Weird Universe Archive

May 2015

May 31, 2015

News of the Weird (May 31, 2015)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M425, May 31, 2015
Copyright 2015 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

When officials in Richmond, Calif., learned in 2009 that 70 percent of the city’s murders and firearms assaults were directly linked to 17 people, they decided on a bold program: to pay off those 17 to behave themselves. For a budget of about $1.2 million a year, it offers individual coaching, health care coverage, and several hundred dollars a month in stipends to former thugs who stick to their “life map” of personal goals and conflict-resolution training. According to an April report on public radio’s “This American Life,” Richmond is no longer among the most dangerous towns in America, with the murder rate in fact having fallen from its all-time yearly high of 62 to 11 last year. [WBEZ Radio (Chicago) via (Sydney, Australia), 4-30-2015]

Can’t Possibly Be True

One might believe that a 6th-grader, suspended for a whole year after school officials found a “marijuana” leaf in his backpack, might be immediately un-suspended if authorities (after three field tests) found the leaf was neither marijuana nor anything else illegal. Not, however, at Bedford Middle School in Roanoke, Va., whose officials said they had acted on gossip that students called the leaf “marijuana,” and therefore under the state schools’ “lookalike-drug” policy, the 6th-grader was just as guilty as if the leaf were real. Formerly a high-achiever student, he has, since last September, suffered panic attacks and is under the care of a pediatric psychiatrist, and his parents filed a federal lawsuit in February. [Roanoke Times, 3-14-2015]

The Job of Researcher

Biologist Regine Gries of Canada’s Simon Fraser University devotes every Saturday to letting about 5,000 bedbugs suck blood from her arm--in research by Gries and her biologist-husband Gerhard to develop a pheromone-based “trap” that can lure the bugs from infested habitats like bedding. (She estimates having been bitten 200,000 times since the research began, according to a May Wired magazine report.) Regine holds each mesh-topped jar of bugs against her arm for about 10 minutes each (which Gerhard cannot do because he is allergic)--leading of course to hours of itchiness and swelling in the name of progress. [Wired, May 2015]

The Continuing Crisis

The three gentle grammar pedants (one an environmental lawyer calling himself “Agente Ponto Final,” i.e., “Agent Period”) devoted to ridding Quito, Ecuador, of poorly written street graffiti have been patrolling the capital since November 2014, identifying misplaced commas and other atrocities and making sneaky corrective raids with spray paint. Ponto Final told the Washington Post in March that he acts out of “moral obligation”--that “punctuation matters, commas matter, accents matter.” As police take vandalism seriously in Quito, the three must act stealthily, in hoodies and ski masks, with one always standing lookout. [Washington Post, 3-6-2015]

Suspicions Confirmed

Almost half of the DNA collected from a broad swath of the New York City subway system matched no known organism and less than 1 percent was human. Weill Cornell Medical College researchers announced in February that they had identified much DNA by swabbing passenger-car and station surfaces, with abundant matches to beetles and flies (and even traces of inactive anthrax and bubonic plague) but that since so few organisms have been fully DNA-“sequenced,” there was no cause for alarm. The lead researcher fondly compared the bacteria-teeming subway to a “rain forest,” deserving “awe and wonder” that “there are all these species” that so far cause humans relatively little harm. [New York Times, 2-5-2015]

Latest Religious Messages

“I’m doing what God wants,” Mike Holpin, 56, told British TV’s Channel 5 in April. “In the Bible God says go forth and multiply,” said the unemployed former carny who claims to have “fathered” at least 40 children (now aged from 3 to 37) by 20 different women. Holpin has been married three times, and lives with his fiancee Diane and two kids in the Welsh town of Cwm (“near Ebbw Vale”). “I [will] never stop,” Holpin said. “I’m as fertile as sin . . ..” [Daily Telegraph, 4-1-2015]

