Back in 1990, Spy
magazine conducted an experiment in "comparative chintziness." Its goal was to find out "Who is America's cheapest zillionaire?"
Or, put another way, "how cheap are the rich?"
To determine this they sent various rich people each a check for 13 cents, and then waited to see who would actually cash such a tiny check. Two people did: Donald Trump and the Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi.
And yes, they made sure to send the checks to the home addresses of the rich people, and not to their accountants. So that the recipient would have to do a little bit of work to cash the check.
Springfield News-Leader - June 6, 1990
In 1957, the Woodlake road camp prison in California began an experiment in convict rehabilitation. It was called "Operation Sleep." The idea was to use sleep learning to reform convicts. As the prisoners slept, they heard the soothing voice of a psychiatrist speaking the following script:
Listen, my inner self, remember and obey this creed of life: Live relaxed, completely and utterly relaxed... Love, rule my life. Love God, my family, and others... Have faith... work with others... Face life without fear, be calm, unafraid... Know myself and my faults... live without alcohol... Alcohol is a poison. I do not need alcohol. Abstain with ease. Alcohol is repulsive to me...
I am truly happy. I give my life to my family, to my friends, and to the world. I am filled with love and compassion for all, so help me God.
The script had been written by the County's Public Defender, John Locke, with help from a local Presbyterian minister, Rev. Glen Peters, and a hospital therapist, Robert C. Lally. They described Operation Sleep as "a type of brain-washing — but not the type used by the totalitarians."
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any data on whether the experiment actually had an effect of criminal behavior. The superintendent of the prison noted, "We have had excellent cooperation from the inmates. But of course, it is too early yet to tell what effect it will have. We won't know until after the men have been released and face the temptations of freedom again."
The picture at the top is from Newsweek
(Dec 30, 1957), and shows one of the prisoners who participated in the experiment. The fact that he's sleeping with a dog seems a little strange. I guess the inmates got to keep pets in this prison.
Wilmington Morning News - Oct 11, 1957
I found a news story from 1961 offering a 3-year update on Operation Sleep. I'm actually surprised that the prison kept the experiment going for that long. Public defender John Locke claimed that the experiment had been showing positive results, but said they needed to keep it going for another 3 years to be sure. From the Ottawa Citizen - Feb 21, 1961
For three years now the sleep therapy program has been in operation. Locke and his associates are careful to admit that it will be at least three years more before anything conclusive can be deduced from the careful check they keep on prisoners after their release.
Almost from the beginning though, the guards at the road camps noticed that the young inmates did not cause the same amount of trouble they had created formerly and were surprised when prisoners started coming to them for counsel.
What is probably most indicative of the therapy's effect is the decrease in alcoholism revealed by surveys among ex-prisoners.
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M494, September 25, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Police and prosecutors in Dallas, Tex., appropriately sensitive at having been the site of the 1963 killing of President Kennedy, have apparently taken out their shame on assassination buff Robert Groden. As the Dallas Observer reported in September, Groden has been ticketed by police dozens of times for operating book-sales booths near the "grassy knoll" (site of the alleged "second shooter" of the President)--and yet he prevails in court every single time (82 straight, and counting). (Tip for visitors, from the Observer: Never publicly utter "grassy knoll" in Dallas, as it seems particularly to offend the police.) [Dallas Observer, 9-8-2016
The Continuing Crisis
Stephen Mader, 25, native of Weirton, W.Va., and former Weirton police officer, is fighting to get his job back after being fired as not quick enough on the trigger. When Ronald Williams, Jr., in May, made a ham-handed attempt at "suicide by cop," it was Mader who, rather than shooting, tried to talk Williams down (based on his Marine Corps. and police academy training), but when Williams pointed his unloaded gun at two of Mader's colleagues, and one of them quickly shot the man to death, police officials fired Mader for having been insufficiently aggressive. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9-11-2016
