News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M490, August 28, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
The phenomenal Japanese singer Hatsune Miku (100 million YouTube hits) is coming off of a sold-out, 10-city North American concert tour with high-energy audiences (blocks-long lines to get in; raucous crowd participation; hefty souvenir sales)--except that "she" isn't real
. Hatsune Miku is a projected hologram on stage singing and dancing (but her band is human), and her May show in Dallas (according to a Dallas Observer
review) typically ignited frenzied fans who know the show's "every beat, outfit . . . and glow stick color-change." Her voice, a synthesized "vocaloid," is crafted in pitch, timbre, and timing to sound human. (The latest PlayStation brings Hatsune Miku into the home by Virtual Reality.) [Dallas Observer, 5-16-2016
The Finer Points of Law
Make Up Your Mind, Feds: On August 11th, the federal government's Drug Enforcement Agency famously refused to soften the regulation of marijuana, leaving it (with heroin) as a harsh "Schedule I" drug because (citing Food and Drug Administration findings) it has "no medical use." However, as the Daily Caller pointed out, another federal agency--Department of Health and Human Services--obtained a U.S. patent
in 2003 for marijuana-derived cannabinoids, which HHS pointed out have several medical uses
(as an antioxidant and for limiting neurological damage following strokes). [Daily Caller, 8-17-2016
Priorities: (1) "[P]ets are better protected than young kids
under Oregon abuse laws," lamented a prosecutor in May because, unlike the pet law, the "child abuse" law requires proof the victim experienced "substantial" pain--which a young child often lacks vocabulary to describe. (Simply showing welts and bruises is insufficient, the Court of Appeals has ruled.) (2) That same Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in June that Thomas Wade, 44, was not guilty of a crime when in 2013 he unzipped his pants, reached inside, and at that point cursed the woman he had confronted in a public park. "Distasteful," wrote the Court, but it was an exercise of Wade's free speech right. [The Oregonian, 5-21-2016
] [The Oregonian, 6-10-2016
Texas! In August, Houston defense lawyer Jerry Guerinot announced his retirement from death-penalty cases, leaving him with a perfect record (for that area of his practice): He lost every single time
. Twenty-one clients received the death penalty, and 10 have been executed (so far). He made no excuses, pointing out that "gang members, serial killers, and sociopaths" were entitled to representation, too, and that he has taken more than 500 non-capital cases to trial (with, presumably, more success). [Associated Press via Fox News, 8-13-2016
Tourists Gone Wild
(1) Tourism officials in Iceland recently posted "hundreds" of signs at visitor attractions showing a squatting person in silhouette, with a small pile on the ground underneath--and the familiar diagonal line (indicating "don't"). (Critics of the signs reluctantly admit Iceland's chronic shortage of public restrooms.). (2) In a July-released YouTube clip, a Disney fan posted shot after shot of "rude" Chinese tourists at Shanghai Disneyland, coaxing their small children to urinate in public rather than in restrooms. (3) The Tourism Bureau of Japan's Hokkaido island recently rewrote its etiquette guide for visitors to underscore the inappropriateness of "belching or flatulence" in public. [Daily Mail (London), 7-20-2016
] [Daily Mail (London), 7-19-2016
] [Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News, 4-28-2016
Leading Economic Indicators
Suspicions Confirmed: (1) A New York Times
reporter, describing in June the rising prices of prescription pharmaceuticals, noted that a popular pain reliever (probably describing oxycodone) was available on the Paterson, N.J., black market for $25 a pill, while heroin was going for $2 a baggie
. (2) The economic growth rate in Ireland for 2015 was revised--upward--in July. Its gross domestic product was originally estimated as 7.8 percent, but subsequently--adding the paper value of several "inversions" (U.S. companies "moving" to Ireland to reduce U.S. taxes)--Ireland found that it was actually growing at 26.7 percent. [New York Times, 6-14-2016
] [New York Times, 7-13-2016
(1) Investigators revealed in July that an off-duty Aurora, Colo., sheriff's deputy had justifiably fired his gun to resist a parking lot mugging--and that, furthermore, one of the bullets from Deputy Jose Marquez's gun had gone straight into the barrel
of one of the handguns pointed at him. (The investigators called the shot "one in a billion.") (2) Matthew Lavin, 39, drew Internet acclaim in July after he was gored through his left thigh while "running with the bulls" in the annual spectacle in Pamplona, Spain. Interviewed in his hospital bed by Madrid's The Local, he called it "the best time ever" and said he looked forward to another run next year. [Denver Post, 7-13-2016
] [The Local (Madrid), 7-13-2016
Gary Durham, 40, was shot to death during a heated road-rage incident in Plant City, Fla., on August 10th. Durham had served 10 years in prison after an aggressive road-rage episode in 2001 in which he pursued another driver and knocked him to the ground, causing the man to hit his head, fatally, on the pavement. (Included in Durham's 2002 sentence was an order to take anger management classes.) [Tampa Bay Times, 8-11-2016
The Borough Council of Pompton Lakes, N.J., was surprised to learn in June that, because of an existing local ordinance, dogs were not permitted in its brand-new Pompton Lakes dog park
(created with great fanfare in an area of Hershfield Park). The Council vowed to fix the problem. (2) In June, a police watchdog agency in Dublin, Ireland, asked officers ("gardai") across the country to try to carry out house raids at "reasonable hours" so that they do not disturb the occupants. (In one complaint, gardai staged a 3:15 a.m. raid to search for evidence of stolen vehicle accessories.) [The Record (Hackensack), 6-13-2016
] [Irish Independent, 6-12-2016
A 9-year-old girl named Irina won a contest in Berezniki, Russia, in August for letting mosquitos bite her more often that they bit other contestants. It is the signature event of the annual Russian Mosquito Festival, and her 43 hits were enough to earn her the title of "tastiest girl."
