Weird Universe Blog — October 26, 2016

Illicit Abbatoir

  • Two goats' heads
  • Dried hides from reindeer and deer
  • Dried trachea, tendons, ears and tails
  • 100-200 dried bulls' penises
  • 700 litres of bones
  • 500 litres of lard

These were among the items recently discovered by Swedish police when they raided the home of a property owner in Hudiksvall municipality. The man was suspected of running an illegal, unlicensed abattoir from his home. The article notes, "Dried bull penises are often used to make bully sticks for dogs (a fact that completely passes by a surprising number of dog owners)." []

Posted By: Alex - Wed Oct 26, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals

Gadget-Filled Car

Posted By: Paul - Wed Oct 26, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Inventions, 1930s, Cars

October 25, 2016

Wiggle Stick

Wiggle Stick, used for bluing fabrics, was marketed heavily in the early 20th century. The name made some kind of sense, since it was a stick that you wiggled around in the water. But the ads with the women riding on top of a giant wiggle stick made it pretty clear that the name could be interpreted in more than one way.

Chicago Daily Tribune - Jan 6, 1904

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 25, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Advertising, 1900s

Santa Esmeralda

The pathos and tragedy of the disco version is nigh-unbearable!

Wikipedia entry here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Oct 25, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Music, 1970s

October 24, 2016

Jiffy Blueberry-Like Muffin Mix

From circa 1971. So I guess it kinda sorta tasted like blueberry, while having chunks of stuff in it that slightly resembled blueberries. Sounds appetizing.

From what I understand, food manufacturers often fake blueberries because a) they're relatively easy to mimic; and b) the real ones have a limited growing season, which makes them expensive.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Oct 24, 2016 - Comments (7)
Category: Food, 1970s

Mystery Gadget 42


Purpose? The answer is here.

And after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Mon Oct 24, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Technology, 1970s

October 23, 2016

News of the Weird (October 23, 2016)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M498, October 23, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

As nine states next month ask voters to approve some form of legalization of marijuana, a "new customer base" for the product--pets--was highlighted in an October New York Times report. Dogs and cats are struck with maladies similar to those that humans report as cannabis success stories: seizures, inflammation, anxiety, arthritis and other pain and subsequent social withdrawals. The "high"-producing THC element cannot be used because it is notoriously toxic to dogs, but other elements in the drug seem to work well not only for dogs and cats but, by anecdotal evidence, pigs, horses, and domesticated wild animals. [New York Times, 10-8-2016]

Compelling Explanations

In September, Charles Lawrence III, 60, was sentenced to eight years in prison for attempted sexual assault despite his claim that it was just bad eyesight that caused the problem. He had arrived at a house in Fairfield, Conn., to have sex with a male he had met online, but the event turned out to be a "To Catch a Predator" sting. Lawrence, an accountant, claimed that, in text messages with the "boy," he had seen "18" as his age, when, according to police evidence, the text read "13." (Bonus: Lawrence knew "Predator" newsman Chris Hansen socially and commuted daily on the train with him, according to Lawrence's lawyer.) [Connecticut Post, 9-2-2016]

A 23-year-old woman on a bus in Istanbul, Turkey, was attacked by Abdullah Cakiroglu, 35, in September because, as he told police, he had become "aroused" by her wearing shorts. (Initially, he was not arrested, but after a protest on social media, police came to get him--though for "inciting," not assault.) He told police, "I lost myself" because the woman had "disregarded the values of our country," and "my spiritual side took over, and I kicked her in the face." [The Independent (London), 9-22-2016]

Government in Action

Kevin and Tammy Jones opened their guns-and-coffee store in an old bank building in Hamilton, Va., in August, but despite the controversies about the ease of gun acquisition in America, their Bullets & Beans shop has had a harder time pleasing government regulators over the coffee than over the firearms. Kevin told Washingtonian magazine that there were no problems in getting gun-shop and firearms-instruction permits from state and federal agencies, but several local-government roadblocks delayed the coffee-sales permit: the property being zoned for "retail" but not food or drinks; permission to open certain businesses near residences; and a coffee shop's need to have "parking." [Washingtonian, 9-28-2016]

