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.
- Safety Glass Tester, 1939High-test safety glass was developed jointly by five American companies during the 1930s. It had an inner layer of polyvinyl acetal resin. This meant that you could smash a man's face into a pane of the glass, and it would crack but not shatter. As demonstrated by the safety-glass tester below. Image source: Newsweek - Apr 10, 1939
- The EscortsYou've heard of MUSIC FROM BIG PINK? Well, here's MUSIC FROM THE BIG HOUSE. Full story here.
- Life (Death) HackBritish lady tried out a life hack she read about on Facebook with unfortunate results.The suggestion was to lay the toaster on its side to make cheese on toast instead of grilling it. The idea back fired nearly destroying her kitchen before fire fighters arrived to put out the blaze. Life Hack: Using a toaster on its side to make cheese toast. Result: Epic Fail!
- Amish Marathon RunnerApparently the Amish practice of "plain dress" extends to marathon running, because Amish runner Leroy Stolzfus has been showing up to races dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, black slacks, and suspenders. However, he does wear sneakers. More: York Dispatch.
- Wailing, Sobbing, Shrieking Performance ArtLet me know when you bail!
- News of the Weird (November 22, 2015)News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M450, November 22, 2015 Copyright 2015 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story Professional patients now help train would-be doctors, especially in the most delicate and dreaded of exams (gynecological and prostate), where a becalming technique improves outcomes. One “teaching associate” of Eastern Virginia Medical School told the Washington Post in September that the helpers act as “enthusiastic surgical dummies” to 65 medical colleges, guiding rookie fingers through the trainer’s own private parts. The prostate associate might helpfully caution, “No need for speed here,” especially since he will be bending over for as many as nine probings a day. A Gynecological Teaching Associate, mentoring the nervous speculum-wielder, might wittily congratulate pupils on having a front-row sight line the GTA will never witness: an up-close view of her own cervix. [Washington Post, 9-3-2015] Latest Religious Messages American Sharia: (1) U.S. parents have a right to home-school their kids, but subject to varying degrees of regulation, with Texas the most lax, and one El Paso family will have a day before the Texas Supreme Court after one of its kids was reported declining to study because education was useless since he was waiting to be “Raptured” (as described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation). (2) U.S. courts increasingly allow customers to sign away state and federal rights by agreeing to contracts providing private arbitration for disputes rather than access to courts--even if the contract explicitly requires only religious resolutions rather than secular, constitutional ones. A November New York Times investigation examined contracts ranging from Scientology’s requirement that fraud claims by members be resolved only by Scientologists--to various consumer issues from home repairs to real estate sales limited to dockets of Christian clerics. [Associated Press via Dallas Morning News, 11-1-2015] [New York Times, 11-3-2015] Leading Economic Indicators First-World Spending: According to estimates released by the National Retail Federation in September, 157 million Americans “planned to celebrate” Halloween, spending a total of $6.9 billion, of which $2.5 billion would be on costumes, including $350 million dressing up family pets. [National Retail Federation press release, 9-23-2015] At a ceremony in Kabul in November, prominent Afghan developer Khalilullah Frozi signed a $95 million contract to build an 8,800-unit township and was, according to a New York Times dispatch, toasted for his role in the country’s economic rebirth. However, af nightfall, Frozi headed back to prison, to resume his 15-year sentence for defrauding Kabul Bank of nearly $1 billion in depositors’ money. Because he remains one of Afghanistan’s elite, arrangements were made for him to work days but spend his nights in prison (in comfortable quarters). Said one Western official, laconically, “[I]f you have stolen enough money, you can get away with it.” [New York Times, 11-4-2015] Cultural Diversity Before the terrorist murders gripped Paris, President Hollande and Iran’s President Rouhani had been trying to arrange a formal dinner during Rouhani’s upcoming visit to the city, to celebrate the two countries’ role in the recent accord limiting Iran’s nuclear development. France’s RTL radio news reported that “dinner” is apparently more vexing than “nuclear weaponry”--as Rouhani demanded an alcohol-free meal, which was nixed by Hollande, who insisted that the French never dine without wine. [Washington Times, 11-11-2015] Compelling Explanations Skeptics feared it was just a matter of time, anyway, until the “political correctness” movement turned its attention to dignity for thieves. San Francisco’s SFGate.com reported in November on a discussion in an upscale