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Posts Tagged ‘weird

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”*…

 

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With the appearance of the first rays of the sun from Cerro Huantajaya in Alto Hospicio, northern Chile, people celebrate the arrival of the Aymara New Year, Machaq Mara, and the arrival of new energies.

 

For centuries, Inuit hunters navigated the Arctic by consulting wind, snow and sky. Now they use GPS. Speakers of the aboriginal language Gurindji, in northern Australia, used to command 28 variants of each cardinal direction. Children there now use the four basic terms, and they don’t use them very well. In the arid heights of the Andes, the Aymara developed an unusual way of understanding time, imagining the past as in front of them, and the future at their backs. But for the youngest generation of Aymara speakers – increasingly influenced by Spanish – the future lies ahead.

These are not just isolated changes. On all continents, even in the world’s remotest regions, indigenous people are swapping their distinctive ways of parsing the world for Western, globalised ones. As a result, human cognitive diversity is dwindling – and, sadly, those of us who study the mind had only just begun to appreciate it.

In 2010, a paper titled ‘The Weirdest People in the World?’ gave the field of cognitive science a seismic shock. Its authors, led by the psychologist Joe Henrich at the University of British Columbia, made two fundamental points. The first was that researchers in the behavioural sciences had almost exclusively focused on a small sliver of humanity: people from Western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic societies. The second was that this sliver is not representative of the larger whole, but that people in London, Buenos Aires and Seattle were, in an acronym, WEIRD.

But there is a third fundamental point, and it was the psychologist Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania who made it. In his commentary on the 2010 article, Rozin noted that this same WEIRD slice of humanity was ‘a harbinger of the future of the world’. He had seen this trend in his own research. Where he found cross-cultural differences, they were more pronounced in older generations. The world’s young people, in other words, are converging. The signs are unmistakable: the age of global WEIRDing is upon us….

Are we breeding a global cultural and cognitive monoculture?  More at: “What happens to cognitive diversity when everyone is more WEIRD?.”

* Stephen R. Covey

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As we delight in difference, we might send utilitarian birthday greetings to Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer was born on this date in 1748.  Bentham is considered a founder of modern Utilitarianism (via his own work, and that of his students, including James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill); he actively advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He argued for the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, and for the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.

Bentham was involved in the founding of University College (then, the University of London), the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political belief.  On his death, he was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture– as he specified in his will.  Afterward– again, as Bentham’s will specified– the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton stuffed out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.  Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, preserved to resemble its appearance in life.  But experimental efforts at mummification, though technically successful, left the head looking alarmingly macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.  So the Auto-icon was given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair.

It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of University College.  The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks, so is now locked away.

 see a virtual, 360-degree rotatable version here

 

“The child’s laughter is pure until he first laughs at a clown”*…

 

Catering to bikers, truckers, and other long haul travelers that find themselves off the beaten path, the Clown Motel is the final port of call before the yet another stretch of unbroken Nevada desert. It must be this location’s oasis-like location that has kept the establishment in business for so long, as the ever-watchful eyes of the ubiquitous clown figurines seem to serve more as a warning than a draw. From the moment travelers enter the adjoining offices they are greeted by a life-size clown figure sitting in a chair, cradling smaller figurines like familiars. In fact the entire office is covered in shelves and bookcases full of clown dolls, statues, and accouterment of every stripe. Stuffed animals, porcelain statues, wall hangings, and more make up the mirthful menagerie, staring down at guests from every angle.

Leaving the office with key in hand, visitors might also notice an arch just feet away heralding the “Tonopah Cemetery.” Just beyond the gate is a century-old miner’s graveyard made up of a gaggle of wood and stone markers. The very Platonic ideal of a haunted cemetery…

For those unafflicted by coulrophobia, “Clown Motel.”

* Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

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As we pop on our red noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the BBC premiered a new comedy sketch show– then improbably, now legendarily– entitled Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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Written by LW

October 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“You don’t get explanations in real life. You just get moments that are absolutely, utterly, inexplicably odd”*…

 

A warning sign in Coober Pedy, a town in northern South Australia

There are over five million articles in the English Wikipedia… These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica.

Wikipedia: unusual articles

* Neil Gaiman

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As we wonder at the weird, we might send dissolute birthday greetings to the poster boy for oddity and excess, Caligula; he was born on this date in 12 CE.  The third Roman Emperor (from from 37 to 41 CE), Caligula (“Little Boots”) is generally agreed to have been a temperate ruler through the first six months of his reign. His excesses after that– cruelty, extravagance, sexual perversity– are “known” to us via sources increasingly called into question.  Still, historians agree that Caligula did work hard to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor at the expense of the countervailing Principate; and he oversaw the construction of notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself.

