Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winning Losers

Internet Debris

A collection by Neal McKenna 

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Unbelievable Wikipedia People & Stories

Historical misfits with bizarre claims to fame.

"Mad Jack" Churchill 

"Mad Jack" Churchill was an English soldier who fought throughout World War II armed with a longbow, arrows, bagpipes, and a sword. He led multiple commando missions, was captured by Nazis, and found time to play his bagpipes while performing heroic raids and missions. More

The Dancing Plague

The Dancing Plague of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in France when a woman, Frau Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. Within a week, 34 others had joined Frau, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers. Some of these people eventually died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion. More

Franz Reichelt

Franz Reichelt died in 1912 after jumping off the Eiffel Tower wearing his flying invention, which failed to operate properly as a parachute. More

Wojteck the 'Soldier Bear'

Wojteck was a 'Soldier Bear' in the Polish army. He enjoyed smoking, eating cigarettes, wrestling fellow soldiers, and was taught to salute when greeted. As one of the officially enlisted soldiers of the company, he lived with the other men in their tents. More

Elmer McCurdy

Elmer McCurdy joined a gang of second rate train robbers in 1911 and was killed in a gunfight with authorities in Oklahoma after their first robbery. His story only began there.
When no one claimed McCurdy's corpse the undertaker embalmed it and allowed people to see the body for a nickel. People would place nickels in McCurdy's mouth, which the undertaker would collect later.
Almost five years later a man showed up from a nearby traveling carnival and claimed to be McCurdy's long-lost brother. He indicated that he wanted to remove the corpse to give it a proper burial. Within two weeks, however, McCurdy was a featured exhibit with the carnival. For the next 60 years, McCurdy's body was sold to successive wax museums, carnivals, and haunted houses. More

Serge Voronoff

Serge Voronoff was a French surgeon that gained fame for his technique of grafting monkey testicle tissue on to the testicles of men. Voronoff's monkey-gland treatment was in vogue in the 1920s. One poet described it as a "famous doctor who inserts monkey glands in millionaires" The technique brought him a great deal of money. As his work fell out of favour, he went from being highly respected to a subject of ridicule. 
Perhaps his fall from grace came from not knowing the difference 
between a monkey and a chimpanzee.

Mary Toft 

Mary Toft tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to a litter of rabbits in England 1726. After intense scrutiny from the king's surgeon - and producing no more rabbits - she eventually confessed to the hoax and was imprisoned for fraud. More

Robert Liston

Robert Liston had a mortality rate of 300% in his most famous surgery in which he quickly amputated the leg of the intended patient who subsequently died from gangrene. The fingers of his young assistant were also accidently amputated and as a result died from gangrene. In his surgical exuberance he also slashed through the coat tails of a distinguished spectator who was so terrified he dropped dead from fright.
In Robert Liston's second most famous case he amputated the leg of his patient in 2 1/2 minutes, but in his enthusiasm removed the patient's testicles as well.   More
Florence Foster Jenkins was an American soprano who became famous for her complete lack of rhythm, pitch, tone, and overall singing ability in the 1920s. the stage play "Glorious" was based on her life. See the longer posting below. More 

Nicholas Alkemade

Nicholas Alkemade survived an 18,000 ft (5500 m) drop without a parachute while serving as a tailgunner in the Royal Airforce during WWII. After a bomb run in March 1944, Alkemade's bomber was attacked by a Nazi fighter plane. The plane caught fire and started to spiral out of control. All the parachutes were destroyed by fire. Instead of dying with the plane he jumped from the aircraft at 18,000 feet.
His fall was broken by many feet of soft snow and pine trees. The only injury he sustained was a sprained leg. All of the other crewmen died in the crash. He was later captured by the Nazi's who were suspicious of his story. After examining the wreckage and verifying Alkemede's story, they provided Alkemade a certifate of authenticity while he was a prisoner of war.       More
Images and text via Clip Tank

Spoooky Reading 

Five People Who Failed Their Way 

to Fame and Fortune

Society is mostly failure. For every LeBron James, there are thousands and thousands of guys convinced they could be great if they could just get this dribbling thing down. Precious few of us will ever make money doing the thing we love.
But then you have guys who got successful by sneaking in the back door. These are the ones who failed, and failed so hard, that their failure became a source of entertainment for millions... and they cashed in accordingly.

#5. William Hung

American Idol is a lot like spandex. By showcasing marginally talented singers alongside total train wrecks, it makes the average ass look great and the horrible ass look even more horrible than it already is. William Hung falls into the "horrible ass" category of American Idol contestants.

How Bad Was He?

Hung was initially featured on the show as one of those joke auditions that soccer moms laugh about for the next few days and then forget about forever. And for good reason: His performance was terrible to the point it bordered on depressing.
In case you didn't watch the video, just imagine every Asian stereotype you've ever heard of all gathered in one place to sing a Ricky Martin song. That's William Hung. He was, naturally, booted off the show and most people assumed that was the last they would hear of him. They were wrong.

