While researching my book Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, I was prepared to encounter some seriously gruesome material. But many of the facts I uncovered weren’t gross so much as just plain bizarre. Here are some of the strangest pieces of trivia I uncovered:
1. Mozart’s skull is inscribed with the phrase “musa vetat mori.” (“The muse prevents death.”) And he’s not the only one with an embellished skull: the forehead of Descartes’ supposed ...
We know by now that the myth of post-racial America was more an articulation of a dream than reality, but it still sounds nice. At the center of that mythical milieu was President Barack Obama, the perfect symbol of racial pride for some and anxiety for others. When our nation's leader, both African and American, does not cling to one racial category above all else, what else could that say about the state of racial identity in our country ...
Tyler Stoddard Smith
March 8, 2013
Jason Mulgrew photographed by Nicole Goddard.
“When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished,” goes the maxim by Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. Okay, but what happens when a family is born finished? Like the Octomom or the Kardashians? On the other hand, there are certain families who, when a writer appears in their midst, couldn’t give a damn–they’re all too busy finishing themselves.
That’s often the case with the Mulgrews, a blue-collar family from South Philly, whose exploits, indignities and implosions ...
Memoirist Emily Rapp has the kind of brain that could drive a trivia opponent crazy. “It’s like one of those annoying bug traps that attracts useless information,” she says. But the seemingly disparate nuggets of information at Rapp’s fingertips—lines from Hegel and the Flaming Lips, from Frankenstein or from Tony Hoagland—helped Rapp avoid succumbing completely to grief, she says, after her son Ronan was diagnosed with a terminal illness. When she wrote her new memoir The Still Point of ...
The Westboro Baptist Church may be the most vilified group in America: over 338,000 people have signed a White House petition to have it classified as an official hate group. But Former Westboro member Lauren Drain, author of the revelatory Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, says "They're beyond a hate group. They're cruel."
After coming of age within Westboro, even though she was ostracized by Westboro members for several years, Drain was cut ...
Phil Lapsley photographed by Margaretta K. Michell.
“Damn kids!” was the subtext of several AT&T security memos in the 60s and 70s about college students caught breaking into the company’s phone network. It’s a common reaction among victims of hacker pranks. One could easily imagine, in a much more recent instance, former President George W. Bush feeling the same way about a hacker codenamed Guccifer entering Bush’s email account and revealing his self-portraits to the world.
But those exact words were spoken by Phil Lapsley, the ...
This little fellow, a methane ice worm, was first discovered in 1997 in a mound of methane ice on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.
Think of the most expansive question a popular science book could address. It might be: What are the parameters of life? If you envision life as a contained space, the center would be filled with organisms like humans, giraffes, carnivorous plants, and toenail fungus—very different in nature, yet all descendants of one common ancestor. At the outer edges of it would lie the extremophiles discovered by scientists in the ‘80s and ‘90s: bacteria that thrive in super hot hydrothermal vents ...
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