Latest Religious Messages

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared October 13th Oilfield Prayer Day to cap a statewide initiative of mass wishing for improved performance of the state's energy industry, which has been in the doldrums recently with the worldwide drop in oil prices. Though the initiative's founders, and the associated Oil Patch Chaplains, were largely Baptist church leaders, the governor emphasized that all religions should be praying for a more prosperous industry. [The Oklahoman, 10-1-2016]

Cultural Diversity

In September, a court in Paris upheld France's government ban on people smiling for their passport and identity photos. One official had challenged the required straightforward pose ("neutral," "mouth closed"), lamenting that the French should be encouraged to smile to overcome the perpetual "national depression" that supposedly permeates the country's psyche. [The Guardian (London), 9-29-2016]

The baseball-like "pesapallo" might be Finland's national game, reported the New York Times in September, despite its differences from the American pastime. The ball is pitched to the batter--but vertically, by a pitcher standing next to the batter--and the batter runs the bases after hitting it, though not counterclockwise but zig-zag style, to a base on the left, then one on the right, then back to the left. The game was invented in Finland in 1920 has achieved minor notoriety with teams from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Australia vying for a "world cup" that so far none has been able to wrest from Finland. (Reassuringly, however, "three strikes" is an out in Finland, too.) [New York Times, 9-27-2016]

New World Order

Too Much Time on Their Hands: In an October profile of tech developer and start-up savant Sam Altman, The New Yorker disclosed that "many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis"--that "what we experience as reality" is just some dark force's computer simulation (as in the movie "The Matrix"). "[T]wo tech billionaires," the magazine reported, are "secretly engag[ing] scientists" to break us out of this alternative universe we might be trapped in. (One prominent member of the tech elite remarked to a Vox Media conference in June at how the "simulation hypothesis" seems to dominate all conversation whenever the elites gather.) [The New Yorker, 10-10-2016]

Scientists from England's Bath University, publishing in a September issue of Nature Communications, report success in creating enduring live mice without use of a fertilized egg. The researchers showed it possible that a sperm cell can "trick" an egg into becoming a full-featured embryo without a "fertilization" process (in which distinct genomes from sperm and egg were thought to be required, at least in mammals). The scientists were thus able to "challeng[e] nearly two centuries of conventional wisdom." [Science Daily, 9-13-2016]

Police Report

The War on Drugs: (1) In September, police in Thurmont, Md., announced the culmination of a two-month-long undercover drug operation at the Burger King with two arrests and a total seizure of 5 grams of marijuana and two morphine pills. (2) On September 21st, as part of a six-target raid using "military-type" helicopters by the Massachusetts State Police and the National Guard, drug warriors halted the criminal enterprise of Margaret Holcomb, 81, of Amherst, seizing the one and only marijuana plant in her yard that she had planned to harvest soon for relief of her arthritis and glaucoma. [Frederick News-Post, 9-28-2016] [Daily Hampshire Gazette, 9-30-2016]

Couldn't Stop Myself: (1) Joshua Hunt, 31, was arrested in October inside St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., where he had gone to check on his 9-month-old son, who was being treated for an injury. Police said that while in the ward, he snatched another visitor's purse and took a cell phone and credit cards. (2) Brittany Carulli, 25, was arrested in Harrison Township, N.J., in October, charged with stealing a medic's wallet from inside an ambulance. The medic had allowed Carulli in the ambulance to grieve over her boyfriend's body after he was struck and killed by a car. [KJRH-TV (Tulsa), 10-6-2016] [WPVI-TV (Philadelphia), 10-3-2016]

