The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'bizarre'

2014/4/8

Gonzo drug runner turned antivirus magnate turned flamboyant oddball John McAfee does an interview at Slashdot, giving detailed advice for anyone conducting sketchy business in Central America:

In order to make the most of your travels, you need to first understand that, throughout much of the Third World, there is a smoothly functioning “system” in place that has evolved over centuries. From the First World perspective it is a “corrupt” system, but that’s not a helpful word if you want to acquire the most effective attitude for dancing with it. I prefer “negotiable”. It focuses the mind on the true task at hand when dealing with officialdom and removes any unpleasant subconscious connotations. So if you can view the following tools and tips as negotiation guidelines it will help bring the necessary smile to your face when the situation requires one.
Documentation is the polite word for “cash” ... Nothing irks locals more than someone who produces documentation in excess of what is expected. It ruins the system for the rest of the population. The Police begin to expect more from everyone, and the populace is then burdened beyond any sense of reasonableness. I might mention that checkpoints for any given location in most countries are set up no more than once a week, and frequent travelers reach accommodations with the authorities so that they are not unnecessarily burdened to the point that they are single-handedly putting the policeman’s children through school. The police are, by and large, honest people with hearts, and few truly abuse the system.
What does happen, and it seems to work reasonably well, is that when a crime is committed, a random person who everyone believes should belong in jail is arrested. Sometimes more than one. If the person or persons, does not have an airtight alibi, such as being in attendance at some other jail during the time of the crime, or performing at a live concert with hundreds of people watching during the time of the crime, then the person, or persons, is charged and generally goes to jail. Exceptions are relatives and friends of powerful people who are never charged for anything under any circumstances, even if an entire town witnesses them engaging in any illegal act, including murder. Local judges are instructed in how to decide cases by the most powerful person in the town and it all seems to work smoothly and efficiently.
What advice would you give to [Peter Norton] to get his name off the second worst software on the planet?
McAfee: Yes. Grow a beard.

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2014/2/26

The latest thing in Williamsburg, the ground zero of the modern Hipster subculture and its gentrification, is facial hair transplants, for men who lack the ability to grow a luxuriant urban-woodsman beard otherwise:

"I get a lot of detail-oriented people — artists, architects," the doctor said, noting that beard-centric neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Bushwick and Park Slope have each delivered four to five clients to her practice in the past year.
In addition to beardless hipsters, doctors said their clients include men who have struggled since adolescence to grow a beard, those undergoing a gender transition from female to male, men with with facial scarring and Hasidic Jews who hope to achieve denser payot, or sidelocks. A greater awareness of facial hair transplants has also fueled the popularity of the procedure, doctors said.
The procedure involves transplanting follicles from the scalp to the face and costs $3000 to fill in a section or $7000 for a full beard; though given that Hipster is not a subculture for the unmoneyed, that should be no object. Perhaps, as Hipster gentrifies further, the next phase will be facial hair in naturally improbable places, as an unfalsifiable peacock-tail-like demonstration of both financial means and subcultural commitment

beards bizarre culture fashion hipsters peacock tails williamsburg 0 Share

2013/9/18

Builders of Star Trek-inspired rooms recently in the news: a convicted paedophile (or, to be precise, another one, though his Star Trek-inspired flat has been in the news previously), and the US National Security Agency.

bizarre nsa paedophilia psychology star trek surveillance voyeurism 0 Share

2013/1/29

Veteran video-game developer Jeff Minter took a break from being odd about ungulates to write up a tour of family computer ads of the early 1980s; you know, the ones with families standing around an Apple II or TI994/A, sharing a moment doing the household accounts on a TV screen, or just transfixed in awe at THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE, IN OUR LIVING ROOM TODAY:

Back at the start of the 80s cocaine use was particularly rampant, as evidenced by this buzzing Atari family. The three adult members are plainly off their tits. Mom is clenching like crazy. Older Daughter has a grin that reminds me of Aphex Twin, and Dad is on the verge of drooling while his eyebrows attempt to crawl off his face. All he can do is gesture limply with his right hand, presumably to the mirror just out of shot on top of the TV, indicating that someone should get busy and chop out some more lines with the platinum American Express card.
Here the McPervert family are shown reacting upon the occasion of their first exposure to Goatse.
What you can’t see is that the dog is in this family grouping too. He’s just stuck his nose right up Mom’s skirt, and boy is his nose cold.

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2012/12/11

In addition to inventing the death machine, helping terminally ill patients end their lives and serving eight years in prison for murder for having done so, Jack Kevorkian also painted. His paintings weren't like the all-too-ignorable kitsch painted by other historical figures like Hitler or Churchill, though, but something heavier odder; they had the surrealism ponderous, didactic symbolism of Eastern European poster art, and Kevorkian's obsessions—death and suffering—were everywhere:

During his prison years, Kevorkian published an anthology called glimmerIQs: A Florilegium, which compiled his serial limericks, philosophical manifestos and scientific treaties, reproductions of his paintings, and even handwriting samples and a natal chart, in case anyone wished to analyze him astrologically. In a chapter called “On Art,” Kevorkian rhymes:
The subjects of art should be more
Than the aspects of life we adore;
Because dark sides abound,
Surreal paintings profound
May help change a few things we abhor.
Kevorkian's artworks are on display at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts.

art bizarre death euthanasia jack kevorkian surrealism 0 Share

2012/9/9

Alternative operating system of the day: LoseThos. It was written from scratch over nine years, runs on a PC (in ring 0), and has a just-in-time compiler for a vaguely C-like language it uses; the inspirations were the Commodore 64 (whose flat memory map and easy accessibility to the bare metal made it eminently hackable) and the voice of God speaking to its creator (who, by his own admission, is schizophrenic) through random number generators.

There's a MetaFilter thread about it, which the creator has joined (under the name “losethos”), weighing in with technical descriptions of its implementation, justifications for design decisions (in which the kinds of insights about “elegance” and solutions which “smell right” that seasoned programmers have and quasi-theological justifications based on mystical revelation are often inextricably intertwined) and stream-of-consciousness revelations from the God who speaks through random numbers. A few choice quotes:

I wanted to make a souped-up, modern 64-bit, C64 so teenagers could do what I did in high school. I had the book Mapping the C64 and I had hours of fun poking and proding around with all the internals of the operationg system for cheap thrills. I wanted to let people control the hardware directly. I wanted something simple, to get your head around. LoseThos is two orders of magnitude simpler than Linux. LoseThos is 135,000 lines of code including my compiler. It is 100% self contained and complete. When I got Linux, I was disappointed because I thought "open source" meant I would have fun messing with the code. Linux tries to support so many architectures and has a main frame operating system, that it's too complex. LoseThos is way way way simpler. Plus it has many innovative ideas. It is not ASCII source code, for example.
Photorealism is graphic and panders to base nature of humans. 640x480 is innocent. How many of you are horrified by modern games, longing for a more innocent time?
As well as numerous revelations from God (whose favourite animals are apparently bears and elephants, and whose favourite band is The Beatles):
The hardest thing in evolution was getting monkey mothers to hold their babies for nursing.
God's favorite thing on TV is soap operas. Read the Bible. ROFLMAO. God likes the Beverly Hillbillies. God said Shakespeare had a vile heart. He said Christian rock was "musical privation". Good word. I like the word "Ambrosial". Go look it up. :-) I'm smug.

bizarre cs mental illness mystical experience operating systems psychoceramics schizophrenia theology 1 Share

2012/2/4

In 1995, the state legislature of New Mexico passed a law requiring psychologists and psychiatrists to be dressed as wizards when giving evidence in court:

When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…
The amendment passed unanimously, but was removed from the final law, to the detriment of the theatrical beard and Chinese gong industries.

a modest proposal bizarre law psychology usa 0 Share

2011/11/22

And in heritage rock news: archaeologists from York University have unearthed a fragment of Britain's cultural heritage: graffiti on the wall of a London flat shared by members of The Sex Pistols in the 1970s, including drawings believed to have been made by John Lydon:

"This is an important site, historically and archaeologically, for the material and evidence it contains. But should we retain it for the benefit of this and future generations?" they ask in a study of the drawings for Antiquity magazine.
I wonder what Lydon (who's surely not even dead yet) makes of being the subject of archaeological interest.

archaeology bizarre culture heritage rock punk uk wtf 2 Share

2011/8/29

The true story of an orangutan named Ken Allen:

Ken Allen was born in captivity at the San Diego Zoo in 1971. During the 1980s, Ken Allen gained worldwide attention for a series of three escapes from his enclosure, which had been thought to be escape-proof. During his escapes, first on June 13, 1985, again on July 29, 1985, and on August 13, 1985, Ken Allen would peacefully stroll around the zoo looking at other animals, and never acted violently or aggressively towards zoo patrons or other animals. Zookeepers were initially stymied over how Ken Allen had managed to escape. They began surveillance of his enclosure to try to catch him in the act, only to find that Ken Allen seemed to be aware that he was being watched for that very purpose. This forced zookeepers to go "undercover", posing as tourists to learn Ken Allen's escape route, but Ken Allen wasn't fooled.
I imagine, seen from Ken Allen's point of view, his predicament would be not too far from Patrick McGoohan's Number 6 in The Prisoner: kept captive in an ostensibly pleasant though distinctly unreal and unfree environment, by powerful, omniscient captors whose intentions are unknown, and gradually finding holes in their panopticon, patiently piecing together a plan and then making a bid to escape, before being confronted with the absurdity of his situation and the power of his captors.

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2011/6/17

Thames Town is a near-perfect replica of a model English market town, located 30 kilometres from Shanghai, replete with nonfunctional shops (peeling letters on the door of "Mike's Records" offer a selection of "blue soul" and "world music"), a pew-less stone church, red phone booths, areas with names like "Austen Garden", "Soho Area" and "Old Town Square", and more mock-Tudor timber framing than you could shake a stick at. It built over the past decade (along with eight other themed towns, including American, German, Italian and Swedish ones), and intended to accommodate 10,000 inhabitants. Unfortunately for its developers, living in a shanzhai little England didn't prove as popular as anticipated, and next to nobody actually lives there. The only industry currently thriving in Thames Town is wedding photography. (Though if they ever decide to do another remake of The Prisoner, perhaps they could film it there.) There is a photo set from Thames Town here.

(via Infrastructurist) bizarre china england fake shanzhai 0 Share

2011/6/14

Cognitive bias of the day: the name letter effect, which causes people to be subconsciously more favourably inclined to names and words that sound like their name:

The researchers then moved on to career choices. They combed the records of the American Dental Association and the American Bar association looking for people named either Dennis, Denice, Dena, Denver, et cetera, or Lawrence, Larry, Laura, Lauren, et cetera. That is: were there more dentists named Dennis and lawyers named Lawrence than vice versa? Of the various statistical analyses they performed, most said yes, some at < .001 level. Other studies determined that there was a suspicious surplus of geologists named Geoffrey, and that hardware store owners were more likely to have names starting with 'H' compared to roofing store owners, who were more likely to have names starting with 'R'.
Some other miscellaneous findings: people are more likely to donate to Presidential candidates whose names begin with the same letter as their own, people are more likely to marry spouses whose names begin with the same letter as their own, that women are more likely to show name preference effects than men (but why?), and that batters with names beginning in 'K' are more likely than others to strike out (strikeouts being symbolized by a 'K' on the records).

