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.
- African Traffic RobotsThe latest innovation in traffic control from the Democratic Republic of Congo. More info at washingtonpost.com.
- Monkey Hangers"Monkey hanger" is a term by which Hartlepudlians are often known. According to local folklore, the term originates from an incident in which a monkey was hanged in Hartlepool, England. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship of the type chasse marée was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool. The only survivor was a monkey, allegedly wearing a French uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding the monkey, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial on the beach; since the monkey was unable to answer their questions, and many locals were unaware of what a Frenchman might look like, they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French sailor. Being found guilty, the animal was duly sentenced to death and hanged on the beach. The vertical part of the ship's mast he was hanged from is still visible on the beach between the Pilot pier and the Heugh. More here.
- News of the Weird (March 9, 2014)News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M361, March 9, 2014 Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd Lead Story Teach a Man to Fish . . .: The Drug Users Resource Center in Vancouver, British Columbia (heralded previously in News of the Weird for a vending machine dispensing 25-cent crack-cocaine pipes to discourage addicts from committing crimes to fund their habit), launched a program in January to supply alcoholics with beer-brewing and wine-making ingredients to discourage them from drinking rubbing alcohol, hand-sanitizer, and mouthwash. The DURC “co-op” sells, for $10 monthly, brewing mix in a pre-hopped beer kit, but eventually, an official said, co-op members will brew from scratch, including boiling, mashing, and milling. A civic leader told Canada’s National Post that the program has already begun to reduce crime in areas frequented by alcoholics. [National Post, 2-19-2014] Government in Action Rape-prevention activists estimate that local governments have backlogs of untested evidentiary “rape kits” that total up to 400,000 nationally--signifying free crimes for rapists, lost justice for victims, and ruined reputations for men wrongly arrested. (As TV police dramas emphasize, many rape victims are reluctant to submit to the indignity of swabbing and photographing so soon after being violated and comply only because detectives assure them of the rape kit's importance.) Memphis, Tenn., has an inventory of 12,000, and the state of Texas at least 16,000--dating back to the 1980s. However, the cost of testing (about $500 each) is daunting for many city budgets, according to a February report by the Rape Kit Action Project in New York. [CBS News, 2-23-2014] More Texas Justice: After 37 years in prison, Jerry Hartsfield goes to court in April for a retrial of his 1977 conviction (and death sentence) for murder in Bay City, Tex. Actually, the 1977 conviction was overturned in 1983, but before Hartsfield could demand his release (he is described in court documents as illiterate with an IQ of 51), the then-governor commuted the sentence to life in prison. It was only in 2006 that a fellow inmate persuaded Hartsfield that the commutation was illusory--since there was, at that point, no “sentence” to commute. Hartsfield’s lawyers call Texas’s treatment a blatant violation of his constitutional right to a “speedy” trial, but prosecutors suggest that it is Hartsfield’s own fault that he has remained in prison the last 30 years. [LINK CORRECTED] Associated Press via Yahoo News Congressional wisdom has prevented the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from using competitive bids to decide how much to pay for medical devices-- and among the most steeply overpriced products are “vacuum erection systems” (“penis pumps”) that invigorate seniors’ lives. CMS pays an average of $360, while the Department of Veterans Affairs, which also buys the pumps but by competitive bid, pays about $185. In a January report, the Health and Human Services inspector general estimated the government could save $18 million a year (and beneficiaries another $4.5 million) if CMS could use competitive bidding. [Washington Times, 1-13-2014] Great Art! Frances Wadsworth-Jones’s jewelry-design show (“Heaven Sent”) at the Museum of London runs through April, with the centerpiece brooches that resemble bird droppings. Why, she was asked, would a woman want to wear jewelry suggesting that a pigeon soiled her lapel? “The stain is very intimate,” said the artist. It’s “something that you wouldn’t want, and you’re turning it into something beautiful.” Wadsworth-Jones’s pieces have sold for as much as the equivalent of $4,000. [BBC News, 1-12-2014] In December, the New York City parks department, responding to alarmed visitors at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, built a wooden fence to shield the sculpture “Bear Eats Man” so that parents might examine the structure before children start asking them awkward questions. The sculpture by Ms. Thordis Adalsteinsdottir is of a bear clutching, and about to bite, a man--who appears in shock and sports an erection that art aficionados have justified as possibly representing the man’s involuntary