Weird Universe Archive

August 2013

August 14, 2013

Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio


This fool-the-eye room at the Met in NYC looks full of 3-D furnishings, but is really a flat illusion.

More pics at the Met's site.

A 1945 feature from POPULAR SCIENCE.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Aug 14, 2013 - Comments (3)
Category: Art, Magic and Illusions and Sleight of Hand, 1940s

An unusual deck of cards

On Feb. 15, 1890, a short article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, telling the story of a man who had an unusual deck of cards. He had found every card lying on the street. It took him twenty years to collect the entire pack. Here's the article:

A Chicago Sport Has Spent Twenty Years in Picking up a Pack

Frank Damek, a member of the sporting fraternity of Chicago, has probably the queerest deck of cards in the world. He has been twenty years collecting the pack and is exceedingly proud of it. He first began by picking up playing cards in the street when he happened to run across them. In this way he got fifteen or more before he began striking duplicates. Some days he would find two or three, and then it would be months before he would see another stray pasteboard. But he persevered and always kept his eyes open to add to his strange collection.

In ten years he had all but thirteen cards necessary to complete his deck. In the next three years he considered himself lucky in finding all but four. The missing ones were the jack of clubs, the deuce of diamonds, and the trey of spades. In the course of another year he picked up the eight of diamonds and six months later was overjoyed to find what he at first thought was a full deck of cards lying on the sidewalk on Dearborn street, between Adams and Jackson streets.

He thought his long search was at an end and that he could easily complete his wonderful deck. The jack of clubs and the trey of spades were there all right, but five or six cards were missing, and among them the deuce of diamonds. It seemed as though he would never be able to secure his fifty-second card, but the other day he entered one of the suburban trains on the Northwestern, and almost the first thing he saw was the deuce of diamonds face upwards in the aisle. It was gilt-edged and glossy backed, the finest of them all. He had been searching for it for five and a half years, and breathed a sigh of relief. The pack is composed of cards of all qualities, from the cheapest to the highest prices. Some are clean and bright and others are soiled and well worn.

I'll add this to the list of weird collections. Though, honestly, I have some doubts that the story is true. It reads like the kind of thing that reporters back then routinely made up to fill column space.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 14, 2013 - Comments (6)
Category: Collectors, Nineteenth Century

August 13, 2013


Posted By: Paul - Tue Aug 13, 2013 - Comments (3)
Category: Movies, Surrealism, 1960s

The Most Boring Books Ever

Back in 1950, Columbia University Press polled hundreds of editors, writers, booksellers, librarians, literary critics, and general readers in order to produce a list of the 10 most boring books among the great classics. The winners were:
  1. Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan
  2. Faust, Goethe
  3. Don Quixote, Cervantes
  4. Ivanhoe, Scott
  5. Silas Marner, Eliot
  6. Pamela, Richardson
  7. Life of Samuel Johnson, Boswell
  8. Faerie Queene, Spenser
  9. Paradise Lost, Milton
  10. Moby Dick, Melville
Such lists are always entirely subjective. For instance, I would question how anyone could produce such a list and not include anything from French literature. Take Remembrance of Things Past. That has to be up there among the great snoozers of all time.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 13, 2013 - Comments (19)
Category: Literature, Books, 1950s

August 12, 2013

Friendly Canadians?

And from the 'are you freaking kidding me' file we have a city in Canada that gives out tickets for sitting on the grass in a public park. Surely it is a small fine, a pittance you say? Guess again! (and don't call me Shirley) Its $147.00 for sitting on the grass. They don't charge that hefty of a fine for smoking it here for goodness sakes.

Posted By: patty - Mon Aug 12, 2013 - Comments (10)
Category: Regulations

Murad Cigarette Ads



[Click either to enlarge]

Surely one of the most gorgeously over-the-top ad campaigns for any cigarette was the long-running series for Murad brand. What a realm of fantasy!