(via David Gerard) bizarre cognitive bias psychology 1 Share

2011/6/12

Patent absurdity of the day: US patent application 11/161,345, by a Christopher Anthony Roller, who attempted to patent his "Godly powers", to prevent other parties, such as the magician David Copperfield, from using them for less than godly purposes. The patent application (available via the USPTO's PAIR portal; search for application 11161345) also includes miscellaneous correspondence from Roller, where he rails against the Mafia-like collusion by the patent office with powerful vested interests (including professional magicians) that could be the only explanation for his application having been rejected, and produces details of his lawsuit against Copperfield, including copies of his claims to be God and Jesus Christ, to have killed all his enemies, and to be married to Celine Dion and running for President with Bill Gates as running mate.

bizarre law patents psychoceramics religiots 0 Share

2011/6/9

Tumblog of the day: Hate The Future (subtitle: "bad news from there"), a collection of found images (from current events, architectural concept images, science fiction artwork and random other sources), with vaguely ominous captions suggesting somewhat Ballardian scenarios, collected and written by journalist Miles Klee:

(via MeFi) bizarre humour paranoia tumblr 0 Share

2011/5/25

Prison administrators in China have found a new use for prison labour: putting inmates to work in multiplayer video games, generating in-game gold, which is then sold online for real money:

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.
"Prison bosses make more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."

bizarre china corruption gold farming human rights mmorpgs prison videogames 0 Share

2011/3/1

And today, in International Zionist Conspiracy news: the Iranian government has stated to the International Olympic Committee that it will boycott the 2012 Olympics unless the logo is changed, on the grounds that the logo spells the word "Zion" if you rearrange the elements of it, and thus is a coded assertion of British support for Israeli supremacy. Or perhaps Rastafarianism or something.

According to the state-backed Iranian Students News Agency, which is frequently used to convey official pronouncements, the letter says: "As internet documents have proved, using the word Zion in the logo of the 2012 Olympic Games is a disgracing action and against the Olympics' valuable mottos. There is no doubt that negligence of the issue from your side may affect the presence of some countries in the Games, especially Iran which abides by commitment to the values and principles."
Meanwhile, Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist group which rules half of the Palestinian territories, has vowed to prevent United Nations schools in its territories from teaching children about the Holocaust.
"We cannot agree to a programme that is intended to poison the minds of our children," said a statement from the ministry for refugee affairs. "Holocaust studies in refugee camps is a contemptible plot and serves the Zionist entity with a goal of creating a reality and telling stories in order to justify acts of slaughter against the Palestinian people."
Ging, a passionate advocate of the rights of Palestinian refugees and a vocal critic of Israel's policies towards Gaza, said Palestinian children needed to understand the great injustices of the 20th century, including the Holocaust, in order to fight legitimately for their own cause.

anti-semitism bizarre conspiracy theories iran palestine paranoia wtf 1 Share

2011/1/12

According to a computer analysis, the least interesting day in history was 11 April 1954; or, at least, in recent history. Only two newsworthy events occurred on that day: the death of a footballer and the birth of a Turkish physicist.

"The irony is, though, that - having done the calculation - the day is interesting for being exceptionally boring. Unless, that is, you are Abdullah Atalar.

bizarre history 1 Share

2011/1/9

Cultural/commercial artefact of the day: the Sense of Right Alliance. Found in discount shops, this consists of a random selection of knockoff action figures from a variety of different TV shows or animated movies:

The figures are generally of a superhero variety, but occasionally those assembling the selection (presumably in a factory in China) get the cultural subtleties wrong, with bizarre results:
SENSE of RIGHT ALLIANCE

(via Boing Boing) bizarre culture knockoffs shanzhai superheroes 0 Share

2011/1/6

During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship sank off the coast of Hartlepool, in the north of England. The only survivor was the ship's mascot, a monkey dressed in a naval uniform. The monkey made it to the shore, where it was captured by locals, who had never seen a monkey (this, you see, was before television, widespread literacy and public zoos), so they assumed that it was a Frenchman and hanged it as a spy. From this incident, the residents of Hartlepool became known as "monkey-hangers".

Almost 200 years later, Saudi Arabian security services have arrested a vulture tagged by an Israeli university wildlife resarch programme as a "Zionist spy".

Residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be linked to a "Zionist plot" and swiftly alerted security services. The bird has since been placed under arrest. The accusations went viral, according to the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained the birds for espionage.
The Israeli authorities have denied any espionage, and claimed that the bird was part of a long-term academic study of the migratory habits of the vulture.

It is not clear what sort of vulture-based intelligence the Israelis could be looking for.

(via Arbroath) bizarre history israel paranoia saudi arabia 1 Share

2011/1/3

An art exhibition in Berlin involves a hall divided into two parts, each of which containing six reindeer. One half of the reindeer are (possibly) fed fly agaric mushrooms, fabled by Lapp shamans to give their urine hallucinogenic properties. In the centre of the hall there is a hotel-like suite, which may be rented for €1,000 a night; the suite contains a minibar, which is stocked with bottles of urine collected from the reindeer; however, the bottles are not labelled as to which reindeer they came from. The title of this show is Soma, though an alternate title is "how to make hipsters pay €1,000 to drink piss". Pabst Blue Ribbon is the main sponsor.

Dorothée Brill, the museum's lead curator, says: "As far as we can tell, nobody's done anything they shouldn't have." Staff at the restaurant, however, report that some guests "drink the minibar dry".

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2010/12/22

Scientists at the University of Osaka have accidentally created a singing mouse. The mutant mouse doesn't have a particularly melodious song, but makes up for it by tweeting incessantly like a songbird.

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2010/11/29

It's paedogeddon: A school in Welwyn Garden City, north of London, has taken to blacking out pupils' eyes in school photographs, to prevent perverts from photoshopping their faces onto pornographic images. Each copy of a school photograph issued to a parent has the eyes of all children other than that parent's own occluded by black lines, just in case. Parents are also banned from taking photographs at the school's nativity play, just in case they might turn out to be paedophiles.

Applecroft Primary School has not commented on alleged plans to fit all children with containers containing pressurised sewage, which can be remotely detonated in the event of a paedophile attack.

bizarre paedoterrorists paranoia uk 1 Share

2010/11/28

Business models for the highly morally flexible:

  1. Advertise designer goods online, wait for orders, then defraud the customers, threaten them when they complain, and wait for negative online discussion to propel you to the top of Google's search rankings, or
  2. disguise yourself as a Big Issue vendor and steal and sell dogs left outside shops

(via MeFi, Arbroath) bizarre crime dogs evil fraud 0 Share

2010/11/11

A couple in New York are charged with defrauding a wealthy musician of somewhere between $6m and $20m after he asked them to remove a virus from his laptop. Vickram Bedi and Helga Invarsdottir, who operated a computer shop, allegedly discovered, upon learning of their client, pianist and PC user Roger Davidson's wealth (and possibly other things; perhaps his browsing history revealed a propensity for fantastic stories and/or conspiracy theories?), that the virus on his laptop was merely the tip of a vast, sinister conspiracy against him by intelligence agencies, foreign nationals and the shadowy Catholic sect Opus Dei (best known as the villains in a Dan Brown novel), and then offered him "24-hour protection" against the threats for the low, low price of $160,000 (a bargain for protection against the arrayed forces of evil itself, I'm sure you'll agree). Anyway, Bedi an Invarsdottir apparently managed to convince Davidson so well that he paid up, and kept paying for some six years.

bizarre conspiracy theories crime fraud paranoia windows 1 Share

2010/11/10

Historical artefact from the American culture wars, circa 2010: The Liberal Clause: Socialism on a Sleigh, a children's story book by a demagogue from the right-wing Tea Party movement, in which an evil Obama clone gets elected as Santa Claus and proceeds to ruin Christmas, assisted by a supporting cast of caricatures of liberal political figures, politically-correct straw persons, sinister foreigners and (for some odd reason) cameo appearances by historical dictators, until a little girl catches a glimpse of "Ox News", shakes off her brainwashing and assembles a movement to depose the evil liberals. A few choice excerpts:

From now on, for ever fifteen minutes of work there had to be fifteen minutes of break time. The work day was cut from eight hours to six hours with a two hour paid lunch break. If a toy supervisor gave instructions, the union would hold a meeting with every elf to talk about how they felt about those instructions. Toy quality control was no longer allowed, because it might hurt an elf's feelings. As a result, most toys were assembled wrong and were falling apart.
On top of this, Liberal Claus eliminates toy specialists and replaces them with "general toy practitioners" who follow his instructions to only create little red train cars and nothing else
At some point in the future, this book will either be the pride of some thrift-shop digger's ironic kitsch collection, or puzzled over by archaeologists as they debate the causes of the collapse of the American civilisation, or both.

bizarre culture propaganda psychoceramics rightwingers stupidity usa 0 Share

2010/11/6

India's Environment Minister has blamed the popularity of the Harry Potter books for the decline of wild owl populations, suggesting that owls are being poached and sold as pets to Potter fans:

The report's author, Abrar Ahmed, wrote that he decided to investigate the owl trade after being asked by a friend to procure a live white-coloured owl for her son's Harry Potter-themed 10th birthday party. "This was probably one of the strangest demands made to me as an ornithologist," he wrote.
The report is titled, in the sort of splendidly Wodehousean English often used in India, The Imperilled Custodians of the Night.

bizarre harry potter india 1 Share

2010/11/5

Elaborate disguise of the day: a young Hong Kong Chinese man boarded an Air Canada flight to Vancouver disguised as an elderly Caucasian man, by virtue of a latex mask:

The man changed out of the silicone mask during the flight, and was arrested on arrival in Canada; he has claimed refugee status.

The mask in question may be purchased from here, for US$689; it's said to be in low stock due to "extremely high demand".

air travel bizarre canada china deception hong kong security 0 Share

2010/10/4

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life, however, gives you a two-legged piglet, do what Wang Xihai did and train it to walk balletically:

bizarre china pigs 2 Share

2010/9/25

Hasselt prison in Belgium, like most such institutions, requires all visitors (including lawyers) to pass through metal detectors, and remove any items of clothing that set it off. Interestingly enough, their metal detector is particularly sensitive to bra straps, with the sensitivity going up depending on the attractiveness of the visitor:

"The metal detection checks seem very difficult to carry out when a pretty, young lawyer or visitor reports to the prison gate. And then it becomes a little something to amuse the guards," he told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
Mr Rowies has told the prison authorities that he is receiving at least one complaint a month from furious female barristers. “It always strikes me that the younger, and the more babe-like, a lawyer is, the more difficult the device becomes,” he said.
Belgium's prison authorities deny there being a problem, on the grounds of the metal detector not having malfunctioned in isolated tests or when a female visitor was accompanied by a senior prison service official.

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2010/9/19

Internet memes (once described, perhaps unkindly, as "like in-jokes for people who don't have friends") aren't purely an American or Anglosphere phenomenon. Cracked has a list of seven quite peculiar internet memes from foreign countries.

The Russians have two entries: PhotoExtreme is an offshoot of live-action role-playing games, as one would expect in the sort of hardcore place that Russia is fabled to be. In this meme, one person comes up with a bizarre scenario, and others act it out, take photos and post them online. The scenarios are acted out in public, without anybody being informed in advance, so bystanders are likely to be confronted with surreal, often violent (ontologically, if not literally) spectacles.

The other Russian meme is a more innocuous one, not unlike LOLCats, which originated from a rather naïve American drawing of a bear, and involves photoshopping said drawing into images. In Sweden, meanwhile, they do something similar with an image of a guy with a horse's head; this meme is named "Snel Hest" ("Nice Horse") and often involves horse-related puns. Meanwhile, the French go in for sarcastically 'shopping their self-aggrandising president Sarkozy into various historical scenes (it seems to be akin to the "Al Gore invented the Internet" meme of the 1990s) and in Australia, a video of a racist bogan chick went viral (the great Australian public doesn't really go for highly conceptual, it seems). The Kenyans, meanwhile, have a supercool tough-guy hero named Makmende, whose name comes from a mangling of Clint Eastwood's famous line "make my day".

