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.
- John Braund and His Cure for CancerLink to newspaper article of the era.
- No more low flying!This is what the airlines did for in-flight entertainment, back in the day. From the Los Angeles Times, Sep 8, 1935:
- Is Space Travel Covered?Russia sent 5 geckos, amongst other small creatures, to space in order to study the animals sex habits in zero gravity. The satellite was recently brought back and the geckos were all dead, possibly due to freezing. Ok, first, if you are studying sexual activity why send an odd number of participants. Second, who did not know it is too cold for geckos in space? Yeah, yeah, they knew, but they sure didn't prepare for it sufficiently. Thirdly, were they insured by Geico??
- Double ThroatThe Ventriloquist Journal explains that this ad used to run in the back of comic books. What you got, if you sent away for it, was "a capsule-sized metal whistle thing you were supposed to put in your mouth... it was useless for anything except making whistle sounds."
- “Infinite O’Clock” by Ken NordineMore on the artist.
- News of the Weird (August 31, 2014)News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M386, August 31, 2014 Copyright 2014 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story All War Is Weird, But This ISIS War--: As summed up by a Vox.com writer: “The absurdity runs deep.” America uses American military equipment to bomb American military equipment that ISIS captured (captured from inept Iraqi soldiers, inept in part since America disbanded Iraq’s professional military in 2003). America’s Kurdish allies, fighting ISIS, uses inferior Russian weapons they captured in the 1980s. ISIS has a so-far-safer haven in Syria because America declined to arm moderate Syrian rebels, largely out of fear that radicals like the future ISIS would capture weapons America provided. “So now [America is] bombing the guns that [it] didn’t mean to give ISIS because [America] didn’t give guns to their enemies because then ISIS might get guns.” [Vox.com, 8-8-2014] Compelling Explanations Thomas Clark, 28, of Crawley, England, beat one of society’s most foreboding charges in July when he was acquitted of voyeurism even after admitting that he had installed that video camera in a workplace rest room, and even despite evidence that he formerly worked in the pornography industry. Clark persuaded a Horsham Magistrates Court judge that he suffered an extreme phobia of diarrhea and vomit and that, by installing the camera, he was thinking only of ascertaining that the rest room was clean before he entered. [Crawley News, 7-25-2014] In America, We're All Great Parents: (1) Kayla McKenzie, 22, was charged with DUI in Bismarck, N.D., a condition that led her to crash into six separate vehicles or structures on August 12th--while, according to police, three unsecured children were in her car, including a month-old infant riding in her lap. Nonetheless, said the 0.252 blood-alcohol driver, "I look like a bad mother, but I'm not. I'm actually a really good mom." (2) Rayvon Campos, 22, pleaded guilty in San Antonio, Tex., in August to first-degree felony assault of his 1-month-old daughter that resulted in brain hemorrhaging. Nonetheless, he reassured the judge, "This is the first time I've ever been in trouble. I'm a real good dude." [Bismarck Tribune, 8-13-2014] [San Antonio Express-News, 8-14-2014] Suspicions Confirmed A fire hydrant at 393 University Avenue has brought in more parking-ticket revenue (since 2008) than any other hydrant in Toronto--$289,620 on 2,962 violations, according to an August Toronto Star report. While hydrants are usually located at curbside to facilitate fire-engine access, the one at 393 University Avenue was placed about 20 feet from the curb, in the middle of a sidewalk, and obscured by a tree in a planter about eight feet long. (Nonetheless, the law's wording treats the hydrant, for illegal-parking and revenue-earning purposes, as if it were curbside.) [Toronto Star, 8-11-2014] A woman hiking in Down Valley Park near Placerville, Colo., told Denver’s KUSA-TV in August of her narrow escape from a mountain lion that had stalked her for a half-hour (crouching menacingly each time she attempted to retreat). At the closest point, recalled Kyra Kopestonsky, it was about eight feet away. At that point, she told the reporter, “I don’t know why,” but “I just started singing opera really loud.” The mountain lion “sort of put its ears down and . . . backed away.” (Only then was she was able to call a friend, who alerted rescuers.) [KUSA-TV, 8-5-2014] Police Report Arrest Him at Your Peril: In July, a jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., awarded Kevin Jarman, 50, $510,000 from the city for the broken ankle he suffered during his arrest for shoplifting in May 2011 (a charge to which he eventually pleaded guilty). Among his other New York City income: a $20,000 settlement for false arrest on a drug charge in 2013 and another, for $15,000, in 2005. [New York Post, 7-17-2014] I Know the Feeling, But--: (1) Gloria Baca-Lucero, 48, was arrested in Albuquerque in July after allegedly holding a Comcast cable installer at gunpoint in her home. She said she believed that her service call was free, but the installer told her otherwise, and she apparently decided to detain him while negotiating on the telephone with Comcast. (2) German truck driver Michael Harry K, 58, went to trial in August in Wurzburg, Bavaria, charged with firing his gun in the direction of drivers more than 700 times in five years out of displeasure with their poor road habits. He never actually hit anyone (but police said he caused at least one serious injury by frightening a driver into a collision). [Albuquerque Journal, 7-30-2014] [Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News, (London), 8-11-2014] Immature: (1) Princeton University professor John Mulvey, 67 (who teaches financial engineering applications), was charged in July with stealing 21 yard signs around the town of Princeton--signs for a computer repair business with which he was feuding. (2) Nathan McCoy, 21, sought by police near Boise, Idaho, in July on a probation violation, took off running, forcing officers to chase him onto the Eagle Hills Golf Course. McCoy sought “refuge" in a pond, standing waist-deep as deputies tried to coax him out, but even with the pond surrounded, it still took McCoy a half-hour of standing there to conclude that he did not have a Plan B. [Daily Princetonian, 7-14-2014] [Idaho Statesman, 7-23-2014] The Boy Who Wasn’t Bullied Enough in School Walker Harnden, 19, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, was recognized in April for a Guinness Book record for the highest note ever whistled (B7). Harnden, who told the Raleigh News & Observer that he has “irritated his parents and friends for years,” admits that he whistles “all the time”--up to “four or five” hours a day. [News & Observer, 4-18-2014] The New Normal In 2010, the village of West Lafayette, Ohio, barred residents from keeping fowl and farm animals, but Iraq war veteran Darin Welker, 36, believes his post-war depression and trauma seem unusually-well-assisted now that he has befriended 14 pet ducks that he keeps at home. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which paid for Welker’s back surgery, stopped short of providing physical therapy and counseling, causing him more than ever to rely on the ducks, which he says motivate him to get out of the house and provide them caretaking services. Village officials, however, cited him in June for misdemeanor fowl-housing. [Associated Press via KOMO-TV (Seattle), 7-20-2014] Perspective “Streamers,” according to workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in California’s Mojave Desert, are birds that cross the path of the 300,000 garage-door-sized mirrors that magnify the sun’s rays on their way to producing steam to power 140,000 homes. Those birds, instantly fried, vanish in plumes of smoke at the rate of perhaps one every two minutes, according to an August Associated Press dispatch from Ivanpah Dry Lake near the Nevada border. According to federal wildlife officials, the plant’s bright light attracts insects, which then attract even more birds. The operator, BrightSource Energy, said there is no feasible way to protect the birds. [Associated Press, 8-18-2014] Least Competent Criminals Questionable Decisions: (1) Ryan Mullins, 22, was arrested in Swansboro, N.C., in August when he came to an officer’s attention at 5:30 a.m. Police said he had broken into a pharmacy, had stolen the 100-lb. safe, and was dragging it behind his car when the officer routinely pulled in front of him. Nonetheless, Mullins decided to try and pass the officer. (2) Robert Haight Jr., 42, was captured after a high-speed chase through Burlington, Mass., in August, with police recovering “stacks” of stolen credit cards and suspected-stolen high-end electronics from the car. Haight had attracted police attention by parking his car (with a mismatched license plate), unattended, with engine running, in a handicaped parking spot. [WCTI-TV (New Bern, N.C.), 8-12-2014] [WCVB-TV (Boston), 8-12-2014] A News of the Weird Classic (May 2010) Briton Robert Dee, feeling humiliated at being called the "world's worst tennis pro" by London's Daily Telegraph (and other news organizations) sued the newspaper for libel in 2009. After taking testimony in February 2010, the judge dismissed the lawsuit, convinced by Dee's having lost 54 consecutive international tour matches (each in straight sets). Fearful of an opposite result, thirty other news organizations had prematurely apologized to Dee for disparaging him, but the Telegraph had stood its ground (and was, of course, humble in victory, titling its story on the outcome, "'World's Worst' Tennis Player Loses Again.") [The Guardian (London), 4-28-10] Thanks This Week to Craig Cryer, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.