Weird Universe Blog — May 8, 2017

News of the Weird (May 7, 2017)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M526, May 7, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

A San Francisco startup recently introduced a countertop gadget to squeeze fruit and vegetables for you so that your hands don't get sore. However, the Juicero (a) requires that the fruit and veggies be advance-sliced in precise sections conveniently available for purchase from the Juicero company, (b) has, for some reason, a wi-fi connection, and (c) sells for $399. (Bonus: Creator Jeff Dunn originally priced it at $699 but had to discount it after brutal shopper feedback.) (Double Bonus: Venture capitalists actually invested $120 million to develop the Juicero, anticipating frenzied consumer love.) [BBC News, 4-21-2017]

Great Art!

Monument to Flossing: Russian artist Mariana Shumkova is certainly doing her part for oral hygiene, publicly unveiling her St. Petersburg statuette of a frightening, malformed head displaying actual extracted human teeth, misaligned, populating holes in the face representing the mouth and eyes. She told Pravda in April that "only [something with] a strong emotional impact" would make people think about tooth care. [Pravda, 4-12-2017]

Artist Lucy Gafford of Mobile, Ala., has a flourishing audience of fans (exact numbers not revealed), reported in March, but lacking a formal "brick and mortar" gallery show, she must exhibit her estimated 400 pieces online only. Gafford, who has "long" hair, periodically flings loose, wet strands onto her shower wall and arranges them into "designs," which she photographs and posts, at a rate of about one new creation a week since 2014. [ (Mobile), 3-20-2017]

Bright Ideas

Though complete details were not available in news reports of the case, it is nonetheless clear that a magistrate in Llandudno, Wales, had ordered several punishments in April for David Roberts, 50, including probation, a curfew, paying court costs, and, in the magistrate's words, that Roberts attend a "thinking skills" course. Roberts had overreacted to a speeding motorcyclist on a footpath by later installing a chest-high, barbed-wire line across the path that almost slashed another cyclist. (A search did not turn up "thinking skills" courses in Wales--or in America, where they are certainly badly needed, even though successful classes of that type would surely make News of the Weird's job harder.) [Wales Online, 4-12-2017]

Raising a Hardy Generation: Pre-schoolers at the Elves and Fairies Woodland Nursery in Edmondsham, England, rough it all day long outside, using tools (even a saw!), burning wood, planting crops. Climbing ropes and rolling in the mud are also encouraged. Kids as young as age 2 grow and cook herbs and vegetables (incidentally absorbing "arithmetic" by measuring ingredients). In its most recent accreditation inspection, the nursery was judged "outstanding." [Metro News (London), 4-10-2017]

Compelling Explanations

Criminal Defenses Unlikely to Succeed: (1) To protest a disorderly conduct charge in Sebastian, Fla., in March, Kristen Morrow, 37, and George Harris, 25 (who were so "active" under a blanket that bystanders complained), began screaming at a sheriff's deputy--that Morrow is a "famous music talent" and that the couple are "with" the Illuminati. (The shadowy "Illuminati," if it exists, reputedly forbids associates to acknowledge that it exists.) Morrow and Harris were arrested. (2) Wesley Pettis, 24, charged with damaging 60 trees in West Jordan, Utah, in 2016, was ordered to probation and counseling in March, stemming from his defense that, well, the trees had hurt him "first." [WPLG-TV (Miami), 3-28-2017] [Salt Lake Tribune, 3-29-2017]

Leading Economic Indicators

Legendary German Engineering: The state-of-the-art Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, scheduled to open in 2012, has largely been "completed," but ubiquitous malfunctions have moved the opening back to at least 2020. Among the problems: cabling wrongly laid out; escalators too short; 4,000 doors incorrectly numbered; a chief planner who turned out to be an imposter; complete failure of the "futuristic" fire safety system, e.g., no smoke exhaust and no working alarms (provoking a suggested alternative to just hire 800 low-paid staff to walk around the airport and watch for fires). The initial $2.2 billion price tag is now $6.5 billion (and counting). [ (Sydney), 3-27-2017]

