News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- In July, Birmingham, England, office worker Beverley Lancaster, 44, won about $110,000 in damages from the city because of job-related stress based on her having been promoted to a better job against her will. Lancaster testified that the city insisted she take the higher-paying job, for which she was not qualified, by offering her extra training, which she said it did not deliver, causing her to become severely depressed.

-- In June, according to a New York Times feature on the decline of urban male sexuality, author Michael Segell said he found various New York City men who practiced what he called "sexual payback" (seducing a woman but then, on the verge of intercourse, abruptly becoming disinterested), or, as one man in a Segell focus group put it, "The only thing that's more enjoyable than having sex is making a girl want it and not giving it to her." Segell called this a passive-aggressive response to women's increasing sexual power.

Leading Economic Indicators

The San Jose Mercury News reported in May that because of a housing shortage in Silicon Valley, people are renting attics, basements and storage sheds to live in and that others pay as much as $200 a month for the right just to sleep in a corner of a living room in order to be close to work and avoid a lengthy commute from the family home. And in June, The New York Times quoted a yakuza crime boss in Tokyo, lamenting how his turf has been taken over by immigrant gangs from China: "(T)he Japanese yakuza think of long-term business relationships, but the Chinese mafia thinks just of the short term. Their only goal is money, money, money."

Worst Investment

David Sanchez Hernandez, 18, was convicted in June in Punta Gorda, Fla., of egging two police officers on foot patrol. Hernandez, who said he did it in order to win a $2 bet with his brother, was fined $750 and sentenced to 25 hours of community service.

Great Art!

-- In May, "installation artist" Cosimo Cavallaro outfitted room 114 of the Washington Jefferson Hotel in New York City in a cheese motif, using a half-ton of various types from Muenster to Swiss, melted. His only explanation was that his family owned a cheese shop in Canada and that he remembers the rush of liberation he got one day by plastering his father's old armchair in mozzarella. Said former gallery owner Jules Feiler, "When I first talked to him, I thought he was just another in a series of nuts that have entered my life."

-- From a press release on a June San Francisco exhibit by Yukinori Yanagi, who built a giant ant farm in which sand was intricately dyed to create a finely detailed, 15-panel image of a large $1 bill visible through the glass and which the ants would redesign by moving the sand around: "(Yanagi's work) is a dialogue about the fluency of boundaries in the 20th century and the dissemination of cultures through the expanding notions of globalism."

-- At an April show in San Francisco, performance artist Zhang Huan was to "explore the physical and psychological effects of human violence in modern society" by spreading puree of hot dogs on his naked posterior as he lay face down on a cypress branch and permitting eight dogs to enter the room. Immediately, one dog, Hercules, bit Zhang on the butt, drawing blood and causing the show to be suspended.

I Have My Rights!

-- In April, Geraldine Batell filed a complaint against the American Stage in St. Petersburg, Fla., because the characters in the Noel Coward play "Private Lives" were puffing cigarettes (as they were supposed to do), causing smoke to waft to her second-row seat and, she said, violating Florida's Clean Indoor Air Act. And in February, Matthew and Amanda Parrish of Centerville, Utah, filed a lawsuit against their downstairs condominium neighbor because they could somehow smell his smoke when he lit up inside his own apartment. (The local American Cancer Society said it would not support the Parrishes' lawsuit.)

-- In March, six prison inmates in England and Wales were approved for transsexual surgery at government expense (about $18,000 each), but in April, inmate Synthia Kavanagh, who has been repeatedly rejected for such government-paid surgery in Canada, announced she would plead her case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. (Kavanagh is serving a life term for murdering a transvestite.)

-- In April, after its leaders met with the Indonesian government, the Baduy tribe of west Java was granted the right to refrain from voting in the June elections. During the previous three decades under President Suharto, the government forced the Baduy to vote despite their ancient religious prohibition against politics. (The Baduy have similar prohibitions against using electricity and toothpaste.)

Human Cuisine in the News

In February, authorities in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Caracas, Venezuela, were dealing with suspected urban cannibals. In Cambodia, an investigator found a bag of orderly arranged human bones and parts and surmised that a woman had been made into soup. In Caracas, Mr. Dorangel Vargas briefed the press on his preferences, including men over women, and absolutely no hands, feet or testicles. And in April, a New York jury ruled that murderer-cannibal Albert Fentress was no longer a danger after 20 years' hospitalization and should be released. (In June, just in time, a state supreme court justice overturned the verdict.)

Hugs in the News

A leader of a Colombian social service organization, describing the reportedly vicious, murderous guerilla leader Carlos Castano, to a Boston Globe reporter in May: "I think he has a great need to be understood and even to be loved." And Robert Volpe, father of Justin, the New York City police officer convicted in May of brutalizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a toilet plunger, describing his son's depression at being in solitary confinement: "Justin has to get his five hugs a day. He's a people person."

Food Fights

Two female drivers stopped and fought on an Oakland, Calif., street in May after one had become angry and tossed a half-eaten burrito through the window at the other. And Alan Parsons was sentenced in July in London, England, to three years in jail for the robbery of a bakery; his getaway had been slowed when the owner hit him with a bun during the chase. And in separate incidents in June, two San Diego men were charged with assaulting people with large tunas, causing not-insubstantial injuries both times.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 32-year-old man was convicted of breaking into women's apartments at night and just sitting there, watching them sleep (Edmonton, Alberta). A 26-year-old man missed the mandatory death penalty for heroin trafficking by 0.11 grams; he had 14.89 and got 20 years and 20 lashes (Singapore). A 7-year-old boy accidentally killed his 3-year-old brother in the course of demonstrating the pro-wrestling "clothesline" maneuver (Dallas). A bank's new push-button, upthrusting teller's security shield was successful, trapping a 33-year-old robber by the neck until firefighters freed him (Chester, England). A Harvard study revealed that college students who binge-drink are twice as likely to own guns as non-binge-drinkers.

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