News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M522, April 9, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
World's Coolest City: Recently, in Dubai (the largest city in the United Arab Emirates), Dubai Civil Defense started using water jetpacks that lift firefighters off the ground to hover in advantageous positions as they work the hoses. Also, using jet skis, rescuers can avoid traffic altogether by using the city's rivers to arrive at fires (and, if close enough to a waterway, can pump water without hydrants). Even more spectacularly, as early as this summer, Dubai will authorize the already-tested one-person, "Jetsons"-type drones for ordinary travel in the city. The Ehang 184 model flies about 30 minutes on an electrical charge, carrying up to 220 pounds at about 60 mph. [Business Insider, 1-23-2017] [New York Times, 2-15-2017]
Latest Human Rights
Convicted murderer Philip Smith (a veteran criminal serving life for killing the father of a boy Smith had been sexually abusing) escaped from prison in New Zealand with the help of a disguise that included a toupee for his bald head--before being caught. Prison officials confiscated the toupee, but Smith said a shiny head behind bars made him feel "belittled, degraded, and humiliated" and sued for the right to keep the toupee. (In March, in a rare case in which a litigant succeeds as his own lawyer, Smith prevailed in Auckland's High Court.) [BBC News, 3-16-2017]
In March, star soccer goalkeepr Bruno Fernandes de Souza signed a two-year contract to play for Brazil's Boa Esporte club while he awaits the outcome of his appealed conviction for the 2010 murder of his girlfriend. (He had also fed her body to his dogs.) He had been sentenced to 22 years in prison but released by a judge after seven, based on the judge's exasperation at the years-long delays in appeals in Brazil's sluggish legal system. [The Guardian (London), 3-13-2017]
The Cleveland (Ohio) Street Department still had not (at press time) identified the man, but somehow he, dressed as a roads worker, had wandered stealthily along Franklin Boulevard during March and removed more than 20 standard "35 mph" speed limit signs--replacing all with official-looking "25 mph" signs that he presumably financed himself. Residents along those two miles of Franklin have long complained, but the city kept rejecting pleas for a lowered limit. [WEWS-TV (Cleveland), 3-23-2017]
The Apenheul primate park in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, is engaged in a four-year experiment, offering female orangutans an iPad loaded with photos of male orangutans now housed at zoos around the world, with the females able to express interest or disinterest (similar to swiping right or left on the human dating app Tinder). Researchers admit results have been mixed, that some males have to be returned home (and once, a female handed the iPad with a potential suitor showing, merely crushed the tablet). (Apps are not quite to the point of offering animals the ability to digitally smell each other.) [Daily Telegraph (London), 2-1-2017]
Peacocks are "well known" (so they say) to flash their erect, sometimes-six-foot-high rack of colorful tail feathers to attract mating opportunities. However, as Texas A&M researchers recently found, the display might not be important. Body cameras placed on peahens at eye level (to learn how they check out strutting males) revealed that the females gazed mostly at the lowest level of feathers (as if attracted only to certain colors rather than the awesomeness of the towering flourish). [Austin American-Statesman, 3-20-2017]
(1) In March, jurors in Norfolk, Va., found Allen Cochran, 49, not guilty of attempted shoplifting, but he was nowhere to be seen when the verdict was announced. Apparently predicting doom (since he had also been charged with fleeing court during a previous case), he once again skipped out. The jury then re-retired to the jury room, found him guilty on the earlier count, and sentenced him to the five-year maximum. (Because of time already served, he could have walked away legally if he hadn't walked away illegally.) (2) In March, Ghanian soccer player Mohammed Anas earned a "man of the match" award (after his two goals led the Free State Stars to a 2-2 draw) but botched the acceptance speech by thanking both his wife and his girlfriend. Reportedly, Anas "stumbled for a second" until he could correct himself: "I'm so sorry," he attempted to clarify, "My wife! I love you so much from my heart." [Virginian-Pilot, 3-6-2017] [Daily Telegraph (London), 3-18-2017]
Leading Economic Indicators
