To the moon! … on a cannonball

high dynamic range panorama created from 24 images

Close to a year of living in lockdown and I think I’ve finally snapped. Yup, I guess it was inevitable but I thought I might last a bit longer. It appears I am suffering from Munchausen Syndrome and find myself sympathising with my captors.

I guess if you keep someone in a cage long enough they create ways to make it normal, to adapt and fit into the new order. This is especially true when there is no, or little, chance of escape.

This must be why Munchausen Syndrome has set in and I catch myself not only listening to what my captors have to say, but agreeing with them and their reasoning.

By now I’m quite sure I’ve driven at least a few of you to the point where you’re yelling at your screens, with a few choice expletives and “it’s Stockholm Syndrome you blithering idiot!”. Under normal circumstances you would be right. These are not normal circumstances so live with being wrong.

Stockholm Syndrome is considered a condition but has never been published in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) because there’s just not enough academic research that has been done around it over the years. This condition results when a hostage develops a bond with their captor, perhaps believing in their cause, sympathising with their goals, that kind of thing.

Munchausen Syndrome was chosen as the popular name for factitious disorder by British physician Richard Asher, back in 1951, in an article published in The Lancet in which he described patients who lie about their own health. There’s even a version of it where people lie about the health of others, usually those close to them.

Quite why I like Munchausen Syndrome is not because it was named after Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Münchhausen, born in 1720 and a renowned storyteller of some repute. No, I like Munchausen Syndrome because the famed fables of those fantastic adventures were created by Rudolf Erich Raspe who remained anonymous in his creation until 43 years after the first story was published – and some 30 years after his passing.

Raspe is remembered by history as a German writer, scientist and … con artist. It was this latter activity that saw him fleeing continental Europe and settling in England in 1776, but critically only after meeting and spending time with the real Münchhausen. It is interesting that early in his career, Raspe achieved a great deal, including a professorship, and his contributions to a zoological paper met sufficient acclaim he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

His efforts were undone when, on a trip to Italy to purchase curios for Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, he was found out for having sold the Landgrave’s valuables in pursuit of his own profit. His reward, and the reason for his flight to England, was to be ejected from the Royal Society for “divers frauds and gross breaches of trust”. That and the fact that the police were looking for him.

It appeals to me that the con-man Raspe sat at Münchhausen’s fireside, being regaled with fantastic tales of daring, featuring almost superhuman feats tossed about almost as an aside by a master raconteur. I can imagine the pair enjoyed each other’s company immensely, but neither had an inkling of what would happen next – or that Münchhausen would later be unaware that is was this very Raspe he would want a quiet word with regarding the damage to his reputation.

England was where Raspe’s writings really took off – and took on a life of their own. As the anonymous creator, he could only sit and watch as the stories of the fictional Baron Munchausen spiralled beyond expectation with 10 editions or translations even before his death.

Have you not encountered the Baron before? Well, amongst the more popular stories in his adventures, you’ll hear of the time he rode a cannonball, he even travelled to the moon (200 years before the first astronauts landed there) and was involved in a fight with a forty-foot crocodile (they grow to 20 feet – 6.1 metres, or just slightly more). Clearly he was quite the fantastic man. It is not just the adventures which form the Munchausen mystique but rather the way they are so casually told as a matter of the unbelievable being normal.

So why do I make you wade through all of this to find out why I have Munchausen’s and not Stockholm? Listening to the stories, fabrications, tall tales and sometimes unbelievable comments put forward by our leaders over the past 11 months, I find myself almost wanting them to be true. This must be a mental disorder, it can be no other way. Reasons, justifications, interpretations, deliberations of the most fantastic variety have dogged us every step of the way – and we’ve been forced to accept them on nothing but blind faith despite a complete inability to justify much of it.

On a final note, if you’ve managed to wade through this mental meandering I’ll leave you with something completely unrelated to mental illness. The image at the top of this word salad is a sunset I captured on Thursday last week. What you see is a single image, but is composed of eight images captured three times – for a total of 24. Basically, I pointed my portrait-oriented camera at the sunset and took three images (one for shadows, one for midtowns and one for highlights). Then I moved the camera a little bit and repeated the process, then again and again, until I had moved it a total of eight times.

Once all of these were taken, they were combined in software and the resulting image edited. While a standard RAW file for my camera weighs in around the 22Mb mark, this image is in excess of 260Mb – and that’s when compressed. Outside of the photographic community this information is quite useless, but I thought you might find it interesting.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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