News of the Weird

Week of June 17, 2001


-- The Swedish navy announced in May that because of slashes in the military budget, it would cut back from around-the-clock operations to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The army and air force said they have not yet decided whether to remain open on weekends, but that they, also, were hard hit by the legislature's ban on overtime work.

-- Ben Lambert told reporters in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in May that he was forecasting to sell 40,000 pairs this year of his new E2U men's underwear, featuring a "three-hammock arrangement with non-crushing support" that would allow the scrotum to relax, whether the man is standing or sitting. Lambert said his shorts, priced at about $16 to $22 (US), would fit in much the same way that a bra fits a woman and would remove the need for men periodically to adjust their shorts for comfort.

-- Among the holdover Democratic projects recently canceled by the Bush administration was an $860,000 program to teach public housing tenants to reduce stress and improve their self-esteem by the use of colors, meditation, aromatherapy and "applied kinesiology" (in which a practitioner feels a person's glands to determine, for therapy purposes, which of 14 personality types that person is). The career Housing and Urban Development official who had approved the program is a priest of the International Metaphysical Ministry, and the program's chief trainer said she was "shocked" that something so successful was being terminated.

Laughter in the News

Witnesses to the bar shooting by Luther V. Casteel, 42, in Elgin, Ill., in April, in which two people were killed and 18 wounded by the gun-obsessed ex-con, say they were most disturbed by the fact that Casteel laughed all the way through the ordeal; said one, "How can you laugh when you're killing people?" And according to a police report in the Vail (Colo.) Daily on Feb. 22, a man was arrested for vandalizing a Colorado Mountain College building with a fire extinguisher, motivated, the man later said, because he was being chased by seven men and a baby and that the baby was laughing at him. And according to a Naples (Fla.) Daily News report in March, laughter "clubs" are starting up all over the world, with "certified" laughter "leaders" teaching members the techniques (and psychological and physiological benefits) of the "lion laugh," the "roller coaster laugh," and the "tickle laugh," among others.

The Continuing Crisis

-- When sheriff's deputies decided to break routine on April 17 and search not only visitors entering the Daley Center court building in Chicago but also the people who work there and who thus usually enter without inspection, they confiscated several dozen items of contraband from badged employees, including brass knuckles, tear gas and a dagger, and their booty does not even count what some lawyers and judges might have had on them except that they saw what was going on and simply declined to enter until the inspection ended.

-- At the International Beauty Show in New York City in April, Fort Myers, Fla., hairdresser Valentino LoSauro showed off his "Edward-Scissorhands"-type finger scissors, "Clawz," which he has been using in his salon and now hopes to bring to market. By attaching the devices to one or both hands, he can run his fingers through hair, with independent cutting action from each finger, greatly reducing the time for a haircut.

-- In the five years since he moved to Wilkie, Saskatchewan (population 1,300), Louis Harewood, 56, who operates assisted-living homes and who is a former Baptist preacher, has been accused by husbands of seducing local married women, using his charisma to allegedly send the women into voodoo-like hazes in which they reject old friends and otherwise act strange. Harewood denies any sexual contact and blames certain former employees for spreading rumors. Still, petitions recently circulated urging him to go away. Said one woman, "Our biggest worry is that if he can control 40-year-old women, what about our 16-year-old daughters?"

-- A February report in the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle described a local patient's remarkable recovery from botulism paralysis at Park Ridge Hospital. The woman recently recalled that, after the toxin struck her in June 2000, she lay in her hospital bed, able to hear everything around her but unable to communicate in any way with anyone, and that someone had erroneously said she was a big fan of singer Celine Dion. After that, the hospital staff, in an effort to aid the woman's recovery, played the singer's music in her room around the clock for weeks. When the paralysis left the woman, one of the first joys she experienced, she said, was stopping the music because she actually never cared for Dion.

-- In March, Alice Hoppe, 80, of Cheboygan, Mich., settled her lawsuit with her physician for his failure, over 18 months of treatment, to detect that the reason for her difficulty in swallowing was because her lower denture had caught in her throat during knee surgery in 1995. According to the doctor's attorney, the denture was hidden behind some folds of skin and "was very difficult to find."

Latest Brassiere Technology

Beverly Hills, Calif., security consultant Paxton Quigley introduced SuperBra recently, a $30 garment that doubles as a holster for a gun the size of a snub-nosed .38 revolver; said Quigley: "If a woman is attacked, the purse is the first thing taken from her (so) a good place to conceal a weapon is in the chest area." And in March, the British firm Gossard introduced the $40 Ultrabra Airotic that inflates (via accompanying pump) up to two cup sizes for the woman who, according to a spokesperson, doesn't want "huge breasts through the day but (does) want to have them in the evening."

People Different From Us

-- In January, Ms. Sierra Kirkpatrick, 15, married Mr. Sauren Crow, 48, of Taos, N.M., after Sierra's mother vouched for her at a Las Vegas wedding (which is required for a minor to marry in Nevada). Sierra's father (the mother's ex-husband) went nuts when he found out, but the mother and others say the couple is well-suited for each other, in that both are artsy types, dress in "Goth" attire, and actually resemble each other, with their all-black clothes and long black hair.

Recurring Themes

-- As always, many people (375) died from accidents and fights during Thailand's New Year festival in April. And as always, there were several deaths on New Year's Eve in Japan from eating the traditional mochi rice cakes, which are so sticky that about a dozen people choke to death on them every Dec. 31 (eight last New Year's). And as always, many (this year 35) hajj-pilgrimage Muslims at the annual stone-the-devil ritual in Mina, Saudi Arabia, in March were crushed to death by the sheer numbers of those worshipping.

Also, in the Last Month ...

Police in the retirement town of Sun City West, Ariz., said they've been having problems lately with seniors having sex in public (on golf courses, as well as in lovers' lanes). Neighbors convinced Penn State University to close a research lab because they feared the consequences of living next door to its ongoing cockroach experiments. At least a dozen sheriff's deputies and drug officers in vans and SUVs aggressively raided a home because a helicopter patrol had spotted a patch of ubiquitous mulberry weed (mistaken for marijuana, which it vaguely resembles) in a woman's back yard (Spicewood, Texas). China's news agency announced that 3 million of its people practice auto-urine (i.e., drink your own) therapy, to strengthen the immune system.

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