Adopted girl dedicates herself to finding forever homes for senior dogs

If this story doesn’t make you feel something, go immediately to the ER for tests, because somehow, you’re still alive despite not missing a heart.

For years, Meena Kumar has run a pet sitting service, Pet Fairy.

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That’s cool. Not crazy uncommon or anything, but cool.

Here’s the twist: Meena was adopted, herself, so getting senior dogs adopted is a passion of hers, except she couldn’t volunteer at the shelter until she was 17, and she started doing this when she was 12.

What were you and I doing when we were 12? Yeah. Not this kinda thing.

And now she’s raised $14,000 to get that done. Is not a typo. We’re not talking four hundred, or fourteen hundred. Fourteen grand is enough to buy one Chevrolet Spark or ten classic Yugos plus a couple extra transmissions, because you’re gonna need those. Yugos tend not to go.

For her hard work, Meena is getting national press: Today.com, CNN, and now this blog, and it’s a miracle I’m writing about her, because there are Florida Man stories out the wazoo this week, like the people trapped in an elevator. Mechanical problems? No. Methed up idiot threatening people? No. An alligator was waiting to ambush them. Maybe the alligator figured out that this was a magic metal machine. Sit here, wait for the ding, and boom, like a fridge, fresh meat appears.

Get on with your bad self, Brainy Alligator.

So on this random Thursday, when we typically celebrate weird news, it’s nice to spotlight hard work and kindness.

Thank you, Meena–because this is the kind of story we need during the insanity that is 2020.

Washington Man tries to outdo Florida Man, almost succeeds

As a former journalist, I still love the news. If you cut me, I bleed newsprint.

Weird news is always interesting to read, with human beings and animals constantly finding new and unique ways of getting global attention. Usually for plumbing the depths of stupidity.

Nothing illustrates the why and how of weird news like Florida Man stories, named after newspaper headlines that start with “Florida man” and end with stuff like “snorts meth and robs 7-Eleven wearing nothing but My Little Pony T-shirt,” then in the story you find out after he ran off from the gas station, he hid from the cops in a nearby pond and was eaten by a one-eyed alligator who lost the eye in a famous battle with a drunken stripper back in 1985.

You think I’m exaggerating and mixing in plot elements from Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen novels. But I’m not. Go ahead, google “Florida Man” and read a few.

So it’s always fun when my medium-sized, square state tries to compete with Florida Man.

Doesn’t happen often. Florida Man is powerful, and my state is a great place to live.

But it happened recently.

Burglary suspect leaves thank-you note, tries to swim away from cops

That’s one take on the story, a good, straight headline.

Here’s why I like it, and also why it doesn’t quite meet Florida Man standards.

You only need a single element for a story to be news. In this case, a man burglarized a home.

That’s it. There’s conflict there, some kind of backstory–is he stealing things for drug money or is that home a specific target? There’s also suspense about the outcome–will the cops catch him?

The second element is the thank you note, which lets this story go viral. Who leaves a thank-you note? Was it done out of kindness, or did the burglar know the victim? Are we talking a 40-year-old professional criminal starting to feel remorse or a 9-year-old budding psychopath who’s watched too many episodes of HANNIBAL?

Our story’s third element adds value. He doesn’t run from the cops, or drive off to start a car chase. He tries to out-swim the cops. Funny to picture and if there’s video footage, that’ll go viral, too.

But it’s missing a fourth element, the special sauce of Florida Man stories: gonzo nuttery.

How would this story end if it happened in Florida?

That’s the fun part. He would have jumped into that canal and been eaten by an alligator, sucked into a bottomless sinkhole, or swim all the way to the Cayman Islands.

That fourth element can’t do all the work. It needs a character in conflict, a mystery about motives, and a head-scratching gesture. You need those three foundations for your final Florida Man Cherry on the Top of this Ice Cream Sundae of Madness.

 

Rampaging prairie dogs invade tiny Nebraskan town–is South Dakota next to fall?

