Weird Wikipedia Wednesday: John Murray Spear and the New Motive Power

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John Murray Spear

Spear and a handful of followers retreated to a wooden shed at the top of High Rock hill in Lynn, Massachusetts, where they set to work creating the ‘‘New Motive Power’’, a mechanical Messiah which was intended to herald a new era of Utopia. The New Motive Power was constructed of copper, zinc and magnets, all carefully machined, as well as a dining room table. At the end of nine months, Spear and the ‘‘New Mary’’, an unnamed woman, ritualistically birthed the contraption in an attempt to give it life.

Weird Wikipedia Wednesday: Capgras Delusion

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Capgras Delusion

Mrs. D, a 74-year-old married housewife, recently discharged from a local hospital after her first psychiatric admission, presented to our facility for a second opinion. At the time of her admission earlier in the year, she had received the diagnosis of atypical psychosis because of her belief that her husband had been replaced by another unrelated man. She refused to sleep with the impostor, locked her bedroom and door at night, asked her son for a gun, and finally fought with the police when attempts were made to hospitalise her. At times she believed her husband was her long deceased father. She easily recognised other family members and would misidentify her husband only.

— Passer and Warnock, 1991

Weird Wikipedia Wednesday: Jersey Devil

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Jersey Devil

According to popular folklore, the Jersey Devil originated with a Pine Barrens resident known as Mother Leeds. The legend states that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, cursed the child in frustration, crying that the child would be the Devil. During 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night while her friends gathered around her. Born as a normal child, the 13th child changed to a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming, it killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and heading into the pines. In some versions of the tale, Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child’s father was the Devil himself. Some versions of the legend also state that there was subsequently an attempt by local clergymen to exorcise the creature from the Pine Barrens, or that the creature proceeded to kill local children.

Hannibal & Clarice

This trailer re-frames Silence of the Lambs as a romantic comedy, brilliantly demonstrating how editing can alter a story so much as to appear completely different from the original. Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite movies, and this trailer hits on two themes that I’m particularly fond of: the male gaze, and the twisted love. In the actual movie, these are played as being appropriately disturbing. Clarice Starling is everywhere being looked up and down by men who wish to prey on her in one way or another, yet Hannibal Lecter, the one man who most literally might wish to prey on her, is the one who would defend her life, noticing her true value as a person and wishing to keep her in the world. There is affection between them, dark and disturbing as it may be. Yet this trailer shows how those same ideas could be played for comedy. If we think about our favorite rom-coms, how many of them deal with problematic themes? How many of them could be flipped on their backs to expose a dark underbelly of objectification and abusive love that is hidden behind a comedy cut?

Weird Wikipedia Wednesday: Trepanning

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Trepanning

In ancient times, holes were drilled into a person who was behaving in what was considered an abnormal way to let out what they believed were evil spirits. Evidence of trepanation has been found in prehistoric human remains from Neolithic times onward. Cave paintings indicate that people believed the practice would cure epileptic seizures, migraines, and mental disorders. The bone that was trepanned was kept by the prehistoric people and may have been worn as a charm to keep evil spirits away. Evidence also suggests that trepanation was primitive emergency surgery after head wounds to remove shattered bits of bone from a fractured skull and clean out the blood that often pools under the skull after a blow to the head. Such injuries were typical for primitive weaponry such as slings and war clubs. There is some contemporary use of the term. In modern eye surgery, a trephine instrument is used in corneal transplant surgery. The procedure of drilling a hole through a fingernail or toenail is also known as trephination. It is performed by a physician or surgeon to relieve the pain associated with a subungual hematoma (blood under the nail); a small amount of blood is expressed through the hole and the pain associated with the pressure is partially alleviated.

Everyone Shall Sit Under Their Own Vine and Fig Tree

Powerful art echoes through time and connects us to those who have come before us. In Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda drew back the curtain and showed us the mythical figures of America’s birth were human beings, and that their experiences are not so different from our own. This performance at the White House drives that point home in a unique way. George Washington is stepping down, setting the precedent of two terms that presidents would follow for centuries to come (with one notable exception being FDR). And Obama, about to step down himself after his eight years in office, is in the audience. When the chorus sings “George Washington’s going home,” you can hear the tears in their voices, as through time they wish farewell to an influential and much beloved man with the words of farewell to the father of our country.