Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sausage of the Future

It's been a while since this blog featured the kind of foul, disgusting, vomit-inducing post that you all adore. So I've been scouring the Internet today, looking for something that would turn your stomachs. And when I read the following headline, I knew I'd found it.

"Scientists Grow Pork Meat in a Laboratory."

Apparently lots of people have greeted this news with great joy. After all, lab-grown meat could feed millions, help reduce the greenhouse gases emitted by farm animals, and save cute little piggies from slaughter. (Even NASA is keen to know if meat can be grown in space.)

That's all great, of course. However, my interest started to fade when I learned that the research was funded by a sausage manufacturer. Which probably has NOTHING to do with the scientists' belief that their breakthrough "could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years."

Take your time, ladies and gentlemen.

Still hungry for more news?

Vanilla can be extracted from cow dung. Now how about some dessert?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Life and Times of Lillian Mountweazel

(Above: Not Lillian Mountweazel.)

If you had picked up a copy of the New Columbia Encyclopedia published in 1975, you would have found an entry for a woman by the name of Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942-1973). According to her biography, Ms. Mountweazel was a fountain designer and photographer, best known for her collection of photos of rural American mailboxes, Flags Up!. She was born in Bangs, Ohio, and died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.

Pretty interesting lady, wouldn't you say? But the most fascinating thing about Lillian Mountweazel is that she never actually existed. She was what's known as a "fictitious entry." The publishers of reference books (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) and maps will often include fictitious entries in their works. This makes it easy for them to know when their copyrights have been violated.

Thanks to good old Lillian, these entries are now known as Mountweazels. (In the world of maps, fictitious streets are called "trap streets." However, map makers' inventions have an interesting habit of becoming real places.)

That hasn't been the only honor bestowed upon Lillian. There's also a Lillian Mountweazel Memorial Society, and earlier this year there was an art exhibit devoted to her life and times.

Not bad for someone who never drew a breath. But it kind of makes you wonder what else might not be real.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Which US City Provides the Strangest News Stories?

That's right, baby. New York, NY!!!! A website recently analyzed over 2,000 strange news stories from 2009. Which cities produced the most? Here's the top ten . . .

1. New York City, NY
2. Lincoln, NE
3. Madison, WI
4. Philadelphia, PA
5. Chicago, IL
6. Cinncinnati, OH
7. Boston, MA
8. Detroit, MI
9. Dallas, TX
10. Pittsburgh, PA

Just a sample of the stories that came out of New York this year . . .

“Businessman accused of demanding dentures with gun”
“Turtles crawl on runway, delay flights at JFK”
“Goat wanders into nursing home in the Bronx”


Thanksgiving Ragamuffins

I have some serious weirdness for you this morning. I should have posted it yesterday, but I was too full of stuffing to move. (I LOVE stuffing. It's one of my top ten favorite foods. My Thanksgiving dinner plate is always 80% stuffing, 20% everything else.)

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Apparently, a strange tradition developed in New York City in the years between World War I and World War II. On Thanksgiving Day, kids all over town would dress up in their finest duds and most outlandish costumes and go from house to house shouting, "Anything f' Thanksgiv'n?" The homeowners were supposed to supply the annoying little scamps with money, fruit or candy.

The kids were called Thanksgiving Ragamuffins. According to one expert, "Ragamuffin parades, which harkened back to European traditions, were a chance for the poorer immigrants of New York to march through the streets in extravagant costumes, begging for change."

You see? It's this kind of thing that makes New York great. I've ALWAYS said that Halloween just isn't enough. Kids should demand TWO days of costumes and treats every year! Let's bring back the Thanksgiving Ragamuffins!

In the meantime, check out some Thanksgiving Ragamuffins from 1933 here, at the NYPL Digital Gallery!

Oh, and how about these pictures from an early Macy's Thanksgiving Parade? I LOVE that pig!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Reason to Be Thankful

(Art by Kaitlin Beckett. Check out her Curious Bestiary! And yes--the illustration shows an ostrich, but let's all pretend it's a turkey, OK?)

My computer is back from the shop. For the last few days, I've felt like I was missing a huge chunk of my brain! Oh the joy! Oh the happiness!

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving! I'll try to come up with some awesome weirdness to keep you amused.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Here's the Scoop

There are a few questions I'm asked over and over again. (Don't worry, they never get boring. I'm flattered you care!)

1. Will there be a Kiki #3 and when will it be out?
2. Why has it taken soooooo long?
3. How have you been spending your time if you haven't been writing Kiki #3?

Today I'm going to answer all of these questions!

There will be a Kiki #3. It's called The Darkness Dwellers. (Though that title may change before it's published.) And it will (most likely) be out in early 2011. I know that sounds like forever, but in publishing terms it's just around the corner. (Okay, that probably didn't make you feel any better, did it?)

However, as I've told many of you who've written me, I PROMISE it will be worth the wait. Among the many questions the book will answer . . .