Now, you might think I made up that headline, or stole it from The Onion.

No.

This isn’t a cheeky story written as clickbait by an overworked intern with $149,291 in student loans to pay off and zero job prospects BECAUSE OF THE FRIGGING APOCALYPSE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

We’re talking about a real story, printed in all sorts of Papers of News, because the almighty Associated Press wrote it. Here’s the link: ‘They’re out of control’: Prairie dogs threatening western Nebraska towns, officials say

It’s crazy short, so here’s the text:

Officials in Nebraska’s Panhandle are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help and are exploring other options to control what they say is an encroaching prairie dog problem in the region.

The Cheyenne County Board commissioners said Monday during a meeting that the animals are threatening to overrun the towns of Lodgepole, Sidney and Potter if more is not done to control their numbers, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported.

Commissioner Philip Sanders said the animals caused nearly $3,000 in damage last year to 2,600 acres in the county. The animals, he said, are already inside Lodgepole, a village of about 300 people.

“I’m willing to take any help that we can get at this point, because I feel like we’ve let Lodgepole down,” Sanders said. “We’re going to let other communities down. We can’t do this any longer. … I don’t want to eradicate (prairie dogs). God put them here for a reason. I get it, but they’re out of control.”

There is only one USDA wildlife specialist to help control animal populations — including coyotes, porcupines and raccoons. The county wants the USDA to hire additional staff, but the agency says there’s no money for it. Now, the county is looking at private-sector help and even volunteers from the community to help control the prairie dog population.

Prairie dogs are native to Nebraska and live in colonies that create vast underground tunnels. They are considered important to the region’s ecological balance, but many people view them as pests that destroy valuable grassland and pose a danger to cattle that can step in prairie dog holes and break legs.

Oh, this is beautiful. It’s the setup for a horror movie: (1) a tiny town of 300 people that’s ten miles west of nowhere; (2) rampaging animals that have tunneled inside and could be anywhere; and (3) a single government agent standing between them and total mayhem.

And it’s not like that one wildlife specialist can suit up, grab every weapon left in the sheriff’s gun cabinet, and crawl through the tunnel to the villain’s lair for the climax of Act 3, because these tunnels are itty bitty. Maaaybe you could win the day if you march Papa Smurf in there, though I suspect the prairie dogs would eat him up in about two bites, and no director would be willing to go double mumbo jumbo by combining Evil Prairie Dogs with Papa Smurf Shows Up in a Live Action Movie.

No. You need to time travel back to 1984 and find this man, the hero we need and deserve, the man who knows how to deal with the prairie dog menace.

More weird news stories for your amusement:

How weird news teaches us great storytelling

Murder Hornets expose the dark roots of our deepest fears

Zombie chicken breast wakes up, walks off restaurant table

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

The Exploding Whale and the explosion of weird news

Real geniuses dressing up as ninjas to rob gas stations

Real animal that should NOT exist: the blue dragon mollusk

 

 

Murder Hornets expose the dark roots of our deepest fears

There’s a science to cute animals—Charismatic Mega Fauna—with their big eyes. They look like babies to us, even if they’re fully grown.

And there are reasons why we are irrationally afraid of the opposite, which I’m naming Scarymatic Mega Trauma.

The fear is there regardless of the actual threat.

Murder Hornets belong in this category. They look scary, even if the actual threat is low, and they have arrived in my square-shaped state on the Left Coast of ‘Murica.

Great White Sharks, crocodiles, and snakes all fall into this category. They have squinty little eyes and sharp teeth and a total lack of pettable fur.

Yet the numbers show we’re completely wrong to fear most Scarymatic Mega Trauma.

HERE COME THE MATHS.

Doesn’t matter.

Still scared of getting into the ocean with them. Thanks, Spielberg. I will never learn to surf because of you.

Sharks kill an average of six people per year. Worldwide. Moo-cows are far more dangerous at 20 per year.

Wolves (scary!) kill 10. Adorable dogs? 17,400.

