Best oddball stories of 2022!

Dec 21, 2022 Episode 130

Best of oddballs – sea-sponge snot, deep-sea blue goo, Spain’s ghost village, HK’s dumb thieves, plane snakes, strong shoulders and more!

Episode Transcript


LEELA: Are you decking the WALLS and “wrapping” around the Christmas tree this week?

MAMA: Ummmm… I think you’ve got that wrong, Leela.

LEELA: Oh no I didn’t! That was very deliberate. Because our gift to you is an episode full of upside-down and inside out oddballs.

OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”

LEELA: Hello! I’m Leela.

MAMA: And I’m Lyndee.

LEELA: And this is Newsy Pooloozi – the only world news podcast for curious kids and adults. And since Hanukkah and Christmas are upon us –

MAMA: Why don’t you dig into our archives and hear the story of Hanukkah in episode 24 and our special about how people all over the world celebrate Christmas in episode 78.

LEELA: But for now our Christmas gift to you is a wrap of this year’s wackiest news stories.

MAMA: Yes – this is the best of our odd ball stories.

LEELA: So, sit back and be prepared to drop your jaw or laugh out loud. Or both.

ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”


LEELA: Odd and snotty. Or do I mean spongy?

MAMA: Excuse me?

LEELA: Well, despite not having nerves, muscles or even brains, sea sponges have a certain power.

MAMA: What, like superpower?

LEELA: Errr, no.  I wouldn’t go that far. I’m talking about this.


MAMA: Bless you.

LEELA: That wasn’t me. It was the sponge.

MAMA: Come again.

LEELA: Yes, sponges – not the ones you use in the kitchen to clean your dishes with, but sea sponges found in, yes, the sea – can sneeze!


LEELA: OK, OK, not that kind of human sneeze, I admit. Sea sponges take like half an hour to do this.


LEELA: Oh, you get the drift.  They might take forever but the purpose is the same – to eject waste.

MAMA: Wait, like sea sponge SNOT?


MAMA: Yuck!

LEELA: Oh,  their ability to eject clumps of mucus from their bodies in a sneeze-like way is well known, but exactly how they do it was a mystery, until now. Thanks to scientists from the University of Amsterdam.

MAMA: Oh, oh – looks like we’ll have to go to our Amsterdam correspondent, Tofunmi Fagade, for more on this story.

LEELA: That’s right.  Take it away, Tofunmi.

TOFUNMI: Thanks, Leela.

If I say sponge, I bet you think of a simple aquatic creature with dense skeletons, which are very porous as in lots of holes.

Holes that are really good at soaking things up, right?

Yes, our ancestors really did use dead sea sponges to soak up things.

Today, though, most sponges found in kitchens and bathrooms are synthetic, human made.

So, what you probably don’t think of when I say “sponge” is snotty, right?

Well, think again!

Because that’s exactly what marine biologists at the University of Amsterdam have found.

They captured time-lapse video and saw the sponges making a sneeze-like contraction, or movement inward, and then


Then they saw tiny specks of snot exiting from the sponges in what they described as… a “mucus highway.”

Yuck or what?

Well, actually, it’s not only part of their cleansing process – which most creatures on earth do, but it’s some cool upcycling too.

About a fifth of their snot is rich in carbon and nitrogen, making it good for other animals like shrimp to eat.

Yummy! Not. Yiiiick!

In Amsterdam, I’m Tofunmi Fagade, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Yick, indeed. Still, thanks for that snot-shot of news, Tofunmi.



LEELA: Breaking news – there’s unidentified, mysterious blue, goop, as in goopy sea balls, at the bottom of the Caribbean!

MAMA: Uh, excuse me?


LEELA: This is not made up, folks. Unidentified “blue goo” creatures are mystifying scientists after they spotted the motionless blobs on the seafloor near the Virgin Islands. Not just one. But several. You want to know what they look like? Well, imagine one of those stress-relief balls with soft, spikey bumps all over it. But, you know, gooey.

MAMA: Oh, I know what you mean. Maybe that’s what they are from the bottom of the sea…

LEELA: Except they’re gooey.

MAMA: Oh, I see.

LEELA: So far scientists have just seen them from afar – from the camera on board a remotely operated vehicle. Right now, they think they could be soft coral or sea-sponges or maybe even a tunicate, whatever that is.

