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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:

  • Caffeinated Shampoo
    The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the latest things in hair care is caffeinated shampoo. The buzz is that the caffeine stimulates hair growth, though too much caffeine might have the opposite effect. Add this to the list of caffeinated products we've reported on here at WU. We now have (in addition to the shampoo) caffeinated peanut butter, inhaler, body spray, and soap.
  • The World Coal-Carrying Championship
    Home page here.
  • Adopt A Rat
    1982: The short-lived Los Angeles "Adopt-a-Rat" program. It lasted about a week. Ended when one of the rats bit a reporter's finger. (left) Pittsburgh Press - Sep 30, 1982; (right) Paris Texas News - Oct 6, 1982
  • Beatnik Fly & Psychedelic Worm
    Johnny and the Hurricanes had one shtick: take a public domain tune and give it the yakety-sax treatment. Here are two of the more outlandish instances.
  • News of the Weird (May 1, 2016)
    News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M473, May 1, 2016 Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story One notably hypersuccessful YouTube channel (700,000 subscribers) features Mr. Lauri Vuohensilta of Finland pulverizing various objects (such as a bowling ball) in a 100-ton hydraulic press. (Said Vuohensilta, “I think it’s built into every person--the need to destroy something.”) That channel is free of charge, but other entrepreneurs have created 24-hour pay-per-month websites and apps offering similarly specialized programing, e.g., “Zombie Go Boom” (actors taking chain saws to things; $5 a month), “Hungry Monk Yoga” (posing in orange robes while teaching martial arts; $15 a month); and “Lather Fantasies” (clothed people “excessively shampooing each other’s hair”; $20 a month). (An April Wall Street Journal report noted that the “lather” channel “sounds kinkier than it actually is.”) [Washington Post, 4-19-2016] [Wall Street Journal, 4-13-2016] Recurring Themes (recent examples of traditional weird-news themes repeated over News of the Weird’s 28 years, along with Updates on a few of our favorite characters) Restaurants in Tokyo continue their vigilance for unique, attention-demanding animal themes to attract diners. Eateries showcasing tableside cats, rabbits, owls, hawks, and even snakes have tried their hand, with the latest being “Harry,” with food and drink--and 20 to 30 teacup-size hedgehogs for diners to fondle while awaiting meal service. The equivalent of $9 brings an hour of cuddling rights. [Reuters via The Guardian (London), 4-7-2016] Fine Points of the Law: In some states, as News of the Weird has reported, visitors with the barest “right” to occupy property (e.g., invited in for one night but never left) cannot be evicted except by court order, which might take weeks to obtain. In April, owners in Flint, Mich., and Nampa, Idaho, were outraged that nothing could be done quickly to remove squatters from their vacated houses. (The Nampa squatter produced a “lease” that, though fraudulent, was enough to send the sheriff away.) [WJRT-TV (Flint), 4-6-2016] [KIVI-TV (Boise), 4-11-2016] The two most recent instances of suspects who claimed that the drugs or paraphernalia found in their genitals during police searches were not theirs (but were only being stored there for other people) were Tiffany Flores, 23, arrested in Fellsmere, Fla., on April 5th with a crack pipe in her vagina, and Deondre Lumpkin, 23, arrested in Largo, Fla., on March 22nd with crack cocaine “concealed beneath his genitals” (though did admit owning the marijuana found in his car). [The Smoking Gun, 4-6-2016] [The Smoking Gun, 3-26-2016] Smooth Getaway: The December burglary of the Halifax bank in Sale, England, drew attention even though the hour was just after midnight--because Jamie Keegan and Marc Shelton (both age 33) had tried to haul away an ATM but had it fall out the back of their van, producing calamitous noise (and sparks in the road). (Also, the ATM had an “out of order” sign on it, raising still another question about the efficacy of the crime.) In February the Minshull Street Crown Court sentenced the pair to 40 months each in prison. (Bonus: In court, Shelton helpfully corrected the legal record by reminding officials that the pair’s crime was actually “burglary” and not, as written, “robbery.”) [Manchester Evening News, 2-2-2016] The most recent suspect to have the bright idea to try biting off his fingertips (to avoid identification) was Kirk Kelly, wanted in Tampa for violating probation and picked up by police in February in Akron, Ohio. While being detained in