In 41 CE, members of the Roman Senate and of Caligula’s household attempted a coup to restore the Republic.  They enlisted the Praetorian Guard, who killed Caligula– the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated (Julius Caesar was assassinated, but was Dictator, not Emperor).  In the event, the Praetorians thwarted the Republican dream by appointing (and supporting) Caligula’s uncle Claudius the next Emperor.

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Written by LW

August 31, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Just play. Have fun.”*…

 

The mud-pit belly flop, a highlight of the annual Summer Redneck Games in Dublin, Georgia

 

The word “weird” is defined by various dictionaries as odd, bizarre, eccentric and unconventional. And where most of these traits could be considered unsettling, in the world of photography, and specifically sports, it could also translate to a gold mine.  The essence of photography is to capture a truly remarkable moment. And many times, different (or weird) can be good. If photographers covered the same events from the same angles, we really wouldn’t achieve anything unique or memorable…

712 people and 600 balls in Manhattan: the world’s largest dodgeball game

Sol Neelman, a self-proclaimed “failed athlete” and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, has turned his lens away from the conventional targets of sports photography…

A Chinese tourist in the dunes of the Sahara Desert tries his hand at sandboarding

Read an interview (from whence, the body quote above) with Neelman here; peruse his portfolio here.

* Michael Jordan

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As we Do It, we might recall that it was on this date in 1893 that “Cowboy Bill” Pickett invented bull-dogging. A 23-year-old cowhand at the time, he rode alongside a stray, dropped from his horse to grab the steer’s horns, and– emulating bulldogs that he’d observed– sharply bit the steer’s upper lip.  Soon after, Pickett and his four brothers formed The Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association.  He did his bulldogging act, traveling about in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, and Oklahoma.  In 1905, Pickett joined the 101 Ranch Wild West Show that featured the likes of Buffalo Bill, Will Rogers, and Tom Mix; Pickett was soon a popular performer who toured around the world and appeared in early motion pictures (see below)– though he often had to mask his African-American heritage by claiming (only) his Native American roots.  (Even then, while he was in fact part Cherokee, he claimed to be part Comanche.)

As the event became a common rodeo event, lip biting became increasingly less popular until it disappeared from steer wrestling altogether.

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Written by LW

May 4, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The slogan of Hell: Eat or be eaten. The slogan of Heaven: Eat and be eaten”*…

 

This three-year-old male Great Dane was observed repeatedly vomiting and retching all day; he was taken to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, where abdominal radiographs revealed a severely distended stomach and a large quantity of foreign material:

During exploratory surgery performed by a DoveLewis veterinarian, 43½ socks were removed.

The patient was discharged home one day after surgery, and is doing well.

The peckish pooch finished third in Veterinary Practice News‘ annual “They ate WHAT?” contest.  See the other winners at “2014 X-Ray Contest Winners–Animals will eat just about anything. The proof is in the radiographs.”

* W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

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As we are what we eat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that Walt Disney initiated the art classes that grew into the Walt Disney Art School (and later inspired the creation of the California Institute for the Arts).  In preparation for his feature-length cartoon (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which would require the animation of more human figure than the critters theretofore featured), Disney set up the school to train his animators.  The first class was taught by Don Graham of the Chouinard School of Art, lecturing at Disney’s old sound studio on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. Classes are held once a week after work on the sound stage, but soon this will be expanded to twice weekly. The selection of Graham was propitious; “The Prof” groomed a team of animators that went on to set (and continually raise) standards for decades.

A true scholar of the art of drawing [who] knew as much about art as anybody I’ve ever come in contact with. Don gave so much and offered so much and not too many people realize that. [Don] was a very inspirational man.Marc Davis on Don Graham

Don Graham really knew what he was teaching, and he “showed” you how to do something – he didn’t just talk. He taught us things that were very important for animation. How to simplify our drawings – how to cut out all the unnecessary hen scratching amateurs have a habit of using. He showed us how to make a drawing look solid. He taught us about tension points – like a bent knee, and how the pant leg comes down from that knee and how important the wrinkles from it are to describe form. I learned a hell of a lot from him!  —Art BabbittOnce Upon a Time — Walt Disney: The Sources of inspiration for the Disney Studios

Jack Kinney‘s memory of Don Graham’s class

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Written by LW

November 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Judging books by their covers is seriously underrated”*…

 

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How to Poo on a Date has won the 36th annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

The book, by Mats & Enzo, published by Prion Press, topped a public vote to find the oddest title, in one of the closest contests in prize history. In the end, How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette, took home the title with 30% of the vote, beating into second place Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown (Pan South Africa) andThe Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews (ECW Press), which both captured 23% of voters.

