Tweedland has some interesting stories and characters. Here's two to get you started:
Robert de Montesquiou - "Tall, black-haired, rouged, Kaiser-moustached, he cackled and screamed in weird attitudes, giggling in high soprano, hiding his little black teeth behind an exquisitely gloved hand – the poseur absolute. He was said to have slept with Sarah Bernhardt and vomited for a week afterwards."
Lord Berners - "As a child, having heard that if you throw a dog into water it will learn how to swim, he threw his mother's canine companion out of the window on the grounds that if one applies the same logic it should learn how to fly. (The dog was unharmed, and he was "thrashed" by his mother.)"
The Rabbit Dreams of Dr. Freud's Niece - An illustrator of children's books, Sigmund Freud's niece Martha went by the name Tom, wore men's clothing, and died by her own hand in her late 30s, a year after her husband's suicide. BibliOdyssey recently featured some of her early work from Das Baby-Liederbuch, noting that because she was Jewish, many of her books were destroyed in the Nazi era and are scarce in the book trade. More about the artist and her work at Tom Seidmann-Freud.
Starlite: Ineffective for Car Bonnets, Great Against Nuclear Blasts. In the late 1980s, an English amateur inventor and hair-dresser released a plastic which, he claimed, had unusual heat-resistant properties. BBC Television demonstrated the material, dubbed Starlite, keeping an egg cool despite a five-minute onslaught from a blowtorch; here the inventor provides links to the footage. After initial skepticism, the reception from industrial and military players was rapturous. But while Starlite apparently stood up to the heat of 10000 Celsius lasers, its inventor, wary of being cheated, proved equally stubborn in negotiation, and Starlite seems never have been brought to market or mass production. [more inside]
As Orwell said, "another English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it,... is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations". Of those, trainspotting must be the most misunderstood. But now you can try it yourself with the online trainspotting simulator and join in the fun!
Who is Alexander Grothendieck? [PDF] This lecture is concerned not with Grothendieck's mathematics but with his very unusual life on the fringes of human society. In particular, there is, on the one hand, the question of why at the age of forty-two Grothendieck first of all resigned his professorship at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES); then withdrew from mathematics completely; and finally broke off all connections to his colleagues, students, acquaintances, friends, as well as his own family, to live as a hermit in an unknown place. On the other hand, one would like to know what has occupied this restless and creative spirit since his withdrawal from mathematics.
Artist Tasha Tudor is dead at age 92. Born in 1915 to an inventor and a painter, Tasha has been a quirky fixture in the childrens' publishing world for more than half a century. She lived an anachronistic life in Vermont, raising goats and chickens, caring for the small herd of Welsh Corgis that appeared in many of her books, and maintaining a small arts-and-publishing business that sustained her and her family for years. When she died, she said, she wanted to return to the 1800s as a sea captain's wife. Here's hoping she's inhaling sea air now.
A Brief Biography of William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, 5th Duke of Portland (1800-1879) - keen horseman and 'peculiar to many - but certainly not mad' owner of Welbeck Abbey.
"Since 1862, many have heard the tale of a wandering vagrant who traveled in an endless 365-mile circle between the Connecticut and Hudson rivers. The strange man only spoke with grunts or gestures and dressed in crudely stitched leather from his hat to his shoes." [more inside]
The A.K. Miller Auction "This is one of those stories that begins at the end. This was the end of A.K. Miller’s Stutz collection." Miller was a reclusive eccentric living on a ramshackle farm in Vermont. When he and his wife died, his estate was prepared for a tax sale. Sheriffs found a treasure trove of old cars, some wrapped in burlap to avoid prying eyes, stashed in a collection of dilapidated outbuildings. The auction (pdf) was eventually handled by Christie's and netted over two million dollars. [via]
How to build your very own balsawood crow, the poetry of Dennis Beerpint, Little Severin the Mystic Badger, plus lobster diagrams and of course the Binnacle of the Week await you at Hooting Yard. Celebrated in song and story, Hooting Yard (also a radio show and podcast) is the home of Frank Key, author of such works as Sydney the Bat is Awarded the Order of Lenin and A Complete and Utter History of Norwich.
One man's pocket change is another man's $3 million dollar home. Today, 3 previously homeless families were handed the keys to homes located on one of Hawai'i's priciest streets: Kahala Avenue. Japanese billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto has so far chosen 4 native Hawaiian families to live rent free for up to 10 years, making good on a promise made back in November 2006. Obviously, Kawamoto's motives are suspect, as his record as a landlord has been rather tainted. And his approach to alleviating 4 family's homeless situation doesn't solve any systemic problems or go very far in providing long term solutions to homelessness. But for now, it's a feel-good story, and the start of an interesting sociological experiment...
Savitri Devi Mukherji. Born Maximiani Portas in 1905, this French woman of Greek and English extraction would, in pilgrimages to Palestine and India, experience a series of strange awakenings - that she was a National Socialist, that she was a Hindu, that the two were entwined in the struggle against the Judeo-Christian order, and that Hitler was the living incarnation of Kalki the Destroyer, the final avatar of Vishnu. Known to many as "Hitler's guru," she stood at the forefronts of Hindu nationalism, Nazi mysticism, Holocaust denial, animal rights, and the international Neo-Nazi movement. The Lightning And The Sun, her most famous work, most directly espouses her philosophy, but perhaps the best place to start would be Long-Whiskers And The Two-Legged Goddess, which is her autobiography as filtered through her many cats. Her nephews were Communists; her own mother was active in the French Resistance; and according to some, the daughter would have shot the mother dead for it. The world is not be a better place for the Savitri Devis of the world, but her presence made this world like none other.
"Lawsonomy is the knowledge of Life and everything pertaining thereto." The collected works of Alfred Lawson - professional baseball player, aviation pioneer, economist, scientist, theologist, and philosopher - are available to all. [more inside]
Pasaquan: Eddie Owens Martin, pot-smokin', homo hustlin' New York transplant, son of a Georgia sharecropper falls ill, sees visions, "becomes" Saint EOM, spends 30 years turning homestead into grand work of art, commits suicide, languishes in semi-obscurity...
Josh is a very thorough man. Josh seeks a godly wife.
All hail the King of Fuh Since 1965, Stephen "Brute Force" Friedland has been a professional blower of minds. He began his musical career penning the first existential/psychedelic girl group record, graduated to tapeworms and sat-upon sandwiches, then was personally signed by George Harrison as an Apple artist with the sly and ultimately unreleasable "King of Fuh." (Turn it inside out. There, you see. MP3.) But oddball songs of love and linguistic quirkiness are just the tip of Brutie's iceberg. In 1969, he swam half way across the Bering Strait in a symbolic plea to warm up the cold war. He does deliciously absurd stand-up prop comedy interspersed with song. And his eyebrows are a work of art in their own right. So all hail the Fuh King, who has never compromised his deliriously batty vision, and at this point assuredly never will.
Who Is Frank Chu? A Craigslister put up an interview with various SF residents, and Frank Chu himself. For people not from the Bay Area, Frank Chu has been a downtown fixture for some time -- notable for his silent protest of bizarre space-crimes committed by ex-presidents.
Stranger is as stranger does Lets see, the older I get, the more eccentric I become. Boy, am I in trouble.