First Things First

(1) A 21-year-old man in Hefei, China, collapsed in May after 14 straight days of Internet gaming, yet when paramedics revived him, the man begged them to leave and put him back in front of the screen. Then, two weeks later in Nanchung, China, a 24-year-old female gamer took only a minutes-long break at an Internet café at 4 a.m. to head to a rest room and give birth--returning with her blood-covered baby in her arms to resume her place at the mouse pad. (London’s Daily Telegraph, reporting from Beijing in May, estimated that China has 24 million Internet “addicts.”) [Anhui Business Review via Daily Telegraph (London), 5-4-2015] [People’s Daily Online via Daily Mail (London), 5-15-2015]

Fine Points of the Law

It takes only four of the U.S. Supreme Court justices to accept a case for review, but it takes five to stay an execution. On January 23rd, the Court accepted the case challenging Oklahoma’s death penalty chemicals, but the lead challenger, Charles Warner, lacking that fifth “stay” vote, had been executed eight days earlier (using the challenged chemicals), during the time the justices were deliberating. (The case, Warner vs. Gross, was immediately re-named Glossip vs. Gross, but Richard Glossip himself was scheduled to die on January 28th. Then, without explanation, at least one other justice supplied Glossip’s missing fifth vote, and, with one day to spare, his execution was stayed until the challenge to the chemicals is resolved.) [New York Times, 1-26-2015]

Only 17 states have specific laws to protect against “revenge porn” (exposing ex-lovers’ intimate images online as retaliation for a break-up), but a possible solution in the other states, reported CNN in April, is for the victim to file a “takedown” demand under the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which would subject the avenger to penalties for not removing the images. However, to prove copyright, the victim must file copies of the bawdy images with the U.S. Copyright Office, increasing the victim’s trauma (though an Office spokesman told CNN that only the Copyright examiner would see them). [CNN Wire via WTKR-TV (Hampton Roads, Va.), 4-27-2015]

Recurring Themes

Drivers Hit With Their Own Cars Recently: (1) A 64-year-old woman was knocked down by her in-gear minivan in Lake Crystal, Minn., as she got out to retrieve something from her house (March). (2) A man in South Centre Township, Pa., was hospitalized after leaving his idling car to adjust something under the hood and apparently adjusted the wrong thing, sending the car thrusting forward (February). (3) Jamie Vandegraaf, 23, was slammed by his own car as he leaped from the driver’s side (not far enough to clear the door, apparently) to avoid South Portland, Maine, police and U.S. Marshals pursuing him concerning the robbery of a Shaw’s supermarket (April). [Associated Press via KARE-TV (Minneapolis), 3-13-2015] [WNEP-TV (Moosic, Pa.), 2-22-2015] [Bangor Daily News, 4-3-2015]

From the Third-World Press

Mohamed Nafiu was arrested in Lagos, Nigeria, in April and charged with robbery after he and his pet baboon intercepted a pedestrian leaving a bank and frightened him into fleeing, leaving his money behind. Police said the versatile baboon had also previously snatched victims’ valuables. [Information Nigeria (Lagos), 3-28-2015]

Police in eastern South Africa were searching in May for the three women who accosted a man in KwaZakhele Township, near Port Elizabeth, raped him in the back seat of a black BMW, collected his semen in a cooler, and sped away without him. Constable Mncedi Mbombo told the Sowetan Live website, “This is really confusing to us because we have never heard of such a thing before.” [Sowetan Live (Johannesburg), 5-7-2015]

A News of the Weird Classic (January 2011)

The Key Underwood Memorial Graveyard near Cherokee, Ala., is reserved as hallowed ground for burial of genuine coon dogs, which must be judged authentic before their carcasses can be accepted, according to a December [2010] report in the Birmingham News. The Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Association must attest to the dog's having had the ability "to tree a raccoon." (In March [2010], a funeral for one coon dog at Key Underwood drew 200 mourners.) [Birmingham News, 12-30-2010]

Thanks This Week to Mark Wojahn and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun May 31, 2015 - Comments (5)

Love’s Baby Soft, 1975 Commercial

Posted By: Alex - Sun May 31, 2015 - Comments (4)
Category: Video, Advertising, 1970s

Captain Z-Ro

Wikipedia page.

