The Botched & the Rumored,
the Unwritten & the Plain Bizarre
It must be that red star that’s devouring a planet. Or the shortest northern summer on record. In just a few weeks, we’ve heard of an amateur who disfigured a century-old painting, a pen found in a woman’s gut, fears that bears like menstrual blood, and nails growing in someone’s head.
We don’t know about you, but it can’t be good when the most uplifting story in the news cycle is the one about a pen that still works after 25 years inside somebody. And that without even discussing the most abysmally ignorant and staggeringly cruel quote of the week, though.
That ‘honor,’ of course, belongs to Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s medieval ideas about women’s anatomy and right to equality. The only benefit that came from that pseudo-controversy was to bring back the issue of reproductive rights as a way to gauge a politician’s real stand. Now, can we go back to tax havens and the destruction of the middle class?
To say that there’s a wave of obscurantism and irrationality threatening to cloud the brightest minds of our time, is not just inaccurate; it’s also to lend too much credence where there’s none. As a society, we already had this debate some three hundred years ago, and it’s settled: speak only if you know everything that’s been ever said about it before. Period.
If there’s one thing that the Enlightenment still speaks volumes about human nature and its innate aim at constantly improve itself, despite even nature, is that it doesn’t really need any magical thinking to do it so. No supernatural beings, no set of beliefs, no ‘spiritual hierarchy’ needed to be followed.
If you don’t know, experiment with it, as many hundreds, thousands of times that it’s needed, until you can retrace your steps and reproduce the same result. Nevertheless, or exactly because of this vast randomness we live in, each time we get it right, there’s no way back.
And the same holds true when what happens lies even beyond our unruly imagination. The proverbial, you can’t make this stuff up. That’s enough to keep us guessing, wondering in awe, no ghosts or apparitions necessary. Which doesn’t mean that one may not see or experiencing them. The following four stories have each something of that sense of wonder that keeps us all alive.
A MONKEY IN A TUNIC
Cecilia Gimenez, an 80-something parishioner at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church, has been a devout catholic all her life and as such has always cared a great deal about her small temple, near Spain’s Zaragoza. One particular concern she had was about the deteriorated state of a century-old Elias Garcia Martinez’s painting, Ecce Hommo (Behold the Man).
For reasons not yet clear, she decided that what the work needed was a good restoring, and astonishingly, she thought she was the person for the job. The church’s priest, whom she claims supported her decision, hasn’t been seen lately. But the result of her painstakingly effort has shocked the world.
What she managed to do hasn’t been ‘accomplished’ even by skilled vandals, who every once in a while attempt to destroy historical masterpieces: she botched the relatively old painting, rendering unrecognizable and, very likely, beyond any repair. We can’t help it but feel pity for her ‘deer-caught-in-headlights’ expression when confronted by her terrible mistake.
That lasts, of course, just a few minutes. Going back to our previous homily, a common component of ignorance is a sense of boundless overconfidence, an insufferable faith that one can do no harm, if the intentions are ‘guided by the light.’ Well, that can be catastrophically wrong, and what La Señora Gimenez committed was, in fact, one of the stupidest acts of vandalism on record.
THEY ARE NOT THAT INTERESTED
What started as a urban myth, then an Internet rumor, and then widespread fear, but thankfully didn’t get to the point when villagers light torches and go after the supposed culprits, does have some base on reality, after all. But for a while, many a weary woman avoided visiting national parks, or zoos, lest not test their luck just yet.
A National Park Service paper emphatically denies that bears are attracted by the scent of menstrual blood, so there’s no reason for women to have this one, on top of everything else, to be concerned about. At least, not grizzly or black bears. Peanut butter and sandwiches, even when locked up inside cars, are another story altogether, though.
With their extraordinary sense of smell, bears are known to be attracted to camps set up by park and wilderness enthusiasts, who themselves often become the animals’ tasty meals. As expected, the fault lies with our own species, and deep-seated myths about animals, and how to control them. Many attacks have been initiated when people ignore the rules and carry food with them.
Bears are crafty creatures and footage shot at national parks, for instance, has shown how mamma bear teaches her cubs to carefully strip car windows of their rubber insulation, to easily gain access inside. If a human happens to be literally sleeping at the wheel, well, then it’s just too bad.
On the other hand, and unfortunately, the report also concludes that polar bears may indeed appreciate a bit of period blood splashed all over their white furs. But, heaven forbid, unless the Arctic melts down completely (knock on wood, that would be the reality version of hell freezes over), chances to run into one of those not too gentle giants are still slim.
HER HAIR IS TOUGH AS NAILS
Unfortunate is the case of criminal justice student Shanya A. Isom, who a few years back, was treated for asthma with steroids, and developed a bizarre allergic reaction: it started with bumps on her leg, and since no further medication show any progress, it all went downhill (and up) from there.
Her condition got progressively worse, until during a visit at the Baltimore John Hopkins Hospital last year, doctors discovered that ‘her hair follicles were producing 12 times as many skin cells as hair cells,’ according to the New York Daily News. That meant that her body was mistakenly producing nails, instead of hair.
Anyone can imagine how painful and debilitating her condition can be, including for the fact that hers is the only documented such case in the world. Now, with medical bills skyrocketing, and having depleted all financial resources available to her, she’s set a fund to manage costs, and in the future, help others who may also develop the pathology.
TRAPPED IN HER STOMACH
The case of the non-identified 76-year-old woman, documented in BMJ Case Reports, caught the always keen eye of the folks at the Improbable Research. But despite all the unusual circumstances surrounding it, its almost poetic resolution may be perfect to help us usher you to a safe place at the end of this post.
First, think about some things you’ve gone through in these past 25 years, both personal and communal, that happened intentionally or just for being unlucky. No matter what may have come up to your mind, chances are, it wasn’t nearly as bad as if you had a foreign object encrusted inside your stomach. What about that? all along, you’ve been so lucky and didn’t even know it.
As it turns out, in a routine search for the causes for her recent weight loss and discomfort, a CT of her abdominal cavity revealed a pen, sitting sideways inside her. She then recalled having fallen with a pen in her mouth, over two decades ago, which caused her to swallow it and, as it goes, forget the whole thing for years to come.
Despite being probably unrelated with her symptoms, she underwent a quick procedure to extract it from her gut. The astounding part of it all is the fact that the felt-tip pen, the kind that usually stops working after a few months of rushed number-taking, and weekly laundry lists, in her case, was in ‘working order.’
Now that’s the kind of toll that could write your name while you were visiting the moon. We’re also glad that it was a pen, not a, well, not a sword, but any kind of working machine, including weapons. Results would be of another order, but we digress. Things like that do not happen everyday, that’s for sure.
Neither a red-giant star eating a whole planet alive, as it’s happening not far from here, if you were a star, of course. BD+48 740’s merely doing what our own sun will do to Earth a few billion years from now. Nothing personal, it’s just business. But it’s always better to know, and the only thing we can do against that wave of obscurantism and irrationality, etc.