August 21, 2016

News of the Weird (August 21, 2016)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M489, August 21, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

New World Order: Australians are about to learn how fussy some people are about their genders. Queensland University of Technology and three other sponsors have created an online preference survey (currently underway) that asks participants to decide among 33 "genders" (since "gender" is, according to the World Health Organization, "socially constructed"). "Male" and "female" are clear enough--but only where "identity" matches plumbing. Otherwise, it's "trans" or "transsexual", or else the more complicated bigender, omnigender, polygender, pangender, intergender, genderfluid, "cis gender," trigender, demigender, "gender non-conforming," "non-binary," "none gender," and a few others. [ (Sydney), 7-29-2016]

Latest Religious Messages

India has supposedly outlawed the "baby-tossing" religious test popular among Hindus and Muslims in rural villages in Maharashtra and Karnataka states, but a July New York Times report suggested that parents were still allowing surrogates to drop their new-born infants from 30 feet up and and awaiting the gods' blessing for a prosperous, healthy life. In all cases, according to the report, the gods come through, and a bedsheet appears below to catch the unharmed baby. [New York Times, 7-29-2016]

Government in Action

More federal civilian employees have "arrest and firearms authority" than the total number of active-duty U.S. Marines, according to a June report by the organization Open The Books, which claims to have tallied line-by-line expenditures across the government. Several agencies (including IRS and EPA) purchase assault weapons and other military-grade equipment (camouflage, night-vision goggles, 30-round magazines) for their agents, and even Small Business Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Department of Education buy their agents guns and ammo. [Washington Free Beacon, 6-22-2016]

San Diego Padres outfielder Justin Upton Jr. was traded on July 23rd to the Toronto Blue Jays--in the middle of a series between the Padres and the Blue Jays in Toronto. Normally, such a player would merely gather his belongings and walk down the hall to the other team's locker room. However, while Canada treats Blue Jays' opponents as "visitors," Blue Jays players, themselves, are Canadian employees, and if not residents must have work permits. Upton had to leave the stadium and drive to Lewiston, N.Y., which is the closest place he could find to apply to re-enter Canada properly. (He made it back by game time.) [Associated Press via New York Times, 7-27-2016]

Leading Economic Indicators

Shrewd Tourism Campaigns: (1) Since Bulgaria, on Romania's southern border, lies close to Romania's iconic Transylvania, Bulgarian tourism officials have begun marketing their own vampire tourism industry--stepped up following a 2014 archaeological find of a 4th-century "graveyard" of adolescents with iron stakes through their chests. (2) The new tourism minister of Thailand is threatening to close down the lucrative sex business in Bangkok and Pattaya, even with the country still rallying from a 2014 near-recess ion. Ms. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul insisted that visitors are not interested in "such a thing [as sex]" but come for Thailand's "beautiful" culture. [Mother Nature News, 7-22-2016] [Daily Telegraph (London), 7-17-2016]

Paid to Go Away: Sports Illustrated noted in May that some universities are still paying out millions of dollars to failed coaches who had managed to secure big contracts in more optimistic times. Notre Dame's largest athletic payout in 2014 was the $2.05 million to ex-football coach Charlie Weis--five years after he had been fired. That ended Weis's Notre Dame contract (which paid him $15 million post-dismissal), but he is still drawing several million dollars from the University of Kansas despite having been let go there, also. [Sports Illustrated, 5-30-2016]

The Continuing Crisis

Horniness: (1) A year-long, nationwide investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (reporting in May) found more than 2,400 doctors penalized for sexually abusing their patients--with state medical boards ultimately allowing more than half to continue practicing medicine. Some doctors, a reporter noted, are among "the most prolific sex offenders in the country," with "hundreds" of victims. (2) District Judge Joseph Boeckmann (in Arkansas's rural Cross County) resigned in May after the state Judicial Discipline committee found as many as 4,500 nude or semi-nude photos of young men who had been before Boeckmann in court. (Some were naked, being paddled by Boeckmann, who trolled for victims by writing young men notes offering a "community service" option). [ABC News, 7-6-2016] [CNN, 5-10-2016]

For Good Measure: (1) Rhys Holman pleaded guilty to a firearms charge in Melbourne, Australia, in July for shooting 53 bullets into his brother's Xbox. (The brother had urinated on Holman's car.) (2) Mauricio Morales-Casares, 24, was sentenced to life in prison by a Montgomery County, Md., judge in July following his April conviction for fatally stabbing a "friend"--89 times. [The Age (Melbourne), 7-22-2016] [Washington Post, 7-15-2016]

Boldface Names in News of the Weird!