Rich Numbers in the News: (1) A one-bedroom, rotting-wood bungalow (built in 1905) in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, Calif., sold in April for $755,000 ($260,000 over the asking price). (2) Business Week reported in April that Win Financial Holdings (part of the Russell 2000 small-company index) has reported stock price fluctuations since its 2015 startup--of as much as 4,555 percent (and that no one knows why). (3) New Zealand officials reported in March that Apple had earned more than NZ$4.2 billion ($2.88 billion in U.S. dollars) in sales last year, but according to the country's rules, did not owe a penny in income tax. [, 4-19-2017] [Business Week, 4-21-2017] [, 3-20-2017]

New World Order

Why? Just . . Because: (1) The AquaGenie, subject of a current crowdfunding campaign, would be a $70 water bottle with wi-fi. Fill the bottle and enter your "water goals"; the app will alert you to various courses of action if you've insufficiently hydrated yourself. (2) Already on the market: A company called Blacksocks has introduced Calf Socks Classic with Plus--a pair of socks with an Internet connection. The smartphone app can help you color-match your socks and tell you, among other things, whether it's time to wash them. (Ten pairs, $189) [PR Web, 4-17-2017] [, 4-27-2017]

Undignified Deaths

Dark Day for Competitive Eating: A 42-year-old man choked to death on April 2nd at a Voodoo Doughnuts shop in Denver, Colo., as he accepted the store's "Tex-Ass Challenge" to eat a half-pounder (equivalent of six regular donuts) in 80 seconds. Later the same day, in Fairfield, Conn., a 21-year-old college student died, three days after collapsing, choking, at a pancake-eating contest at the Sacred Heart University student center. [KUSA-TV. 4-3-2017] [Connecticut Post, 4-4-2017]

Recurring Themes

Prominent tax avoider Winston Shrout, 69, was convicted in April on 13 fraud counts and six of "willful" failure to file federal returns during 2005 to 2014--despite his clever defense, which jurors in Portland, Ore., apparently ignored. Shrout, through seminars and publications, had created a cottage industry teaching ways to beat the tax code, but had managed always to slyly mention that his tips were "void where prohibited by law" (to show that he lacked the requisite "intent" to commit crimes). Among Shrout's schemes: He once sent homemade "International Bills of Exchange" to a small community bank in Chicago apparently hoping the bank would carelessly launder them into legal currency, but (in violation of the "keep a low profile" rule) he had given each IBE a face value of $1 trillion. [The Oregonian, 4-21-2017]

Readers' Choice

(1) A successful business in Austin, Tex., collapsed recently with the arrests of the husband and wife owners of a "massage parlor," who had come to police attention when sewer workers fixing a backed-up pipe noticed that the problem was caused by "hundreds of condoms" jamming the connection to the couple's Jade Massage Therapy. (2) Scott Dion, who has a sometimes-contentious relationship with the Hill County (Mont.) tax office, complained in April that he had paid his property bill with a check, but, as before, had written a snarky message on the "memo" line. He told reporters that the treasurer had delayed cashing the check (potentially creating a "late fee" for Dion), apparently because Dion had written "sexual favors" on the memo line. [KVUE-TV (Austin), 4-11-2017] [Associated Press via Great Falls Tribune, 4-11-2017]

A News of the Weird Classic (August 2013)

British birdwatchers were especially excited by news in early [2013] that a rare White-throated Needletail (the world’s fastest flying bird) had been spotted on the UK’s Isles of Harris--only the eighth such sighting in Britain in 170 years. Ornithologists arranged an expedition that attracted about 80 of the planet's most dedicated, adventurous birders, who were thrilled as, indeed, the bird appeared again--and then inadvertently flew straight into the blades of a wind turbine (becoming, as Monty Python might describe it, an ex-White-throated Needletail). [Daily Telegraph, 6-27-2013]

Thanks This Week to Larry Neer, Alex Boese, Peter Burkholder, Alex Cortade, Bob Stewart, Mel Birge, Gerald Sacks, and Conan Witzel, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Mon May 08, 2017 - Comments (7)

Obese, the Freak Fat Mouse

A fat mouse that was bred at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine during the late 1940s/early 1950s. The researchers called him "Obese," or "O.B." for short. As in, that was his name, not just a description of what he was. Fat mice bred from Obese were used in the study of diabetes and obesity.

