The weekly clock has turned full circle and we’re back, once more in that same, strange and mysterious place we inhabited last week… … Wednesday. Speaking of strange places and speaking of Wednesdays, I recently overheard an exchange between two crusty old sailors. I was drinking in a rum-soaked, dockside bar at the time… yeah I do that sometimes.
‘We set out from Old Blighty on Monday,’ said one of the fellows; a bear of a man with blood-shot eyes, ’and sailed through calm waters for two days.’
‘Arrgh,’ replied his scruffy companion.
‘Ne’re a ship did we sight in all that time,’ continued the red-eyed, old sea-dog.
‘Arrrgh,’ responded the other.
The bearlike fellow took a stiff swallow of grog and continued.
‘On the Wednesday one o’ our boys spotted an island in the distance. Queer it were and on no map. Yet, we decided to disembark and have ourselves a look.’
‘Arrrrgh,’ retorted his compatriot, a hint of apprehension in his tone.
‘I regret that fateful decision,’ cried the sea-dog. ‘Things there were there that I daren’t speak of; things that would chill yer blood and twist yer soul. Rest assured, we christened that island with a proper name… Weird Wednesday Island we called it.’
At that moment I decided to set my own course to Weird Wednesday Island. I purchased a map from the old sailor (drawn on the back of a fag packet) and chartered a tug-boat to take me there. Embark with me now as we explore the terrors and delights of Weird Wednesday.
Weird Goings On
Now Rat’s what I call Justice
With the world’s highest death penalty rate, China is known as a country where justice can be swift and brutal. Well, it seems, human criminals are not the only ones given short shrift by the law. The above picture, taken late last year, depicts three rats ‘executed’ in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, for the crime of stealing vegetables. The victims of vigilante justice, the three unfortunate rodents were tied to a tree just outside the offices of the Shuanglui police department by a local man named Lui Junijiang . Lui, and his collegues at a local advertising firm, apparently caught the sneaky creatures pilfering their vegetable stash and decided to make a public example of them. The notice pasted to one of the culprits reads, “I was wrong, I repent”. The image was posted on the Shuanglui police’s official Weibo feed (Chinese equivalent of Twitter/Facebook), and went viral across China, with many Weibo users comparing the unfortunate rats to corrupt public officials:
“There are rat thieves all over the country. These rats are fat and big, running amuck across the country and they disguise themselves as civil servants, but our police pretend to be not aware of the situation.“
Others were less impressed with the stunt, one pointing out:
“The Supreme People’s Court has stipulated that testimonies gained through freezing, starving, scorching, beating the suspects are illegal and should be excluded from the court. We should show the animals that we are a highly civilized society.”
Hmmm… ‘rats to that’, I say!! According to official sources there was a happy ending for the verminous villains who received a stay of execution; they were untied, caged and released into the countryside. Though little hope was held out for their rehabilitation, with Sichuan Online commenting that the “Cat police would handle them”.
There is no greater mystery in life than what lies after it is over; what happens to us when we finally shuffle from this mortal coil. Well if you want the heads-up on what’s coming next, you may wish to engage Paul Mutora. In early January, after an argument with his father, 24 year old Mutora, a resident of the market town of Naivasha in Nakuru County, Kenya, tried to kill himself by drinking a bottle of insecticide. Rushed to the nearby Naivasha district hospital, he was pronounced dead by medical staff and his body as sent to the hospital morgue for embalming. That, however, was not the end of the story. Placed in cold storage for twenty hours, the following day Mutora sent mortuary workers screaming from the building when he woke up alive and well. It turns out that the anti-poison medication given to him by the hospital’s doctors had slowed Mutora’s heart to a near imperceptible rate, leading to the signing of his death certificate. Check out the news report in the video below:
Political correctness has become something of a national obsession in the UK. Here, we are terrified of saying anything that might lead to someone taking offence. Not so in Germany, where a recent effort to increase the sales of Berlin’s the Strassenfeger (Street Sweeper) magazine, pokes fun at the very people it aims to support. Strassenfeger, like its British equivalent The Big Issue, is a publication sold by homeless and unemployed men and women. Concerned at a downturn in sales, the magazine’s publishers have decided to increase their product’s appeal by including a free comic-book. Entitled Superpenner (Superhobo), its hero is anything but your average super-powered idol. Sporting a matted beard, stinking breath and a tattered cape, Superhobo sleeps on a park bench and can only access his super-powers by downing a bottle of cheap beer. “His muscles are firm, but he has no fixed abode” proclaims the comic’s slogan. Of course, in the best superhero tradition, Super-hobo has a couple of sidekicks to help him fight crime; Guttergirl and Convenience-store Man (a none-too-well disguised Turkish immigrant). Whenever Superhobo is in trouble they show up on the scene with a life-saving bottle of lager… whoever said Germans have no sense of humour. Of course, all this political incorrectness is in aid of a good cause. It is hoped that the popularity of the comic-book character will raise awareness of the plight of Berlin’s homeless community and increase charitable donations. “Not every Hobo is a Superhobo” cautions an advertising poster. Check out the promo video for Superpenner below… it’s super:
