Category Archives: Crazy World
It’s been a crazy sort of week. A really good week but at the end of it I find myself dithering around and at a loss to know what to write about. This is not unusual. But it’s usually because I have too many things to choose from. This time it’s different. This time my mind is a bit like those squares of soft plastic that come in the boxes of stuff you buy from Amazon. And I’m not talking about bubble wrap; that would be interesting, at least you can pop it.
In the past weeks I’ve written about the danger of using mobile phones when driving, public address systems in airports, my deceased cat Eric and his life as a spy, sausages, cows, coastlines and contemporary art. I also love to write about the wacky, mad things people do and strange unknown facts. So, while I get my head together for next week, here are some things I’ve just discovered. They’re the sort of things that brighten up my life and make me smile. The links to the sites where I found them are at the end of this post. So, Einstein couldn’t swim and …
Isaac Newton invented the cat flap
Walt Disney – creator of Micky Mouse – was afraid of mice
The Tory (Conservative) party was founded by a group of Irish Catholic bandits. The name comes from the Irish for outlaw or bandit. They’re certainly living up to their origins.
Virginia Wolfe wrote all her books standing up.
Pigs love Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, except for the Mint Oreo flavour.
There’s a spider named after Harrison Ford.
Goethe could only write if he had an apple rotting in the drawer of his desk.
In 1980 Saddam Hussein was given the key to the city of Detroit.
Elephants purr like cats.
Bats always turn left when they leave their caves.
Tigers don’t just have striped fur, they have striped skin.
The Founder of Pringles was buried in a Pringles can.
This Crazy World We Live In – No. 4
Well, they say it takes all sorts! It certainly does. Clicking around the Interwebs, as the cats call it, I came across a site devoted to the stuff folk collect. And then I found another site. And another. As you do. I’m indebted to all of them, just as I am indebted to the collectors – whether on the ‘almost normal’ end of the spectrum or those who are so far out in the stratosphere that they might have trouble getting back.
There’s navel fluff – oh yes indeed – you’re not going to get a picture of that on this post, look it up! There’s air sick bags; remember this post is subtitled Crazy World. There’s lawnmowers and street signs, mangles and backscratchers. Anything and everything that isn’t bolted to the floor, and even some that is. Here I can only scratch the surface, but I urge you to click the links below and have a good old browse, not to say wallow. That’s if you enjoy the quirky, the weird, the wonderful and the downright odd. If not, I suggest you move swiftly on!
Some strange collections have even been housed in museums, real or virtual. The Toaster Museum, founded by Jens Veerbeck, has over 600 models, many of them rare and most of them rather beautiful. Still on the subject of toast, so to speak, there’s the Burnt Food Museum containing examples of yes, you guessed it, toast but also ‘hash blacks’, incinerated macaroni and all manner of burnt offerings. Not moving too far from a collection of burnt food, the Asphalt Museum has a collection of, that’s right, asphalt. How weird is that. Boasting samples from 6 different countries and 11 states the museum is housed in a real building in a real university – the California State University, Sacramento.
Naturally, given the oddity of some of these collectors, there has to be a collection, if not of bananas, then at least of banana labels. There are also collections of toothpaste tubes, napkins, portraits in toast (yes, you did read that right), airline spoons, bars of soap, locks of celebrities’ hair (spooky) and sugar packets. Among my favourites are shoes – shoes shaped like foxes, horses hooves, boots with ponytails (eh!) and bondage shoes – don’t ask! And to add to the general weirdness, moist towelettes.
It will come as no surprise to hear that at least a few of these collections made it into the Guiness Book of Records. The world’s largest Pokemon collection has been held by a girl in the UK, since 2010, although on a different site that honour is claimed for an American woman. The world’s largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia also made it into the record books. The Happy Meals collection didn’t make it. While not breaking records some collections are so beautifully housed they are a work of art in themselves. Witness the Be@rbricks Collection. For those who haven’t come across them before, be@rbricks are collectible toys designed and produced by the Japanese company MediCom Toy Company. A collaboration between the creatives at Openbox and architects Onion, led to the superbly outrageous ‘Garage of the Bears’ which houses the iconic collection.