Read a small history of the brand and see a large gallery of images here.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 12, 2013 - Comments (6)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Fantasy, Smoking and Tobacco, Middle East, Twentieth Century

Criminals and their ears

In his post yesterday, Chuck mentioned that police were using "earprints" to track down criminals. The use of earprints may be something new, but the use of ears to identify criminals is actually pretty old.

Back in the late 19th century, the French detective Alphonse Bertillon developed an elaborate ear classification system, in the belief that ears could be used as a unique means of identification, in the same way that fingerprints were. The Strand Magazine (May 1904) ran an article, with accompanying ear pictures, about Bertillon's system:

The feature that presents the greatest diversity of form and size is the ear, and, strangely enough, the ear is precisely a feature which we hardly ever consciously look at. It has been reserved for M. Bertillon to point out how admirably it is adapted for the purpose of establishing a person's identity. The size of the ear, the relative proportions to one another of the folds, its contour, the surface and shape of the lobe, the manner the lobe is attached to the cheek, and the inclination of the bottom interior ridge known as the antitragus differ most materially in every individual. Let a modern French detective describe an ear as "Deq. cav. vex. tra. sep"; all his colleagues are immediately able to form a mental image of the description of ear he means.

Bertillon's ear classification system was quite influential. It's the reason that police started taking mugshots from the side, as well as from the front, so that they could get a picture of the criminal's ear.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Aug 12, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Crime, Nineteenth Century

News of the Weird 2.0 (August 12, 2013)

News of the Weird 2.0
Angst, Confusion, Cynicism, Ridicule

Prime Cuts of Underreported News from Last Week, Hand-Picked and Lightly Seasoned by Chuck Shepherd
August 12, 2013
(datelines August 3-August 10) (links correct as of August 11)

★ ★ ★ ★!

You think you’re conflicted? Shahar Hadar is an Orthodox Jew, gay, and practicing to be a top-of-the-line drag queen. Knitted white yarmulke, off! Wavy blond wig and pink velvet dress, on! (However, he does wear the yarmulke to drag class.) Mom and dad are down with it. His ex-wife, not so much. Associated Press via Ynet News (Tel Aviv)

News of the Self-Indulgent: The upscale bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced it will offer a 20-item menu of world waters, created by certified water sommelier Martin Riese, priced at $8-$16 a bottle (or a $12 sampler). Words fail. [ed.: Not so fast, Chuck. You’re a "writer"; you’re supposed to come up with the words.] (Maybe I’ve met my match.)

A Russian Judge with More Balls Than Any U.S. Judge: The court awarded the first round, at least, to Dmitry Argarkov, the credit-card user, over Tinkoff Credit Systems, the card issuer. Argarkov had scanned, edited, and then reprinted Tinkoff’s heavily one-sided contract, to make it one-sided the other way, and Tinkoff, not noticing, much less actually reading, the modified contract, robo-signed it. It’s therefore valid, declared the court. (You don’t expect us to read this entire contract, Tinkoff asked, apparently without wincing at the irony.) Daily Telegraph (London)

“Exhibit A” That She’s Not Crazy: Suzanne Jensen (who looks like she might be Stuart Jensen or Andrew Jensen) apparently has an uncontrollable habit for breaking into buildings. It says here that she most recently tried to make it onto MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa by the ol’ “getting underneath an overturned garbage can and slowly crawling past the gate.” They caught her, but Bravo! Bay News 9 (Bright House Cable Tampa Bay)

More Things to Worry About

The Progressive Mind: Maryland’s attorney general, single-mindedly seeking to lower the recidivism rate in his prison system, proposed to issue inmates Android tablets so they’ll be better prepared for jobs when they’re released. (He’s no-doubt correct, but can anyone think of a downside or two, or six?) Washington Times

The F State gov’t, showing that it does have a few standards, stepped in at the last minute to cancel a Mixed Martial Arts fight between two medically-cleared, consenting adults, just because one has cerebral palsy and the other Down syndrome. The fighters screamed. Profiling! Discrimination! WINK-TV (Fort Myers)

Univ. of Tokyo researchers have developed a “liar” mirror. You look at it, and its facial-recognition software slightly changes your expression into a smile. Why would that be useful? Well, of course: If you see yourself smiling, in a store, you’re more likely to buy something.

