Happy New Weird

If the World Gets Upside
Down, Learn How to Float

Much has been lost in 2017, or is under threat. Our dignity as a nation, shared respect for facts, telling the truth without a subpoena involved. But we’re not giving up our ownership over what’s weird just yet.
See, since we’re ruled by someone with no regard for clarity, the very concept of what’s bizarre has become twisted. Well, no longer. Weird belongs to reality itself, has its own shine, and we’re its keepers.
But before highlighting some of the brightest spots, where the nonsensical and the truly odd reign supreme, and where no orange human has been before, here’s where the quirk and the surreal are actually enlightening. The Improbable Research, for instance, with its gloriously instructive Annals magazine and annual Ig Noble Awards.
Yes, it may never occurred to you that how long a cow stands may determine how long it will lie down (a 2013 award), or the effects of music on angry drivers (a recent paper), but boy, what a delight to learn. For these are accomplished scientists, fulfilling the ‘first laugh, then think’ motto. Yes, now you know.
On another end, there’s I Fought the Law, a book about some American laws, which may or may not be real. It all could’ve come from the same warped realm where the 45th seems to belong to, including suspicions that its author is pulling our collective legs. But what if somebody does want to ban the Stripes and Stars from being planted on a bar of soap?
In between, Pareidolia and your garden variety abnormalities of all suits, from time travelers, their blurry pictures and eerily-looking guns, to kinky children’s plays and traditional, but no less unsettling, national habits. Some quite unsavory indeed, but hey, haven’t you heard about the working, golden-platted toilet boil they’re shipping to the White House? So there you have it.

The East Village Continental used to be a dive where $5 would get you good drunk to go. Now, $20 buys you only a literally washed-down Appletini. Just don’t dare saying ‘literally’ to the bartender; it’ll get you banned. That and mentioning the bankruptcy that will close it in July.
Or maybe it’s the clientele of NYU bros, who came with the onslaught of school dorms in the area. In any case, this dive is doomed and yes, the only good thing still good about the place is that it’s still a dive. Or maybe it’s now something else. Literally. Whatever.

One of the most enduring cartoon characters ever created is Linus and his blanket, which he uses for emotional support. Charles M. Schulz knew a thing or two about Freud, and therapy, and how sometimes we all reach out for something to provide us relief from a troubled world.
But United Airlines sees it as a stunt, apparently. Even as animal companions are as common in air travel as, well, lack of leg room, the company has recently refused to let a woman board the plane with her pet peacock. And mentioning Freud or Schulz didn’t help her either.

Evidence of climate change has been overwhelming. Hurricanes, wild fires, and that’s just talking about last year in the U.S. (more)
Read Also:
* The Weekly Weird
* That Can’t Be Right
* Better Halves

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Present Time

Flexing Your Exquisite
Skills For Being a Gifter

It’s finally here (and you know you want it): our Peculiar Gift List. But why, you ask, another list of presents for other people, (instead of the ever more fulfilling one of things given to you)? Hasn’t the insanity of being nice run its course that time when all you’ve got was a lousy pair of socks and a 3-VHS package?
We’ll get back to you, you Grinch, but this year’s selections got you covered. Jesus Freak uncle? Check. Crazy nice aunt? Check. Serial killer trinkets? You’ve got it. Sure, you won’t please everyone, but they did give you the finger then, right? At least you’re not poisoning them or something. Just proceed with caution.
For that was that time when the little girl next door gifted you with her oh so cute drawing, and you got caught cold-sweating bullets. Her precocious rendition of your backyard, which impressed everyone, scared your shitless. That evil glint in her eye was a message.
As if saying, I saw you dragging that body out of your back door, the other night, and you thought no one was watching. Well, I was. That warning was all you’ve got, but who knows? What if this time she’s coming for a payback? Better be prepared. Hence having a handy list.
Dying people have their buckets, but yours is for protection. Just when they come for the killing, you stun them with a nicely wrapped memento. It’s the thought that counts, remember? Or the message. But just in case, don’t turn your back on her. And calm yourself down already.
Above all, it’s a list custom-made for the regifter at heart in you. As long as you’re judicious redistributing the goods, you’ll be fine. Oh, and don’t forget the scorpion vodka, the snake rum, and the 5-hour Darth Vader Yule Log playing on TV to set the mood. Go ahead, be merry.