Akron, he had begun to chew the skin off his fingers. Even if he had succeeded, he was easily identified as Kirk Kelly because of his body tattoos (“Port Tampa” and “813"--Tampa’s area code). [WFTS-TV (Tampa), 2-26-1016] More DIY Masters: (1) Randy Velthuizen had lived in the house in Everson, Wash., for 20 years, but in April he accidentally set it afire while attempting to kill weeds with a blowtorch. It was an uninsured total loss. Mused Velthuizen, “It just made downsizing a hell of a lot easier.” (2) In January, four units in an apartment house in midtown Detroit were accidentally burned out by a tenant attempting to kill a bedbug that had bitten him. He had tried to light it up, but by the time the flames were extinguished, he was badly burned; his and three adjacent units were uninhabitable; and two dozen others had suffered water damage. [Bellingham Herald, 4-4-2016] [Detroit Free Press, 1-8-2016] Sex ‘n’ Veggies: Emergency surgeons at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Costa Rica removed an 18-inch-long “yuca” (cassava root) from the posterior of a 55-year-old man in April after one of the two condoms encasing it ruptured inside him. A photograph in San Juan’s Diario Extra showed that the yuca had been carved into a phallic shape. Apparently, the man avoided what could have been catastrophic internal injury. [Costa Rica Star, 4-6-2016] Funeral directors who mix up bodies (either accidentally or, in some cases, fraudulently) are not uncommon, but Thomas Clock III of Clock Funeral Home at White Lake (Whiteside, Mich.) was charged with a bit more in April. Not only did Clock allegedly fail to bury the ashes of the late Helen Anthony in December (interring an empty box, instead), but when the family asked for a specific burial date, Clock allegedly told them that no workers were available and that the family would have to dig the cemetery plot themselves--for which Clock helpfully advised using a “post hole digger.” (And they did.) [, 4-7-2016] Updates Two News of the Weird All-Time Favorites: (1) Obsessive litigant Jonathon Lee Riches asked a federal court in Billings, Mont., in April to somehow issue a well-meaning “restraining” order against Donald Trump--to force Trump out of the presidential race on the ground that he fears assassination. Riches wrote that he loves and adores Trump but suggested as a candidate John McCain (who is “less fiery”). (2) Mr. “Beezow Doo-doo Zopittybop-bop-bop,” 34, was arrested in January for assaulting an Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.) police officer. Mr. Zoppitybop-bop-bop (originally, Jeffrey Wilschke) had made News of the Weird several years back with arrests under his new name in Wisconsin and Iowa. [KPAX-TV (Missoula), 4-13-2016] [The Olympian), 2-1-2016] In April, the Sacramento Bee revealed (from Freedom of Information requests) that University of California, Davis, officials had spent at least $175,000 in scarce state higher-education funds merely to attempt to scrub the Internet of references to the notorious 2011 incident in which a campus police officer deliberately pepper-sprayed the faces of restrained, helpless protesters. The public relations venture was part of a campaign by the school’s chancellor, Linda Katehi, to rehabilitate her image after cutbacks to academic programs. (Other critics ridicule as futile almost any attempt--ever--to scrub news from the Internet.) [Sacramento Bee, 4-13-2016] What is believed to be the longest-running armed standoff in U.S. history came to a quiet conclusion on January 6th in Trinidad, Tex., when John Joe Gray outlasted the district attorney--never having left his 47-acre ranch in the past 15 years. In 1999, Gray, carrying a pistol but without a permit, resisted arrest and bit a state trooper, retreating to his property, refusing to leave for court. The sheriff, explaining why his deputies declined to go after him, once said, “Joe Gray has been in prison out there himself [for 14 years].” (Actually, the charges were dismissed in December 2014, but when the district attorney left office, he failed to notify Gray or the deputies.) [WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth, 1-8-2016] A News of the Weird Classic (March 2012) Newspapers in Sweden reported in January [2012] that two of the country's most heinous murderers apparently fell in love with each other at their psychiatric institution and, following a 26-day Internet-chat "courtship," had decided to marry. Mr. Isakin Jonsson ("the Skara Cannibal") was convicted of killing, decapitating, and eating his girlfriend, and Michelle Gustafsson ("the Vampire Woman") was convicted of killing a father of four and drinking his blood. Said the love-struck Jonsson (certainly accurately), to the newspaper Expressen, "I have never met anyone like [Michelle]." The pair will almost certainly remain locked up forever, but Gustafsson wrote that she hopes they will be released, to live together and "have dogs and pursue our hobbies, piercing and tattoos." [The Local (Stockholm), 1-30-2012] Thanks This Week to Patty Lively, Sergio Brusin, and Gary DaSilva, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
