Backstage in the Weird News Community
June 4, 2013
Regarding this story in News of the Weird M320, 5-26-2013: The Way Washington Works: Congress established a National Helium Reserve in 1925 in the era of “zeppelin” balloons, but most consider it no longer useful (most, that is, ranging from President Reagan to the Democratic congressman who in 1996 called it one program that, if we cannot undo it, “we cannot undo anything”). The House of Representatives recently voted 394-1 to continue funding it because of “fears” of a shortage that might affect MRI machines and, of course, party balloons.
(1) First of all, as usual, Yr Editor does not, strictly speaking, take a position on this, figuring that any public policy (i.e., eliminating the Reserve) pushed by the gov’t-skeptical Ronald Reagan and the less-gov’t-skeptical Barney Frank must be automatically credible.
(2) The couple of critics who have called me out on this both make compelling, reasoned cases for the importance of . . helium gas, itself. (MRIs use it, and guidance systems for air-to-air missiles, among other things.) However, compelling cases of “importance” could be made for many of the other elements on the Periodic Table, but with the exception, I guess, of U and Au, there is no great clamoring for national Reserves. (There are Reserves for some vaccines, and, though increasingly anachronistically, for petroleum.)
(3) The country was fascinated with dirigibles in the 1920s and may well have considered He as nationally valuable, also, and may have feared that an infant capitalist market for it might have served us poorly, hence, a Reserve. But that was almost 100 yrs ago. That a robust capitalist market somehow failed to materialize over 100 yrs might possibly have had something to do with the fact that . . there was always a national Reserve.
(4) My suspicion here is a generic one I see all the time in NOTW story objections: sense of humor vanishing if your own ox is being gored. Some people are invested with knowledge of the importance of helium, and they very well may understand the points I have made in (1), (2), and (3), but . . the moment I mention “party balloons,” they lose all perspective. It’s so-o-o awkward that this important gas is tied up in people’s minds with party balloons! (Same thing if I mentioned the TV show Hoarders in the same paragraph with Helium Reserve.)
(5) The Helium Reserve should be evaluated on the importance of the “reserve”--not the importance of the “helium.” At any rate, Yr Editor is already bored with this subject. Still interested? Boston Globe
In News of the Weird M319, 5-19-2013, Yr Editor included the wife of the Colorado state corrections chief as being a victim of Evan Ebel’s murder spree. She was not. She’s alive (and grieving), and I very much regret the error.
Every week, almost, I see stuff that I really don’t have time to appreciate fully but that you might. Here ya go:
The world's most awkward taxidermy, it says here. io9.com
In late April 1979, New York City's Health Department received several reports of an elephant seen wandering through Brooklyn. Calls to local zoos, circuses and animal parks didn't turn up any reports of a missing elephant. Nevertheless, officials took off in a Toyota to conduct a door-to-door search throughout Brooklyn for the pachyderm. The Health Department director said, "We have reason to believe the animal is small, but we're talking to the informants to get more information."
Several days of searching only uncovered a few illegal cockfights. So eventually the search for the Brooklyn elephant was called off. Health officials remained unswayed, however, in their belief that the elephant was out there, somewhere. [Star News - May 3, 1979]
Among those who simply believe what they want to be believe, no matter what: Adam and Heather Barrington from North Carolina, who are certain their gestating first child will be better off born as Heather frolics among dolphins, as advocated by the “Sirius Institute” (Pahoa, Hawaii, PlanetPuna.com), which believes that, y’know, dolphins are beautiful, gentle, intelligent creatures, and that it’s stupid to believe that dolphins are wild, vicious animals (rapists, even!). Discovery.com