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2010/9/8

A mobile games company, now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has been hiring North Korean companies to code their games, which include a bowling game based around the Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski.

It's ironic to see Murdoch, that great American patriot, doing business with the Axis of Evil. One does also wonder what was going through the minds of the North Korean programmers working on the game, with no exposure to the internet, the original film or any of the cultural references connected to it. (Apparently the only people with any connections to the outside world at the game development shop were foreigners assigned to oversee things.)

bizarre irony murdoch north korea the big lebowski 0 Share

2010/8/22

The head of an animal shelter in the US has stepped down after it emerged that a shelter employee took home a rescued pet pig named Fluffy, which he then proceeded to slaughter and eat.

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2010/8/18

Found in digitised archives of the British Medical Journal, the transcript of a 1925 lecture by one Sir John Bland-Sutton, titled simply The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive, which one imagines was given for the entertainment of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons:

A thin and foolish woman believed she had accidentally swallowed a frog and that her thinness was due to the frog eating the food in her stomach. In order to dispel the illusion the doctor gave her an emetic an during the vomiting, he slipped a small frog into the basin. When the patient saw the frog her joy was great, but in a few minutes her depression returned: "Oh!" she exclaimed, "I am sure this frog has left some young ones in my stomach." The doctor looked wise, pulled out his magnifying glass, and after critically examining the fron said unto the patient, "Fear not: this frog has not left any froglets inside you. Behold, it is a male!" The patient was quite satisfied, became happy, and in a few months was plump again. She was not a naturalist, and therefore ignorant of the fact that it is due to tell the sex of frogs by mere inspection except at the breeding season.

(via Boing Boing) bizarre 1 Share

2010/7/14

Advice of the day: Never slaughter a chicken in front of a monkey; a Chinese villager who nursed a monkey back to health learned this to his detriment:

"From then on, whenever it's not occupied, it jumps into the chicken pen, and kills the chickens, no matter how big or small, and tries to pluck them," said Li. "His record is nine chickens in one day. The lesson I have learned is to never slaughter a chicken in front of a monkey."

(via Arbroath) bizarre monkeys 0 Share

2010/4/22

The latest idea in sustainable farming and/or green energy: putting livestock on farms on treadmills, and using it to generate electricity.

(via /.) bizarre environment 0 Share

2010/4/13

Michael Rakowitz, a US artist who previously created car-shaped tents for reclaiming parking spots as living space, has an exhibition at Tate Modern. Titled "The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own", the exhibition draws connections between the history of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Western pop culture, such as professional wrestling, the G.I. Joe figurines and the history of science fiction, from Jules Verne to the Star Wars series.

Darth Vader helmet and Iraqi Fedayeen helmet The exhibition takes up a handful of rooms in a small sub-gallery on the ground level of Tate Modern. On the walls are illustrations (traced from various sources) with explanatory text, shedding light on various episodes which are, if the artist is to be believed, tied into the tangled web of this history. We read about Gerald Bull, the Canadian scientist who, seemingly influenced by the writings of Jules Verne, strove to create a giant cannon capable of hitting the Moon (or, indeed, closer targets) for Saddam Hussein; of the impact that a screening of the Star Wars film had on Saddam's then adolescent son Uday, who, a decade later, would design the uniforms of Iraq's paramilitary Fedayeen, whose helmets were modelled almost exactly on that of Darth Vader. (Rakowitz provides four helmets for comparison: the two mentioned, along with a samurai helmet and a WW1 one.) We see prints of fantasy-art posters which were found in Saddam's palaces, and other (North American) fantasy artwork which had been plagiarised for a novel said to have been written by Saddam and published before his capture. We learn of Adnan Alkaissy, the Iraqi pro wrestler who moved to the US in the 1950s and fought under the name Billy White Wolf in the US, before returning to Iraq and becoming a national champion of the regime, P1100853 only to flee for the US and resume his career and old identity when his popularity threatened the regime, and the impacts the wars in the Gulf had on the characters and plot lines of US pro wrestling.

The title of the exhibition comes from the Baghdad victory arch erected by Saddam Hussein in 1989, in the form of two cyclopean hands holding crossed swords. The arch is ever-present; one wall at the entrance to the exhibition is covered with photographs taken by US soldiers posing in front of it (including a Sergeant Slaughter, who shares his name with one of the aforementioned wrestling characters), and the main room (which is visible from outside through glass) has a replica of the arch, with plastic Star Wars lightsabres, and the helmets of the vanquished at the hands' base being made of melted together G.I. Joe toys. A monitor in the corner plays a YouTube clip of troops marching through Baghdad to the Star Wars Imperial March.

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It is not clear how much of the exhibition is fact and how much is artistic licence, though it certainly seems plausible, and shows that the recent history of our times is more peculiar than one would expect.

The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own is showing in the Level 2 Gallery at Tate Modern until 3 May; entry is free. There is more about the exhibition here.

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2010/4/3

In another bid for hard currency, North Korea has opened a chain of restaurants abroad. Named Pyongyang, the restaurants serve Korean specialties like kimchi, cold noodle and dog soup, feature harshly bright lighting and monumental landscape paintings (though no overt propaganda), and are staffed by waitresses chosen for their prettiness and loyalty, who live in captivity on the premises and perform synchronised dances for the patrons. Photography is forbidden in the restaurants, presumably for the sake of authenticity.

"The restaurants are used to earn additional money for the government in Pyongyang—at the same time as they were suspected of laundering proceeds from North Korea's more unsavory commercial activities," he says. "Restaurants and other cash-intensive enterprises are commonly used as conduits for wads of bills, which banks otherwise would not accept as deposits."
In 2006 and 2007, Daily NK reported several incidents in which waitresses from North Korean restaurants in China's Shandong and Jilin provinces tried to defect, forcing the closure of the operations. Kim Myung Ho added that two or three DPRK security agents live onsite at each restaurant to "regulate" the workers and that any attempts at flight result in the immediate repatriation of the entire staff.
Pyongyang restaurants have operated along the southern border of China for years, though have now expanded to the tourist trails of Thailand and Cambodia.

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2010/3/27

Some years ago, North Korea invited South Korean companies to build a tourist resort at Mount Kumgang. The resort operated for a number of years, until a South Korean tourist was shot dead by guards on a nearby beach, and the South Koreans suspended tours. Now North Korea has a strategy to revive its tourism industry in its own inimitable style, by threatening to seize South Korean assets unless tourism is resumed.

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2010/3/12

In 1951, residents of a small French village named Pont-Saint-Esprit were struck by a wave of violent hallucinations. At least five people died, and dozens ended up in mental asylums. The hallucinations were believed to have been caused by bread contaminated with ergot (such incidents had occurred from time to time throughout history, and in the Middle Ages, were known as "Saint Anthony's fire"); but newly revealed information suggests that the hallucinations were the product of a CIA experiment into the use of LSD as a weapon:

One man tried to drown himself, screaming that his belly was being eaten by snakes. An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother. Another man shouted: "I am a plane", before jumping out of a second-floor window, breaking his legs. He then got up and carried on for 50 yards. Another saw his heart escaping through his feet and begged a doctor to put it back. Many were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets.
Mr Albarelli said the real "smoking gun" was a White House document sent to members of the Rockefeller Commission formed in 1975 to investigate CIA abuses. It contained the names of a number of French nationals who had been secretly employed by the CIA and made direct reference to the "Pont St. Esprit incident." In its quest to research LSD as an offensive weapon, Mr Albarelli claims, the US army also drugged over 5,700 unwitting American servicemen between 1953 and 1965.

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2010/2/16

Sleep Talkin' Man: a log of the bizarre, surreal and often obscenity-filled utterances of a man afflicted with the condition of sleep talking, as transcribed (and sometimes recorded and posted online) by his wife:

"Don't move a muscle. Bushbabies are everywhere... everywhere... Shoot the fucking big-eyed wanky shite fucks! Kick 'em. Stamp them. Poke 'em in their big eyes! Take that for scaring the crap out of me."
"My badger's gonna unleash hell on your ass. Badgertastic!"
"It's a good thing your breath smells of shit. It colors your words beautifully. Gives it an edge."
"Tea bags, see? Better be careful with the tea bags. They're delicate creatures. Handle them with care."

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2010/1/13

What purports to be an interview with an anonymous Facebook employee, shedding some light on the inner workings of Facebook, technical improvements, privacy, and the more unusual dealings with its millions of users:

How do you think we know who your best friends are? But that’s public knowledge; we’ve explicitly stated that we record that. If you look in your type-ahead search, and you press “A,” or just one letter, a list of your best friends shows up. It’s no longer organized alphabetically, but by the person you interact with most, your “best friends,” or at least those whom we have concluded you are best friends with.
I’m not sure when exactly it was deprecated, but we did have a master password at one point where you could type in any user’s user ID, and then the password. I’m not going to give you the exact password, but with upper and lower case, symbols, numbers, all of the above, it spelled out ‘Chuck Norris,’ more or less. It was pretty fantastic.
I found a fake account created from Berkeley that used the profile picture and information from the brother of one of my very good friends. We looked up the guy who created the original profile, and he had never ever heard of him, never ever met him, obviously had never seen him. But this guy had evidently added him as a friend, and sadly he accepted it, but literally stole all of this guy’s information, created a fake account, and was communicating with himself from the fake account. He was writing on his wall and posting back to the “other person’s” wall. We found out the guy actually had about fifteen fake accounts that he created, stealing other users’ pictures and information to create the accounts, and was actually communicating back and forth with himself. Just to try to make himself appear cool, I guess?
The unnamed Facebook employee also says that they're working on something named Hyper-PHP, which will compile PHP (which Facebook is written in) to machine code, which, they claim, will reduce CPU usage by 80%.

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2009/11/26

A Californian videogamer is suing the makers of World of Warcraft for having alienated him from the real world, and has subpoenaed Winona Ryder and Depeche Mode's Martin Gore to testify on the nature of alienation and melancholy.

According to the San Jose, California resident, World of Warcraft is a "harmful virtual environment" and its developers follow "sneaky and deceitful practices". Despite this, Estavillo admits he "relies on videogames heavily for the little ongoing happiness he can achieve in this life". He just wants World of Warcraft to cost less money. And to stop making him so sad.
Estavillo's court filings put forward multi-instrumentalist songwriter Martin Gore as an expert witness on melancholy. Gore should be called to Santa Clara county superior court, Estavillio suggests, "since he himself has been known to be sad, lonely, and alienated, as can be seen in the songs he writes".
Winona Ryder, meanwhile, is included because of her publicised love of J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye.

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2009/10/15

Authorities in Colorado are searching the skies after a six-year-old boy went for a joyride in his family's "experimental helium-balloon-powered aircraft".

On Thursday morning, according to the family and officials, the boy got onto the aircraft and detached the rope holding it in place. Sheriff's spokeswoman Eloise Campanella said the boy climbed into the access door and the airborne device took off.
The craft, which is shaped like a flying saucer, has the potential to rise to 10,000 feet, Campanella said. Sheriff's officials last saw the device floating south of Milliken, which is about 40 miles north of Denver.

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2009/10/14

Alarmed by the potential impact of reduced oil consumption on their fortunes, the Saudis are pushing for oil consumers to pay producers compensation for lost revenue if they reduce their oil consumption to reduce global warming:

“It is like the tobacco industry asking for compensation for lost revenues as a part of a settlement to address the health risks of smoking,” said Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The worst of this racket is that they have held up progress on supporting adaptation funding for the most vulnerable for years because of this demand.”
It's hard to feel sympathy for the Saudis. While they try to sweeten their argument with a line about wishing to use the compensation money to "achieve economic diversification", they're not exactly short on cash; they can always build fewer palaces and flog off a few football teams and a gold-plated jumbo jet or three to make up whatever cash they need. Or they could have a word with the recording industry's lawyers; they're quite good at turning untenable monopolies from products of economic circumstance into legally enforced perpetual hegemonies.