The Passing Parade

(1) Jeffrey Osella, 50, was arrested in August in Westerly, R.I., after allegedly firing corn cobs at his neighbor's house, using a PVC "potato gun," as part of their long-running feud. When Osella answered the door, officers said he was shirtless, with corn kernels stuck to his chest. (2) On October 1st, Michael Daum, 55, began his year in residence as the town hermit of Solothurn, Switzerland, having been chosen from among 22 self-entertaining applicants. The hermit will be required to maintain the town's isolated hermitage, but also, paradoxically, be called on at times to engage with arriving tourists. [Associated Press via Newark Star-Ledger, 9-2-2016] [The Local (Geneva), 9-27-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (October 2012)

Eating Well on Death Row: (1) Condemned Ohio inmate Ronald Post, 53, asked a federal court in September [2012] to cancel his upcoming date with destiny on the ground that, after almost 30 years of prison food, he’s too fat to execute. At 480 pounds, “vein access” and other issues would cause his lethal injection to be “torturous.” (Update: He won the sentence-commutation, but he died in prison in 2013.) (2) British murderer-sadist Graham Fisher, 39, is locked up in a high security hospital in Berkshire, England, but he, too, has been eating well (at about 325 pounds). In August [2012], he was approved for gastric-band surgery paid for by Britain’s National Health Service at an estimated cost, including a private room for post-op recovery, of the equivalent of about $25,000). [Associated Press via Google News, 9-17-2012] [Daily Mail (London), 8-19-2012]

Thanks This Week to Larry Neer, Michael Brozyna, and Jack Colldeweih, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Oct 23, 2016 - Comments (1)

Mrs. Living Corpse

June 9, 1966: After being buried alive for a week outside of a drive-in theater in Denison, Texas, Lottie Howard married "Country" Bill White. Both of them were "buried alive" practitioners. After she was disinterred, the two left on their honeymoon.

Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram - June 19, 1966

Update: Looks like the marriage didn't last long. Two years later Country Bill got served with divorce papers — while he was buried alive. The papers were dropped down the six-inch pipe he used for air and food.

Wilmington News Journal - Mar 28, 1968

But Bill rebounded pretty quickly from his divorce. Just a few months later he was buried alive with a "34-year-old grandmother" and a go-go dancer. However, they each had individual compartments in the coffin, evidently to prevent any buried-alive hanky panky.

The Indianapolis Star - June 21, 1968

And here's a picture of Bill from 1978, looking a bit rougher around the edges.

The Benton Harbor News-Palladium - May 19, 1978

As far as I can tell, Bill kept doing his buried alive stunt until the late 1980s. In 1981 he set an endurance record for the longest time buried alive (140 consecutive days in a plywood box, 6 feet long by 3 feet wide). This record seems to have been beaten in 1999 by Geoff Smith, who spent 147 days buried in a coffin under the beer garden of his local pub. Though it's hard to know for sure because Guinness doesn't maintain a record for longest time buried alive (because of their policy of not encouraging unhealthy or life-endangering acts).

In 2005, the New Bedford Standard-Times ran an article about Bill, but that's the last media reference to him I can find. If he's still alive, he'd be around 82.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Oct 23, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: 1960s, Weddings

Plasticville, USA


Original ad here.

With no trace of modern irony, Plasticville USA was once deemed a grand name for an imaginary town. Somehow I can hear a beatnik of the era saying, "Plasticville, man, that's for squares!"

Wikipedia entry here.

More info and some great pictures on this page.

More images via Google.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Oct 23, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Toys, Urban Life, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1940s, 1950s

October 22, 2016

Windsurfing Swans

In the latest issue of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Olle Terenius of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences reports observing swans windsurfing (i.e. "using tailwind as a support for high-speed water transportation"). This is something that bird experts were apparently unaware that swans could do.

Terenius hopes to spread awareness of the phenomenon of windsurfing swans, although he notes that the general public may have been more aware that swans can do this than bird experts were. He says, "I think the reason that this is missing in the literature is that ornithologists who are out in the field only quickly note that they see a Mute swan and write it down on the list of bird observations, while the general public has observed windsurfing swans thinking that this is already a well-known phenomenon." (Science Daily)

Below are his field observations of windsurfing swans.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Oct 22, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Sports

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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