Finding the funny and interesting side of the encyclopedia anyone can edit
RAS Syndrome, Hitler's beetle, cat organ, dead inventors, Hoxha the crazy Albanian, Oolong the rabbit, and Plato's cave
Today, we will examine the nutty WWII leader of Albania, Plato's famous "allegory of the cave", Oolong the pancake bunny, a list of inventors killed by their own inventions, a diabolical musical instrument, Anophthalmus hitleri, and RAS syndrome.
The cat organ is not the same as the viral video Keyboard Cat. No, instead of being a cute vaudeville puppeteering act, the cat organ is quite twisted: the cats themselves are the instrument. While there is only secondhand writings about them (thus, no real proof one was ever created), it doesn't surprise me that somebody would make something so twisted. In it, a cat is enclosed with the tail being held by the device. When a key on the instrument is pressed, it stretches the cat's tail enough to cause it to cry out in pain. If the cats are arranged by the natural tone of their voices, it is possible to play a tune. Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin wrote about the appearance of one in Brussels in 1549; Athanasius Kircher included designs for one in the 1650 edition of Musurgia Universalis. A 2009 animation titled The Cat Piano involves this device.
...The key:cat ratio seems to be off here.
Ever seen the "pancake bunny" internet meme? Of course you have. His real name is Oolong, or more properly, ウーロン (yes, like the Chinese tea), and he was the pet of Hokkaidō photographer Hironori Akutagawa. Like anybody with a pet and a camera, photos were taken of Oolong and posted to the web in due course. But since Akutagawa had trained his rabbit to balance objects on his head, the photos soon became popular as a funny meme; the first such was a 35mm film canister in 1999. Pretty soon, an American saw them, and posted them on an English language forum, and naturally, somebody came along and added a caption to make it even funnier. The most popular one states "I have no idea what you're talking about... so here's a bunny with a pancake on its head.", but the object is actually a dorayaki, a type of confection made from castella sponge cake with a sweet red bean paste filling. Yummy. Oolong died at the tender age of eight in 2003.
RAS syndrome is a pet peeve of mine. Aside from the fact that the military likes to turn everything into an acronym (which is another issue altogether), there is also the rampant problem of including part of the acronym with the acronym. RAS itself stands for "redundant acronym syndrome", thus being a self-referential joke as the whole name would be "redundant acronym syndrome syndrome". For example, I grit my teeth when people say "PIN number", because they are actually saying "Personal Identification Number number" (an older Usenet joke was called "PNS syndrome", which fully stands for "Personal Identification Number Number Syndrome syndrome"). "ATM machine", "AC current" "IPAC center" "redundant RAID"... even things that aren't strictly acronyms can suffer this, like "knots per hour" ("nautical miles per hour per hour", which would technically be a measurement of acceleration and not speed).
Just... be concise and to the point, people!
Anophthalmus hitleri is a rare species of blind cave beetle found only in Slovenia. If you have even a tiny knowledge of Latin, you can detect the namesake Adolf Hitler in the name, who was so honored by German coleopterologist Oscar Scheibel in 1933. Der Führer, nearing the peak of his rise to power after ascending to become Chancellor, was so appreciative that he... wrote a thank-you letter. The megalomaniac bastard probably didn't even type it himself. Anyway, the beetle itself is rather unremarkable, aside from being poached by collectors of Nazi memorabilia. The scientific community generally doesn't rename the binomial nomenclature of an organism, so Hitler will have at least one lasting positive impact on the world.
And no, it doesn't have a swastika mark on it.
Plato used the Allegory of the Cave in The Republic as a illustration of education and reality. In the scenario he describes, several prisoners are chained and immobile in a cave from childhood, forced to gaze only at a stone wall without the ability to look around. Behind the prisoners is a light and a walkway on which people walk with figures that look like various things. For their whole lives, the prisoners can only see the shadows these objects cast on the wall and hear the echos of the cave, and learn to interpret them as reality instead of reflections of reality. Plato then posits that a prisoner is freed, and sees and hears for the first time a real object that he had seen shadows and echoes of. Wouldn't he see them as an illusion, and the shadows as the reality? He posits that forcing the prisoner out of the cave and into the sunlight would distress them greatly, as "reality" as he knows it is stripped away, leaving only the illusion. Would he ever acclimatize and accept the truth? He compares a man who acclimatizes to a philosopher, who is able to peel away the falsity of life and see wisdom. Rather narcissistic of a philosopher, if you ask me.
Enver Hoxha was best known as a kooky dictator who ruled Albania as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania from 1941 to 1985. A devout Marxist-Leninist, he was a great admirer of Stalin, broke relation with Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union after Khrushchev bashed Stalin and advocated a policy of "Peaceful co-existence " with capitalism. He great a hasty friendship with China, but that ended after he condemned Maoism in the 1970s. However, the real reason I find him nutty is the program of building nearly a million single-occupant concrete bunkers across the nation. He would literally build them wherever the hell he wanted, be it in the middle of a farm, or in some body's front yard. More than 750,000 of them survive, and are virtually indestructible to the average citizen. Supposedly, he was crazy insecure, and fueled by nightmares of invasion by allies and enemies alike, figured that the bunkers would be his way to protect the party (the other two million citizens were out of luck, I suppose). He banned color television and typewriters until the 1980s, and of course, beards (ummm... how is that supposed to be incompatible with communism?). He also kidnapped Petar Shapallo, a rural dentist who looked a bit like him, forced plastic surgery, and made him a body double, who then disappeared after Hoxha's death in 1985.