The rest of the shortlist [pictured above] was made up of early frontrunner Working Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City by Chris Balsiger ands Erin Canning (One Peace Books), with 14%; Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography by Jo Packham (Quarry) with 6%; and How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God by Ian Punnett (Harmony Books), with 4% of the votes…

Previous titles from Mats & Enzo, How to Poo on HolidayHow to Poo at Work and How to Bonk at Work, were all previously nominated for the prize. Tom Tivnan, features and  insight editor at The Bookseller, and Diagram Prize administrator, said: “The two were in danger of becoming perpetual Diagram bridesmaids, like Beryl Bainbridge and the Booker.”

He added: “In recent years, Diagram Prize voters have showed their catholic tastes by selecting rarefied food science titles (The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais, 2008), zoological studies (Bombproof Your Horse, 2004), and highbrow experimental literature (The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, 2003). Yet after Mats and Enzo’s win this year, with The Origin of Feces on the shortlist, and Saiyuud Diwong’s Cooking with Poo taking the crown in 2011, an all too-clear trend emerges. Diagram devotees have spoken, and spoken in no uncertain terms: poo wins prizes.”

No prize other than the honour of the win is traditionally given to the winner of the Diagram, which was founded as a way of relieving boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair by Diagram Group co-founders Trevor Boundford and Bruce Robertson in 1978.

Readers can read the full release at The Bookseller, and can follow (Roughy) Daily’s coverage of earlier year’s competitions here and here.

* Amy Smith, All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane

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As we load up our Kindles, we might send fabulous birthday greetings to Hans Christian Andersen; he was born on this date in 1805.  A prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his (often curiously-titled) fairy tales.  Those tales– which include “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “Thumbelina,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”– have inspired plays, ballets, and both live-action and animated films.

In Andersen’s honor this date– his birthday– is celebrated as International Children’s Book Day.

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“There’s no drama like wrestling!”*…

 

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Local lore has it that it all began when a gentleman named O’Rourke and a partner developed a business in the late 1940s of fishing for octopuses with O’Rourke serving as live bait, and his partner hauling him out of the water after an octopus was sufficiently wrapped around him.**

In any case, you can read all about it on the ReelChase site, but in a nut shell, by the 60s octopus wrestling had become a lively “sport,” especially in the Seattle area.  Annual “World Octopus Wrestling Championships” were held in Puget Sound; they attracted up to 5,000 spectators and were televised. Trophies were awarded to the individual divers and teams who caught the largest animals. Afterwards, the octopuses were either eaten, given to the local aquarium, or returned to the sea.  For example, in April, 1963, 111 divers took part in the competition; they wrestled– caught by hand, then dragged to shore– a  total of 25 giant Pacific octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini) weighing up to 57 pounds.

The sport began to die down in the late 60s, and the Championships ceased.  Octopus wrestling is now illegal in Washington State.

* Andy Kaufman

** This, according to reporter and humorist H. Allen Smith in an article for True magazine in 1964; Smith’s source was West Coast raconteur Idwal Jones, so readers are left to dial up their own credulity.

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As we pull on our wet suits, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967– just as the Octopus Wrestling Championship was fading– that elsewhere in Seattle another freaky voice was born:  on March 23, 1967, the first issue of Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Helix, was published.  Inspired by San Francisco’s Berkeley Barb and Oracle, and New York City’s East Village Other, Helix‘s prime instigators included Paul Dorpat, then a wayward University of Washington grad student, and Paul Sawyer, a Unitarian minister.  This circle quickly grew to include later-to-be famous novelist Tom Robbins, Seattle Post-Intelligencer cartoonist Ray Collins, and Jon Gallant, co-founder of Seattle’s legendary underground radio station KRAB-FM.  It also launched the media career of Walt Crowley, revered local writer, historian, and rabble-rouser, who joined the paper’s staff, first as an illustrator and later as an editor, in May, 1967.  (Crowley and Dorpat later went on to be two of the three founders of HistoryLink, along with Crowley’s wife Marie McCaffrey.)

Volume 1, Number 1

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Written by LW

March 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

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