Feeds from 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.

Recent posts:

  • Mr. and Miss Boll Weevil
    This post is for KDP, who in response to Paul's post yesterday about the Maid of Cotton pageant, noted the apparent lack of a counterpart, Miss Boll Weevil. There is indeed a Miss Boll Weevil, as well as a Mr. Boll Weevil. These titles have periodically been conferred on students at Alabama's Enterprise State Community College, whose mascot is a boll weevil. For instance, in 1972 Pat Hatcher and Bobby Bright were the students named Mr. and Miss Boll Weevil. Bright went on to serve as the U.S. Representative for Alabama's 2nd congressional district from 2009 to 2011. Bright was the first Democrat to represent the district since 1962, but he didn't win a second term. The Montgomery Advertiser - Nov 15, 2000 The Montgomery Advertiser - Jan 23, 1972
  • The Florida Trio
    Source. Source.
  • Moon Cheeze
    July 20 was the anniversary of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Back in 1969, the Fisher cheese company, located in Armstrong's home town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, capitalized on that achievement by coming out with "Moon Cheeze." It seems to have been just regular American cheddar cheese. Only the packaging was special. It came in a container shaped like the state of Ohio. Apparently it was so popular that they kept making it for years. image source Palladium-Item - Jan 19, 1969 Pensacola News Journal - July 18, 1969 Bonus: Armstrong making pizza in 1969. That looks like mozzarella, not Moon Cheeze. via I have seen the whole Internet
  • The Maid of Cotton Pageant
    Continuing our intermittent look at oddball beauty pageants. The Maid of Cotton pageant began in 1939. The annual pageant was sponsored by the National Cotton Council (NCC), Memphis Cotton Carnival, and the Cotton Exchanges of Memphis, New York, and New Orleans. The pageant was held in Memphis, Tennessee, in conjunction with the Carnival until the 1980s. In mid-December every year the NCC released a list of contestants. Contestants were required to have been born in one of the cotton-producing states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas or Virginia. They might have also been born in the cotton-producing counties of Alexander, Jefferson, Massac, Pulaski, Williamson or Madison, Illinois or in Clark or Nye counties of Nevada. There were usually twenty contestants each year. Contestants were judged on personality, good manners, intelligence, and family background as well as beauty and an ability to model. A Top Ten were chosen and then a Top Five, and finally second and first runners up and a winner. Winners served as goodwill and fashion ambassadors of the cotton industry in a five-month, all-expense tour of American cities. In the mid-1950s the tour expanded globally. In the late 1950s a Little Miss Cotton pageant was begun but lasted only until 1963 before being discontinued. In the mid-1980s Dallas,Texas took over the pageant, in conjunction with the NCC and its overseas division, Cotton Council International. In 1986, to bolster interest and participation, the NCC eliminated the rule requiring contestants to be born in a cotton-producing state. The pageant was discontinued in 1993, one of the reasons being that Cotton Inc. stopped contributing scholarship money as well as waning public interest and changing marketing strategies. More details here. And also here. The 1952 winner. Source.
  • Toilet Tissue Illness
    In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Scott Tissues ran an advertising campaign that sought to convince the American public that there was such a thing as 'Toilet Tissue Illness,' and that it was one of the great public health crises of the time. Toilet Tissue Illness was caused by using cheap toilet paper. It could lead to serious complications, possibly requiring rectal surgery to fix. So the ads suggested. The most notorious ad in the campaign was the 'black glove' ad below. Here's some background info about the Scott Tissue campaign from Richard Smyth's Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper: The image is stark: a clinically white sheet, an array of gleaming surgical instruments, and a hand, clad in a glove of thick black rubber. 'Often the only relief from toilet tissue illness,' the slogan reads (managing to suggest that 'toilet tissue illness' is a recognised medical condition). Consumers who managed to get past the photo and slogan without dropping everything and running for the high hills were then subjected to another lecture from the haemorrhoid-fixated Scott ad-men. It's the usual litany: 'Astonishing percentage of rectal cases ... traceable to inferior toilet paper ... protect your family's health ... eliminate a needless risk.' The words are so much prattle — but the image of the black rubber glove lingers in the mind. Following criticism from the American Medical Association, Scott eventually back-tracked on its doom-laden claims — but pledged to undertake trials in order to prove beyond dispute that 'improperly made toilet tissue is a menace to health'. And a few of the other ads featured in the campaign:
  • Mystery Illustration 51
    Which internationally famous best-selling singer of the 1970s is this supposed to be? Answer is here. And after the jump.