Category Archive 'Bizarre'
24 Nov 2020

Leyat Hélica

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This showed up on Facebook this morning.

Wikipedia tells us:

Marcel Leyat was a French automobile manufacturer, born in Die, established by Marcel Leyat in 1919 in Paris. The automobiles were built on the Quai de Grenelle.

The first model was called Hélica, also known as ‘The plane without wings’. The passengers sat behind each other as in an aircraft. The vehicle was steered using the rear wheels and the car was not powered by an engine turning the wheels, but by a giant propeller powered by an 8 bhp (6.0 kW) Scorpion engine. The entire body of the vehicle was made of plywood, and weighed just 250 kg (550 lb), which made it dangerously fast.

In 1927, A Hélica reached the speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) at the Montlhéry circuit. Leyat continued to experiment with his Helica. He tried using propellers with two and four blades. Between 1919 and 1925, Leyat managed to sell 30 vehicles.

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New Atlas:

Leyat was a biplane designer before World War 1 broke out, but turned his hand to automobile designs, feeling that the aviation world had a thing or two to teach car designers.

First off, he saw early car designs as far too heavy and aerodynamically inefficient, problems that the aviation world had been working hard to solve. Secondly, he felt that driven wheels were another power-sapping exercise in needless complexity, requiring transmissions and clutches and drive shafts and differentials and all sorts of other bits and pieces.

Aircraft, on the other hand, were designed to be aerodynamic and lightweight from the get go, and a propeller could mount more or less directly to the engine’s crankshaft. So why not a wingless airplane for the road? These were early days for the automotive industry, and all sorts of different technologies were being thrown at the wall to see which would stick and which would slide.

Horsepower was a fairly scarce resource back in 1913 when Leyat built his first Helica, which used an 18-horsepower, 1,000cc Harley-Davidson v-twin engine in a lightweight plywood body that weighed just 550 lb (250 kg). His goal was to extract motion from that power in the most efficient way possible. In that respect, he did pretty well; a subsequent Helica recorded a top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) in 1927, a terrifying speed for the time.

In other respects, Leyat’s propeller car, and several other designs not dissimilar to it, were a roundly awful idea from the beginning, because, well, they had great big propellers on the front of them. While this example is wire mesh shielded, that doesn’t appear to have been a feature of the original designs, so errant pedestrians and wayward pigeons alike could end up getting fed through a several thousand-rpm blender, showering driver and passenger with an exuberance of gore.

What’s more, the spinning mass of the wooden prop could turn into a highly energetic constellation of airborne shrapnel in the event of a rear-ender. When it wasn’t exploding in an accident, it was making one more likely by obscuring the driver’s view and blowing wind directly into his face at high speed. And if that weren’t enough, Leyat had also taken an aircraft-inspired approach to the steering, eschewing the complexities of a steering rack for a very simple, cable-operated rear wheel steering system that threw the back end out sideways to turn the car.

The resulting vehicle looks, shall we say, rather exciting to drive, and thanks to the contemporary footage below assembled by Diagonal View, we can get an idea of how it handled. In even a slow-speed u-turn, the inside rear wheel lifts merrily off the ground, its front wheels wobble around like pin-fixed discs on a toy car, and the whole contraption does little to make us think propeller cars were ever the automobiles of the future.

08 Oct 2020

Love Hurts

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Cell Mate Chastity Cage (Short Model).

A $189 Chinese Bluetooth Chastity Ring designed for Domination games, or mere assured fidelity, has been shown to be vulnerable to hacking, and can be permanently locked by third parties, requiring the use of an angle grinder or other heavy power tool to cut the device off. A drastic solution, to say the least.

Additionally, its security flaws allow the hacker to steal the user’s passwords, birthday, location, and other sensitive data.

Gizmodo

Drudge Now

02 Oct 2020

The Ultimate Rare Book Collection

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Alison Flood, of the Guardian, interviews a very knowledgeable book dealer and authority.

Edward Brooke-Hitching grew up in a rare book shop, with a rare book dealer for a father. As the author of histories of maps The Phantom Atlas, The Golden Atlas and The Sky Atlas, he has always been “really fascinated by books that are down the back alleys of history”. Ten years ago, he embarked on a project to come up with the “ultimate library”. No first editions of Jane Austen here, though: Brooke-Hitching’s The Madman’s Library collects the most eccentric and extraordinary books from around the world.

“I was asking, if you could put together the ultimate library, ignoring the value or the academic significance of the books, what would be on that shelf if you had a time machine and unlimited budget?” he says.

