A Weird Universe News Service
April 17, 2017
Sounds Like a Too-Easy Joke: Researchers in Germany, flummoxed by female patients bodies rejecting ovarian cancer medications, are trying . . as delivery vehicles . . umm . . sperm cells. [Phys.org]
Want! Now! If you have hopelessly noisy apartment neighbors, there's a simple device in China called a "building shaker" that will ruin . . their . . evening. Please, just take my money! [Shanghaiist]
Checked the wrong box on a U.S. visa application, signaling that, indeed, this 3-month-old UK baby has done "terrorist actvities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide"? Embassy officials took 10 hours out of his and his family's lives to get it resolved. (Plus, will baby Harvey Kenyon-Cairns forever be on the database?) [The Guardian]
As of this month, many streetside bars in India were forced to close because they weren't at least "500 meters" removed from a state or national highway. Not closing: the Aishwarya Bar in Kerala state, which built a serpentine maze between the street and its front door, requiring 520 meters' worth of stepping. [India Times]
A current NYC fight between a high-rise co-op and a higher-rise going up next door is getting ugly. One lady in the former whined that "several" of her Picassos "would be deprived of optimal lighting" by the new building. [NY Post]
Suspicion Confirmed: If you removed a "controversial" scholar's name from his carefully researched and reasoned work, and presented only the ideas themselves to focus groups divided by self-proclaimed ideologies, you might find that today's quick-trigger outrages are wa-a-a-ay overblown. Two Cornell professors did. [NY Times]
And Anna "facilitated communication" Stubblefield is back in court, demanding a new trial. She and only she knows what the poor invalid in a semi-vegetative state is thinking, and what he is thinking, she says, is l-u-u-v-v! [Slate]
Eccentric composer Erik Satie wrote "Vexations," a four-line piece of music, around 1893, though that date is a guess because it remained undiscovered until his death in 1925. It was an unexceptional piece of music (by design), except for the instructions he attached that seemed to indicate that it should be played "840 times in succession" by a pianist who should "prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." It's not clear why he chose the number 840.
It was first performed in September 1963 at the Pocket Theater in Manhattan. Composer John Cage arranged for a relay team of 10 pianists to play the entire thing, 840 times. The entire performance lasted 18 hours and 40 minutes.
There was a $5 admission fee for audience members, but you got 5 cents back for every 20 minutes you listened to it. Joel Meltz sat through the whole thing, so ended up getting a refund of $2.80.
It's subsequently been performed a number of times and is, of course, available on YouTube. Check out the video below of the guy who plays the entire thing, alone, in under 10 hours.
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M523, April 16, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Samuel West announced in April that his Museum of Failure will open in Helsingborg, Sweden, in June, to commemorate innovation missteps that might serve as inspiration for future successes. Among the initial exhibits: coffee-infused Coca-Cola; the Bic "For Her" pen (because women's handwriting needs are surely unique); the Twitter Peak (a 2009 device that does nothing except send and receive tweets--and with a screen only 25 characters wide); and Harley-Davidson's 1990s line of colognes (in retrospect as appealing, said West, as "oil and gas fumes"). (West's is only the latest attempt to immortalize failure with a "museum." Previous attempts, such as those in 2007 and 2014, apparently failed.) [CBC Radio, 4-6-2017]
Government In Action
Toronto, Ontario, Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz finally ridded his docket of the maddening, freeloading couple that had quibbled incessantly about each other's "harassments." Neither Noora Abdulaali, 32, nor her now-ex-husband Kadhim Salih, 43, had worked a day in the five years since they immigrated from Iraq, having almost immediately gone on disability benefits and begun exploiting Legal Aid Toronto in their many attempts to one-up each other with restraining orders. Approving the couple's settlement in March, Judge Pazaratz added, "The next time anyone at Legal Aid Ontario tells you they're short of money, don't believe it. Not if they're funding cases like this." [Toronto Sun, 3-17-2017]
In May, a new restaurant-disclosure regulation mandated by the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to kick in, requiring eateries (except small chains and independents) to post calorie counts for all menu items including "variations'--which a Domino's Pizza executive said meant, for his company, "34 million" calorie listings. The executive called the regulation, for the pizza industry, "a 20th-century approach to a 21st-century question" since for many establishments, orders increasingly arrive online or by phone. [Washington Post, 4-7-2017]