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2009/10/7

Wikipedia has a list of unusual deaths from antiquity to the present day. They range from examples of sadistic ingenuity (how much thought has been expended throughout history on inventing fitting tortures for those who shouldn't be allowed to die too painlessly?) and parables of the mighty undone by their folly, through to the inexplicable and the highly peculiar:

1410: Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing.
1599: Nanda Bayin, a Burman king, reportedly laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that "Venice was a free state without a king."
1660: Thomas Urquhart, Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Rabelais into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.
Death from uncontrollable laughter seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme. (Thomas Urquhart, incidentally, was an early proponent of a constructed universal language, and was a character in Andrew Drummond's excellent comic novel concerning the squabbles between utopian language proponents, A Handbook of Volapük.)

Other odd deaths, not involving uncontrollable laughter, include:

892: Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney strapped the head of a defeated foe to his leg, the tooth of which grazed against him as he rode his horse, causing the infection which killed him.
1649: Sir Arthur Aston, Royalist commander of the garrison during the Siege of Drogheda, was beaten to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers thought concealed golden coins.
1930: William Kogut, an inmate on death row at San Quentin, decided to commit suicide using only the rudimentary tools available to him in his prison cell. He began by tearing up several packs of playing cards, giving particular focus to obtaining pieces with red ink (at the time, the ink in red playing cards contained nitrocellulose, which is flammable and when wet can create an explosive mixture), and stuffed them into a pipe. He then plugged one end of the pipe firmly with a broom handle and poured water into the other end to soak the card pieces. He then placed the pipe on a kerosene heater next to his bed and placed the open end firmly against his head. The heater turned the water into steam and eventually enough pressure built up inside the pipe so that when it burst, the explosion shot out bits of playing cards with enough force to penetrate Kogut's skull, killing him. In a suicide note, Kogut stated that he and he alone should punish himself for his crimes.
1959: In the Dyatlov Pass incident, Nine ski hikers in the Ural Mountains abandoned their camp in the middle of the night in apparent terror, some clad only in their underwear despite sub-zero weather. Six of the hikers died of hypothermia and three by unexplained fatal injuries. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, one victim had a fatal skull fracture, two had major chest fractures (comparable in force to a car accident), and one was missing her tongue. The victims' clothing also contained high levels of radiation. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter.
Along similar lines: List of inventors killed by their own inventions.

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2009/9/27

eBay bargain of the day: GREAT GIFT WHICH MAKE U FEEL GOOD ALL OVER THE WORLD !. This is, apparently, a prototype for a world-changing invention which has something to do with mobile phones, and can do anything, from detecting volcanic activity to finding gold in the sea to automatically calling the vet when your horse gets swine flu.

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2009/9/11

Bizarre crime of the day: someone in Turkey kept nine young women captive in a house for around two months after convincing them that they were on a reality TV show. While there was no TV show, lascivious images of the women were sold on the internet:

They were made to sign a contract that stipulated that they could have no contact with their families or the outside world and would have to pay a 50,000 Turkish Lira fine ($A38,243) if they left the show before two months, the agency reported.
"We were not after the money but we thought our daughter could have the chance of becoming famous if she took part in the contest," the newspaper quoted one of the women's mother as saying. The paper identified her only by her first name, Remziye. "But they have duped us all."

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2009/7/17

Kook of the day: an unnamed Los Angeles resident who loves rap, chess, nachos, movies and pizza, has a novel approach to his quest for whatever he's looking for: posting neatly hand-lettered signs all over the city:

According to various signs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), he wants to meet "White Asian and Latina women with big butts" to give him money, be his sex slaves and/or help him with Things. And he offers some unique selling points in return; he claims that he looks like Michael Jackson on the Thriller album and Barack Obama, once made $5,000 in 5 hours and has sold 109 copies of two books he has written. More interestingly, while his signs are all carefully hand-lettered, with neat primary-school handwriting, he has borrowed one technique from Web 2.0 practices; each sign is topped and tailed with a tag cloud of his various diverse interests, often in bizarre juxtapositions and bearing no relation to the content:
Of course, the question remains of who's behind this, and what their motivation is. Is it a viral campaign for an upcoming TV show or a brand of shoes? Some prankster self-consciously mashing up Wesley Willis, Hopkin Green Frog and Hello My Future Girlfriend to "freak the mundanes" and/or inject a bit of surreality into the urban environment? Or is there really some lonely guy who's keen on big-bottomed ladies and is convinced that what women really want is a Michael Jackson lookalike who's into rap, chess and Bob Marley, has written two books and whose father was in a movie?

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2009/6/24

The British Psychological Society's journal, The Psychologist, has a fascinating article about outbreaks of mass hysteria and "dancing plagues" in the Middle Ages:

The year was 1374. In dozens of medieval towns scattered along the valley of the River Rhine hundreds of people were seized by an agonising compulsion to dance. Scarcely pausing to rest or eat, they danced for hours or even days in succession. They were victims of one of the strangest afflictions in Western history. Within weeks the mania had engulfed large areas of north-eastern France and the Netherlands, and only after several months did the epidemic subside. In the following century there were only a few isolated outbreaks of compulsive dancing. Then it reappeared, explosively, in the city of Strasbourg in 1518. Chronicles indicate that it then consumed about 400 men, women and children, causing dozens of deaths (Waller, 2008).
Not long before the Strasbourg dancing epidemic, an equally strange compulsion had gripped a nunnery in the Spanish Netherlands. In 1491 several nuns were ‘possessed’ by devilish familiars which impelled them to race around like dogs, jump out of trees in imitation of birds or miaow and claw their way up tree trunks in the manner of cats. Such possession epidemics were by no means confined to nunneries, but nuns were disproportionately affected (Newman, 1998). Over the next 200 years, in nunneries everywhere from Rome to Paris, hundreds were plunged into states of frantic delirium during which they foamed, screamed and convulsed, sexually propositioned exorcists and priests, and confessed to having carnal relations with devils or Christ.
The article examines these phenomena, dismissing various theories (such as them being caused by ergotism, or the consumption of bread contaminated with hallucinogenic mould), and makes the case that they were culture-bound psychogenic illnesses, enabled by accepted beliefs about the supernatural and triggered by stress:
Similarly, it is only by taking cultural context seriously that we can explain the striking epidemiological facts that possession crises so often struck religious houses and that men were far less often the victims of mass diabolical possession. The daily lives of nuns were saturated in a mystical supernaturalism, their imaginations vivid with devils, demons, Satanic familiars and wrathful saints. They believed implicitly in the possibility of possession and so made themselves susceptible to it. Evangelical Mother Superiors often made them more vulnerable by encouraging trance and ecstasy; mind-altering forms of worship prepared them for later entering involuntary possession states. Moreover, early modern women were imbued with the idea that as the tainted heirs of Eve they were more liable to succumb to Satan, a misogynistic trope that often heightened their suggestibility.
Theological conventions also conditioned the behaviour of demoniac nuns. This is apparent from the fact that nearly all possession epidemics occurred within a single 300-year period, from around 1400 to the early 1700s. The reason is that only during this period did religious writers insist that such events were possible (Newman 1998). Theologians, inquisitors and exorcists established the rules of mass demonic possession to which dissociating nuns then unconsciously conformed: writhing, foaming, convulsing, dancing, laughing, speaking in tongues and making obscene gestures and propositions. These were shocking but entirely stereotypical performances based on deep-seated beliefs about Satan’s depravity drawn from religious writings and from accounts of previous possessions. For centuries, then, distress and pious fear worked in concert to produce epidemics of dancing and possession.
The article concludes with examples of modern occurrences of such phenomena, from the rather feeble examples (such as epidemics of fainting) one could find in a materialistic post-Enlightenment society to "spirit possession" among factory workers drawn from rural communities in Malaysia and Singapore, to delusions of penis-stealing witchcraft in western Africa.

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2009/6/11

The town of Kingsville, Texas, is doing its bit in the battle against the powers of evil by banning the word "hello", which contains the word "hell":

"When you go to school and church, they tell you 'hell' is negative and 'heaven' is positive,'" said the 56-year-old Canales, who owns the Kingsville Flea Market. "I think it's time that we set a new precedent, to tell our kids that we are positive adults."
On Thursday, courthouse employees were answering the phones, "heaven-o." And the chamber of commerce was working on a campaign promoting Kingsville, a Rio Grande Valley town of 25,000, as a "heavenly" place to visit.
Canales, a Catholic but not a regular churchgoer, has been as serious as heck about "hello" since 1988, when he told his brother he might start greeting people with "God-o." His brother suggested "heaven-o" instead.
Pointing out that the word "hello" has no etymological connection with the word "hell" (the OED says that it stems from an old German greeting for hailing a boat) is, as one might expect, of little avail to the sort of mediæval mindset that finds omens and portents in things.

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2009/5/6

The swine flu outbreak is having an impact across the world: the Kabul zoo has placed Afghanistan's only pig in quarantine, locking it in a specially built room, just in case:

There are no pig farms in Afghanistan and no direct civilian flights between Kabul and Mexico.
"We understand that, but most people don't have enough knowledge. When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill," Saqib said.

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2009/4/27

A guy named Paul Scheer went to the exhibition of Michael Jackson's possessions, which were due to be auctioned, with a camera and took some photos. These have been posted here. It is a grotesquely unique collection, and one betraying the peculiar obsessions of one such as Jackson. There are plenty of portraits of Jackson in fantasy mediæval finery and heroic poses, or presented as various historical figures:

And then there's "Michael Jackson Unites the Children Of The World", a tableau of a messianic Jackson, like a business-casual Christ, or perhaps a modern Pied Piper, leading a procession of children through an idyllic meadow, apparently somewhere in Switzerland.
The totality of the image is disturbing enough, with its echoes of religious cultism and totalitarian poster art; the details, though, take the creepiness to new levels:
And there's more; brass statues of small children at play, objects inscribed with Jackson's doggerel, airbrush art of Jackson as Disney's Peter Pan, and who can forget the life-sized little ginger girl dolls, just far enough inside Mori's Uncanny Valley to give you nightmares.

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2009/4/9

Animal liberation group Peta, last heard of renaming fish as "sea kittens" to discourage people from eating them, has asked the Pet Shop Boys to change their name to the "Rescue Shelter Boys", a more worthy and right-on appelation:

According to Peta representative Yvonne Taylor, the cuddly image of the pet shop is one that belies the often terrible conditions dogs, cats and even hamsters have to suffer while living in them. "With an emphasis on quantity rather than quality," Taylor writes, "unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders pass from one generation of puppies and kittens to the next. Many animals end up with abnormalities that result in both heartbreak and high veterinary bills for the unsuspecting people who buy them.
The letter, posted on Pet Shop Boys' website, continues to paint a thoroughly bleak picture of the reality of pet shops before cunningly suggesting that "agreeing to change your name to the Rescue Shelter Boys, you would help raise awareness about the cruelty involved in the pet trade and encourage your millions of fans to consider giving a home to an abandoned or unwanted animal from an animal shelter. So, what do you say?"
I thought that Peta opposed the keeping of pets on principle, as being inherently exploitative, and on a par with slavery/the Holocaust.

In any case, the Pet Shop Boys have declined to comply with the request, whilst acknowledging that it "raises an issue worth thinking about".

