Crate of Curios – ISOLATION special

As our somewhat softening lockdown has been prolonged for yet another week, it seems to be a good occasion for making a special edition of the Crate this time around. The topic – surprise, surprise – is ISOLATION and in order to celebrate this little event, this Crate will contain more treasures than usual. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

  1. Whilst the current isolation is born out of necessity, throughout history there have been (and still are) people who have sought it out voluntarily. Indeed, I’m referring to hermits who in the medieval period were highly honoured for their reclusive lifestyle.

2. Speaking of hermits, the most famous contemporary one must surely be the hermit in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’.

3. How much trouble can one possibly take to get away from the maddening crowd? For one, someone has erected a solitary dwelling on the remote Elliðaey island in the Icelandic Vestmannaejar archipelago. Who it might have been is hitherto unknown, as the owner of the house has despite various speculations remained a mystery.

4. When Robinson Crusoe and the protagonists of Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” ended up isolated by accident, French cave explorer Michel Siffre spent extended periods underground in complete solitude in order to find out how living ‘beyond time’ influences the human body.

5. One more thing a propos hermits, at Verena Gorge in Switzerland one could actually be hired to work as one. Considering that one of the tasks required is talking to tourists, the life might prove slightly less solitary than expected.

6. Artists are supposedly another naturally reclusive bunch, or at least people theoretically comfortable with the natural solitude of the profession. In reality the story behind this perception is a bit more complicated.

7. As the previously mentioned Elliðaey island might prove a touch too isolated for most, the Holy Isle just off the coast of Scotland could be a better bet. With a spiritual history dating back to 6th century A.D., it currently houses a Tibetan Buddhist community that welcomes visitors during summer season in non-Covid times.

8. Quarantine as means to contain disease is by no means a new invention – it was used successfully in Sardinia in 1582. Doctor Quinto Tiberio Angelerio, who had experienced a plague outbreak in Sicily a few years earlier, risked lynching by the angry mob due to his orders to lock down the city. Some of the 57 rules from his Ectypa Pestilentis Status Algheriae Sardiniae booklet sound rather familiar.

9. And finally in the Old English words of John Donne…

And that was it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 17

It is Sunday night again and this time the cold front ‘Leandros’ is promising us all possible weather phenomena starting with torrential rain and ending with snow. Whilst appreciating the leftover warmth in the radiator, let’s get to it without further ado.

  1. Fear of the new is anything but new and even things we consider rather nice and harmless now used to cause uproar in their early days. Bicycles, for instance were supposed to freeze the lovely features of the female pedallers into a ‘bicycle face’ (which sounds rather similar to the infamous Resting Bitch Face). However, ladies took the risk and bicycles became good business.

2. Archaeology is not only mud and ditches, but also state-of-the-art imaging technology as shown here to restore the text of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3. I wrote about Doorkins Magnificat, the cat of London’s Southwark Cathedral in Crate No.6 – they held a memorial service to her, that I, although an agnostic, found very moving. So now I’m happy to report that the old Cathedral has a new feline inhabitant – Hodge. And yes, he also has a Twitter account.

4. We might consider drones annoying for a number of reasons, but there’s no denying that they help the Andrews brothers produce stunning top-down photography – as Abstract Aerial Art thoroughly proves.

5. Today’s poetry spamming comes from the pen of the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetaeva and from the year 1916.

And that was it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 16

Here we are again, it’s yet another lazy lockdown Sunday and what better pastime could there be than to make a cup of tea (although as an exception I made coffee today) and open the new Crate of Curios. Let’s get to it!

  1. Clowns tend to be more a matter of phobias than a hilarious stage act these days (looking at you, Stephen King), but there are still interesting things to discover about them. For instance, since 1946 all members of Clowns International get to have their personal stage makeup immortalized on an egg in Clown Egg Register. Originally these were actually emptied-out chicken eggs, but now for practical reasons they have moved on to ceramic eggs.

2. The Guardian has gathered a lot of interesting facts about Emily Brontë and “The Wuthering Heights” into a handful of nifty charts. However, if you see her compared to an emperor penguin somewhere, they are actually talking about her sister Charlotte.

3. Living in the city it’s sometimes easy to forget where our food comes from. OneSoil has gathered data about different crops grown in the US and Europe and made a fascinating map of it. Check out their Random beautiful fields feature!

4. How do Hollywood filmmakers know how the dwellings on desert planet Tatooine should look like in order to provide shelter for its inhabitants? Now they might Google, but first of all they visit the Michelson Cinema Research Library. In December 2020 it was taken over in its entirety by the Internet Archive, so after a period of uncertainty, it has finally found a forever home.

5. In a time period of pervasive employee surveillance, it’s rather refreshing to see the animation studio owners William Hanna and Joseph Barbera taking a stance on time clocks.

And that was it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 15

And finally we made it over the finish line and tumbled into 2021. Will it be better or worse than 2020? Who knows. Probably the best way is to keep taking things day by day and enjoying the small things in life at least for the time being. And speaking of small things… it’s time for another Crate of Curios.

  1. Unless there’s a terrorist attack or some conflict between countries, we don’t really hear much about India in the news. Yet in a similar vein as elsewhere, people in India are taking to the streets in order to try and improve their lot – or at least keep it from getting worse. And in this spirit, protesting farmers in India have made their own rendition of the well-known Italian folk protest song “Bella Ciao”.

2. You think you know how to microwave your food? Think again. Most likely you are not doing it in the most optimal manner.

3. Orchids are generally considered the gracious swans of the flower world, but even they have an occasional duckling. Gastrodia agnicellus from Madagascar keeps itself quietly underground and only surfaces to flower and disperse its seeds. Although it looks rather like a flesh-eater, it’s actually a member of the genus of potato orchids.

4. Ever since the race to develop vaccines for Covid-19 started, mRNA has become one of the buzzwords. It sounds new and scarily unknown. However, the research behind it dates back to 1990 and owes much of its existence to the stubbornness of the Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó.

5. After 2020, it feels like a very practical approach to be prepared for every survival scenario.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.