Three decades of News of the Weird is enough
July 2, 2017 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Chuck Shepherd has announced that this is his final weekly column. News of the Weird is an astonishing, improbable, delightful and inspiring list of odd news from around the world. Published since 1988, first in alternative newsweeklies, this list often features stories from Chuck's home state of Florida, for some reason. Well sourced and beautifully presented, this original Weird News source will be greatly missed.
posted by Midnight Skulker (25 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'll miss it. I would often start the week with a bit of humor by reading this column, which was usually updated on Mondays.

Here's a list of things that they stopped reporting in "News of the Wierd" because they happened so often.
posted by eye of newt at 8:59 AM on July 2 [14 favorites]


(1991) In May, Maxcy Dean Filer, 60, of Compton, California, finally passed the California Bar exam. He graduated from law school in 1966, but had failed the exam in each of his previous 47 tries.

That is inspirational. Filer passed away in 2011, and the LA Times ran a tribute article describing him as an activist and champion of equal rights for minorities.
"While attempting to pass the test, he worked as a law clerk and delved into activism. He pushed for equitable representation of African Americans in Compton, led boycotts of banks that refused to hire blacks and participated in efforts to integrate local institutions."
posted by cynical pinnacle at 9:05 AM on July 2 [11 favorites]


That note at the beginning is such a low-key way to end a popular thirty-year endeavor. "This was fun, c u l8r."

I'm not familiar with the column: is this just Shepherd's style, or did something happen in the background? Because as someone with admittedly no knowledge of the guy, I can also read it as the farewell column of a writer who didn't want to stop doing it and isn't too happy about it.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:24 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


My dad had to travel to Charlottesville, VA three or four times a month when I was a preteen, and he would always bring back a C-Ville Revire for me so I could read Life In Hell and News of the Weird. Thank you, Chuck.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:31 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I stopped reading NoW years ago because it was just too depressing. Widespread and toxic stupidity wears thin.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:37 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


I first read this when my brother sent me a subscription to Funny Times for my birthday. It was a tabloid format collection of cartoons and comic strips and columns mostly of the sort than ran in alternative weekly type papers. It was hilarious. Like revival house theaters (and their illustrated schedules), it's something that has gone away forever.

Retire in peace!
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:45 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I'm reading it as nothing more complicated as that he's been doing the same job for thirty years and he's burnt out on it. I could imagine that some of that burnout is that a lot of the job that the column used to have to itself, more or less, is now performed gratis by social media, and that the rise of fake news has made it even harder to verify weird stuff. (Chuck once got into a nasty exchange of letters with Cecil "The Straight Dope" Adams over the veracity of "gerbiling.") Regardless, NotW was one of those things that I used to enjoy reading, although not quite enough to keep up on regularly.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:50 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


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posted by Mr Stickfigure at 11:45 AM on July 2


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posted by radwolf76 at 12:24 PM on July 2


In honor of his retirement, I may just have to stick a gerbil somewhere, just to settle the matter once and for all. 🐹
posted by sexyrobot at 12:54 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Used to read it in my pre-Internet life. I wish him well.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:01 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I told my wife this and she was immediately like "Can't keep up" and uh, yeah, that's real.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:03 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]



In honor of his retirement, I may just have to stick a gerbil somewhere, just to settle the matter once and for all. 🐹


Although this is sad news, there's no reason for animal cruelty.

That being said, pix or it didn't happen.

.
posted by Samizdata at 1:18 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


That note at the beginning is such a low-key way to end a popular thirty-year endeavor. "This was fun, c u l8r."

I'm not familiar with the column: is this just Shepherd's style, or did something happen in the background? Because as someone with admittedly no knowledge of the guy, I can also read it as the farewell column of a writer who didn't want to stop doing it and isn't too happy about it.


That's 1560 columns over the life of the project. The THIRTY year life of the project. And we aren't even looking at the administrative overhead of making sure column copy gets to the right people at the right time, constantly working under a deadline, and all that. Also, we have zero clue how many hours of legwork he has to put it each week.

