Weird Universe Blog — April 20, 2017

IKEA Tote Bag

The latest ridiculously overpriced merchandise making headlines is the Balenciaga large shopper bag, which sells for $2150. A lot of people have been pointing out that it looks suspiciously similar to IKEA's "frakta" shopping bag, which sells for $0.99.

However, the two bags are not identical. The Balenciaga bag is made of leather. The IKEA bag is plastic.

Balenciaga large shopper

IKEA frakta shopper

More info: bbc news

Posted By: Alex - Thu Apr 20, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Overpriced Merchandise

April 19, 2017

The Knife-Fork

Edward Towlen of Detroit invented the "knife-fork" around 1917, but he only got around to selling it as a product in 1945. It looks like you can still buy one (or something like it), such as here for $17.99. Although science has moved on. There are now rivals, such as the Knork (see video below).

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader - Dec 15, 1945

Popular Science - Aug 1946

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 19, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Inventions

Musical Prisoner

In 1949, LIFE told us about Frank Grandstaff, who composed a cantata while jailed, and earned a brief release to hear it performed. But what happened afterwards?

Original story here.

Original article here.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Apr 19, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Crime, Music, 1940s, 1950s

April 18, 2017

Allergic to wife

1966: After suffering from asthma for 15 years, Sigurd Lindh learned that he was allergic to his wife, Greta. He moved into a cabin 600 yards from their home, and his asthma cleared up.

It's pretty rare for spouses to be allergic to each other (as in, actually having a physical reaction to the other's presence, not just hating each other's guts). But it's doubly rare for a husband to be allergic to a wife. So Lindh was pretty unique. For whatever reason, the overwhelming majority of these spousal allergy cases involve wives allergic to their husbands. See here and here.

Detroit Free Press - June 2, 1966

Akron Beacon Journal - Sep 12, 1966

Posted By: Alex - Tue Apr 18, 2017 - Comments (1)
Category: Health, Marriage, 1960s

General Electric’s 1965 Walking Truck

Walking robots, such as those from Boston Dynamics, are all the rage these days.

But does their ancestor, the human-operated Walking Truck, ever get any credit?

Well, this fellow did a magnificent article on the device.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Apr 18, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Anthropomorphism, Robots, 1960s

April 17, 2017

7 Clicks (April 17, 2017)

7 Clicks
A Weird Universe News Service
April 17, 2017

Sounds Like a Too-Easy Joke: Researchers in Germany, flummoxed by female patients bodies rejecting ovarian cancer medications, are trying . . as delivery vehicles . . umm . . sperm cells. []

Want! Now! If you have hopelessly noisy apartment neighbors, there's a simple device in China called a "building shaker" that will ruin . . their . . evening. Please, just take my money! [Shanghaiist]

Checked the wrong box on a U.S. visa application, signaling that, indeed, this 3-month-old UK baby has done "terrorist actvities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide"? Embassy officials took 10 hours out of his and his family's lives to get it resolved. (Plus, will baby Harvey Kenyon-Cairns forever be on the database?) [The Guardian]

As of this month, many streetside bars in India were forced to close because they weren't at least "500 meters" removed from a state or national highway. Not closing: the Aishwarya Bar in Kerala state, which built a serpentine maze between the street and its front door, requiring 520 meters' worth of stepping. [India Times]

A current NYC fight between a high-rise co-op and a higher-rise going up next door is getting ugly. One lady in the former whined that "several" of her Picassos "would be deprived of optimal lighting" by the new building. [NY Post]

Suspicion Confirmed: If you removed a "controversial" scholar's name from his carefully researched and reasoned work, and presented only the ideas themselves to focus groups divided by self-proclaimed ideologies, you might find that today's quick-trigger outrages are wa-a-a-ay overblown. Two Cornell professors did. [NY Times]

And Anna "facilitated communication" Stubblefield is back in court, demanding a new trial. She and only she knows what the poor invalid in a semi-vegetative state is thinking, and what he is thinking, she says, is l-u-u-v-v! [Slate]

Thanks to Joe Littrell

Posted By: Chuck - Mon Apr 17, 2017 - Comments (4)

Vexations by Erik Satie

Eccentric composer Erik Satie wrote "Vexations," a four-line piece of music, around 1893, though that date is a guess because it remained undiscovered until his death in 1925. It was an unexceptional piece of music (by design), except for the instructions he attached that seemed to indicate that it should be played "840 times in succession" by a pianist who should "prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." It's not clear why he chose the number 840.

