Zombie chicken breast wakes up, walks off restaurant table

Usually, a great weird news story takes a number of delicious ingredients that work together. 

  • First, you need a person, typically a man, often from Florida.
  • Second, there’s usually some substance abuse: alcohol, meth, cocaine, LSD, magic mushrooms–or, if you’re in West Virginia, wasp spray. Yeah, I’m not making that up. Vodka and crank? Old and busted. Wasp spray is the new hotness, though it might make you may curl up and die like a foamy yellowjacket.
  • Third, your average, intoxicated Florida Man has a hard time crafting his own weird news masterpiece without other actors on the stage. You need a dangerous wild animal, explosives, firearms, motor vehicles, illegal fireworks or a silly crime, like trailer park residents dressing up like ninjas to rob 7-Elevens. 
  • All this builds up to a crescendo of cray-crazy, with our anti-hero giving Mayhem a flirty look in a dive bar before buying her cheap tequila shots, making out in the parking lot and winding up half-naked in the dumpster, which happens to be on fire.
  • Finally, the typical weird news story ends with a 911 call with the police and paramedics arriving to (a) clean up the mess and (b) document the insanity. Mug shots!

Rarely do you get a great weird news story with a single ingredient so amazing that it stands alone, creating a supernova of stupidity and wonder, a blast of white-hot insanity so pure that it needs no help whatsoever from either the great state of Florida or the most powerful intoxicants on planet Earth.

This is one of those cases.

I’ve heard of headless chickens walking around after farmer’s lopped off their noggins. Seems half-mythical, half-believable, and I only believe because a family member saw it growing up and has refused to eat chicken ever since.

HOWEVER: here’s video proof that chickens have zombie powers. This freshly slaughtered chicken breast tries to fly off the restaurant table.

Here’s video proof. And yes, this is the best version of the video, with some decent science paired with silly muzak.

Undead tree stump

Here’s a bonus: there’s another zombie story in the news today, and this one is actually more important than entertaining.

Scientists in New Zealand found an undead tree stump.

Why should we care, aside from the fact that this sounds like the first three minutes of a B horror movie?

The tree stump is only alive because its roots are interconnected with other trees, all to share water and nutrients. Scientists say if this is a common practice, they need to rethink how they see forests. Instead of individual plants and trees, they may be more like a community, helping each other out and protecting against drought and erosion.

With WATERWORLD becoming prophecy, this news is actually a big deal. I’m all for anything that protects against drought and erosion. 

Zombie chicken breast, you’re spectacularly weird and wonderful.

But undead tree stump, you’re important and might help save the only home we have. 

Amazingly weird headline–Man in underwear arrested at animal shelter after fighting invisible nemesis

Oh, you might think I’m embellishing that headline, that I’m gilding the weird news lilly. Nope. 

Here’s a direct link, which is only one word different, and it’s a word that only adds to the fun of the story.

Police: Man in underwear arrested at animal shelter after fighting invisible nemesis

See? The headline is completely accurate, sourced to the police, and the police report adds even more weird news goodness:

  • He was throwing things at passing motorists
  • He told police he hadn’t slept for a week
  • He also told police that his heart was not beating

If I made this all up, and put it in a short story or novel, you’d laugh me out of the room. 

But if I said this took place in Florida, you’d nod your head and add it to the long list of Florida Man headlines. So maybe the weirdest thing about this weird story is it happened in Kentucky, instead.

Here’s to you, Kentucky Man–you may be a pioneer, one of the first to truly challenge Florida Man, but I hope you’re not the last.

 

Top 10 creepy sea creatures — and why creatures are a staple of our weird news diet

Odd creatures aren’t just a staple of weird news stories.

They’re a huge box-office draw. Name a blockbuster or billion-dollar movie and it’s almost a sure bet that they feature fantasy or alien creatures.

Think about it: AVATAR, STAR WARS, the Harry Potter series and the lame Harry Potter prequel series, STAR TREK, MEN IN BLACK, any of the 5,832 Marvel movies, LORD OF THE RINGS and the lame Hobbit prequel series that should have been one flipping movie.

Yeah, there are cute fluffy creatures sometimes. Yet just about every giant hit has a zoo’s worth of Ewok’s, orcs, space elves or cybernetic raccoons with a gun fetish.

So what gives a creepy sea creature, man-eating forest monster or elephant-sized wild hog such power to fascinate us?

Let’s break it down.

WILL THIS MONSTER SEE ME AS A SNACK?

That’s the most visceral attraction, a caveman instinct we can’t get rid of: paying close attention to obvious threats.

And yes, a healthy chunk of weird creatures–whether they live in the sea, the mountains or your local forest–tend to be predators with humans possibly on the menu.

IS IT FASCINATINGLY DISGUSTING?

There’s some crossover here. Many of the things that can totally go nom-nom-nom on us–like leeches, lampreys, giant squids and alligators–can’t be called cute.

A bunch of non-threatening weird animals are only interesting because they’re so bizarre and repellent, like the blob fish.

THIS CAN’T BE REAL

Other strange creatures get our attention because we can’t believe they’re not CGI.

How do Christmas Tree Worms really eat? Do lampreys have eyes or are they just a wormy eel thing with giant teeth?

