June 1992: Dick W. Pirkey Jr., a teacher at Harmony High School in Texas, was fired from his job after a student in his animal husbandry class castrated a pig with his mouth. Pirkey acknowledged that he had described such a procedure to his students, but insisted that the 17-year-old had performed the procedure without his permission and before he could stop it.
Seven months elapsed between the incident and Pirkey's termination. Explaining the delay, the School Superintendent admitted that when the board had first heard about the in-class oral castration they had thought it was a joke and that someone was trying to play a trick on them.
Pirkey appealed his termination, noting that oral castration was described in a state-approved textbook, and that it was also "routinely practiced throughout the state, but not in our locale, and is normally performed on sheep."
However, his firing was ultimately upheld by the State Commissioner of Education who pointed out that instead of stepping in to stop the student from performing the procedure, Pirkey had actually taken pictures of him as he did it. In fact, Pirkey even took a picture of the student "holding the testicle overhead in a victory stance."
The idea behind this coffin, created and sold by Tibbetts Woodworking of Windsor Massachusetts during the early 1990s, was that you would buy it while you were still alive and healthy — use it as a bookshelf, wine rack, or display case — and then get buried in it. It cost $365 for knotty eastern white pine, or $505 for oak or cherry. Below is text from the brochure:
What is a Life Coffin?
It is a simple, honest, rectangular wooden coffin, custom-made to your dimensions in a small woodworking shop in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.
Until your funeral, your coffin can be used as a bookcase (by ordering a number of adjustable shelves), or for wine storage (by ordering twelve-bottle storage units), or for a combination of books and important objects in your life.
The coffin lid hangs on the back of the coffin while it is being used as a bookcase. When you're ready for burial, the lid is attached with maple dowel pins. No liner is included.
Why Would Anyone Buy a Life Coffin?
Death is an inevitable part of your life. Buying a coffin now can help begin a process of education and acceptance. By seeing your coffin every day, you will be reminded of the preciousness of your physical life. This perspective on your daily hassles can bring you to celebrate the miracle of your life.
A Life Coffin will act as a catalyst for discussion with your family and friends, helping you to open up to difficult feelings concerning your death and funeral. And when all is said and done, you can rest peacefully, knowing that you are enclosed in a coffin to which you have added personal meaning.
May 1999: the U.S. Postal Service had printed 100 million copies of a stamp showing the Grand Canyon before anyone noticed that the stamp had "Grand Canyon, Colorado" printed in the corner. Luckily, the stamps hadn't been released to the public yet, but they all had to be destroyed and replaced with a new stamp which correctly placed the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
According to the site canyonology.com, the problems with the stamp didn't end there. It was discovered that the image of the canyon had been flipped left to right, but the postal service decided this wasn't enough of an error to warrant reprinting the stamp.
In May 1990, five shipping containers holding approximately 80,000 pairs of Nike shoes fell off a freighter during a storm in the North Pacific. About 200 days later, some of these shoes began to wash up on beaches from Canada down to Oregon.
But as beachcombers collected and compared the shoes, they noticed something odd. On beaches up north, in Canada and Washington, almost all the shoes were right-footed; whereas further south in Oregon, most of the shoes were left-footed.
The slight toe curvature of left- and right-footed shoes caused the right-footed shoes to tack northeastward into the Alaska Current, passing the Queen Charlottes along the way, where many beached. Meanwhile, the left-footed Nikes tacked snugly into the southeast-bound California Current, and as it passed Oregon, were caught on an incoming tide.
Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer co-authored an academic paper about the 1990 shoe spill ("Shoe spill in the North Pacific" -- unfortunately behind a paywall). It also inspired him to start studying other ocean flotsam, such as rubber duckies, as a way to gain info about currents. He calls this study 'flotsametrics'. He also occasionally puts out a Beachcombers' Alert Newsletter.
Richard Manderson first created a series of small raspberry fondant filled chocolate Jesuses that were sold for consumption to visitors of Gorman House Arts Centre in Canberra, an Australian cultural centre and heritage site that runs theatres, workshops, exhibition space, artists' studios, offices and a café.
When a US newspaper condemned his act of depicting Jesus on a chocolate, Manderson decided in answer to create an actual life-size chocolate Jesus he called Trans-substantiation 2. He did so by filling a plaster mold with fifty-five pounds of melted chocolate. He used chocolate-dipped strings for hair and plastic Easter wrap for a loincloth. Manderson's work was exhibited in public around Easter in 1994, with Manderson inviting the public to come and eat his chocolate Jesus work after the exhibition.
In 1991, the Pennsylvania legislature's Youth and Aging Committee changed its name to the Aging and Youth Committee. Why?
Some suggested that the change was made because people got confused about the panel’s name. "When you say ‘youth and aging’ repeatedly and quickly, some people hear the word euthanasia,” said Kevin Murphy, press secretary for the state Department of Aging.
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.