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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:

  • Hank Robar’s Toilet Art
    Back in 2004, Hank Robar wanted to get a property he owned in Potsdam, NY rezoned so that he could open a donut store there. His application was rejected, and in response Robar created a "toilet garden" — which consisted of rows of old toilets with poles behind them. The toilets had flowers in them. The 'toilet garden' was apparently allowed under local zoning laws because it was "art." Since 2004, Robar has battled with the local government over other properties, and as a result Potsdam has been home to a number of his toilet gardens. He's currently in the process of creating a new one. Robar's toilet art has sparked some lively debate in the community about what exactly qualifies as art. Update: It says here that Robar's toilets are legal not because they're art, per se, but because they have flowers in them, so he can claim that they're planter boxes, which are allowed under zoning laws. Also, he's not the only guy who's thought of displaying toilets as a protest against local government.
  • Follies of the Madmen #255
    [Click upper and/or lower half of ad to enlarge] Who knew that fresh coffee promoted dancing? Original ad here.
  • One In The Hole
    A Norwegian golf course has been the victim of a perverse kind of vandalism repeatedly since 2005. Someone is sneaking on the golf course at night and defecating in the golf holes. The groundskeeper claims the vandal is likely a man due to the size of the...droppings. Security lights were erected to catch the offender, only to be disabled by him. So, 10 years later, this nasty person is still using the course holes as his personal potty much to the dismay of the grounds staff.
  • Fertilized roses with his own blood
    Ralph Farrar suffered from hemochromatosis, which meant that his blood accumulated too much iron. The treatment was to have a pint of blood taken from him every week. This blood couldn't be used for other patients. So Farrar used it on his roses as an "iron-rich fertilizer instead of the commercial rose food containing dried animal blood." After eight years of weekly blood-drainings his condition began to improve, so much so that he only had to have blood taken once every two months. No word on what happened to his roses as a result. Info source: Newsweek - Sep 2, 1963 Ralph Farrar pouring blood on his roses The Tuscaloosa News - Jun 29, 1963 Update: Curious about how long Mr. Farrar could have lived with hemochromatosis, I did a google search and found what I'm pretty sure is his grave. He died at the age of 76 in 1989.
  • Bohemian Dancers
  • News of the Weird (July 26, 2015)
    News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M433, July 26, 2015 Copyright 2015 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story The iconic movie “Groundhog Day”’s whimsical premise (that someone can wake up every day believing it is the previous day) has largely come to life for a patient of a British psychologist writing recently in the journal Neurocase. Dr. Gerald Burgess’s patient, following anesthesia and root-canal treatment, was left with a memory span of only about 90 minutes and awakens each day believing it is the day he is to report for the same root canal. He has been examined by numerous specialists, including neurologists who found no ostensible damage to the usual brain areas associated with amnesia. The patient is able to manage his day only by using an electronic diary with prompts. [University of Leicester press release, 7-14-2015] Can’t Possibly Be True Apparently, “uncooperative” child dental patients (even toddlers) can be totally restrained on a strait-jacket-like “papoose board” without parental hand-holding, even during tooth-pulling, as long as the parent has signed a “consent form” (that does specifically mention the frightening practice). A recent case arose in Carrollton, Ga., but a Georgia Board of Dentistry spokesperson told Atlanta’s WSB-TV that such restraints are permitted (though should have been accompanied by an explicit warning of potential physical or psychological harm). The father of the “screaming” girl said he was initially barred from the exam room and was led to believe, when he signed the consent form, that he was merely authorizing anesthesia. [Georgia Newsday, 7-2-2015] Wait, What? (1) A shortage of teachers led Howard S. Billings high school in Chateauguay (in the French-sensitive province of Quebec, Canada) to announce that 11th-grade French classes would this year be conducted using only the Rosetta Stone computer program. (2) Among the new rules proposed by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards agency in May was one to require actors in pornographic movies (whose male actors OSHS has already ordered to wear condoms) to wear goggles--lest bodily fluids splash into their eyes during scenes. (Further, all equipment and surfaces of sets must be decontaminated after each scene and at day’s end.) [CTV News (Montreal), 2-24-2015] [Washington Post, 5-29-2015] Compelling Explanations (1) The mayor of Whitesboro, N.Y., defending to a Village Voice reporter in July the 19th-century-based town seal that features a white settler appearing to push down an American Indian man, denied any racism and said the image is “actually” a typical “friendly wrestling [match] that took place back in those days.” (According to Whitesboro’s website, the Native American supposedly uttered, after the “match,” “UGH. You good fellow too much.”) (2) In April, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to stop relocating whistleblowing employees to “offices” that were abandoned jail cells. The Bureau had insisted that the transfers were not punishment for reporting agency misconduct--even though the “offices” had no desk, computer, or phone and required the employees to walk past prisoners’ cells to get to work. [Village Voice, 7-7-2015] [Washington Post, 4-3-2015] The Continuing Crisis Lindsey Perkins pleaded guilty in June in Newport, Vt., for an incident in which she joy-rode on the roof of a station wagon with her 5-year-old son while a 20-year-old man drove at 50-55 mph on the state’s scenic Route 14 near Coventry. [Associated Press via WCAX-TV (Burlington), 6-22-2015] In February, the Office of Residential Life at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.), intending to tout its dedication to inclusiveness and the creation of a “safe space” for minority students, posted a notice on its website inviting applications from the “LBTTQQFAGPBDSM” communities. The probable translation: the lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, flexual, asexual, [vulgar word], polyamorous, bondage/discipline, and sadism/masochism communities. [The Week, 2-25-2015] Police Report Cosbying 2.0: A court in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany, fined a 23-year-old man in July after he admitted that, one evening last year, he put “four or five drops” of a sedative into his girlfriend’s tea without her knowledge--so that she would doze off for the evening and not bother him while he played video games. She had come home after a hard day at work, expecting peace and quiet, but began complaining about the boyfriend’s machine-gun-fire game. [The Local (Berlin), 7-8-2015] The Washington Post’s running tally counts more than 400 people shot to death in the U.S. by law enforcement already this year with five months to go, but 2014 figures from Norway reveal that officers there only shot at people twice all year. Proportionally (64 times as many people live in the U.S.), American police would still have fired only 128 rounds last year if they showed Norway’s restraint. (Bonus fact: Norway’s cops missed their targets both times.) [Washington Post, 7-8-2015] Perspective Pharmaceutical companies justify huge drug price markups on the ground that the research to develop the drug was, itself, hugely expensive. In February, a Canadian company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, decided to raise the price of two heart-saving drugs (Nitropress, Isuprel) by 212 percent and 525 percent, respectively, even though it had conducted no research on the drugs. That was because, reported the Wall Street Journal, all Valeant did was buy the rights to the already-approved drugs from another company (which of course had thought the drugs--research and all--had been fairly priced at the lower amounts). Said a Valeant spokesperson, “Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value” of our products (even, apparently, if it owned the product for less than a day before jacking up the price as much as five-fold). [Wall Street Journal, 4-26-2015] Too Much Information At a charity event in Philadelphia in July, in the course of attempting to set a Guinness Book record for pogo-stick workouts, Jack Sexty, 25, bounced 88,047 straight times (over a 10-hour, 20-minute session)--to add to his several previous Guinness records. Sexty, who said he was physically uncomfortable at times during the 10-hour ordeal, suggested that he may have “inadvertently” set yet another pogo record--as maybe the only person ever to answer a “number two” call of nature while pogoing. He explained that one guy had offered to hold a pot underneath him as he jumped and did his business--but Sexty confessed, “I couldn’t be very accurate [aiming for the pot].” [Bristol Post (Bristol, England), 7-4-2015] Least Competent Criminals But A Successful Parent: Scott Birk, 31, was arrested in New Berlin, Wis., in July, thanks to a big boost the police got from his 6-year-old daughter. A Walmart security guard noticed, on video, someone breaking into a jewelry case and pocketing earrings, and approached Birk as a suspect, in time to overhear the girl tell her dad “several times” to stop breaking into jewelry cases. Officers running an ID check found no driver’s license and asked how he had gotten to the store, and he said they walked. But Daddy, she said, we came in our car, and she cheerfully pointed it out to police. A search turned up more items stuffed in Birk’s shorts, and he was charged with theft and violating a previous bail condition. [WISN-TV (Milwaukee), 7-3-2015] Recurring Themes Summer is state-fair season, i.e., the time of sugar- and fried-fat-based comfort snacks that rarely appear anywhere except at state fairs. Recent samplings: caviar-covered Twinkie (Minnesota), mac-and-cheese cupcake (Minnesota), deep-fried Oreo burger (Florida), deep-fried gummy bears (Ohio), deep-fried beer (Texas)--and old favorites such as chicken-fried bacon (Texas), spaghetti ice cream (Indiana), Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich (California), and the hot-beef sundae (Indiana, Iowa). [Yahoo Food, 6-29-2015; GrubStreet.com, 6-24-2015] A News of the Weird Classic (October 2010) Playboy magazine has long published an audio edition, and the Library of Congress produces a text edition in Braille. However, as a Houston Chronicle reporter learned in August [2010], a Texas organization (Taping for the Blind) goes one step further, with volunteer reader Suzi Hanks actually describing the photographs--even the Playmates and other nudes. "I'd say if she has large breasts or small breasts, piercings or tattoos," said Hanks. "I'll describe her genitalia. I take my time describing the girls." "Hey, blind guys like pretty, naked girls, too!" [Houston Chronicle, 8-12-2010] Thanks This Week to Kenny Saxe and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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