THE FLORIDA MAN TEST

Weird news stories typically involve people in groups (usually men) late at night plus alcohol or drugs and the following optional ingredients: firearms, dangerous wild animals, explosives, 7-Elevens, the police. Oh, and the state of Florida, a state that generates so many weird news stories that headlines starting with “Florida Man” and ending with bizarre mayhem are truly a thing.

So whether or not an odd creature gets featured in a weird news story may hinge upon it passing the Florida Man Test, as in: can a Florida Man use this creature to generate a headline?

Two great examples: alligators, pythons and sharks.

Florida Man has robbed a 7-Eleven late at night, hid from the cops in a pond and been eaten by a gator. An entirely different Florida Man carried a live gator into a gas station and used it to steal beer or money, or beer and money (I forget, wasn’t there, sorry).

Pythons have overtaken the Everglades, and may be impossible to eradicate. They’re devouring local animals and even trying to eat the gators.

Sharks are another common element in weird news, with Florida Man getting arrested for dragging a shark behind a boat.

One unlucky Florida Man has hit the weird news lottery, getting bit by a shark, punched by a monkey, bitten by a snake and struck by lighting. No joke.

VERDICT

I salute you, weird sea creatures that should not exist, and I hope global warming doesn’t bring too many of you within range of Florida.

 

The Exploding Whale and the explosion of weird news

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy called Oregon, the local Empire decided to used tons of explosives to blow up a whale on their beach. It did not go well. But it was a prophecy, foretelling the explosion of weird news we see today.

Why is the exploding whale footage such a harbinger of things to come?

Maybe I just like to use the words harbinger and prophecy in nearby sentences.

Maybe I’m a trained journalist who loves to collect, analyze and dissect weird news stories.

And maybe, just maybe, I have a theory that explains the whole glorious Florida Man-style mess.

A Grand Unified Theory of Weird News

First: Weird news is omnipresent.

You’ll find it on an Oregon beach, in the middle of Alaska or on every acre of this land I call Florida.

There are strange people and bizarre bits of mayhem anyplace you look.

While my wife was in law school, I worked in this small-town paper in a place you can’t pronounce.

And listen, you would not believe the amount of mayhem I witnessed and wrote about, and not because the little town was a war zone.

Massive floods, with houses floating down the river. At least two serial killers. Political scandals. A man who died when a mobile home fell on him as he installed it. A sniper who shot at me (and everybody in sight) until the county sheriff deputies rolled up in a tank.

Here’s a little taste: The killer beside you

But if you look, there are always crazy stories happening locally.

Second: Weird news is not related to the crime rate.

This seems counter-intuitive. Criminals and criminally idiotic people make up the majority of weird news. 

Take away petty crime and Florida Man stories would wither and die.

Yet the numbers are nuts, when you look at them. Crime is down and has been going down for years.

Things were actually wilder and crazier before today’s explosion of weird news. I mean, the late ’70s and early ’80s were Animal House.

You just didn’t know about every single thing that happens like you do today. Why is that?

Third: Weird news lives on the interwebs

Without the speed and reach of the Series of Tubes, you’d never hear about 99.9 percent of weird news.

Before, the only real way crazy news would spread was by newspapers, so feeding your need for Florida Man stories would require serious resources. Because your local paper would not devote a full page to random wire stories about crazytown happening far away.

There are entire sites devoted to the daily collection and curation of funny and bizarre stories. 

Fourth: Weird news is intensely visual

This is the most essential ingredient. As a writer, it’s hard to fully describe the insanity of what you see.

Photos help.

Video is better. There is no substitute.

This is why Russian dash cam footage goes so viral. It’s raw, it’s real and the cameras are on all the time, so they capture all kinds of crashes and cray-cray.

Fifth: Smart phones, smart phones and more smart phones

Now that everybody has iPhones or Samsungs in their pockets, weird news is constantly being not only captured, but shared with the world.

All day and night. Everywhere.

You don’t need to have a TV crew on site, or watch the broadcast at 11 p.m.

So get out there and keep your phone handy. Florida Man doesn’t just hang out in Florida–he’s everywhere you look.

Why the Hot Duck of Central Park went so viral

There’s nothing unusual about seeing a duck paddling around the ponds of Central Park–or any pond, lake or stream. But one duck has caught the attention of Gotham and the world.

Check out the video:

OK, that is one spectacular duck, and it’s nice to see a weird news story that doesn’t involve Darwin Award winners or Florida Man.

So why did this story spread so far and wide?

Amazing images drive coverage 

The shots are amazing. It’s far, far easier to get media coverage when the visuals rock–and a lot tougher when you have zero visuals.

TV stations live and die on good visuals. And this duck makes for great shots. 

Once you get TV coverage, that drives newspaper, radio and web stories, too.

Plus it’s a lot easier to share a story that has all kinds of videos on YouTube already, whether shot by an NYC station or amateurs using their iPhones.

Mysteries make people curious and give a story legs

Nobody knows how the Hot Duck got to Central Park in the first place. This species of duck isn’t native. It should be halfway around the world in Japan, where these ducks are common.

Was it a pet somebody let go or an escapee from a zoo?

How far could a duck fly, if it wanted to?

Another mystery happened when the Hot Duck disappeared. Did it get eaten, trapped, run over by a car or sucked into the engine of a Boeing 787? People care about this duck now, and they got worried.

Turns out the duck took a side trip. Maybe he went on vacation.

Then when he returned, that was a big happy story, too.

Unlikely animal friendships are always a good story

The Hot Duck has good manners, making friends with the local ducks and some of his biggest human fans.

