News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M509, January 8, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Too-Much-Reality TV: Russian producers are planning the so-far-ultimate survivors' show--in the Siberian wilderness for nine months (temperatures as low as -40F), with 30 contestants selected after signing liability waivers that protect the show even if someone is raped or murdered. (Police may come arrest the perpetrators, but the producers are not responsible for intervening.) The show ("Game2: Winter") will be telecast live, around the clock, beginning July 2017 via 2,000 cameras placed in a large area of bears and treacherous forest. Producers told Siberian Times
in December that 60 prospects had already signed up for the last-person-standing prize: the equivalent of $1.6 million (only requirements: be 18 and "sane"). (Bonus: The production company's advertising lists the "dangerous" behaviors they allow, including "fighting," "murder," "rape," "smoking.") [Siberian Times (Novosibirsk), 12-15-2016
Roundup from the World's Press
With car-camel collisions increasing in Iran's two southern provinces, an Iranian government ministry is in the process of issuing identification cards to each camel, supposedly leading to outerwear license "plates" on each of the animals. Authorities told the Islamic Republic News Agency the registration numbers are needed if an accident victim needs to report the camel or to help trace smugglers. (No actual U.S.-style license "plates" on camels have yet made the world's news photographs.) [Daily Mail (London), 12-7-2016
Martin Shkreli became the Wall Street bad boy in 2015 when his company Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the right to market the lifesaving drug Daraprim and promptly raised its typical price of $18 a pill to $750, but in November, high schoolers in the chemistry lab at Sydney Grammar in Australia created a molecular knockoff of Daraprim for about $2 a tablet. Their sample of "pyrimethamine" (Daraprim's chemical name) was judged authentic by a University of Sydney chemistry professor. Daraprim, among other uses, fights deadly attacks on immune systems, such as for HIV patients. [Washington Post, 12-1-2017
Gazing Upon Nature as Nature Calls: To serve restroom users in a public park in China's Hunan Province's picturesque Shiyan Lake area, architects gave users in toilet cubicles a view of the forest through ceiling-to-floor windows. To discourage sightseers who believe the better view is not from the cubicles but into them, the bottom portion, up to the level of the toilet, is frosted--though that strategem probably blurs only a pair of legs, seated. (CNN reported in October that China has at least one other such restroom, in Guilin province, viewing distant mountains.) [CNN, 10-4-2016
Oops! Organizers of the Christmas Day caroling program at the Nelum Pokuna theater in Colombo, Sri Lanka, drawing thousands of devout celebrants, were apparently confused by one song title and innocently included it in the book for the carolers. (No, it wasn't "Inna Gadda Da Vida" from a famous "Simpsons" episode.) It was "Hail Mary" by the late rapper Tupac Shakur--likely resulting in the very first appearance of certain words in any Christmas service publication anywhere. [The Independent (London), 12-25-2016
Officials of the Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany, the world's tallest church (530 feet high), said in October that they fear it might eventually be brought down--by visitors who make the long trek up with a full bladder and no place to relieve themselves except in dark alcoves, thus eroding the structure's sandstone. A building preservation representative also cited vomit in the alcoves, perhaps as a result of the dizzying height of the view from the top. (News of the Weird
has reported on erosion damage to a bridge, from spitting, in Mumbai, India, and at the Taj Mahal, from bug droppings.) [Washington Post, 10-25-2016
The Dubai-based Gulf News
reported in November that 900 Kuwaiti government workers had their pay frozen during the current investigation into no-shows, including one man on the payroll (unidentified) who reportedly had not actually worked in 10 years. Another, who had been living abroad for 18 months while drawing his Kuwaiti pay, was reduced to half-pay, but insisted he had asked several times for assignments but was told nothing was available. (Gulf News
reported that the 10-year man is appealing the freeze!) [Daily Mail (London), 11-10-2016
Prosecutors in Darlington, England, obviously take child "cruelty" seriously because Gary McKenzie, 22, was hauled into court in October on four charges against a boy (whose name and age were not published), including passing gas in the boy's face. The charge was described as "in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health." He was on trial for two other slightly harsher acts--and another gas-passing, against a different boy--but the judgment has not been reported. [The Northern Echo (Darlington), 10-20-2016
World-class chess players are famous for intense powers of concentration, but a chess journal reported in October that top-flight female players have actually been disqualified from matches for showing too much cleavage as they play, thus distracting their opponent (according to Ms. Sava Stoisavljevic, head of the European Chess Union). In fact, the Women's World Chess Championship, scheduled for February, has decreed that, since the matches will be held in Tehran, all contestants must wear hijabs (leading the U.S. women's champion to announce she is boycotting). [Metro News (London), 10-31-2016
] [New York Times, 10-8-2016
News You Can Use: German Horst Wenzel, "Mr. Flirt," fancies himself a smooth-talking maestro, teaching mostly wealthy but tongue-tied German men lessons (at about $1,500 a day!) in how to approach women--but this year has decided to "give back" to the community by offering his expertise pro-bono to lonely Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have flooded the country. At one class in Dortmund in November, observed by an Associated Press reporter, most "students" were hesitant, apparently divided between the those embarrassed (when Wenzel informed them it's "normal" to have sex on the first or second date) and the awkwardly confident (opening line: "I love you. Can I sleep over at your place?"). But, advised Wenzel, "Don't tell [a German woman] that you love [her] at least for the first three months [because] German women don't like clinginess." [Associated Press, 11-28-2016