He's harder to escape from than Alcatraz.

People Actually Paid For This Crap?

Something about William Hung's positive attitude and off-key warbling struck a chord with people. Within days, a William Hung fan site popped up and recorded four-million hits the first week it went live. Hung was booked to appear on several talk shows and bootleg William Hung t-shirts were all over the Internet. Soon after, he signed a freaking recording contract and dropped out of Berkeley to pursue a full-time music career while thousands of legitimately talented, unsigned musicians quietly drank themselves to death.
His first album, made up of mainly covers, sold over 195,000 copies and debuted at number one on the Billboard Independent Album Chart. So far, Hung has released three albums, and if the album covers are any indication, he takes all this very seriously.

With an innuendo-worthy name like that, can Hung Like a Horse: William Hung Sings 10 All Time Country Favorites be far behind?

#4. Amanda McKittrick Ros

Amanda McKittrick Ros is believed by many to be one of the greatest bad writers who ever lived. How do you earn a distinction like that? You earn it by opening your novels with sentences like this...
"Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?"

How Bad Was She?

Amanda McKittrick Ros absolutely refused to describe anything in a straightforward, understandable-by-anyone kind of way. Instead, "needlework" was "the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness." Eyes were "piercing orbs"; legs were "bony supports"; people didn't blush, they were "touched by the hot hand of bewilderment"; and breasts were "lactose engorged orbs of enjoymentastical funliness." Okay, we might have made up the last one.

The phantasmal visage of the elderly feminine figure of Amanda McKittrick Ros reflects the tranquil knowledge that she may be the least comprehended and thus most deplorable of scribes (this old woman sucks at writing).
Oh, and that sentence above about Erin's plot? Apparently it has something to do with the western borders of Ireland. But you already figured that out, right?

People Actually Paid For This Crap?

No publisher in their right mind was going to touch Ros's first novel, Irene Iddesleigh, so her husband financed the publishing himself as a 10th anniversary wedding gift to his artistically challenged wife. It was destined to languish in obscurity like 99 percent of self-published novels do. Then, someone sent a copy of the book to humorist Barry Pain, who called it "a thing that happens once in a million years" in an 1898 review.
She soon developed a following among fellow writers. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien often held competitions to see who could read her work the longest without bursting into laughter.

When the man that created dufflepuds can laugh at your work, you've hit a low.
Mark Twain called Irene Iddesleigh "one of the greatest unintentionally hilarious novels of all time," a statement that we'll probably use as the basis for an article sometime in the near future.

"The Most Unintentionally Hilarious Novel."
Even more impressively, Ros managed to turn this notoriety into a career, eventually earning enough cash to buy a house which she named "Iddesleigh" as a retort to her critics. To this day, a first edition Irene Iddesleigh sells for hundreds of dollars, while the chances of anyone buying any of those one cent copies of your self-published robot based romance novel you listed on Amazon.com remain hilariously slim.

#3. Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards

Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards wanted to go to the 1988 Winter Olympics and compete as a ski jumper. There were a couple of obvious problems with this. He was about 20-pounds heavier than the average ski jumper, he had no sponsor and his trainers spoke languages that he could not understand. But sometimes, you just gotta say "whatever, I'm going to the Olympics."

How Bad Was He?

Like any good nickname, Eddie Edwards earned his "The Eagle" moniker by being as un-eagle-like as one could possibly be. In addition to a flabby midsection that guaranteed he would soar less like an eagle and more like a fat kid propelled from the bed of a moving truck that's just hit a pothole, Eddie also had piss poor eyesight. Both are huge detriments when competing in feats of skill. But a rule that stated every country could send at least one representative to an Olympic event gave The Eagle a clear path to Olympic glory. Because most Brits at the time were more concerned with soccer and George Michael worship, Eddie got the nod to represent his country on the ski jump at the 1988 Winter Games.
Naturally, he sucked big-time. Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards finished dead last in every event he competed in.

Hey. You can't win it if you're not in it, right?

People Actually Paid For This Crap?

Eddie The Eagle didn't come away from Calgary with any medals, but thanks to his goofy persona and borderline insane backstory, he did come away with $65,000 deal to tell his life story to a tabloid, which is more than any of the other ski jump contestants can say. His brief moment in the spotlight also inexplicably resulted in a number two hit, "Mun Niemi En Eetu" ("My Name Is Eddie"), in Finland. You know who didn't record a number two hit in Finland? Gold medal winner Matti Nyknen of Finland.
Even IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch gave The Eagle a shout out during his closing ceremony speech by proclaiming "[At Calgary] people set new goals, created new world records and some even flew like an eagle."The IOC then promptly instituted a rule stating you must have placed in the top half of an international event to be eligible to compete in the Olympics, thereby guaranteeing nothing awesome would ever happen at the Olympics again.

