Weird Universe Archive

November 2013

November 11, 2013

News of the Weird 2.0 (November 11, 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
November 11, 2013
(datelines November 2-November 9) (links correct as of November 10)

Intelligent Design: Behold the anglerfish, 99% of which die as virgins, but for the lucky 1%, sex is as follows: “Boy meets girl, boy bites girl, boy’s mouth fuses to girl’s body, boy lives the rest of his life attached to girl sharing her blood and supplying her with sperm.” Wired

“Tradition” Yields “Weird”: In a Mayan village in Guatemala, people mostly don’t drink, but on November 1st, it’s game on, as the menfolk get ripped and then ride special horses through town, and then through town again, and [rinse and repeat]. When someone falls off dead, that’s called an “offering” to the spirits for good crops. [Yr Ed loves tradition!]

New-Wave Field Sobriety Test: Well, if she grabs a nearby cheeseburger and tries to attach it to her foot as if she thinks it’s a shoe, she is officially over the limit. Huffington Post

Why would a company as old and venerable and bountiful and perky as Maidenform think to promise putting caffeine crystals in the lining would destroy fat? Courthouse News Service

Leading Economic Indicator: Avg cost of a 2-bedroom Manhattan apartment, $1.4m. Cost of a private island in upstate-NY Putnam County (with a 4-bedroom house), $995k. Coldwell Banker via New York Post

More Low-Hanging Toxic Gov’t Fruit: (1) While Republicans on Capitol Hill propose cutting $4bn/yr in food stamps, the same legislation that does that will continue to pay farm subsidies to 50 billionaires--and make them even better off by moving them to a subsidy program that keeps their names private. (2) A U.S. Treasury inspector gen’l revealed that IRS paid out $4bn in tax refunds to identity thieves (but that the agency is getting better at stopping that). Except . . . last yr, 655 refunds went to the same address in Lithuania, and 343 to the same address in Shanghai. (3) Federal benefits of more than $500m have in recent yrs gone to beneficiaries who have shuffled off this mortal coil--in many cases not all that recently. (And of course, the gov’t is making improvements there, too, they say.) New York Times /// Associated Press via New York Post /// Washington Post

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You: Edwin Tobergta, 34, will spend 11 months in the slammer for his 3rd strike at indecent exposure (mostly, trying to mate with pool floats). His sex life is about to get busier (for 11 months, at least). WXIX-TV (Cincinnati) via WMC-TV (Memphis)

When “Gov’t” Is Most Annoying: Established barbers in Ontario are no longer grandfathered into new regulations on hairstyling. No matter that they only serve men, they’ll now need 2,000 hrs’ schooling, learn ladies’ hairstyles, and pay $5k for their license. Grrrrr. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News

The American Psychiatric Ass’n has been fighting over the text of its DSM-V for 10 yrs now, bloody fights, guns drawn whiteboard erasers thrown all around the room, yet at the end of the day, they declared “pedophilia” as merely a “sexual orientation” instead of a disorder. Oops, we take it back, they said last week. But, 10 yrs to settle, yet didn’t--How’d that happen?

“Not fair,” said the mom of one of the late victims, who pulled off an armed robbery of a grocery store before being gunned down by a concealed-weapon carrier. You’re supposed to call the police, not gun down people by yourself, she said. And, she added, he isn’t wasn’t a “thug,” which hurt our feelings when we heard that. WFMZ-TV (Allentown, Pa.)

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

Felix Roberto Prado, 73, probably has a very good explanation why he’s not guilty of assaulting 3 children.

Also, live from Central Casting: Ms. Mia McCarthy, 23, for when you need a lesbian S&M safe-word-ignorer. South Florida Sun-Sentinel [Oct. 31]

Editor's Note

More tomorrow morning.

Newsrangers: Mark Dubbin, Scott Huber, and Harry Thompson, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Mon Nov 11, 2013 - Comments (1)

November 10, 2013

Why the poor are happier than the rich

From the Washington Post - April 30, 1916.

The gist of the article is summed up in the first paragraph:

The poor do not have to worry about what they are going to wear or where they will spend the summer or winter. They have good appetites and enjoy their food when they get it. They lead hard lives and so grow strong and healthy and do not have dyspepsia. They do not have to buy a burial cloth or order a mausoleum. As they have no money to leave, no one is anxious to see them die.