If he was a loner, or a jerk, this story wouldn’t have legs. People would root for the evil show-off duck to beat it.

His good manners make you root for the Hot Duck, to hope he keeps on making friends and thriving.

It’s just a sweet little story that makes people smile. Kind of like red pandas, genetically engineered by mad scientists to be the most heart-melting animals ever.

P.S. If you’re interested, here are 21 facts about Mandarin Ducks.

Real geniuses dressing up as ninjas to rob gas stations

ninja

For some reason, criminal geniuses like to (a) dress up like ninjas when they (b) rob a gas station. There was a rash of trailer park ninjas robbing 7-Elevens in Florida, which is very on point for Florida.

Then a gas station robber in Utah used a Klingon sword, which is both bizarre and epic, since those things are ginormous and impossible to conceal. Even weirder: the clerk who got robbed knew the actual name of that Klingon sword-like object and told the cops how to spell it or whatever.

So what’s the hidden connection between gas stations and ninjas? Maybe the not-so-hidden fact that gas stations seems to decided they are ninja superstores, with a glass case full of $9 throwing stars, $16 nunchucks and ginormous fantasy knives with three blades or whatever. Maybe these criminal masterminds get the idea to rob the place at 2 a.m. when they’re in line at 6 p.m. to stock up on Mountain Dew, Cheeotos and insanely cheap weaponry.

Either way, this combination makes for a constant stream of weird news stories, a river that I promise you will never run dry. Because gas stations and retail stores get targeted so often, they all have cameras recording 24/7, which means there’s tons of footage.

P.S. The last clip might be my favorite. Though it’s cheating to dress like a ninja while using a gun, this dude dressed up like a NINJA TURTLE to rob a store. Can you top that? No. 

 

Weird news headline of the century: Don’t Mess With Nana–Grandma Mayor Shoots and Kills 580-pound Alligator to Avenge Death of Miniature Horse

texas grandma kills alligator avenging death of her miniature horse

This is the finest bit of weird news I’ve seen in forever, featuring a giant alligator, a missing miniature horse and other bizarre ingredients, all adding up to deliciously gonzo weird news.

Strangely, this story doesn’t happen in Florida, despite the monstrous alligator. 

And the woman who slayed the beast, Judy Cochran, is actually a great-grandmother and the new mayor of her town.

Here’s the setup: years after her miniature horse went missing three years ago. Prime suspect? This giant alligator.

Except you can only hunt alligators in a 20-day window in September, and this was a big, big beast.

So she called in a professional, who tried all sorts of baited hooks this Godzilla-thing ignored, including pork liver.

Here’s the first bit that gives me joy: The bait that actually worked was a “well-seasoned raccoon.”

Cochran was at work in city hall when the gator got hooked, so the pro had to keep the beast on the hook until she finished up the for the day, grabbed her rifle and avenged her miniature horse with a single shot.

The alligator won’t go to waste. It’s head and tail are headed to the taxidermist, while the hide will turn into boots and the meat will get eaten.

Not sure if you can barbeque gator or not. Guess we’ll find out.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

🚨GATOR ALERT🚨: The mayor of Livingston took down this 12-foot, 580-pound monster! 🐊(These pics are unbelievable!) #alligator #Livingston #bigteeth

A post shared by ABC13 Eyewitness News Houston (@abc13houston) on

Why the best weird news stories involve glorious karmic payback

If something really crazy happens, like the recent story from Georgia involving the heist of $98,000 worth of ramen noodles, then yeah, that’s weird news.

But it’s not the BEST kind of weird news, because that’s all there is to it.

If something crazy happens and it’s randomly tragic—say, lightning hits an innocent old man on his nightly walk with a faithful dog—that may be weird, and rare, but it’s not a good weird news story, either. Because it’s simply sad.

The very best weird news stories involve three separate ingredients: (1) somebody being a complete idiot in (2) a completely surprising and unusual way, with (3) karmic payback that’s on par with their special brand of idiocy.

Here are the major forms of Weird News Karmic Payback along with examples.

P.S. Warning: there’s bad language in these videos.

1) Pranks that backfire

A good-natured prank that works is funny. An evil prank that backfires is funny cubed.

2) Road ragers gets served

Most of us drive to work, which means we spend more time than we want dodging drivers who are texting, smoking, eating Big Macs or texting while smoking and eating a Big Mac.

Self preservation? Perfectly understandable. Road rage, where you use your car as a weapon, or get into a real fight? Not cool.

So when I see an example of a road rager getting the business, either from a cop or by karmic payback, it warms my heart.

3) Picking on a rare pupper, kitteh or wild animal

Animals are involved in weird news stories all the time. It’s unexpected for the world’s top predator to have the tables turned.

4) Bully gets a beatdown

This is a primal, powerful story. Bullies are everywhere, and we expect them to win.

The more a victim seems smaller, meeker or weaker, the better it is when they actually beat the bully.

5) Criminal stupidity leads to instant justice

Crime is bad enough. Being uniquely stupid while committing a crime? Better.

Cherry on top? All of this happening in Florida.