  • Simca Fulgur—Dream Car of the Future
    In 1959, the French automaker Simca showed a prototype of the Simca Fulgur (aka "Dream Car of the Future") at various auto shows. It was a concept car designed to demonstrate "the advanced thinking of Simca engineers." The final car was supposed to incorporate the following not-yet-invented technologies (according to this Dec 1959 article): controlled by an electronic brain fed travel instructions by the driverPower supplied on main highways through magnetic induction from road-imbedded cables On secondary roads, Fulgur derives power from six batteries in the rear which gives it a range of up to 3000 miles.The front wheels which steer the Fulgur at low speeds are retracted at above 90 miles per hour and the car will plane along on its rear wheels. There was also talk of making the Simca Fulgur atomic-powered. And it seems possible that it may have inspired the design of the Jetsons' car, though I can't find any confirmation of that. More info:,

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

Recent posts:

  • Story Is Out! May 1, 2016
    Nightmare Magazine, with my story "Sawing," is live now.  Right now you have to subscribe to read it, but it will become available on May 18.I actually have something to say about this story, which isn't the case with some of them.  Sometimes I'll start a book or short story by smashing together subjects that seem interesting and seeing if they turn into something.  So, for example, with my novel Dark Cities Underground I put together children's books, subway systems, and Egyptian gods, and, much to my amazement, they gelled into a story.  I don't recommend this as a system for writing because it works about as often as it doesn't, which can be very frustrating.Anyway, the things I put together for "Sawing" were the Depression in the 1930s, live magic shows, and one other thing, which I can't mention because it's a spoiler.
  • Dear Halls Cough Drops April 30, 2016
    I’ve had a wretched cold for the last week and a half, during which I ingested about a pound of cough drops.  When I surfaced, a few days ago, I noticed that Halls cough drops puts little uplifting mottos on their wrappers: “Take charge and mean it.” “Bet on yourself.”  “Get back in the game.”  “Power through.”Dear Halls:I am lying on the couch, trying to work up the energy to open a bag of your cough drops.  If I were not exhausted, and coughing my lungs out, your mottos might make some sense to me.  Might I suggest slogans more in keeping with your clientele?  Something like “Don’t worry about that deadline.”  “Go back to sleep.”  “You can take Nyquil during the day too, you know.”Yours sincerely,Lisa
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE April 29, 2016
    What's up with a hot new horror novel?
  • Review of a DiFi Story April 26, 2016
    Very happy with this review by Charles Payseur of my recent story BACKUP MAN.There is something nearly refreshing about finding a story here that's just rather unashamedly fast times with future guns and genetically modified soldiers. Lingo and flashy, punky descriptions give this story a movement, a speed that's nicely done and keeps things running from beginning to end, not letting up until the curtain downs on a stage littered with dead bodies. The main character is and definitely is not Drew Prosnitz, a thief who successfully foiled a contest to resettle a huge stretch of North America left vacant for many years because of ecological catastrophe. The setting is vividly drawn, a nice mix of humans, androids, modified people, and sentient "moldies." It's a strange mix and the action of the piece is hyperviolent and fast. Everything happens with a rush of implications and not-Prosnitz does a great job of keeping things mysterious enough to keep the strange band he joins guessing as to his true nature and not giving too much away to the reader as well. This does seem to fall into a larger story, a larger setting, but it stands on its own fairly well, an entertaining smash and grab with some sweeping looks at a future that has seen some messed up shit. And in any event it's rather light and fun and teases a lot that is probably explored elsewhere. Another fine read!