As far as I can tell, the Duke of Manchester (William Montagu), wrote this without a hint of irony or sarcasm. He seemed to genuinely believe that being born rich was a great burden. So it's interesting that he did his best to relieve himself of his riches and become poor. From wikipedia:

Manchester was a notorious spendthrift, and as a result of the excessive spending of both him and the prior two Dukes, the family's fortune (already low) was completely exhausted, culminating in the sale of the family's lands during the tenure of the tenth Duke. He spent much of his life abroad, evading creditors, seeking out wealthy consorts, and attempting to extract money from wealthy acquaintances. He is perhaps most well known in America from the leading case of Hamilton v. Drogo, 150 N.E. 496 (N.Y. 1926), which concerned the establishment of a spendthrift trust for the benefit of the young Duke.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Nov 10, 2013 - Comments (4)
Category: Money, 1910s

Life in America:  1947

Posted By: Paul - Sun Nov 10, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Culture and Civilization, Customs, 1940s, North America

News of the Weird (November 10, 2013)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M344, November 10, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

“Fantasy sports” are hugely popular, but when fans “draft” players for their teams, they “own” only the players’ statistics. Recently, Wall Street and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs created Fantex Holdings, which will allow investors to buy actual pieces of real players--namely, rights to 20 percent of the player’s lifetime earnings (including licensing and product endorsement deals). The firm told the New York Times in October that it will soon stage an “IPO” for budding NFL star Arian Foster and hopes to sign up many more athletes, plus singers and actors similarly early in their careers. (On the other hand, Fantex’s lawyers drew up a 37-page list of potential investment risks, such as injuries, slumps, and scandals--and the fact that the stock will only trade on Fantex’s private exchange.) [New York Times, 10-18-2013]

Cultural Diversity

“For Japanese boys, the train driver sits alongside footballer, doctor, and policeman as a dream job,” according to a September Agence France-Presse dispatch, and consequently, the system for the Tokyo metro area (covering 35 million people) runs with the “precision of a finely-crafted Swiss watch,” where delays, even for as long as a minute, seldom occur. (When they do occur, operators repeatedly apologize and hand out “notes from home” to commuters to present to their bosses to excuse the tardiness.) Among the system’s drawbacks is the still-irksome groping of females on packed rush-hour trains, when operators routinely shove as many as 300 riders into cars designed for 150. [Agence France-Presse, 9-23-2013] [ed.: AFP converted this to a video story, which I have not viewed, so this one is self-service]

Among the surprising legacies of the oppressions of communist East Germany is modern-day Germany’s commonplace “clothing-optional” lifestyle (FKK, or “Freikoerperkultur”--Free Body Culture). A September Global Post dispatch counted “hundreds” of FKK beaches across the country and referenced a turned-up snapshot (not yet authenticated) of a young Angela Merkel frolicking nude in the 1960s or 1970s. Foreigners occasionally undergo culture shock at German hotels’ saunas and swimming pools, at which swim suits are discouraged (as “unhygienic”). [Global Post via Salon, 9-22-2013]

In December China joined only a handful of countries (and 29 U.S. states) by strengthening the rights of elderly parents to demand support from their adult children--not only financially (which has been the law for more than a decade) but now allowing lawsuits by parents who feel emotionally ignored, as well. An October Associated Press feature on one rural extended family dramatized China’s cultural shift away from its proverbial “first virtue” of family honor. Zhang Zefang, 94, said she did not even understand the concept of “lawsuit” when a local official explained it, but only that she deserved better from the children she had raised but who now allegedly resent her neediness. (A village court promptly ordered several family members to contribute support for Zhang.) [Associated Press via Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 10-22-2013]

Latest Religious Messages

Recent separate testings in 21 springs in Austria and 18 fountains in Vienna yielded a conclusion that 86 percent of the holy water in the country’s churches was not safe to drink--most commonly infected with diarrhea-causing E.coli and Campylobacter. University of Vienna researchers found samples with up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, and the busier the church, the higher the count. [ABC News via Yahoo News, 9-14-2013]

