Back in October 1969, a group of "antipopulation protesters" staged a "hunger show" (aka "starve-in") outside of San Francisco. The plan was to inflate a 100x100-foot plastic pillow, inside of which 300 of them would spend a week without food, only water. As they sat there, feeling hungry, they would have to watch "slides of pork chops and peas and carrots" and listen to taped sounds of restaurant noises. Also, sandwiches would be taped to the exterior of the plastic pillow, and non-participants outside would stage a pie-eating contest.
Participants were free to leave the pillow at any time, "but they can't return — they've died."
Organizer Stephanie Mills offered a slightly cryptic explanation of the goal of the protest: "People are just being too chicken, too chicken for their own good. We've got to encourage them not to be chicken."
The hunger show lasted half a week. Then it started to rain so they gave it up, saying, "We came here to suffer from hunger, not exposure."
Backstage in the Weird News Community (Chuck Talks Shop)
May 21, 2013
* News of the Weird has a special connection to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. The main character (in the movie, Brad Pitt) supports himself by raiding a plastic surgeon’s medical waste for lipo’d fat from rich women, then makes soap from it, then sells it back to rich women. In more innocent (Internet-infancy) times, that was a metaphor for NOTW: taking newspaper editors’ scraps of undervalued news and selling it back to them. So Yr Editor fixed on WLRN Radio’s interview with artist Orestes De La Paz, who used his own lipo’d fat for the same thing except for truth and beauty rather than money. Originally it was for a class at Florida International University, but until last Sunday it was an exhibit at the Frost Art Museum at FIU. WLRN (Miami), 5-16-2013
* Yr Editor routinely gets trashed for his admiration of the Daily Mail of London (“World’s Greatest Newspaper”), but I stand by it. The New York Times wrote two weeks ago about the Mail’s new presence in America (staff of 80, still hiring!), and in New York City especially, and its challenge to flaccid U.S. news reporting. Some of the reporting is original, but much is aggregated--and not very artfully aggregated, apparently, as the Mail is constantly accused of stealing. Brits like to complain at the low quality of many of its stories and exaggerations of fact to make stories more interesting. Yr Editor’s take on that is that energetic readers should know the difference by now. (Yr Editor takes some, leaves some. If it’s in any version of NOTW, it has passed the tests.) New York Times
* This may not be the golden age of weird-news reporting on newspapers or news sites, but it could be for weird-news reality television. It started with Cops (Fox) but now includes most notably My Crazy Obsession (TLC), Hoarders (A&E), Oddities (Discovery Channel), and now an HBO newsmagazine series turned over to the people who run Vice.com, who report on the edges of important news. Reality TV almost seems to have shot its considerable wad by now in that exaggeration and drama have ramped up so high in order to retain audience that it will soon descend into Jerry Springer territory in which producers often make up the greater part of subjects’ passion. But even when all reality TV becomes unreal, there will still be NOTW . . for all 112 people left who haven’t been corrupted or seduced by the outrageousness of fiction.
* National Geographic magazine ran a fantastic photo feature in the April issue: “Europe’s Wild Men,” featuring people in full tribal regalia celebrating whatever bizarre local festival they celebrate. The images are almost indescribable, but you’ll have to click the link to see them because, as you can tell by now, Yr Editor is a non-visual blogger, owing to an almost prehistoric view of copyright (and not shared by the vast majority of the Internet). National Geographic
When a piece of road reaches the ripe old age of 16 years, it may be time to retire. With all of the growth in China, these engineers wrapped this two lane viaduct in cloth, wired it, and placed water dust absorbing bags around it.
Taught by Simon Critchley, who explains that he intends it partially to be "a way of mocking creative-writing workshops." Full article at the New York Times:
With Mr. Critchley kneeling before a blackboard on Saturday and his 15 attendees gathered tightly around, class began with a discussion of the shifting ethics of suicide, from antiquity to modern-day Christianity to right-to-die debates in the news media.
The suicide note, which he identified as a literary genre with a unique form, is a fairly recent invention coinciding with the rise of literacy and the press, he told the class.
“In antiquity, there was no need to leave a note,” he said. "It would have been obvious why you killed yourself."