(1) Dennis Smith, 65, was arrested in Senoia, Ga., and charged with stealing dirt from the elderly widow of the man Smith said had given him permission to take it. Smith, a "dirt broker," had taken more than 180 dump-truck loads. (2) New for Valentine's Day from the SayItWithBeef.com company: a bouquet of beef jerky slices, formed to resemble a dozen full-petaled roses ($59). Also available: daisies. Chief selling point: Flowers die quickly, but jerky is forever. [WAGA-TV (Atlanta), 3-30-2017] [Mother Nature News, 2-1-2017]
New World Order
In March, Harvard Medical School technicians announced a smartphone app to give fertility-conscious men an accurate semen analysis, including sperm concentration, motility, and total count--costing probably less than $10. Included is a magnification attachment and a "microfluidic" chip. The insertable app magnifies and photographs the "loaded" chip, instantly reporting the results. (To answer the most frequent question: No, semen never touches your phone.) (The device still needs Food and Drug Administration approval.) [NPR, 3-22-2017]
Hipsters on the Rise: (1) The Columbia Room bar in Washington, D.C., recently introduced the "In Search of Time Past" cocktail-- splashed with the tincture of old, musty books. Management vacuum-sealed pages with grapeseed oil, then "fat-washed" them with a "neutral high-proof" spirit, and added a vintage sherry, mushroom cordial, and eucalyptus. (2) The California reggae rock band Slightly Stoopid recently produced a vinyl record of songs that was "smokeable," according to Billboard magazine--using a "super resinous variety of hashish" mastered at the Los Angeles studio Capsule Labs. The first two versions' sound quality disappointed and were apparently quickly smoked, but a third is in production. [Washingtonian, 11-30-2016] [Billboard, 1-19-2017]
The telephone "area" code in the tony English city of Bath (01225) is different than that of adjacent Radstock (01761) and probably better explained by landline telephone infrastructure than legal boundary. However, a Bath councilwoman said in April that she is dealing with complaints by 10 new residents who paid high-end prices for their homes only to find that they came with the 01761 code. Admitted one Bath resident, "I do consider my phone number to be part of my identity." [SomersetLive, 4-5-2017]
Magnificent Evolvers: (1) Human populations in Chile's Atacama desert have apparently developed a tolerance for arsenic 100 times as powerful as the World Health Organization's maximum safe level (according to recent research by University of Chile scientists). (2) While 80 percent of Americans age 45 or older have calcium-cluttered blood veins (atherosclerosis), about 80 percent of Bolivian Tsimane hunter-gatherers in the Amazon have clean veins, according to an April report in The Lancet. (Keys for having "the healthiest hearts in the world": walk a lot and eat monkey, wild pig, and piranha.) [New Scientist, 2-22-2017] [NPR, 3-21-2017; The Lancet, 3-17-2017]
Awesome: (1) University of Basel biologists writing in the journal Science of Nature in March calculated that the global population of spiders consumes at least 400 million tons of prey yearly--about as much, by weight, as the total of meat and fish consumed by all humans. (2) University of Utah researchers trained surveillance cameras on dead animals in a local desert to study scavenger behavior and were apparently astonished to witness the disappearances of two bait cows. Over the course of five days, according to the biologists' recent journal article, two different badgers, working around the clock for days, had dug adjacent holes and completely buried the cows (for storage and/or to keep the carcasses from competitors). [BBC News, 3-15-2017] [NPR, 4-4-2017]
News You Can Use: A study published in the journal Endocrinology in March suggested that "whole-body" vibration may be just as effective as regular "exercise." (The Fine Print: Vibration was shown only to aid "global bone formation," which is not as useful for some people as "weight loss," which was not studied, and anyway, the study was conducted on mice. Nonetheless, even for a mouse immobile on a vibrating machine, muscles contracted and relaxed multiple times per second. This "Fine Print" will soon be useful when hucksters learn of the study and try to sell gullible humans a "miracle" weight-loss machine.) [Endocrinology, 3-15-2017]
Wild Maryland! (1) Prince George's County police officer James Sims, 30, pleaded guilty to four counts of misdemeanor "visual surveillance with prurient interest" and in February was sentenced to probation (though his termination investigation was still ongoing). His fourth event, said prosecutors, in a Sports Authority store, was taking an upskirt photo of a woman who, as Sims discovered, was also a cop. (2) A Worcester County (Md.) judge fined Ellis Rollins $1,000 in February and gave him a suspended sentence--for the June 2016 ostentatious nude dancing and sex with his wife at an Ocean City, Md., hotel window in view of other people on holiday. At the time, Rollins was the Cecil County, Md., state's attorney but has since resigned. [Washington Post, 2-14-2017] [WTOP Radio (Washington), 2-17-2017]