Following up anecdotes, talking to booksellers and librarians and trawling through auction catalogues, he came across stories like that of the 605-page Qur’an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein. “If that was on a shelf, what could possibly sit next to it?” he asks. “I mentioned it to a bookseller and they told me about a diary that they’d had, from the 19th century, written by a shipwrecked captain who only had old newspaper and penguins to hand. So Fate of the Blenden Hall was written entirely in penguin blood.”

There’s the American civil war soldier who inscribed his journal of the conflict on to the violin he carried. There’s the memoir of a Massachussetts highwayman, James Allen, which he “requested be bound in his own skin after his death, and presented to his one victim who had fought back as a token of his admiration”. Or the diary of the Norwegian resistance fighter Petter Moen, pricked with a pin into squares of toilet paper and left in a ventilation shaft; although Moen was killed in 1944, one of his fellow prisoners returned to Oslo after it was liberated from the Nazis and found the diary. Or the entirely fabricated book An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa: its author George Psalmanazar, a blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned man with a thick French accent, arrived in London in about 1702 and declared himself to be the first Formosan, or Taiwanese, person to set foot on the European continent. (“Obviously no one had been there and nobody knew what Taiwanese people looked like, and he became the toast of high society,” says Brooke-Hitching.)

RTWT

08 Aug 2020

Chinese Artist Makes Costumes from Antique Porcelain Shards

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My Modern Met:

Chinese contemporary artist Li Xiaofang uses porcelain to make wearable art that pays homage to China’s past while looking toward the future. Xiaofang takes hundreds of shards of porcelain, some dating back to the Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and puzzles them together into magnificent porcelain dresses. His wearable art acts as both a coat of armor and a sculptural masterpiece.

Xiaofang sews together the shards using thin metal wire, and each is lined with a leather undergarment. Looking at the artist’s work, it’s impossible not to marvel at the precision and care taken, not only to find the exact shapes to form the curves of the dresses, but also how the pattern and color of the porcelain are used to create new shades and silhouettes. But Xiaofang doesn’t only limit himself to porcelain dresses, he’s also experimented with creating suit jackets, pants, blouses, and even a military hat.

The Beijing-based artist has seen his work exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has engaged in collaborations with fashion giants like Lacoste and Alexander McQueen. A visionary in his field, his work was by the rapid development engulfing Beijing. “These blue shards, bathed in the sunny skies of socialism and caressed by the contemporary cool breezes blowing from the west throughout the capital, assume a bewildering array of postures as fashion items entering the new century,” the artist once stated. “These are the blue-and-white costumes! These emanate the splendor once crushed! These are the illusions flowing with sorrow!”

RTWT

09 Mar 2020

Jeremy Bentham, Who Died in 1832, Has Recently Visited New York

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The Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham died in 1832 but, in accordance with his own instructions, he still gets to travel and to attend academic meetings. Atlas Obscura

08 Mar 2020

Moutai

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The Wall Street Journal introduces us to a Chinese spirit ranked high as a status symbol in the mystic East, whose taste is both admired and despised.

China’s Kweichow Moutai Co. has become the world’s most valuable liquor company thanks to a fiery spirit that can cost nearly $400 a bottle.

The spirit is baijiu, a Chinese liquor made by fermenting sorghum or other grains in brick or mud pits. The company’s version, known simply as Moutai, has a long association with China’s Communist leaders, and has become a homegrown status symbol for affluent Chinese.

One drawback: many people can’t stand it.

The taste is “very much like ethanol,” said Jenny Miao, a 26-year-old market researcher in Shanghai. At dinners with clients, she said she sometimes has to toast with Moutai, but will then drink water to wash away the aftertaste.

Baijiu detractors say the taste reminds them of paint stripper or kerosene, especially the cheap varieties. It does have many genuine fans, who laud baijiu’s complexity and distinct flavor varieties—strong, light, soy-sauce, and rice aroma.

One liquor website describes Moutai as having “a silky mouthfeel” and says it carries “an undertone of baking spice.” Other reviewers say the drink conjures tastes of nuts, sesame paste, mushrooms, cheese, and dark chocolate.

Moutai is usually served in tiny glasses that contain about a third of an ounce of the spirit. Shots are frequently downed to show respect for someone making a toast. People in China say “gan bei” before drinking, which literally means “dry cup.”

RTWT

28 Jan 2020

New York State Now Charges to Look at the Stars

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Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, Museum of Modern Art.

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street.
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat.
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman.

The Beatles

The taxman is at his very worst in New York State, as Red State reports:

New York State recently passed a law requiring citizens to obtain a permit if they wish to gaze at the stars in public parks. No, really. You read that right. In New York, you must pay for a license to look at the freaking stars.

The Free Thought Project first reported on the story, explaining that “If citizens of the state wish to look up at the sky and view the stars at one of New York’s public parks, they will first have to obtain a ‘Stargazing permit.’” The site pointed out that pollution in the sky makes it more difficult for New Yorkers in “highly populated areas” to see the sky at night, so they travel to remote areas, many of which are located in state parks.

