Friday, May 27, 2011


“This gentleman, an amateur botanist, happened to see a tulip-root lying in the conservatory of a wealthy Dutchman. Being ignorant of its quality, he took out his penknife, and peeled off its coats, with the view of making experiments upon it. When it was by this means reduced to half its original size, he cut it into two equal sections, making all the time many learned remarks on the singular appearances of the unknown bulb. Suddenly the owner pounced upon him, and, with fury in his eyes, asked him if he knew what he had been doing? “Peeling a most extraordinary onion,” replied the philosopher. “Hundert tausend duyvel!,” said the Dutchman; “it’s an Admiral Van der Eyck.” “Thank you,” replied the traveller, taking out his note-book to make a memorandum of the same; “are these admirals common in your country?” “Death and the devil,” said the Dutchman, seizing the astonished man of science by the collar; “come before the syndic, and you shall see.” In spite of his remonstrances, the traveller was led through the streets, followed by a mob of persons. When brought into the presence of the magistrate, he learned, to his consternation, that the root upon which he had been experimentalising was worth four thousand florins (According to the International Institute of Social History, one florin had the purchasing power of €10.28 in 2002) and, notwithstanding all he could urge in extenuation, he was lodged in prison until he found securities for the payment of this sum.”

Mackay, Charles (1841), Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, London: Richard Bentley

Friday, May 20, 2011

I briefly worked for a company that made bullet-proof glass. Actually, they installed this high-end plastic sheeting over windows that made them bullet-proof. It was pretty cool, you could fire a shotgun or throw a Molotov cocktail at the glass and, although the glass would crack, the plastic would hold it together.

My co-worker told me that he installed some of this sheeting at a woman’s home somewhere in the States. The walls of her house were covered in newspaper clippings and scrawled verses from the Bible. While he was installing the sheeting on her windows, she walked up to him and asked in dead seriousness, “Will this protect against the locusts?”

“Protect against the what?”

“The locusts.”

“The locusts?”

“Yes, the locusts of Revelations with the scorpion tails. Will these windows hold up against them?”

“… uuuh, yes?”

“You don’t sound certain. Do you know the locusts I speak of?”

“… yes … yes I do. The, uh, windows will be protected against the, um, locusts.”


Who deh?