Among the trailing news about Angelina Jolie’s surgery was that the cancer test everyone in her position would take costs at least $4,000 in the U.S., primarily because one company, Myriad Genetics, owns the patent to her two gene mutations (which were created by, y’know, the Lord or whatever). Yr Editor guesses that other companies will eventually own all other significant gene mutations. USA! USA!Marketplace.org
John Currin, 51, according to a Los Angeles Times critic, is arguably the most “successful and provocative painter of his generation,” and as if to prove the point, Christie’s auction house just got $1.9m for his 1991 “Bea Arthur Naked.” It’s a young Bea Arthur, and a fairly firm Bea Arthur (if you get my drift), and it’s Not Safe For Work, and it’s at the link (scroll down). NBC News
Perspective: The Florida senate was ready to negotiate over accepting Obamacare money to upgrade Medicaid; the Florida governor was ready to sign the bill (after an about-face); but the Florida house still turned down the money, killing health insurance for about a million poor people. Then the same Florida house, moving to more urgent matters, refused to increase its own members’ health insurance premiums for their “cadillac” plan beyond the current $8.34/month (versus $50 a month all other state employees pay, including senators) (and higher for “family coverage”). The speaker of the house agreed that that didn’t smell good and promised to look into the matter . . next year. (They’ve gone home for 2013.) Tampa Bay Times
More Things to Worry About
The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on the number of “mites” (new rule: not more than 6 per square inch) in imported cheese, and lovers of French Mimolette are furious because they love their cheese “alive,” i.e., crawling. (All cheeses have molds, bacteria, yeasts, and/or mites, but for Mimolette, apparently the crawlier, the better.) NPR
A recent report from Seattle had a guy flying a noisy drone outside someone’s bedroom window, which is maybe legal--unless it’s not. A U.S. Supreme Court decision declared that “air is a public highway,” but that was 1946. To add to the creepiness, he told a passerby that he was shooting video from the drone directly to his eyeglasses, but then he fled before cops arrived. Betabeat.com /// Capitol Hill Seattle
Black-Market Disney Tour Guides: If you know someone who knows someone, you can rent a guide to Disney World who’s also, say, wheelchair-bound, which means he and up to six “family or friends” get preferential entry to any attraction on the lot. The privilege is not supposed to cover commercial arrangements, but if y’all keep your stories straight, you can pull it off. (Update: Disney says it reads the New York Post and that it’s investigating.) (And it’s a hot topic on the Disney fan boards.) New York Post /// LaughingPlace.com [for Disney-holics]
The United Nations’s primary multilateral forum for negotiating arms control agreements (its Conference on Disarmament) will be chaired from May 27-June 23 by, umm, Iran. Seriously. Fox News
The San Francisco restaurant Bacon Bacon was ordered to close by health officials because neighbors were being driven to ecstasy by the perpetual heavenly fragrance of bacon complained about the smell of bacon. San Francisco Examiner
New York City Assemblyman Vito Lopez (who will resign later today) has a special prosecutor on his case of corruption and other bad conduct, even though he’s now a candidate for mayor. Among the charges: He pressured some lady staffers to rub the tumors on his neck. New York Daily News
Not the Usual Suspect: Arrested in two incidents of sticking his video-enabled iPhone into his shoe and shoving it under a partition in the changing room in a Greenwich Village boutique: Prof. Ross Finocchio, 34, an art-history superstar at NYU. New York Post
Non-superstar John Allison, 41, was arrested in Massena, N.Y., after allegedly getting caught on grocery store video surveillance rubbing a pepperoni on his exposed thinger and slipping it (the pepperoni) back on the shelf. Watertown Daily News
Police Say Man Sexually Abused His Peacock --- WMAQ-TV (Chicago) [bonus: not a euphemism]
Study: Muscle Men More Politically Conservative --- Salon.com
Mysterious Poop Foam Causes Explosions on Hog Farms --- Mother Jones
A construction company building a road in Belize apparently considered itself lucky that so much crushed rock was readily available near the work site. Backhoes and bulldozers attacked the rocks--except that that rock “pile” was a 2,300-yr-old Mayan pyramid. (Bonus: Apparently it’s far from the first time Mayan structures in Belize have turned utilitarian.) Associated Press via Washington Post
No one doubts that the White House has had a rough couple of weeks, but so did a local land resources bureau in China a while back, and they cleared everything up with . . feng shui! Just build a wall in front of those stone lions that were causing all the trouble, and . . problem solved! Other suggestions for Mr. Obama: re-schedule meetings for auspicious times and pick people with good birthdates for leadership roles. In China, though, there is the Communist Party, which abhors all spirituality, and some feng shui-ers are now off to jail. New York Times
Your Weekly Jury Duty [In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]
Accused burglar Michael Maxwell, 19, probably can’t get a fair trial until the swelling goes down. (The home was occupied, and there were fists and a Taser.) Florida Today (Melbourne)
Prosecutor’s Dream: Gary Gray, 42, will have to try harder (harder than he did in this mug shot) to raise “reasonable doubt” that he committed first-degree sexual assault against a 10-yr-old girl. Connecticut Post
Newsrangers: David Henshaw, John McGaw, Peter Smagorinsky, and Sandy Pearlman, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors
CDC researchers recently published a study of contaminants found in public pools (in the metro-Atlanta area). It's worth reading if you plan to take a dip in a public pool this summer. Here are the highlights:
During the 2012 summer swimming season, filter concentrate samples were collected at metro-Atlanta public pools... Escherichia coli, a fecal indicator, was detected in 93 (58%) samples; detection signifies that swimmers introduced fecal material into pool water. Fecal material can be introduced when it washes off of swimmers' bodies or through a formed or diarrheal fecal incident in the water. The risk for pathogen transmission increases if swimmers introduce diarrheal feces...