Timeless Sayings In The News
A tanker truck overturned on a Los Angeles freeway on April 4th, spilling its contents, injuring seven and inconveniencing hundreds (with at least a few surely tearful, since the tanker was hauling milk). And, at a Parks Canada station restroom in Banff, Alberta, on April 1st, visitors found the door locked and, inexplicably, three black bear cubs inside (although they were not reported to have "used" the facilities so it is still safe to assume that bears relieve themselves "in the woods"). [Los Angeles Daily News, 4-4-2017] [Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News, 4-7-2017]
A News of the Weird Classic (July 2013)
Too Much Information: During a June  debate in a House Rules Committee abortion hearing, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, himself an obstetrician/gynecologist, urged an even earlier ban, based on research on fetal pain, which Burgess said is felt at 15 weeks and not a law's proposed 20 weeks. “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week-old baby,” said Burgess, “and they have movements that are purposeful.” “If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs.” (Thus, if they feel pleasure, he concluded, they should also feel pain.) [The Atlantic, 6-18-2013]
Thanks This Week to Stan Kaplan and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Many years ago the favourite phrase (for, though but a monosyllable, it was a phrase in itself) was Quoz. This odd word took the fancy of the multitude in an extraordinary degree, and very soon acquired an almost boundless meaning. When vulgar wit wished to mark its incredulity, and raise a laugh at the same time, there was no resource so sure as this popular piece of slang. When a man was asked a favour which he did not choose to grant, he marked his sense of the suitor's unparalleled presumption by exclaiming Quoz! When a mischievous urchin wished to annoy a passenger, and create mirth for his comrades, he looked him in the face, and cried out Quoz! and the exclamation never failed in its object. When a disputant was desirous of throwing a doubt upon the veracity of his opponent, and getting summarily rid of an argument which he could not overturn, he uttered the word Quoz, with a contemptuous curl of his lip and an impatient shrug of his shoulders. The universal monosyllable conveyed all his meaning, and not only told his opponent that he lied, but that he erred egregiously if he thought that any one was such a nincompoop as to believe him. Every alehouse resounded with Quoz; every street-corner was noisy with it, and every wall for miles around was chalked with it.
But, like all other earthly things, Quoz had its season, and passed away as suddenly as it arose, never again to be the pet and the idol of the populace.
A Weird Universe News Service
April 14, 2017
"Olfactory molestation" for cooking fried fish. A court in Rome ordered a $2,150 fine (€2,025). [New York Post]
Specialization: "I don't break into houses," said Joseph Woznik, 23, "only churches. I break in to get back at God." [New York Daily News]
Fake News: A girl,10-12 yrs old, was supposedly found living among monkeys (and acting like them) in India, and the news business went tumescent. Turns out just that she had been kicked out by her family recently. [The Independent]
Does "Sh*t Happen"? Happened to this guy driving a Renault convertible with the top down near Munich, thanks to a wayward slop tractor. [Associated Press]
Chicago really is The Badlands: Neither father age 43 nor son 22 cared to walk the dog that day and eventually settled it by gunfight. Son dead, father critical. [Chicago Tribune]
Grossest thing Yr Editor has seen this week: artist Mariana Shumkova's "monument to toothache" in St. Petersburg, Russia, made in part from actual removed human teeth (but even if it didn't, ewwwww!) [Pravda]
It's not Alan Atalah's mugshot; it's his personnel-file photo, meaning he was trying his best to look normal, but he probably had no idea he'd one day hand in an external drive with research materials that also accidentally included sexually explicit erotica that Prof. Atalah likes for diversion. Hence, photographic perfection! [Cleveland Scene]
An example of the literary genre of the spiteful check was recently in the news.
Scott Dion of Havre, Montana is complaining because the check he sent the city for his property taxes hasn't been cashed. Perhaps because he wrote "sexual favors" in the memo line. Though it's noted that "tax checks he sent in the past with similar memo line notes have been cashed." [NBC Montana]
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.