Jack the Ripper

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FromHellLetter.jpgThis is the “From Hell” letter, sent by Jack the Ripper to the president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee that was pursuing him. He included a bloody fragment to prove his identity:

“I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer”

Whoever he was, Jack certainly had a flair for dramatic horror. But much of his fame is really due to newspapers, which were becoming popular at the time. His crimes, which combined sex, violence, mystery, class warfare and police ineptitude, were tailor-made for cheap sensation. (In fact, it was probably a journalist who invented the “Ripper” nickname.)

Casebook: Jack the Ripper has gathered examples of lurid accounts from as far away as Poland, Jamaica, and Mexico. “All London is ringing with the horror of the thing,” writes one New Zealand editor. “The woman who reads, with hair standing on end, the details of some fresh outrage to-night cannot feel sure that on the morrow she may not be the next victim.” The whole episode is a low point for responsible journalism.

BTW, today the Ripper’s story has spawned a rather unwholesome fanbase, with concentration games, crossword puzzles, and fan fiction. Somehow time can make even serial murder seem quaint.

Theseus and the Minotaur

Theseus and the Minotaur is a series of Java-based puzzles in which you have to escape a maze without getting mashed by a computerized monster that moves predictably. There are 14 levels, and I can’t get past level 4.

The interesting thing is that the puzzles were designed by a computer, and they’re now being used in AI experiments at the National University of Ireland. So computers are now solving puzzles designed by other computers.

Origins of Band Names

And here’s a list of the origins of band names:

  • Spandau Ballet was a Nazi guards’ term for the contortions of Jewish prisoners being gassed to death. There was a large gas chamber in the city of Spandau.
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers were originally called Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.
  • Pantera is Portuguese for “panther.”
  • Oingo Boingo is Swahili for “thinking while dancing.”
  • The Eagles were originally going to call themselves Teen King and the Emergencies.
  • Def Leppard got its name from Joe Elliot’s drawing of a leopard with no ears.

I always wondered about that last one. What a stupid name.

Hang On Sloopy

Apparently Ohio’s official state rock song is “Hang On Sloopy.”

I don’t know if that’s the best song that ever came out of Ohio, but the resolution that proposed it is priceless:

If fans of jazz, country-and-western, classical, Hawaiian and polka music think those styles also should be recognized by the state, then by golly, they can push their own resolution just like we’re doing.

Washington has better taste — it chose “Louie Louie.”

Self-Defense With a Cane

Here’s a little light reading before you go strolling downtown: “Self-Defence With a Walking-Stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself With a Walking-Stick or Umbrella When Attacked Under Unequal Conditions.” It originally ran in Pearson’s Magazine in January 1901.

Apparently those things were pretty deadly: If you use your wrists and swing from the hip, “it is possible to sever a man’s jugular vein through the collar of his overcoat.”