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2009/4/6

British supermarket chain Sainsbury's has unilaterally renamed the fish known as pollack to "colin", in an attempt to rid it of connotations of poor quality and/or avoid potential offense to Britain's Polish community. In a further attempt to sell more of the fish, Sainsbury's hired the designer Wayne Hemingway (of fashion label Red Or Dead) to come up with Jackson Pollock-inspired packaging for the newly rebranded fish.

This is not the first time Britain's supermarkets have renamed products to avoid (actual or imagined) embarrassment; in 2001, Tesco considered renaming spotted dick to "spotted Richard".

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2009/3/24

In the recent fashion issue of VICE Magazine, the inimitable Lord Whimsy has an article about bizarre and grotesque fashions from throughout history. While it's not written in the same ornate style as his Affected Provincial's Companion, it is, as one would expect, a veritable wunderkammer of the outré, containing not only the obvious examples (foot-binding, scalping, German duelling scars, the various status arms races among idle aristocrats), but a number of more obscure and peculiar practices:

Some fashions were the result of indifference. A good example of this is the Polish plait, which was a crusty, oily mass of filthy, matted hair. Often as hard as a helmet, it was a tangled mess held together by dried blood, dirt, dead lice, and pus. Generally, Polish plaits were the result of neglect, but they could also be brought on by particularly nasty lice infestations, in which spent eggs would act as a kind of mortar.
High-ranking Italian noblemen of the 14th century took up the fashion of wearing tunics short enough to reveal their testicles. Those who felt insecure about their heft would often wear a leather falsie known as a braquette. It’s doubtful that this was intended to fool anyone. It may have been done for the same reasons female pharaohs wore false beards: It was a symbol of power and potency. Like a crown, but hairier.
Wasn't the Scottish sporran originally intended to achieve the same effect?
In many societies, it was (and in some places still is) fashionable to intentionally contort the body into strange shapes. Perhaps the most notable example was the surprisingly widespread practice of head binding, which involved wrapping an infant’s pliable head in a tight cloth or between two boards until it elongated and assumed a conical shape, which was deemed very attractive, as well as a sign of intelligence. The brain would simply adapt to the shape of the skull, so apparently no damage would occur, but it does make one wonder whether changing the shape of the brain case also changed the way that the brain functioned. Did it affect vision? Memory? The ability to think about wide objects?
Some fashions compensated for disfiguring medical conditions. Eighteenth-century Europe was a time of unprecedented artifice in fashion—people in the upper classes were essentially ambulatory theater sets, dripping with props. Makeup was caked on to smooth out their smallpox-ravaged faces. They would even try to smooth out their features from the inside as well: Most people lost their teeth at a shockingly young age, and as a result their cheeks would cave in. To counter this, they used small lumps of cork, called plumpers, which were stuffed into their cheeks. This affected the way they spoke, which soon became fashionable, even among those who still had teeth.
Could this be how various accents typically considered to be "posh" or aristocratic came to be? One could imagine, for example, the sorts of rarefiedly aristocratic English accents one only typically hears on stage or in old films having come about as an imitation of wearing bits of cork in one's cheeks.

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2009/3/23

A high school in Texas has a novel way of dealing with troubled youths: putting them in a steel cage and letting them fight it out with their bare fists:

One employee overheard Mr. Moten tell a security guard to take two students who had been at each other for days and “put ’em in the cage and let them duke it out,” the report states, and the practice was so embedded in the school’s culture that one student remarked to a teacher that he was “gonna be in the cage.”
Meanwhile in Sydney, rival motorcycle gangs went on a rampage at the airport, and one man was bludgeoned to death with a carry-on bag measuring frame steel bollard.

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2009/3/20

The 19th-century idea of criminal anthropometry may be dead, but its spirit keeps reemerging. A study, on a peer-to-peer lending site, suggests that one can predict a person's creditworthiness from a photograph of their face:

The team recruited 25 Mechanical Turk workers and asked them to assess pictures of potential borrowers that had been posted on Prosper.com. In particular, they were asked to rate, on a scale of one to five, how trustworthy these people looked, and to estimate the percentage probability that each individual would repay a $100 loan. They were also asked to make several other assessments, such as the individual’s sex, race, age, attractiveness and obesity. The 25 results for each photograph were then averaged and analysed.
The researchers looked at 6,821 loan applications, 733 of which were successful. Their first finding was that the assessments of trustworthiness, and of likelihood to repay a loan, that were made by Mechanical Turk workers did indeed correlate with potential borrowers’ credit ratings based on their credit history. That continued to be so when the other variables, from beauty to race to obesity, were controlled for statistically. Shifty physiognomy, it seems, is independent of these things.
That shiftiness was also recognised by those whose money was actually at stake. People flagged as untrustworthy by the Mechanical Turks were less likely than others to be offered a loan at all. To have the same chance of getting one as those deemed most trustworthy they were required to pay an interest rate that was, on average, 1.82 percentage points higher, even when the effects of historical creditworthiness were statistically eliminated.
While the exact attributes that make someone look "shifty" have not been isolated, it could be only a matter of time until someone devises an algorithm for deriving a credit score from a face and implements it, either behind a CCTV camera or in a back office, fed by the numerous images of an individual which can be harvested from the intercloud.

Of course, it may not be the case that some sets of facial features correlate to financial unreliability. Another explanation could be that there are some sets of features which are seen as correlating to financial unreliability. Whether or not these features have any causal connection to the temperament, psychology or moral fibre of their bearer could be irrelevant; if people consistently think you look shifty, they'll treat you as if you were, even if you weren't originally.

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2009/2/17

Looking for some unique artefacts to decorate your home? Some of the possessions of the world's only living fairytale prince, Michael Jackson, are being auctioned, and they're a peculiar lot:

Jackson surrounded himself with regal finery. There were suits of armour, display cases of custom-made crowns and an ornately carved throne with red velvet upholstering in his bedroom. "King Michael" even had a royal cape, a Father's Day present inscribed inside with a message from his children "Princess Paris" and "Prince Michael". In the lobby of the house was a commissioned portrait of Jackson as a young man in Elizabethan dress, holding a crown on a velvet pillow.
In a nondescript warehouse on the outskirts of Los Angeles, the famed gates of the Neverland ranch now sit against a wall. The interior of the warehouse is littered with the ornaments that once decorated the grounds. There are bronze statues of frolicking cherubs, replica marble busts of Roman emperors, a huge statue of Prometheus that used to sit on a skull near the entrance. On shelves there are child-size diesel-powered race cars that used to zoom around the grounds. There is a Pope-mobile-style electric buggy fitted with tinted windows and stereo system. Another buggy has the King of Pop's face painted on its bonnet.
The collection will be toured as an exhibition before it is actually auctioned.

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2009/1/8

The latest computer science research being funded by the US military includes a bot that will impersonate parents in the service and talk to their children when they're off fighting wars:

The challenge is to design an application that would would allow a child to receive comfort from being able to have simple, virtual conversations with a parent who is not aivailable "in-person". We are looking for innovative applications that explore and harness the power of “advanced” interactive multimedia computer technologies to produce compelling interactive dialogue between a Service member and their families via a pc- or web-based application using video footage or high-resolution 3-D rendering. The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics. For instance, a child may get a response from saying "I love you", or "I miss you", or "Good night mommy/daddy." This is a technologically challenging application because it relies on the ability to have convincing voice-recognition, artificial intelligence, and the ability to easily and inexpensively develop a customized application tailored to a specific parent.

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2008/12/24

Today's new concept: lipodiesel:

A Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who claims to have turned fat, extricated in liposuction, into biofuel for his car has skipped town after US officials raided his surgery in an investigation into his procedures.
He reportedly wrote about the practice on his website, lipodiesel.com, which has since been shut down. "The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel - and I have more fat than I can use,” he wrote.
The whole "lipodiesel" thing, though, could be a hoax, as some of the details don't match up. In addition, the surgeon in question is facing lawsuits for allegedly allowing unqualified assistants to operate on patients, and is apparently volunteering in a rural clinic in Colombia.

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2008/12/16

The first ever case has been reported of someone sending emails in their sleep. The emails were reported as being haphazardly formatted, in a mixture of upper and lower case, and written in strange language, though more or less comprehensible:

The 44-year-old woman, whose case is reported by researchers from the University of Toledo in the latest edition of medical journal Sleep Medicine, had gone to bed at around 10pm, but got up two hours later and walked to the next room.
She then turned on the computer, connected to the internet, and logged on by typing her username and password to her email account. She then composed and sent three emails.
One read: "Come tomorrow and sort this hell hole out. Dinner and drinks, 4.pm,. Bring wine and caviar only." Another said simply, "What the……."

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2008/12/7

A convicted drug dealer escaped from a prison in western Germany by climbing into a cardboard box and mailing himself out. And I thought that such things didn't happen outside of old animated cartoons.

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2008/12/2

At least eight men in Singapore sustained severe brain damage after taking an illegal sex-enhancement drug named "Power 1 Walnut", apparently containing diabetes medication. As Jim points out, the cyberpunk future's already here, only more ridiculous:

This is what I love about the real world. This sort of thing happens all the time in early cyberpunk scifi, but there the drug would have a painfully cool street name. Never Power 1 Walnut.

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2008/11/26

The latest novel application of technology from Japan: DVDs to help train socially-challenged otaku to make eye contact, predominantly with women:

His disc features 50 people standing in front of a blank white background. They're all women, which Ito swears is just a coincidence. They stare into the camera and occasionally say stuff like "I want to leave" or "That's enough."
Try to look this person in the eyes for a full minute. Tip: when interacting with a fellow human being in the real world, it is considered rude to break eye contact in order to look at other physical attributes.
Perhaps that will be Nintendo's next big hit; we had Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Wii Music, now perhaps it's time for Wii Date. It'd come with a gaze-tracking camera, and would play a lot like the zazen meditation game in Wii Fit, only instead of sitting absolutely still staring at a candle, you'd have to gaze into the eyes of a pretty girl in a revealing top, and if the system noticed your gaze straying below her eyes, a buzzer would sound and the session would come to an end.

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2008/10/28

A British scientist has come up with a bold solution to the environmental consequences of aviation: nuclear-powered airliners. Not only will they be able to fly around the world without a break, emitting no carbon whatsoever, but they could also be made safe. The nuclear engines would be on the wings in armoured casings, and could be jettisoned on parachutes in the event of the plane falling (and, presumably, the pilot giving up any hope of saving it). Should the casings rupture, the worst that could happen would be radioactive contamination over a mere few square miles. (Of course, there is also that, should terrorists blow up, shoot down or hijack one of these airliners, they'd have a most serviceable dirty bomb, though surely somebody would have thought of an answer to that. After all, they wouldn't suggest such an idea otherwise, would they?)

Despite these reassurances, Professor Ian Poll concedes that it would take about 30 years to convince the public of the benefits of nuclear aviation.

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2008/10/23

Animal-liberationist group PETA have launched a new campaign to fight for the rights of fish to not be caught or eaten: rebranding them as "Sea Kittens":

Given the drastic situation for this country's sea kittens—who are often the victims of many major threats to their welfare and ways of life—it's high time that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stop allowing our little sea kitten friends to be tortured and killed. Who'd want to hurt a sea kitten anyway?!
Sea kittens are just as intelligent (not to mention adorable) as dogs and cats, and they feel pain just as all animals do.
Please take just a few moments to send an e-mail to H. Dale Hall, the director of the FWS, asking him to stop promoting the hunting of sea kittens (otherwise known as "fishing"). The promotion of sea kitten hunting is a glaring contradiction of FWS' mission to "conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats."