MAMA: Oh, I know this one. Tunicate is gelatinous sea invertebrate – gelatinous as in jelly-like, marine, as in the sea, invertebrate, as in no spine. Sometimes referred to as sea squirts.

LEELA: Sweeeeettttt. Maybe.

MAMA: How’d you like to step on one of those then?

LEELA: Eeeeewww…  No, thank you. Of course, we’ll have a link in our transcript so you can see the blue goo for yourself.




LEELA: If I say Coco Pops, Soy Sauce, Polo mints, mayonnaise, ketchup and Heinz baked beans – you’d say…?

MAMA: Ummm, you’re hungry?

LEELA: Well, yes, come to think of it, I am. But no.  Wrong answer.

MAMA: Ok, I’d say you’re making a grocery list, so we can restock the pantry.

LEELA: Wrong again. Think “heat-wave summer” and food you need to cool down.

MAMA: Snow comes, slushies, sorbets, ice creams. But…

LEELA: Bingo! Ice creams, indeed.

MAMA: But those are condiments, cereals and, well, beans –

LEELA: And did I mention the Worcestershire Sauce?

MAMA: Yeah, not ICE CREAM.

LEELA: Well, try telling that to London, which is in sulking right now as the Ice Cream Project pop-up has just shut down after a triumphant summer serving weird ice creams.

MAMA: You must be kidding me?!

LEELA: No ma’am. Have a look on social media, where the wacky flavors have created a buzz, inspiring some to travel all over Britain just to get a lick. Some lines are said to hand taken two hours to get through, too.

MAMA: For baked bean ice cream?!

LEELA: Yep. And it’s a best seller too, along with Soy Sauce. Only to be beaten by Coco Pops and Frosties, which topped the list.

MAMA: And just when you think the British are stuck in their ways and don’t like change…

LEELA: Yeah, it’s probably just the heat.



LEELA: This story is a bit odd and, well, spooky.

MAMA: Oh, why?

LEELA: Well, what would you think if a drought came and dried out a body of water – only for mud-covered buildings to appear out of the cracked earth.

MAMA: Yeah – creepy.

LEELA: Honestly, this sounds like another April Fool’s story – but it’s totally real. And since it comes from Spain, I’m gonna hand over the Oddball mic to our favorite Barcelona correspondents, siblings Nina and Marky Granena, who have the whole story of the abandoned village that reappeared after 30 years. Take it away, guys!

NINA: It was 1992 and the government in northwestern Spain had an idea. They wanted to start using hydro-electric power, which is electricity created by waterpower. Pretty cool, am I right?

MARKY: Yesss…

NINA: Well in order to do this, they had to build a reservoir … which is kind of like a big lake, but I’m talking about a really, really big one!

MARKY: Ok…… but how do you make a lake?

NINA: Imagine a river running through the space between two mountains…the valley.  You take a dam and block the river, and all the water starts filling up the valley. And voila!  You have a big lake that can be used for hydroelectric power.

MARKY: Ah! I see.

NINA: But wait. There were people living in that valley. There were homes, shops, schools, everything!

MARKY: What happened to them?

NINA: The government asked all the people to move. They promised to buy them new houses ¡in another town, so everyone said “ok.” So, after that, they blocked off the river, and that valley started filling up with water. All those shops and schools and homes where people used to live, got flooded. And there they sat at the bottom of the reservoir lake for years and years.

MARKY: Until now. I´ll take it from here, Nina. So, what happened is… there was a drought. And all the water dried out from that giant man-made lake!

NINA: It’s a little more complicated than that- it’s actually called Evapo-transpiration…

MARKY: Anyway, the water level started going down. As the water disappeared, the houses and shops at the bottom of the lake started to reappear. Like a lost city. And it’s kind of creepy. Like a ghost town.

NINA: Mom says it’s more like discovering the treasures left in the tub after your bath.

From Barcelona, I’m Nina Granena.

MARKY: And I’m Marky Granena.

BOTH: For Newsy Pooloozi.



LEELA: It’s an odd story with an even odder update.

MAMA: Oh, is it top-up time?

LEELA: Yep – but first we’re gonna replay the story we did way back in the autumn of 2020 in episode 16.

MAMA: Oh, yay! We get to hear your sweet younger voice! Right… now.

