These contests were made for us WUvians! Let's start with the the International Birdman Competition, held each year in Worthing, England. Contestants have to design a personal flying machine and jump off a pier to see who can get the most air time. Don't like to fly? Then you should look into The One-Foot High Kick, an event that is part of the annual Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks, Alaska. Atheletes have to kick a suspended object (some as high as a basketball net) with one foot and then land on that same foot. But if strenuous exercise is not for you, there's always the Papa Look-Alike Contest, held in Key West, Florida, in July each year. This contest only requires that you be a mature, heavy-set man with a full beard (in other words, look like Ernest Hemingway). And ladies, if you can't conjure a beer belly and a full beard, you can participate in The Sauna World Championships, held in Heinola, Finland in August. We can take the heat! For more crazy contests, check out the slideshow on Travel and Leisure Magazine's website.
President Obama’s recent fall in approval rating may have an unusual cause, he may possibly be too thin. In a recent study by Elizabeth Miller of the University of Missouri, voters prefer their male politicians to be portly, while women representatives should be more wasp-waisted. In an experiment involving 120 volunteers, people were asked to assess fictitious male and female candidates from a brief bio and a picture, crucially two pictures of each candidate were used, a natural one and one manipulated to portray the person as overweight. People shown the heavier male scored him an average 10% higher for reliability, honesty, dependability and inspiration than his thinner doppelganger, but this relationship was reversed in the woman candidate. In the journal Obesity, Miller puts this down to societal expectation and stereotyping (Telegraph).
Social pressure also crops up in explaining another finding this week, this one by Meridith Young of McMaster University in Ontario, that what single women eat depends a lot on whom they are eating with. After covertly monitoring the canteen behaviour of 470 undergraduates, Young found that women significantly lowered their calorie intake when sat with men compared with all women groups. Moreover, the more men a woman sat with, the less on average she consumed. In the journal Appetite, she puts the discrepancy down to women unconsciously advertising themselves to men, adding "the salad leaves are meant to say, I'm pretty, I'm attractive, I take care of myself" (Guardian).
Of course, we all know what men really like in a woman; that she not appear too powerful. Or so says a study by Brian Meier and Sarah Dionne of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. In the study, eighty 19 year-olds were asked to rate the attractiveness of a number of images presented in random order, some of which would be repeated. In fact the subjects saw each image twice, once near the top of the screen and once low down. The researchers found that men rated women 1.8% more attractive when observed near the bottom, and women found men 1.5% better looking when higher up. They suggest that their findings might explain why men are taller than their women partners more frequently than would be expected by chance (Times of India).
As to what women really like in men, perhaps not being British should be somewhere on the list. After champagne controversially lost out to an English wine earlier this week, French scientists have hit back at British research that concluded that the mythical “G-spot” did not exist. “Of course it exists,” say French gynaecologists, “you just can’t find it!” The original study by King’s College in London looked at over 900 pairs of identical or non-identical twins in the expectation that the identical siblings should both report having a G-spot more frequently than the others, they did not. The French however claim their cross-channel colleagues have got the wrong end of the speculum, “It is not a question of genetics but of use," said one (Telegraph).
Christmas is nearly upon us, so the time is at hand where every mall has a Santa in residence, waiting for America’s boys and girls to sit on his knee and make their demands known. But while our own little angels are of course clean and fragrant, who knows what those grubby urchins in front of you are spreading! So this year several professional Santa associations are calling for hand-sanitizer to be installed at grotto entrances and have asked congress to put “Santa” on the priority list for H1N1 vaccinations. After all, you have to look after your elf (Telegraph).
Not requiring a flu jab, but in need of a facelift, was the 66’ fibreglass Santa that has been the centrepiece of Auckland, New Zealand’s Christmas pageant for nearly 50 years. With a droopy winking eye and a gesturing mechanical finger, the jolly red giant was beginning, in the words of one local, to “look a little creepy.” But not anymore, as NZ$100,000 have been spent refurbishing the big guy ahead of this Sunday’s grand unveiling (Reuters).
Someone definitely not in need of a facelift is the recently announced “Hunky Santa of 2009.” Los Angeles mall the Beverley Center first introduced their hunky Santas nine years ago, swapping abs and pecs for the beard and britches. This year north-pole toting poseur is James Ellis, who hopes to encourage people to live more healthily and wants to be a role model for kids by parading his festive physique in a fur-trimmed red vest (LA Times).
All of which is not the sort of thing you’re likely to see during Raleigh, North Carolina’s Christmas parade. So worried are parade organisers that the little ones might be confused by two people dressed in red that they have banned “Mrs. Claus” from participating in costume. They have even asked attendees not to wear Santa-hats in case it distracts attention from the “real” St. Nick (WXII12).
And further killjoyery (?) this week from the Employers Forum on Belief, which has advised company bosses that to close their office over Christmas might be construed as discriminatory, since non-Christian employees must use annual leave for their religious holidays. Instead of emphasising the holiday’s religious nature, say the EFB, management should focus on the cost-effectiveness of the closure as a majority of staff would be absent anyway (ILM).
Hello Weird Universe readers. Some of you may remember back in May when I was posting weird things I found in old magazines, and maybe a few of you were wondering what happened to those posts. Being a college student, I had to go home over the summer, and my parents still don't have an internet connection (technically they have AOL, but that doesn't really count), so I had no way to post anything on Weird Universe for a few months. When I got back to Chicago, it took a while to get settled in, and I finally decided I should start posting again. I will try to post a few things a week from now on.
