimate with as many strangers as possible. Since such liaisons would, of course, be difficult to prove, a custom has arisen where travelers throughout the region will give rings or other trinkets to the local maidens who earnestly demand their male attention–and thus prove by their gifts their experience and desirability.
A modification of this practice was also common among the peoples of Tibet, where the ability of strangers was so limited that it became the practice of older women in the village to go out and help acquire partners for their sisters and daughters. Near such a village is was routine to see such women eagerly singing the sexual praises of their clientele or even forcibly dragging the periodically unwilling, or baffled, foreigner towards these very willing young women.
If you thinks this custom to be rare, keep in mind the tales told of many a traveler who managed to bed as many as twenty young maidens per village. It is a wonder, therefore, that the casual traveler even possessed the stamina to complete any form of journey.
For the female traveler, these destinations may certainly appear to be unappealing–but for an adventurous woman there can be had equally interesting adventures in other lands. For example, among the Nair of Kerela in Southern India, there occurs a practice that allows a woman to have as many lovers as she sees fit–while never once appearing unfaithful.
Becoming officially married in a close kin to a normal Hindu ceremony, the young lady in question then consummates the ritual by having her new husband leave after three days. Henceforth she is allowed to take as many men as she desires as temporary mates and husbands from dusk till dawn (for daylight she must spend alone). These relations are not binding, and can be broken by any casual participant as he or she sees fit.
The world, it has often been said, is a wondrous place, full of mysteries and delights. It is therefore with earnest enthusiasm that I encourage the man or woman who wishes to sample such to take to the open road–and have ones eyes, and frequently legs, opened to new experiences.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Hammett, trying to put his Pinkerton detective days behind him while establishing himself as a writer, and dealing with induced tuberculosis and the alcoholism that will plague him almost to the end of his days, finds himself drawn back into his old life one last time by the irresistible call of friendship and to honor a debt.
On the IMDB:
Hammett: I want two things. One, I want my story back, it's not much but its what I do. And two, I want to be left alone.
Crystal Ling: He was good.
Hammett: He was the best. In his prime.
Hammett: Have you gone simple? They're not gonna let you walk. You know what you're up against, 1, 200 million dollars, the power, the big seam.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories written by Robert W. Chambers and published in 1895. The stories could be categorized as early horror fiction or Victorian Gothic fiction, but the work also touches on mythology, fantasy, mystery, science fiction and romance. The first four stories in the collection involve a fictional two-act play of the same title.
The fictional play The King in Yellow has two acts, and at least three characters: Cassilda, Camilla, and the King in Yellow. Chambers' story collection excerpts sections from the play to introduce the book as a whole, or individual stories. For example, "Cassilda's Song" comes from Act I, Scene 2 of the play:
- Along the shore the cloud waves break,
- The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
- The shadows lengthen
- In Carcosa.
- Strange is the night where black stars rise,
- And strange moons circle through the skies
- But stranger still is
- Lost Carcosa.
- Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
- Where flap the tatters of the King,
- Must die unheard in
- Dim Carcosa.
- Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
- Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
- Shall dry and die in
- Lost Carcosa.
The short story "The Mask" is introduced by an excerpt from Act I, Scene 2d:
- Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
- Stranger: Indeed?
- Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
- Stranger: I wear no mask.
- Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!
All of the excerpts come from Act I. The stories describe Act I as quite ordinary, but reading Act II drives the reader mad with the "irresistible" revealed truths. “The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.” Even seeing of the first page of the second act is enough to draw the reader in: “If I had not caught a glimpse of the opening words in the second act I should never have finished it [...]” (“The Repairer of Reputations”).
Chambers usually gives only scattered hints of the contents of the full play, as in this extract from "The Repairer of Reputations":
He mentioned the establishment of the Dynasty in Carcosa, the lakes which connected Hastur, Aldebaran and the mystery of the Hyades. He spoke of Cassilda and Camilla, and sounded the cloudy depths of Demhe, and the Lake of Hali. "The scolloped tatters of the King in Yellow must hide Yhtill forever," he muttered, but I do not believe Vance heard him. Then by degrees he led Vance along the ramifications of the Imperial family, to Uoht and Thale, from Naotalba and Phantom of Truth, to Aldones, and then tossing aside his manuscript and notes, he began the wonderful story of the Last King.
A similar passage occurs in "The Yellow Sign", in which two protagonists have read The King in Yellow:
Night fell and the hours dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and of Cassilda, while outside the fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the cloud waves roll and break on the shores of Hali.
... and here's a great Wiki on the whole subject.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
This from an email sent in by the always fabulous Sage Vivant:
Suddenly the shoreline north of Sydney were transformed into the Cappuccino Coast . Foam swallowed an entire beach and half the nearby buildings, including the local lifeguards' centre, in a freak display of nature at Yamba in New South Wales .
One minute a group of teenage surfers was waiting to catch a wave, the next they were swallowed up in a giant bubble bath. The foam was so light that they could puff it out of their hands and watch it float away.
It stretched for 30 miles out into the Pacific in a phenomenon not seen at the beach for more than three decades. Scientists explain that the foam is created by impurities in the ocean, such as salts, chemicals, dead plants, decomposed fish and excretions from seaweed. All are churned up together by powerful currents that cause the water to form bubbles. These bubbles stick to each other as they are carried below the surface by the current towards the shore.. As a wave starts to form on the surface, the motion of the water causes the bubbles to swirl upwards and, massed together, they become foam.
'It's the same effect you get when you whip up a milk shake in a blender,' explains a marine expert. 'The more powerful the swirl, the more foam you create on the surf ace and the lighter it becomes.' In this case, storms off the New South Wales Coast and further north off Queensland had created a huge disturbance in the ocean, hitting a stretch of water where there was a particularly high amount of the substances which form into bubbles. As for 12-year-old beachgoer Tom Woods, who has been surfing since he was two, riding a wave was out of the question 'Me and my mates just spent the afternoon leaping about in that stuff,' he said.
'It was quite cool to touch and it was really weird. It was like clouds of air - you could hardly feel it.'