Stuff Your Tasty Brain Should Know

March 19, 2013

94C16AB2-0B1B-4071-AC81-83F9C2DEAEBAMy music kick has subsided a bit and I’m listening to podcasts again when I have longer drives. In the last couple of days I’ve listened to a good one about zombies by Josh & Chuck (Stuff You Should Know) and an equally gross one about the Great Stink.

Th zombie podcast dealt with real life zombies in Haiti first and then the enormously popular fictional zombie. The real zombies are a product of the cultural belief in zombies and some interesting “medicine” that creates a paralyzed state in the victim. Being “zombified” in Haiti is usually the result of angering your family (refusing to marry someone they picked for you or refusing to agree to sell jointly owned land were given as examples). A bokor (sorcerer) would then apply a powder to your skin. This powder contains toxins that irritate the skin an allow access to the bloodstream, where another toxin (from the pufferfish) induces paralysis. You are then buried alive and though you appear to be dead you are fully conscious of what is happening. After a few hours you are dug up and “resurrected.” Through the use of hallucinogens combined with the trauma of the experience you are kept in a trancelike state, sometimes for years. Fortunately, doing this is now against the law (yes, there’s actually a law that states that you cannot make someone a zombie).

The podcast then discussed George Romero’s popularization of zombies, which has led us to excellent television like The Walking Dead. Incidentally, if a zombie epidemic actually happened it’s unlikely we’d be able to stop it according to scientists.

The Stuff You Missed in History Podcast was almost as gross as zombies. The Great Stink of 1858 in London was caused by the river Thames being overloaded with human waste due to the widespread adoption of the flushable toilet. Before the use of toilets people emptied their chamberpots into cesspits, but that only worked with (relatively) dry waste. The rapid population grown of London from 1800-1860 (the population went from less than a million to more than three in that time) also made this system untenable. The summer of 1858 was particularly hot and for a couple of weeks anyone near the river dealt with an unbearable smell. This, of course, led to the creation of a proper sewer system that is mostly still in use today.

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3 Responses to “Stuff Your Tasty Brain Should Know”

  1. Clair said

    Is that a picture of you zombified?! This post was crazy interesting and also horrifying.

    Also, your last sentence makes it sound like Londoners sometimes just skip the toilet and go straight in the river. =)

  2. tonykulla said

    It is me! Glad to see I’m still recognizable. And apparently I’m a zombie who keeps his hair neat and changes to a new shirt once in a while (perhaps they need options for messing those up in the Walking Dead iPhone app).

    No, they didn’t relieve themselves directly into the river, but the toilets were connected to the storm drains which emptied into the river, so all that human waste WAS finding its way there.

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