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194. The High House

Reachable thanks to the violent and thorough application of nunchuksIn 2004 some developers planned a shopping complex in the Chinese municipality of Chongqing. As per normal they bought the land and swiftly evicted the 280 home owners, however they met resistance in the  form of Wu Ping and her husband, Yang Wu. The ever calm 49-year-old Wu Ping and supporting Yang Wu decided to not leave. Instead they settled down in their two-storey brick house while the land around them was scraped clean.

The developers were impatient and even began to excavate the land around the house; still, Wu Ping and Yang Wu stayed in their house. While the ground fell away from around their humble abode the developers apparently threatened the pair by sending up thugs, presumably thugs of the threatening kind. The oddity of the case and the bravado displayed meant news of the case spread far and wide. The image of a single house on a column of earth became synonymous with the struggle between citizens and property developers in an aggressively modernising China. As Wu Ping said:

“I’m not stubborn or unruly, I’m just trying to protect my personal rights as a citizen.”

Fortunately Wu Ping’s husband was more than able to help. Being a martial arts champion he threatened to beat up any authorities approaching the house. He also happened to be a practical and fairly determined individual. For simpler access to the house he cut stairs winding up the 10 muddy metres to the house. How? With the violent and thorough application of his personal nunchuks to the soft earth.

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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Articles

 

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193. The Skin of Big Nose George

In August 1878 a Union Pacific train was making its rounds through rural Wyoming, America. The day was warm and the steam train pulled along through the uneventful landscape. Meanwhile George Parrott or Big Nose George as he was also known, was with an outlaw gang, lying in wait by the straight tracks. They were ready to make mischief on a whole new scale. The plan was simple, derail and rob the train.

As a group they loosened a few sections of track and moved them enough to destabilise the train, then they lay in wait. Then some section hands came along, found the damage and repaired it immediately. The train was safe; this was the cause of some disappointment for the gang, and they aborted the robbery.

The section hands immediately reported the tampered track to the authorities and two men set out to investigate the track tampering and lay down the law. These men were Sheriff Robert Widdowfield and Special Railroad Detective, Harry ‘Tip’ Vincent. The gang fled to a temporary camp in the nearby ‘Rattlesnake Canyon’ but the investigators were hot on their tracks and discovered them within days. Upon entering the camp they found recently extinguished embers, they were still hot. The gang was there still laying in wait. Up to twenty shots rang out through the canyon and the two investigators lay dead. Shot by Parrot’s cruel collective.

With two bodies on their hands the group partially buried the bodies and then dispersed. Then the long arm of the law began to extend its grasp. Surveyors near the canyon reported hearing the sounds of gunshots rebounding off the rock faces. Some twenty men were assembled to deal with the case. They rode out and eventually found the canyon encampment but no sign of the gang. What they did find were the bodies of the two men, shot to pieces. Widdowfield’s corpse had 7 bullet holes in the skull alone. The two rapidly decomposing bodies had been loosely covered in dust and gravel the week before. The hunt for the gang was on. A prize of $10,000 was offered for the capture of the group. Very quickly Union Pacific doubled that offer.

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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Articles

 

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192. The Famous Nameless Face

In 19th Century Paris, just as with any other time in Paris, there were many suicides. In Paris, the Seine was a favourite, at a time when most could not swim the large river was often a death sentence. Whenever a body drifted onto the banks of the river, it was put in the care of the authorities. In 19th Century Paris they had a special practice to identify these damp deceased.

A cooled room was set up and up to 14 bodies placed within it. At one end of the room was a large window, any passer-by could peer inside and, hopefully, identify one of them. Parisians and travellers alike were fixated by the chilling sight, neatly arranged bodies only slightly too still to be sleeping. In the volume ‘Unknown Paris’ it was noted that:

“There is not a single window in Paris which attracts more onlookers than this.”

In the 1880’s there was one particular body. She was dragged from the Seine with not a scratch or spot. Suicide they said. The body was presented behind a window and the people peered at the restful smile which sat across the features. No name came and the body rotted, it was placed in an unmarked grave, but the smile remained. An unknown pathologist had been so taken by the beauty that they decided to take the beauty. A plaster cast mould of the face was taken and a death mask made, an object to preserve the image of one deceased. Through odd contrivances and circumstances now lost to time the mask got out and garnered a following. The face became famous. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Articles

 

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191. All Aboard The British Rail Space Express!

In 1970, Charles Osmond Frederick was drafted in by British Rail to design a lifting platform. Mr Frederick took on the challenge but after some revisions and a few edits it seemed he had gone rather off track. In December 1970 British Rail filed a patent application for the affectionately named ‘space vehicle‘. The official British Rail Flying Saucer.

Instead of a lifting platform the result of the design work was a large interplanetary passenger spacecraft designed for the pan-planet traveller. It was a truly preposterous proposition and in March 1973, the patent was granted.

