Paul's collaborative writing on the web
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.
- News of the Weird (January 22, 2017)News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M511, January 22, 2017 Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story Post-Truth Society: In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals finally pulled the plug on Orange County, Calif., social workers who had been arguing in court for 16 years that they were not guilty of lying under oath because, after all, they did not understand that lying under oath in court is wrong. The social workers had been sued for improperly removing children from homes and defended their actions by inventing "witnesses" to submit made-up testimony. Their lawyers had been arguing that the social workers' "due process" rights were violated in the lawsuit because in no previous case on record did a judge ever have occasion to explicitly spell out that creating fictional witness statements is not permitted. [OC Weekly, 1-6-2017] The Way The World Works Former elementary school teacher Maria Caya, who was allowed to resign quietly in 2013 from her Janesville, Wis., school after arriving drunk on a student field trip, actually made money on the incident. In November 2016, the city agreed to pay a $75,000 settlement--because the police had revealed her blood-alcohol level to the press in 2013 (allegedly, "private" medical information). The lawsuit against the police made no mention of Caya's having been drunk or passed out but only that she had "become ill." [Fox News, 10-26-2016] The Redneck Chronicles (1) John Bubar, 50, was arrested in Parsonsfield, Maine, in November after repeatedly lifting his son's mobile home with his front-end loader and dropping it. The father and son had been quarreling over rent payments and debris in the yard, and the father only eased up after realizing that his grandson was still inside the home. (2) Update: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reversed itself in December and allowed Mary Thorn of Lakeland to keep her 6-foot-long pet alligator ("Rambo") at home with her despite a regulation requiring that a gator that size needs a more spacious roaming area. Thorn and Rambo have been together for over a decade. [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 12-12-2016] [WFTV (Orlando), 12-21-2016] Unclear on the Concept "I'm [as] tired of hearing the word 'creep' as any black person or gay person is of hearing certain words," wrote Lucas Werner, 37, on his Facebook page in December after he was banned from a Starbucks in Spokane, Wash., for writing a polite dating request to a teenaged barista. Managers thought Werner was harassing the female, who is at least the age of consent, but Werner charged illegal "age discrimination" and made a "science" claim that "age gap love" makes healthier babies. [NWCN News (Seattle), 12-30-2016] Police Report Taylor Trupiano grudgingly paid his $128 "traffic" fine in December, issued by a Roseville, Mich., officer who caught his car warming up unattended--in his own driveway. Police routinely issue such tickets (5 to 10 each winter, based on a town ordinance) to send drivers like Trupiano a message that unattended cars are ripe for theft, which burdens Roseville's police department. (A police spokesman said the driverless warmups are illegal even for locked cars.) [WXYZ-TV (Detroit), 1-9-2017] Awwwwwww! (1) Jasper Fiorenza, 24, was arrested in St. Petersburg, Fla., in November and charged with breaking into a home in the middle of the night. The female resident said she awoke to see Fiorenza and screamed but that the man nonetheless delayed his getaway in order to pet the woman's cat lounging on her bed. (2) In December, Durham, Ontario, police officer Beth Richardson was set for disciplinary hearing ("discreditable conduct") because, earlier in 2016, after being called intervene at a drug user's home, she had noticed the resident's cat "cowering" in a corner and had taken her to a veterinarian, but without asking the owner's permission. [Tampa Bay Times, 12-1-2016] [CTV News (Toronto), 12-2-2016] Questionable Judgments David Martinez, 25, was shot in the stomach during a brawl in New York City in December. He had inadvertently initiated the chaos when, trying to park in Manhattan's East Village just after Saturday midnight, he moved an orange traffic cone that had obviously been placed to reserve the parking space. He apparently failed to realize that the parking spot was in front of the clubhouse of Hells Angels, whose members happened to take notice. [New York Daily News, 12-12-2016] The Entrepreneurial Spirit An unnamed pregnant woman convinced a reporter from Jacksonville, Fla., station WFOX-TV in December that the "positive" urine tests she was advertising on Craigslist were accurate and that she was putting herself through school by supplying them (making about $200 a day). The seller claimed that "many" pregnant women market their urine for tests--even though the main use of the test seems to be "negotiation" with boyfriends or husbands. [WFOX-TV, 12-16-2016] Perspective "You Have The Right To [Any Ol'] Attorney": While poor, often uneducated murder defendants in some states receive marginal, part-time legal representation by lawyers at the bottom of their profession (usually unable to keep their murder clients off of death row), "Boston Marathon" bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted of three murders in the 2013 attack and facing a possible death sentence, once again will be represented for free by a team at the top of the profession--headed by the chief of the New York federal public defender office. Tsarnaev was previously represented by a team topped by the chief of the Boston federal public defender office. [Boston Herald, 1-3-2017] Least Competent Criminals (1) Matthew Bergstedt, 27, was charged with breaking into a house in