PREVIOUSLY ON WEIRD UNIVERSE: Various studies show “churchgoers” to be happier, more optimistic, and healthier than other people, leading some atheists and agnostics to wonder whether the church experience could be fruitfully replicated but minus the belief in God. Hence, the “Sunday Assembly” was created in London, and has now spread to New York City and Melbourne, Australia, with 18 other hoped-for openings by year’s end, according to a September report in The Week. Founders seek such benefits as “a sense of community,” “a thought-provoking (secular) sermon,” “group singing,” and an “ethos of self-improvement,” exemplified by the motto “Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More,” and hope that eventually Sunday Assembly will organize Sunday school, weddings, funerals, and “non-religious baptisms.” [The Week, 9-23-2013]

PREVIOUSLY: First Things First: An alleged drug ring in the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay was busted in September after police cracked a stream of Internet messages offering heroin (called “DOB”) and cocaine (“white girl”). Among the messages was one sent at 6:45 one Friday evening advising customers that they had “45 minutes” to get their orders in for the weekend because the sellers would obediently shut down at 7:30 (i.e., sundown) for the Jewish sabbath. [Associated Press via Brooklyn Eagle, 9-11-2013]

Questionable Judgments

Los Angeles Animal Services has proposed that the city be established as a Sanctuary City of Feral Cats and that cats should be an exception to property owners’ right to eject animals causing damage. Under the L.A. City Feral Cat Program, reported, felines “will gain an inherent right” to be on residential or commercial property. Animal Services believes that an enhanced spaying program will eliminate most feral-cat problems, including somehow their toileting excesses and their killing of neighborhood songbirds. [, 10-16-2013]

“You hired a convicted prostitute and thief to handle state money?” asked an incredulous Connecticut state legislator in September when he learned that Suki Handly had been employed from 2008-2012 passing out welfare benefits in the state’s Manchester distribution center and that $44,000 was missing. Furthermore, Handly and two others had been found guilty of theft in Connecticut in 2010, yet word of her prostitution and 2010 convictions were not known to state investigators until a chance audit in 2012. (State hiring offices of course promised to strengthen background checks.) [Hartford Courant, 9-15-2013]

People With Worse Sex Lives Than Yours

(1) Optometrist Robert Deck III, 48, was arraigned in Oakland County, Mich., in October on an indecent exposure charge after an August incident in which he allegedly began to masturbate in his office while fitting a female patient with contact lenses. (2) Edward Falcone, 57, a retired woodshop teacher at Brooklyn High School of the Arts, was arrested for public lewdness in October after students on a school bus reported a motorist masturbating as he followed the bus. (3) Leslie Bailey, 28, was convicted of misdemeanor lewd conduct in San Francisco in October after being spotted by a BART train operator on separate occasions, incompletely clothed, thrusting his hips against an empty seat. [Detroit Free Press, 10-3-2013] [New York Daily News, 10-19-2013] [SF Weekly, 10-21-2013]

Least Competent Criminals

Ariel Sinclair, 23, an assistant manager at a Rite Aid drug store in Virginia Beach, Va., was charged in October with stealing $6,000 from the store’s Virginia State Lottery machine. According to police, access to the machine requires an authorized fingerprint, which she supplied, apparently failing to think ahead that this would eventually be difficult to explain. “We work a lot of different cases,” said a police spokesman, and “some are [easier] than others . . ..” [WTKR-TV (Hampton Roads, Va., 10-18-2013]

Readers’ Choice

(1) Among the things responders mentioned in Public Policy Polling’s October release as being viewed more favorably than the U.S. Congress were hermorrhoids, DMV, and toenail fungus. The same firm’s polling earlier in the year showed Congress less likeable than root canals, head lice, colonoscopies, and Donald Trump, but back then, Congress did beat out telemarketers, ebola virus, and meth labs. (2) Among the reported personal-residence expenditures provoking Pope Francis in October to remove Limburg, Germany, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst: his bathtub (equivalent of about $20,000), cupboards and carpentry ($550,000), and artwork ($690,000). (Days later, the Vatican announced that the church would open a soup kitchen at the bishop’s mansion.) [Public Policy Polling via USA Today, 10-8-2013; Public Policy Polling, 1-8-2013] [, 10-24-2013; The Independent (London), 10-27-2013]

A News of the Weird Classic (May 2008)