Well, that's not completely true.

Not losers... 

#2. Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins was a very bad opera singer. Seriously bad. Sooooo bad, she made it onto two lists of losers - taking second place in both.

How Bad Was She?

If you didn't watch the video, just imagine Ashlee Simpson jumping rope while singing opera through some sort of reverse auto-tune device that makes things even more out of tune than they already are.

Or you could listen to the sound of this puppy as you kick it repeatedly.
As a young maiden in the late 19th century, Jenkins endured countless words of discouragement from anyone unlucky enough to hear her sing, including her father. But while most young women rebel against dad by having a whole lot of sex with unsavory dudes, Jenkins opted to use a large inheritance left to her by her father to plow headlong into a musical career.
A regrettable decision for several reasons.

People Actually Paid For This Crap?

Despite her ineptitude-riddled pipes, Jenkins's performances were always enjoyable, just not in the way she hoped. Florence was there to entertain through song. Her audience, however, was all about the unintentional comedy. Wracking with laughter, audience members usually ended up cramming their handkerchiefs in their mouths to keep their giggles silent. Say what you will about the Gilded Age, but they certainly had manners back then.

Over time, people turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of Jenkins's special brand of awful. Whenever the laughter got too loud or mean, she would dismiss it as spite from those less talented. In Jenkins's mind, she was a wonderful singer.
The highlight of her career was her first and only performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944. The show sold out and, in fact, 2,000 people were turned away and scalpers sold tickets for outrageous sums. Shitty music, sold out venues and scalpers charging exorbitant prices? Sounds like an Eagles concert! But we digress. Jenkins died a month after her Carnegie performance. Not a bad finale.

Oh, and in case you didn't already feel inadequate, her recordings are still available for purchase, she's had three plays written about her, and she even has a MySpace. Fine, maybe that last one isn't all that impressive, but still, not bad for a girl who once remarked to a friend, "Some may say that I couldn't sing, but no one can say that I didn't sing."

#1. Ed Wood

If anyone else on this list runs into filmmaker Ed Wood in the afterlife, they will immediately bow to him as their king.

How Bad Was He?

Bad... Real bad. We're guessing you've already heard countless people refer to Plan 9 From Outer Space as the worst movie ever made. But if you haven't actually seen it, and instead have only seen clips of the film or just the Tim Burton movie about Wood, you really should take time to watch the whole thing.
It will make you want to go out and create something. It's impossible to know how many aspiring filmmakers or novelists or artists buckled down to finish a project purely on the basis of, "I know I can do better than that."

Sometimes referred to as "The Michael Bay Effect."
Really, everything you need to know about how bad Ed Wood movies were can be summed up in this quote from the man himself. "Plan 9 is my pride and joy. We used Cadillac hubcaps for flying saucers in that."

Imagine the possibilities of spinners.
Though we should throw in the fact that the star (Bela Legosi) died after shooting just a couple of scenes, and they just had another dude stand in (strategically covering his face the while time).

People Actually Paid For This Crap?

Like many visionaries, Wood wouldn't get true recognition until after his death. Two years later, Wood was named "Worst Director of All Time" in a book called The Golden Turkey Awards. This brief moment of mockery resulted in a cult following for Ed Wood the likes of which would make L. Ron Hubbard jealous (and probably file a lawsuit of some sort). We're betting you can't find a video store that doesn't have a DVD of Plan 9 From Outer Space on the shelf right now and Amazon has two pages of various re-issues of the film.
These days, tributes to Ed Wood abound. The University of Southern California holds an annual Ed Wood Film Festival in which students are given a theme and tasked with building an Ed Wood style movie around it. Unofficial - meaning made up - estimates put the cost of making all those films somewhere in the 11 dollar range. There is also a legally recognized Ed Wood religion, The Church of Ed Wood, replete with holidays (way to forget our Woodmas gift on October 10) and manifestos (Wood Kamph). In 2001, rocker and Halloween franchise resuscitator Rob Zombie named his sophomore solo album, The Sinister Urge, after an Ed Wood film of the same name.

That certainly is an homage.
But the biggest tribute to Wood came in 1994 with the aforementioned Tim Burton film Ed Wood. Johnny Depp played Ed Wood and Martin Landau won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi. Yes, 16 years after his death, they made a movie about his terrible movies, and that movie won awards.
It's safe to say that in the course of making some of the worst movies possible, Ed Wood has brought more joy to more people than 99 percent of the artists who've ever lived. If that doesn't inspire you, then you're dead inside. Someone get us a video camera and some hubcaps, pronto! We've got work to do!

Text and images via Cracked.com

What lies beneath...

Canadian prairie winters are so nippy...

...cats need snowsuits.

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