News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF APRIL 25, 2004


In March, at the latest trial of a former executive charged with looting his company during the 1990s, ex-employees of Adelphia Communications said that company founder John Rigas (1) was once taking out so many cash advances that his son (also an Adelphia executive) had to limit him to $1 million a month; (2) required extensive prodding to return 22 company-owned luxury cars after he resigned in 2002; and (3) in a familiar finding in cases like this, had Adelphia pay for a $700,000 golf club membership and the extravagant wedding of another son, Michael.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

Junior-lightweight boxer Nate Campbell, a heavy favorite to beat Robbie Peden in Temecula, Calif., in March, controlled the fight and began to taunt Peden in the fifth round, even dropping his hands to his side, daring Peden to hit him; Peden then immediately knocked Campbell out with one punch. And in a December Boston Globe story about wild bears roaming Denville, N.J., animal control officer Meredith Petrillo reported solving the problem of one bear's nesting ("denning") underneath a homeowner's deck: Petrillo advised the resident to have her husband urinate under the deck (after which the respectful bear began denning elsewhere).

What Century Are We In?

Catholic Cardinal Gustaaf Joos declared that only 5 to 10 percent of gays and lesbians are genuinely so and that the rest are "sexual perverts" (Brussels, Belgium, January). And the commissioners of Rhea County, Tenn. (site of the 1925 Scopes "evolution" trial), voted 8-0 to ask the state to help them keep gays and lesbians out of the county (but rescinded the vote two days later amidst heavy criticism) (March). And the Georgia House of Representatives voted 160-0 to prohibit piercing of female genitals, even of adult women eager for the procedure (March). (One sponsor, Rep. Bill Heath, when told that some women seek such adornment, was incredulous: "What? I've never seen such a thing.")

Government in Action

-- Four months after the universally followed gubernatorial recall election in California, Ken Blodgett, the president of the Ochoco West Sanitary District Board (Crook County, Ore.), was recalled by the voters (39 votes to 29), with the main issue Blodgett's having stopped payment on a $14.03 invoice for office supplies, which Blodgett said was not properly authorized.

-- In March, the Saunders County (Neb.) Board of Supervisors reaffirmed that it would not reimburse Register of Deeds Don Clark for the price of a sandwich he ate while out of town on business, even though Clark insisted there was money in his office's budget to cover it. The board said its own rules supersede Clark's budget and instructed the county attorney (who seemed to oppose the board) to hire an outside lawyer to deal with the matter.

-- And They Say Government Is Inefficient: When her 14-year-old son died in a farming accident last July in Beaumont, Texas (pronounced dead at 2:20 p.m. on the 31st), Melissa Devillier knew that the boy's Social Security survivor's benefits (from his dad's death in 1992) would be terminated, but government was startlingly swift to act. On Aug. 11, it told the mother that since the boy had not lived out the entire month of July, he didn't qualify for July benefits, and federal law required her to pay back the $1,025 July advance she had already received.

Great Art in Toronto!

-- Toronto, Ontario, artist Jason Kronewald, 29, creates claylike portraits of celebrities, but using hundreds of pieces of used chewing gum instead of clay, according to a March profile by Reuters news service. He said he doesn't chew, himself, but buys gum and asks his friends to chew it. "I'm not into picking it off seats in the theater. I like the gum to be mine." His "Gum Blondes" series includes Britney Spears and Pamela Anderson.

-- Another Toronto artist, Istvan Kantor, won one of the country's most prestigious awards in March even though he (called "Canada's leading shock artist" by The New York Times) is best known for bloody performance art scenes, such as wearing the dripping carcasses of cats as a hat and posing himself in various positions to allow blood to drip from body apertures in a series that one critic said was a tribute to blood as "the spurting, contagious prima material of life." (Also, a February BBC News profile touted Madras, India, artist Shihan Hussaini's dedication to using blood to paint 50 portraits of his hero, a Tamil Nadu state official named Jayalalitha. At one point, Hussaini was drawing so much of his own blood that he had to hire a nurse.)

Least Competent Criminals

In Santa Fe, N.M., in March, after police recovered $46,000 worth of jewelry near an abandoned safe in a ravine, they concluded that burglars had stolen the 180-pound safe from a nearby home, taken it down the road and tried mightily to break it open, but failed, finally just pushing it down the ravine, at which point (unknown to them, because they had left) it finally burst open.

People Different From Us

Corinth, Vt., farmer Chris Weathersbee's house was raided by state police in February and the 44 most-sickly of his goats were seized, leaving him 70 still residing in the house, which is outfitted for them with hay covering the floors to a height of about 2 feet (and, of course, including manure). Weathersbee, 63, told the Valley News (Lebanon, N.H.) that he personally only started sleeping in the house in January (because of the weather); before that, he had slept in the barn with the goats that couldn't fit in the house. An educated man with a nimble mind, he denied that he is a hoarder and asked authorities for more time to find a home for his goats, since he believes that any confiscated by the state would surely be killed (or neutered, which he said violates animals' "right" to procreate).

Undignified Deaths

After a bout of heavy drinking, a landscape worker, riding home with his buddies, fell to his death while trying to urinate out of the open door of their car at about 25 mph (Croesgoch, Wales, November). And a 46-year-old man became the most recent to fall to his death on the side of a highway after stopping his car in the dark and searching for a place to urinate (but falling 300 feet off a cliff) (Columbia, Calif., March).

Also, in the Last Month ...

An Optimist Club (affiliated with Optimist International in St. Louis) opened in Baghdad, reported The New York Times. And Brazilian legislator Antonio Jose de Moraes Souza was removed from office for allowing a physician-supporter to hand out free Viagra at his campaign rallies. And from March 29 to April 6, there were no reported gunshot injuries in the New York City borough of The Bronx, the first such week in at least a decade and probably much longer, in that during the equivalent week 10 years ago, there were 30 shootings and 12 murders.

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