The annual Great Texas Mosquito Festival in Clute, Tex. (south of Houston), apparently has nothing comparable. [Washington Post, 8-15-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) The Elanora Heights Public School (a primary school in Sydney, Australia) recently banned clapping during student assemblies
in an effort to help pupils with noise anxieties. To show audience approval, students are asked to "punch the air," "pull [on their] faces," or "wriggle about." (2) In July, The Nairobian
newspaper reported the remarkable career of "Rosemary," reputed to be the Kenyan capital's oldest prostitute--still going strong at 64 after more than 5,000 clients. She said she could make it through 40 on a good day, but never missed church on Sunday. [Sky News (London), 7-20-2016
] [The Nairobian, 7-16-2016
Least Competent Criminals
Didn't Think Ahead: (1) In July, Joshua Jacobs, 30, accidentally knocked down a traffic sign at 12:45 a.m. in Vero Beach, Fla., and, spotting a sheriff's deputy, sped away. The deputy gave chase--especially, he said, given the fully-grown marijuana plant
resting in the bed of the pickup. Jacobs was arrested. (2) Jeremy Watts, 30, and Jessica Heady, 24, were charged with aggravated burglary (a PlayStation and other electronics from a man's home) in Clarksville, Tenn., in August. The pair later offered the haul to a Cash America Pawnshop but did not realize that the home they had burglarized was the pawnshop manager's. [TCPalm.com (Stuart, Fla.), 8-2-2016
] [Leaf Chronicle (Clarksville), 8-3-2016
A News of the Weird Classic (October 2012)
Researchers writing in the journal Animal Behaviour
in July  hypothesized why male pandas have sometimes been seen performing handstands near trees. They are urinating, the scientists observed, and doing handstands streams the urine higher
on the tree, presumably signaling their mating superiority. A San Diego Zoo researcher involved in the study added that an accompanying gland secretion gives off even more “personal” information to other pandas than the urine alone. [Live Science, 8-28-2012]
Thanks This Week to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Bob McCabe, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Sandy Pearlman, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Peter Smagorinsky, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).
12-year-old Beatles superfan Carol Dryden of Sunderland, England came up with an ingenious scheme to meet the Fab Four. She packaged herself inside a box and arranged to have a friend mail her to them — addressed "to the Beatles, care their fan club, London." Shipping cost $8.47.
But Carol only got as far as the railway station, where a clerk noticed the box she was in wobbling back and forth. Inside of it, Carol, overheated and running out of air because she hadn't made any holes in the box, was trying to take off her sweater.
Carol confessed, "I hadn't thought about fresh air or food. All I wanted was to see the Beatles. I don't know what I would have done had I really arrived on their doorstep. I suppose I would have fainted."
The railroad refunded the freight charge.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - June 16, 1966
Robert Lucas and Rita Cohen met while both were undergraduates at the University of Chicago, and they got married in 1959. They had two sons together, but eventually things didn't work out. They separated in 1982 and divorced a few years later, citing "irreconcilable differences."
But Rita evidently had faith in Robert's talent, because she instructed her lawyer to add a clause to the divorce settlement specifying that if Robert won the Nobel Prize by October 31, 1995, she would receive half the prize money.
Robert was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics on October 10, 1995 — 21 days before the clause would have expired.
Asked about having to pay half the prize to his ex-wife, he noted philosophically that, "A deal is a deal." But added, "Maybe if I'd known I'd win, I would have resisted the clause."
More info: LA Times (Oct 21, 1995)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Oct 21, 1995
In the 1950s, the Northampton Museum
(home of the "World Famous Shoe Collection) began to receive reports of shoes that had been found hidden in buildings. The shoes, usually discovered by people doing renovations or repairs, were concealed under floors, inside walls, in chimneys, above ceilings, etc.
Eventually the Museum received enough of these reports that they realized the concealment of the shoes wasn't an accident, but rather that hiding shoes inside a building was an ancient, deliberate practice. Ever since then, the Museum has kept a record of all concealed shoe finds (the "Concealed Shoe Index"). As of 2012, the index had over 1900 reports of shoe concealment from all over the world (but mostly Europe and North America).
image source: wikipedia
The Museum curators aren't entirely sure why people hide shoes inside buildings, but the leading theory is that it's a form of protection superstition, done to ward off forms of evil such as witches, bad luck, or the plague.
Shoe historian June Swann, former keeper of the Northamton Shoe collection, notes in a 1996 article about concealed shoes
that there are all kinds of weird superstitions associated with shoes:
there is much recorded on other shoe superstitions, which are rife wherever shoes are traditionally worn. They are symbols of authority, as in the Old Testament. They are linked with fertility: we still tie them on the back of wedding cars. And they are generally associated with good luck (witness all the holiday souvenirs in the shape of shoes). But most of all they stand in for the person: it has been a common practice from at least the sixteenth century to at least 1966 to throw an old shoe after people ‘for luck’.
Why the shoe? It is the only garment we wear which retains the shape, the personality, the essence of the wearer.
Just recently, maintenance workers at Cambridge University found a 300-year-old shoe hidden inside a wall
And earlier this year, a Michigan family discovered 53 pairs of shoes behind a wall in their home
— concealed there since the 1970s. Though in that case, it was theorized that the hidden shoes weren't warding off bad luck, but instead were evidence that a previous owner of the home had a shoe fetish.