reflexive shock, according to a New York Times report. [New York Times, 12-27-2013] Police Report Inexplicable: (1) Two suspects fled with about 30 pieces of jewelry from a burglary at Timothy’s Fine Jewelry in Broomfield, Colo., in January, but not before creating a puzzling scene on the surveillance video. Crushing the glass cases with sledgehammers, they moved quickly around the store, all the while constantly telling each other, “I love you, brother.” (2) Glenn Rundles, 32, was captured only days after robbing two women at knifepoint in East Post Oak, Tex., in January--despite a wanted poster called by some the “worst police sketch ever,” a “cartoon” of a comically-round-faced man. [KCNC-TV (Denver), 1-21-2014] [Huffington Post, 1-30-2014] Suspicion Confirmed: After Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Donna Jane Watts ticketed Miami Police Department officer Fausto Lopez in 2011 for speeding to an off-duty job at 120 mph, naturally some in law enforcement began harassing her as a “rat,” according to a February Associated Press report. One provocation stood out--other officers’ accessing Watts’s driver record by claiming to be on official business. Watts identified those officers’ employers and recently filed a lawsuit under the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act, which provides penalties of up to $2,500 for each of the 88 unauthorized searches by officers from 25 police agencies. [Associated Press via msn.com, 2-11-2014] Democracy in Action Christopher Schaeffer likely became the first public officeholder in the U.S. sworn in as an openly declared “Pastafarian”--an adherent of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster--when he took his seat on the Town Council of Pomfret, N.Y., in January. Schaeffer was wearing the traditional Pastafarian religious head covering (a colander). [Huffington Post, 1-7-2014] The Aristocrats! (1) Timothy Margis, 38, had risen professionally to become the Director of Public Safety of Concordia University in River Forest, Ill. He is also the man who was fired in February after admitting that he had committed a “lewd act” in a colleague’s office (which police later explained involved masturbating into a woman’s shoe). (2) Catherine Dajnowski, 40, was arrested in February in Boca Raton, Fla., after she had climbed into a shopping cart in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket and would not allow a Publix employee to return it to the store. Dajnowski called 911 three times from the cart demanding that police come make the employee leave her alone--the third time during which a sheriff’s deputy was standing right beside the cart. [OakPark.com, 2-20-2014] [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2-21-2014] Creme de la Weird DIY Pervert: Andrew Stoodley pleaded guilty in February in England’s Stroud Magistrates Court for invading the privacy of a neighbor woman whom he had admitted photographing surreptitiously about 100 times. (“She is a very beautiful woman,” he said, “and I enjoy looking at her.”) The worst episode, committed in July 2013, involved Stoodley dangling first a mirror, using a stick and string, outside her curtainless bedroom window at night and later, said the prosecutor, a cell phone camera “up and down [outside the window] like a yo-yo for 20 minutes.” [StroudLife.com, 2-12-2014] Least Competent Criminals Clumsy: (1) The surveillance video of The Shambles bar in Chicago showed that an attempted break-in one night in January went awry when the unidentified perp removed the front entrance lock but gave up and fled seconds later when he couldn’t open the door--which he was shown furiously pulling on, oblivious that it was a “push” door. (2) Robert Williams, 42, was charged with robbing a PNC Bank in Laurel, Md., in February after starring in the surveillance video by twice spilling his entire loot ($20,650) on the bank’s floor. After he finally gathered the bills and fled in a pickup truck, police punctured the tires, and when Williams tried to run, he slipped on the ice, slashing his head open. [DNAinfo.com (Chicago), 1-15-2014] [WRC-TV (Washington), 2-20-2014] Undignified Deaths In December, a 38-year-old man, apparently fed up with his girlfriend’s demands that he continue accompanying her at a shopping mall in Xuzhou, China, threw himself off a seventh-floor balcony, to his death. A witness reported the man yelling that the girlfriend already had “more shoes than she could wear in a lifetime, [that] it was pointless buying any more.” Following increasingly-heated exchanges, the man dropped her shopping bags and leaped over the railing. [Hexun.com via New York Daily News, 12-9-2013] Thanks This Week to Les Budden and Andres Velasco, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
- Old Bill SpudYet another food industry mascot whose creepiness prevented a longer career. From The Chicago Packer - Apr 10, 1937.
- Slideshow, 1957-styleThe camera: $26.75 in 1957 = $222.68 in 2014 The projector: $64.50 in 1957 = $536.92 in 2014 Total costs to take pictures and display them for others to admire: $759.60 16GB iPhone, no contract: $649.00
- Sculptures of Rosa VerloopDutch artist Rosa Verloop creates sculptures out of nylon stockings. She writes that she likes this material because it is "soft, cuddly, and easy to shape." Though when I look at her sculptures, 'cuddly' isn't the first word that comes to mind.