Undignified Deaths: (1) A 24-year-old woman who worked at a confectionary factory in Fedortsovo, Russia, was killed in December when she fell into a vat of chocolate. (Some witnesses said she was pouring flour when she fell; others say she fell while trying to retrieve her dropped cell phone.) (2) A 24-year-old man was decapitated in London in August when he leaned too far out the window of one train and struck an extension on a passing train. Next to the window he leaned from was a sign warning people not to stick their heads out. [The Independent (London), 12-16-2016
] [Daily Mail, 9-1-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) A poll revealed in December (sponsored by University of Graz and Austria Press Agency) that Austria's "word of the year" for 2016 was the 52-letter word bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung
, referring to the postponement of the runoff election for president in 2016. (2) The Wall Street Journal
reported in December a longstanding feud on the tiny Mediterranean island of Gozo, Malta, which has only 37,000 residents but two opera houses because of the owners' mutual antipathy. [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 12-9-2016
] [Wall Street Journal, 12-6-2016
A News of the Weird Classic (February 2013)
In November, Tokyo’s Kenichi Ito, 29, bested his own Guinness World Record by a full second (down to 17.47 seconds) in the 100-meter dash--"running" on all fours. Ito runs like a Patas monkey, which he has long admired and which (along with his self-described monkey-like face) inspired him nine years ago to take up “four-legged” running. He reported trouble only once, when he went to the mountains to train and was shot at by a hunter who mistook him for a boar. [The Guardian (London), 11-16-2012; Reuters, 4-18-2012]
Thanks This Week to Peter Swank and Alexander Campbell, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Snow White and Adriana Caselotti (source: The Disney Wiki)
I came across a story in a 1938 newspaper about how Adriana Caselotti got the job of being the voice of Snow White in Disney's 1937 movie
Three years ago when Adriana Caselotti, above, was 18, she was a naughty little girl who listened in on the phone calls of her father, Guido Caselotti, Hollywood voice teacher. When the Walt Disney studio called one day asking him to find the right voice for Snow White, she piped "Me, me, me, how about me?" into the extension on which she had been eavesdropping. The studio liked her cheerful chirping, and she became the "voice" of the fairy story heroine. Now she hopes to become a movie actress.
Unfortunately for Caselotti, her dream of becoming a movie actress didn't turn out as she hoped. In fact, providing the voice for Snow White turned out to be the worst career move she could have possibly made as an aspiring actress — because Walt Disney, wanting to preserve the "illusion of Snow White," decided he couldn't have her voice be heard in any other context. So he prevented Caselotti from ever finding work as an actress again, except for minor appearances in The Wizard of Oz
and It's a Wonderful Life
As a consolation prize for having destroyed her career, the Disney company named her a "Disney Legend" in 1994.
In 1935, after a brief stint as a chorus girl at MGM, Walt Disney hired Caselotti as the voice of his heroine Snow White. She was paid a total of $970 for working on the film (worth approximately $16,160 as of 2011). She was under contract with Disney, and Disney prevented her from appearing in further film and other media, even for Disney, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Jack Benny specifically mentioned that he had asked Disney for permission to use her on his radio show and was told, "I'm sorry, but that voice can't be used anywhere. I don't want to spoil the illusion of Snow White." The only other work Caselotti did following her premiere was an uncredited role in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939); she provided the voice of Juliet during the Tin Man's song, "If I Only Had a Heart", speaking the line, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" In 1946, she had an uncredited role in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, singing in Martini's bar as James Stewart was praying.
Wilkes Barre Times Leader - Apr 8, 1938
I spent New Year's Day in Yuma, Arizona, where I had a chance to see a local oddity — the Swastika Bridge, which can be found out in the desert just north of the city.
According to local legend, the swastikas were carved into the bridge by German POWs held nearby during WWII. Another story has it that the bridge was designed by the Nazis and shipped to Arizona from Germany.
The reality is that the bridge was built in 1907 by the U.S. Reclamation Service. The engineers decorated it with swastikas after seeing similarly designed and decorated bridges during a trip to India.
The bridge was part of the larger effort to dam the Colorado River and create an agricultural oasis around Yuma.
More info at the Yuma Sun
And you can find a lot of other examples of the pre-Nazi use of swastikas in American culture at the American Swastika blog
Introduced at the 1941 meeting of the Inventors of America society in New York — a combined mousetrap and cigarette lighter.
The caption on the first image is confusing. It says "a lever sets the mouse in motion," but I assume that's a mistake. It should probably read, "The mouse sets a lever in motion."
Another newspaper offered the following explanation of the device's operation: "When mouse springs trap, it sends pinball down ramp. Ball releases spring, and up pops an arm which strikes a match."
When the Inventors of America met again later that year in Los Angeles, one of their members showed off some mice-killing
. So mouse-themed inventions were evidently all the rage that year.
The San Bernardino County Sun - July 25, 1941
The Pittsburgh Press - July 27, 1941
Mrs. Christina Brown of Elgin, Illinois filed for divorce from her husband on the grounds that he was a wizard who wielded occult powers, compelling her to do things against her will, such as:
- Sitting for hours in one chair while he controlled her thoughts as well as actions without touch or word.
- Revealing the choicest bits of neighborhood gossip, no matter how solemnly she had sworn to keep them a secret.
- Telling him what she really thought of him, despite her effort to pretend that he was the only man in the world.
- Admitting that she didn't believe his fish stories.
- Confessing that she had cooked up the oldest and poorest food in the house when he brought a friend home to dinner unexpectedly.
- Purchasing a hat and gown at the cheapest store in town when she had fully intended to buy them at a more expensive establishment.
The Alexandria Times-Tribune - Sep 6, 1909