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 (September 14, 2014)News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M388, September 14, 2014 Copyright 2014 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story A Nerd’s Rhapsody: Nicholas Felton's latest annual recap of his personal communications data is now available, for just $30. Key findings, graphically presented, of Nicholas's busy 2013 (according to a report by FiveThirtyEight.com): He received 44,041 texts and 31,769 e-mails, had 12,464 face-to-face conversations and 320 phone calls (all detailed by communicatee, from where, at what time, in what language). He reported 385 conversations, for example, with female cashiers, and that 54,963 exclamation points were used across all methods of written communication. (The 2012, 2011, and 2010 reports sold out, according to feltron.bigcartel.com). [FiveThirtyEight.com, 8-24-2014] Can't Possibly Be True The UK's Barnet Council got aggressive in August against a landlord in Hendon, in north London, who had defied an earlier order to stop offering a too-small apartment for residential rental. Landlord Yaakov Marom said tenants were still eager for the room even though the entry way required most people to drop to all fours, since it was only 28 inches high (and therefore a fire-code violation). Council officers checking on the earlier order against Marom found a couple still residing there, paying the equivalent of $685 a month. [The Guardian, 8-22-2014] When he was 19, Rene Lima-Marin (with a pal) robbed two Aurora, Colo., video stores at gunpoint and, winning no favors from the judge, received back-to-back sentences totaling 98 years. In 2008, eight years into the sentence, Lima-Marin was mistakenly released and until this year was a model citizen, employed, married with a son, on good terms with his parole officer. However, the mistake was found in January, and he was returned to prison, and according to his lawyers in their August appeal, the original sentence has been reimposed, thus moving his release date to the year 2104. [KMGH-TV (Denver), 8-22-2014] Among the more than 350 convicted violent felons whose right to carry guns has been restored over the past six years by the state of Georgia were 32 who had killed another person and 44 who were sex offenders, according to an August report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As pointed out by ThinkProgress.com, among those who once again can carry is Dennis Krauss, a former Glynn County, Ga., police officer convicted of raping a woman after a traffic stop. According to the 2003 Georgia Court of Appeals decision affirming his conviction, Officer Krauss had drawn his service weapon and said he wanted to anally penetrate the woman with it. (However, he was convicted only for his extortionate demand for sex.) [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8-23-2014] On August 21st and 22nd, in front of Linwood Howe Elementary School in Culver City, Calif., traffic officials posted a towering parking-regulation sign pole (reportedly, 15 feet high) with at least nine large white signs, one on top of the other--in familiar red or green lettering, restricting access to the school’s curb lane. Each sign contains orders either to not park or to park only under certain conditions, each with its specific hours or other fine-print limitations. The mayor ordered the sign replaced on August 22nd. [KABC-TV (Los Angeles), 8-22-2014] Close Enough for Government Work Florida was one of 26 states to decline billions in federal funding under the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") to establish their own state insurance “exchanges” (including expanding their states’ Medicaid programs). Florida legislators chose instead to offer a separate state program, funded at less than $1 million, to provide a small level of assistance, including help to the 764,000 whose low income qualified neither for Medicaid nor Obamacare subsidies. The Tampa Bay Times reported in August that according to the most recent tally, the nine private plans under Florida Health Choices had registered 30 people (26 of whom receive only discount plans for prescription drugs or vision care). [Tampa Bay Times, 8-28-2014] Wait--What? Guests at the May wedding of Shona Carter-Brooks in Ripley, Tenn., reported that the bride's idea for integrating her month-old daughter into the ceremony consisted of tying her (“well-secured,” she said later) to the long train of her wedding dress, dragging the child as the bride walked the aisle. Carter-Brooks was forced to take to her Facebook page in defense: People always “have something negative to say,” she wrote, but her wedding was “exclusive and epic.” [People.com, 6-2-2014] For their first anniversary as sweethearts in August, Londoners Dan MacIntyre and Dunya Kalantery decided on an odd marital commemoration: their outsized fascination with their city’s notorious 2013 crisis over the 15-ton “fatberg” that clogged a sewer line. They giddily donned wetsuits and went exploring for more masses of the