It was first performed in September 1963 at the Pocket Theater in Manhattan. Composer John Cage arranged for a relay team of 10 pianists to play the entire thing, 840 times. The entire performance lasted 18 hours and 40 minutes.

There was a $5 admission fee for audience members, but you got 5 cents back for every 20 minutes you listened to it. Joel Meltz sat through the whole thing, so ended up getting a refund of $2.80.

It's subsequently been performed a number of times and is, of course, available on YouTube. Check out the video below of the guy who plays the entire thing, alone, in under 10 hours.

San Bernardino County Sun - Sep 11, 1963

Posted By: Alex - Mon Apr 17, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Boredom, Music, 1960s

Mystery Gadget 47

What is going on here? Find out at this link.

Or after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Mon Apr 17, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Technology, 1920s

April 16, 2017

News of the Weird (April 16, 2017)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M523, April 16, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

Samuel West announced in April that his Museum of Failure will open in Helsingborg, Sweden, in June, to commemorate innovation missteps that might serve as inspiration for future successes. Among the initial exhibits: coffee-infused Coca-Cola; the Bic "For Her" pen (because women's handwriting needs are surely unique); the Twitter Peak (a 2009 device that does nothing except send and receive tweets--and with a screen only 25 characters wide); and Harley-Davidson's 1990s line of colognes (in retrospect as appealing, said West, as "oil and gas fumes"). (West's is only the latest attempt to immortalize failure with a "museum." Previous attempts, such as those in 2007 and 2014, apparently failed.) [CBC Radio, 4-6-2017]

Government In Action

Toronto, Ontario, Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz finally ridded his docket of the maddening, freeloading couple that had quibbled incessantly about each other's "harassments." Neither Noora Abdulaali, 32, nor her now-ex-husband Kadhim Salih, 43, had worked a day in the five years since they immigrated from Iraq, having almost immediately gone on disability benefits and begun exploiting Legal Aid Toronto in their many attempts to one-up each other with restraining orders. Approving the couple's settlement in March, Judge Pazaratz added, "The next time anyone at Legal Aid Ontario tells you they're short of money, don't believe it. Not if they're funding cases like this." [Toronto Sun, 3-17-2017]

In May, a new restaurant-disclosure regulation mandated by the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to kick in, requiring eateries (except small chains and independents) to post calorie counts for all menu items including "variations'--which a Domino's Pizza executive said meant, for his company, "34 million" calorie listings. The executive called the regulation, for the pizza industry, "a 20th-century approach to a 21st-century question" since for many establishments, orders increasingly arrive online or by phone. [Washington Post, 4-7-2017]

Redneck Chronicles

(1) Dennis Smith, 65, was arrested in Senoia, Ga., and charged with stealing dirt from the elderly widow of the man Smith said had given him permission to take it. Smith, a "dirt broker," had taken more than 180 dump-truck loads. (2) New for Valentine's Day from the company: a bouquet of beef jerky slices, formed to resemble a dozen full-petaled roses ($59). Also available: daisies. Chief selling point: Flowers die quickly, but jerky is forever. [WAGA-TV (Atlanta), 3-30-2017] [Mother Nature News, 2-1-2017]

New World Order

In March, Harvard Medical School technicians announced a smartphone app to give fertility-conscious men an accurate semen analysis, including sperm concentration, motility, and total count--costing probably less than $10. Included is a magnification attachment and a "microfluidic" chip. The insertable app magnifies and photographs the "loaded" chip, instantly reporting the results. (To answer the most frequent question: No, semen never touches your phone.) (The device still needs Food and Drug Administration approval.) [NPR, 3-22-2017]


Hipsters on the Rise: (1) The Columbia Room bar in Washington, D.C., recently introduced the "In Search of Time Past" cocktail-- splashed with the tincture of old, musty books. Management vacuum-sealed pages with grapeseed oil, then "fat-washed" them with a "neutral high-proof" spirit, and added a vintage sherry, mushroom cordial, and eucalyptus. (2) The California reggae rock band Slightly Stoopid recently produced a vinyl record of songs that was "smokeable," according to Billboard magazine--using a "super resinous variety of hashish" mastered at the Los Angeles studio Capsule Labs. The first two versions' sound quality disappointed and were apparently quickly smoked, but a third is in production. [Washingtonian, 11-30-2016] [Billboard, 1-19-2017]

