True stories of survival cannibalism!

Cannibalism is the macabre practice of eating other humans. But sometimes, people have no choice if they want to survive. It's called survival cannibalism and it tastes like chicken.

The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Some top notch articles on weird stuff like KFC becoming the traditional Christmas meal in Japan.

The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Each week, Josh and Chuck read tons of material and a lot of it is really good. Here's the best of the bunch.

The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Every week, Chuck and Josh read tons of articles. Here are links to the best of the bunch.

The Nantucket whaler Essex and the Custom of the Sea

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about a sunken 1820s Nantucket whaling vessel called the Two Brothers that was discovered among French Frigate Shoals, west of Hawaii. The ship is noteable for a couple reasons; it's a rare find since most whaling vessels of the era tended to sink in the deeper parts of the ocean, where its quarry lived. The Two Brothers is also noteworthy for having been helmed by a man involved in the incident that inspired Moby Dick.

Even if coincidences don't exist, they're still really sweet

A blog post on Urban Semiotic attempts to point out that there's no such thing as coincidence. We humans tend to construct coincidences to amuse ourselves or to seek solace in the idea that there is some all-knowing being tittering behind his wizard's sleeve as he sets up impossible scenarios to play out and watches us react like the comic strip version of Little Orphan Annie when she's startled.

Europeans have a longstanding tradition of being really, really weird and really, really suspicious of other people. Chuck and I just recorded a podcast on totem poles that should be out soon and in the article there's section on totem pole myths, specifically that they were used to ward off and/or worship evil spirits. That would be incorrect: totem poles are instead akin to a very tall wooden family history. Think a bit further, though. Where would that myth have come from? Yes, that's right, European settlers. (I wrote another post on how European suspicions created the idea of witches.) How about cannibalism? There's a guy named William Arens who posited in 1980 that there's never been a culture that practiced cannibalism. Instead, it was suspicious rumor generated by early contact between Europeans and native tribes. It's not entirely odd, if you think about it. All it takes is an explorer in the grips of awe and cynicism while meeting a previously-undiscovered group of humans noticing there happen to be a lot of piles of bones here or there. Instead of considering the possibility that the people practice funeral rites that don't include burying their dead (true), the explorer concludes that they eat one another (false), high tails it out of there and goes to tell everybody else that the group practices cannibalism. Sadly, the image of bone-nosed natives cooking Bugs Bunny in a huge pot is not a caricature of a real thought, but a pretty accurate portrayal of how whites viewed unconverted tribes.

Anybody familiar with me can tell you that I love me some cannibalism. I'm fascinated by the concept of eating another person and the psychological fortitude that consumption must entail. I'm also intrigued by the possibility that cannibalism ever existed in ritual form; that the idea that Amazonian or New Guinean tribes feasting on hapless missionaries bound by rope and dropped in a huge metal kettle over a fire is as patently ridiculous as the cartoon portrayal of cannibals with bones through their noses. Back in 1980, anthropologist William Arens made waves in the academic community when he suggested in his book, "The Man-Eating Myth," that all accounts of ritual cannibalism were fabrications by outsiders who sought to subjugate a foreign culture. (What better way to make a culture appear less than human?)...