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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.

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  • Inmate Escape Pod
    1980: Fred Caddedu escaped from Millhaven penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario by concealing himself inside an "escape pod" made out of a hollowed-out stack of dirty food trays. The food trays were loaded onto a truck and taken to the unguarded, off-site kitchen to be cleaned. Once there, Caddedu just walked away. He was caught and returned to prison several months later. His escape pod later became an exhibit in the Correctional Service of Canada Museum. Image source: Museopathy The Ottawa Journal - July 14, 1980
  • News of the Weird (March 26, 2017)
    News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M520, March 26, 2017 Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story A highlight of the recent upmarket surge of Brooklyn, N.Y., as a residential and retail favorite was the asking price for an ordinary parking space in the garage at 845 Union Street in the Park Slope neighborhood: $300,000 (also carrying a $240 a month condominium fee and $50 monthly taxes). That's similar to the price of actual one-bedroom apartments in less ritzy Brooklyn neighborhoods like Gravesend (a few miles away). [DNAInfo, 3-6-2017] Compelling Explanations Saginaw, Mich., defense lawyer Ed Czuprynski had beaten a felony DUI arrest in December but was sentenced to probation on a lesser charge in the incident, and among his restrictions was a prohibition on drinking alcohol--which Czuprynski acknowledged in March that he has since violated at least twice. However, at that hearing (which could have meant jail time for the violations), Czuprynski used the opportunity to beg the judge to remove the restriction altogether, arguing that he can't be "effective" as a lawyer unless he is able to have a drink now and then. (At press time, the judge was still undecided.) [MLive.com, 3-10-2017] Fine Points of the Law Residents in southern Humboldt County, Calif., will vote in May on a proposed property tax increase to fund a community hospital in Garberville to serve a web of small towns in the scenic, sparsely populated region, and thanks to a county judge's March ruling, the issue will be explained more colorfully. Opponent Scotty McClure was initially rebuffed by the registrar when he tried to distribute, as taxpayer-funded "special elections material," contempt for "Measure W" by including the phrase "(insert fart smell here)" in the description. The registrar decried the damage to election "integrity" by such "vulgarity," but Judge Timothy Cissna said state law gives him jurisdiction only over "false" or "misleading" electioneering language. [North Coast Journal (Eureka, Calif.), 3-7-2017] Can't Possibly Be True News of the Weird has written several times (as technology progressed) about Matt McMullen's "RealDoll" franchise--the San Marcos, Calif., engineer's richly-detailed flexible silicone mannequins that currently sell for $5,500 and up (more with premium custom features). Even before the recent success of the very humanish, artificially-intelligent (AI) android "hosts" on TV's "Westworld," McMullen revealed that his first AI doll, "Harmony," will soon be available with a choice of 12 "personalities" including "intellectualism" and "wit," to mimic an emotional bond to add to the sexual. A recent University of London conference previewed a near future when fake women routinely provide uncomplicated relationships for lonely (or disturbed) men. (Recently, in Barcelona, Spain, a brothel opened offering four RealDolls "disinfected after each customer"--though still recommending condoms.) [Forbes, 2-28-2017] Scientists at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center announced that they have digitally stored (and retrieved) a movie, an entire computer operating system, and a $50 gift card on a single drop of DNA. In theory, wrote the researchers in the journal Science, they might store, on one gram of DNA, 215 "petabytes" (i.e., 215 million gigabytes--enough to run, say, 10 million HD movies) and could reduce all the data housed in the Library of Congress to a small cube of crystals. [Wall Street Journal, 3-3-2017] An office in the New York City government, suspicious of a $5,000 payment to two men in the 2008 City Council election of Staten Island's Debi Rose, opened an investigation, which at $300 an hour for their "special prosecutor," has now cost the city $520,000, with his final bill still to come. Despite scant "evidence" and multiple opportunities to back off, the prosecutor relentlessly conducted months-long grand jury proceedings, fought several court appeals, had one 23-count indictment almost immediately crushed by judges, and enticed state and federal investigators to (fruitlessly) take on the Staten Island case. In March, the city's Office of Court Administration finally shrugged and closed the case. [New York Times, 3-8-2017] Ironies A chain reaction of fireworks in Tultepec, Mexico, in December had made the San Pablito pyro marketplace a scorched ruin, with more than three dozen dead and scores injured, leaving the town to grieve and, in March, to solemnly honor the victims--with even more fireworks. Tultepec is the center of Mexico's fireworks industry, with 30,000 people dependent on explosives for a living. Wrote The Guardian, "Gunpowder" is in "their blood." [The Guardian (London), 3-10-2017] Miscellaneous Economic Indicators (1) "Bentley" the cat went missing in Marina Del Rey, Calif., on February 26th and as of press time had not been located--despite a posted reward of $20,000. (A "wanted" photo is online, if you're interested.) (2) British snack food manufacturer Walkers advertised in February for a part-time professional chip taster, at the equivalent of $10.55 an hour. (3) An Australian state administrative tribunal approved a $90,000 settlement after a