There are some animals that do scare us for good reasons. Lions, tigers, and elephants are on that list, along with crocodiles, scorpions, and snakes. Do not mess with any of them, or try to have them as pets. Joe Exotic is not a role model.

Others creatures are deadly, but neither scary nor cute. Freshwater snails (4,400) do not inspire fear. They just murderize you.

Goats seem cute, despite their horns. You’re not afraid even if 200 of them take over your streets in California.

The biggest killer is the lowly mosquito, who we see as more of a tiny nuisance than the second coming of Ted Bundy. Mosquitos take out 830,000 people per year, which is insane.

I think our caveman brains explain the lack of fear of the mosquito. We don’t just divide animals into (a) Charismatic Mega Fauna and (b) Scarymatic Mega Trauma. There’s also (c) Can I Take This Wild Animal?

That’s the acid test: if we locked you in the Thunderdome with Animal X, would you come out alive and victorious? You see things like mosquitos as so small and easy to smoosh that it doesn’t register as any sort of threat. With a skeeter or freshwater snail, we’re overconfident. No problem, despite the deadly diseases of the blood sucker or the poisonous venom of the tiny snail. Who’s afraid of a snail? Come on.

So yes, there are Murder Hornets in my backyard, and they qualify as Scarymatic Mega Trauma, but I am not afraid. Keep your snakes and snails away from me, though.

Also: There’s a recent photo on the Series of Tubs of this man holding an adorable little octopus in his hand, except it’s a blue ringed octopus, which has enough venom to kill almost 30 humans. Don’t pick those up.

 

Related posts:

Weird news you can’t improve: Feral hogs find and destroy cocaine worth $22,000 hidden in woods

As a former journalist, and a fan of weird news, it’s rare for a story to fully combine (a) dangerous wild animals, (b) stupid criminals and (c) illegal drugs.

Usually, those sorts of ingredients turn into a different sort of weird news story, a Florida Man-style escapade with the possibility of somebody winning a Darwin Award.

But this time, it’s just comical.

I’ll post the link to the story below, but since we’re talking inverted pyramid journalism, you already get the key details.

Feral hogs find and destroy cocaine worth $22,000 hidden in woods

More importantly: What makes this story so good?

A total surprise

I’ve never heard of wild hogs finding and eating cocaine. Pretty sure you haven’t, either.

With so many sources of news online or in print, and the ability to search the Interwebs for old stories, truly new and unique stories like this rarer than a Kardashian born with an allergy to TV cameras.

Your typical weird news story about dangerous wild animals has them doing typical animal things. You know, a bear getting into your house to raid the fridge or swim in your pool. Stuff you can totally understand and predict. If you were a bear, wouldn’t you munch the nom-noms and then take a nice swim? Course you would.

Nobody, not even a crack team of screenwriters in Hollywood sitting in the desert after hitting a bong incredibly hard, would ever come up with feral hogs eating a stash of cocaine in the woods.

Karmic payback

We are wired to think of things in terms of stories, to root for heroes and hope bad guys fail.

This is a case were bad guys fail in a spectacular and funny way.

Oh, you thought hiding the cocaine in the woods was smart? GUESS WHO ATE IT ALL.

A growing problem

Feral hogs are no joke. Go ask farmers in Texas.

Over in Italy, where this happens, the population of wild pigs just doubled. Not from a few hundred roaming the woods like a four-legged Robin Hood and his band of merry, hairy buddies, sniffing around for truffles or Peruvian blow. We’re talking about TWO FREAKING MILLION feral pigs.

That’s not a little problem. That’s the first five minutes of the horror movie known as DAWN OF THE DEAD, CAUSE THE COKED UP WILD HOGS ATE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

Need to shorten that title, but you get the idea.

Here’s a crazy video compilation of when wild pigs attack hunters. I don’t blame the pigs for fighting back. It just shows you how quick and tough they are. Now imagine two million of them in the woods.

 

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.

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