You might worry about this, but Lauderhill, Fla., police don’t, for some reason. Photographs from a major bust of synthetic marijuana showed several cops, described by police as “undercover” officers, walking around, locked and loaded, unmasked. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel showed them only from behind, but everyone at the scene, presumably including bust-ees, could see ‘em full-face. South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The Aristocrats!

Kendra Gill, 18, “Miss Riverton” in the upcoming Miss Utah pageant, was among those booked on suspicion of throwing homemade bombs around a Salt Lake City suburb. A pageant spokesperson: “[W]e’re hopeful this will just blow over . . ..” CNN

Officer Thomas Merenda of Lauder--Oh, jeez, not these guys again--Lauderhill, Fla., was charged with giving favorable treatment to a young-lady traffic-stop driver if she would give him oral sex punch him in the nuts. South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A courageous Massachusetts state trooper stood up to DUI suspect Vivencia Bellegarde, 25, who ran a newspaper truck off the road and sped away, and when the wild chase ended (and the trooper found two welfare debit cards on her that didn’t belong to her), she yelled at him for being stupid by paying for food when she got it free. Then she informed trooper William Kococinski that she is Haitian and was about to put some voodoo on his “white ass.” Etc. Boston Herald

Weekly Cite-Seeing

"Hayward Man Burned Down Carport While Siphoning Gas from Neighbors, Officials Say" --- Contra Costa Times

"Believe It or Not, 2.58 Million People Still Pay for AOL Service" ---

"Drone Delivers Beer Not Bombs at South Africa Music Festival" --- Agence France-Presse via

Strange Old World

Iran doubled down on Sharia by unveiling its new finger-amputation machine for use on thieves. No more cleavers. Just turn the wheel on the guillotine-like thingy. Daily Telegraph (London)

Lukas Novy has been issued an official gov’t ID card in the Czech Republic, with the photo depicting him wearing a colander--“required” by his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Two macaques escaped from the Straussberg Adventure Park in eastern Germany, apparently on the run from the jealous bullying of “Cornelius,” the resident alpha male. They were captured . . and castrated. (But aren't we all against bullying? Shouldn’t we be castrating Cornelius, instead? Well, castration is not punishment, officials said; it’s to calm them down and reduce the overall hormone imbalance in the Park, as there are way more males than females.) Spiegel Online

Self-help in Nairobi. Campus females at Kenyatta University don’t need no stinkin’ police. They found the resident restroom peeping tom and pelted him with all the available feces. The Standard (Nairobi)

Your Weekly Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]

Tampa-area resident Mohammad Abukhder has a lot to learn about women. Does Rebecca Simmons look like the kind of woman who will take kindly to someone grabbing her car keys in a McD’s drive-thru (even if she did raise his ire by cutting in line)? And that's why Mohammad is sitting down gingerly for a few days. WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg)

Editor's Note

Sad to report: Even when Yr Editor gets hoaxed on Weird Universe, I can’t even get a mention when CNet News does a lengthy report on the hoax, naming a few of the hoaxees. How embarrassing to be hoaxed to be so anonymous! (The story? Oh, right. It was the Japanese teens licking their boy/girlfriend’s eyeballs, which appeared in this space back on June 17th.) (It’s not so bad if I run a goof on purpose and hardly anyone notices. But it’s professionally dispiriting if a whole bunch of us get punk’d and I get left out of the post mortem.) CNet News

Newsrangers: John Rankin and Peter Smagorinsky and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Mon Aug 12, 2013 - Comments (10)

August 11, 2013

Plato’s cave allegory done in claymation

[via reality carnival]

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 11, 2013 - Comments (3)
Category: Philosophy

Life Before Cellphones


Original story here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Aug 11, 2013 - Comments (4)
Category: Radio, Chindogu, Children, Parents, 1930s

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

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 Shepherd
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.

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