Why rare puppers and kittehs dominate the Series of Tubes

The internet of today has four basic building blocks:
(1) memes with dogs wearing Christmas sweaters and such;
(2) videos of cats knocking objects off counters;
(3) recruiting posters for the Empire that reddit fanboys spent waaay too much time drawing; and
(4) videos of Alex Jones ripping his shirt off as he screams about Hillary and Mueller and the Illuminati meeting in the basement of a pizzeria to put chemicals in our water to turn our free American frogs COMPLETELY LIBERAL AND IRREVERSIBLY GAY.

I want to talk about the dog and cat part, because reddit will get bored with Empire recruiting posters and Alex Jones is now broadcasting his insane rants and brain pill pitches exclusively to MySpace or whatever.

Rare puppers and kittehs are forever, though.

Why is that?

Three reasons.

The first deals with how the furballs are alike, and the other two are because of how different they are.

Reason Number 1) Dogs and cats completely own the sweet spot of adorable and skilled

As a father, I know why toddlers are so entertaining.

Human babies are adorable but unskilled. They don’t do much.

Teenagers have the opposite deal: adult-like skills, yet they generally try hard to be tough and cool instead of adorable.

Toddlers, though, are illegally cute while doing and saying surprisingly funny things all day.

It’s the same with dogs and cats: forever child-like and cute, but skilled enough to surprise us, get into mischief and be entertaining.

Plus, dogs and cats are so common and intertwined in our lives that there will never be a shortage of photos, gifs, memes and videos with them, especially dogs and cats PLAYING WITH TODDLERS, which is just adorbs cubed and so unfair that it’s cheating.

Reason Number 2) Cats are cute balls of fur, claws and pure evil

Yes, they cuddle us. When they feel like it.

Mostly, though, cats only do what cats want, which is typically (a) laying around to conserve their energy so they can get to the real business of (b) sneaking up to attack other life forms, (c) knocking every object that’s not nailed down from your dining room table and kitchen counter and (d) randomly whacking owners or other cats in the face, just because.

Having owned cats, I believe deep in my soul that cats are pissed off by the fact they’re not remotely big enough to kill us. Not that they WANT to murder-death-kill us. Their inability just gives them existential angst.

So yeah, turn on a camera when a cat isn’t napping and you’re guaranteed to catch them being little vandals, if not felonious rogues.

Reason Number 3) Dogs are loyal, lovable goofballs

A big reason dogs are vastly different from cats is they’re pack animals and therefore can actually be domesticated, not just tamed like cats. Dogs actually have social manners.

You can tame just about anything, if you raise it from birth and it imprints on you. Cats, bears, cougars, whatever. (No, not sharks, worms or trees. Come on. Let’s just talk mammals.)

But animals you tame will never truly be domesticated like dogs, goats, horses, cows and other pack animals. Check out GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL by Jared Diamond. He’s explains the heck out of this in an interesting, world-altering way. Seriously. Wouldn’t have modern civilization without domesticated plants and animals.

What makes dogs internet gold is their pure joy, their ability to be trained and how hard they work to be loyal and useful.

Dogs understand they’re part of the family, the park, and that means contributing. Doing their part. Protecting the pups and toddlers. Guarding the pack’s territory. Helping out.

Their mischief tends to be misdemeanor level versus the felonies committed by cats.

Sometimes, I look at our Hound of the Baskervilles and marvel at the fact there’s a jet-black wolfbeast sitting there, 100 pounds of muscle and teeth just waiting for the latest orders from me, who he treats like some kind of all-powerful wizard he’s thrilled to be a sidekick for–and that he takes his job of guarding the house seriously enough that I have no doubt he’d take a bullet for me or the fam. That’s loyalty. The silly dog went right after a bear one morning in our backyard. Except I don’t think he sees that as silly, but as his duty, just like he knows we take care of his food, control the lights and temperature and make the big metal horses come alive or go to sleep according to our whim.

The videos of dogs that hit me in the feels the hardest are when they’re overcome with happiness and tippy taps–or diligently trying to copy and please us.

For that, I have to go with Team Dog, despite having owned cats for longer. Because loyalty and love wins out.

Florida Man: Why one state is the absolute mecca for weird news

As a reformed journalist, I have a lifelong fascination with weird news—an addiction that a single state tries hard to satisfy.

Every. Single. DAY.

No other state can hold a candle to Florida.

It’s the only state with its own Fark tag, with so many weird news headlines starting with “Florida man” there’s a Twitter handle that endlessly tweets out insane stories starting with those two words.

I could not love Florida more for this.

Here’s a sample of recent Florida headlines, lovingly curated by fark.com:

Florida Man enters Jacksonville store and chases people with live alligator

Florida teacher quits to become full-time grocery shopper and doubles his salary

Key West mayoral candidate takes a personal cell phone call during a debate. From God

Florida man charged with identity theft after impersonating Backstreet Boy

17-year-old gets attacked by snake while mowing lawn. Gives sage advice: “watch out for snakes”

Police say Florida man planned his suicide for years, making it look like murder by using a weather balloon to carry away the gun

All this craziness packed into a single state begs the question: Why does Florida Man live in Florida?

Theory # 1: Deadly wild animals up the wazoo

Alligators, sharks, pythons invading the Everglades—and those are just the apex predators. You’ll find crazy stories about rabid racoons, bat infestations and all sorts of animal disasters and shenanigans. Yes, that’s the proper spelling. Take note.

Few other states boast the biodiversity needed to generate this much mayhem.

Theory # 2: Dumb criminals

A weird news story’s power gets squared when a stable genius criminal does something truly idiotic only to have karma delivered by the local wildlife.