The state is charging residents $35 to become a fully-licensed stargazer allowed to view the stars between January and December of the year. If you are not lucky enough to be a New York resident and you are just visiting, you will have to fork over $60 for the privilege of admiring your favorite constellation in the night sky. We were not able to find out how much it costs to wish upon a star, but we can be sure that it ain’t cheap. Okay, that last part was a joke — hopefully.

11 Jan 2020

This Isn’t the 21st Century I Was Hoping For

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The Cut reports that Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s beauty, fashion, &c. products marketing company is breaking rather unusual new ground in lifestyle accessories.

[W]hat’s better than inviting guests into your home, having them compliment you on the lovely scent, and then humbly saying, “Thanks, it’s this new vagina candle I picked up”?

The candle costs $75, and Goop says it sold out within hours at one of the company’s events (it does match the other branding). High-end, wellness-y Brooklyn beauty shop Shen also carries the candle, but it’s currently sold out on its site.

But does it really smell like what it says it smells like? Here’s what several Cut members thought.

Allison P. Davis, features writer: “This smells like a vagina that is douching Summer’s Eve too frequently and will probably end up with a yeast infection. And it needs some muskier base notes, to be honest.”

Bridget Read, writer: “No vagina on God’s green earth.”

Kathleen Hou, beauty director: “Maybe if you asked a bunch of teen boys who had never been near a vagina, they’d say, ‘Yeah, like this!’”

Erica Smith, beauty writer: “… I don’t think so? It’s definitely not an aspirational vagina smell. I’d be concerned if it smelled like that.”

Sarah Spellings, fashion writer: “It smells like a vagina if you’ve only ever been exposed to the concept through tampon commercials. This is very much a conceptual vag.”

Madeleine Aggeler, senior writer: “No. Needs more umami.”

RTWT

11 May 2019

Lithuanian Invents Most Humane Euthanizing Device Since the Guillotine

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The Brooklyn deviants at Hyperallergic will love this.

“A solution to overpopulation.” — Julionas Urbonas is one sick puppy.

29 Jan 2019

Nuked Too Much or Not Enough?

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You take a culture with the keenest appreciation of impermanence, simplicity, and imperfection and a wistful love of Nature and you add Commerce and the influence of American popular culture, and you get this!

Here are 15:09 of Japanese commercials brimming with kawaii, moe, chibi and served up with the special kind of twistedness only the Japanese can manage.

HT: Vanderleun.

04 Oct 2018

Artisanal Brooms

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A broom is not just a broom. It is statement about who you are. Your broom expresses your values, your identity, your respect for skilled craftsmanship, and your passion for your home. Obviously, you, too, need an artisanal broom made by a sophisticated, college-educated woman living in Brooklyn. (Or not.)

Vox tells you all about them and where to get them.

In the spring of 2017, Erin Rouse quit her job at the lighting design firm Lindsey Adelman to make brooms full time. She picked up the skill during her time in that job, which allowed employees to study in workshops around the world. She went to the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, where she studied with a master broomsquire, the technical term for a broom-maker.

At $80 for a hand broom and $200 for a full-size version, which can reach $350 with a pleated skirt and handle cover, Rouse’s brooms aren’t cheap. Assuming all of her materials are prepped and ready to go — the process of cleaning and sorting by size a 100-pound batch of broom corn can take three or four days — she can make one in roughly two hours, plus the time required to trim the broom and sew a skirt and sheath. If she’s also dyeing the broom, that adds another five days to its production time. …

There are people willing to pay good money for a beautiful, well-made broom. Hilary Robertson, a New York-based interior stylist and set designer, is the target audience for that.

“I don’t really want to own anything that I don’t find beautiful, even if it’s a washing-up bowl,” Robertson says over the phone. “That’s my business, and the way I live.”

She recently bought one of Rouse’s brooms for her weekend home in Connecticut, an old schoolhouse with an extension. It has stone floors that get dusty very quickly, so Robertson needed a broom, and it has very little storage space, so she needed that broom to look especially good. Indeed, anyone who’s buying a luxury broom is doing so because they consider it part of their furniture, Robertson says. But that doesn’t mean it’s a choice lightly made.

RTWT

You have to love millennials.

27 Oct 2017

History of the Rat King

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Mental Floss:

A ball of furry fury, a rat king occurs when the tails of rodents become twisted, wrapped, and warped into a knot so impossible that not even the world’s most loyal Boy Scout could untangle it. Rat kings have been reported since the mid-16th century (almost entirely within Germany), and everything about them—from their name, to their cause, to their very existence—remains suspended in mystery.

RTWT

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