The telephone "area" code in the tony English city of Bath (01225) is different than that of adjacent Radstock (01761) and probably better explained by landline telephone infrastructure than legal boundary. However, a Bath councilwoman said in April that she is dealing with complaints by 10 new residents who paid high-end prices for their homes only to find that they came with the 01761 code. Admitted one Bath resident, "I do consider my phone number to be part of my identity." [SomersetLive, 4-5-2017]

Weird Science

Magnificent Evolvers: (1) Human populations in Chile's Atacama desert have apparently developed a tolerance for arsenic 100 times as powerful as the World Health Organization's maximum safe level (according to recent research by University of Chile scientists). (2) While 80 percent of Americans age 45 or older have calcium-cluttered blood veins (atherosclerosis), about 80 percent of Bolivian Tsimane hunter-gatherers in the Amazon have clean veins, according to an April report in The Lancet. (Keys for having "the healthiest hearts in the world": walk a lot and eat monkey, wild pig, and piranha.) [New Scientist, 2-22-2017] [NPR, 3-21-2017; The Lancet, 3-17-2017]

Awesome: (1) University of Basel biologists writing in the journal Science of Nature in March calculated that the global population of spiders consumes at least 400 million tons of prey yearly--about as much, by weight, as the total of meat and fish consumed by all humans. (2) University of Utah researchers trained surveillance cameras on dead animals in a local desert to study scavenger behavior and were apparently astonished to witness the disappearances of two bait cows. Over the course of five days, according to the biologists' recent journal article, two different badgers, working around the clock for days, had dug adjacent holes and completely buried the cows (for storage and/or to keep the carcasses from competitors). [BBC News, 3-15-2017] [NPR, 4-4-2017]

News You Can Use: A study published in the journal Endocrinology in March suggested that "whole-body" vibration may be just as effective as regular "exercise." (The Fine Print: Vibration was shown only to aid "global bone formation," which is not as useful for some people as "weight loss," which was not studied, and anyway, the study was conducted on mice. Nonetheless, even for a mouse immobile on a vibrating machine, muscles contracted and relaxed multiple times per second. This "Fine Print" will soon be useful when hucksters learn of the study and try to sell gullible humans a "miracle" weight-loss machine.) [Endocrinology, 3-15-2017]

The Aristocrats!

Wild Maryland! (1) Prince George's County police officer James Sims, 30, pleaded guilty to four counts of misdemeanor "visual surveillance with prurient interest" and in February was sentenced to probation (though his termination investigation was still ongoing). His fourth event, said prosecutors, in a Sports Authority store, was taking an upskirt photo of a woman who, as Sims discovered, was also a cop. (2) A Worcester County (Md.) judge fined Ellis Rollins $1,000 in February and gave him a suspended sentence--for the June 2016 ostentatious nude dancing and sex with his wife at an Ocean City, Md., hotel window in view of other people on holiday. At the time, Rollins was the Cecil County, Md., state's attorney but has since resigned. [Washington Post, 2-14-2017] [WTOP Radio (Washington), 2-17-2017]

Timeless Sayings In The News

A tanker truck overturned on a Los Angeles freeway on April 4th, spilling its contents, injuring seven and inconveniencing hundreds (with at least a few surely tearful, since the tanker was hauling milk). And, at a Parks Canada station restroom in Banff, Alberta, on April 1st, visitors found the door locked and, inexplicably, three black bear cubs inside (although they were not reported to have "used" the facilities so it is still safe to assume that bears relieve themselves "in the woods"). [Los Angeles Daily News, 4-4-2017] [Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News, 4-7-2017]

A News of the Weird Classic (July 2013)

Too Much Information: During a June [2013] debate in a House Rules Committee abortion hearing, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, himself an obstetrician/gynecologist, urged an even earlier ban, based on research on fetal pain, which Burgess said is felt at 15 weeks and not a law's proposed 20 weeks. “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week-old baby,” said Burgess, “and they have movements that are purposeful.” “If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs.” (Thus, if they feel pleasure, he concluded, they should also feel pain.) [The Atlantic, 6-18-2013]

Thanks This Week to Stan Kaplan and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Apr 16, 2017 - Comments (1)

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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