LEELA: This story is about some very dumb art thieves…

MAMA: Yeah, if you’re going to steal high art, it’s a good idea to know what it is and how much it’s worth.

LEELA: Indeed.


LEELA: This robbery took place in the island city of Hong Kong, just off the coast of China in broad daylight!

The thieves walked into an apartment building, pulled open an iron gate and burst through a wooden door to get inside.

Within two hours the burglars walked out with $500 million dollars’ worth of antique stamps, coins and scrolls with fancy calligraphy writing.

The thieves knew the apartment belonged to Fu Chunxiao.

He’s a well-known collector of stamps and art produced during the communist revolution last century.

The thieves also seemed to know he wasn’t at home – but was on the mainland of China because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What they didn’t know…………. How valuable their booty was!

And so, when they went to sell off their stolen treasure, well they didn’t think twice about cutting the most prized possession… in half!

It was a valuable piece of calligraphy written by the famous revolutionary leader and founder of Communist China: Chairman Mao.

The thieves clearly didn’t know how precious it was.

They just thought it was… too long to hang up.

And so, snip, snip, snip.

MAMA: Why, thank you young Leela for that story we did a year-and-a-half ago.

LEELA: Most welcome. Only now we know it wasn’t thieves who did the cutting. We’ve got an update!

TOP-UP TIME STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Go on give me a top up, please? It’s top-up time. Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Now? Yeah, now. It’s top-up time.”

LEELA: Right, so now we know the booty’s value is closer to $645million dollars, not $500 million.

MAMA: Woah – that’s a grand theft!

LEELA: Yeah, but these dumb thieves had no idea and sold it to an amateur collector – meaning not an art expert – for WAAAAAY less. For instance, guess how much they got for the scroll, which alone was worth $300 million dollars.

MAMA: Okay, A million dollars.

LEELA: Not even close.

MAMA: A hundred thousand dollars

LEELA: Nowhere near that. You won’t believe how much.  I had to check it like five times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake.

MAMA: Go on.

LEELA:  They sold the $300 million dollar scroll… for less than… $25!

MAMA: $25 dollars, that’s it….  No way!

LEELA: Yep. And it was the amateur collector who didn’t know how precious the scroll was and cut it in half, so it could be more easily stored. Now we know

MAMA: Well, that’s what you get for not researching your work.

LEELA: Totally. They were all sent to jail for up to two-and-a-half years.



LEELA: So, these days, we’re all desperate to travel, right?

MAMA: Oh, yeah.

LEELA: Well, it stands to reason that even our animals are keen to get out of the house and go, go, go.

MAMA: If they’re used to it, I guess.

LEELA: Dogs and cats hop on flights all the time, right?

MAMA: True.

LEELA: Even the occasional pesky fly and mosquito have been known to sneak on board.

MAMA: Yeeeeah. I hate that.

LEELA: Well, then you’ll hate what slithered on board a recent flight in the South-East Asian country of Malaysia even more.


MAMA: No way! A snake?

LEELA: Yes way. Cue the music, Mama – while I dial up our Malaysia correspondent Shaiba Jamsheed for the details.


LEELA: Take it away, Shaiba.

SHAIBA: Thanks, Leela. It’s the kind of story you’d see in a silly, scary movie, right?

But I’m sorry to say – this is a true tale of a snake that snuck into a plane.

The plane was leaving the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on a three-hour flight.

When, all of a sudden, someone saw a long, thin, slithering shape.

Luckily it was behind an enclosed light fixture. PHEW!

But still, the captain took no time re-routing to the flight to land A.S.A.P.

It’s uncertain how the snake got on board.

But I’m happy to report that no passenger was hurt.

However, the fate of the stow-away snake is unknown.

I think he just wanted an upgrade, don’t you?

In Kuala Lumpur this is Shaiba Jamsheed for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Ha, ha! Good one, Shaiba – “the snake that wanted an upgrade.” I sure know that feeling. One day I’ll be in business class… Still, no way I want to be on board a flight with a snake!

MAMA: I know, creepy! And while a snake on a plane is a very rare occurrence – some suspect there might be more than before because of COVID.

LEELA: Covid?! Huh?