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2008/10/20

Some animal shelters in the US are refusing to give black cats away for adoption before Halloween, lest the hapless moggies end up abused or sacrificed in Satanic rituals. The same goes for white rabbits, it seems. (I'm guessing that goats and black cockerels aren't found often enough in animal shelters to be an issue˙)

“It’s kind of an urban legend. But in the humane industry it’s pretty typical that shelters don’t do adoptions of black cats or white bunnies because of the whole satanic sacrificial thing,” Morgan said. “If we prevent one animal from getting hurt, then it serves its purpose.”
“Black cats already suffer a stigma because of their color,” said Gail Buchwald, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in New York City. “Why penalize them any more by limiting the times when they can be adopted?”
Apparently superstitions about black cats are not uncommon in the US:
Black cats tend to be adopted less often than other felines, Buchwald said. “Behaviorally, there’s no difference from the color of the cat. It’s tied into this whole mythology about the animal — don’t let it cross your path or some foreboding or foreshadowing of evil — and that’s an outdated superstition,” she said.

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2008/9/22

A few weeks ago, officials in Lancaster, California allowed the Honda company to grind grooves into a stretch of road, so that the wheels of cars driving along would play the melody of the William Tell Overture, at least if the cars were similar in dimensions to the Honda Civic, as part of an advertising campaign. Now, faced with complaints from nearby residents, the officials are planning to pave over the musical grooves:

The road is tuned to a car just exactly the length, and equipped with tires the same size, as a Honda Civic, a spokesman for Honda said. But other vehicles are also successful in playing the notes, if a little off-key.
That noise is not exactly music to the ears of persons living in a nearby subdivision, who are telling the Daily News that the notes blend into a cacophony that keeps them awake at night.
"When you hear it late at night, it will wake you up from a sound sleep," said music critic Brian Robin, who lives a half mile away from the project. "It's awakened my wife three or four times a night," he told the newspaper.
There's a video of the musical highway here. You can probably imagine how, with several cars traversing it at different speeds, it could sound quite cacophonous.

I wonder how feasible it would be for guerilla art pranksters, MySpace band self-promoters and/or viral marketing scumbags to surreptitiously cut their own grooves into roads without any sort of permission. I imagine a device that lays down grooves whilst driving innocuously along, and doesn't attract the attention of the local road police, would be infeasible.

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2008/9/8

A Japanese expert on North Korea claims that the secretive cult-state's God-Emperor Kim Jong-Il died of diabetes in 2003, and has since been played by several doubles, who have made public appearances and conducted international negotiations in his guise:

He believes that Kim, fearing assassination, had groomed up to four lookalikes to act as substitutes at public events. One underwent plastic surgery to make his appearance more convincing. Now, the expert claims, the actors are brought on stage whenever required to persuade the masses that Kim is alive.
One of its principal claims is that a voiceprint analysis of Kim’s speech at a 2004 meeting with Junichiro Koizumi, then the Japanese prime minister, did not match an authenticated earlier recording.
If this is true, who controls the doubles? Do they rule the country themselves like some kind of freakish quadrumvirate, or are they kept under control by some shadowy true leader?

Also, it should be noted that, if this is true, it's not as great a leap as one might think. North Korea's "Great Leader" remains the late Kim Il-Sung; Kim Jong-Il (whilst officially credited with godlike powers) is merely the "Dear Leader", serving as a sort of viceroy in the absence (and the spectral shadow) of his father. If KJI has now popped his clogs, that merely takes it one step further.

So now North Korea is ruled by two godlike beings not present on this Earth, or rather by their representatives, and is essentially a somewhat novel theocracy. One could probably call it a necrocracy.

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2008/9/3

And now, for light relief, here's a cow with its head stuck in a washing machine:

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2008/8/21

The latest trend in spam seems to be incoherently bizarre headlines mentioning Britney Spears, and promising videos:

Britney vagina transplant to erase fools' memory syndrome
Britney heartbroken as Diana's Butler beds Winehouse
Britney Spears has Fanny Magnets Grafted in to Attract Papparazzi
Britney sues vagina for divorce
Presumably they're aiming for the same demographic that would download files named "enraged baboon fucking a nipple factory".

This seems to have started two days ago; before that, there was a brief burst of Angelina Jolie-related spam, following on from a number of "Weekly top news" headlines like "sperm-flavored cocaine all the rage in LA" (which sounds like they got Warren Ellis in as a copywriter).

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2008/8/19

You know those cocaine-smuggling submarines operating out of South America? Well, apparently, they're run by Hezbollah. Yes, the Lebanon-based Shi'ite Islamist militant group have submarine capability, and it's all in Latin America, earning good money. For the jihad, of course.

So what's the Hezbollah connection? "I continue to be concerned about the tri-border area [between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay]," Stavridis said. "It is, in my view, principally Hezbollah activity. There is clearly fund-raising, money laundering, drug trafficking. And, certainly a portion of the funds that are raised in that are making their way back to the Middle East."

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2008/8/17

A few weeks ago, a man by the name of Clark Rockefeller entered the news, after having abducted his daughter who was visiting him in Boston. Not much was mentioned about him, except that he was not believed to be related to the famous oil family. Gradually, an increasingly bizarre story emerged. "Clark Rockefeller", it seemed, was a German man named Christian Gerhartsreiter, who left for America at the age of 17 in 1978 to seek his fortune. Along the way, he tried (unsuccessfully) to get into acting in Hollywood, before discovering that his true talent lay in fashioning new identities and stories for himself, always coming up with a new one when his inevitably grandiose and narcissistic claims (or, in one case, quite possibly murdering his landlord) compromised his current one. He became Christopher Chichester, a British aristocrat who was moving his castle to America, then Christopher Crowe, a Wall Street stockbroker, and finally Clark Rockefeller, brilliant mathematician/physicist and scion of fabulous old money; along the way, a family he was renting from in California disappeared (unidentified remains were found under their house a decade later), and later, "Christopher Crowe" tried to sell their old truck, making a hasty exit to rescue his parents who had been kidapped in South America before the police could question him. Not to mention thad he lost his stockbroking job after using the social security number of the Son of Sam serial killer on his licence application.

Anyway, Gerhartsreiter is now in custody and has been identified as such. I imagine he'll have a much harder time getting away this time.

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2008/8/11

The latest threat to America's children is digital drugs, or MP3 files which affect the listener's brain to induce illegal and dangerous states of consciousness. Called "idozers", they're sold from web sites by evil drug dealers:

Some sites provide binaural beats that have innocuous effects. For example, some claim to help you develop extrasensory powers like telepathy and psychokinesis.
Other sites offer therapeutic binaural beats. They help you relax or meditate. Some allegedly help you overcome addiction or anxiety. Others purport to help you lose weight or eliminate gray hair.
However, most sites are more sinister. They sell audio files ("doses") that supposedly mimic the effects of alcohol and marijuana.
But it doesn't end there. You'll find doses that purportedly mimic the effects of LSD, crack, heroin and other hard drugs. There are also doses of a sexual nature. I even found ones that supposedly simulate heaven and hell.
It gets worse than is. I have it on very good authority that paedophiles are using similar technologies to remotely molest children with penis-shaped sound waves. There's no evidence to prove it, but it is a scientific fact.

The fact that the audio files are allegedly being "sold" by evil drug dealers is a dead giveaway. If today's kids are willing and able to download the latest movies and music, would they really pay or MP3s alleged to get them high or simulate heaven or hell?

I wonder what the provenance of this absurdity is. Could it be a particularly desperate RIAA-instigated black-ops campaign to bring the full force of the War On Drugs to bear against uncontrolled file-sharing and/or lock down the internet?

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2008/7/24

Those fake sensational news headlines spammers are using to trick people into visiting dodgy websites are getting more and more ridiculous:

Bush is Gay. Obama Converts To Judiasm.
Bush and Putin Agree To Restart Cold War During G8 Summit.
Barack Obama Wins Ku Klux Klan Endorsement. Both Obama And Mccain Claim They Will Deport Elton John.
The internet was invented in 1950s in China.
Gregorian Monks Commit Mass Suicide In Italian Church.
Madonnas Former Home Destroyed By Jesus. Blair: Im Not Gay, Thats Just My Accent.
A disproportionate number of them have the word "gay" in them. I guess that's meant to be a hot-button issue for the sorts of people they're looking for.

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2008/7/21

The version of the iPhone sold in Japan has one difference from Western versions: the camera shutter sound cannot be switched off, apparently because Japanese gadget fans cannot be trusted not to use it for surreptitiously photographing up skirts.

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2008/7/15

The UK's National Children's Bureau has issued new guidelines to nursery teachers, saying that expressing a dislike for spicy or foreign food should be considered racist behaviour, and corrected.

The guide goes on to warn that children might also "react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying 'yuk'".
Staff are told: "No racist incident should be ignored. When there is a clear racist incident, it is necessary to be specific in condemning the action."
Warning that failing to pick children up on their racist attitudes could instil prejudice, the NCB adds that if children "reveal negative attitudes, the lack of censure may indicate to the child that there is nothing unacceptable about such attitudes".
I wonder whether disliking spicy food is absolutely unacceptable, or whether it is acceptable if one has a doctor's note saying that one has a sensitive stomach. And, indeed, whether the authors of the guidelines have been influenced by Sasha Frere-Jones' assertion that expressing a dislike of hip-hop music is racist.

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2008/7/8

If one US Department of Homeland Security official has his way, airline boarding passes could be replaced with GPS-enabled wristbands containing remotely activated electric shock devices, which could be used not only to keep track of passengers but also to incapacitate any passengers found to be of a terroristic bent, allowing the rest of us to feel safer.

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2008/7/2

The Dutch authorities have trained about 200 inspectors to catch people illegally smoking tobacco in marijuana cafes. Smoking tobacco indoors has just been outlawed in the Netherlands, as it has elsewhere, though smoking marijuana in Amsterdam's famous "coffee shops" is allowed, as long as the weed isn't diluted with tobacco.

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A Swedish school confiscated birthday party invitations handed out by an 8-year-old pupil because he failed to invite two of his classmates, violating their rights, and possibly the Jante Law as well:

The school, in Lund, southern Sweden, argues that if invitations are handed out on school premises then it must ensure there is no discrimination.
He says the two children were left out because one did not invite his son to his own party and he had fallen out with the other one.
The boy's father lodged a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman. A verdict is expected in September.

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2008/6/30


A list of 10 bizarre inventions patented in the name of fighting terrorism, from nondescript trucks with machine guns to bomb-proof anti-suicide-bomber nets (which looked like repurposed Nixon-era hippie-containment apparatus) to trap doors on airliners and remotely triggerable tranquilliser syringes in airline seats for incapacitating suspicious individuals:

Make all passengers wear armbands that monitors their body for signs of falsehood and evil (ooh, say heart pulsation and blood pressure - hey, it's in the patent application, mmkay?). And did I mention there's a syringe filled with a strong tranquilizer connected to the thing? One "anomalous emotional condition," then off to dreamland they go!
And, if all else fails, there's even a patent for mobile crematoria for disposing of all the bodies.

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2008/6/28

The New York Times has a piece on the traditional Albanian institution of sworn virgins; where women could swear an oath of lifelong virginity and assume the role of men, dressing and behaving like men and wielding male authority. Some did this to escape undesired arranged marriages (or, presumably, the restricted world of female gender roles in general), while others did this out of obligation to provide a "male" head of their family or avenge the family honour:

“Back then, it was better to be a man because before a woman and an animal were considered the same thing,” said Ms. Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes downing shots of raki. “Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men, and are even more powerful. I think today it would be fun to be a woman.”
The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.
While Albanian culture formally codified a way for women to assume male gender roles, it would not surprise me if other traditional societies had their share of women who, disaffected with their prospects, secretly pursued lives in a male disguise.