(1) Police in Southampton, N.Y., confirmed a July altercation in which model Christie Brinkley water-hosed a woman she had spotted urinating on her beachfront property. Erica Remkus, 36, said her need was urgent after watching a July 4th fireworks show, but Brinkley shouted, "How dare you!" and "I walk on these rocks [where Remkus relieved herself]." (2) Also in July, actor Brooke Shields made the news when she--as a curator of an art show in Southampton, N.Y.--managed to rescue a piece that custodians had inadvertently tossed into the garbage. (The cleanup crew had made an understandable mistake, as the statue was a raccoon standing next to a trashcan, ready to rummage.) [New York Daily News, 7-4-2016] [New York Post, 7-11-2016]

Redneck Chronicles

(1) Knoxville, Tenn., firefighters were called to a home in July when a woman tried to barbecue brisket in her bathroom--and, in addition to losing control of the flame, melted her fiberglass bathtub. Firefighters limited the damage--by turning on the shower. (2) One day earlier, in Union, S.C., a 33-year-old woman called police to her home, claiming that she had fallen asleep on her couch with her "upper plate" in her mouth, but that when she awoke, it was gone and that she suspects a teeth-napping intruder. [WVLT-TV (Knoxville), 7-13-2016] [WHNS-TV (Greenville, S.C.), 7-14-2016]

How to Tell If You're Drunk

The owner of the Howl At The Moon Bar in Gold Coast, Australia, released surveillance video of a July break-in (later inspiring the perpetrator to turn himself in). The man is seen trying to enter the locked bar at 3 a.m., then tossing a beer keg at a glass door three times, finally creating a hole large enough to climb through, acrobatically, and fall to the floor (lit cigarette remaining firmly between his lips). Once inside, he stood at the bar, apparently waiting for someone to take his order. When no one came, he meekly left through the same door. The owner said nothing was taken, and nothing else was damaged. [Brisbane Times, 7-29-2016]

Recurring Themes

Too Many Toilet-Themed Restaurants: The first one, in Taiwan, made News of the Weird in 2006, but recently two more opened their doors. One, in Semarang, Indonesia (on Java island), serves only one dish--brown meatballs floating in thick soup, arrayed in a toilet-shaped pan. The owner's secondary agenda is to inspire people to install toilets in their homes. In Toronto's Koreatown, a dessert-themed one was scheduled to open in August with patron seating on you-know-whats and a variety of brown sweets such as swirly-stool-shaped chocolate ice cream. Potty-themed restaurants have opened in Russia, South Korea, the Philippines, China, Japan, and Los Angeles. [BBC News, 7-20-2016] [The Independent (London), 7-22-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (October 2012)

In August [2012], a Michigan government watchdog group learned, in a Freedom of Information Act request, that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department still has one job on the payroll as a "horseshoer." (The Department owns no horses.) Over the years, the position has become a patronage slot paying about $57,000 a year in salary and benefits, and sometimes the “horseshoer” has been asked to do “blacksmith” work, such as metal repair. (The city employees’ union fights to retain every job, no matter its title.) [Michigan Capitol Confidential, 8-20-2012]

Thanks This Week to Jim Peterson and Ken Paille, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Aug 21, 2016 - Comments (3)

Beirut Spite House

Beirut Spite House

A "spite house" is a house whose primary reason for being is to annoy someone.

In The Hidden Dimension (1969), which is a study of how people perceive space, the American anthropologist Edward T. Hall described a spite house built in Beirut. Although a "spite wall" might be a more accurate description:

Arabs don't mind being crowded by people but hate to be hemmed in by walls. They show a much greater overt sensitivity to architectural crowding than we do. Enclosed space must meet at least three requirements that I know of if it is to satisfy the Arabs: there must be plenty of unobstructed space in which to move around (possibly as much as a thousand square feet); very high ceilings — so high in fact that they do not normally impinge on the visual field; and, in addition, there must be an unobstructed view. It was spaces such as these in which the Americans referred to earlier felt so uncomfortable.

One sees the Arab's need for a view expressed in many ways, even negatively, for to cut off a neighbor's view is one of the most effective ways of spiting him. In Beirut one can see what is known locally as the "spite house." It is nothing more than a thick, four-story wall, built at the end of a long fight between neighbors, on a narrow strip of land for the express purpose of denying a view of the Mediterranean to any house built on the land behind. According to one of my informants, there is also a house on a small plot of land between Beirut and Damascus which is completely surrounded by a neighbor's wall built high enough to cut off the view from all windows!

I think building a massive wall to block a neighbor's view would actually be considered obnoxious in any culture.

There's plenty of other examples of spite houses described online. See, for example, wikipedia or Mental Floss.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 21, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Architecture, Pranks and Revenge

August 20, 2016

Plastape Poses

Poses (pronounced poh-ZAYS) were introduced in 1949 as an alternative brassiere that attached to the chest by means of adhesive strips of something called Plastape. "Place them in position, press with a forefinger — and there you are!"

However, the product proved unpopular. Perhaps because women thought it seemed too much like gluing coffee filters to their chest.

Detroit Free Press - July 10, 1949

But when women didn't go for stick-on plastape bras, the stuff seems to have been repurposed to make venetian blinds.

The Hagerstown Morning Herald - Nov 2, 1951

Posted By: Alex - Sat Aug 20, 2016 - Comments (7)
Category: Fashion, 1940's

Mystery Illustration 28


In what industry or occupation is this a professional signal?

