Lat night I watched Ethel Merman's first screen appearance, a little musical short subject titled Her Future. She was loud and brassy and weird even in 1930. But 49 years later, with her venture into disco, she was beyond weird.
A nonprofit foundation called Spaceward and NASA's Centennial Challenges program sponsor a competition called the Space Elevator Games. Each year, in the Mojave Desert, the participants, 3 teams this year, try to send their entries up a cable extending from a helicopter hoovering a half mile up. The vehicle must reach 6 tenths of a mile up while maintaining an average speed of 16.4 feet per second. There have been no winners yet in 3 years. The hope is to one day have a cable that extends from a ground structure to a structure in a geosynchronous orbit in space. The elevator would be powered by electricity from ground lasers trained on photo voltaic cells on the underside of the elevator. This would allow access to space without the danger of rocket power. Certainly a fascinating concept at least. http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/1864101,elevator-space-nasa-110409.article
Liu Bolin, a young Chinese artist, has found a unique way to protest the government's decision to close his art studio in 2005. He paints himself to blend into the scenery, like a chameleon. There is no trick photography involved, and he doesn't use photoshop. Instead, he spends about ten hours studying a picture and painting his body so that people don’t even realize he is there until he moves. The Telegraph online has a pretty good gallery showcasing his images, but you can easily find more thanks to Google.
There has been talk for some time about space tourism, but now one company claims they will be ready to accommodate guests by 2012. Galactic Suite Space Resort CEO Xaviar Claramunt says for 3 million euros, $4.4 million, you will get a 3 day stay in their orbiting pod. The price includes an 8 week training course on a tropical island. A rocket takes the guest into space and docks with the pod. The guest then spends 3 days in the pod alone, with velcro helping them move around. Then the rocket brings them back $4 million dollars poorer, but with some great vacation pictures. Another company, Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson intends to provide suborbital space rides for just $200,000 a pop. There was no estimate on how soon the space rides will be available. http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/091102/odds/odd_us_hotel
He just knocked off his fourth southern California bank in two months: a 70-ish gentleman, well-dressed . . . and on oxygen, carrying his tank around with him. KSWB-TV (San Diego)
Venezuelan Mega-Church: As many as 30 percent of the country's paisanos have gone to meetin' at a Maria Lionza event, which a New York Times dispatch calls a "malleable" religion (creating new, useful spirits and rituals, meaning if one thing doesn't work, think of another one). Some of the devout "lie within [elaborate chalk designs on the ground] awaiting cleansing before spirits possess them. Then they prick their faces with razor blades" or "writhe in apparent agony, or ecstasy . . ." And they dance on burning embers and put them in their mouths. New York Times
The Casket Store in Hamilton, Ontario, has vowed to seal up those lockets customers bought (to carry around their loved ones' ashes) but which started leaking specks into the mashed potatoes. Hamilton Spectator
Where we're headed: Britain's Watford Borough Council has banned parents from the playground (unless they have "play ranger" licenses). They have to watch their urchins play from behind a fence. Daily Telegraph
A delightful story of Poland's court system: It took a year and a half, but a man convicted of damaging a neighbor's plastic bucket (value €3) ($4.40) has been exonerated. Along the way, he "proved" his innocense with video of the neighbor continuing to use the bucket as before, but the neighbor "proved" his own case by bringing in an "expert" to examine the bucket (and he said it was quite possible that the bucket was damaged). In the end, justice. Polskieradio.pl[link from Arbroath.blogspot.com]
It says here, anyway, that a woman in Madison County, N.C., tried to burn down her ex's house, and got the fire started, but she didn't count on his plastic spittoon being full, and melting, dousing the flames. News-Record & Sentinel (Marshall, N.C.)
In Somalia, where the average male's life expectancy is 47, Ahmed Mohamed Dhore is not an average man, being age 112. He recently married a 17-yr-old girl. It was his sixth marriage (but the first in about 75 yrs). "I believe that I can give her the kind of love that not any young man can offer." Agence France-Presse via Google News
Update: For the fourth time, Florida investigators have shown that a forensic dog-handler from the 1990s was probably just making up his testimony that put a couple dozen people away. This is the guy from News of the Weird in August, who claimed his dog had miracle smelling ability — until a judge actually tested the mutt in court and found it a disgrace to dogs everywhere (olfactorily speaking). This fourth poor schnook has been in lockup for 25 years. Orlando Sentinel /// News of the Weird M122[lead story]
Florida's Vampire-American community is apparently no more dangerous than a bunch of furries, taking only "energy" (no blood) from others, and then only with their permission. [Actually, Yr Editor is perpetually a quart low on energy and maybe needs to attend the monthly Vampire gathering in Tampa.] Dentist Julio Hernandez of Miami is cleaning up, though, at $150 a pop implanting serviceable fangs (even though they're hardly strong enough to break skin). Miami Herald
One of my college courses this year is called "Posthumanism in Science Fiction" (it actually counts towards the core classes needed to graduate). The instructor, Dan Dinello, used to work with Stephen Colbert back in the 1990s, and recently he decided to show the class one of the short films he made with Colbert, a strange dark comedy called Shock Asylum. Like everything else, it happened to be on YouTube (though this version is shorter than the one I saw), so enjoy:
With just over 800 pieces, each individually controlled piece of wood acts like a mirror. A computer refreshes the images 15 to 20 times a second, so those people standing in front of the piece create the art.
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.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.