She’s spent the whole year forwarding you all sorts of links about silly, intriguing, and slightly disturbed cats. You even thought about a fitting revenge, but in the end, couldn’t be mean to your sweet aunt. Result: a bottle of cat forehead-scented Fluffy Fragrance Fabric Water.
She’ll love it. It says how much you care about her, and how nice would be for her to drown on the scent of her own multiple kittens. Who, of course, won’t care less. You know, cats. Still, you’ll impress the party. Or get all sorts of weird stares. Congrats.

Family gatherings are always tricky, but the table clears ever so quickly when Uncle Bob starts talking Fox News politics. There’s always one point when you’re left on your own to defend lesbians, gun control, legal abortion, and Obama. But this time, you’ll win.
Give him the ‘Dancing With Jesus‘ DVD, and watch his face light up like the gun-themed Christmas tree you know he’s spent hours putting together at his place. Keep a straight face and you’ll see him (more)
Read Also:
* Last-Minute Gift
* The Most Wonderful Time
* Holiday Fare
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May Daze

The McCormicks Riot, When the Police Opened Fired on Striking Workers, May 4, 1886

Three Quick Takes on May
(While You Run the Clock)

Eight-hour shift? Check. Overtime pay? Check. Banned child labor? Check that too. What started as a Dionisyan fête became an affirmation of humanity in post-Industrial Revolution years. Pity that First of May now is mostly an occasion to mourn the demise of unions and workers’ rights.
But don’t get discouraged; the original Labor Day is still big everywhere but in the U.S. It may still fulfill its original purpose, of reminding powers that be that employees are well, people too. Check for today’s rallies around the world. Meanwhile, though, we’re keeping the distress call, just in case.
May 1 marked a pagan celebration of the season’s first crop. Free from the religious guilt that singed human sense of joy for good, just consider how hard ancient people partied with moonlight bonfires, sensual dances, and songs of forward gratitude for a bountiful harvest.
Cut to 1886: U.S. workers held a strike demanding enforcement of an eight-hour workday resolution, established two years earlier by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. When police fired at an unarmed crowd at the Chicago’s McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four, and arrested union leaders and anarchists, the modern organized labor movement was born.
Mayday, the distress call, on the other hand, has nothing to do with what’s stated above. It’s an anglicized version of the French word m’aidez which means help me. No wonder it’s a keeper. But let’s clear up once and for all an enduring, albeit, senseless query: no, mayonnaise has nothing to do with it. Neither it’s advisable listening to the Bee Gees‘ song at this time. Or ever, for that matter. Enjoy.

(Adapted from the original, published on May, 1, 2011.)
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* Cinco de May
* May Cinco de Mayo Last

Nary a Christmas

The Worst (& Cutest) Little
Gift Some Forget Not to Give

For those still looking for that perfect gift, one that will save the holiday cheer, and prevent anyone from calling you a Grinch, we’re sorry but you won’t find your last-minute redemption in this post. For that, please scroll down, or, since we’re in a giving mode, go elsewhere.
Just hope you won’t settle for a particular kind people continue to give each other this time of the year: pets. It may as well be the topmost mistake, in the season’s long tradition of mistakes, right up with getting drunk in the office party, and wishing Merry Christmas to everyone.
One may feel tempted, though, and perhaps animal shelters share part of the responsibility for some of the disappointment such a gift usually ensues. During the holidays, those heartbreaking late night ads with sad-faced cats and dogs up for adoption are shown at an earlier hour, just in time to offer you a quick fix for guilty feelings.
Well, don’t fall into that trap. Even if you had to go to the kitchen to grab some tissue, missing the part where they say that these rescued animals need the safety of your home, not that of your siblings, you’re still not excused. After all, it’s not the poor things’ fault that you still don’t know your nephews’ names.

Thus, as they say somewhere, ‘nary a Christmas’ goes by without someone having the astonishingly misguided idea of bringing a pet to a family who hate cat fur, or what they do to the furniture, or simply can’t be broken into walking a dog three times a day. They’ll most certainly return the animal.
That’s often the beginning of their martyrdom and ultimate destruction. Like you, most people mean well when they think that giving a living, Continue reading


Twins, Dead Ringers & Lookalikes:
the Doppelganger & the Other ‘Yous’

You may have one of those faces. The other day, someone just saw your doppelganger walking down the street. You see people who resemble you all the time. But are we really all lookalikes, made of a relatively few number of templates, plus variables added as toppings?
The thought of not being physiognomically unique is quite unnerving, and as common as a pair of identical twins. We fancy that we’re one of a kind ever since we first recognized ourselves in the mirror. Mom told us herself. But then we meet our dead ringer and all bets are off.
One of the most fascinating phenomenon of living species is the double birth, the twins, and in humans, identical ones have been source of inspiration and awe since prehistorical times, central to a number of cultural traditions, the embodiment of kinship and parallel lives.
They’ve also been the target of scientific curiosity, knowledge, and sick experiments. Identical twins, specially, are rare but statistically expected. In Brazil, however, there’s a whole town, Cândido Godói, full of doubles, in way higher-than-normal rates. Researchers have come up with a variety of possible causes for it.
One that immediately got an enduring currency is that Nazi ‘Angel of Death,’ Joseph Mengele, had something to do with it, since he lived and died in the 1970s in a nearby farm community, across the border with Paraguay. But that theory has been debunked and replaced by another, more in line with scientific data.

