News of the Weird/Pro Edition
January 4, 2010 Exceptionally Inexplicable Reports from Last Week
(datelines December 26-January 2; links correct as of January 4)
Are We Safe (I)? Are lapses in security inevitable? Some things don't seem to lapse: (1) After a breach, new air passenger restrictions resemble Whack-a-Mole (after the mole has left the building). (2) Transportation Security Administration overdoses Americans with "security theater" (bureaucratic Valium). (3) Israelis wince with embarrassment at our wussiness (with 6 U.S. airliner attacks in 10 years, out of 99 million departures, that's 1:16 million flights). (4) Jihadists smile and study our new rules. (5) TSA gives itself a shout-out (acting chief Gale Rossides, the day before Umar The Nigerian struck: "[W]e are respected internationally for our security work"). The new buzz: TSA still won't inspect scrota, never mind sphincters, which is what it would have taken to detect the guy assigned to blow up a Saudi prince on August 28th and who failed, painfully [NOTW/Pro Edition, 9-14-2009]. ABC News [TSA's self-salute] /// CNN [folly of "security theater"] /// Toronto Star [Israelifying airports] /// Slate.com [Christopher Hitchens on Americans as sheep] /// Slate.com [William Saletan on crotch bombs] /// FiveThirtyEight.com [odds of airborne terror]
Are We Safe (II)? A guy named Dennis Montgomery has allegedly pulled what might be the national security version of a Ponzi scheme on the U.S. government (according to an investigation in the current Playboy). He parlayed his experience in video-compression into scary claims that the Arabic network Al Jazeera was sending jihadists their new target coordinates by burying bar codes in telecasts and that only his proprietary software could reveal them—for the right, fat contract. CIA director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, among others, slurped it right up, as "credible intelligence," leading to a December 2003 crisis weekend that went nowhere. The thing about U.S. security is that we have more than two dozen intel agencies—and they mostly hate each other. Hence, when the CIA finally exposed Montgomery, he walked down the street and pitched to another (U.S. Air Force, $3 million). We want to believe. (Montgomery, who was once abducted by aliens, has declared bankruptcy over heavy gambling debts and is in major litigation with a former employer over ownership of his magic software.) Playboy
Lonely Men, Understanding Their Limitations: A Japanese otaku nerd decided to take the plunge with his online avatar girlfriend Nene Anegasaki and get hitched. "They" honeymooned in Guam, he in the flesh and she inside his Nintendo, which is capable of hosting such wedding night excitement as games of Paper Rock Scissors. The man declined to give his real name to Reuters "for fear of being misunderstood." And inventor Le Trung, 34, who introduced his custom-made Japanese robot girlfriend Aiko last December, said he has upgraded the gal and this year had her over for Christmas with his parents in Brampton, Ontario. [Le has constructed her to be so intelligent, though, that she has likely ruled out marriage without a prenup.] Reuters via Yahoo News [Dec. 20] /// Daily Mail (London) [Le Trung] /// Wikipedia.org [Project Aiko]
New Mayhem Genre: Christopher Macquarrie, 25, and Jonathan Fager, 22, were charged in Gainesville, Fla., with wrecking an apartment with a sledge hammer. No, they're not just college-town rednecks; they were creating a "mural" for the new "gallery" into which they were in the process of converting the apartment. A week earlier, in Edinburgh, Scotland, "gifted" artist Kevin Harman was fined £200 for smashing a window at the Collective Gallery and calling that his new art piece. He was said to be deeply insulted that the Gallery labeled it "vandalism." Gainesville Sun /// The Guardian [video!]
Several months ago, a hard-to-believe story surfaced from Uganda in which a farmer had forced his young wife, who was breastfeeding their child, to also regularly breastfeed his farm dogs. (You know how people make up news stories on the Internet.) But London's venerable daily The Independent sent a reporter to Pallisa, Uganda, and working with local officials and activists, the journalist has nailed the story. It really happened, over a period of 7 years. The farmer's reasoning: His dogs needed to eat, and since he had to send two cows to the wife's family to win her hand, he figured the wife owed him. Seriously. (Uganda's incorrigibly patriarchal tribesmen even have their charm, as when local women's activists invited them for a Q-and-A, and a few earnestly sought instruction on how, exactly, a man is supposed to respect his wife.) The Independent
Say you want to build a drawbridge but you need the operations on the side of the road so as not to interrupt the flow of traffic. Your answer is the Slauerhoffbrug, or Flying Drawbridge, located in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Built in 2000, this bridge is a hydraulic cantilevered drawbridge that consists of a single giant arm that swings upward, pulling the middle of the bridge through 90 degrees. There are a number of images of the bridge available on Google but this site has a pretty good collection in one place.
Another entry from the shallow end of the gene pool. A seventeen year old boy from Longview, Washington attempted to participate in two questionable actions at once. Unfortunately for him the combination had far worse immediate consequences than either one would have by itself. Early on New Years Day, while siphoning gas from a relative's car the young man also lit a cigarette. The boy now has first and second degree burns to his hands, feet, and pelvis.(ouch) and, hopefully, a better understanding of the effects of fire on gasoline for future reference. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/80505772.html#idc-cover
At first one imagines that the weepy singer of this doo-wop song is lamenting his dead woman. But when he says that the bells are "ringing out for me," you begin to wonder if the lyrics are narrated by a corpse at its own funeral. In any case, it's a weird, over-the-top performance.
We've all heard about the blue moon phenomenon that took place last night. Well a town in Pennsylvania had pink snow. An area on Revere Drive had pink snow covering parts of the roofs of seven homes as well as on the ground and trees. Police came out to investigate and even called the FAA to see if any planes had discharged anything overhead, no luck there. There was no odd smell or texture to the snow either. Finally a neighbor came out and said that her son had just found an explanation of the situation on line. It is refered to as watermelon snow and is caused by an algae. Chlamydomonas nivalis is usually dormant in the winter but occasionally will wake up. Red is the algae's secondary pigment which gives the snow its pink color. Blue moon and pink snow- Happy Pastel New Year! http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_details/article/28/2010/january/01/dec-31-2009-day-of-the-pink-snow.html
Anyone remember the old ad? 'She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you're a man...'
Well this story sure made me think of it. Paula Thomas, 29 of St. Austell, Cornwall in England went into labor while preparing Christmas dinner. Once everything was in the oven and her contractions were 3 minutes apart she asked hubby Damian, 32, to drive her to the hospital. An hour later she gave birth to their daughter, Lexi and an hour after that Paula was back home serving Christmas Dinner. She said she was hungry and didn't want to miss the holiday meal and Damian just thinks she's one in a million. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,581589,00.html?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a16:g2:r1:c0.337293:b29592650:z10
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 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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