Weird Universe Blog — October 3, 2023

If war gas falls from the sky

Buy scotch tape, because it might help you in the event of chemical warfare.

Life - Sep 20, 1943

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 03, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: War | Advertising | 1940s

War of the Networks Board Game

Does it include dealing with a writers and actors strike?

The entry at Board Game Geek.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Oct 03, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Games | Television | 1970s

October 2, 2023

The Chimpomat

In one of our recent posts, there was a reference to the Chimpomat, a token-operated vending machine for chimpanzees created at the Yerkes Laboratories in the 1930s. Here's more info about it.

"Subject Kambi is shown about to drop a token into the slot of the chimpomat to 'purchase' food."

Info from The Ape People (1971) by Geoffrey H. Bourne:

The Yerkes Laboratories eventually developed a device known as a Chimpomat. This Chimpomat would receive either metal or plastic disks and would dispense some form of food reward in return for the insertion of a disk. Animals were eventually taught to pull the box of weights up to the cage in return for plastic or metal disks which they could then take and put in the Chimpomat to get their reward.

By the process of lengthening the time between which they could earn the reward and when they could actually receive it by using the Chimpomat (by making the Chimpomat available only certain times of the day), the animals could be trained to collect plastic disks, in other words, to work for money. They would store up this money until the time came for them to spend it. Eventually they were trained to earn the money one day and spend it in the Chimpomat the following day.

On these occasions the animals used to walk around clutching their earnings to their breasts, sleeping on them at night so they would not be stolen, and getting very hysterical if any other animal came near their earnings or tried to take any of them away—a very human side of their actuvity and the dawn of ownership of private property and capitalism, a thought that has intriguing implications.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Oct 02, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals | Science | 1930s

October 1, 2023

Python on the golf course

1952: Finding that her golf ball had come to rest on top of a 10-foot python, Mrs. Bobbie Pritchard shot the python and then continued to play the ball from on top of the (now dead) snake.

I guess that taking a penalty and using a new ball was, for whatever reason, out of the question.

Glasgow Daily Record - Dec 24, 1952

Posted By: Alex - Sun Oct 01, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Reptiles, Snakes, Worms and Other Slithery Things | Golf | 1950s

1999:  Our Hopeful Future

Like most predictive non-fiction, this 1956 volume has both hits and misses throughout. But I was amazed by one page, which predicts flatscreen TVs, a Roomba, and household surveillance cameras, bing-bang-boom!

Read the whole thing here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Oct 01, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Predictions | Yesterday’s Tomorrows | Books | 1950s

September 30, 2023

Musical Tones of Waterfalls

The "A. Heim" referred to below was the Swiss geographer Albert Heim. (Perhaps the E. Heim was his brother?) His studies of the musical tones of waterfalls led him to formulate the hypothesis that Beethoven wrote the sound of a waterfall into his "Pastoral" symphony. Details from

Heim concluded that if you listened closely enough to the running water, you could hear a C-major chord with an added F — the very harmony used in the opening bars of the symphony’s final movement. "It seems," Heim wrote, "that Beethoven had got this chord from listening — consciously or unconsciously — to the sound of water, which flowed away in large swaths after his storm [in the third movement]."

You can read Heim's article about the musical tones of waterfalls here (but it's in German).

Scribner's Monthly - Apr 1875

Posted By: Alex - Sat Sep 30, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Music | Science | Nineteenth Century

The Opal

Read it here. Spoiler: it's all very bland.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Sep 30, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Literature | Magazines | Nineteenth Century | Mental Health and Insanity

September 29, 2023

The Unspeakable sin of Charlemagne

After the death of Charlemagne (in 814 AD), a legend emerged alleging that the ruler had committed some kind of "unspeakable sin."

The legend first appeared in print in a 10th-century work called The Life of St. Giles. According to this work, Charlemagne had sought out St. Giles to ask the saint to pray for him because he had committed a sin so terrible that he had never been able to confess it properly. Giles reportedly agreed to pray for the king, even though Charlemagne didn't tell him what the sin was.

The fact that the unspeakable sin wasn't disclosed whet the imaginations of later medieval writers, creating a minor genre devoted to exploring what the sin was. Details from Charlemagne: Father of Europe (2022) by Philip Daileader.

Until the 13th century, authors equivocated when speaking of the unspeakable sin alluded to in the Life of St. Giles. Some authors continued to dodge the issue in the centuries to come, but others did not. They made shocking accusations against Charlemagne and committed them to writing. Perhaps the accusations themselves were invented in the 13th century, or perhaps such claims had long circulated awaiting the moment when authors finally mustered the courage to write them down. Be that as it may, authors offered two different identifications of Charlemagne's unspeakable sin. Some authors identified Charlemagne's unspeakable sin as incest. Specifically, they claimed that incestuous relations between Charlemagne and his sister, Gisela, had in turn resulted in Gisela giving birth to Roland, the hero of the Song of Roland.

The allegation of an incestuous relationship between Charlemagne and Gisela appears in the Karlamagnus Saga, a 13th century account of Charlemagne's life written in Norse. From there, the incest claim is then taken up by a number of different texts, especially French texts.

Other authors identified Charlemagne's unspeakable sin as necrophilia. That claim appears in a 14th century German poem about Charlemagne, "Karl Meinet," and the idea was then taken up in a number of 14th and 15th century German chronicles and treatises.

Specifically, someone had hexed Charlemagne by placing a charmed ring under the tongue of his dead wife. The ring caused Charlemagne to become infatuated with the wife and to continue the relations they had had while she was alive. When a bishop discovered the ring and removed it from the dead wife's mouth, Charlemagne became infatuated with the bishop. The bishop tossed the ring into a swamp, and Charlemagne became infatuated with the swamp, building a palace and dwelling there. To be clear, none of this is true...

One can only speculate as to why stories arose alleging that Charlemagne was guilty of incest or necrophilia, and why those stories gained a significant and distinguished audience. These stories did not emerge in or remain confined to a specific geographical milieu. They do not seem to have been concocted to achieve any specific political outcome. Perhaps they emerged primarily as a reaction against the overblown praise that Charlemagne received in other works. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Detail from a Flemish altarpiece (ca. 1400) showing Charlemagne asking St. Giles to pray for him.
Source: Victoria and Albert Museum

Posted By: Alex - Fri Sep 29, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Medieval Era | Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore

The Violents, “Alpens Ros”

Not much of a plot, but lots of eye candy and a catchy tune.

The group's Discogs page.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Sep 29, 2023 - Comments (4)
Category: Music | Oceans and Maritime Pursuits | 1960s | Europe | Attractiveness, Sexiness, Allure and Personal Magnetism

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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