It turns out that Layne Hardin's sperm is worth only $1,900--and not the $870,000 a jury had awarded him after finding that former girlfriend Tobie Devall had, without Hardin's permission, obtained a vial of it without authorization and inseminated herself to produce her son, now age 6. Initially Hardin tried to gain partial custody of the boy, but Devall continually rebuffed him, provoking the lawsuit (which also named the sperm bank Texas Andrology a defendant) and the challenge in Houston's First Court of Appeal. [Houston Chronicle, 1-25-2017]
Most Competent Criminal
An astonished woman unnamed in news reports called police in Coleshill, England, in February to report that a car exactly like her silver Ford Kuga was parked at Melbicks Shopping Center--with the very same license plate as hers. Police figured out that a silver Ford Kuga had been stolen nearby in 2016, and to disguise that it was stolen, the thief had looked for an identical, not-stolen Ford Kuga and then replicated its license plate, allowing the thief to drive the stolen car without suspicion. [Birmingham Mail, 2-5-2017]
Least Competent Criminals
(1) Thieves once again attempted a fruitless smash-and-grab of an ATM at Mike & Reggie's Beverages in Maple Heights, Ohio, in March--despite the owner's having left the ATM's door wide open with a sign reading "ATM emptied nightly." Police are investigating. (2) Boca Raton, Fla., jeweler "Bobby" Yampolsky said he was suspicious that the "customer" who asked to examine diamonds worth $6 million carried no tools of the examination trade. After the lady made several obvious attempts to distract Yampolsky, he ended the charade by locking her in his vault and calling the police, who arrested her after discovering she had a package of fake diamonds in her purse that she likely intended to switch. [WJW-TV (Cleveland), 3-23-2017] [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3-31-2017]
At what was billed as part of a cancer fundraising event at the AvantGarden in Houston, Tex., in February, performance artist Michael Clemmons and a partner, working as the act Sonic Rabbit Hole, had the elegant idea that one give the other an enema on stage, but there was a "spraying" accident. Viewers were led to believe the procedure was authentic, but the artists swore later that the sprayed contents were just a protein shake. "What I did is not all that [extreme]," protested Clemmons. "I don't understand why I'm getting the attention for this." [KPRC-TV (Houston), 2-20-2017]
The Passing Parade
Two convicted murders imprisoned in Nepal married each other in February, though it will be at least 14 years before they can consummate. Dilli Koirala, 33 (serving 20 years for killing his wife), and Mimkosha Bista, 30 (with another four years to go for killing her husband), will be allowed to meet (just to talk) twice a month until Koirala's term ends. (A lawyer involved in the case said the marriage, though odd, was perhaps the last chance either would have to meet a suitable match.) [Republica (Kathmandu), 2-24-2017]
A News of the Weird Classic (July 2013)
“[Supermodels] is the one exception [to U.S. immigration law] that we all scratch our heads about,” said a Brookings Institution policy analyst in May . Foreign-born sports stars and entertainers are fast-tracked with American work permits under one system, but supermodels were excluded from that and must thus compete (successfully, it turns out) with physicists and nuclear engineers to earn visas among the slots available only to “skilled workers with college degrees.” As such, around 250 beauties are admitted every year. (The most recent attempt to get supermodels their own visa category was championed in 2005 and 2007 by then-U.S.-Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York.) [Bloomberg Business Week, 5-23-2013]
Thanks This Week to Jim Weber, Caroline Lawler, Bob Stewart, and Chuck Hamilton, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Back in the 60s, the U.S. Army employed scientists to sneak into Omaha stockyards and spray cows with deodorant. The logic behind this was to test how easy it would be for Soviet agents to spread hoof-and-mouth disease among American cows.
Unfortunately, I can't find any more info about this operation, which is a shame because it raises so many questions. For instance, the important part of the operation must have been to see how easily they could gain access to the stockyards. So then, why bother to deodorize the cows? Was it just to add a touch of realism? Why not spray them with paint so that they could later count the "infected" ones?