Here’s the new “world’s greatest lawyer”--being the one who defended Kathleen Cawthorne, 33, who had her 11-yr prison term cut to 4 months in Virginia for having sex with her student . . . because the lawyer helped convince the judge she was clinically “hypersexual” (i.e., vagina on auto-pilot). New York Daily News
More Things to Worry About
Legislators pass no-texting-while-driving laws, but what about Luis Briones of Albuquerque, who crashed his car while having “sexual intercourse of some sort,” according to the police report? The Smoking Gun
The bar was raised for elaborate imposters. Michael McDowell was caught in Fort Worth, Tex., after going to extreme attention-to-detail for 15 yrs being “Brig. Gen.” Michael McDowell. Turns out he used to sell cars. Star-Telegram (Fort Worth)
National Geographic and BBC News, among others, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the first scaling of Mount Everest . . by pointing out that the paths are so crowded that climbers sometimes have to wait 2 hours for a spot in line (past the “markers” of bodies of the unsuccessful, draped in their countries’ flags). National Geographic /// BBC News
Tammy Jung, age 23 and 231 lbs., on her way to 430 with the help of her normal-looking, feedbag-applying boyfriend Johan Uberman, is doing it to monetize her fetish website for those sophisticates who can get off only by watching obese women stuff their faces and/or have sex. [Woo-hoo, is this economy bad! Tammy’s touting that she makes . . $18k a year!] National Enquirer [6-3-2013 not online, however here’s a link to Huffington Post’s Deluxe Debauchery-Chronicler David Moye, from 5-10-2013]
And another by Mr. Moye: The mother-daughter porn actresses Jessica and Monica Sexxxton [sic] are recruiting a father-son duo to co-star with them. Choice to be announced on Father’s Day. Huffington Post
That’s His Story, and He’s Sticking to It: Music teacher Kevin Gausepohl, 38, of Tacoma, Wash., was only academically inquiring whether his teen girl students would be interested in aiding his research on whether they could hit higher octaves if they got naked and aroused themselves. [ed. The late, distinguished Prof. Samuel Kinison once addressed this issue--but found it made the voice lower, i.e., “It changes your octave!!! Ohhhhhhhhhh!!! Humphrey Bogart must’ve had a dick out to here!!! Listen to Lauren Bacall!!! Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!]Bellingham Herald
A 70-yr-old cuckold-retired Army officer was acquitted (jury out only 2 hrs) of killing his wife’s lover, who he thought was raping his wife; she is remorseful, and he is forgiving, and they were off Friday night to celebrate! She chooses . . Waffle Shop! Tampa Bay Times
A Pony Walks into a Liquor Store / Donkey Causes Chaos on Balcony in Brussels --- WJAR-TV (Providence, R.I.) /// Daily Telegraph (London)
Utah Top Gun Lobbyist Arrested for Threatening Ex-Wife with Zombie Response Vehicle --- Raw Story
Strange Old World
Ratziel San Juan was registered for school in the Philippines by his dad. (For brevity, Yr Editor has omitted Ratziel’s 39 middle names.) Inquirer Northern Luzon via Harpers.org
A.J. Miller and his lovely wife Mary, who run a small cult compound in Kingaroy, Queensland, Ozzie, sat for an interview wherein he vouched that indeed he is Jesus Christ and that he couldn’t be married to Mary because Mary is of course his mom and that quite a few people have moved to Kingaroy to improve their shots at Heaven when the time comes. Sky.com (London)
Other Stuff Yr Editor Learned Last Week
(1) Busted for prostitution only because the police answered a 911 call too quickly. (2) Captain America of Hollywood Blvd. beat up Spider Man of Hollywood Blvd. for encroaching on his begging turf. (3) Way-Bad Dog! (4) Is it “constipation” if you smuggle a phone into prison in your butt, but it won’t come out? (5) When you study for “A-level English exams” in Britain (for college admission), you have to “study” Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein “for eight months.” (6) America’s-- America’s!--Department of Veterans Affairs is so screwed up that if you call the Roanoke office and ask when your previously-filed application for treatment will be evaluated, the answer is “30 months.” (7) The school board in Camden, N.J., can get sued by a dad (over his son’s getting cut from the track team) for $40 million.