One great example: man commits a robbery at night and the cops chase him … so he makes the brilliant move of hiding in a nearby pond, where an alligator has him as a midnight snack.

Theory # 3: Paaaaarty time

Florida is seen as a tropical getaway, a place where you go to party on spring break or to retire in the sunshine.

Alcohol and drugs are a common ingredient in weird news stories. Florida gets far more than its fair share of dumb criminals doing dumb things after getting hammered or high. Sometimes both.

Theory # 4: The power of convergence

Every great weird story is a combination of factors, usually (1) men who are (2) drunk or high, doing something risky involving (3) crime, (4) firearms, (5) explosives or (6) wild animals who can kill you.

It’s like baking a cake. Even if most states have an ingredient or two, they don’t have all six, not in the quantities that Florida does. It’s a giant state, one of the biggest, with more people moving there all the time and all those pythons in the Everglades busy laying eggs when they’re not fighting alligators. The weird news will only grow with time.

VERDICT

Florida is an interesting, dynamic place, a semi-tropical paradise that also happens to be home to some of the craziest stories you’ll ever see. We love you, Florida Man—don’t change a thing.

Is this dinosaur-sized alligator fake or real?

This is the video that has the internet, and the mainstream media, losing their minds.

It’s like The Dress, except whether a bit of fashionable fabric is blue or gold didn’t really matter to anyone, while the existence of massive alligators roaming golf courses could, in fact, matter a great deal to ALL THE PEOPLE IT GOBBLES UP.

So yeah, this is exciting and fun. Let’s break it down.

Evidence pointing toward fakery and prankery

1) Nothing screams “green screen” like a green background

We all know how you make a fake video, or do special effects in movies. It starts with a green screen.

Adding a moving object that goes straight across, left to right, on the same plane? Piece of cake.

2) Terrible audio

Audio that’s all chopped up points to film that got edited to bits.

3) No closeup

With most footage of real-life craziness, the person shooting it has a choice: (a) run far, far away from Things That Can Kill You, like tornadoes, great white sharks, zombies or alligators the size of garbage trucks, (b) risk your life to see it, but only from a safe distance, (c) get as close as you can for a real look at the thing and a chance for YouTube infamy or (d) be smart and use the magic of zooming to get a closer look without turning into lunch.

Why is the shot so static? Anybody with two brain cells to knock together would zoom in on this monster.

Evidence making me think it’s real

1) The shadow knows

the shadow knows

No, not that Shadow.

Check out the shadow of the gator as it crosses the sand trap. Pretty hard to fake that.

2) Alligators this size are rare, but not insanely rare

If you’ve ever watched National Geographic, The Crocodile Hunter or any other show dealing with nature, you’ve seen crocodiles and alligators. And yeah, they get big.

It’s a reptile thing. I believe reptiles keep growing and growing until they die.

Could be wrong. Not a scientist. Wait, I’m right. They grow forever.

3) This is Florida

If you told me this video was shot in Georgia, Michigan or California, I’d be 149 percent more skeptical.

But we’re talking about Florida, the only state with it’s own Fark tag.

Weird news and Florida go together like chocolate and peanut butter, Han Solo and Chewbecca, coffee and milk.

There’s so much weird news coming out of this state, there’s a Twitter account dedicated to insane headlines that all start with “Florida Man,” as in “Florida man dresses like ninja to rob 7-Elevens” or “Florida man hides from cops in pond, gets eaten by alligators.”

Verdict: Real.

Snopes.com investigated this issue, because somebody had to, and they dug up the truth.

This alligator is not only real, he’s well-known and pretty chill. Hasn’t eaten any golfers that we know of and is kind of a mascot for the course.

Ducks with jobs

Yes, I kid you not: this isn’t a pet duck with a uniform grandma knitted as a joke.

These are real ducks with real jobs. And they take it seriously.

First up: the army of 900 Indian Runner ducks who work in a vineyard, and yes, it’s real work. They’re not eye candy for tourists who stopped by to sip on Chianti.

These ducks perform a hugely important task: keeping the vineyard free of pests, and they do it so well, the vineyard doesn’t need to use pesticides, which you DO NOT WANT in your Chianti.

They also seem insanely happy to do this, don’t they?

Think about it: you’re a wild duck, scrambling around for food and shelter, and your vineyard duck cousin tells you about his life, living in a sweet vineyard full of yummy food, sleeping in a great shelter, no predators to worry about and 900 other chill ducks to hang out with when you’re not feasting on bugs and worms.

Not too shabby. Not shabby at all.

Then there’s these ducks with the same kind of gig in Thailand, working at a rice fam.

Let’s break down why this is amusing and touching.

First, the ducks are cute. They seem eager and happy, and they’re far more elegant than chickens.

My neighbor has chickens and ducks. I feed them leftover veggies and such, and have learned things. The chickens are like feathered dinosaurs, and they do talk. But they also move in jerks and look at you with one eye at a time.

The ducks seem more evolved and intelligent. Instead of doing the chicken walk, they stroll. So with ducks, you’ve got a sympathetic subject.

Second, it’s surprising that ducks can do a job.

Monkeys? Sure. You expect monkeys, elephants, dogs and dolphins to be the type of animal with a job. They’re trainable.

Ducks are a shock.

