If you haven't yet seen Super Size Me, it's worth renting. In it, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock makes himself the subject of an experiment to find out what will happen to his body if he only eats McDonald's fast food for 30 days. Predictably, his health deteriorates, his cholesterol skyrockets, he grows lethargic, and his waistline expands dramatically.
However, the idea of conducting a fast-food diet experiment wasn't original to Spurlock. That honor goes to Jesse McClendon, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, who in 1930 fed a volunteer a diet of only White Castle hamburgers for 13 weeks. From the U of M Medical Bulletin:
McClendon knew that earlier studies had shown that adult dogs fed for a month on only lean meat appeared to fare well, and that humans on temporary all-meat diets lost calcium and phosphorus but didn't develop deficiency diseases. He planned to feed a single experimental subject only White Castle hamburgers—including the bun, onions, and pickles—and water for 13 weeks.
A willing subject presented himself: Bernard Flesche, a U of M medical student working his way through school. Flesche kept a diary during the ordeal. "He started out very enthusiastic about eating 10 burgers at a sitting," notes his daughter, Deirdre Flesche, "but a couple of weeks into it, he was losing his enthusiasm." His sister frequently tried to tempt him with fresh vegetables, but Flesche allowed nothing but White Castle Slyders™ to pass his lips.
Flesche survived his ordeal without developing any significant health problems. The owner of White Castle interpreted this to mean that a hamburger diet is healthy and heavily promoted the experiment in advertisements. Flesche, however, who had once been a hamburger lover, developed a permanent aversion to them. He never willingly ate a hamburger again.
Of course we all know that the image of a hand-pumped railroad trolley is a comedy staple. But I find the notion of special little motorized vehicles adapted to ride the rails just as funny. As you might predict, there's an organization dedicated to hobbyists and collectors of these miniature rail-mounted transports, and it's to be found here.
My local newspaper has a great article about a fellow who restored the vehicle pictured to the right.
I imagine a Farelly Brothers movie in which the hero confounds the bad guys by making his unpredictable escape in such a vehicle--at a whopping 5 MPH!
Old self-improvement schemes never die. Recently, I spotted this antique advertisement from 1954 that alerted me to the existence of Pelmanism, the brainchild of William Joseph Ennever.
The Pelman Institutes of England and America apparently once claimed over half a million followers. But now they're long gone. Yet that has not stopped at least two folks from trying to resurrect the copyright-abandoned mind-strengthening course and claim and market it as their own. You can see their pages here and here.
Oddly enough, the last vestige of Pelmanism most people know, without realizing its true origin, is the card game we call Concentration or Memory or Pairs.
The indigenous fast food on Beijing's backstreets
The gov't has sanitized the menus of approved restaurants this month (i.e., no dog), but London's Daily Mail takes us on a photo tour of street vendors' typical fare: scorpion kabob, dog livers with vegetables, goat lungs with red peppers, seahorses on skewers, iguana tails, dung beetles, silk worms on a stick, fried sparrow, turkey vulture schnitzels, and dog brain soup, not to mention whole puppy on a spit. Some of the food (seahorses, lizards) might admittedly not be all that tasty but are popular nonetheless for virility! Daily Mail Comments 'street_vendors'
At Jerusalem's airport, life imitates Home Alone
Turns out we need not only a device to remind parents not to leave their kids in the car, but also one to remind them to make sure they've got their 4-yr-old when they board the plane. The first notion these parents had was when the pilot got a call from the gate on take-off and walked back to tell them. Agence France-Presse Comments 'home_alone'
Feral American children in the news
Last week, the St. Petersburg Times ran an update on the condition of a girl found in 2005 in the most putrid, backward home any of the officials had ever heard about (she has genuine environment-based autism). The next day, the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle had another, but this time, 11 kids, aged 9 months to 18 yrs. No records of the family anywhere; because of their isolation, they didn't exist. [stories are Not Safe for Stomachs]St. Petersburg Times//Augusta Chronicle Comments 'feral_children'
The continuing campaign to make everyone perfect
Nine elementary schools in Birmingham, England, have hired a specialist to come teach "conflict-resolution" skills to kids as young as age 8. Daily Mail (London) Comments 'conflict_resolution'