I feel I should start with one of the most bizarre juxtapositions ever to appear, well, anywhere:
First up, let's take a moment to savour pest control, Texas Style. Farmer Skip Smith, from Dublin, TX, is so fed up with feral hogs busting in to his watermelon patch and eating his crops that he’s fighting back with the aid of night-vision goggles and a silenced, fully automatic machine-gun. “The same thing that our forces use in Iraq, we're just using them on animals," Smith said, “we shoot about 45 to 50 a week on 1000 acres." Which is a hell of a lot of free bacon (ABC).
But if there is one food that might possibly challenge bacon as the mightily meaty master of my heart, it would be southern fried chicken. So what could be better than a sandwich that includes both? Well, how about one that leaves out that pointless bread stuff and puts the slices of gorgeous bacon between two hot, fresh fried chicken fillets? That is the idea behind what some reports are claiming is the latest creation from KFC, the “double-down” sandwich. Bacon, cheese and the “Colonel’s special sauce” are sandwiched between the chain’s house-style fried chicken in a heart-stopping 1200 calorie mouthful. And the day this launches near me officially marks the end of my banana diet (AJC).
Brazilian TV presenter, Wallace Souza, has brought a whole new meaning to the term "hit show", by allegedly arranging the deaths of at least four people to boost the ratings of his mid-day real crime show. Souza, a former policeman and prominent politician, is accused of being behind a criminal drug network with an estimated turnover of $25m a month, while the murder victims were all either partners who had fallen from favour or from rival outfits. Once the hit had been set up, it is claimed Souza would receive a tip-off so that camera crews for his program could reach the scene before even the police (Guardian).
Someone else who may be meeting with an "accident" pretty soon is Ginger the kune-kune pig, who is not in pensioner Anne Moon's best books after swallowing her $2500 dollar diamond engagement ring right off her hand. Mrs. Moon, who had gone to pet the pig just prior to the impromptu a-la-main meal, immediately alerted the pig's owner, farmer Paul Caygill, and hopes to be reunited with the ring given to her 30 years ago once nature takes its course (Fox News).
And while Anne Moon is left hanging around dumb animals, in the Norwegian town of Helgoysund, it is the dumb animals that are hanging around. For it is there that a ram managed to get its horns entangled in one of the town's overhead electric cables, before losing its footing, astonishing onlookers as it subsequently abseiled down the hill towards the next pole. Locals suspect that this may have been caused by an over rambitious attempt to reach the ewes in a lower field, and after the ram was eventually towed back to higher ground and released unharmed, he was allowed access by way of compensation for his ordeal (Daily Mail).
Still on the subject of dumb animals, that is presumably what one Parisian store is hoping to attract with its latest creation, a fusball table populated entirely by Barbies. The "Barbie Foot", by French "concept-store" Colette, uses 22 of the ubiquitous dolls, in contrasting uniforms of pink and white in its limited edition table football game, which it hopes to sell for 10,000 euros, that is $14,000, each (Guardian).
While a 53-year-old man was competing successfully in the swimming section of the National Senior Games in Palo Alto, California, his 61-year-old brother was back home in Madison, Indiana, at the Yacht Club. When the brother called home to his mother to tell her he had just won a 500-yard freestyle, she told him his older brother had just been swept away in the rain-swollen Ohio River and could not be located. The Madison Courier. His body was later found.
Not @%#&?! likely! But this post is on a subject close to my heart, pain (must see a doctor about that).
Cartoon expletives aside, a bit of invective can do you the world of good, or so said scientists recently. A research team from from Keele University asked volunteers to hold their hand in freezing water for as long as they could manage while repeating either an innocuous word or the swear-word of their choice. The swearers held out for an average of two minutes, while non-swearers managed only 1 minute 15 seconds. But while Rohan Byrt of the Casual Swearing Appreciation Society claimed the study demonstrated the benefits of swearing, team leader Richard Stephens warned that everyday swearing would lessen its painkilling effects. "Swearing is emotional language" he explained, "but if you overuse it, it loses its emotional attachment" (BBC News).
From this week, pregnant women throughout Britain considering "letting it out" to help with the pain might also want to direct their curses towards Dr Denis Walsh, associate professor of midwifery at Nottingham University in England. In an article in the journal Evidence Based Midwifery, Dr Walsh claimed last week that the pain of childbirth was useful and a "timeless rite of passage", and women should not be trying to avoid it with epidural anaesthesia. Walsh based his statement on the fact that the use of epidurals has almost doubled in the past two decades, claiming that in 20% of cases, the procedure was unnecessary. While some, like Dr. Justin Clarke of the Birmingham Women's Hospital, rejected Walsh's data, saying it was wrong to characterise modern women as "less stoical", others supported him, such as Mary Newburn of the National Childbirth Trust who spoke of there being an "epidural culture" (Telegraph).
But perhaps women might be convinced to trade in the needle for a fancy rubber suit? Baltimore company Under Armour has developed a hi-tech, full length bodysuit that is said to allow athletes recover more quickly after strenuous activity. Under Armour's "Recharge" range gently squeezes the athlete's body forcing excess fluid out of the muscles and back into the bloodstream over a period of hours after a workout, reversing the "pumped" effect of the exercise. Research by the University of Connecticut showed that doing so resulted in subjects feeling less soreness and swelling of the muscles and recuperating faster (Journal Gazette).
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.