Third, it’s crazy how happy the ducks are do these jobs. They aren’t on a chain gang. The owner doesn’t have to loom over them with a whistle and a whip. Sure, eating bugs is natural, but working as a team, and doing it on schedule without causing other shenanigans?

It’s hard to get 900 humans to work together without shenanigans. Five or more humans in a group won’t even agree on how to SPELL shenanigins.

Bonus video: 10 interesting facts about ducks

Man leads police on 112 mph chase, crashes, then flees with his pet monkey

Monkey chase. Photo courtesy of the Burien Police Department.

Monkey chase. Photo courtesy of the Burien Police Department.

Photo courtesy of the Burien Police Department.

This sounds like an Onion story. But it’s not.

As a reformed journalist and unrepentant fan of weird news, this story is classic. Let’s break it down.

Related post, which WordPress put on the front page: How weird news teaches us great storytelling

Continue reading “Man leads police on 112 mph chase, crashes, then flees with his pet monkey”

Man Uses Raccoon To Start Breathalyzer Equipped Car, Raccoon Then Attacks Driver

Does it get any better than a headline like that? Click here for the incident report.

So this convicted drunk driver has to blow into a tube before his car starts, and he’s drunk. Shocking. What’s this genius do?

He looks for a sober buddy to puff that tube for him so he can drive off.

The nearest buddy happens to be a raccoon rummaging through his garbage. Grabs the raccoon, somehow gets the animal to blow on the tube and yes, the car starts, with the animal now unconscious. Maybe he squeezed it too hard.

So he’s driving along when the raccoon wakes up to gets his revenge, scratching and clawing our drunken genius, who crashes into a fence.

This story has all the classic hallmarks of weird news: drunken idiots (almost always men), motor vehicles and dangerous wild animals. The only way to improve it would be to add firearms.

Sadly, the San Diego Police report that this is an internet hoax.

HOWEVER: The way it spread so fast shows that the bones of this story are strong. All the elements you need are there, and there’s no fat to trim. It’s an urban legend that’s evolved into a perfect little story.

Golden retriever destroys obedience course, wins Interwebs

friendly friday friendly dog meme

This is funny, sure. But the Series of Tubes is packed with funny little things involving dogs, cats and kids with painted faces at county fairs who like turtles.

Let’s dissect this little piece of film to see what makes it work.

First, there are no words getting in the way of the images. This isn’t a PowerPoint slideshow. Nobody has to explain the joke, and it actually works better than English speakers like me have no idea what the announcer or anybody is saying, though it would not shock me if this is Scandanavian, if not Swedish, and make me have a sad for not speaking Swedish.

Second, there’s actually a structure to it, despite being so short. There are two setups before we get to the payoff, two different dogs doing the right thing, and ignoring all the food and chew toys, before the last dog decides obedience courses are a free buffet.

Third, the Benny Hill music makes it all work. Right when the setups are over and we get our payoff, the music puts you right there, and the golden retriever rewards us, not once or twice, but again and again, going after every treat in sight and ignoring all commands.

This snippet of moving pictures gives us the biggest possible gap between expectation (obedience) and result (chaos).

The Duckpocalypse is upon us

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

Why are these ducks gathering together? I can’t decide if it’s the beginning of an invasion, a giant duck dance party or a flash mob.

Or maybe they’re fleeing the second horde of zombie ducks. Hard to say.

But they’re certainly talking a lot, and seem determined to do SOMETHING, whatever that may be.

How weird news teaches us great storytelling

Every day, there are real stories in the morning newspaper that make you snort coffee out your nose or choke on a blueberry muffin. Note: This is why journalists call such pieces “muffin chokers.”

Yet the daily weirdness is more than funny. If you dissect these stories, you can learn deep storytelling lessons from the shallow end of the journalism pool.

Here’s a real story that just happened in my state: Man steals RV from Wal-Mart parking lot, leads police on wild chase. Swerves into sleepy little town where he knocks cars into front yards and such, then blasts through a house and crashes. Runs out, strips down to his underwear and invades a home to steal girl clothes. Cops catch him and haul him off.

This is pretty typical of a weird news story, and not simply because it started in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart — and yeah, go ahead, google “Wal-Mart parking lot” and “weird news.”

While you’re at it, google “7-Eleven robbery” and “trailer park ninjas.” It’s a thing, especially in Florida, though in Colorado somebody robbed a 7-Eleven with some kind of Klingon sword, and yeah, the clerk who got robbed knew exactly what to call that sword when the cops took the police report.

Great storytelling comes from the gap between expectation and result. Audiences, like kittehs, love surprises.

Your normal day is not a great story because there’s no gap. It is what you expect, and what your neighbor expects. There’s nothing shocking.

So let’s dissect the RV thief story and the rash of 7-Eleven robberies involving trailer park ninjas, to see why those short little stories pack so much punch. The gaps between expectation and result are all over these stories.

First, it’s a surprise for a criminal to prowl the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, or steal an RV, because as a smart person, you think, “If I were unemployed and desperate, and forced into a life of crime, maybe I’d steal a new Mercedes convertible, something I could sell for real money and drive crazy fast if the police chased me.”

You would not think to yourself, “Let’s go to a Wal-Mart parking lot, full of witnesses, and steal a ginormous RV that (a) could be seen from space, much less a police helicopter, (b) would be crazy hard to sell or hide and (c) is slower and less maneuverable than anything short of a logging truck.”

So there are tremendous gaps there on multiple fronts. You’re surprised again and again.