neighborhood about whether someone committing petty, nonviolent theft should be referred to by the “offensive” term “criminal” (rather than as, for example, “the person who stole [my bicycle],” since “criminal” implies a harsher level of evil and fails to acknowledge factors that might have caused momentary desperation by a person in severe need). [SFGate.com, 11-2-2015] Reginald Gildersleeve, 55 and free on bond with an extensive rap sheet, was waving a gun as he threatened a clerk and tried to rob a store in Chicago on Halloween night--until a customer (licensed to carry) drew his own gun and, with multiple shots, killed Gildersleeve. Closer inspection revealed Gildersleeve’s weapon to be merely a paintball gun, leading the deceased man’s stepson to complain later that “Some people [the licensed shooter] don’t actually know how to use guns.” “They go to firing ranges, but it’s not the same . . . as a bullet going into flesh.” “Someone’s got to answer for that.” [USA Today, 11-2-2015] The Continuing Crisis U.S. and European entrepreneurs offer extreme “games” in which liability-waiving “players” volunteer for hours of kidnaping, pain, and death threats, but the cult-like, under-the-radar “McKamey Manor” in southern California (said to have a waiting list of 27,000) is notable for the starkness of its threats of brutality--and the absence of any “safe word” with which a suddenly-reluctant player can beg off. (Only Russ McKamey, himself, decides if a player has had enough.) The “product” is “100 percent fear,” he said. “We’re good at it,” he told London’s The Guardian in an October dispatch from San Diego (whose reporter overheard one of McKamey’s thugs promise, “I’m going to tear that girl [player] apart” and “No one is leaving with eyebrows today”). [The Guardian, 10-30-2015] In October, the student newspaper of Toronto’s Ryerson University reported a mighty scandal that upset the student body: that the school’s executive offices’ rest rooms routinely supply 2-ply toilet paper while most other campus buildings offer only 1-ply. The hard-hitting Ryerson Eyeopener story noted that the universities of Guelph, Ottawa, and Toronto comfort all toilet-users’ bottoms the same. Ryerson officials, defensively, noted that older plumbing in many of their buildings cannot handle 2-ply paper. [Inside Higher Education, 11-2-2015] Least Competent Criminals Nicholas Allegretto, 23, was convicted of shoplifting in Cambridge, England, in October (in absentia, because he is still at large). The prosecutor knows Allegretto is his man because, shortly after the February theft, police released a surveillance photo of Allegretto leaving the store with the unpaid-for item, and Allegretto had come to a police station to complain that the suddenly-public picture made him look guilty. In fact, he claimed, he intended to pay for the item but had gotten distracted (and besides, he added, his body language often looks somewhat “dodgy,” anyway). [Cambridge News, 10-1-2015] Recurring Themes Lowering the Bar in Zero Tolerance: The six-year-old son of Martha Miele was given an automatic three-day out-of-school suspension at Our Lady of Lourdes in Cincinnati in October after, emulating actions of his favorite “Power Rangers” characters, he pretended to shoot a bow and arrow at another student. Principal Joe Crachiolo was adamant, insisting that he has “no tolerance” for “any” “real, pretend, or imitated violence.” An exasperated Martha Miele confessed she was at a loss about how a six-year-old boy is supposed to block out the concept of a super-hero fighter (and instead imagine, say, a super-hero counselor?). [WLWT-TV (Cincinnati, 11-2-2015] Cavalcade of Fetishes: (1) Among the approximately 100 arrests Seattle police made in an October drug sting were of a man, 63, and woman, 58, accused only of retail theft of $150,000 worth of goods--including about 400 pairs of jeans. Police said the couple “ordered” items from shoplifters and seemed to have an “insatiable appetite for denim.” (2) In November, police in Bethel, Conn., arrested Nelson Montalvo, 50--accused of taking about 30 items of underwear from one particular home. Montalvo’s motive is being investigated, but police said his modus operandi was to remove items, cut holes in them, and return them to the home. [Associated Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10-16-2015] [Connecticut Post, 11-5-2015] A News of the Weird Classic (January 2011) Name in the News: Sought as a suspect in a convenience store killing in Largo, Fla., in December  (and an example of the highly revealing "Three First Names" theory of criminal liability), Mr. Larry Joe Jerry--who actually has four first names (Larry Joe Jerry, Jr.). (He was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 42 years in prison.) [St. Petersburg Times, 12-2-2010] [Bay News 9 (St. Petersburg), 7-12-2013] Thanks This Week to Eric Wainwright, and to the News of the Weird Board Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Bob McCabe, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Sandy Pearlman, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Peter Smagorinsky, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).