The design named nuclear fusion as the source of lift and thrust. To start the engines one or more high-powered pulse laser beams are required the material. The pulses of nuclear energy generated would occur 1000 times a second to prevent any chance of resonance which might damage the vessel. To provide extra comfort for those traversing the notoriously low gravity of space, the acceleration of the ship could simulate that wholesome gravity feeling, a weight off the minds of those unaccustomed to zero-g travel. As an added comfort the patent even goes to the trouble of including a thick layer of metal above the fusion reactor to shield passengers from the deadly levels of radiation.

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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in Articles

 

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190. Putting the ‘ash’ in Cash

In 1991, the best-selling singles act in the world was ‘The KLF,’ a duo consisting of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. This UK-based group engaged in varied activities and made a point of both mocking the music industry as a whole and not earning a single thing. During their short careers neither one of the pair made any money, instead putting all of their earnings back into increasingly lavish productions. Through the early 90’s their popularity soared with the release of their number one hit ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ which mashed together the Doctor Who theme with Rock and Roll (Part Two) and other popular songs of the era. The hit was slated by critics universally but still managed to reach the top ten in Australia and Norway.

The end of the peculiar ride came with an incendiary performance by The KLF at the Brit Awards. They joined up with the band Extreme Noise Terror and, on prime-time television and performed a thrash metal version of their popular song ‘3.am eternal.’ Bill Drummond was on crutches screaming the lyrics into the microphone. He then hobbled off stage and came back on with a large automatic machine gun and a cigar, for effect. He then fired blanks into the audience which panicked. At the end they left the stage and the announcer declared:

“The KLF have now left the music Industry.”

This turned out to be very prescient as later that year the pair retired swiftly and entirely. Then they had a problem. Over the next few months their music still was bringing them money, but they didn’t want to make a profit. By 1993 they had £1,000,000 between them, so they set up the ‘K – Foundation.’ It was initially a fund to help struggling artists but then, true to form they decided against it.

“We realised that struggling artists are supposed to struggle, that’s the whole point.”

Their first deed, nailing all of the money to a pine frame, but no galleries would exhibit it. They considered taking it to Russia by train but no company was willing to insure it. They were at a loss as to what to do when in 1994 they had an idea. In a café they were trying to decide what to spend the money on, then they scrapped that. They would burn it.

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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Articles

 

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189. Dastardly Disco Fever

From the 7th to the  17th Century, mainland Europe was home to a peculiar and occasionally fatal condition, dancing mania. It was no disease, no bacteria, no virus. A particularly human condition, a social phenomenon. There are a few known cases, spread widely. It affected thousands of individuals, how and why this happened, unknown.

It really got moving in 1374, the first major outbreak occurred in Aachen, Germany. After that it spread around Europe. The first step of the dancing plague was often an individual. France, 1518, a woman called Frau Troffea took to the warm July air and danced the streets of Strasbourg. This fervent flailing went on for six days, by the end of that 34 other dancers were going toe-to-toe with the fever.

The numbers swelled, as they normally do. By the end of the month there were some 400 dancers on the streets. In the 1518 epidemic local physicians concluded the whole case was the result of ‘hot blood.’ The council even stepped in and attempted to alleviate the condition. The solution to dancing, was more dancing.

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Articles

 

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188. Death by Utopia

Calhoun relaxing in Universe 25

In the late 20th Century, John B. Calhoun decided to make Utopia; it started with rats. In 1947 he began to watch a colony of Norway rats, over 28 months he noticed something, in that time the population could have increased to 50,000 rats, but instead it never even rose above 200. Then he noticed that the colony split into smaller groups of 12, any more and groups would split apart. He continued to study rats up until 1954. Then in 1958, he made his first lab.

He bought the second floor of a barn, and there he made his office and lab. For four years he had Universe 1, a large room homing rats and mice alike. It was split into four spacious pens connected by ramps, each filled with rats. The thronging mass of rats produced an overpowering odour, it took a few minutes before anyone could breathe normally. After 4 years he moved away from the farm, in 1963 he produced his most famous creation, Universe 1. The worlds first mouse mortality-inhibiting-environment.

2.7 metres square with 1.4m high walls. The ‘Universe’ was surrounded by 16 tunnels leading to food, water and burrows. No predators, no scarcity, the mice would have to be blind to not see the utopia around them. That is how it started, Utopia. Then the mice, four breeding pairs in all, were introduced into Universe 1. After 104 days they adjusted to the new world and the population began to grow, doubling every 55 days. Day 315 and the population reached 620, then it stopped. The population grew much more slowly as the mice came against the limit of space, their only frontier.

Then the societal breakdown, young were expelled before they had been properly weaned and the attacking of young. Dominant males couldn’t defend their territory and females became more aggressive, non-dominant males became passive, not retaliating to attacks. The last healthy birth came on the 600th day. Then there were no children. Then came extinction.

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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Articles

 

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