Can't Possibly Be True: Few U.S. forces in Afghanistan speak the native Pashto or Dari, and the war prospects would be dim were it not for courageous Afghan civilians who aid the U.S. as interpreters under promise of protection and future emigration to the U.S. However, the Congressional battle over immigration policy has delayed entry for about 10,000 interpreters, who (along with their families) face imminent death if they remain in Afghanistan. Some in Congress also regard Afghans as riskier immigrants (despite the interpreters' demonstrated loyalty). [New York Times, 8-18-2016
Master baker Stefan Fischer filed a lawsuit recently against Bakery of New York for wrongful firing--because he refused to use "bug-infested" flour to make batches of bread. According to Fischer, when he informed management of the bugs in the facility's 3,000-pound flour silo, he was told simply to make "multi-grain" bread, which Fischer took to mean that fewer diners would complain if they heard "crunching" while eating multi-grain. [New York Daily News, 9-15-2016
Leading Economic Indicators
News Corporation Australia reported in September the enviable success of a 16-year-old British entrepreneur, Ms. Beau Jessup, who has so far earned about $84,000 with a simple online app to help rich Chinese parents select prosperous-sounding English names for their babies. Users choose among 12 personality traits they hope their baby to have, then receive three suggestions (including a list of famous people with those names). Jessup got the idea when living in China and noticing that some babies of the rich were given lame names, such as "Gandolf" and "Cinderella." [News.com.au (Sydney), 9-9-2016
Chinese Management Techniques: (1) About 200 employees at a travel service in Shandong Province were fined the equivalent of $6.50 each recently for failing to comply with orders to "comment" (favorably, one supposes) on the general manager's daily posts to the Twitter-like Internet site Sina Weibo. (2) In June, a motivational trainer working with employees of the Changzhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank reportedly told the poor-performing bank personnel (among the 200 at the session) to "prepare to be beaten." He then walked among the workers, whacking some with a stick, shaving the heads of the males, and cutting the hair of the females. [Beijing Youth Daily via China Daily, 8-19-2016
] [Reuters via The Guardian (London), 6-21-2016
Trees talk to each other and recognize their offspring, according to Australian ecology researcher Suzanne Simard (most recently lecturing on the influential video series TED Talks). Trees are not independent organisms but belong to arboreal "families" with characteristics identifying them to other family members. According to Dr. Simard, "mother" trees that ordinarily expand their roots wildly may hold back to give nearby "kinfolk" tree roots a chance to spread. Using "isotope tracing," she learned of trees passing healthful carbon, via fungi, to neighboring family seedlings, which she said renders the seedlings more resistant to future stress. [Treehugger, 7-29-2016
] [Daily Telegraph (London), 9-11-2016
Can't Stop Myself
(1) The lifelong pickpocket known as "Auntie Sato," 83, who has spent nearly 30 years of her life behind bars, was sentenced again (two years, six months) in August for a purse-snatching from a traveler in Tokyo's Ueno Station. "Why," asked the judge, does Auntie Sato keep at it, especially since she also owns property and has rental income. Said she, "I thought about [stopping]," but "gave up." "It's hopeless." (2) Faisal Shaikh, awaiting his theft case to be called at the Thane sessions court in Mumbai, India, in August (one of several theft charges pending), wandered up to the court stenographer's desk and swiped her cell phone. He was apprehended shortly afterward near the courthouse. [Japan Today, 8-7-2016
] [Mumbai Mirror, 9-1-2016
By August, Raymond Mazzarella was fed up with the tree in his neighbor's yard in Pittston Township, Pa., as it was continuously dripping sap onto his car--and so grabbed a chainsaw, cut through the 36-inch-wide trunk, and (he thought) fixed the problem. However, the tree fell directly onto Mazzarella's small apartment house, dispossessing five tenants and, ultimately, forcing inspectors to condemn the entire building. [WNEP-TV (Scranton), 8-22-2016