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE April 21, 2016
    I take a look at a new space opera:
  • And The New Yorker Annoys Me Again April 18, 2016
    Clive James has a review of Game of Thrones in this week’s New Yorker, and it’s … about what you’d expect.  He starts by mentioning that he doesn’t enjoy stories with either dragons or swords, which is a bit like beginning a review of an Italian restaurant by saying you don’t like cheese or tomatoes.  He then goes on to give his opinion of the show’s viewers: “The Seven Kingdoms are divided into nine regions, with a logic that will be familiar to all fans of fantasy, and even to a few normal people.”  (I immediately sent this bit to Dave Langford’s Ansible for his running series “As Others See Us,” signing it “From one abnormal person to another.”)He also dislikes the sections featuring the Dothrakis — “Drogo wastes away and dies, perhaps from boredom” — and the Night Watch — “[T]he level of tedium is very high…”  I would have liked some solid critiques of these sections, some hint of why James doesn’t like them, but we’re simply told that they’re not to his taste.Two and a half pages in he finally stops trying to be clever and gets to his point, which is that “All the action that matters takes place in… King’s Landing.”  Here is where you are plunged into a place where “the law has not yet formed,” where “there is no state except the lawless interplay of violent power.”  He admires what the showrunners do with Ned, how they cleverly subvert movie cliche.  Weirdly, though, he doesn’t seem to understand (or if he understands it doesn’t seem to matter) that it was George R. R. Martin, not the show’s writers, who was responsible for the subversions he likes.  He says only that “[T]he showrunners … have kept [Martin] close throughout the enterprise” — but isn’t it more the case that Martin has kept the showrunners close to his vision?James reserves his highest praise for Charles Dance’s Tywin and Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion.  It’s hard to argue with this: they’re both great roles, played by great actors.  But even in his praise he shows his limitations.  He enjoys discussions about power, what it takes to get it, to wield it, to lose it, but he entirely misses the rest of the show’s pleasures.For example, he gets Arya Stark’s role completely wrong.  “Clearly, the main thing keeping her alive was the showrunners’ determination to fascinate us with the process of her maturation,” he says.  But Arya is in a very dark place in both the show and the novels: she has ended up at a school for assassins and is learning how to kill dispassionately, and she has also started to give free rein to her revenge fantasies.  Is this really maturation?  James, despite his enjoyment of the way Game of Thrones subverts expectations, is still expecting Arya to fulfill the destiny of a feisty princess, while I think Martin is going to break our hearts with her story.In one of the weirdest parts of this review James compares Martin’s writing to that of Dan Brown.  Brown, though, is one of the worst prose stylists ever.  You can see this in the first sentence of The Da Vinci Code, one of the most justly ridiculed passages in all of literature: “Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.”   The author should be hooking you into the action here, making you wonder what happened to poor Jacques and why he’s staggering through the museum, and yet for some reason this is the moment when Brown decides to tell you what Sauniere’s profession is and how well he’s doing in it.Martin, on the other hand, is a terrific story-teller.  His descriptions are immediate, vivid, and his characters, even the bit players, are well rounded.  At times his writing rises to the level of the epic, the language of fantasy.  He has, it’s true, begun to maunder a bit in the latest books, but he still manages to keep the reader engaged, desperate to know what’s coming next.Fantasy and lit-fic are different things, and should be read differently.  James, in his review, approaches GoT as if it’s realistic fiction, praising it for its realpolitik and dismissing the fantasy elements.  Which is fine — everyone’s different, after all.  What’s not fine is when a major magazine reviews one of these things with the tools of the other.