The same thing is true for trailer park ninjas robbing 7-Elevens in Florida, because smart, normal people think the only time they could imagine dressing up like a ninja is if they were an actual trained ninja, you know, in Japan, knocking off something worthy of their skill and trouble. Say, stealing $30 million in diamonds from a jewelry store in downtown Tokyo, then retiring from a life of crime.

Nobody with working brain cells thinks sure, let’s dress all in black, grab a cheap sword-like object and risk insane amounts of prison time for $186 in the till and a carton of Marlboro Lights.

There are similar gaps in stories like “Two men wounded in gunfight over Wal-Mart parking spot.” True story.

It’s a question of risk vs. reward. Would you risk your life over a parking spot at a bargain store? No, because you’re smart. Who cares? Get a different parking spot. This is like challenging a man to a duel in the alley because he cut in front of you in the line for Taco Bell.

The Darwin Awards are staples of the weird news business for the same giant gap between expectation and result.

A classic example: man tries to get rid of a mouse at his house (yes, it rhymes!) and throws it onto a burning pile of leaves. Mouse, on fire, jumps off the pile and runs under his house … burning it down.

Now, this story may not be true. Doesn’t matter. It lives on, as a fable, because of the huge gap between expectation (mouse dies in fire) and result (even in death, mouse gets revenge on homeowner).

The bigger the gap, the better the story. This is true not only in weird news, but any sort of storytelling: a novel, a play, a movie, whatever.

Another lesson from weird news: The Darwin Awards almost always involve the same elements, just about every time, yet those ingredients get mixed up endless ways and still continue to surprise us. The ingredients for a Darwin Award story are: (a) men, usually in groups, (b) generous amounts of alcohol, (c) firearms, explosives or dangerous wild animals, (d) vehicles and (e) famous last words, quite often, “Watch this.”

It is exceedingly rare to see Darwin Award stories involved women. Maybe because they’re smarter, or because the IQ of a group of men goes down by half every time you add another bro bringing a six-pack of Molson to the “let’s make a flamethrower to roast this nest of yellowjackets nest” party.

So the next time you see a weird story in the news, don’t skip it, even if it’s only three sentences. There is gold to be mined, and lessons learned. It’s no accident that Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen made a living basically writing about weird news and dumb criminals in Florida.

It’s great storytelling, and always will be.

Bears climbing cliffs, I kid you not

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

These aren’t circus bears who’ve been trained for years and have a net to catch them.

These are giant, furry beasts out in the wild, climbing some insane cliff. And yeah, if they slip and fall, it’s a pretty good bet the trophy shop has a Darwin Award waiting for them. So this was tense to watch, and impressive. Go, bears, go. Climb away.

Related: there’s a Canadian man who’s devoted decades to creating an anti-bear suit, something that would stand up to a grizzly attack. Troy Hurtibise then has friends hit him with cricket bats and pickup trucks, or he goes full Ewok and lets friends send logs flying through the air to crush him.

Impressive, and also begging for a Darwin Award — but well done, sir.

Wait for it

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

The Best Exchange Student in History tells me everybody over in the former Soviet Union has dash cams in their cars, as insurance against nonsense like shady cops or people lying about who caused an accident.

I think it’s really because of the humor value of all the crazy stuff that happens on the road.

That’s the context for the clip above.

Now here’s a compilation of actual dash-cam footage, and yes, it’s stranger than fiction.

As somebody who drives a rural highway and sees some weird and wild things most weeks, this makes me want to install a dash cam.

Super-powered mutant Avenger of the ocean: The Mighty Cuttlefish

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

I understand an octopus, a squid and a clam. Clams have shells. Squids and octopuses (octopi?) have tentacles and such.

But this alien beast has a shell — inside its body.

The cuttlefish’s bone is made of aragonite, the same special metal used to graft Wolverine’s claws and skeleton* and Captain America’s shield** — but not Thor’s hammer, which came from the heart of a dead star.***

Plus it’s got all kinds of other mutant super powers, like a poisoned beak, tentacles, a giant brain, secret alien-like jaws that sneak out of nowhere to eat fish — and color changing powers that make it practically invisible.

Think you’re iPhone’s fancy Retina screen is amazing? The cuttlefish has 200 iridophores and eucophores per square millimeter, which equals out to 359 dots per inch. Want one of those 4k screens but don’t have $10,000 to buy one? Make friends with a herd of cuttlefish and get them to spread out on your living room wall, then fire up THE MATRIX, but not the two sequels, which were a waste of Keanu Reeve’s precious time and $279 million in CGI effects.

Here’s a good look at the cuttlefish from my favorite animal documentary series on the planet, True Facts:

 

*Note to comic book gurus: Yes, I’m kidding. Wolverine’s claws and such are made of adamantium, which is created when titanium dioxide reaches the earth’s mantle and is compressed by millions of pounds per square inch at 4,500 degrees Celsius, then remerges to the surface through millions of years of plate tectonics along with the help of all kinds of Red Bulls and shots of bourbon while the comic book writers at Marvel try to make it all sound two-thirds scientific, one-third magical and 143 percent awesome.

