I don't recall any of this being discussed in October 2017 on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
A misshapen calf, born in Freiberg, Saxony, on 8 December 1522, quickly became important in the German Reformation. It was born with oddly shaped legs (its hind legs straight as a human's) and with a fold of skin over its head shaped like a cowl—hence its comparison to a monk. An illustration made its way to a Prague astrologer, who "discovered that the monster did indeed signify something terrible, indeed the most awful thing possible--Martin Luther." Luther himself responded quickly with a pamphlet containing a mock exegesis of the creature, Monk Calf, in which the "Monk Calf" stands, in all its monstrosity, for the Catholic church. Luther's anti-papist pamphlet appeared together with a tract by Philipp Melanchthon which discussed a fictional monster, the Pope-Ass, a hybrid between a man and a donkey supposedly found near Rome after the 1496 flood. Circulated in 1523, Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon's pamphlet was titled The Meaning of Two Horrific Figures, the Papal Ass at Rome and the Monk Calf Found at Freyberg in Meissen. Luca Cranach the Elder and his workshop provided the illustrations of the Papal Ass and the Monk Calf for the pamphlet. Variations of Luther and Melanchthon’s pamphlet eventually were circulated, including one that depicted the Papal Ass and the Monk Calf in “an encounter between the two creatures. This opening page adds a new phrase to the title of the book: ‘with signs of the Day of Judgement.'"
As we approach the tenth anniversary of Weird Universe (founded mainly due to the genius and initiative of Chuck Shepherd, July 2008), Alex and I had the notion that newcomers might not have seen many of our past posts that were deserving of their amused attentions. Therefore, we are going to occasionally repost an oldie-but-goodie, bannered with a special header to identify it. We hope that even if you have been with us since the beginning, you will enjoy these reruns, which, of course, will not diminish our schedule of two new posts each and every day.
Friends: the post immediately below this one is Chuck's 1500th weekly column! Do the math, kids: Twenty-eight-plus years of brilliant curation and commentary. What else began in 1988 that is still going strong and undiminished? Oh, sure Afghanistan is still wracked by war. But is that an honorable achievement? No! The Phantom of the Opera debuted in 1988 and is still running. But I'll take Chuck over Andrew Lloyd Webber any day!
Please weigh in with your own thoughts and applause and appreciations. Perhaps your 28-year-old child somehow owes his or her birth to NOTW? Your marriage was saved by NOTW? You went to Washington as a humble Senator and conducted a noble filibuster by reciting NOTW columns? No? Well, in any case, Chuck has brightened many a day and life. That's what really matters.
January 20, 1982: During a concert in Des Moines, someone in the audience threw a live bat at the feet of Ozzy Osbourne, who proceeded to bite its head off. In honor of the anniversary of the day, here's the relevant passage from Ozzy's memoir, I Am Ozzy:
Immediately, though, something felt wrong. Very wrong. For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine. I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched. Oh fuck me, I thought. I didn't just go and eat a fucking bat, did I?
While it might be fairly common for couples to get a divorce in the United States these days, it's certainly not easy. There are questions of support, custody issues if there are children involved, and bitter arguments over who gets to keep what; all of which can drag a divorce into months of stress. But what is it like in other cultures and in other times? In centuries past, in China, a divorce could be granted for any number of reasons, so long as the bride's family agreed to take her back. Aborigine women in Australia can convince their husbands to grant a divorce but if that's not working, then all they need to do is elope with someone else. The ancient Athenians and modern-day Eskimos share an extremely simple divorce process - live separately as though they were never married. In the UK, a man tired of his wife could slip a halter around her neck, lead her into town to the cattle market, and sell her to the highest bidder. Japan had a much more advanced view, however. Marriage was not sacred and divorce was not immoral - it was merely a mismatch between families. Women's dowrys were returned in the hopes of encouraging re-marriage. You can read more on Purple Slinky, and on Hope's Blog, and in this review.
2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the first Wallace and Gromit film, A grand Day Out, which introduced the cheese-loving inventor and his more practical pooch to the world. So popular have these characters become that they are credited with saving the British cheese industry (Sky News), and perhaps even the whole UK economy (Telegraph). So the timing was probably a bit inopportune for the voice of Wallis, Peter Sallis, to admit that he never touches the stuff (Telegraph).
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the coming down of the Berlin Wall, so what better way to celebrate than by building a new one, out of chocolate. Patrick Roger, a chocolatier from Paris France, decided to commemorate the historic reunification of East and West Germany by building a 15m long replica of the wall out of 900 kg of chocolate, complete with uncanny reproductions of the spray painted graffiti made with coloured cocoa butter. The chocolate wall was later "torn down" and broken up on November 9th, exactly 20 years after the original (ChocoParis).
And this isn’t the only feat of chocolate engineering in recent weeks. The “New World Whakatane” Bakery, from Australia's "baby brother" New Zealand, set a Guinness World Record this month for baking the world’s largest chocolate log. At over 35 metres in length and weighing in at nearly 78 kilos, the confectionary monster smashed the previous record of a measly 10 metres, but fell short of the 50 metres they had hoped for. Once the new record had been verified, the log was cut into slices and sold to raise money for a teenage cancer charity (TVNZ).
Still more gargantuan grub now as hundreds of students from the University of California at Berkeley became sushi chefs for a day by helping to roll a 330 foot “California roll” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UoC’s Center for Japanese Studies. The sushi roll broke the previous record of 300 feet, and contained 200 lbs of rice and 180 lbs of fish, the last 15 feet was made with tofu for the benefit of attending vegetarians (Boston Herald).
Here we are, at the one-year anniversary of WEIRD UNIVERSE, and I'm about to say goodbye--for a while, anyhow. It's been a marvelous year, full of friendship, creativity, and, well, weirdness galore. I'd like to say thanks to Chuck and Alex, and to all the wonderful readers of the blog.
However, now I need to step back to attend to other projects. But I leave the blog in the capable hands of its readers. And I'll be checking in every day.
Perhaps you recall the very first, non-introductory post, as seen in the screen-capture to the right. I figured I might as well go out on the same note. So look for FOLLIES OF THE MAD MEN #70 to follow. I didn't quite manage to hit 100, but 70 is still pretty good.
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
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.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.