Recent posts:

  • Voting July 24, 2015
    So I went and voted for the Hugos.  The convention has a terrific, very simple interface -- you just rank the candidates and the site saves your votes for you, and if you change your mind you can go back and change it at any time before the deadline.  It was disheartening to see all my votes for No Award in one place, though.The site will be locked down and the votes counted on July 31 (11:59 PM PDT, they say).  So if you're a member and you haven't voted yet, I hope you'll go over and make your voice heard.  You don't have to vote for every candidate or every category -- and if you read or see something you like between now and the deadline you can always add it then.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE July 24, 2015
    I look at a classic by Zebrowski:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/07/paul-di-filippo-reviews-george-zebrowski/
  • New Review at the B&NR July 22, 2015
    I look at Ernest Cline's sophomore novel:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/armada
  • New DiFi Fiction July 22, 2015
    New ebook-only novella now up at Amazon, a sequel to HPL's THE HORROR AT RED HOOK.http://www.amazon.com/Horror-at-Gancio-Rosso-ebook/dp/B012A3N8JY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437584684&sr=8-1&keywords=gancio+rosso
  • The Fictionmags Faces of Readercon July 18, 2015
    Here are two dozen shots taken by George Morgan at Readercon 2015.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE July 17, 2015
    I take a look at a new entry in the BEST OF THE YEAR category:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/07/paul-di-filippo-reviews-the-years-best-military-sf-space-opera/