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Matt Zencey

The Weird Week in Review

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Matt Zencey

Bad Review from 1863 Finally Retracted

This newspaper retraction took 150 years to see print, but like they say, better late than never. The Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, published a bad review of a local speech which they referred to as "silly remarks" that "deserved the veil of oblivion." That speech was later known as the Gettysburg Address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the new Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the newspaper published an apology for its earlier review, even going so far as to use the style of the Address as a framework for its own mea culpa. The paper could be forgiven the original remarks: after all, the president himself said that "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here," which also turned out to be wrong.

Batman Suparman on the Wrong Side of the Law

Batman bin Suparman changed his name legally to reflect two comic book superheroes a few years ago. Now it appears that the crime-fighting moniker has had little influence on his life. A judge in Singapore sentenced the 23-year-old Suparman to two years and nine months on charges of breaking and entering, theft, and heroin use. It all started when his older brother reported $650 missing from the bank account behind his ATM card. An investigation led to the arrest of Suparman after he was observed on a surveillance video taking money from GF Billiards & Marketing during a break-in. He was arrested on August 19th, at which time the heroin charge was added. If he had taken some inspiration from his name, he might have tried wearing a mask or at least using a secret identity.

Police Respond to IKEA Assembly

If you thought the confusion one confronts when assembling IKEA furniture was because the instructions are Swedish, this story should reassure you that they are just as baffling to Swedes as to the rest of the world. A family in Strömstad, Sweden, on the country's western coast, were assembling furniture at 1AM. The banging, or possibly the swearing, woke their baby, who began screaming. The neighbors, alarmed at the commotion, called the local police.

When officers arrived on the scene, they found the couple was engaged in that most Swedish of activities, assembling Ikea furniture, and that the crying did indeed come from an infant child. It remains unclear if the baby was simply crying in need of attention, or whether it too was frustrated by the complexity of the Ikea instructions.

The police understood completely.

Executives Watching Porn Is a Leading Cause of Corporate Malware

Ah, the perks that come from being the boss! Surfing for porn on the internet is a fireable offense for most employees, but who is going to report a CEO? A survey of security analysts at 200 firms finds that 40 percent of the respondents have had to remove malware from a senior executive's computer or mobile device after they perused porn. Senior executives who open spam emails were also a significant cause of malware in the workplace. However, the IT department is wary of reporting such incidents: 57% of data breaches are not publicly reported.

Impersonating a Police Officer to Get Discounted Donuts

From Florida comes the story of 48-year-old Charles Barry, who apparently has a habit of demanding a discount on donuts from his local Dunkin' Donuts outlet in Pasco County. Employees say that Barry had presented himself as a U.S. Marshal on several occasions, in order to receive a discount. When he came in on a weekend and demanded a discount for his whole family, the management rescinded his privileges. But Barry kept demanding his "police discount," and even showed a badge and flashed a gun at the drive-through window a week ago. By then, police had set up a surveillance operation to catch Barry in the act, and he was arrested as he left the donut shop. Barry has been charged with impersonating an officer and improper exhibition of a firearm.

Deer Leaps Through Trailer Wall

An unnamed woman from Las Vegas was driving through Utah when she felt as if her vehicle had hit an animal or something, although she didn't see anything. She called the local sheriff's office, which sent Conservation Officer Micah Evans to investigate. He found the trailer with a hole torn in the front of it -about four feet off the ground. There was no blood visible on the trailer. Evans went inside the trailer, half expecting to find a scene of carnage. Instead, there was a deer standing there, seemingly uninjured!

"I can hear the jaw moving, and I can hear the tongue working," Evans said. "It was either licking its front leg or licking something that spilled on the floor. And as I'm looking at this animal, I'm thinking, 'Man, how the heck am I going to get this thing out of the trailer?'"

Standing in the doorway, Evans took a picture with his camera of the buck. The flash went off and the buck sprang toward the doorway, Evans jumped out of the way, then the buck leapt over a barbed wire fence and ran away, according to the sheriff's office.

The deer, a three-point buck, declined to tell his side of the story.

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

Update: GIF IT UP has announced that this year’s grand prize winner will receive an Electric Object, a digital art frame. The winner of the people’s choice category will get a Giphoscope, while runners-up for the general competition and the winner of the first-time GIF-maker category will get gift cards. There will also be special prizes for several themed categories, including transportation, holidays, Christmas cards, and animals.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
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The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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