congealed-oil-and-sanitary-wipes, but told The Guardian that they mostly encountered only smaller chunks. (Update: Their timing was off; a “fatberg” “as long as a 747" was spotted in a sewer in west London about a week later.) [The Guardian, 8-19-2014] [Sky News, 9-1-2014] First-World Dilemmas Plastic surgeons, first in University of Missouri research in 2000 and recently in a study by Singapore doctors in the journal of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, have postulated that the “ideal” navel is basically vertically-shaped with slight hooding--and, of course, an “innie.” The earlier study “analyzed” photos of 147 females aged 18-62, while the Singapore surgeons gazed at shots of 37 Playboy playmates and used a computerized tool to measure “vertical ratio,” “midline horizontal position,” length “from the xiphoid process . . . to the lower limit of the vulvar cleft,” and how nearly oval-shaped the belly buttons were. [Today.com (NBC News), 8-22-2014] The Aristocrats! (1) Inmate Corey McQueary, 33, passed away in Jessamine County, Ky., lockup in August, of a methadone overdose. According to state police, another inmate had soaked a pair of underwear in methadone when he was out on release, then brought the item to the jail for McQueary, who tore off piece after piece and swallowed them. (2) Ten years ago, New York City skyscraper heir Robert Durst beat a murder charge by claiming self-defense, and now lives more quietly in Houston. However, police in that city accused Durst in July of, “without provocation,” urinating on a cash register in a CVS store, “drenching” a candy rack. [News4SanAntonio, 8-26-2014] [Houston Chronicle, 7-23-2014] Least Competent Criminals Unclear on the Concept: A 20-year-old woman was arrested in Seattle in August after calling police to complain that she was being harassed by a man who was following her. Police arrived to find that the "stalker" was simply trying to get his phone back after the woman stole it from him while he was napping on a bus. [KOMO-TV (Seattle), 8-12-2014] Recent American Scenes (1) A Washington State Patrol lieutenant pulled over a 28-year-old drunk driver on August 9th in a logistically impressive arrest. The lieutenant, when he spotted the driver, happened to be in the 36-foot-long motor home converted to the department’s mobile unit for processing DUIs but nonetheless maneuvered the vehicle well enough to pursue and stop the driver. (2) Sarah Espinosa, 22, crashed into a fire station in New Hyde Park, N.Y., on August 4th, notable for the involvement of two factors--alcohol and the presence of a python draped around her neck. (She was charged with having just stolen the snake from a Petco store.) [KOMO-TV (Seattle), 8-18-2014] [Wall Street Journal, 8-5-2014] A News of the Weird Classic (August 2010) They Don't Make "Drug Lords" Like They Used to: (1) Widely-feared Jamaican drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke was arrested in June  and extradited to New York City after being picked up wearing women's clothes and a too-small 1970s style Afro wig. The Jamaica Observer reported that Coke wet his pants as he was arrested. (2) Longtime South African drug lord Fadwaan "Fat" Murphy, speaking at a bail hearing in January  in Cape Town, disclosed that he was born a hermaphrodite and has a separate identity ("Hilary"), which puzzled arresting officers, who had discovered that Murphy was wearing a strap-on penis. Murphy was insistent. "I look like a man. I talk like a man. I am a man." [Daily Mail, 6-24-10; Jamaica Observer, 6-27-10] [Sunday Times (Johannesburg), 1-10-10] Thanks This Week to Kat Alessi, Kyle Gray, and Perry Levin, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
- Great Literature for Free!Paul has decided to embrace the new "work for free" business model of the 21st Century and is giving away one of his books. So get it while you can! It's available as a download either from Barnes and Noble or Amazon (and Amazon UK). You can read more details about the book and exactly why he's giving it away over at his other blog, The Inferior4. Chasing the Queen of Sassi A science fiction story set in one of the oldest cities in the world. After his wife's death, Rupert decides to change his life and start your journey: he wants to see Matera again, and ends up loving it so much that he decides to move there. But the city is mysterious: who is the beautiful Daeria Bruno that appears and disappears without a trace? And how will the cucibocca's curse affect his life? In a dizzying series of time travels, Rupert will reveal legendary secrets, being at the center of a timeless story.
- An actual case for beerA few days ago, Paul posted a short film from the 1960s titled "A case for beer." That was using the word 'case' in the sense of an argument or set of facts. But what we have here is an actual case for beer. Available for $50 at perpetualkid.com.
- Mystery Gadget 23Take your best guess! The answer is here.
- A Singular WillSource: Notes and Queries, Nov 6, 1858.
- Corn Husking ChampionshipI can hardly wait to see who wins this year.