MAMA: Well, during the travel bans, thanks to the pandemic, many planes were herded into the dry deserts of the US, Europe and Australia. They had to be stored in places that are arid – that’s a fancy word for dry – away from any moisture or humidity in the air, so that the plane doesn’t get rusty. But what lives in the desert?

LEELA: Snakes…

MAMA: Right. And for a while engineers have been dusting off aircraft, testing engines and using a very fancy “wheel whacker” to scare away the slithery reptiles who love to curl up around the warm rubber tires, around the plane’s wheels and brakes.

LEELA: I see. But – what’s a “wheel whacker?”

MAMA: Oh, it’s a very hi-tech device for whacking wheels. OK. It’s a broom handle. But it does the job.



LEELA: Anyone walking across a new bridge in Vietnam is in for an odd – and even stomach-churning – stroll.

MAMA: Oh, is it stinky?

LEELA: Not stinky – but scary. Possibly downright terrifying. Emphasis on the down bit.

MAMA: I’m so confused.

LEELA: It’s pretty simple – the world’s longest glass-bottom bridge just opened in Vietnam’s Son La province.

MAMA: How long is long and, ummm, what is below?

LEELA: We’re talking a stretch of more than 2,000 feet (or 600 meters) above a very pretty green valley. But when I say above…

MAMA: Yeah?

LEELA: I’m talking about 500 feet (or 152 meters) or – put another way – a 50-story high building.

MAMA: Oh. Yeah. That’s not for anyone with some vertigo issues.

LEELA: Vertigo?

MAMA: Oh, that’s a sensation of whirling and losing your balance (or your lunch) when you look down from a big height.

LEELA: Well, it might be a little reassuring to know the bridge’s floor is made of three layers of super strong and thick glass.

MAMA: A little.

LEELA: Also… only 500 people will be allowed on the bridge at once.

MAMA: 500 is a lot.

LEELA: And – they all have to walk in one direction at a time. Am I convincing you now?

MAMA: Yeah, let’s visit.

LEELA: Wait, no!



LEELA: Odd doesn’t quite cover the weirdness of this story.

MAMA: Well, we don’t call them “oddballs” for nothing. What’s the lucky dip machine spit out this week, then?

LEELA: Well, you’ve heard that phrase, “We all need a shoulder to lean on?”

MAMA: Sure.  So true.

LEELA: And that’s because it’s nice to lean up against a shoulder, right?

MAMA: Yep.

LEELA: Could it also be because shoulders are particularly strong?

MAMA: Well…

LEELA: I didn’t think so.  Because as body parts go, the shoulder muscle isn’t exactly the strongest.

MAMA: No, that would be masseter, or the jaw, muscle, believe it or not – though it’s very debatable.

LEELA: Right… And yet, aren’t humans great at doing THE IMPOSSIBLE?


LEELA: So, imagine a piece of wood, roughly the size and shape of a reading book, placed in between your two shoulder blades – otherwise known as your scapula. Attached to this wood, is a long rope. And at the other end, it’s attached to… wait for it… a CAR!

MAMA: Wheeoooo… whaaaaat?

LEELA: Which you pull down the street.


LEELA: I know.  Total bonker-brains! And the record for pulling the heaviest vehicle EVER was done right here in India.  Jai Hind!

MAMA: OK… Go, India!

LEELA: Uh-huh. Let’s cut to our sports correspondent, Yuvraj Singh, who has the details.

YUVRAJ: Yes, Leela. In 2016, 18-year-old Abhishek Choubey, from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, used his protruding shoulder blades – protruding means they stick out, A LOT! –  to pull a Hyundai Accent car, weighing…

MAMA IN OFFICIAL VOICE:  2358 lbs., which is 1070kg.

YUVRAJ: For which he was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. AND just two weeks ago, Abhishek was at it again – trying to break his own record.

LEELA: But now there’s a new shoulder-stunner on the block, right?

YUVRAJ: Right! From all the way around the world in the island nation of Cuba – 22-year-old Christian Castellanos claims he’s broken Abhisheks Guinness record, using his super-strong-scapulas to drag the slightly heavier –

MAMA IN OFFICIAL VOICE:  2425-pound (or 1100 kg) vehicle down a street for 25 meters.