Yet another way that smart people subtly jigger the rules to make themselves richer and most other people poorer
The Wall Street Journal this morning exposes a, um, tax-avoidance strategy (which appears not to be slam-dunk-illegal, and therefore, standard operating procedure!) whereby companies sell their deferred-executive-compensation IOU's to their employee pension funds. Result: Executive fund gets cash now; employee-pension funds pay off only in the future . . if they're solvent . . if the company doesn't go bankrupt . . if the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation doesn't go bankrupt . . if Congress bails out the PBGC if it does go bankrupt. Wall Street Journal Comments 'pension_funds'
Politico-sex potboiler in Malaysia
The two leading candidates to be prime minister are both fighting scandals. Anwar Ibrahim has been accused once again of illegal anal intercourse (his career apparently survived a 1990 incident, in which prosecutors brought a bloody mattress to court), and, in the other corner, deputy prime minister Najib Razak, whose alleged Mongolian mistress has been killed, with the chief suspect being a Najib political henchman. Witnesses are appearing and disappearing right and left, but unlike previous cases of Malaysian corruption, bloggers are at work publishing leaks from officials' foot-soldiers. New York Times Comments 'malaysia_scandal'
Internet therapy for Japan's bedroom geeks
A hikikomon is, it says here, a Japanese kid or young adult who holes up in his bedroom in his parents' house for weeks or months at a time, speaking to no one. [Ed.: News of the Weird has mentioned the phenomenon twice, but my word-search capability sucks; I can't find it easily with any combination of anything. I thus start the week disgusted with myself.] Now, there's potential relief, or at least for those boys who isolate themselves out of fear of girls: the "Just Looking" website, with photos of girls and young women simply staring into the camera. The hikikomon is supposed to stare them down and therefore desensitize himself to the idea of cowering before judgmental females. France24.com[UPDATE: Thanks to helpful e-mailers and commenters, who pointed out that I was writing "mon" instead of "mori," which I would have seen for myself better if I just looked more closely at the URL instead of the faintly printed copy I made. I had indeed reported this twice, in NOTW 672, 12-22-2000, and, in a column still retrievable from NewsoftheWeird.com, NOTW 899, 5-1-2005. I am thus less disgusted with myself, but not much less.] Comments 'hikikomon_therapy'
Your Daily Jury Duty [no fair examining the evidence; verdict must be based on mugshot only]
Steven Blackwell, 40, was charged with selling cocaine (and having a machine gun with him at the time), but there's more. When a buddy went to the Blackwell manor to find some loose cash to bail out his friend, he came across "stacks of pornographic magazines, sex toys, chains, handcuffs, knives, swords, and machetes," and the skull of a man who was beaten to death in 2003 (a murder for which another man is in prison). (But Blackwell said somebody had just given him the skull.) St. Petersburg Times Comments 'steven_blackwell'
More Things to Worry About on Monday
An F State dad allegedly gave his 15yr-old son some oxy and methadone to teach him, he said, "how to party right" (Oh, and the son OD'd, gone) . . . . . A local official in China was sent to death row for corruption, done in when his tenant reported a leak, which was the toilet in the apartment where the official was storing boxfuls of cash . . . . . Passed away: Maryland sanitation worker Mr. Ricky Dumpit . . . . . Oops, my bad: British celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson said he was thinking of a different herb in a recent magazine piece when he specifically recommended "henbane," which is highly poisonous . . . . . It's Good to Be a British Prisoner (cont'd): The Prison Service was revealed to have bought 1,721 PlayStations/Xbox/Nintendos for its inmates, costing £221k and is only now about to get around to weeding out the violent games that help the cons to hone their skills. Today's Newrangers: Barbara Ell, Harry Farkas, Scott Schrier, Bob Pert, Paul Music Comments 'worry_080804'
Marketing to people who are inept at multi-tasking
The Child Minder System will beep if you happen to get out of your car, having accidentally left your little urchin in the child seat. That's if you're not too scatter-brained to punch in the code in the first place. "All our lives are so busy," said a spokeswoman. "As a mom, you can get really distracted," said a mom. [Ed.: More marketing opportunities! What if you're so busy you forget which side of the road to drive on? What if you're so distracted, you park directly on the railroad tracks? Those people need devices, too, and they can just as well buy them from you!]WOAI-TV (San Antonio) Comments 'child_minder'
Did the Bishop get beaten up, or was it just a nasty fall?