The detection of E. coli in over half of filter backwash samples indicates that swimmers frequently introduced fecal material into pools and thus might transmit infectious pathogens to others... A single diarrheal contamination incident can introduce 107–108 Cryptosporidium oocysts into the water, a quantity sufficient to cause infection if a mouthful of water from a typical pool is ingested.
The frequent occurrence of fecal contamination of pools documented in this study... underscore the need for improved swimmer hygiene (e.g., taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea). This study also found that the proportion of samples positive for E. coli significantly differed between membership/club and municipal pools. This finding might reflect differences in the number of swimmers who are either diapered children or children learning toileting skills.
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M319, May 19, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd
* The beauty pageant each April at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Tex., requires traditional skills like interview poise, evening-gown fashion, and talent, but also some ability and inclination to milk and skin rattlers. High school senior Kyndra Vaught won this year's Miss Snake Charmer, wearing jeweled boots one night for her country and western ballad, then Kevlar boots and camouflage chaps the next as she took on dozens of rattlers in the wooden snake pit. Vaught expertly held up one serpent, offered its tail-end rattles for a baby to touch, then helped hold, measure, milk, and skin a buzzing, slithery serpent. A Los Angeles Times dispatch noted that Vaught hoped to be on her way soon to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. [Los Angeles Times, 4-12-2013]
The Continuing Crisis
* That there are flea “circuses” is bizarre enough, but in March a cold spell in Germany wiped out an entire troup of "performing" fleas, requiring the flea whisperer to secure replacements (because, of course, the show must go on). Trainer Robert Birk reached out to a university near Mechernich-Kommern for 50 substitutes, which he apparently worked into the act over one weekend. (Fleas, with or without training, can pull up to 160,000 times their own weight and leap to 100 times their own height.) [The Independent (London), 3-31-2013]
* The owner of a restaurant in southern Sweden told authorities in March that the former owner had assured him that "everything had been approved," apparently including the appliance the restaurant used for mixing salad dressings and sauces--which was a table-model cement mixer. When health officials told the owner that that certainly was not “approved,” he immediately bought another, "rust-free," mixer. (Health authorities had come to the restaurant on a complaint that a screw had turned up in a customer's kabob.) [The Local (Stockholm), 3-30-2013]
* Chad Pregracke, 38, a Mississippi River legend, spends nine months a year hauling heavy-duty litter out of waterways with his crew of 12. He told CNN in March that he has yanked up 218 washing machines, 19 tractors, four pianos, and nearly 1,000 refrigerators--totaling over 3,500 tons of trash--and has collected the world's largest array of bottles-with-messages-inside (63). [CNN, 4-18-2013]
* Eliel Santos fishes the grates of New York City seven days a week, reeling in enough bounty to sustain him for the last eight years, he told the New York Post in April. The “fishing line” Santos, 38, uses is dental floss, with electrician's tape and Blue-Touch mouse glue--equipment that "he controls with the precision of an archer," the Post reported. His biggest catch ever was a $1,800 (pawned value) gold and diamond bracelet, but the most popular current items are iPhones, which texting-on-the-move pedestrians apparently have trouble hanging onto. [New York Post, 4-28-2013]
* Tyshekka Collier, 36, was arrested in Spartanburg, S.C., in March after she had rushed to her son's elementary school after a call that he was suspended. As she burst into the office, angry at her son for getting into trouble, she saw a pouting boy with his head down and slapped him, thinking he was hers. He wasn’t. (After apologizing, she then managed to locate her son and promptly slapped him around.) [WYFF-TV (Greenville), 3-28-2013]
* When Evan Ebel was killed in a roadside shootout in March, it was clear that he was the man who had days earlier gunned down the head of the Colorado prison system (and his wife) at the front door of their home and then fled (and killed another man while on the lam). Ebel should not even have been free at the time, having been accidentally released from prison in January only because a judge's assistant had mistakenly marked Ebel’s multiple prison terms to be served “concurrently” instead of one following the other (“consecutively”). (The supervising judge "extend[ed] condolences" to the families of the Ebel’s victims.) [Reuters, 4-1-2013]