Things that go Bump
Georgian Hairdressing Poltergeist
It’s easy to spot a poltergeist they’re pesky blighters; they slam doors, throw pots and pans around and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Well one poltergeist in the Georgian town of Gori (the birthplace of Josef Stalin) seems to have taken its mischief making to new levels of weirdness. The Russian political newspaper Pravda reports that the Okropiridze family recently fled their home after their resident spook took things too far. The poltergeist, which was reportedly the spirit of a young girl, had haunted the family home for fifteen years. The usual collection of weird phenomena occurred at the house, unexplained banging, strange voices and the dealing out of unsanctioned haircuts… wait, unsanctioned haircuts? Yes, well, one of the inhabitants, Nato Okropiridze, states that the pesky ghost once cut a strand of hair from her child’s head only for it to reappear a year later. Of course, all this is rather scary, but hardly enough to drive you from your home. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when Nato’s husband brought home a religious icon. This, it seems, impressed the ghost not at all. Suddenly frightening images of ‘graveyard crosses’ began materialising on the house’s walls. The spirit even tried to kill one of the homeowner’s children. Pravda reports:
“Nato decided to go into the bedroom but could not open the door as if it was locked from the inside. “I fell asleep in the front room,” said the woman. “I woke up and saw that my child was climbing up the wall. I said: “Lasha, Lasha, where are you going?” And he replied: “Rats are calling me to the roof.” What would happen if the mother did not see him?”
What would have happened indeed? Anyway, after this, and several other unpleasant incidents, the family decided to decant to the home of a relative, where they’re staying until their house can be ‘cleansed’.
Weird Science and Nature
The Game of Life
Videogames are great, they let you kill, they let you be killed and there are seldom any consequences. If things aren’t going your way you simply chuck your controller away, reboot your console and start again. But what if there were more at stake? What it you weren’t playing with bits and megabits of information, but genuine living cells? Genspace, a company from New York, is doing just that. Genspace are one of a handful of groups producing ‘Biotic video games’. Using an approach titled ‘Biohacking’, Biotic video games allow you to play games by controlling real life micro organisms. While the results are not exactly worthy of a Next-Gen console, they do work. Simple soccer and Pong-like games allow players to control action that is actually taking place in a petri-dish. The movement of the micro-critters is controlled by using attractive light sources. This may sound like the type of useless, gimmicky science that makes you wonder why academics get funding in the first place, but the scientists responsible for it see some real world application. When the system’s inventor, Prof Ingmar Riedel-Kruse of Stanford University, spoke to Mashable in 2013 he commented:
“Kids are really excited if you put a microscope in front of them and they kind of observe these critters. Kids also play lots of video games, which is very interactive and attractive. If you merge the two, you could imagine what this kind of effect potentiates.”
Of course, not everyone is so excited about the potential of Biotic video games. As one might expect, ethical activists see the use of living things for entertainment purposes as a bit… well… problematic. One response to the You Tube clip above commented:
“Seems wrong somehow, using living things for own gaming fun purpose. Next is to play chess by moving animals around a field and get them to kill each other when you take a piece.”
Wow! Now there’s a concept.
Weird Object of the Week
The Wages of Skin
Everybody has heard of Guy Fawkes the political dissident who tried and failed, to blow up the English houses of parliament in the infamous ‘Gunpowder Plot’ of 1605. Every year, on the 5th of November (fireworks night), his effigy is burned in bonfires up and down Britain. Fewer people are familiar with his co-conspirators, one of whom was Father Henry Garnet, an English Jesuit Priest. Like his colleagues, Garnet was sentenced to be publically hanged; a sentence which was duly carried out. The above image is of a 17th century book with the rather catchy title: A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings Against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet A Jesuit and His Confederates. It gives the rather harrowing account of how Garnet and his criminal colleagues were put to death. Yet, it is not his execution which interests us here, but what happened to Garnet afterwards. You see, the book was in fact bound in Garnet’s skin. In a practice known as ‘anthropodermic bibliopegy’, after his execution Garnet’s body was cut down from the scaffold and his skin flayed to make a nice dust-jacket. That this was itself see as a form of punishment is made clear by a Latin inscription on the cover, which reads ‘severe penitence punished the flesh’. This book is among the most famous examples of anthropodermic bibliopegy in that many claim that Garnet’s face can still be made out from the binding… creepy stuff. The volume was sold to a private collector in 2007 for £5’700.
Well, we’ve plumbed the secrets of Weird Wednesday Island and returned with our sanity intact… well most of us anyway. It is now high time that we set sail for more familiar climes. Mayhap you’ll return with me next week for another trip to less ordinary shores…
Over and Out