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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:

  • Ugly Notes
    Ugly Notes is a company that sells greetings cards for "horrible people." They bear messages such as, "If you spoke your mind you'd be speechless," and "You brighten up the room with your absence." The idea for marketing antisocial messages isn't new. It goes back at least to the 1960s, when entrepreneur Charles Hollis started selling stickers that bore messages such as "Kick a puppy today" and "Stamp out whooping cranes." I've written about Hollis over at the Hoax Museum. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, you have organizations such as Love For The Elderly, which "collects anonymous letters of kindness and distributes them to elderly citizens throughout America." I'm guessing Love For The Elderly and Ugly Notes won't ever do a partnership.
  • Quacks and Nostrums
  • A spoon made of tiny spoons
    This is one of the "nonobjects" featured in the book "Nonobject" by Branko Lukic and Barry Katz. The book description says it's about objects whose design "started not from the object but from the space between people and the objects they use." I think this means it's about objects whose design is useless but whimsical. Other Nonobjects include "a 'superpractical' cell phone with keypad, speaker, and microphone on every surface," a square motorcycle, and an umbrella that sends rain rushing through the handle from an upturned top. More at the site nonobjectbook.com.
  • The Clover Club
    Original ad here. Isn't this the exact ad that pimps today use to trick women into becoming "escorts" on Craigslist? What exactly was the purpose of the Clover Club? Answer after the jump.
  • Alvaro Franca’s Typewriter Art
    I've posted before about a typewriter artist, but here's another one — Alvaro Franca of Rio de Janeiro. But I noticed that Franca uses a computer image to guide him. Isn't that like the typewriter art version of paint-by-numbers?
  • The Art of the Diseuse
    Not sure these recorded performances capture whatever unique brilliance these performers were reputed to exhibit. In the December 21, 1935 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette an entertainment columnist wrote: “The English language does not contain a word which perfectly describes the performance of Ruth Draper, who comes to the Nixon next Thursday for the first time in several years to give a different program at each of her four performances here. “Speaking Portraits” and “Character Sketches” are the two terms most frequently applied to Miss Draper's work; and yet it is something more than that. “Diseuse” is the French word, but that is more readily applicable to an artist like Yvette Guilbert or Raquel Meller. Monologist is wholly inadequate. The word “Diseuse” really means “an artist in talking” so that may be the real term to use in connection with Miss Draper.” Actresses who have been called noted diseuses over the years include Yvette Guilbert, Ruth Draper, Joyce Grenfell, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Lucienne Boyer, Raquel Meller, Odette Dulac, Beatrice Herford, Kitty Cheatham, Marie Dubas, Claire Waldoff, Lina Cavalieri, Françoise Rosay, Molly Picon, Corinna Mura, Lotte Lenya. Source of quote.

The Inferior 4+1 is a Livejournal community maintained by Paul, lizhand, Paul Witcover, lucius-t and ljgoldstein.

Recent posts:

  • 1952 Ad for FANTASTIC September 30, 2014
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE September 25, 2014
    A fine debut novel:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/09/paul-di-filippo-reviews-david-shafer/
  • Wonder Woman, Fairy Tales September 23, 2014
    There's an amazing article in the New Yorker about the creation of Wonder Woman, which apparently involved feminist utopian fiction, polyamory, the suffragette movement, woman working during World War II, and the connection between Wonder Woman's magic lasso and the lie-detector test.  I learned all kinds of things I'd never known or even heard of, like the fact that Margaret Sanger was related to the man who came up with the idea for Wonder Woman -- though I did wonder how, if this was supposed to be a secret, the author of the article managed to discover it.On another topic entirely, the anthology Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, in which I have a story, is now available as an ebook.  The anthology features retold fairy tales, a series that started with Snow White, Blood Red.And there should be a third thing here, for symmetry, but I can't think of anything.Edited to add:  And I just remembered a third thing!  My books are now available to pre-order as ebooks, though they won't be out until October 21.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE September 17, 2014
    A look at Jay Lake's last book:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/09/paul-di-filippo-reviews-jay-lake/
  • Two Good Books September 16, 2014
    Two of my favorite authors, Sarah Waters and Tana French, have books out this month.  Both books go in unexpected directions, and both are filled with delights and surprises.The Waters book, The Paying Guests, is especially good.  It starts slowly, which frustrated me -- I like her for her novels of mystery and suspense and betrayal, and I felt impatient, waiting for the good stuff .  Two women (slowly) fall in love.  They have a few problems -- one of them is married, and, this being the 1920s, they can't admit their relationship to anyone who is not a lesbian herself -- but despite that things seem to go fairly well for a while.  I began to think this was going to be a book like Waters' earlier Tipping the Velvet or The Night Watch, about lesbian relationships and everyday life.  Which is fine, of course, but not what I was reading for.Then, more than halfway through, something happens that turns the whole thing into a Hitchcock movie.  The twist is so far along that I can't say what it is, only that it's one of those plots that makes you wonder what you yourself would do in that situation, how flexible your own moral code is.  The tension ratchets up, the suspense accelerates, and you begin to turn the pages with apprehension, almost fear, hoping that nothing worse is going to happen to the protagonists.I had more problems with French's new mystery, The Secret Place -- but first, the good stuff.  A teenage boy was killed on the grounds of a private girls' school, and his killer was never found.  A year later one of the girls at the school, Holly, goes to the police with a postcard she'd taken from a school bulletin board, a postcard that says, "I know who killed him."The police return to the school and begin asking questions.  It becomes clear that only two groups of girls could have put up the postcard in the time available, Holly's own friends and a clique of mean girls.  The story is told in alternating chapters with different timelines, one showing the events of a year ago and one set in the present, with the police interviewing the students.  The whole thing is plotted out so neatly that we will first learn some fact in the police timeline and then, in the next chapter, see it being played out among the schoolgirls.I loved Holly and her group, their friendship, their almost claustrophobic closeness.  At one point they vow to have nothing to do with the students at the corresponding all-boys' school, and I loved seeing the boys' confusion and frustration at their indifference; the idea that girls might not defer to them had never even crossed their minds.   I liked the two cops who come to question the girls, one of whom wants desperately to join the Murder Squad.  I liked the complex plotting -- as it turns out, pretty much everyone has an idea who killed the boy, most of them wrong, and some of the characters are expending a great deal of energy covering for someone else.The mean girls, though, seem a bit stereotypical.  Maybe it's wildly optimistic of me, but I'd like to think that no one can be that mean all the time, like Joanne, or that stupid all the time, like Orla.But my main problem with the book is that there's a supernatural element.  I'm really sort of embarrassed to admit this -- I like to think I don't divide books down strict genre lines, that I can live with some fantasy in my mystery novels.  There's something about this fantasy, though, that doesn't sit right with me.At one point a boy sends Julia, one of Holly's friends, a photo of his penis.  The girls are so squicked out by this and other schoolboy outrages that they make the vow I mentioned earlier, to have nothing to do with men until they get to college.  There's a sense that something hears this vow -- I got the impression of an ancient, vengeful goddess, but that might be just me.  So far, so good -- I can handle this part.Then, though, the girls become able to do magic.  Simple things, like turning a light on and off or moving a bottle cap.  My problem is that this ability is used as a way to illustrate the girls' closeness, or maybe the goddess's approval, but it isn't at all integrated into the story.  Surely teenagers with these abilities would use them against their enemies, in this case the mean girls.  What would happen if a lightbulb blew out every time Joanne entered a classroom, or if Orla's pens began to move slowly across her desk?  Wouldn't adolescent girls, despite their vows, start experimenting with love spells?  And of course this opens the possibility that the murder might have been a supernatural event -- something that, if it had happened, would have made me throw the book across the room.I guess what I'm saying is that fantasy can't be used as just a symbol.  It's dangerous stuff -- once you allow it in it begins making its own demands.  I wish it hadn't been there -- the story works just as well without it
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE September 13, 2014
    The sophomore novel from Messr. Parzybok:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/09/paul-di-filippo-reviews-benjamin-parzybok/