I imagine after 30 years, that all can get kind of old.
posted by Samizdata at 1:21 PM on July 2


(Chuck once got into a nasty exchange of letters with Cecil "The Straight Dope" Adams over the veracity of "gerbiling.")
Actually,* puffs on meerschaum* Chuck exchanged letters with Jan Brunvand, urban legends researcher and author of "The Vanishing Hitchhiker" and others.
posted by Floydd at 1:23 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


I went to high school with a guy who ended up the subject of a News of the Weird story. He'd earned it. (Living with 77 cats AND getting a clean bill of health thumbs-up from his local Humane Society will do that.)
posted by delfin at 1:39 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


this list often features stories from Chuck's home state of Florida, for some reason.

The reason "Florida Man" is a thing is because Florida has unusually accessible open records.
posted by AFABulous at 2:36 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


Funny Times won't be the same without him (I blame Trump).
Well, enjoy your well-earned retirement, Mr. Shepherd. Don't take your GPS too literally.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 5:57 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


-- (1993) In May, Elk River, Minnesota, landlord Todd Plaisted reported that his tenant Kenneth Lane had fled the area, abandoning his rented farmhouse and leaving behind at least 400 tons of used carpeting, at least 10,000 plastic windows from Northwest Airlines planes, and rooms full of sofas, mattresses and washing machines, among other things. Lane told townspeople he ran a "recycling" company, but there was no evidence of sales. A deputy sheriff driving by the farmhouse the year before saw Lane burying carpeting with a tractor and said Lane merely muttered, "I don't know what to say. You got me. I can't even make up an excuse." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5-17-93]

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posted by saysthis at 2:24 AM on July 3


I worked at a weekly paper that ran Shepherd's column before the Internet, and read it online once that became a thing. I laughed at the stories along with everyone else.

In the early 90s I began hunting for a good friend who'd moved away, doing random online searches. One day his name turned up in a story running in News of the Weird--he had become a lawyer, and had done something alarmingly un-lawyerly. His non-violent actions, presented as laughable, were wildly out of character, and signaled mental illness. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, and eventually died at 47 of heart disease related to untreated diabetes.

The realization that his illness had been presented as amusement by someone who did not know the circumstances chilled me and I never read the column again. That story remained online for years after his death.

RIP Chris, my friend. You deserved better.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:07 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


The New York Times reported in February on a Washington, D.C., man whose love of music led him, in the 1960s, to meticulously hand-make and hand-paint facsimile record album covers of his fantasized music, complete with imagined lyric sheets and liner notes (with some of the "albums" even shrink-wrapped), and, even more incredibly, to hand-make cardboard facsimiles of actual grooved discs to put inside them.

Ooh, Mingering Mike! (Previously on MetaFilter.) I hadn't thought about him in a looong time. Great to be reminded of him again!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:29 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Eh, I like weird news as much as the next person, but I stopped reading years ago after the unpleasant exchange I had when I dared to question Chuck's rather anti-Muslim tone in a particular item. I wish I could find the emails; he gave me a whole stupid "well, why SHOULDN'T I mention that this guy was Muslim? Maybe YOU'RE the one who's obsessed" kind of old white guy crap, and I thought, "you know, I could enjoy other pixels than these."
posted by St. Hubbins at 10:20 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the column for years, but his recent jokey editorializing on non-binary gender and sexual orientation turned me off a bit, where he incredulously described "queer" as "(evidently, not the same as 'gay')" and "genderqueer" as "(not quite 'gay,' either)", which I read in the context of the article as an ignorant "too many darn names for the same thing!"

I still brag about witnessing a real News of the Weird article in person, though. In 2002, I attended the Mali-Cameroon game during the Africa Nations Cup. I was high up in the stands so couldn't tell what was happening when, before the game, a man came out and crouched in the middle of the field and several security came and dragged him off. Later on, a friend of mine back home said he'd read a News of the Weird article about Mali, about how during the game I had attended, "a Cameroon assistant coach was dragged off the field by Mali military personnel after he was suspected of wielding a lucky charm" (toward the middle of the page, under "Cultural Diversity").
posted by pinothefrog at 10:26 AM on July 3


Oh man! I've been reading that column for most of my adult life! If you read this, Chuck -- some random dude out here in Scottsdale, AZ enjoyed your work quite a bit. Thanks!
posted by ph00dz at 7:34 PM on July 3


Upstream someone said Funny Times was dead. Funny Times is still publishing. I've had a subscription since the 80s. I will miss seeing NotW in it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:02 AM on July 4


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