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2008/6/26

The Swiss railway has had to issue workers with yellow reflective vests after Dutch football fans mistook them for fellow supporters when they wore their standard orange ones.

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2008/5/7

The head of the San Diego branch of the Republican Party has been revealed to be none other than the founder of videogame cracking ring Fairlight, who were responsible for a large proportion of the pirated Commodore 64 games in circulation. Tony Krvaric, was born in Sweden of Croatian parents but emigrated to the US in 1992 to escape the stifling constraints of social democracy, co-founded Fairlight in 1987, going by the handle "Strider". Even back then, Krvaric was known for his right-wing politics, and included the motto "Kill a commie for Mommy" in bragging screens on cracked titles he released.

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2008/4/29

They do things differently in Australia's rough-and-ready west, it seems. The leader of the West Australian opposition Liberal Party, Troy Buswell, has admitted to having sniffed the chair of a female Party staffer; the incident took place in 2005, in front of other staff members.

Mr Buswell has previously admitted to snapping a Labor staffer's bra as a drunken party trick and has been accused by retiring Liberal MP Katie Hodson-Thomas of making sexist remarks to her.
Deputy Liberal leader Kim Hames was today standing by Mr Buswell, describing him as a "rough diamond with a robust sense of humour".
Buswell has said that he will not stand down as Party leader.

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2008/4/4

Today's words of advice: should you ever decide to burgle a funeral parlour, it is advisable to dress the part, so that, should you be interrupted, you can blend in with the customers, unlike this guy:

Police officers arrived with the owner, and eventually found the suspect lying on a table in a glassed-in chamber used for viewings of deceased people during wakes, a local police official said from Burjassot.
"The custom here is for dead people to be dressed in suits, in nice clothes that look presentable. This guy was in everyday clothes that were wrinkled and dirty," the police official said.
Also, should you have the dubious fortune to be nicknamed after a weapon of mass destruction, don't write your nickname on any items you may leave lying around.

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The government of Thailand has outlawed cosmetic castration, a surgical procedure that was becoming surprisingly popular as a cheaper, quicker alternative to sex change operations:

However, at the lower end of the market, clinics have responded to demand from teenage boys to look more like girls by posting Internet advertisements offering castration for as little as 4,000 baht ($125).
Demand for teenage boys to look more like girls? Is this driven by particularly harsh economic considerations, or is it an extreme manifestation of fashion?

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2008/4/3

Something which amuses me is the ads on Facebook, and the juxtapositions of irrelevant images (typically of attractive-looking young women, at times in provocative poses) next to pitches for products of various dubiosity, ranging from fairly well-known credit-rating agencies to get-rich-quick schemes and online gambling sites, but having as a common feature an inherent lack of sex appeal. The rationale, I'm guessing, is pure postmodern cynicism: somewhere, some executive decided that the model consumer they're pitching at is like one of the slack-jawed halfwits from Idiocracy ("Gee, I don't know the first thing about work-from-home schemes and stuff... but I sure like hot chicks!"), and decided to market at this notional demographic. Not aiming merely for the dullards, but also for those consumers, brought up on trashy television and celebrity gossip, who are well versed in the practice of simulating being simpletons in order to be entertained, as the Judd Apatows and Seann William Scotts of this world (and their bank managers) know. Call it cognitive slumming, if you will.

Sometimes, though, the juxtaposition between the content (or, rather, its tone) and the Irrelevant Hot Chick Picture becomes quite jarring. Case in point:

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2008/3/26

US Department of Homeland Security convenes a group of science fiction writers, dubbed "SIGMA", to brainstorm ideas for defending the nation; writers, instead, go off on bizarre tangents:

Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.
“The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway,” Niven said.

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2008/3/20

Health authorities in the Philippines have warned devout Catholics taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals to get tetanus shots before they flagellate and/or crucify themselves, and to practice good hygiene:

In the hot and dusty atmosphere, officials warn, using unhygienic whips to make deep cuts in the body could lead to tetanus and other infections.
And they advise that the nails used to fix people to crosses must be properly disinfected first. Often people soak the nails in alcohol throughout the year.
In the northern city of San Fernando alone there will be three separate improvised Golgothas - the biblical name for the hill where Jesus was crucified.

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2008/3/14

Ever wonder what the science is that justifies Japan's "scientific whaling" programme? Well, wonder no more:

Scientists have analysed 43 research papers produced by Japan over 18 years, finding most were useless or esoteric.
The scientific research included injecting minke whale sperm into cows eggs, and attempts to produce test-tube whale babies, News Limited newspapers report.

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2008/3/10

Remember Leoncie, the other eccentric Icelandic singer who gave the world pop classics like "Radio Rapist" and "Sex Crazy Cop"? (The world, meanwhile, responded with stubborn indifference, apart from perhaps the odd "no way, man".) Well, she now has videos on YouTube, where you can behold the sheer awesomeness that is her unique pop sensibility (which draws on sub-Eurovision pop-rock and the genre of smooth, high-tech black radio-pop that fell into the cracks between Prince and hip-hop, with general-MIDI instruments and vocal stylings which sound somewhere between Whitney Houston and a Wagnerian valkyrie, not to mention inappropriately risqué subject matter). Go on, take a look at Sex Crazy Cop; you know you're curious.

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2008/2/29

Behold the Mall Ninja. Originally a shopping mall security guard, he saved the influential mayor's nephew from being sodomised by bad guys, was granted a special exemption, only given to heroes, from restrictions on weapons, and now is Sergeant of a three-man Rapid Tactical Force, covertly defending an unnamed shopping mall somewhere in America from heavily-armed gangbangers and apocalyptic hordes of neo-Nazis, in between shooting to wound shoplifters, and bragging extensively to gun forums on the internet:

If a kid picks up a candy bar and runs, you give him a warning before you cuff him. Same with those mindless teenyboppers who go to the Hickory Farms store, and then take double samples of fruitcake and cheeselog, you warn them that they will be charged with a felony(grand theft), and that if they attempt to fight and run, they will be, unfortunately, first tazered, and if they continue to resist violently with intent to maim, then wounded. Fortunately, wounding fire to suppress teenage kleptomaniacs is relatively easy, they all run in straight lines, and a hit in the knee will be relatively simple from the second floor. But they all get a warning first, we do not simply shoot shoplifters unless they resist violently.
I’m not even technically employed by the mall I’m stationed at, my orders come from “higher up”, hint, hint. Sure, most regular overweight mall security guards would not be armed, they would lose a Fullsize frame handgun in the blubber on their waistline, why arm them? The elite, however, have specail privilages, and I can assure you that my orders go far-far enough that I could go around Kennedy airport yelling “Hi Jack!”, and that a simple phone call and codeword would have me released in 5 minutes, with my weapon, be what it may. As I said, my orders go far and while my reasons for protecting this mall remain a matter of national security, if the above does not convince you that I am employed in a capacity that goes above and beyond halting shoplifters, nothing will.
You are a doofus, of course there is no anti-armor capabilities for golf carts, the UNIMOG was woth the anti-armor work though. We would never consider using any missles larger than our modified surplus Shrikes,
Also, Neonazi skinhead gangs are the most difficult thing we currently must deal with, it is not Chechin thzat we have to worry about, it is the Australian militants, and I dan’t care if they reed this, they allready know that we are onto them and we will not give up.

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2008/2/27

It has emerged that L. Ron Hubbard may have lifted parts of Scientology (or at least its title) from a 1934 text. Scientologie: Wissenschaft von der Beschaffenheit und der Tauglichkeit des Wissens ("Science of the Constitution and Usefulness of Knowledge and Knowing"), written by a Dr. A Nordenholz in 1934. Alas, Dr. Nordenholz didn't have the vision to start a religion or establish celebrity centres, and thus vanished into obscurity.

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2008/2/20

There are red faces in Staffordshire after a dining couple received a restaurant bill containing an obscenity. The computer-printed bill from Joe Delucci's restaurant in Lichfield contained, among its items, one reading "SUCK MY D___ F___ FACE", or something similar to these words, billed at £0.00.

The restaurant's owner apologised and explained that the message should only have been seen only by the kitchen staff, and should have never ended up as an item on the bill. In what context said message should have been seen by the kitchen staff has not been explained.

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2008/2/13

Recently declassified documents have revealed that, in 1973, Mao Zedong offered to export 10 million Chinese women to the US, whilst in talks with Henry Kissinger:

The Chinese dictator said he believed such emigration could kick-start bilateral trade but could also "harm" the US with a population explosion similar to China's, according to documents covering US-China ties between 1973 and 1976.
The leaders then spoke briefly about the threat posed by the Soviet Union, with Mao saying he hoped Moscow would attack China and be defeated. But Mao said: "We have so many women in our country that don't know how to fight."

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2008/1/17

The latest must-have accessory on the Tokyo subway is a portable subway strap. Such a strap, of course, doesn't provide support, but it does keep one's hands occupied, and provides proof that one is not using them to grope women in the crush (something which happens a lot).

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2007/12/6

Books I didn't know existed until now (an occasional series):

Via The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.

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2006/7/27

A list of bizarre and delicacies which one is unlikely to see in any restaurant, even one that serves (almost) illegal delicacies:

Ortolan: Famous for being the last meal of Francoise Mitterand, ortolan is a tiny songbird that is said to "embody the soul of France." To prepare, one must capture the birds alive, blindfold them (or place them in a lightless box) and gorge them on millet, grapes and figs. To cook, pop the little guys in the oven for a couple of minutes. The trick is in the eating. You must place the whole bird in your mouth, leaving the head dangling out and place a cloth over your head. Supposedly the most delicious taste on the planet, the dish is illegal in its native France and, of course, here.
Mellified Man: Mellified Man was a manmade dish popular in ancient Arabia. According to Mary Roach, author of Stiff, men 70-80 years old, on death's doorstep anyway, would cease to eat food, instead partaking solely of honey. Pretty soon, they would be mellified, that is, "he excretes honey (the urine and feces are entirely honey)." Soon he dies and is placed in a honey-filled coffin which is then sealed for 100 years. At the end of the 100 years, the goop is eaten up.
Also illegal in the US (where the article was written, and the barely-legal restaurant it refers to serves things like foie gras and absinthe) are unpasteurised French cheeses (though there is a thriving underground of bootlegging "fromaguerillas" importing the stuff under the nose of the Feds) and fugu, or the Japanese puffer fish.

But yes, don't expect your favourite trendy restaurant to start serving mellified man any time soon; for one, the logistics would be problematic (would you order in advance?)

(via Boing Boing) bizarre food france francois mitterrand mellified man ortolan 0 Share

2006/6/22

An Essex insurance company has cancelled what may have been the most bizarre insurance policy in Britain. In the policy, three sisters in the Scottish highlands, who apparently were members of a "Christian group" of some sort, had insured their virginity for £1 million, against the event of any of them immaculately conceiving the second coming of Jesus Christ:

Mr Burgess said: "The people were concerned about having sufficient funds if they immaculately conceived. It was for caring and bringing up the Christ. "We sometimes get weird requests and this is the weirdest we have had."
The burden of proof that it was Christ had rested with the women and any premium on the insurance was donated to charity, said Mr Burgess.
The siblings had paid £100 annually since 2000. If they had secured a payout, they stood to receive £1m.
The policy was apparently cancelled partly because of complaints from the Catholic Church, which doesn't look kindly on unauthorised immaculate conceptions.

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2006/6/7

The latest bizarre Japanese product is Photogenic Masks, which "have been created for anyone who desires to become a girl quickly and easily" (presumably one of those Japanese market niches that doesn't translate so well abroad). The graphic says it all:

If the plasticky, platinum-haired faces straight out of Mori's Uncanny Valley didn't quite induce the appropriate sense of unease, the knife stabbing the flower helps nicely.

