News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- A business consulting firm teaching how to use astrology to increase profits was inaugurated in May in San Francisco by two former telecommunications executives (and ex-Marines). Bruce Cady and lawyer Tom Mitchell founded Jupiter Returns to show executives, for example, that a failed business collaboration may have been prevented simply by understanding that one's associates "(act) out their (astrological) program." Mitchell told the San Francisco Chronicle that the firm's best customers are women.

-- Performance artists and computer gamers staged a cockfight night in a basement in Los Angeles' Chinatown in October, attracting about 200 people to go down-culture, drink beer, and wager on "roosters" flapping and pecking and clawing at each other, except that the cocks were humans dressed in garish rooster outfits. Tech people had rigged the outfits with sensors to register the effectiveness of the fighters on a large screen that exhibited virtual blood.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (57) The accidental bombardment of a house by an airliner's "blue ice" toilet waste, such as by the melon-sized ball that plunged through the bathroom ceiling of Susan Seltzer's house in North Massapequa, N.Y., in September. (58) And the usually elderly citizen who must fight the cutoff of government benefits brought on by the bureaucracy's erroneous insistence that he or she is dead, as happened to the 80-year-old Ms. Addie Nelson of Natick, Mass., in September, by the Veterans Administration.

Spectacular Errors

-- For an anniversary tribute to Sept. 11 victims, the city of Jersey City, N.J., planned to release a flock of doves at a downtown ceremony, but since officials waited until the last minute to order the doves, all suppliers were sold out. Jersey City wound up having to use pigeons (which had been caged most of their lives), and observers at the solemn ceremony were forced to witness the awkward birds smashing into office-building windows, plunging into the Hudson River and careening into the crowds.

-- Teri-Lynn Tibbo filed a lawsuit in October, charging that doctors at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, not only left a 15-inch-by-20-inch surgical towel inside her after a hysterectomy but opened her wound eight more times in the next four months to drain it, never suspecting that a towel was there. Another hospital, Meadow Lake, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was sued in October by Rebecca Chinalquay, who charged that while she was in the delivery room in labor, all personnel had stepped out so that when little Tyler emerged, there was no one to help, and he slid off the gurney onto the floor. (He's OK now, but Chinalquay fears later-manifesting problems.)

-- A clerical error caused the large investment firm Bear Stearns to place orders on Oct. 2 to sell not the intended $4 million worth of stocks but 1,000 times that much. The company was able to recover about 85 percent of the sold stock and told a Reuters reporter that the remaining loss (the sale of only 152 times as much stock as intended) would have no material impact on the company. (An early edition of the next day's Wall Street Journal inadvertently carried a report of the mishap on the same page as a Bear Sterns ad that touted the firm's ability to "execute complex transactions flawlessly," but the story was placed elsewhere in subsequent editions).

What Goes Around, Comes Around

-- Sheriff's deputies in Marion County, Ind., said in September that passenger Kevin Small's right arm was severed in a one-car collision as he and a buddy were taking a nightclub dancer home after her shift. According to deputies, when Small and the driver asked the dancer for sex, she refused and started fighting with the men, causing driver Richard Everhart to lose control of the car and crash, taking Small's arm off. (The dancer was uninjured; Small's hand was recovered but not the rest of his arm.)

-- Teamsters Local 988 opened its brand-new meeting hall in Houston in August, to unfavorable reviews by representatives of locals representing construction workers, plumbers, electricians and other trades. According to a Houston Chronicle report, the Teamsters had the hall built with nonunion labor because union work was too expensive.

People With Issues

Bill Saintclair Patton, 45, was convicted of indecent exposure in Warren, Mich., in September, and sentenced to 90 days in jail; he was the subject of neighbors' complaints after he appeared nude in his back yard and used a pumpkin to sexually gratify himself. And Ross Watt, 33, was convicted of disorderly conduct in Edinburgh, Scotland, in October after witnesses and police testified that he rolled around on the ground, simulating sexual intercourse with an orange and white traffic cone.

Updating Recent News of the Weird Stories

The Augustine Band of Mission Indians (a "tribe" of seven kids and an adult) finally opened its $16 million casino, 130 miles east of Los Angeles (July). Prosecutors dropped the charges against accused child murderer Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, whom they had originally believed disposed of the victim's body by serving it as stew to unsuspecting neighbors (but he's still serving 130 years for another crime) (Great Falls, Mont., October). Surgeon David Arndt, who was suspended for running to the bank on an errand literally in the middle of an operation, was charged with possession of cocaine and the sexual assault of a boy (Cambridge, Mass., September).

America's Toilet-Training Problem

Recent Excretory Excesses: A 43-year-old nude boater docked at a waterside restaurant and defecated on shoreline rocks, to the astonishment of diners, who chose the restaurant for its waterfront views (Stratford, Conn., September). Green Bay Packers football player Najeh Davenport accepted community service to settle a charge that he broke into a university dormitory and defecated in a woman's wardrobe closet (Miami Shores, Fla., October). Philadelphia Gas Works paid $4,500 to settle a complaint that an employee (since fired), sent to turn a customer's gas back on, urinated on his valuable collection of sports cards (October).

Our Civilization in Decline

Mental health legislation proposed in Britain would force parents (under penalty of a jail sentence) to medicate any child diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (September). The chairman of the Knox County (Tenn.) School Board revealed that "zero tolerance" rules (against even accidental or benign possession of drug- or violence-associated items) got 172 students automatically expelled last school year (and is thus proposing to soften the rules) (September).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Jim Bristoe built an air cannon, with a 30-foot-long barrel, to fire 10-pound pumpkins about a mile, to sweep to victory at the Pumpkin Propulsion Contest (Noblesville, Ind.). A national paintball federation was formed to inaugurate a 28,800-square-foot paintball facility in downtown Tehran, Iran (but females are not allowed to play yet). The Pentagon introduced a portable digital musical insert for a bugle so that "Taps" can be played by non-musicians at funerals, thus sparing grieving relatives the now-increasingly flawed human versions. Humongous opera singer Luciano Pavarotti gave a benefit concert in Monaco on behalf of a United Nations campaign against hunger.

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