Welcome to the weird, wacky and often beautiful world of collections. Here are some links :-
This Crazy World We Live In
No. 3 Yarn bombing or graffiti knitting – whatever you call it’s wacky and utterly wonderful
The mysterious graffiti knitters of Saltburn by the Sea had already been at it long before the Jubilee. The inhabitants of the seaside town were already used to finding the little knitted figures and objects that would suddenly appear at various sites around the town. As if this wasn’t magical enough, last March they woke to discover a 50-metre long ‘scarf’ decorating the railings along their famous pier. It sported tiny knitted athletes, representing every Olympic and Paralympic sport, including figures in weenie wheelchairs. Come the Jubilee, the seafront was again adorned, this time with knitted representatives of the Queen and Prince Phillip, together with woolly Corgis, tea sets, crowns and flags.
Some call it yarn bombing, others prefer yarn storming or graffiti knitting since this bombardment is far from the images conjured up by the idea of a bomb. Rather it is a gloriously subversive form of graffiti – making you smile and wonder in equal measure. The movement’s beginnings are credited to Magda Sayeg, from Texas. She began in a small, but delightful way. The clothes shop she managed in 2005 stood in a boring, ugly, concrete neighbourhood. Seized by a need to add some colour to her environment, she knitted a door handle for her shop. Inspired, she went on to knit a sheath for the stop sign pole. Such was the interest these provoked that she started to scatter bits of knitting across the world. Over parking meters, a bus, the gun on a statue of a soldier – and so it goes on.
I first came across this inspired movement though the Radio 4 Saturday Live programme, which highlighted the activities at Saltburn by the Sea and instigated a hunt for the mystery knitters. Intrigued, I did some more research and found that in a relatively short time, yarn storming has spread throughout the world. There’s hardly a town or city where you won’t find a tree in a bright stripy jacket, a statue sporting woolly gloves, a drain pipe, a lamppost, a bicycle – even cracks in the pavement filled with multi-colored pearl and plain.
Investigating further, I discovered ArtYarn, a collaborative knitting and crochet project. Formed in 2008 by visual artist Rachael Gwilliam, it brings together local groups and global artists to create stunning, imaginative and cutting edge gallery installations and public arts projects. It also instigates creative craft workshops. I also found, to my immense pleasure, the wonderfully named Knit the City and the knitting community, Stitch London with its marvellous slogan ‘Keep calm and carry yarn’. Knit the City was established in 2009 by Lauren O’Farrell, initially to distract herself from the treatment she was receiving for cancer. She got the all clear in 2007 and, with Stitch London, celebrated by knitting a 550 ft. scarf to tie around the lions in Trafalgar Square. Over the years they’ve tackled projects as diverse as phone box covers, installing a 13ft spider’s web, replete with trapped insects and fairies, in the “graffiti tunnel” beneath Waterloo station, driven a handmade herd of sheep over London Bridge, and installed a white rabbit on the South Bank.
If you love things that are different, beautiful, kooky, weird and wonderful or a combination of all these, Google ‘yarn storming’, ‘graffiti knitting’ or ‘images for graffiti knitting’. Or click any of the links in this post. Then sit back and prepare to be amazed. For all the dark and nasty stuff in the world, aren’t we lucky that there also exist such creative, imaginative, eccentric and delightful people. Long may they continue to add colour and pleasure to our world.
Images in this post: Bus:BNPS, Saltburn: Northern News & Pictures, Tree: rebelyarnsfiles.wordpress.com, Statue: slackershack.wordpress.com, Sheep: Frantzesco Kangaris for The Guardian
This Crazy World We Live In
No 2 Four floors of madness
I could have subtitled this post ‘people with too much money to spend’ except that that would be neither accurate nor fair. But you do have to wonder. I certainly did when I stumbled across M&M World last Sunday. Now this is not an emporium I had visited before, indeed I was not even aware of its existence. All I knew about M&Ms was that they are sugar coated chocolate or peanut sweets that resemble Smarties.
I was also familiar with their somewhat grotesque ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow’ characters since they pop up every time I go to the movies. I’ve never been quite sure what they are advertising. I thought they were warning us to turn off our mobile phones but a quick Google tells me they are promoting film. Hence FTRC – From The Red Carpet. I’m all for anything that gets people into cinemas but please, why does everything have to be reduced to initials?
That was the extent of my knowledge of M&Ms. Until last Sunday when I was on my way to a cinema in Leicester Square. I was far too early. It was pouring with rain. I could have sheltered in a cafe but I didn’t really want a coffee and on principle I balk at buying the stuff at inflated tourist prices. Most of the shops were shut. And then I noticed that an enormous glass clad building near one corner of the square appeared to be open and doing a brisk trade.