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2006/4/9

Foot fetishism and rap music — two great tastes that go great together.

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2006/3/15

The ever-useful Boing Boing brings us more handy advice; this time, what to do if your eyeball pops out of its socket.

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2006/3/13

A Norwegian woman was pleasantly surprised when she turned a kitchen tap on and beer came out. Because of high Scandinavian alcohol taxes, beer is prohibitively expensive in Norway, which must have made her surprise even more pleasant. Meanwhile, in the bar two floors below, the beer taps only issued water; it's not recorded how the bar patrons reacted to this. The mixup was due to a worker getting two pipes the wrong way around.

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2005/12/2

A pack of squirrels bit a large dog to death in a park in eastern Russia, where, some months earlier, chipmunks have been terrorising cats.

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2005/11/28

A hoaxer in the US Midwest has reprised the Milgram obedience experiments by calling fast-food restaurants posing as a police officer and instructing managers to strip-search employees, subjecting them to bizarre and degrading ordeals. The managers in question, being selected for unthinking obedience, never realised that anything was wrong, accepting "Officer Scott"'s authoritative tone of voice, stated reasons and the sounds of police radios in the background as sufficient reason to start obeying, and the fact that they were already obeying as sufficient reason to keep doing so, up to committing rape.

On May 29, 2002, a girl celebrating her 18th birthday -- in her first hour of her first day on the job at the McDonald's in Roosevelt, Iowa -- was forced to strip, jog naked and assume a series of embarrassing poses, all at the direction of a caller on the phone, according to court and news accounts.
He had mastered the police officer's calm but authoritative demeanor. He sprinkled law-enforcement jargon into every conversation. And he did his homework. He researched the names of regional managers and local police officers in advance, and mentioned them by name to bolster his credibility. He called some restaurants in advance, somehow getting names and descriptions of victims so he could accurately describe them later.
In her book, "Making Fast Food: From the Frying Pan into the Fryer," Canadian sociologist Ester Reiter concludes that the most prized trait in fast-food workers is obedience. "The assembly-line process very deliberately tries to take away any thought or discretion from workers," said Reiter, who teaches at Toronto's York University and who spent 10 months working at a Burger King as part of her research. "They are appendages to the machine."
Several people who followed orders were jailed for rape and related crimes. The hoaxer was later found to be a 38-year-old prison guard with a fantasy of being a police officer. Meanwhile, one of the victims is suing McDonalds for allowing this to happen; McDonalds, meanwhile, blames her for not reading the employee manual where it said that strip searches were prohibited and not recognising that the caller wasn't a real police officer.

(via bOING bOING) abuse authority bizarre crime mcdonald's obedience pranks psychology rape usa wtf 0 Share

2005/11/20

Some people have strange ways of celebrating their sports teams' victories, such as by spontaneously castrating themselves with wire cutters.

"I'd told my pal Gethin Probert before the game that Wales didn't stand a chance," Mr Huish told The Sun. "It wasn't a bet but I said I'd cut my b*lls off if we won."
I guess he showed his mates that he was a man of his word and had the balls to do it, 'had' being the operative word.

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2005/11/17

You learn something new every day. Apparently, in England, it is illegal to sell anything that looks, smells or feels like a piece of fruit but isn't:

Novelty candles that look like strawberries or apples are a legal no-no, and shops that sell them can be heavily fined (up to £20,000) because of the danger of children eating them.
I wonder if that's enforced, and whether you have the Fruit Squad raiding import shops in shabby high streets and seizing bunches of plastic grapes and such.

I guess this means you won't be seeing fruit-shaped fairy lights or banana-shaped mobile-phone cozies in England any time soon. It's a good thing that there's no law against selling things that look like sushi but aren't

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2005/11/12

There is apparently an entire subculture in the US of people who build sex machines. So much so that the Museum of Sex in New York is having an exhibition on the subject, and for those not in New York, there is a book.

These are tinkerers, people who like to mess with all things mechanical. And they have a sense of creative invention — they are proud of these things when they create them. But also they think about sex a lot and this is what resulted from that combination. It's not just a sculptural thing. They are making it for a purpose. A number of them are married, they are making it to try and introduce something to their wives. Some may be using it to attract women — or they think it might attract women. And for some of them it's a business. But they are not part of a scene, like a sexual scene. It's more that they got the idea independently that this is something they wanted to make, they wanted to have.
The machines look like anything from dentists' chairs to Luxo lamps, with conspicuous plastic appendages attached. One appears to be a modified sledgehammer, and looks frightening. There is even a coffin-shaped one built by a couple of goth kids (aww, isn't that cute!).

(via gizmodo) bizarre goth robots sex tech 2 Share

2005/10/16

A jihadist website has published a fatwa on "Islamically-sound" ways of playing soccer:

2. International terminology that heretics and polytheists use, like "foul," "penalty," "corner," "goal," "out" and others, should be abandoned and not said. Whoever says them should be punished, reprimanded and ejected from the game. He should be publicly told, "You have imitated the heretics and polytheists and this is forbidden."
3. Do not call "foul" and stop the game if someone falls and sprains a hand or foot or the ball touches his hand, and do not give a yellow or red card to whoever was responsible for the injury or tackle. Instead, it should be adjudicated according to Sharia rulings concerning broken bones and injuries. The injured player should exercise his Sharia rights according to the Koran and you must bear witness with him that so-and-so hurt him on purpose.
4. Do not follow the heretics, the Jews, the Christians and especially evil America regarding the number of players. Do not play with 11 people. Instead, add to this number or decrease it.
6. Do not play in two halves. Rather play in one half or three halves in order to completely differentiate yourselves from the heretics, the polytheists, the corrupted and the disobedient.
13. You should spit in the face of whoever puts the ball between the posts or uprights and then runs in order to get his friends to follow him and hug him like players in America or France do, and you should punish and reprimand him, for what is the relationship between celebrating, hugging and kissing and the sports that you are practicing?

(via substitute) bizarre football islam islamism religiots sport wtf 4 Share

2005/10/4

They're now working on carbonating things other than soft drinks; like, for example, milk and fruit and such:

"When you put the product on your tongue you get a woosh of gas that comes off the product and onto your mouth," said John Brisson, a mechanical engineering professor and co-developer of the carbonated ice cream. "With soda you don't get this woosh kind of thing."
A company called Fizzy Fruit plans to introduce carbonated, cut fruit to sell at schools and other venues.

(via bOING bOING) bizarre food fruit milk wtf 1 Share

2005/9/14

If you think your job sucks, be glad you don't work in a body-piercing shop where you have to deal intimately with insane, malodorous perverts all day.

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2005/8/30

Iceland has given the world a number of unique musical acts in recent years, among them Björk, Múm and Sigur Rós; and now there's Leoncie, the Singer with the Black Beautiful Powerful Voice, who "blends South American and Portuguese rhythms with modern pop-rock beats which creates a dynamic blend called Leoncie Music"; she also describes her music as "European PowerPop-and RaunchyRock-Dance", which is borne out in titles like "Sexy Loverboy", "Radio Rapist-Wrestler", "Sex Crazy Cop" and "Safe Sex - Take Me Deeper", which are accompanied by promotional photos of Leoncie smiling through heavy make-up and showing off her more than ample cleavage (in her own words, '"A Little Bit Of My Cleavage Shows, And Then The Icelandic Volcano Explodes." Boooom!')

There are two MP3s provided for your delectation; they vary from General-MIDI radio-pop-soul to General-MIDI beer-commercial rock, with vocals that sound somewhere between Whitney Houston and a Wagnerian valkyrie.

The site is a bit light on other examples of her music, though makes up for this with copious links to her CD shop, and even more copious nuggets of wisdom from the great artist herself:

Q: Any favourite politicians?
A: Definely. Tony Blair and George Bush. Blair is handsome, Articulate and has great distinction. Bush is Special too and has great Character and Style.
Q: Any favourite DJ' s ?
A: Everyone who plays my music, Worldwide.
Q: Any female Singer you admire a lot?
A: Yes. Britney Spears. Cher. Tina turner.
Q: Favourite male Actor/s
A: Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, The Rock, Mr. Bean.
Not only that, but she's a fabulous cook, and even sews some of her own stage clothes. Which is why everyone needs to buy her CDs now.

(via musicthing) bizarre culture iceland leoncie music outsider art sex wrong 1 Share

2005/8/24

(The other) 10 Most Ridiculous Black Metal Pics Of All Time. Pure comedy gold; may not be worksafe, though:



And the original 10 are here.

(via rhodri) amusing bizarre metal unintentionally hilarious 1 Share

2005/8/18

On the internet, you can buy anything: even dangerous and/or endangered animals, no questions asked:

Gorillas are among the most highly-endangered species on the planet and all commercial trade in them is prohibited under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are potentially lethal and need expert care and treatment, yet IFAW found a British-based website selling a seven-year-old gorilla in January this year "due to relocation of its owner."
Other, American-based websites sell monkeys along with "cute" accessories such as nappies, feeding bottles, clothes and toys, adding to the impression that these are a slightly more lively version of a doll. Traders in live primates call themselves "Monkey Moms" and the animals "monkids".
Threatened by poaching and loss of habitat, there are only about 5,000 tigers living in the wild; but thanks to the thriving trade in exotic pets, some 10,000 tigers live in captivity in the US. One US website advertised two-week old male and female tiger cubs for just $1,500 each.

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2005/8/4

A US company is planning to start selling human breast milk, buying milk from mothers, packaging it and selling it. Which is even more unusual than it sounds, given that breast milk in the US contains so many toxic chemicals that it would be illegal to sell under the FDA's own rules.

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2005/7/28

A list of some of the most unusual questions sent in to urban-legend researchers snopes.com, revealing the anxieties of the public:

I just read a blurb that pre-packaged foods can cause people to turn gay because of too much estrogen. If I was only allowed one question for snopes, I would ask if this is true. Is it?
They say that if a person has a pet cat and dies, if the person's body is not found fairly soon after death, the cat, having not been fed, will become ravenously hungry and eat the dead person's face off--JUST the face!
Is this true? My cat often looks me in the face. I used to think he was just being friendly. Now I know he's just sizing me up, like a chef at a butcher shop, waiting for "the big day". Since hearing this rumor, every time my cat licks his chops it gives me the willies!
I've heard that it is impossible to take a lightbulb out of your mouth once one puts it in, without either breaking the bulb or dislocating the jaw.
Do you know if this is true? I'm counting on you - my husband is really curious, and I don't want to have to drive him to the hospital...

(via The Fix) bizarre cats gay snopes urban legends wtf 0 Share

2005/7/5

Yat-Kha are a band from the Siberian republic of Tuva who practice the Tuvan style of throat singing. They now have an album of covers of Western pop songs, including Led Zeppelin, Kraftwerk, Hank Williams, Bob Marley and Motörhead. The cover of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart, available for downloading from the page, is the greatest thing since those Portuguese-language David Bowie covers in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

They are also touring the UK in September and October.

(via sweepingthenation) bizarre cover version music outsider music russia throat singing tuva yat-kha 2 Share

2005/6/27

LiveJournal user icon of the day:

(Note: for the full effect, make sure you have animated images enabled.)

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2005/6/20

A kitten with two faces was born in Oregon on Friday; meanwhile, a Chinese temple in Malaysia found a six-legged puppy outside its doors.

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2005/6/15

For the freakazoid who has everything: a squirrel-shaped drinks flask, made from a real squirrel; nothing says coolness like pulling a real, formerly-live rodent out of your pocket, twisting the head off and taking a swig from its neck, without missing a beat:

(via bOING bOING) alcohol bizarre squirrels taxidermy wrong 3 Share

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