NPR: ‘Dark Archives’ Explores The Use Of Human Skin In Bookbinding . “Megan Rosenbloom, a young librarian-in-training, wanders through the Mütter Museum’s collection of medical oddities. In an inconspicuous corner, she discovers a display case of leather-bound books with their covers closed — unusual for rare books. The caption explains these books are closed because their binding is more notable than their contents, and that’s because they were made from human skin. This marks the beginning of Rosenbloom’s obsession with ‘anthropodermic bibliopegy’ and the opening scene to Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin…”
The Guardian: From cut-out confessions to cheese pages: browse the world’s strangest books. “Edward Brooke-Hitching grew up in a rare book shop, with a rare book dealer for a father. As the author of histories of maps The Phantom Atlas, The Golden Atlas and The Sky Atlas, he has always been ‘really fascinated by books that are down the back alleys of history’. Ten years ago, he embarked on a project to come up with the ‘ultimate library’. No first editions of Jane Austen here, though: Brooke-Hitching’s The Madman’s Library collects the most eccentric and extraordinary books from around the world.”
New York Times: Pandemic Baking Just Got Weirder. “Back in March, when isolation and homebound boredom were novelties, many Americans fashioned themselves into folksy sourdough bakers. Come June, making bread loaves, cookies and cakes took on new urgency, as professionals banded together to raise funds for organizations that support and defend Black lives. All the while, many artists and amateur bakers had been creating confections at home, not out of practicality or as part of a campaign, but for art’s sake. Their cakes, which draw on the absurdist Jell-O mold tradition of 1950s homemakers and revel in gross-out palettes, reflect ideas about gender, power and respectability.”
Dedicated to all you cool cats and kittens who have ever had to do really weird tech troubleshooting, from the BBC: Internet: Old TV caused village broadband outages for 18 months. “The mystery of why an entire village lost its broadband every morning at 7am was solved when engineers discovered an old television was to blame. An unnamed householder in Aberhosan, Powys, was unaware the old set would emit a signal which would interfere with the entire village’s broadband. After 18 months engineers began an investigation after a cable replacement programme failed to fix the issue.”
Mashable: Museum curators show off their creepiest stuff, and we’re shuddering. “The world can be a freaky place. The world of museum curators, however, is apparently downright terrifying. That much was made clear Friday when whoever had control of the Yorkshire Museum’s Twitter account kicked off a creepy-curator challenge. The UK museum claims to house ‘some of Britain’s finest archaeological treasures,’ but this #CURATORBATTLE called for something else.”
Rolling Stone: How a Government Agency’s Offbeat Twitter Memes Landed in the Library of Congress. “In September 2016, Joseph Galbo put a baby in a forcefield. It was the second day of Baby Safety Month, and Galbo, the social media specialist for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, had gotten the OK from his director to try out a new way of communicating to the American public the best ways to protect a newborn. The photo he posted had the goofy aesthetic of a slapdash Photoshop job — a smiling baby with a glowing aura nestled in the center of a blue orb — while the CPSC’s logo at the bottom lent the image the added feel of a low-budget PSA.” Gloriously weird.
Okay, I promise I will calm down about these. But this one uses AI to generate CAT PICTURES. Seriously, how can I not? Futurism: A New AI Draws Cats, and They’re Utterly Grotesque. “GANs have been used for much more ambitious projects in the past. Researchers at NVIDIA harnessed the power of the technology to create uncanny faces that are almost completely indistinguishable from the real thing. But that doesn’t mean bored people on the internet shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the open-source technology for a bit of fun — that is, as long as real-world cats stay out of harm’s way.” I tested this. A fraction of the cats look something like real cats. The other ones look like the dreams you have after a meal of spicy meatballs and eggnog.
The Next Web, included here for sheer weirdness: Student discovers copycat stalker imitating her Instagram account . “A Scottish college student apparently discovered a classmate had been imitating her pictures on Instagram, to an eerie degree. According to a now-deleted Facebook post, a woman named Chloe Cowan and her sister spotted the copycat, allegedly a fellow student named Honey Basra. The latter would apparently recreate Cowan’s photos, down to the clothes she was wearing and the caption.” This may be a hoax.
Motherboard: Why Is Google Translate Spitting Out Sinister Religious Prophecies?. “Type the word ‘dog’ into Google Translate 19 times, request that the nonsensical message be flipped from Maori into English, and out pops what appears to be a garbled religious prophecy. ‘Doomsday Clock is three minutes at twelve,’ it reads. ‘We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.'”
Austin Inno: Finding Bigfoot: 7 Seriously Strange Datasets on data.world. “Among other things, the data.world’s platform is helping track hate crimes, identify health and disease trends and provide new tools for the Census Bureau. But, there’s plenty of slightly less serious stuff being shared, as well. For example, one user provided word-count data to analyze gender equality in 2016’s most successful films. Imagine the possibilities — fun and otherwise — recreational researchers now have by harnessing the power of data and data visualizations to help them track the elusive and legendary Bigfoot. Or go ahead and make your own highly-tailored queries to find connections within the data provided from speed dating experiments.”
The Verge: Navigating the well-curated, deeply weird Sponsored Films online archive. “Last week, the National Film Preservation Foundation launched a remarkably well-curated and easily accessible online collection of movies featured in Rick Prelinger’s book The Field Guide to Sponsored Films. These are mostly educational shorts, financed by government agencies, charitable organizations, or corporations with something to say. In the latter half of the 20th century, these shorts were fairly common in schools, workplaces, and civic institutions. But these days, most people encounter them only when they’ve been comedically repurposed. The gang from Mystery Science Theater 3000 often riffs on sponsored films.”
Of course there’s an online museum for weird Cheetos shapes. (PRESS RELEASE). Of COURSE there is. “Since its launch, the Cheetos Museum has already had over 15,000 Cheetos fans turned art curators submit the unique shapes they’ve found in their Cheetos bags. The 10 best shapes will be featured in the ultimate official Cheetos art collection and be awarded a total of $150,000 in prize money.”
Your Wednesday Weird: Two Thomas the Tank Engine-themed Twitter accounts got into a fight.
I’m confused. Google is being sued for using someone’s song in its ads. Here’s the thing: they had negotiated the rights to use the song, but hadn’t gotten her permission. Huh? “[Darlene] Love’s voice was used, as it was part of the licensed track. Her goodwill remained where it always was — loaded like a spring trap, apparently. She accuses Google of deliberately using a non-union ad producer to ensure her union-granted ‘rights’ (whatever they are…) were routed around.”
Not useful. Except that it might make you laugh. Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Get a tweet converted to a cuneiform tablet. For the person who has everything.
I want props for heroically resisting the headline I LOVE A TWEET IN CUNEIFORM.