Weird Wednesday

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Good day fellow weird watchers. The more mindful of you must surely be aware that it is Wednesday once more! This can mean only one thing:  our weekly sojourn in the garden of weirdness. Resting behind the shrubbery, hiding beneath the cabbage patch, hanging from the trees of the orchard; weirdness can be found in the most expected and unexpected of places. Join me now as we gather the bounty of our strange garden and feast its fruits…

Weird Goings On

A Right Winged Candidate

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For the modern statesman, pursuing a career in politics must be a bit like life in a gilded cage; all the glory of power and all the shame of public scrutiny. The degrees, the schooling, the rhetorical training; nothing can prepare the budding office-bearer for the startling glare of the public eye. Most politicians could be forgiven for abandoning their calling for something less constraining. However, if politics is a cage, then one Belarusian candidate has had the ideal preparation. Meet Yakoy Zhukouski, the latest pretender to a position on the Mazur regional council. Yes, he is a budgie. The adorable Yokoy, who has decided to swap the bird-cage for life among the hawks and doves of the council chamber, is the pet of Belarussian political activist Kanstantsin Zhukouski. Mr Zhukouski decided to nominate his feathered friend as he wished to ‘highlight the futility of Belarussian politics’. He produced a passport, processed an application and even set up a campaign group for the winged whistle-stopper.  Apparently Yakoy had “long dreamed of being a councillor”. It looked as if that dream was about to be realised until something went a-fowl. Although the Mazur electoral commission originally accepted Yakoy’s nomination, he later withdrew because, according to a spokesperson, “being a regional councillor isn’t very prestigious.” Yakoy, it seems, has flown the nest in search of a loftier position.

Invasion of the Cannibal Rodents

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Somewhere in the Atlantic lurks a ghost ship. Cast adrift a year ago, it floats aimlessly upon a wine-dark sea, looking to make port once more. To make matters worse, the stricken hulk is crewed only by a troop of ferocious, cannibal rats. This may sound poor quality pulp-fiction, but it is, indeed, fact. In 2010 the Russian cruise-liner the Lyubov Orlova (named after an actress) was abandoned in the Canadian harbour town of St John’s, Newfoundland, after its staff became embroiled in a pay dispute. At a loss as to what to do with a crewless 4’250 tonne, 295 ft vessel, Canadian authorities decided to sell the Orlova as scrap. Unfortunately, in 2013, the ship was lost during a storm while on its way to a Dominican scrap yard and hasn’t been seen since.

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Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, the Orlova may still be afloat and, so experts say, is likely to be infested with rats, rats which, by now, will have been forced to eat each other to survive. It had been speculated that the Ghost-ship was ready to make landfall off the West coast of Scotland bringing its verminous crew to bear upon an unsuspecting populace. However, more recent reports indicate that the Orlova and its terrible cargo may have at last sunk beneath the salty brine.

Weird Culture

The Cult of Prince Phillip

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If you had been an alien in July 2013, and had been observing the UK from your shiny intergalactic spaceship, you would have been forgiven for thinking that a new messiah had just arrived. The birth of Prince George to the Duchess of Cambridge was met with pseudo-religious fervour by British media outlets; Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper even changed its name for the day to ‘The Son’. Of course, we Brits are used to this occasional outburst of royal-worshipping, but we’re equally aware that it never lasts; not so, on the tiny island of Tanna in Vanuatu. There, the Kastrom people of Yaohnanen village literally worship Prince Phillip as a God.

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This unique tribal cult believes that Philip is the divine, pale skinned, son of a mountain spirit. According to local legends this mythical figure left long ago to visit a distant land and marry a powerful woman and would someday return. The cult, which began at some point in the 1950s or 60s, recognised the colonial authority of Queen Elizabeth and came to the conclusion that Phillip, her husband, must be their long-lost God. Since unexpectedly finding out that he was a deity, Prince Phillip has regularly exchanged gifts with the islanders and even met some of them when they visited Britain as part of the channel 4 programme ’Meet the natives’.

Weird Science and Nature

A Web of Mystery

Arachnophobes turn away now; this is a story that’s sure to stick with you for some time. The above video, which was recently posted on liveleak.com, has attracted a sizable amount of online debate (not all of it intelligent it must be said). The clip depicts a field, apparently somewhere in England, smothered in a strange web-like substance.  What could it be? Well the theories on offer range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some of the more reasonable suggestions include; frozen dew, fungal spores, silk-worm trails and spiders webs. The fellow shooting the video seems to have something else in mind going by his bringing a Geiger-counter to the scene. Spiders certainly have previous with this sort of behaviour. In March 2012 farms in Wagga Wagga Australia became the scene of a bizarre arachnid invasion after millions of eight legged refugees fled their homes to escape flooding. The pictures below show the surreal silk-covered landscape they left behind. Pass me the rolled up newspaper would you…

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Weird Places

Volcanic Island of Doom?

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Those of you familiar with the writings of HP Lovecraft will have heart of R’lyeh; the nightmare corpse city of Cthulhu which resides beneath the depths of the Pacific Ocean. You will also be familiar with the idea that it will one day rise to the surface and herald mankind’s doom. Well the wait could very well be over. Recently, an entirely new island popped up off the coast of Japan. Measuring around 300’000 square meters in diameter and located approximately 1000 kilometres south of Tokyo, it was thrust above sea level by a volcanic eruption late last year. The island, which has a certain ‘non-Euclidian’ look to it, is growing all the time. Indeed, in a matter of two months it has reached more than thirty times its original size, completely engulfing the nearby Nishinoshima Island.  The sudden appearance of this new landmass has led some to see it as a sign from God that the end times are coming.  It has also been suggested that the islet’s arrival will expand Japan’s exclusive economic zone, but who could think of money at a time like this; when the eater of worlds is upon us? Admittedly, so far Cthulhu and his hordes have yet to be spotted, but their time will no doubt come. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn etc. etc.

Weird Object of the Week

Ancient Art?

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Men are monkeys, or so the theory goes.  Until around 200’000 years ago we were little more than furry primates, swinging from trees and chomping on bananas. Indeed, some argue that man never truly became human until s/he learned to express him/herself abstractly through art. Everyone is familiar with the cave paintings of Spain and Southern France, but these date back little more 30’000 years. If the object depicted above is truly what it purports to be then we may have to rethink what it is that makes us human.  No it is not some deformed coffee bean purchased from Ebay, this is the Makapansgat pebble, a three million year old ‘manuport’.  A manuport, unlike an artefact is not an object modified by human hands, it is instead an object picked up or ‘collected’ for its symbolic value. There is no doubt that the Makapansgat pebble was formed by natural processes. However, it was discovered in a cave which was once inhabited by Australopithecus africanus; one of our distant ancestors, and was found over 4 kilometres away from any other example of the same stone. It is suggested that one of our ape-like ancestors recognised that the pebble looked rather like a face and took it as a keepsake. If this were indeed true, then we humans have been thinking outside the box, or cave, for a very long time!

So, my companions, we have strolled through the garden of the strange, waltzed through the willows of the weird. We have strayed from the path of normality and glimpsed what lies beyond the hedgerow. I shall not say our experience has been a pleasant one, but it has certainly been… revealing. Join me next week for another Wednesday walk on the weird side.

 

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