Paul's collaborative writing on the web

The Inferior 4+1 is a Livejournal community maintained by Paul, lizhand, Paul Witcover, lucius-t and ljgoldstein.

Recent posts:

  • Doc Smith in the (Counterfactual) Sixties September 27, 2016
  • Norton in the (Counterfactual) Sixties September 26, 2016
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE September 26, 2016
    I review a collection of linked SF stories:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2016/09/paul-di-filippo-reviews-alexander-weinstein/
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE September 23, 2016
    I look at an epic fantasy:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2016/09/paul-di-filippo-reviews-brian-lee-durfee/
  • What I've Been Up to for the Past Few Weeks September 22, 2016
    The above are seeds of something called “burr clover” or “burr medic.”  [Not actual size, fortunately -- they're about a quarter of an inch in diameter.]   They are also something that has completely taken over my backyard.The only way to get rid of them is to comb over your backyard and try to pick all of them up.  But because they’re sneaky little bastards, when you do this you tend to miss hundreds (I’m not kidding — literally hundreds) of seeds, and those seeds take root and grow, and those new plants send out tendrils with more seeds, and the seeds explode over your backyard, and the whole cycle starts up again.  So then you have to go through the yard again, and find out that you’ve missed a bunch more over here and a whole new patch of burr clover is flourishing in that corner over there… Even worse, you discover that one has attached itself to the bottom of your shoe, and if you hadn’t noticed it you would have been responsible for transplanting a whole new colony of them to another section of the yard.  They’re sneaky bastards, like I said.It gets to the point where, when you go to sleep, you see piles of seeds behind your eyes.  Where your dreams are filled with delightful visions of flame torches burning the entire backyard to a crisp.  Where you start referring to the seeds in the same way you would talk about vermin, or vampires — “a nest of seeds.”  Where you think of them as evil, as something put on this earth solely to torment you.  Where you become compulsive about rooting them out, and feel antsy if you can’t spend at least a few minutes stooping over the ground and muttering to yourself.  Where you come in from your travails exhausted, and close your eyes, and see flames licking through your backyard, and you smile.
  • Panshin in the (Counterfactual) Sixties September 21, 2016

The Weird Universe explores a human and natural cosmos that is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. The usual suspects are Paul Di Filippo; Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes; and Chuck Shepherd, purveyor of News of the Weird.

Recent posts:

  • School chief shot a moon
    October 1978: Cleveland School Board President John E. Gallagher Jr. was charged with a misdemeanor and fined $100. The prosecutor explained the reason for the charge to the press: "He shot a moon — that's what he did." A state trooper had witnessed Gallagher, who was a passenger in a car driving north along I-271, pull his pants down and expose his bare buttocks to his brother, who was driving in a passing car. Gallagher pleaded no contest. The Akron Beacon Journal - Nov 1, 1978
  • Nation’s Ugliest Students
    Holy Microaggressions, Batman! Imagine the stink such a stunt would cause today. Which generation of students seems more resilient, well-adjusted and good-natured to you? Original article here.
  • Operation Sleep
    In 1957, the Woodlake road camp prison in California began an experiment in convict rehabilitation. It was called "Operation Sleep." The idea was to use sleep learning to reform convicts. As the prisoners slept, they heard the soothing voice of a psychiatrist speaking the following script: Listen, my inner self, remember and obey this creed of life: Live relaxed, completely and utterly relaxed... Love, rule my life. Love God, my family, and others... Have faith... work with others... Face life without fear, be calm, unafraid... Know myself and my faults... live without alcohol... Alcohol is a poison. I do not need alcohol. Abstain with ease. Alcohol is repulsive to me... I am truly happy. I give my life to my family, to my friends, and to the world. I am filled with love and compassion for all, so help me God. The script had been written by the County's Public Defender, John Locke, with help from a local Presbyterian minister, Rev. Glen Peters, and a hospital therapist, Robert C. Lally. They described Operation Sleep as "a type of brain-washing — but not the type used by the totalitarians." Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any data on whether the experiment actually had an effect of criminal behavior. The superintendent of the prison noted, "We have had excellent cooperation from the inmates. But of course, it is too early yet to tell what effect it will have. We won't know until after the men have been released and face the temptations of freedom again." The picture at the top is from Newsweek (Dec 30, 1957), and shows one of the prisoners who participated in the experiment. The fact that he's sleeping with a dog seems a little strange. I guess the inmates got to keep pets in this prison. Wilmington Morning News - Oct 11, 1957 Update: I found a news story from 1961 offering a 3-year update on Operation Sleep. I'm actually surprised that the prison kept the experiment going for that long. Public defender John Locke claimed that the experiment had been showing positive results, but said they needed to keep it going for another 3 years to be sure. From the Ottawa Citizen - Feb 21, 1961: For three years now the sleep therapy program has been in operation. Locke and his associates are careful to admit that it will be at least three years more before anything conclusive can be deduced from the careful check they keep on prisoners after their release. Almost from the beginning though, the guards at the road camps noticed that the young inmates did not cause the same amount of trouble they had created formerly and were surprised when prisoners started coming to them for counsel. What is probably most indicative of the therapy's effect is the decrease in alcoholism revealed by surveys among ex-prisoners.
  • Follies of the Madmen #293
    Death-dealing war instrument of mass destruction compared to treasured hymn. Original ad here.
  • News of the Weird (September 25, 2016)
    News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M494, September 25, 2016 Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story Police and prosecutors in Dallas, Tex., appropriately sensitive at having been the site of the 1963 killing of President Kennedy, have apparently taken out their shame on assassination buff Robert Groden. As the Dallas Observer reported in September, Groden has been ticketed by police dozens of times for operating book-sales booths near the "grassy knoll" (site of the alleged "second shooter" of the President)--and yet he prevails in court every single time (82 straight, and counting). (Tip for visitors, from the Observer: Never publicly utter "grassy knoll" in Dallas, as it seems particularly to offend the police.) [Dallas Observer, 9-8-2016] The Continuing Crisis Stephen Mader, 25, native of Weirton, W.Va., and former Weirton police officer, is fighting to get his job back after being fired as not quick enough on the trigger. When Ronald Williams, Jr., in May, made a ham-handed attempt at "suicide by cop," it was Mader who, rather than shooting, tried to talk Williams down (based on his Marine Corps. and police academy training), but when Williams pointed his unloaded gun at two of Mader's colleagues, and one of them quickly shot the man to death, police officials fired Mader for having been insufficiently aggressive. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9-11-2016] Can't Possibly Be True: Few U.S. forces in Afghanistan speak the native Pashto or Dari, and the war prospects would be dim were it not for courageous Afghan civilians who aid the U.S. as interpreters under promise of protection and future emigration to the U.S. However, the Congressional battle over immigration policy has delayed entry for about 10,000 interpreters, who (along with their families) face imminent death if they remain in Afghanistan. Some in Congress also regard Afghans as riskier immigrants (despite the interpreters' demonstrated loyalty). [New York Times, 8-18-2016] Suspicions Confirmed Master baker Stefan Fischer filed a lawsuit recently against Bakery of New York for wrongful firing--because he refused to use "bug-infested" flour to make batches of bread. According to Fischer, when he informed management of the bugs in the facility's 3,000-pound flour silo, he was told simply to make "multi-grain" bread, which Fischer took to mean that fewer diners would complain if they heard "crunching" while eating multi-grain. [New York Daily News, 9-15-2016] Leading Economic Indicators News Corporation Australia reported in September the enviable success of a 16-year-old British entrepreneur, Ms. Beau Jessup, who has so far earned about $84,000 with a simple online app to help rich Chinese parents select prosperous-sounding English names for their babies. Users choose among 12 personality traits they hope their baby to have, then receive three suggestions (including a list of famous people with those names). Jessup got the idea when living in China and noticing that some babies of the rich were given lame names, such as "Gandolf" and "Cinderella." [News.com.au (Sydney), 9-9-2016] Chinese Management Techniques: (1) About 200 employees at a travel service in Shandong Province were fined the equivalent of $6.50 each recently for failing to comply with orders to "comment" (favorably, one supposes) on the general manager's daily posts to the Twitter-like Internet site Sina Weibo. (2) In June, a motivational trainer