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5 City Council Crazies!

Maybe you can't fight city hall ... but you can certainly drive them nuts. Most local government proceedings like city council meetings have a mandatory "public comment" segment, in which members of the audience can stand up and "have their say" for a proscribed (and thankfully short) amount of time -- whether what they have to say is relevant to the proceedings, or the ramblings of a madman. The ones that end up on YouTube, more often than not, fall into the latter category -- with hilarious results! Let's take a look at some of the weirdness our city councils are forced to put up with every day. All we can say is, thank goodness they tape these things.

Terrorist Pu$$sies and Rogue Helicopter Pilots

David Thompson took the podium at a Jan 28, 2002 meeting of the Charlotte, NC City Council, and his comments prompted one councilman to ask Thompson to tone it down for fear he might be "scaring the Boy Scouts we have in the audience today." Needless to say, his insane rant is YouTube gold.

"Here's a little song. Sorry about this ..."

When the Austin, TX City Council introduced a resolution that would mandate the use of a helmet while riding a bicycle, some libertarian-minded citizens took issue. One even wrote a protest song about it -- and there was nothing anyone could do to stop her from singing it.

Arrested for dropping the f-bomb

Comedian James Inman appeared before the Seattle City Council just after the infamous WTO protests to describe the time he got arrested for saying the "f-word." His rant is downright hilarious, eventually turning into a kind of almost-obscene beat poem, and earns him a standing ovation from the audience.

"Is this gonna be on YouTube tonight?"

Scranton, PA gadfly Ray Lyman is locally infamous for appearing at almost every meeting of the City Council and incoherently threatening to sue the mayor and/or council members. His screeds became so well-known that they garnered a small following on YouTube (which even the council members seem to be aware of), and someone was kind enough to make Ray his own page on MySpace. Everyone except Ray seems to regard him as a one-man comedy team.

Cathy Brandenhorst Jedi Council

Brandenhorst is a fixture at San Jose City Council meetings, where her weekly complaints about lasers, Mexicans with AIDS and homicidal city officials have made her both a pariah and an occasional dose of comic relief. Metroactive did a piece featuring her, and they transcribe one of her more colorful rants:

A woman seated in the middle of the council chambers gets out of her seat and walks toward the podium. She is wearing black sneakers, black pants and a black shirt. She has long, straight gray hair, which is pulled back into a pony tail fastened by a smart black-and-white bow. Everyone in the chamber has seen her many, many times before.

"My name is Cathy Brandhorst," she begins slowly. "I came today because"--she pauses to gather herself--"I guess it's a difficult situation. I was a kidnapped child. And I was kidnapped by Priscilla Presley." The council has not heard this one before from Brandhorst, who has been coming here to speak during the so-called "oral communications" segment of the council's meetings for years. Some council members listen, blinking.

"She had kidnapped me when I was a small baby," she continues. "It all began--I was also an entertainer. I was very small when I started entertaining. ... I became a very popular singer and a dancer at the same time. I continued to be an entertainer until I was approximately 14 years old. I was also a very abused child." Brandhorst holds up a National Enquirer she has brought with her for the council to see. By now, most council members are either suppressing laughter or talking to a colleague, not paying attention to Brandhorst.

"They keep putting my baby picture in [the tabloid]," she says, pointing to photos of murdered beauty-contest princess JonBenet Ramsey. "I am this missing person and I can prove it. This child has cords around her neck; I also have the same cord marks around my neck." She now abruptly segues into her finale: "As I continue to say, you people are all from Mexico. You continue to murder children, you kidnap children. ... It doesn't make any difference who you murder, who you destroy. ... We all deserve a way to stay alive without being murdered."

Rather than showing you a simple clip of Brandenhorst speaking, we found something much more entertaining: an enterprising computer graphics whiz has edited Brandenhorst into a meeting of the Jedi Council, and the cutaways to Ewan MacGregor, Sam Jackson and Yoda's reactions are priceless.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
gutenberg.org
gutenberg.org

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Is Causing Another Explosive Problem: Laze
Mario Tama, Getty Images
Mario Tama, Getty Images

Rivers of molten rock aren't the only thing residents near Hawaii's Kilauea volcano have to worry about. Lava from recent volcanic activity has reached the Pacific Ocean and is generating toxic, glass-laced "laze," according to Honolulu-based KITV. Just what is this dangerous substance?

Molten lava has a temperature of about 2000°F, while the surrounding seawater in Hawaii is closer to 80°F. When this super-hot lava hits the colder ocean, the heat makes the water boil, creating powerful explosions of steam, scalding hot water, and projectile rock fragments known as tephra. These plumes are called lava haze, or laze.

Though it looks like regular steam, laze is much more dangerous. When the water and lava combine, and hot lava vaporizes seawater, a series of reactions causes the formation of toxic gas. Chloride from the sea salt mixes with hydrogen in the steam to create a dense, corrosive mixture of hydrochloric acid. The vapor forms clouds that then turn into acid rain.

Laze blows out of the ocean near a lava flow
USGS

That’s not the only danger. The lava cools down rapidly, forming volcanic glass—tiny shards of which explode into the air along with the gases.

Even the slightest encounter with a wisp of laze can be problematic. The hot, acidic mixture can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. It's particularly hazardous to those with breathing problems, like people with asthma.

In 2000, two people died in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from inhaling laze coming from an active lava flow.

The problem spreads far beyond where the lava itself is flowing, pushing the problem downwind. Due to the amount of lava flowing into the ocean and the strength of the winds, laze currently being generated by the Kilauea eruptions could spread up to 15 miles away, a USGS geologist told Reuters.

[h/t Forbes]

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