If you've got a lot of extra matchsticks lying around (and maybe some toothpicks as well), why not make a violin? Here's a description of how O.L. Reames of Michigan did it (source: The Battle Creek Enquirer - July 22, 1951):
His first step was to build a block about three-fourths of an inch thick from matchsticks. The block measured about the size of a violin and was built patiently, stick by stick, in criss-crossing layers.
Then it was cut to the shape of a violin and arched, a technical process done with arch gauges to assure the proper slope to the front of the instrument. After working down the front of the violin and graduating it correctly in the inside, it was ready to tune.
When the fiddle sounded a perfect G, Mr. Reames knew he was on the right track.
He then constructed the back of toothpicks, following the same procedure. The ribs, or sides, were made to a metal form and were glued to the back. The neck was constructed of toothpicks.
Reames was not the only guy to ever make a matchstick violin. A number of them have been created over the years. For instance, a Polish bricklayer, Jan Gwizdz, made one in 1937, and it was actually played in concert in 2014. In the video below, skip to about 4½ minutes in to see the violinist start playing.
"Before touring became big business for promoters who elevated rock shows to an art, even name-brand bands played pretty much anywhere. It’s an interesting component of the early rock era that’s explored in the upcoming documentary The High School That Rocked!, which takes a look at one Connecticut school that somehow managed to lure a slew of classic-rock legends — including Cream, the Doors and the Yardbirds, among others."
A Weird Universe News Service
April 7, 2017
News You Can Use (Irish law!): OK to call a litterer "skankhole," judge says. [Irish Times]
Trivago Challenge: Make sure they tell you that your 2/3-star NYC hotel is also a homeless shelter (1,453 hotel rooms in NYC are, thanks to real-shelter overflows). [NY Post]
Sadness and tears in Glassell Park 'hood in Los Angeles on April 4th when a tanker truck hauling milk, spilled. [Los Angeles Daily News]
Tennessee state Rep. Mike Stewart set up a lemonade-and-cookies stand on a Nashville street corner, also selling an AK-47--with no background check required, as permitted by federal and state laws. (In fact, selling the food without a health department certificate is probably more legally risky.) [WKRN-TV]
NoNoNo: Paul Perry Jr., 39, awakened in a drunken stupor from the driver's seat (.236 reading), offered to thumb-wrestle the cop to get out the DUI ticket. [Youngstown Vindicator]
Arduino is a hot-item open-source software start-up that makes it easier to build robots, motion detectors, etc. New CEO Federico Musto apparently believes that NYU and MIT credentialing is open-source, too, thus accounting for the MBA and Ph.D on his business card and LinkedIn profile. [Wired]
Presumption of Innocence? Even hatchet-wielder Noel Dawson, 63, of North Toledo, Ohio? [Toledo Blade]
1930: Dr. C.F. B. Stowell, speaking to fellow dentists at the annual meeting of the American Dental Association, advised that if a young woman was unwed it would be better not to pull all her "devitalized teeth," because she "must be as beautiful as possible to secure a husband." But if the woman was married -- go ahead and pull those teeth!
Life - Feb 14, 1930
Lurking behind this statement, I believe, was the idea of "Focal infection theory." According to this theory, which was widely held by dentists in the 1920s and 30s, infected teeth were responsible for a variety of diseases including arthritis, cancer, and mental illness. So if there was any suspicion that a tooth was infected, it was better to pull it. In fact, it was often better to pull all a patient's teeth, whether or not they showed any signs of problems, just to be safe.
Unsuspected periapical disease was first revealed by dental X-ray in 1911, the year that Frank Billings lectured on focal infection to the Chicago Medical Society. Introduced by C Edmund Kells, the technology became used to feed the "mania of extracting devitalized teeth"... Many dentists were "100 percenters", extracting every tooth exhibiting either necrotic pulp or endodontic treatment, and extracted apparently healthy teeth, too, as suspected foci, leaving many persons toothless. A 1926 report published by several authors in Dental Cosmos—a dentistry journal where Willoughby Miller had published in the 1890s—advocated extraction of known healthy teeth to prevent focal infection. Endodontics nearly vanished from American dental education. Some dentists held that root canal therapy should be criminalized and penalized with six months of hard labor.
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 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.