Underlinings (#56)

The peculiar John Murray Spear:

… In 1852, Spear broke all ties with the Universalist church, and instead turned to Spiritualism. He claimed that he was in contact with “The Association of Electrizers”, a group of spirits including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Benjamin Rush, as well as Spear’s namesake John Murray. Evidence indicates he occasionally faked signatures as a way to gain authority from a “guide from the past”; however, these signatures were dated beyond the lifetimes of the deceased. Spear believed that the purpose of this group was to bring new technology to mankind, so that greater levels of personal and spiritual freedom could be achieved. The following year, Spear and a handful of followers retreated to a wooden shed at the top of High Rock hill in Lynn, Massachusetts, where they set to work creating the “New Motive Power”, a mechanical Messiah which was intended to herald a new era of Utopia. The New Motive Power was constructed of copper, zinc and magnets, all carefully machined, as well as a dining room table. At the end of nine months, Spear and the “New Mary”, an unnamed woman, ritualistically birthed the contraption in an attempt to give it life. Unfortunately for Spear, this failed to have the desired effect, and the machine was later dismantled. …

Underlinings (#55)

Kusozu (image sequence at the link):

I think I might be obsessed with kusozu, Japanese watercolor paintings that graphically depict human decomposition, which were popular between the 13th and 19th centuries; Body of a Courtesan in Nine Stages is another series in this genre featured previously on this site. Kusozu works of art were inspired by Buddhist beliefs and these paintings were meant to encourage people to ponder the temporary nature of the physical world. Kusozu watercolors also happen to be fantastic early studies of human decay and taphonomy, which is why one series, titled Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her body, is currently on display as part of the Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime exhibit in London.

According to the Wellcome Collection, Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her body was painted some time in the 18th century. The below scenes include: (1) the woman’s impending death and her preparation for it; (2) the noble woman has just passed away and her loved ones are seated around her; (3) slight skin discoloration (maybe some liver mortis) and a bit of bloating of during early decomposition; (4) the onset of putrefaction with bloating and marbling; (5) advanced decomposition as seen by pervasive marbling, leakage of purge fluid from the mouth, and the abdominal cavity has burst open (6) caving of abdominal cavity and scavenging animals; (7) start of skeletonization and the disappearance of soft tissue; (8) complete skeletonization and scattering of remains; (9) finally human remains have been completely scattered or consumed by unseen animals so all that remains is a memorial for the deceased woman. …

Underlinings (#51)

The master’s eyes darted around, and he continued in a low voice:

When we do our work poorly, we are replaced with our betters. When we do our work well, the thing we have built grows larger, faster, more powerful, more entrenched, more hungry. Sometimes I lie awake in a cold sweat, unable to decide if we are still building it, or if it has begun using us to build itself

(Link received with gratitude from JF — a more precise attribution might be unwelcome.)