* Apparently feeling feisty after a successful stint in February hosting the Bassmaster Classic, local officials in Tulsa, Okla., announced in April that they were considering preparing a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. (The Winter Olympics sometimes gets awarded to small venues, but never the Summer ones.) [Associated Press via ABC News, 4-27-2013]
* The Discovery Channel announced a new survival show to debut this summer, “Naked and Afraid,” dropping off a man and a woman (strangers), without tools or clothes, to fend for themselves on an isolated Maldives island. Among the previews: Ms. Kellie Nightlinger, 38, a self-described “ultimate survivalist,” finally thought after two weeks of nearly starving that she could attract fish close enough to be snatched up (as a New York Daily News reporter put it) “us[ing] her ladyparts as bait to catch fish between her legs.” Said a Discovery Channel executive, “Survival shows are so common now that it’s gotten more and more difficult to convince the audience that what they’re watching is something extreme.” [New York Daily News, 4-14-2013]
* Location, Location, Location: The New Delhi, India, neighborhood of Lutyens' Delhi houses some of the richest people in the country in comparatively modest mansions, with the city's real estate bubble inflating sales prices into nine figures, though home sales are rare, according to a March New York Times dispatch. In the similarly wealthy city of Hong Kong, in the "gritty, working-class West Kowloon neighborhood” where the laborers serving the rich live, about 100,000 dwell in pitiable housing, including the increasing number who rent what are basically stacks of wire sleep cages, measuring about 16 square feet each (and offering no protection against bedbugs). An Associated Press reporter found one tenant paying the equivalent of about $167 a month for his mesh digs. [New York Times, 3-3-2013] [Associated Press, 2-7-2013]
People With Issues
* Finally, Herson Torres was freed. As Bloomberg Business Week reported step-by-step in April, Torres was recruited by a “Defense Intelligence Agency operative” to rob a Virginia bank in order to test first-responder reaction times. If caught, Torres’s arrest would be removed, said “Theo,” the operative. The skeptical Torres asked advice of various authority figures, including two bemused lawyers, but “Theo” was able to calm them all with a dazzling display of CIA jargon and procedures. Torres was indeed arrested, and “Theo” indeed sprang him (but with a judicial order that was forged.) Ultimately, “Theo” was revealed to be frustrated computer-techie Matthew Brady, 26, who lives with his mother and grandmother in Matoaca, Va., and despite his obviously world-class bluffing skill, he pleaded guilty in May and was ordered treated for his paranoid schizophrenia and delusional disorder. [Bloomberg Business Week, 4-18-2013]
No Longer Weird
* Even the editor of News of the Weird gets bored: (1) A man in his 70s in Burnaby, British Columbia, was rescued in January after being pinned for three days under fallen debris inside his seriously cluttered home (with “ceiling-high mounds of garbage,” wrote the Canadian Press). (Ho-hum.) (2) In Lianjiang City, China, in January, Peng Xinhua, 101, joined a long line of returns-from-the- dead. Following a fall, she had become stiff and without a heartbeat, her two daughters said, and burial was scheduled. Just before the funeral, as relatives and friends were washing her body, Peng opened her eyes and calmly greeted them. [Canadian Press via Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 1-15-2013] [Shanghai Daily, 1-24-2013]
* (1) A 5-year-old boy in rural Cumberland County, Ky., accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister in April, firing his own .22-caliber rifle. The weapon (a “Crickett”) is marketed as “My First Rifle” by the Keystone Sporting Arms company. (2) Henry Gribbohm, 30, admitted in April that he had blown his $2,600 life savings trying to win an Xbox at a rigged ball-toss game at a Manchester, N.H., carnival, lamenting to WBZ-TV, “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.” (Gribbohm complained to the operator, but was given only a large stuffed banana as consolation. However, when news broke, an Internet website took up a collection and purchased the banana from him for $2,600.) [Louisville Courier-Journal via USA Today, 5-2-2013] [WBZ-TV (Boston), 5-6-2013]
Thanks This Week to Sandy Pearlman, Susan Fowler-Nice, and Paul Peterson, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.