Twins do share a special bond, and seem linked in extraordinary ways to each other. Genes, naturally, explain their similitude and that among relatives, but it’s no less astonishing when that happens across generations, with grandkids being uncanny copies of their forebearers. Doppelgangers, and lookalikes, however, are another story.
All genetic research considered, it’s taken the work of a few photographers to shed an intriguing perspective into this subject. One captured strangers who look stunningly alike, while other linked recent pictures of people with their former selves, and yet another, combined faces of members of the same family.
Variations of the theme go further, using photo manipulation effects, for instance, to create a perfectly symmetric match of only one side of someone’s face split in two. Or trying to explain why some ‘complimentary’ personalities attract each other, based not on resemblance but on intuitive behavioral and genetic factors.
And then there are the case of celebrities, both contemporary, and those whose previous physical likeness have been somewhat spotted in pictures of the past. Continue reading

Land Specks

Pop Up Isles, Sinking Atolls &
Havens for Snakes, Cats & Spiders

An unforeseen consequence of rising sea levels is that it puts a dump on that idyllic idea of retiring to a tropical island. Somehow the thought of waking up at its highest peak, with just enough time to hold your breath doesn’t have the same ring that it once had.
It’s a silly dream anyway. So when a 7.7 earthquake shook Pakistan last week, leaving over 500 dead and thousands homeless, in a nation already periodically visited by tragedy, only a heartless optimist would see the birth of a new island as a silver lining of sorts.
And yet, there it is, a 100 feet by 250 feet speck that’s now dotting the Arabian Sea. A rough, cracked piece of the ocean floor, pushed up by methane to 60 feet up above water. Almost like a natural monument and tribute for those who had to go for it to rise up so violently.
As you probably gathered by now, that’s our theme for this evening: islands, those mysterious orphans of continental drifts, giants underwater, tall enough to reach high above the waves, and yet frightfully tiny, once at the surface, always at ready to be swallowed by the vastness around.
They’ve been a surprising copious leit motif at Colltales, having graced these pages half a dozen times in less than three years. Perhaps its their endless diversity, or often violent origins, what pulls us towards them. Or that they can be placid and inhabited only by bugs Continue reading

What’s the Point?

The Quotable, the Abbreviated & the
Exception All Vie for the Apostrophe

We should’ve seen this quote-unquote quagmire coming, one would’ve guessed. Some obscure government agency, with a surprisingly slasher’s appetite for apostrophes in geographic names, has banned its use for 113 years, with only five meager exceptions.
Such discriminative zeal has driven self-appointed ‘punctuationists’ to many exclamation marks, preceded by a ‘W,’ a ‘T,’ and a ‘F,’ no dots included. But it’s not even new: the Web already ignores it, and it’s more commonly misplaced than a comma or a semicolon.
But before we get to the latest fracas, let’s review these landposts that can guide or derail communication. In language, music or measure, either written, for breathing or clarifying pauses, they may as well be the edge we still have over the droning of robots and computer-generated speech. But we may have already lost that one.
We mentioned the comma, for instance, fully aware of how dear they’re to linguists and grammarians of almost all tongues. It’s actually amazing how such a small curvy mark can originate so many treatises of its use, praise from academics, and frustration by students, and we’re not even getting into the pompously named Oxford comma.
Then there are the marks that some languages like so much as to place them in the beginning and the end of a sentence, as the Spanish does with the exclamation and the interrogation points. With the added sophistication that they appear upside down, on their second time around. Such a twisted Latin passion, you may wonder.
Albeit often laid at the feet or side of letters, no punctuation above the mores of our times, helping contract full sentences and complex meanings into a few strategically arranged typos. Or go the other way, and get spelled out as a word, as in the case of the arguably most disconcerting of them all: the slash.
Thus, much more could be noted about these ‘accidents’ on the road to understand each other, or completely miss the point. We’d rather Continue reading