Last year, Bishop Donald Pelotte of the diocese in Gallup, N.Mex., was hospitalized with two black eyes and what looks like a couple dozen other bruises and cuts all over his body. Said he fell down a flight of stairs. [Ed.: There's video, and nobody has ever had "a fall" like that.] Then, a few months later, the Bishop made a 911 call about "little men" (3- or 4-feet tall), wearing Halloween masks, running around his house, and that he needed help (even though, he said, they were "gentle"). KOAT-TV (Albuquerque) Comments 'bishop_pelotte'
A challenging defense strategy to refute a fraud charge
Remi Fakorede, a Nigerian immigrant, was charged with a £925k tax fraud in London, but told the court she was innocent, in that she was a helpless victim of a curse, and, by the way, as evidence of the curse, she reached into her handbag and pulled out two fingers that she said belonged to one of her children. The very same curse that hit me made these fingers fall off! BBC News Comments 'fingers_curse'
Girl, age 15, 462 lbs.
She looks happy enough in the photos (with her smiling mother), even though "doctors told me I could drop dead at any moment." But, lest you think she's one of those people who feels she's just a victim, she does admit: "I know it's partly my fault." "[I]t's so hard to stop eating." The Sun (London) Comments 'fattest_teen'
Your Daily Loser
Judon McCann, 17, accidentally shot himself in the thigh while "holstering" his gun in his pocket, after missing what he was shooting at, all over of a $10 debt. Times-Picayune (New Orleans) Comments 'judon_mccann'
People Whose Sex Lives Are Worse Than Yours
Edwin Tobergta III, Cincinnati [again, Cincinnati!], was once again released without jail time, on his 6th public indecency conviction (an earlier one of which involved simulating sexual intercourse with a large plastic pumpkin at Halloween). Cincinnati Enquirer [Yep, there's a mug shot!] Comments 'edwin_tobergta'
Your Daily Jury Duty [no fair examining the evidence; verdict must be based on mugshot only]
Philip Fleck and his gal Heather Darcy might have been the people who went on that 18-month spree involving the egging of over 400 homes around Lansdale, Pa. KOAA-TV via WCAU-TV (Philadelphia) Comments 'fleck_darcy'
More Things to Worry About on Saturday
Little urchins commandeering cars has been No Longer Weird for a while, but this one not only has a tender-age driver (4), it has his 2-yr-old brother riding shotgun . . . . . A Houston paralegal sued for wrongful discharge, and she clearly learned a thing or two from hanging around lawyers; she didn't claim mere sexual harassment, but that she was told to go down on a reluctant witness to make him friendlier . . . . . They don't make muggers like they used to: booty consisted of a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, a costume earring, and "three Post-It notes" . . . . . Unclear on the Concept: Landlord, tired of a tenant owing back rent, smashed in the front door with his Hummer . . . . . World's oldest joke uncovered (weak punchline, but it's about marital farting, so it has that going for it). Today's Newsrangers: Jonathan Kopke, Larry Seltzer, John Holsinger, Steve Miller Comments 'worry_080802'