(1) WFSB-TV (Hartford, Conn.) /// (2) KCBS-TV (Los Angeles) /// (3) KRCR-TV (Redding, Calif) /// (4) Scottish TV (Glasgow) /// (5) BBC News /// (6) WTKR-TV (Norfolk-Hampton Roads, Va.) /// (7) Philadelphia Inquirer
Your Weekly Jury Duty [In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]
Two men and one woman were arrested in a Clarksville, Tenn., prostitution sting. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pick out the woman (and then, for bonus points, explain what the "men's" issues could possibly be). WKRN-TV (Nashville)
Newsrangers: Mark Hazelrigg, Chris Banta, Bruce Leiserowitz, John McGaw, Steve Dunn, Paul Krause, and Peter Swank, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M321, June 2, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd
Low Fashion Meets Islam on Turkish TV: Five self-proclaimed devout, conservative Muslim women host the TV series “Building Bridges” on channel A9, presenting the seemingly contradictory case against both the female headscarf and Turkey’s turn to secularism. A report on Slate.com in May noted that the five are “mostly bottle blonds . . . [with] neon lipstick” wearing “brightly colored satin pantsuits and T-shirts with designer brand names that stretched over their chests.” “Building Bridges” in principle supports interfaith dialogue, but guests (noted Slate) “often appear . . . with their eyebrows arched in the manner of a serious person certain he is the victim of a practical joke.” [Slate.com, 5-2-2013]
Creative Smuggling: Abdullah Riyaz, 50, was arrested at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, India, in April, after he appeared to be uncomfortable sitting in the waiting area. Officials found four “biscuits” of solid gold in his socks but obviously thought there might be more, and after nature took its course, found Riyaz to be one of those rare humans with the ability to brag that he once excreted gold (eight more “biscuits”). [Khaleej Times (Dubai), 4-19-2013]
A report circulated in April that an apparently Orthodox Jewish man (likely a “Kohen”) had tied himself up, head to toe, in a plastic bag while seated on an airline flight--likely because his teachings told him that flying over a cemetery would yield “impurities.” News of the Weird mentioned a similar report in 2001. Airlines have made accommodations in the past, even in the face of criticism that a man in a plastic bag is a safety hazard. (Exceptions to the Kohen belief: Accidental tears in the bag are excused, but pre-punched air holes not; Kohenim unaware of the cemetery overflight in advance do not need protection; and deceased family members yield no impurities.) [World's Greatest Newspaper, 4-11-2013; Jewish Press, 4-12-2013]
Accountability: The chairman of the National Showcaves Center in a Welsh national park, aiming to halt a recent downturn in tourism business, threatened in April to sue the UK National Weather Service for its “all too [frequent] . . . gloom and doom reports.” The NWS had called for snow and cold weather over Easter weekend, but no snow fell, and the cold weather was tempered by sun and blue skies. (He also suggested “health”-type warnings on forecasts, e.g., beware that weather reports might be wrong.) [World's Greatest Newspaper, 4-17-2013]
In New Haven, Conn., in March, police had trapped two car-theft suspects in a multifamily building whose occupants were hiding from the suspects, thus necessitating urgency in ending the siege. Officers ordered a K-9 unit but were told it would be delayed. In a tactic departments occasionally employ, officers still threatened to release the dogs immediately, and to make the threat credible, available officers began barking. The suspects quickly surrendered rather than face the vicious canines. [WFSB-TV (Hartford), 4-1-2013]
Herbert and Catherine Schaible, members of the First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia and believers in faith-healing rather than medical care, were convicted in 2011 in the bacterial-pneumonia death of their 2-year-old son Kent. As a condition of probation, they promised medical care for their remaining eight children, but in April 2013, their youngest son Brandon died after severe diarrhea, again treated only by prayer, and they were arrested--and the other children removed from the home. The medical examiner called Brandon’s death a homicide, and the couple also face 5-10 years in prison for violating probation. [Philadelphia Daily News, 4-23-2013; Philadelphia Inquirer, 5-22-2013]
Detectives’ New Best Friend (Facebook): Christopher Robinson, 23, became just one of many recent suspects whose addiction to Facebook did him in. Robinson had never made a single child support payment in the three years since a court order was issued in Milwaukee, Wis., and the case had languished over how to prove that he was hiding money. Using other evidence for probable cause, the prosecutor got a warrant to search Robinson’s private Facebook information and discovered a candid photograph of him, laughing over a pile of cash. [ABC News, 3-23-2012]
The annual Chinese “Tombsweeping” celebration has been mentioned several times in News of the Weird, but has experienced a resurgence since 2008 when the government reinstated it as an official holiday. The theory is that people bring valuable items (such as jewelry) to ancestors’ gravesites and bury them with the body, which will upgrade the relative’s afterlife. Now, however, practitioners seem convinced that paper images of items are sufficient (and, of course, less expensive). Many simply leave signed (and generous!) checks for the dead, according to an April New York Times dispatch, and others bury representations of “mistresses” to accompany presumably-frisky corpses. [New York Times, 4-5-2013]
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.