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.
- Shoes Concealed in BuildingsIn the 1950s, the Northampton Museum (home of the "World Famous Shoe Collection) began to receive reports of shoes that had been found hidden in buildings. The shoes, usually discovered by people doing renovations or repairs, were concealed under floors, inside walls, in chimneys, above ceilings, etc. Eventually the Museum received enough of these reports that they realized the concealment of the shoes wasn't an accident, but rather that hiding shoes inside a building was an ancient, deliberate practice. Ever since then, the Museum has kept a record of all concealed shoe finds (the "Concealed Shoe Index"). As of 2012, the index had over 1900 reports of shoe concealment from all over the world (but mostly Europe and North America). image source: wikipedia The Museum curators aren't entirely sure why people hide shoes inside buildings, but the leading theory is that it's a form of protection superstition, done to ward off forms of evil such as witches, bad luck, or the plague. Shoe historian June Swann, former keeper of the Northamton Shoe collection, notes in a 1996 article about concealed shoes that there are all kinds of weird superstitions associated with shoes: there is much recorded on other shoe superstitions, which are rife wherever shoes are traditionally worn. They are symbols of authority, as in the Old Testament. They are linked with fertility: we still tie them on the back of wedding cars. And they are generally associated with good luck (witness all the holiday souvenirs in the shape of shoes). But most of all they stand in for the person: it has been a common practice from at least the sixteenth century to at least 1966 to throw an old shoe after people ‘for luck’. Why the shoe? It is the only garment we wear which retains the shape, the personality, the essence of the wearer. Just recently, maintenance workers at Cambridge University found a 300-year-old shoe hidden inside a wall. And earlier this year, a Michigan family discovered 53 pairs of shoes behind a wall in their home — concealed there since the 1970s. Though in that case, it was theorized that the hidden shoes weren't warding off bad luck, but instead were evidence that a previous owner of the home had a shoe fetish. via TYWKIWDBI
- A Minute of Dance Per DayUne minute de danse par jour /sélection d'extraits de danses from Nadia Vadori-Gauthier on Vimeo. Une minute de danse par jour 20 08 2016/ danse 585 (One Minute of Dance a Day). from Nadia Vadori-Gauthier on Vimeo. There is just as much of this as you can take--and possibly more than you can take--at her page.
- New Spam FilterThe spam filter on the new version of our hosting software seems extra sensitive today, having mistakenly bagged comments by Expat and Phideaux. I reset the status when I see this, so your words will get through. Nothing any of the commenters are doing wrong that I can see.
- The Royal Handbag CodeWhile on a lecture tour of the United States in 1990, Raymond Fullager, an expert on the British royal family, revealed the existence of a royal handbag code. According to him, the Queen of England used her purse to communicate secret signals to her staff. Fullager claimed to have identified 23 different signals she used. For instance, if she moved her purse from her right to her left arm it meant that she was bored and needed to be rescued. A lady-in-waiting would then approach and say, "I'm afraid, ma'am, that you are running 10 minutes behind schedule." If the handbag was securely gripped on her left arm, it meant that all was well. Fullager refused to reveal all 23 signals, insisting that they needed to be kept a royal secret. But he did share some of the Queen's other body-language code. For instance, if she rubbed the middle finger on her left hand, it meant that a spectator was getting too close. However, other royal experts were skeptical of Fullager's handbag-code theory. Gossip columnist Nigel Dempster declared that the code theory was "silly" and "just rubbish." Andrew Morton said, "Frankly, you've got to wonder if anyone can actually do 23 different things with a handbag." More info: Philly.com (Sep 14, 1990) LA Times - Aug 8, 1990
- Bensen GyrocoptersAren't drones a little wimpy, when you could be flying your own Bensen Gyrocopter? Original ad here. Heck, even Batman had one!
- Things Named After Mae WestMae West in "She Done Him Wrong" (1933) Actress and sex symbol Mae West cast a large shadow over popular culture, as can be seen by the number of things named after her. 1. Life Preservers The inflatable life preservers used in WWII were often referred to as "Mae Wests" because they gave their wearers the appearance of having a large chest (wikipedia). 2. Parachute Malfunction A "blown periphery" parachute malfunction causes the canopy to contort into the shape of a giant brassiere, and so is referred to as the "Mae West" malfunction (wikipedia). 3. Newfoundland Islands The Isaacs islands in Newfoundland were named "Mae West" by American sailors stationed at nearby Argentia Naval Base, and the name seems to have stuck. The caption for the above image (found in "US Navy PBY Catalina Units of the Atlantic War") reads, "Groundcrewmen load water-filled practice bombs onto a PBY-5A from VP-6(CG) at Argentia in 1944. The twin mounds in the background were called 'Mae West' after the sex goddess, who incidentally had her roots in Newfoundland." 4. Gas Generator Chemists nicknamed the Kipp Gas Generator the "Mae West" (Life magazine). 5. Coca-Cola Bottle After the Coca Cola Company introduced the "contour" bottle in 1915, it quickly became known as the "Mae West bottle" (Story of the Coca-Cola bottle). In 1937, the couturier Elsa Schiaparelli launched her "Shocking" perfume, in a bottle whose shape was directly inspired by Mae West (FIDM Museum). So this doesn't count as something named after her, but is still something in her image. Finally, I've even found a reference to a "Mae West Theory of Islamic Terrorism" — the theory being that sexual frustration is the root cause of much Islamic terrorism.