People With Too Much Money: In April [2008] the Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome (which the year before created a watch made from remnants of the Titanic) introduced the “Day&Night” watch, which unfortunately does not provide a reading of the hour or the minute. Though it retails for about $300,000, it only tells whether it is “day” or “night” (using a complex measurement of the earth’s gravity). CEO Yvan Arpa said studies show that two-thirds of rich people “don’t [use] their watch to tell what time it is,” anyway. Anyone can buy a watch that tells time, he told a Reuters reporter, but only a “truly discerning customer” will buy one that doesn’t. [Wall Street Journal, 4-25-2008]

Thanks This Week to Roy Henock and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Nov 10, 2013 - Comments (4)

November 9, 2013

Global Warming Solved

Nike recently filed a patent application for "a golf ball that includes carbon dioxide absorbents in order that the golf ball may reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to aid in alleviating global warming."

So if we all just play more golf, that global warming thing should be reversed in no time! [via Mother Jones]

Posted By: Alex - Sat Nov 09, 2013 - Comments (7)
Category: Inventions, Sports

Captain Tootsie

[Click to enlarge]

I think it's high time we revived Captain Tootsie as corporate spokeshero. In fact, from now on I intend to make the "T for Tootsie countersign" whenever I am in distress--such as from eating too many Tootsie Pops!

Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Nov 09, 2013 - Comments (4)

November 8, 2013

November 7, 2013

Mummies, Cannibals, and Vampires

Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians. Based on the opening paragraphs, it sounds like this book covers material sure to appeal to those who enjoy weird history:

For well over 200 years in early modern Europe, the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate all participated in cannibalism on a more or less routine basis. Drugs were made from Egyptian mummies and from the dried bodies of those drowned in North African desert sandstorms. Later in the era the corpses of hanged criminals offered a new and less exotic source of human flesh. Human blood was also swallowed: sometimes fresh and hot, direct from a donor's body, sometimes dried, powdered, or distilled with alchemical precision. Human fat was one of the most enduring substances of all: it was usually applied externally in the form of ointments or plasters. Certain parts of the bone of the skull were swallowed as powder or in liquid distillations. In London chemists' shops one could see entire human skulls for sale. Some had a growth of botanical moss, which could be powdered and used to treat nosebleeds and other forms of haemorrhaging. Both skull bone and the moss of the skull should — most authorities agreed — be derived from a man who had met a violent death, preferably by hanging or drowning.

These were the most common drugs derived from the human body. But, as we will see, for certain practitioners and patients, there was almost nothing between the head and the feet which could not be used in some way: hair, brain, heart, skin, liver, urine, menstrual blood, placenta, earwax, saliva and faeces. Medicinal cannibalism was practised to some extent in the Middle Ages. But, with nice irony, it became most popular and pervasive in the era when reports of New World cannibals were circulating amidst the outraged Christians of Rome, Madrid, London and Wittenberg.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 07, 2013 - Comments (6)
Category: Medicine

Samuel Rowlett, the Peripatetic Artist

Artist Samuel Rowlett got tired of working in his studio, so he rigged up a device that allows him to carry a large canvas and chairs on his back, and he hikes around outside with this. According to "Mr. Rowlett has worn it while trekking through a Western Massachusetts snowfall, wading through a Connecticut riverbed and ambling through the streets of New York."

Sounds like Rowlett should team up with the "walking artist" Hamish Fulton. They'd make quite a pair.

And the same Gallerist NY article contains another nugget of weirdness:

"In some anthropology departments, they're now doing walking as a Ph.D.," said performance artist Moira Williams, who is a founding member of the New York Walk Exchange, a group that develops creative walks that emphasize the body as "a way to produce and transmit knowledge." Her projects are more explicit performances, which intervene in the world. For one ongoing work, Exchange, she glued seeds beneath her arm. Days later, when they germinated, she transplanted them into the pouch of a shirt she tailored with a built-in watering system and roamed her mystified neighborhood asking residents for water. When the seedlings grew, she planted them into a barren patch of earth, an act that emphasized her physical relationship with the environment.

I spent quite a few years pursuing a PhD that I never completed. If I had known there was the option of getting a PhD in Walking, that would have changed everything.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 07, 2013 - Comments (7)
Category: Art

Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge

No soundtrack, but it's still better than 90% of current Hollywood productions.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Nov 07, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Amateurs and Fans, Movies, Books, 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.

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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.

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