**Also, the famous shield of Captain America is actually made of vibranium, a real metal alloy that’s also used in the manufacture of the B-2 stealth bomber because of its unique radar-absorbing properties. Vibranium is only found in one place: the southern pole of Mars, meaning all traces of it on earth came from a massive asteroid striking the pole and sending debris raining down upon Africa, the only continent where vibranium can now be mined. Buying this so far? Okay. There are these penny stocks, and if you know which ones to buy, you can turn ten cents into a dollar, $1 into $100 — and $100 into $100,000. All you have to is subscribe to my financial newsletter to learn the secrets of true wealth that Wall Street doesn’t want you to know.

***Actually, that part is true. Dead star, all the way. Not making it up.

007 the Crow solves epic eight-step puzzle using TOOLS

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

Crows are wicked smart. I’ve watched them pick up nuts, fly, then drop them on the asphalt.

This wild crow, nicknamed 007, solved a crazy complicated puzzle the very first time he saw it.

Brilliant. It’s one thing for smart birds to show off after they’ve been trained for a lifetime to, I don’t know, sing Broadway tunes or tell dirty jokes. It’s another thing for a wild crow to pop in, spot some yummy food in the puzzle and do all this stuff using tools to get at it.

I believe octopus (octupi?) can do similar stuff, like unscrewing jars and such, so it’s only a matter of time before the SyFy Channel comes up with CROWTOPUS EATS MANHATTAN and then CROWTOPUS VERSUS SHARKNADO.

A little girl discovers rain — and what we all can learn from her

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

This video is simple, short and wonderful. Watch it for a second, and then we’ll talk about it. Because there are important lessons for any writer or storyteller.

Why does this work?

There are no words, no script, no production values. It’s just a little kid seeing and feeling rain for the first time in her life, and reaching out to touch it, taste it, feel it.

But it’s impossible to watch this without smiling and laughing. Without FEELING something yourself. And that’s a lesson grown-ups could learn from this toddler.

You have to feel the emotion you want your audience to feel. This is true whether you’re giving a keynote speech, writing a novel or filming a movie that Hollywood is spending $212 million for all kinds of robots and CGI explosions.

Watching this video, you feel pure joy and surprise. Why? Because that’s what this little girl clearly feels. She doesn’t need to use words to say it. We don’t need a narrator to explain it. She shows it with her face and body. And that’s more than enough.

Say hello to Teddy Bear the Talking Porcupine

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

YouTube is packed chock full of videos where owners think their cat is saying something, or their dog is barking hello.

Most of the time, the owners are goofy for their pet who simply says one thing, over and over, that sort of sounds like a word.

And yeah, birds can blow them all out of the water.

But here’s something different: a porcupine who isn’t a one-word pony. Teddy the Talking Porcupine seems to have entire conversations.

Teddy is impressive and funny. He belongs on this BBC show, which you need to fire up if you haven’t seen them all. They rock.

Real animal that should NOT exist: the blue dragon mollusk

blue dragon mollusk

So I see this on the interwebs, and my brain says, “Ah, here we have James Cameron, busy at work on AVATAR 2: BLUE MONKEYS VERSUS HUMANS AGAIN, BECAUSE I WANT ANOTHER BILLION DOLLARS.”

But no, this is a real animal here on Earth instead of whatever that Avatar planet is named, though I believe this blue dragon would be something the blue monkeys ride if they’re traveling by sea. Also, it probably eats unobtanium for breakfast, because blue dragon mollusks munch up deadly poisons from prey and recycle that stuff with a shrug. Can you do that, Mr. Top of the Food Chain? I DON’T THINK SO.

And before we get to proof that this isn’t some PhotoShop or CGI thing, or some kind of sasquatch prank by college kids who got all Dr. Frankenstein with two oysters and a bunch of model paint, here’s the Wikipedia page on blue dragons, which boffins (scientists) call “glaucus atlanticus” for some boring reason involving science and such.

HOWEVER: Some people call these “blue dragon sea slugs.” Even if they are related to sea slugs — say, sea slugs are their ugly uncle — it’s wrong to call these beautiful little guys “slugs.” No. They’re 5.92 bazillion times cooler than boring gray slugs, which don’t ingest deadly toxins for breakfast and can instead be killed by plain old table salt. No self-respecting thing can stroll into a super-hero bar and say, “Hey, my super power is, like, crawling all over plants to get my slime on them, but my super-weakness, uh, is, you know, table salt.”

The blue dragon mollusk, now, can float into that same bar looking awesome and not have to say a word, because if you disrespect it, say hello to a little free dose of deadly toxic whatever.

You have questions, random peoples of the Series of Tubes, and do I have random answers? Maaaybe.

Question: Where can I buy a blue dragon mollusk?

Answer: At the blue dragon mollusk store. No, I am kidding. These are not pets. These are aliens from the planet Xenu, and if you try to keep them as pets, their buddies show up in a wicked spaceship and zoom off to find more venomous things to eat for breakfast.

Question: Does the blue dragon mollusk really eat deadly venomous animals?

Answer: Yes. They eat stuff like the man-of-war, which is only found in the ocean, and not pet stores, making it even harder for people to feed their kidnapped blue dragon mollusk they’re trying to keep as a pet. Though I think the plural should be “men-of-war” or “men without hats,” who are only found in Australia. I also believe they eat peppers, like the ghost pepper, in their salsa. Sour cream and guacamole is too wussy for them.

On to the footage: blue dragons in the wild.

More blue dragon footage, because I’m still not convinced.

OK, I’m convinced, and want some for pets, as long as they don’t evolve into those giant VW-sized facehugger things from PROMETHEUS.