vendredi 15 mai 2009

Steamy stuff

The blog has been on stand-by those last weeks, so to keep it alive until more interesting articles come, I'll post some nice pictures of my recent wanderings, deep into the mysteries of old Europe and beyond, and through the mysts of time !

Some steampunk contraptions from the Deutsches Museum in Munchen, Germany :

Some more from the Science History Museum in Florence, Italy :

Some weird rusted industrial stuff in Cochin, India :

Various nicely steamy things encountered in Vienna, Austria :
- A huge clock mechanism, with what seems like little legs to go wander :

- The magnificent building in the Botanische Garten Schönbrunn :

- And those fabulous guns (the 1st one is certainly the most beautiful I've ever seen) that could equip the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, from a huge gallery of arms & armours :

samedi 14 mars 2009

Crazy Manuscript of the week

He's blond, he's dressed in pink, he's surrounded by groovy lightning, he is... Medieval He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe !

Mummify yourself !

In order to reach Nirvana and become bodhisattva, some ascetic monks of the Shingon sect, in northern Japan, followed a very special tradition, forbidden by law at the end of the XIXth century because considered suicide (how you can forbid suicide, I wonder...).

It was initiated by Kobo Daishi (774-835), who took the decision to end his days meditating in a cave. His disciples later found that his body was mummified, which was quite mystical ! The Sokushinbutsu tradition developped from there and consisted on willingly becoming a mummy by having a special diet to dry your body. Here are the steps to follow if you, too, want to become a mummy (which is always a funny thing to do) :

- Eat only nuts and seeds for 1,000 days and do some serious fitness to lose all that fat ! And no, a pizza can not be considered a seed.

- For 1,000 more days change your diet to bark and roots. And eat less and less of it (which is hard, I know, because roots are so delicious !).

- Approching the end of this diet, start drinking some "tea made from the sap of the urushi tree, a poisonous substance normally used to make Japanese lacquer bowls, which causes further loss of bodily fluid. The tea is made with water from a sacred spring at Mt. Yudono, which is now known to contain a high level of arsenic." [].Thanks to the tea drinking and therefore heavy peeing, the water contained in the body is reduced to a stict minimum, and the arsenic will help protect the body from decay.

- Find some cold cave or get yourself a specially prepared underground chamber, as a cool and dry place is necessary to prevent decay. Sit down and start meditating like crazy until you die from it ! Then your monk friends will keep the chamber sealed for 1,000 days (the magic number !), after what they shall remove your body.

Even with all this, mummification will most of the time fail (only approximately 20 monks were successful), and even the ones that are considered well preserved look quite skeletal to me...

But anyway, if you're one of the lucky few you shall gain a Buddha status and be placed in a temple, to meditate forever. Actually, "adherents of the Shingon Buddhist sect believe that Kobo Daishi, founder of the sect, is still in meditation at Gobyo mausoleum. Twice a day monks wearing protective masks bring him his meals and in certain rituals his garments are changed." [Corbis]

Some details on the most recent case of Sokushinbutsu can be found here.

vendredi 6 mars 2009

Crazy Manuscript of the week

"Shoot those freakin' Wookies, soldiers !
- at once, my dark Lord !
- Grrrrooowwwww..."

1338-1344 - Romance of Alexander, Jehan de Grise

samedi 28 février 2009

Crazy Manuscript of the week

Ce matin, un lapin a tué un chasseur...
C'était un lapin qui avait une arbalète !

Beware the killer rabbits !

1338-1344 - Romance of Alexander, Jehan de Grise

samedi 21 février 2009

Crazy Manuscript of the week

"I will not tolerate this attitude, young man !
- Well, then you can *beep* my *beep*, you old *beep* !"

Canon Medicinae

vendredi 20 février 2009

"Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine"

Inside the majestic building of the "René Descartes" university in Paris is hidden this small but glorious Medical History Museum. Consisting of one long room, build in 1905 all in wood, glass and iron, it is a facinating exploration of medical tools through the ages (until early XXth century).

Most of them will give you the creeps, especially some crazy gynecologic or kidney stones removing apparatus, but others will facinate you with their aesthetics and ingenuity, like the wonderful articulated hand prosthetics. Suddenly, losing a hand looks pretty cool !

The most gruesome piece is definitely an "artistic" table, made with petrified bits of brains, bile, liver, lungs, and glands, on top of wich are placed an also petrified foot, four ears and cut vertebrae. It was made by the completely insane Italian doctor Efisio Marini and offered as a gift (!!!) to the poor Napoleon III, who I suppose was quick to offer it to a museum, just to get rid of the sight.