Popular Fetishes: (1) A middle-aged man was reported in three incidents in the Aberdeen, Scotland, area in August and September to be approaching women and asking for piggyback rides. He was still at large. (2) In September, England's Derby Crown Court sentenced Sanjeev Sandhu, 29, to six months in jail because of the "extreme" pornography on his phone. One image was of children having sex, but the judge also noted images featuring humans having sex with dogs, a donkey, a bull, and in another case, a fish. [Evening Express (Aberdeen), 9-5-2016
] [Derby Telegraph, 9-3-2016
How to Tell If You're Drunk
Dave Little, 27, vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, Spain--and partying hard, apparently--was at press time still haggling with eBay, trying to get out of his "successful" auction bid (blamed on a fingering misadventure on his phone) of 28,500 British pounds (about $37,000) for a Scania Irizar Century bus. eBay, of course, warns that bids are legally binding. Little believes that his dad had earlier searched bus information on the phone and that alcohol then affected his own navigation between screens. [Metro News (London) 8-25-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) A utility line in Hood County, Tex., broke in August, five feet below ground on Andrea Adams's property, but Acton Municipal District worker Jimmie Cox, 23, came to the rescue--which involved Cox briefly submerging himself in the mud, face down to his waist, to clamp the line. He said, later, "In this line of work, [we] do it a lot." (Photo!) (2) On September 9th, a man (who said later he somehow could not stop his car) drove off of a nine-story downtown parking garage in Austin, Tex. The SUV hung upside down (caught only by the garage guide wire that wrapped around one wheel) until passers-by pulled him to safety. (Photo!) [WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), 8-25-2016
] [KXAN-TV (Austin), 9-9-2016
A News of the Weird Classic (November 2012)
No Do-Overs: By 2009, James Washington believed he had gotten away with a 1995 murder, but then he had a heart attack, and on his deathbed, in a fit of remorse, told a guard in the jailhouse where he was being detained on an unrelated offense, “I have to get [this] off my conscience.” However, Washington miraculously recovered from the heart attack and tried to take back his confession, but prosecutors in Nashville, Tenn., used it to augment sparse evidence from 1995, and in October 2012 the now-healthier Washington was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 51 years in prison. [WSMV-TV (Nashville, Tenn.), 10-31-2012]
Thanks This Week to Gerald Sacks and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Conspicuous Consumption - as it was done in 1903.
In order to celebrate the completion of his $200,000 stable, C.K.G. Billings held a "horseback dinner" on March 28, 1903 for 33 of his pals from the Equestrian club. It took 24 workers three days to convert the second-floor banquet hall at Sherry's restaurant in New York into a faux rural barnyard and stable.
The guests ate while seated on their horses. The various courses were served on a table attached to the saddle. There was an individual waiter for each rider, and a groom stood at each horse's head to keep it calm and prevent a sudden start from spilling the food. More details from the NY Post-Dispatch
(Mar 29, 1903) :
Each horses was equipped with a white, quilted satin saddle and bridle, martingale and shoulder-hangings in gold and white. Each guest was designated to his place by his name lettered in gold on the cantle of a saddle.
In the center of the horseshoe formed by the animals was a mound of green, surmounted by a mass of flowers. The grassy sides sloped off into a lawn, which spread to the horse's fore feet.
Beside each horse was a satin upholstered mounting box, from which the diner in the saddle was served. A board fastened athwart the pommel of the saddle served as a table, and that the steed might not curvette or prance or shy, and so spill gravy or salad, a liveried groom stood at each horse's head...
The equestrian guests entered fully into the spirit of the affair and soon the first banquet in the saddle was in full swing. And while the guests ate, so did the horses. While the courses were being served from the mounting blocks to dishes which were secured in holders on the saddle tables the horses munched oats from individual silk-covered mangers.
Twelve courses were served, then the tables were removed from the pommels and the guests lounged over their cigars in the padded saddles. Speeches followed, mostly laudatory of Mr. Billings.
It cost Billings around $1.3 million (in modern money) to host the event.
The Town Talk - Mar 27, 1903
Reference: Museum of the City of New York