LEELA: Whoaaa…

YUVRAJ: That’s not all. He says he’s also crushed 82 beer cans between his shoulder blades – in ONE MINUTE, beating the Guinness record by 14 cans. But he’s still waiting to hear from the Guinness folks whether he’ll make it into their book or not.

LEELA: Mewoozers! Thanks for those details, Yuvraj!  And what’s really astonishing about this – is that both of these guys are what we might call “super skinny!” It just shows strength is not only about big muscles!



LEELA: So, I have a question for you. What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

MAMA: Uhhh, my car? Wait, no, duh, a home.

LEELA: OK. And what’s the most you’ve ever spent on… say… shoes?

MAMA: Uhhh, 800 or 900 rupees? Sounds a lot in rupees, doesn’t it! But that’s just about 11 or 12 dollars – ‘cause, I’m cheap, as you know. Of course, 12 dollars goes a long way here. I could get a pizza or even two with much here in India.

LEELA: Yeah, OK. But if they were super cool, or super trendy, designer shoes – you might spend a few hundred DOLLARS, not rupees, riiiiight?

MAMA: Uuuh, no.

LEELA: Well, you better buckle up, or should I say, lace up, Mama – cause there’s some crazy news you’re not gonna believe.


MAMA: Oh, your godmother hasn’t bought a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, has she?

LEELA: Uh, no. They cost, what, one or two thousand dollars? That would be small fry compared to the 352-THOUSAND dollars   that was recently paid for a pair of Nike’s Air Force 1 shoes.

MAMA: Excuse me? Do they come with exclusive rights to fly on Air Force One – you know, the US President’s personal plane?

LEELA: Uh, no, again. They’re just super cool and super trendy. Supposedly.

MAMA: Oh, my.

LEELA: And a limited edition.

MAMA: Well, I should think so.

LEELA: Made specially for the 40th anniversary of the original Nike Air Force 1 shoes. Since 1982 the sports shoes have been a huge hit worldwide.

And to celebrate turning 40, Nike collaborated with the well-known French fashion house, Louis Vuitton, whose first black artistic director – the late Virgil Abloh – designed them.

MAMA: Oh, don’t tell me they’ve got the tan-on-brown Louis Vuitton initials all over them?

LEELA: Of course, they do. Along with Nike’s logo – the Nike swooooosh.


MAMA: But… $350,000 – that’s a lot of pizzas. Never mind, you know, books, tuitions, school lunches that money could have been spent on, but don’t get me started.

LEELA: Or, put another way, you could buy about 9 big sports utility vehicles for that money.

MAMA: For – one pair of shoes.

LEELA: And the wild thing is

MAMA: Wait, there’s more?

LEELA: Oh, yeah! This was an auction of 200 pairs of shoes!

MAMA: 200 people paid that much for shoes?

LEELA: OK, no, not everyone. $350-thousand dollars was the highest bid. And you know how an auction’s bidding system works, right? Each bidder offers a certain amount of money that’s higher than the previous.

MAMA: Right – so the price can go up, up, up as people worry, they won’t get the item.

LEELA: Exactly. Actually, though, the organizers – the famous auction house Sotheby – expected the shoes to fetch just around $15,000 dollars each.

MAMA: “Just $15,000 each.” for pair of shoes

LEELA: But it was an online auction that went on for nearly two weeks – with around 10,000 bids! And, not surprisingly, most of the bidders were under 40 years old!

MAMA: Hmmph!

LEELA: But you will be pleased to know the proceeds will go to a charitable cause – The Virgil Abloh Scholarship Fund, which supports students of color to take up fashion and design careers.

MAMA: Well, that’s something.

LEELA: Yes, it’s an auction that touches the “sole,” wouldn’t you say? Get it, sole, like the one on the back of the shoe?

MAMA: At least we have humor.


LEELA: And that’s a wrap – a shiny wrap with a pretty bow on top, in fact – of this week’s special “Best of Oddballs” episode on Newsy Pooloozi.

MAMA: Happy holidays, y’all!

LEELA: Happy Hanukkah and merry Christmas!

MAMA: Oh! Why don’t you give a gift of this podcast this season?

LEELA: Yeah – tell a friend about us!

MAMA: Or even a stranger!

LEELA: After all, who doesn’t want to be informed…

MAMA: with a smile.

LEELA: Indeed! Alrighty then, see you next week in the happy, splashy, giant Newsy Pooloozi!