Welcome to M&M World! How, I wondered, as I stepped inside, could you fill a shop with M&Ms? Let alone a whole building? I soon found out and should have guessed. Because of course it’s not just the little sweets they are selling. It’s merchandise. What stupefies me is not simply the four floors of stuff all branded with the M&M logo, but that people are actually buying it.
The toys and shopping bags, t-shirts and sweatshirts came as no great surprise. But boxers, baby-grows, bibs, wellies, pyjamas? Mugs for home or office and even mouse mats – if you really have to. But measuring cups, bowls, place mats, even salad servers? Dispensers are fun. I could even imagine why someone might buy one, though for my part I would never have enough M&Ms to fill one. It would be emptied so quickly there’d be no need for anything but hands. But I can’t see myself ever, ever wanting M&M earings. Or an M&M on a motorbike. Yikes!
Four floors of M&M branded merchandise! Call me naïve if you like, but I’m still reeling. (I will not use that horrible word that starts with gob and ends with smacked, though it does rather fit my reaction.) I’m surprised that I should be surprised, really. After all we have Disney and Warner Bros. merchandise. The Leicester Tigers and ManU all have shops. Everyone has shops. But they seem different somehow – based on much loved characters or sport or something. Not just candies, to use the American term, which is I suppose appropriate.
I have nothing against shops or merchandise. And I absolutely love sweets. My favourite bits of M&M were the floors lined with giant tubes filled with sweets in every colour imaginable, tastefully graded so that they changed from yellow to lime green to pea green to forest green to blues of every hue, then mauve, purple, red, orange, pink. I don’t know how I restrained myself. Maybe it was the anticipation of the popcorn that would inevitably accompany the film.
All around me people were filling little bags with the delectable colours and flavours. Which have gone way beyond chocolate and peanuts – there’s peanut butter, coconut, almond, ice cream cookie and much more. And that I could understand. What I don’t understand is how people can spend good money on this rubbish. Still I’m not the arbiter of taste and I’m sure some of the stuff I buy would raise a snigger or four. I must admit that the murals and framed ‘art’ around the place was so dreadful it was very nearly kitsch. But only very nearly.
This Crazy World We Live In
No. 1 People with too much time on their hands
Last week while demonstrating ways to find information on the Internet I came across a quite extraordinary blog – indeed the blog with the longest domain name in the world. There you can find the longest everything – the longest abbreviation, the longest running Academy Awards ceremony, the longest bridge, the longest time anyone has been buried alive (presumably they were still alive when disinterred!) The longest commute, the longest dog – dog! – and so on through the alphabet until you get to the longest wave ever surfed, the longest word and the longest zucchini (that vegetable beloved of scrabble devotees and people who compile lists. Oh, and people who like zucchini.)
I’m going to start with the longest abbreviation because it’s a contradiction in terms. Utterly, completely weird and bonkers. It contains no less than fifty-six letters far, far longer than even the longest of words. So here it comes …and yes I did notice that the letters do not correspond to the English translation. But it’s a Russian abbreviation. Enough said.
What does it stand for? Take a deep breath. It stands for the –
Laboratory for Shuttering, Reinforcement, Concrete and Ferroconcrete Operations for Composite-monolithic and Monolithic Constructions of the Department of Technology of Building Assembly Operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for Building Mechanization and Technical Aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the USSR.
Yay! I wonder what they called it for short? Any suggestions?
If you had to say all that every time you wanted to call them up on the phone or explain where you worked you’d probably have lost the will to live. Which brings me to Geoff Smith. Maybe he thought his name was just a bit ordinary so was prompted to do something a little different. Or maybe it was because of his mother. Whatever it was, it’s our Geoff who holds the record for the longest time being buried alive.
His ordeal began on 29th August in 1998 and ended 150 days later. While I question whether anything self-inflicted can be called an ordeal I can’t dispute the facts. Nor would I want to. Geoff it seems spent 150 days buried in a coffin 6 feet under the garden of the Railway Inn in Mansfield, England. Breaking the old record of 141 days and the European record of 101 days, which had been set by his mother 30 years earlier. I’m not sure why his coffin was painted to resemble a tiger – it will probably remain forever a mystery. Like why anyone would want to break the world record for being buried alive.
If I delved any deeper into this crazy blog I’d be here all day. So – you’ve got the link. Have an explore. If you have any time to spare that is – but I must say it is addictive. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.