A few years ago, a neighbor of my parents, a man who owned a construction company, parked a backhoe in his driveway. The surrounding neighbors nearly had a riot over how the machine was lowering the value of their property just by being there. So you can imagine how this guy's neighbors might feel. Carlos Owens of Wasilla, Alaska, a former Army mechanic, had a dream. His dream was to create a giant metal robot that could mirror the movements of its human pilot. Now the "mecha", as he calls it, has become a reality. It has taken him four years and cost approximately $25,000, but just think of all the fun you could have with one of these.
I see a number of posts here concerning the Pet Industry that I no longer consider weird. Since I work as a Pet Groomer, I am exposed to a wide number of eccentrics, and it takes a lot to surprise me. I've seen Canine Soft Claw Caps mentioned here, Dog Bikinis and other things I don't think twice about. So, you may ask, what do I consider to be among the weirdest of the weird items in my field? Let's start with Gourmet Beaver! Not weird enough? How about a Bully Stick, Knot or Spiral? I sort of feel sorry for the bull that had his post-mortem junk wind up in such a shape, for such a purpose, but what are you going to do?
Nearly twenty-five years ago, I wrote a novel titled CIPHERS, which featured scenes of voodoo in Benin. Long before YouTube was even a concept, I had to do all my research in books. I would have killed to see this video.
I just found out the computer toaster I found the other day turned out to be a fake. The crazypc website used it as an april fools joke but a lot of weird gadgets site are still saying it's a real gadget though. What I found today is real though. It's a bank made to look like a face except it has no eyes. When you put coins in it smells them and then opens it's mouth and eats them. You can buy one here:
It might be time to update the old adage as, according to a scientist from the Santa Fe Institute, NM, it should be "To war is human". Dr. Samuel Bowles suggests that continual conflict among our ancient ancestors may have driven the evolution of what he terms "parochial altruism", i.e. group sociality and hostility to outsiders. By combining archaeological data on stone age humans with studies of modern tribes, Bowles has developed a model of ancient population genetics and determined that there would have been much more genetic diversity between competing groups than previously thought. In such a scenario, Bowles' results suggest that groups displaying parochial altruism would benefit by having more aggressive warriors less concerned with self-preservation, at the expense of other groups. PA may even explain the extreme habitual sociality of humans (found elsewhere only in insects), which in another paper in the same issue of Science is identified as a possible cause of human culture. Paradoxically, we may be social as individuals because we are anti-social as groups (Independent).
But if we learnt war early on the path to humanity, we may have learnt laughter even earlier. Researchers from the University of Portsmouth analysed the sounds 22 young apes made when being tickled, and concluded that it is laughter. Dr Davila-Ross and her team looked for similar acoustic characteristics to human laughter in the young of several ape species, and found greater similarity in the sounds made by chimpanzees and bonobos (the species closest to humans genetically) than in that of more distantly related apes such as orangutans. The team concluded that laughter must have evolved some time before the major ape groups split apart, 18 million years ago (BBC News).
Finally, this last piece was going to be about gay penguin adoption, but that's already up, so instead I'd like to draw your attention to a new movie by sometime Simpsons writer, Mike Reiss. Called "Queer Duck", Reiss' film is an animated musical about three gay, animal friends, Openly Gator, Bi-polar Bear and the eponymous Queer Duck himself. When QD suddenly finds himself attracted to women, in the shape of new arrival Lola Buzzard, he begins a voyage of self-discovery that sees him experience quack therapies (from the wonderfully named clinic, "Homo No Mo'!") and kidnap and imprisonment at "Home Depot" (the one place no gay would think of looking for him), before the not-unexpected third-reel epiphany. Hopefully it'll be released on DVD soon, because this one's a keeper! (The News-Times).
News of the Weird / Pro Edition
June 8, 2009 (news from May 30-June 6)
The Stites Family Tree
Thomas, 25, was charged with sexual assault in Manitowoc, Wis., becoming the 4th Stites brother, and 6th member of his local family, to be charged with a sex crime (3 convicted so far). Herald Times Reporter (Manitowoc)
Los Angeles's Feral Homeless
From the Times: "[The FH] must climb a ladder toward a small, hard-to-notice opening in the all-concrete slab that helps hold up the [Interstate] 10 Freeway [near the interchange with 605]. They must squeeze beneath a rusty metal grating, balance on a ledge and descend a second ladder into thick, dead air and darkness. This is home, a vast, vault-like netherworld, strewn with garbage and syringes." It's about the size of two side-by-side high school gyms; it has an upper loft with toys and rattles and a cat carcass; cops are afraid to go in; and when state officials seal it up every few years, the FH just break it open again. Los Angeles Times
Clichés Come to Life
From the Washington Post, describing the perils faced by all the mega-construction in western Virginia suburbs just across the river from Washington, D.C.: "This part happens all the time: A construction crew putting up an office building in the heart of Tysons Corner [home of the Nat'l Counterterrorism Center and about four miles from CIA headquarters] a few years ago hit a fiber optic cable no one knew was there. This part doesn't [happen all the time]: Within moments, three black sport-utility vehicles drove up, a half-dozen men in suits jumped out, and one said, 'You just hit our line' Whose line, you may ask," asked the reporter. Apparently, no, you may not ask (or, y'know, have to kill you, etc.). The hilarious part comes when AT&T sends a bill for all the re-routing work, to the front group's drop box, actually believing they may get paid. Washington Post
World's Luckiest Snake
The young copperhead that trespassed into a building near Poolesville, Md., and then bit the hell out of Sam Pettengill was given a total mulligan. Though Pettengill was hospitalized and endured 4 antivenin cycles, his residence is a Buddhist temple, and before he set out for the hospital, with his hand already throbbing, he took the snake, circled a prayer room three times blessing it, then walked into the woods and released the little rascal. Washington Post
French Labor Law Meets Reality TV
The stars of the Survivor-ish French show Temptation Island won their lawsuit in the supreme court and were awarded full employee benefits (overtime pay after 35 hours, holidays off, right to sue for wrongful discharge, etc.). It looks like they're getting £11k ($17.5k) each for all being stuffed on that island eating lizards 24/7. No lawsuits . . yet . . over being "unfairly" voted off the île. The Times (London) [CORRECTION: The Temptation Island show, itself, is not Survivor-ishly about eating bugs; it involves dropping "committed" couples in the midst of flirtations singles 24/7 to see who's faithful. However, the French court decision seems to cover all "reality TV" programs, and the three Temptation Island plaintiffs were awarded damages for the "unfairness" of the outcome.]
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.