Will Kiki finally seize the throne of Pokrovia?
Why is Livia Galatzina bald?
Does Oona Wong really have an identical twin?
Why do fish forks exist?
Is escargot as delicious as it looks?
Are the catacombs beneath Paris anything like the Shadow City?
Who is Ananka Fishbein's secret crush?
Why is an executive from a pharmaceutical company following DeeDee Morlock?

It's going to be awesome. (Well, I find it entertaining!)

Okay, on to the next question. So what have I been doing with my time? Well I've been writing another book. It's called The Eternal Ones. It will be in bookstores next summer (and not just in the US)! It's for teens and adults, so I wouldn't recommend it for those of you who are under 14 or so. (Yes, I know. It's totally unfair. Sorry about that.) It's a dark romance/thriller about a girl whose visions of another life lead her on a quest to find her one eternal love. Along the way she encounters shadowy figures, secret societies, and a private security force known only as the gray men. (And yes, the figure shown above plays a key role in the book.)

I'll be posting more about the new book in the new year! Until then, I hope I've answered your most pressing questions!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Service Outage Alert!

(Above: Subway art. I took the picture on the way home from my computer's funeral. It almost made me feel better. Almost.)

So my computer just died. Tragic, I know. I've been having some terrrrrible luck lately. Unfortunately, that means the posts might be a little slow for the next few days. (What's new, right?) But I'll make it up to you. How? Tomorrow I'll post all the news you've been begging to hear.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

School Controversy!

(I've come across the picture above a million times, but it still makes me laugh. The person responsible may not be very good at math, but s/he's a genius in my opinion.)

Okay, let's get a few things out of the way. I wasn't kidnapped. I was in the mountains of NC and my blackberry died. (Sorry, I should probably come up with a more entertaining excuse, but the truth will have to do for now.) As for the Shadow City Store, I closed it because I ran out of shirts just when my printer's machine decided to break! I'll try to have some cool new ones available before the next book is out!

Now. Time for a little controversy. A cash-strapped middle school in NC was recently in the news for all the wrong reasons. Seems the school's principal decided the best way to raise a little money was to sell grades. That's right. For a 20$ "donation," a student would be given 20 points which he could apply to his test scores. Wow. That's wrong for so many reasons that I couldn't even begin to count them. Though I do feel sorry for the school. Read more here.

Here's a story that's a little more complex. A teacher in Minnesota apparently broke the law by posting the names and grades of students who scored the highest on a recent test. He only wanted to reward those who did well and motivate those who didn't. But a parent complained that it was a violation of her son's privacy. Was it? Should posting the highest test scores be against the law? (Keep in mind--he didn't post the names of those who hadn't aced the test.) Read more here and let me know what you think!

Bomb-Proof Wallpaper

Hi everyone! Another post will follow shortly after this, but I couldn't wait to put this up. They call it "bomb-proof" wallpaper, but it seems to me that it might have plenty of other uses. (The most obvious? Wallpaper for buildings in earthquake-prone areas.) Awesome.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Window Farms

(Above: A Window farm and some cool street art. Photo by Britta & Rebecca)

One of the only things I've always hated about living in asphalt-covered New York City is that I haven't been able to grow my own special garden. Now, thanks to the geniuses behind, I can! So everyone better be PRETTY DARN NICE to me from now on. (JK. Or am I?)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Animals in the Afterlife

(Above and below: Mummified baboons. Photos by Richard Barnes.)

In 1888 an Egyptian farmer digging in the sand near the village of Istabl Antar uncovered a mass grave. The bodies weren't human. They were feline—ancient cats that had been mummified and buried in pits in staggering numbers. "Not one or two here and there," reported the English Illustrated Magazine, "but dozens, hundreds, hundreds of thousands, a layer of them, a stratum thicker than most coal seams, ten to twenty cats deep."

That's a quote from the fascinating National Geographic article found here. All I can say is, "wow." Imagine finding hundreds of thousands of mummified cats in your garden. You'd never need to buy fertilizer again. (JK)

I knew the ancient Egyptians mummified their rulers and their cats, but until now I had no idea just how many animals they tried to take with them to the afterlife. They mummified crocodiles, rams, shrews, "even tiny scarab beetles and the dung balls they ate." Some of the animals were thought to be living gods. Others were just pets. And many were just food for the other side.

Check out the animal mummy photo gallery on the National Geographic site.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And What Did They Do With the Bus Driver?

(Photo by Plomomedia)

I lived in the mountains of North Carolina for seventeen years, but the first time I ever saw a raccoon, I was waiting for a bus in San Francisco. The odiferous beast (which was at least as big as a pit bull) appeared on the city sidewalk and cut in front of me in line.

Now I've discovered photographic evidence that the raccoons of San Francisco like to ride the bus. But these seem to have more than a pleasant commute in mind. Once they seized control of the vehicle, where do you suppose they took it?