News of the Weird

Week of February 26, 2012

Part-time Devon, England, vicar Gavin Tyte, who serves churches in Uplyme and Axmouth, recently produced a rap video of the Nativity, in which he plays a shepherd, an angel and the narrator. Sample lyrics (about Mary placing her baby in a cattle trough and angels calming the frightened shepherds): "No hotel, motel, custom baby-changer / She wrapped the baby up and laid him in a manger" and "Chill out, my friends, there's no need for trepidation / Got a message for the world, and it's elation information."

-- Apparently, not only will there be fewer overall resources for disabled people in Greece (due to government austerity), but the resources will be spread over a larger number of recipients. The Labor Ministry in January expanded the category of eligible "disabled" (with reduced-amount payments) to include pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, sadomasochists, pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs. The National Confederation of Disabled People said the changes would inevitably reduce funds available for the blind and the crippled and other traditional categories of need.

-- Even at a time of schoolteacher layoffs nationally, the Buffalo, N.Y., school system continues to cover all costs for cosmetic surgery for teachers. The benefit was established in the calmer 1970s, and no one, it seems, anticipated the facelift and liposuction crazes that subsequently developed. The annual expense in recent years, for about 500 benefit-takers a year, has been from $5 million to $9 million (equivalent to the average salaries of at least 100 teachers). The teachers' union said it is willing to give up the benefit in a new collective bargaining agreement, but a quirk in New York law lessens the incentive of teachers to negotiate such a contract (in that the current, highly lucrative contract remains in force until replaced).

-- In February, Kenneth Gunn, of the U.K.'s Scottish Borders Council, decried the budget cutbacks that closed down local offices that had previously posted marriage notices. By making it more difficult for the public to be aware of specific marriages, Gunn feared an inevitable increase in incest. "I am aware in my own ward of brothers sitting beside sisters they do not know in primary school." (The problem is more serious in Iceland, whose 300,000 people are far more self-contained. However, a new website containing genealogical data back 1,200 years is expected to help reduce the risk of incest.)

-- But, Why? (1) Two British designers (who claim they had the idea independently and learned of the other only after they finished) recently produced elegant pieces using parts from a 2012 Ford Focus. Judy Clark made a dress and a biker jacket adorned with car keys, radio and dashboard components, seat covers, a speedometer and red taillights. Katherine Hawkins created a necklace using dials, springs, buttons, seat materials and instrument panel switches. (2) Swiss artist Christoph Buchel has now secured local permits to bury a Boeing 727 38 feet under a patch of California's Mojave Desert, near Bakersfield. Visitors will take a tunnel down in order to tour the 153-foot-long plane.

-- In February, a German court awarded artist Stefan Bohnenberger the equivalent of about $2,600 from the Munich gallery that had previously housed his work, "Pommes d'Or," which consisted of two ordinary french fries contrasted with two golden-leafed ones. The gallery returned the golden-leafed ones but claimed it could not find the ordinary fries, and, anyway, pointed out that they were nothing but old french fries.

-- Police officers are of course generally forbidden to engage in sex acts in order to gather evidence. Thus, a scandal erupted in the U.K. in January when The Guardian revealed that two undercover officers had fathered children (to enhance their credibility) while infiltrating protest groups beginning in the 1980s. After the two women learned in late 2011 who their kids' fathers really were, they filed lawsuits against the responsible police agencies. (In Sydney, Australia, a state contractor operated under no such restriction when it hired a brothel inspector in January. Brothels are legal and regulated in Sydney, and if off-books facilities are providing sex illegally, the inspector can testify from first-hand knowledge.)

-- Mayor Jim Preacher of the town of Norway, S.C., was pulled over by a state trooper in January for speeding. Preacher was unable to convince the trooper that his speeding was necessary in the performance of a mayoral duty, and their encounter apparently ended bitterly. As soon as the trooper drove off, the mayor turned on his own blue lights, chased the trooper down and accused the trooper of speeding. (Norway disbanded its police department last year, and a question remains whether the mayor has police powers.)

-- The Price Is Right: (1) Ms. Khadijah Baseer was arrested in Los Angeles in January on suspicion of prostitution. According to several men, Baseer had opened their car doors in the drive-thru lane at a McDonald's, offering them oral sex in exchange for Chicken McNuggets. (2) Misty Kullman, 25, was arrested for prostitution in Shelby, N.C., in January after police stopped a man who said Kullman performed an act for the agreed-upon price of $6. The man said he paid Kullman with a $2 bill, three $1's and coins.

An elite squad of six Chinese soldiers, performing a training ritual for a public audience in Hong Kong in January, stood in a circle and passed a satchel of live grenades from man to man, counting down to the expected moment of explosion. At the last possible second, the man caught holding the satchel discards it, and all dive into a hole for protection. At the exhibition, according to Chinese Central Television, it worked out fine.

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) An unidentified man fled and is still at large after attempting to break into the change machine at the Busy Bubbles laundromat in Winter Haven, Fla., in January. The surveillance video showed the man shooting at the machine four times with a handgun, but no money came out. (2) Two men were arrested in Albuquerque in January after being caught in the act of a home burglary by a neighbor, who called the police. The men were apprehended with various burglarized goodies as they made their getaway in a grocery store shopping cart.

* When Leona Helmsley's now-deceased dog Trouble inherited about $12 million from her estate in 2007, it called attention to the occasional decision by lonely rich people to pass on millions of dollars to their pets. In December, the former stray cat Tommasino inherited the equivalent of about $15 million in Italy when his owner, real estate holder Maria Assunta, died at age 94. The only pets richer than Tommasino were the German shepherd Gunter (equivalent of about $140 million in 2000) and the Australian chimpanzee Kalu (equivalent of about $60 million, though the estate he inherited was revealed in 2010 to be worthless).

(1) Fritz Gall, a self-described failed inventor, opened the Museum of Nonsense in Herrnbaumgarten, Austria, recently to pay homage, apparently, to even greater failures than his own. Among the exhibits are the "portable anonymizer" (a stick holding a black bar that one holds over his eyes to obscure identity), a transportable hat rack, a bristleless toothbrush (for people with no teeth), and a "portable hole" (similar to those that appear in the ground whenever the Road Runner needs something for Wile E. Coyote to fall into). (2) Take a Wild Guess: An unidentified man was taken into custody in Chesapeake, Va., in October after he rushed into the Regional Medical Center with a machete and a can of gasoline and demanded to know the "test results."

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