Posted By: Paul - Sun May 31, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Television, Children, Science Fiction, 1950s

May 30, 2015

Flying Aircraft Carrier

Concept airplane from 1955. Jet fighters would land on top of it, then be lowered below on the ramp. It reminded me of the flying aircraft carrier (or "helicarrier") from the Avengers movies.

1955 Concept "Flying Airfield" -- Source: Life - Sep 26, 1955

Avengers' Helicarrier

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 30, 2015 - Comments (8)
Category: Air Travel and Airlines

Muskogee Stomp Dance

The level of ritual fervor seems decidedly low here. Also, lack of vintage garb is rather incongruous. All in all, I suspect, a pale shadow of what once was a vital artform.

Posted By: Paul - Sat May 30, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Costumes and Masks, Regionalism, Dance, Native Americans

May 29, 2015

Ezekiel Bread

The Bible contains only one full recipe, which is given to Ezekiel by God (Ezekiel 4:9):

Take you also to you wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make you bread thereof… And you shall eat it as barley cakes, and you shall bake it with dung that comes out of man.

So you gotta bake it with human poop, which means it might not be to everyone's taste. Though God subsequently relented and allowed Ezekiel to substitute cow dung.

This was one of the recipes explored by the Rev. Rayner Hesse and Anthony Chiffolo in their book Cooking With the Bible (it came out in 2006), in which they set out to recreate the various meals and foods that appear throughout the Bible. Apparently they cooked up some Ezekiel bread, as an experiment, and Hesse said it tastes "like moldy bean sprouts." But he added, "You don't want to eat it. Never, ever. Let me emphasize that: Never."

Other treats to be found in the book include Locust Soup, and Locusts and Honey. More info at the LA Times.

Posted By: Alex - Fri May 29, 2015 - Comments (10)
Category: Food, Cookbooks

Oodles of Boodle and Batches of Scratch

Posted By: Paul - Fri May 29, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Music, 1950s, Slang

May 28, 2015

Norwegian Navy Beard Form

If sailors in the Norwegian Navy want to grow a beard, they must submit a form requesting permission to do so. This form should include a drawing of what their beard will look like. Redditor "aellgutta" recently shared a photo of such a form that he submitted, along with a translation:

On the top it says "BEARD APPLICATION", then it's rank/ military ID-number, full name and platoon/ division. Then it says "Reason:" to which I wrote "I get irritated skin from daily shaving and it's starting to get cold outside." Under the sketch I drew, it says "DRAW HERE!" and at the bottom the Lieutenant has written that he will inspect it after the next excercise (which gave me about 2,5 weeks) followed by a stamp to show my application was accepted.

Posted By: Alex - Thu May 28, 2015 - Comments (8)
Category: Military, Hair Styling

Rare Instance of VW Beetle Seeming Sexy

Romance over practicality? What were they thinking?

Posted By: Paul - Thu May 28, 2015 - Comments (6)
Category: Advertising, Sex Symbols, 1950s, Europe, Cars

May 27, 2015

Woman Bites Dog

Crazy lady told her son that if he eats all the meat she will eat his dog. Apparently, not believing her, he ate all the meat. Inexplicably she made good on her threat by starting with the poor animal's testicles which she bit off. One would think a pit bull would fight back but he just ran off screeching in pain. Crazy lady then used an old tricycle to knock out a witness who tried to intervene and made her son bury her with a piece of garden hose to breathe through. The last was to hide from police, not successfully. Ta Da!!!!!!

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 27, 2015 - Comments (6)
Category: Animals, Scary Criminals, Can’t Possibly Be True, Genitals, Pain, Self-inflicted and Otherwise, Teeth, Eating

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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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