The answer is here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 20, 2016 - Comments (4)
Category: Signage, 1930's

August 19, 2016

Are you an extraterrestrial?

Working off the theory that millions of years ago extraterrestrials spliced alien code into our DNA, the NY Daily News offers a list of 11 signs that suggest you might be part extraterrestrial (because apparently some of us have more of the alien code than others).

  • Have had paranormal experiences
  • Feeling homesick
  • Believing you have a mission
  • Highly sensitive
  • Don't fit in with mainstream society
  • Animals and children are drawn to you
  • Vivid dreams
  • Telepathic abilities
  • Age well
  • High pitched ringing in ears
  • A natural understanding of the universe

Complicating things is that there are different species of ETs (Pleiadians, Arcturians, etc.). So you may have more qualities of one ET species than another.

And what about if you have pointed ears like Spock (aka a Darwin's Point)? Because one of my ears is like that, and I'd like to think that means I have a bit of Vulcan blood in me.

Also check out the list on a similar theme I posted back in 2008: "Have you been abducted by aliens?"

Posted By: Alex - Fri Aug 19, 2016 - Comments (14)
Category: Aliens

Keep Your Funky Side Out

Original ad here.

A band so forgotten, they do not even have a Wikipedia entry or any songs on YouTube. I had to go to Archive.Org for this file. And yet they offer such eternally good advice: keep your funky side out!

Posted By: Paul - Fri Aug 19, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Ineptness, Crudity, Talentlessness, Kitsch, and Bad Art, Music, 1970's

August 18, 2016

Hop’n Gator Beer

In 1969, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company introduced Hop'n Gator Lemon-Lime Lager, which was a combination of beer and Gatorade, but with 25% more alcohol than regular beer. The concoction was created by Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade.

A comment on provides some insight about what might have been going through the minds of the management team at the brewery when they decided to come out with this product:

There was an urban legend around that time that mixing alcohol with Gatorade "gets you drunk quicker", so that may have been part of the thinking behind the product. There was a move by a few others brewers at the time to create what today would be called Flavored Malt Beverages - besides Pittsburgh's Hop'n Gator there was also National's Malt Duck and Lone Star's Lime Lager. Those products were marketed in hopes to stem the loss of some of the youth market which brewers felt had gone to the then-popular sweet, "pop" wines like Ripple, Boone's Farm and Bali Hai. Part of that popularity might have been influenced by the general opinion of dope smokers that cheap sweet wine "paired" better with marijuana than beer.

However, Hop'n Gator quickly ran into problems. First, the brewery was sued in 1970 by the makers of Gatorade for infringing on the Gatorade trademark. This suit apparently was settled. But the larger problem was that Hop'n Gator, pitched to the public as a "lemon-lime lager," just didn't sell very well.

So the brewery dropped the "lemon-lime lager" description and re-introduced Hop'n Gator as a "tropical-flavored malt liquor." This proved more appealing, especially among blacks in Georgia, South Carolina, and Detroit. So much so that the beverage attracted the attention of the NAACP. As reported in the Charleston Post and Courier:

Those sales statistics concerned the NAACP, which in 1971 accused the Pittsburgh Brewing Company of targeting African-American drinkers while failing to hire African-American salespeople. The New Pittsburgh Courier documented the ensuing boycott: "NAACP flyers are displayed in every major black tavern in Pittsburgh urging black people not to drink" Mustang Malt Liquor, Tech Beer or Hop'n Gator. A pact between Pittsburgh Brewing Company and the NAACP ended the boycott in early 1972.

In 1975, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company gave up and discontinued Hop 'n' Gator. In 2004, they produced 10,000 more barrels of it as a novelty. But no more since. So unless you can find some on eBay, your chance of ever trying Hop'n Gator is gone.

And one more bit of Gatorade-related trivia. In a 2001 interview with Sports Illustrated, Robert Cade revealed that when the University of Florida Gators were first testing Gatorade, some of the players had complained that it tasted like urine. So Cade and an assistant tested the hypothesis and concluded that, in fact, "There's a significant difference in flavor."

Posted By: Alex - Thu Aug 18, 2016 - Comments (3)


Original text here.

Despite this 1915 revelation of fraud, Tanlac continued to sell for at least another 30 years. The bottle in the picture dates from 1942.

Maybe it was due to ads like this one.

Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Aug 18, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1910's, 1940's

August 17, 2016

Da-Dum… Da-Dum… Da-Dum

Researchers at UC San Diego (my grad school alma mater) have published research documenting that the "ominous background music that often accompanies shark footage" can cause people to view sharks in a negative light, whereas the same footage set to "uplifting background music" doesn't have this effect.

They note that their study is the first "to demonstrate empirically that the connotative attributes of background music accompanying shark footage affect viewers’ attitudes toward sharks."

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 17, 2016 - Comments (4)
Category: Animals, Fish, Documentaries

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Chuck Shepherd
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

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