Newsweek - Apr 2, 1951

Ellen Ruppel Shell tells the story of Obese in her book The Hungry Gene: The Inside Story of the Obesity Industry:

In 1947, a wildfire swept through Mount Desert Island and the laboratory, incinerating all but a scattering of the mice. Little was determined to rebuild, and donations of mice — all of them originally bred at Jackson — poured back to the lab from around the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Among these was a new mutant, the dystrophic mouse that Coleman would use as his model for the study of muscular dystrophy. And two years later, another mutant suddenly appeared in the lab — a mouse with traits that would, some twenty years later, attract and hold Coleman's attention for the rest of his career.

An animal caretaker first spotted the creature huddled in a corner of its cage, grooming itself. It was furrier than most, but what really stood out was the size of the thing — it was hugely fat. The caretaker alerted doctoral candidate Margaret Dickie, who diagnosed the mouse as "pregnant." But there were problems with this theory. For one thing, the mouse never delivered a baby. And on closer inspection, it turned out to be male. The fat mouse ate three times the chow eaten by a normal mouse, pawing for hours at the bar of the food dispenser like an embittered gambler banging away at a recalcitrant slot machine. Between feedings it sat inert. It seemed to have been placed on this earth for no other purpose than to grow fat.

There had been other fat mice. The agouti mouse, named for its mottled yellow fur similar to that of the burrowing South American rodent, is, in its "lethal yellow" mutation, double the weight of the ordinary variety. But the fat agouti was svelte compared to the newcomer. This mouse was outlandish, a joke, a blob of fur splayed out on four dainty paws like a blimp on tricycle wheels. Rather than dart around the cage in mousy abandon, it was docile, phlegmatic, as though resigned to some unspeakable fate. Dickie and her colleagues christened the mouse "obese," later abbreviated to "ob," and pronounced "O.B.," each letter drawn out in its own languid syllable.

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 08, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Animals, Science, 1940s, 1950s

May 7, 2017

Holcombe’s Mechanical Partner

I'd like to see this gadget in action. Unfortunately I can't find any videos of it.

It doesn't seem to have survived past 1954.

Popular Science - Oct 1954

LA Times - July 1, 1954

Posted By: Alex - Sun May 07, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Inventions, 1950s, Dance

Follies of the Madmen #313

That is one friendly and powerful cereal.

Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun May 07, 2017 - Comments (7)
Category: Anthropomorphism, Business, Advertising, Products, Food, 1900s

May 6, 2017

Coffin Birth

Also known as "postmortem fetal extrusion." The term describes the phenomenon of a dead woman giving birth to a dead baby, the "birth" being caused by the buildup of gas pressure in her decomposing body. It's not known for sure that this actually happens, because no one has ever witnessed it, but archaeological evidence has led researchers to conclude that it probably does.

More info: Bones Don't Lie, Seeker, Wikipedia.

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 06, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Death, Pregnancy

A Word to the Wives

Posted By: Paul - Sat May 06, 2017 - Comments (0)
Category: Domestic, Family, Stereotypes and Cliches, 1950s

May 5, 2017


Check out the Humanure Film in which "Humanure Girl" travels from the future to teach us about the benefits of making compost from human feces.

And if you want to dive deeper into the subject of Humanure, the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins seems to be like the Bible of Humanure enthusiasts.

Posted By: Alex - Fri May 05, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Body Fluids, Excrement

Groucho & Chico Go To Jail

I cannot find any subsequent info on this case, which I had never heard of before. Did the Marx Bros. win on appeal? I certainly don't think they ever went to jail.

Original article here.

Posted By: Paul - Fri May 05, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Crime, Humor, Comedians, 1930s

May 4, 2017

Destruct Therapy

The Stop Stress Group is a Spanish company founded by Jorge Arribas Haro in 2003. It offers stress management and team-building therapy to companies, and it specializes in "Destruct Therapy" (Destructoterapia), which involves giving office workers sledge hammers, taking them out to a junk yard, and having them vent their rage on "cars, washing machines, refrigerators, television sets, and so on."

In the video below there's one burly guy who seems like a ringer, and then a bunch of people who are more like tapping the car with the sledgehammer. They're probably thinking, "Why do we have to do this idiotic team building exercise?"

The concept of Destruct Therapy reminds me of Destructivist Art.

via Pinterest

Posted By: Alex - Thu May 04, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Business, Psychology

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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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