Raleigh, N.C., in December, though he failed to anticipate that the resident was inside, stacking firewood (which he used to bloody Bergstedt's face for his mugshot). (2) On December 5th in New York City, a so-far-unidentified man made five separate attempts to rob banks in midtown Manhattan over a three-hour span, but all tellers refused his demands, and he slinked away each time. (Police said a man matching his description had successfully robbed a bank four days earlier.) [WNCN-TV (Raleigh), 12-27-2016] [WNBC-TV (New York), 12-6-2016] Recurring Themes The Return of Anger Relief: (1) What was billed as the UK's first "Rage Cage" opened in Nottingham, England, in December, allowing patrons to vent with crowbars, baseball bats, and hammers to smash crockery, electronics, and glassware--at prices ranging from about $15 to about $40. (2) In October, a bookstore in Cairo, Egypt, set aside a small, soundproof room where patrons could go scream at the top of their lungs for 10 minutes about whatever stresses them. The store owner pointed to an academic study demonstrating screaming's "positive effect" on the brain. (The prototype store is still Donna Alexander's Anger Room in downtown Dallas, thriving since 2011, offering a variety of bludgeoning weapons, and especially active this election season, with target mannequins gussied up to be "Trump" and "Clinton.") [TalkRadio.co.uk, 12-5-2016] [CNN, 10-27-2016] [New York Times, 11-26-2016] The Passing Parade (1) Two weeks after a Pakistani International Airlines crash killed all 47 on board, some employees of the company figured they needed to dispel the bad karma (for their own safety) and thus sacrificed a black goat on the tarmac at Islamabad airport next to an ATR-42 aircraft (the same model that crashed). (2) Badminton player Mads Pieler Kolding, in a January match in India's Premier Badminton League, returned a volley at a world's record for a shuttlecock--265 mph. [NPR, 12-19-2016] [Deadspin.com, 1-12-2017] A News of the Weird Classic (March 2013) Suspicions Confirmed: In January , the National Hockey League labor dispute ended, and players returned to work, but as if on cue, some owners resumed their suspect claims that high player salaries were killing them financially. However, the Phoenix Business Journal reported in December 2012 that the NHL Phoenix Coyotes' bookkeeping methodology only allowed them to turn a profit for the season if the lockout had continued and wiped out all the games. In other words, based on the team’s bookkeeping, the only way for the Coyotes to make money was to never play. [Phoenix Business Journal, 12-26-2012] Thanks This Week to Gerald Sacks and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
- Butterflies in my stomachRonald Taylor, a professor of pathology at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, was an early promoter of an insect-based diet. In the 1970s, he published two books on the topic: Butterflies in My Stomach: Insects in Human Nutrition (1975) and Entertaining With Insects, Or: The Original Guide to Insect Cookery (1976). Some of the recipes in the books included: Boiled cod with snail sauce Wasp grubs fried in the comb Moths sauteed in butter Braised beef with caterpillars New carrots with wireworm sauce Gooseberry cream with sawflies Devilled chafer grubs Stag beetle larvae on toast The full recipe for Peanut Butter Worm Cookies is below.
- Mystery Illustration 37What horrors are causing the eyes of this Bride-of-Frankenstein lookalike to bug out? Answer after the jump.
- Radium CapI'm guessing that if this actually worked to cure headaches it was because of the placebo effect. Although radium does, of course, produce heat, which might help a headache. But if there was enough radium in the cap to feel noticeably warm, it must have been incredibly dangerous. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - June 11, 1937
- St. Pancake DayThe Dutch cartoonist Jan Kruis, recently deceased, was responsible for proclaiming November 29th of every year to be the "Sint Pannekoek-feest," and getting the whole country to play along. The main tradition is to wear a pancake on your head.
- When Billboards Become VisibleIf you're in the billboard business you'd probably want to know exactly when a billboard becomes visible to drivers. So in 1953 research was conducted at the Iowa State College Experiment Station to get an answer to this question. The study involved having subjects watch miniature billboards slowly approach on a conveyor belt. Source: Duke University Libraries - Archives of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. The Duke University blog also notes that in 1958 "The OAAA commissioned Jack Prince, a professor of ophthalmology at Ohio State University, to study the visual dynamics of outdoor advertising, resulting in the first legibility studies of ad copy." I'm not sure how these two studies related to each other. They sound suspiciously similar. And the 1958 studies obviously weren't the first given that the pictures below show research labeled as happening in 1953. Update: The researcher in the photos is probably Dr. A.R. Lauer of Iowa State's Department of Psychology, and he may have been studying the phenomenon of "Highway Hypnosis." In the early 1950s there was increasing criticism of the proliferation of billboards along the side of roads. People complained that they were ugly and possibly distracted drivers. So the OAAA sponsored Dr. Lauer to research the safety benefits of billboards, and specifically whether billboards distracted drivers. Lauer came up with the result that the billboards did distract drivers, but that this was a good thing because it saved them from Highway Hypnosis —entering a trance-like state as they stared at endless, monotonous roads. The OAAA then took out ads in newspapers promoting Lauer's research and the safety benefits of billboards. The Des Moines Register - Mar 23, 1958