working with employees of the Changzhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank reportedly told the poor-performing bank personnel (among the 200 at the session) to "prepare to be beaten." He then walked among the workers, whacking some with a stick, shaving the heads of the males, and cutting the hair of the females. [Beijing Youth Daily via China Daily, 8-19-2016] [Reuters via The Guardian (London), 6-21-2016] Weird Science Trees talk to each other and recognize their offspring, according to Australian ecology researcher Suzanne Simard (most recently lecturing on the influential video series TED Talks). Trees are not independent organisms but belong to arboreal "families" with characteristics identifying them to other family members. According to Dr. Simard, "mother" trees that ordinarily expand their roots wildly may hold back to give nearby "kinfolk" tree roots a chance to spread. Using "isotope tracing," she learned of trees passing healthful carbon, via fungi, to neighboring family seedlings, which she said renders the seedlings more resistant to future stress. [Treehugger, 7-29-2016] [Daily Telegraph (London), 9-11-2016] Can't Stop Myself (1) The lifelong pickpocket known as "Auntie Sato," 83, who has spent nearly 30 years of her life behind bars, was sentenced again (two years, six months) in August for a purse-snatching from a traveler in Tokyo's Ueno Station. "Why," asked the judge, does Auntie Sato keep at it, especially since she also owns property and has rental income. Said she, "I thought about [stopping]," but "gave up." "It's hopeless." (2) Faisal Shaikh, awaiting his theft case to be called at the Thane sessions court in Mumbai, India, in August (one of several theft charges pending), wandered up to the court stenographer's desk and swiped her cell phone. He was apprehended shortly afterward near the courthouse. [Japan Today, 8-7-2016] [Mumbai Mirror, 9-1-2016] Oops! By August, Raymond Mazzarella was fed up with the tree in his neighbor's yard in Pittston Township, Pa., as it was continuously dripping sap onto his car--and so grabbed a chainsaw, cut through the 36-inch-wide trunk, and (he thought) fixed the problem. However, the tree fell directly onto Mazzarella's small apartment house, dispossessing five tenants and, ultimately, forcing inspectors to condemn the entire building. [WNEP-TV (Scranton), 8-22-2016] Recurring Themes Popular Fetishes: (1) A middle-aged man was reported in three incidents in the Aberdeen, Scotland, area in August and September to be approaching women and asking for piggyback rides. He was still at large. (2) In September, England's Derby Crown Court sentenced Sanjeev Sandhu, 29, to six months in jail because of the "extreme" pornography on his phone. One image was of children having sex, but the judge also noted images featuring humans having sex with dogs, a donkey, a bull, and in another case, a fish. [Evening Express (Aberdeen), 9-5-2016] [Derby Telegraph, 9-3-2016] How to Tell If You're Drunk Dave Little, 27, vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, Spain--and partying hard, apparently--was at press time still haggling with eBay, trying to get out of his "successful" auction bid (blamed on a fingering misadventure on his phone) of 28,500 British pounds (about $37,000) for a Scania Irizar Century bus. eBay, of course, warns that bids are legally binding. Little believes that his dad had earlier searched bus information on the phone and that alcohol then affected his own navigation between screens. [Metro News (London) 8-25-2016] The Passing Parade (1) A utility line in Hood County, Tex., broke in August, five feet below ground on Andrea Adams's property, but Acton Municipal District worker Jimmie Cox, 23, came to the rescue--which involved Cox briefly submerging himself in the mud, face down to his waist, to clamp the line. He said, later, "In this line of work, [we] do it a lot." (Photo!) (2) On September 9th, a man (who said later he somehow could not stop his car) drove off of a nine-story downtown parking garage in Austin, Tex. The SUV hung upside down (caught only by the garage guide wire that wrapped around one wheel) until passers-by pulled him to safety. (Photo!) [WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), 8-25-2016] [KXAN-TV (Austin), 9-9-2016] A News of the Weird Classic (November 2012) No Do-Overs: By 2009, James Washington believed he had gotten away with a 1995 murder, but then he had a heart attack, and on his deathbed, in a fit of remorse, told a guard in the jailhouse where he was being detained on an unrelated offense, “I have to get [this] off my conscience.” However, Washington miraculously recovered from the heart attack and tried to take back his confession, but prosecutors in Nashville, Tenn., used it to augment sparse evidence from 1995, and in October 2012 the now-healthier Washington was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 51 years in prison. [WSMV-TV (Nashville, Tenn.), 10-31-2012] Thanks This Week to Gerald Sacks and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
  • Horseback Dinner
    Conspicuous Consumption - as it was done in 1903. In order to celebrate the completion of his $200,000 stable, C.K.G. Billings held a "horseback dinner" on March 28, 1903 for 33 of his pals from the Equestrian club. It took 24 workers three days to convert the second-floor banquet hall at Sherry's restaurant in New York into a faux rural barnyard and stable. The guests ate while seated on their horses. The various courses were served on a table attached to the saddle. There was an individual waiter for each rider, and a groom stood at each horse's head to keep it calm and prevent a sudden start from spilling the food. More details from the NY Post-Dispatch (Mar 29, 1903) : Each horses was equipped with a white, quilted satin saddle and bridle, martingale and shoulder-hangings in gold and white. Each guest was designated to his place by his name lettered in gold on the cantle of a saddle. In the center of the horseshoe formed by the animals was a mound of green, surmounted by a mass of flowers. The grassy sides sloped off into a lawn, which spread to the horse's fore feet. Beside each horse was a satin upholstered mounting box, from which the diner in the saddle was served. A board fastened athwart the pommel of the saddle served as a table, and that the steed might not curvette or prance or shy, and so spill gravy or salad, a liveried groom stood at each horse's head... The equestrian guests entered fully into the spirit of the affair and soon the first banquet in the saddle was in full swing. And while the guests ate, so did the horses. While the courses were being served from the mounting blocks to dishes which were secured in holders on the saddle tables the horses munched oats from individual silk-covered mangers. Twelve courses were served, then the tables were removed from the pommels and the guests lounged over their cigars in the padded saddles. Speeches followed, mostly laudatory of Mr. Billings. It cost Billings around $1.3 million (in modern money) to host the event. The Town Talk - Mar 27, 1903 Reference: Museum of the City of New York