cold-calling telemarketer sold a farm couple 2,000 ink cartridges (for their one printer) by repeated pitches. [Fox News, 3-8-2017] [Leicester Mercury, 2-23-2017] [The Age (Melbourne), 3-9-2017] Perspective American chef Dan Barber staged a temporary "pop-up" restaurant in London in March at which he and other renowned chefs prepared the fanciest meals they could imagine using only food scraps donated from local eateries. A primary purpose was to chastise First World eaters (especially Americans) for wasting food, not only in the kitchen and on the plate but to satisfy our craving for meat (for example, requiring diversion of 80 percent of the world's corn and soy just to feed edible animals). Among Barber's March "WastED" dishes were a char-grilled meatless beetburger and pork braised in leftover fruit solids. [TreeHugger.com, 3-3-2017] Undignified Deaths (1) Smoking Kills: A 78-year-old man in Easton, Pa., died in February from injuries caused when he lit his cigarette but accidentally set afire his hooded sweatshirt. (2) Pornography Kills: A Mexico City man fell to his death recently in the city's San Antonio neighborhood when he climbed to turn off a highway video sign on the Periferico Sur highway that was showing a pornographic clip apparently placed by a hacker. [NJ.com, 2-28-2017] [Metro News (London), 3-6-2017] Least Competent Criminals Oops! An officer in Harrington, Del., approaching an illegally-parked driver at Liberty Plaza Shopping Center in March, had suspicions aroused when she gave him a name other than "Keyonna Waters" (which was the name on the employee name tag she was wearing). Properly ID'ed, she was arrested for driving with a suspended license. [WMDT-TV (Salisbury, Md.), 3-6-2017] The Passing Parade (1) In his third try of the year in January, Li Longlong of China surpassed his own Guinness Book record by climbing 36 stairs while headstanding (beating his previous "34"). (Among the Guinness regulations: no touching walls and no pausing more than five seconds per step.) (2) The online live-stream of the extremely pregnant giraffe "April" (at New York's Animal Adventure Park) has created such a frenzy (and exposed the tiny attention spans of viewers) that, as of March 3rd, they had spent a cumulative 1,036 years just watching. (Erin Dietrich of Myrtle Beach, S.C., 39 weeks pregnant herself, mocked the lunacy by livestreaming her own belly while wearing a giraffe mask.) (By press time, Erin had delivered; April, not.) [Huffington Post, 3-10-2017] [BBC News, 3-3-2017] A News of the Weird Classic (June 2013) Maryland state troopers stopped when they caught sight of a drummer working out all alone on the side of traffic-packed Interstate 695 near Windsor Mill Road in Baltimore on May 21st [2013], at about 10:30 a.m. As the troopers later reported, the man had run out of gas and, rather than just sit around in his car, had set up his full drum kit on the shoulder and practiced while he awaited assistance. After a utility truck arrived, with gasoline, the drummer packed up and went on his way. [Baltimore Sun, 5-21-2013] Thanks This Week to Kevin Corwin and Alyssa Grosso, and to the News of the Weird 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).
  • The Ford House of Aurora, Illinois
    1951 article here. Apparently still extant, according to this great set of current pics.
  • Jennifer Bornstein, collector
    In 1994, Jennifer Bornstein appeared on a local LA cable access program that featured ordinary people and their collections. Bornstein showed off her collection of zip-lock bags, coffee bar merchandise, fast-food containers, potato chips, and breath mints. She had carefully framed and archived all of it. It would have been funnier if it was a genuine collection, but I think it was actually intended as an artistic statement on how "any worthless mass-market products can be turned into coveted objects via absurd relations and vice versa" (according to Kadist.org). So she was essentially pranking the show. Although she looks quite young in the pictures, Bornstein was at the time a 24-year-old grad student at UCLA. And she's still an LA-based artist. More info (and image sources): Radcliffe, ingrum.org, Moscow Biennale, "Obsession, Compulsion, Collection."
  • The Glidden Tours
    At the start of the Automotive Age, merely driving from, say, Detroit to Kansas City was a challenge and endurance test. Thus the AAA-sponsored Glidden Tours. Here is a good write-up of the 1909 one.
  • 7 Clicks (March 24, 2017)
    7 Clicks A Weird Universe News Service March 24, 2017 Evangelist Lance Wallnau, emboldened in the current climate, told his 200,000 followers that he "heard about" (therefore: true) a born-again ex-hooker who baked a special cake so great it turned a gay man straight. Case closed. [Dallas Morning News] Nashvillians finally learned who "Fred Douglas" was (as in the city's "Fred Douglas Park"). (Hint: Think "Marty King.") [NPR] Spoiler: Texas A&M researchers, who know their peacocks, concluded via body cams that females do not choose mates based on erect plumage. [Austin America-Statesman] Least Competent Principal: Dude, it's a child's "water snake wiggly"--not a sex toy. Free (12-yr-old) Frances!! [WFTS-TV via WTMJ-TV] Meet Edgard Brito, DVM, Sao Paulo, the surgeon who does facelifts, nose jobs, and junk-dewrinkling--on dogs--making them so adorable that, in a crunch, the uglier pugs are sure to be put down first. [New York Post] Things That Must Be Quite a Sight: (1) "Expert witness" (describing "tests" he conducted) helping a doc on trial for rubbing his stuff against a patient, and (2) the in-development smartphone app (very accurate!) that measures sperm count (No, not from Pornhub, but that does raise the question of how . . ya hold the phone . . oh, never mind). [Global News] [New York Times] Thanks to Paul Music, Bob Stewart, and Joe Littrell.

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

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