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SCATTERBRAIN November 2010

www.thewestwordonline.com

Stranger Than Fiction Column by Elizabeth Mohen

The devastating effects of the fourteenth century Bubonic plague were tragic and widespread across Europe, and the disease’s shocking statistics have been passed down through the centuries. But the infamous medieval plague also carried a lesser known counterpart, a disease that is hardly mentioned in the history books. Nonetheless, it infected thousands and tremendously influenced fourteenth century society. Choreomania, also known as the Dancing Plague, struck Europe with a vengeance in the 1300s. Symptoms of this illness ranged from screaming to shouting to vivid hallucinations, all of which culminated in the uncontrollable urge to dance. Thus several hundred years of frolicsome, irrational panic were born, sweeping Europe to its feet and terrifying its citizens who literally couldn’t stop moving in rhythm with thousands of their fellow infected townspeople. In such tainted areas, massive crowds began to spontaneously dance in the middle of the street for no apparent reason, with a number of people driven to tears by their complete inability to stop jigging for days on end. Doctors were useless and mu-

sicians tried and failed to control the masses. In Germany, dozens of women dropped dead after a particularly boisterous month-long event, worn down by exhaustion and starvation, and prominent monks jigged themselves to death. Though seemingly festive, these rampant dance parties were so uncontrollable that they were dreaded by all who fell victim to their rowdy influence. As logic was severely lacking at the time, fingers were pointed and blame was eventually placed on the saints above. Heavenly spirits were the leading explanation for the phenomenon and were thought to have cursed the masses until the sinners danced their way into a procession dedicated in honor of the wrathful saints. Only then could the afflicted be cured, although thousands are estimated to have died in the meantime from the broken ribs and heart attacks that ensued from the dancing. A number of medical explanations are considered to be the actual cause behind the out-of-character medieval flash mobs. For some, widespread poisoning, psychological pressures, or epilepsy may have caused the desire to dance in the first place, and the innate desire to copy one’s companions may have led to the swelling of each crowd. Regardless, it is clear that irrational panic in the fourteenth century was considerably more interesting than in any time period since.

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HEARD IT ON THE HILL:

What unique Thanksgiving foods do you and your family eat? “My family eats empanadas.” —Kerman Ostos, ’11

“My family eats matzah ball soup.”

“My family has a dessert called buckeyes. They’re frozen peanut butter balls coated with chocolate.” ­—Antonia Bova, ’14

“I recall my family eating Peruvian pork.” —Joslyn Rodriguez, ’11

—Stefano Petrafesa, ’13

“My family makes black-eyed pea soup every year.” —Sophie Trusty, ’11

“We eat steak taquitos.” —Ben Santiana, ’13

“I eat lasagna and rabbit.” —Tim Longo, ’13

“We eat pork and chicken with soy sauce.” —Jhaniel Resma, ’14

“I eat Hungarian goulash.” —Chason Higgs, ’11

“I eat cornish hen.” ­—Nicole Behunick, ’14 “I eat pheasant.” —Phil Spadaro, ’13

December

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We all know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” There’s no better day to observe such a rule than on Eat a Red Apple Day on December 1.

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Hanukkah begins on December 2, so get out your menorah and prepare for an intense game of dreidel.

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If you haven’t written a letter in a while, take a few minutes on December 7, Letter Writing Day, to write a letter to a good friend. It may catch him or her off guard, but who wouldn’t appreciate the gesture?

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Save your leftovers from Christmas dinner for Boxing Day on December 26. Gather your friends for a potluck-style meal and have everyone bring something; you’ll end up with lots of delicious food.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. If you know of people who drive while intoxicated, make it your responsibility to let them know the risks to themselves and to others on the road.

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Join Interact on November 30 at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church for an interfaith service in honor of World AIDS Day, which is on December 1. This day is dedicated to raising AIDS awareness. To learn more, visit www.avert.org. You can also donate to an HIV/AIDS support organization such as Avert.

Tune into TNT to catch the annual 24-hour showing of A Christmas Story beginning on December 24.

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o d To month: ext

Sydney Olshan / Illustrator Quotes compiled by Taylor Considine / Staff Writer

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Enjoy the last few days of 2010 and start thinking of a meaningful New Year’s resolution in advance. This time, resolve to actually stick to it!

Katie Zabronsky / Managing Editor

Peanuts are one of the ingredients in dynamite. The average person spends three years of his or her life on a toilet.

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“My family eats matzah ball soup.” “We eat pork and chicken with soy sauce.” —Jhaniel Resma, ’14 SCATTERBRAIN November 2010 “I eat pheasant....

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