Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Links: the Whipsaw Edition

There is absolutely no reason for you to work today.

First off, from Jon Hui, a link to the mind-blowing phenomenon of sokushinbutsu. Here's an excerpt from the story:
In a small mountainside temple overlooking the Sea of Japan on Japan's west coast, a Buddhist monk slowly chants a mantra and raises the small curtain above a dimly lit altar. The ornate curtain rises to reveal the preserved body of the fourteenth century priest Kochi. Enclosed in a small glass shrine, Kochi is worshipped as a form of living god, or sokushinbutsu—a priest who practiced ritual self-mummification, effectively starving himself to near-death over a period of years, before being entombed underground while still alive.

And here's an excerpt of how this was done:
The process of becoming a self-made mummy is long, slow and excruciatingly painful, taking from three to ten years. The procedure the monks followed developed over a 900 year period, and though there were different variations, it generally consisted of three equal states, each 1000 days long. For the first 1000 day period the monk adopted a strict diet that consisted of only small amounts of soba (buckwheat) dough and walnuts, hazelnuts, and nutmeg gathered from the surrounding forest. The diet served to reduce the ascetic's body fat dramatically, and as fat decomposes quickly after death, it increased the chances of successful mummification. In the second 1000 day period, the ascetic's diet became even more limited: only bark and the roots of pine tree were ingested. The monk became increasingly emaciated as his body fat reduced to nothingness and his body's water-content similarly declined. Though greatly weakened and increasingly skeletal in appearance, the monk continued to subject himself to long periods of prayer and chanting mantras.

Nearing the end of the second 1000 day period, the monk drank tea made from the juice of the Urushi, or Japanese Varnish tree. A caustic, extremely toxic sap—even its vapour can cause a rash—it is usually used to make a highly durable coating for Chinese and Japanese lacquerware. Drinking the tea caused the monk to vomit, perspire and urinate extensively, further reducing the fluids in his body, as well as causing a large build up of poisons. These poisons, however, played an important part of the mummification process, for they would also kill any organism that tried to consume the priest's flesh after death.

That was just a teaser, because the rest of the process is, if possible, even more painful than what happened in the first two phases. It's all absolutely unforgettable, and the article itself (by Chris Mathews) is totally fascinating. You can read it here (with pictures), and please note that if you're using Firefox, you're going to need to use the mouse cursor to highlight the text (all you'll see are pictures and a black background at first). Also, if you go to the home page of the website, you'll see additional articles written by Mathews, and they're all excellent as well.

Next, in the oddest link juxtaposition of all time, Chris Seguin sent in a link to a song titled "One Semester of Spanish Love Song," and it's hilarious. See the YouTube video here.

Shane Courtrille sent in a link to a gripping article in the New Yorker--about wine. Wine fraud, more specifically, involving bottles that allegedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson. It's an excellent whodunit, both riveting and amusing by turn, and you can read it here.

Meg McReynolds sent in a link to a story about a polar bear and its encounter with some sled dogs, which turned out to be remarkably playful. Confirmed as legitimate by Snopes, you can read about it and see the pictures here.

John Selzer sent in a link to a film made by a micro camera that shows how a four-stroke engine works--from inside the cylinder. Very cool, and you can see it here.

From David Gloier, a link to the "10 Most Improbable Celebrity Fistfights" in history, including this gem about Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (f-bomb warning ahead):
The final straw was Jagger’s unscheduled wake-up call to Watts during a band meeting in Amsterdam in October 1984. Richards and Jagger had gone out boozing, returning to Richard’s room at five in the morning. Watts was fast asleep. Nevertheless, Jagger dialed his room, bawling "Is that my drummer? Why don't you get your arse down here?"

Watts reportedly got up, shaved, got dressed in a custom-made Savile Row suit, put on a crisply knotted tie and freshly shined shoes, came downstairs, and—in Richards' words—"dished him out a great fucking right hook." Jagger was knocked into a plate of smoked salmon, and Richards had to grab his leg to prevent him from sliding along the table, out the open window and into a canal 20 stories below. "Don't ever call me ‘your drummer’ again," Watts told Jagger. "You're my fucking singer."

The other nine are here (and they're not as good, but how could they be?).

From Juan Font, links to the story of Kamunyak, a lioness who adopted six oryx calves over the course of a year. That's right--oryx calves. It's an incredibly strange story as well as being incredibly sad, and there's an Animal Planet documentary called "Heart of the Lioness" that runs occasionally (this Sunday at 1PM CST).

One note: according to Juan's sister (who's seen the documentary), this is not something for little kids to watch, because it's very, very emotional in places.

The story is here, some pictures are here, and a transcript of a discussion with the "presenter" of the documentary is here.

From Sirius, a set of links that are excellent (as always). First, a gallery of "photomicrographs," and they're absolutely amazing. See them here. Next, a link to a future Darwin Award winner who tried to steal a LIVE copper cable. Yes, the phrase "charred beyond recognition" is used in this story, and you can read it here. Lastly, a story about elephants and their fear--of bees. Researchers have discovered that elephants have a strong fear of swarming bees (makes sense), and recorded sounds of attacking bees may be used in the future to help create barriers between elephants and villages. Read about it here.

Finally, from Greg V, a link to a spectacular video of a Chinese acrobat performing mind-altering manipulation--of a table. Get your mind out of the gutter. Seriously, this is a remarkable video, and you can watch it here.

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