News of the Weird

Week of September 5, 2004

LEAD STORY

Among the reality-TV series being batted around in London, according to recent reports in the Daily Telegraph and The Independent, is "Make Me a Mum," in which a woman reduces a field of men to the two whom she believes will make her the genetically best offspring. At that point, producers will inseminate the woman with sperm from both men and, using intravaginal micro technology, will attempt to record a "race" to see which sperm gets to the egg first. Said Remy Blumenfeld, the creative director for the Brighter Pictures production house, "(This show is) much more about the rule of science than the rules of attraction."

More News That Sounds Like a Joke

-- British surfboard designer Jools Matthews, working with Intel Corp., built an Internet-ready surfboard with an 80-gigabyte, wireless laptop, powered by solar panels and housing a video camera, for exhibition in June in Devon, England. The waterproofed circuitry adds about 5 pounds to the 9-foot-long board and is carefully placed so as to retain surfers' balance points.

-- A commander at a military conscription unit in Finland told reporters in August that some men recently have been discharged shortly after enlisting because they had become "addicted" to the Internet and longed for their computers. Said the official, Jyrki Kivela: "For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock." (All males are scheduled for at least six months in the military, but about 20 percent get specially exempted.)

Leading Economic Indicators

-- McDonald's franchisees in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Brainerd, Minn., and Norwood, Mass., recently began outsourcing their drive-thru order-taking to a call center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Thus, a Big Mac order shouted into a microphone in Missouri gets typed into a computer in Colorado (and a digital photograph of the customer's car is taken in order to reduce errors) and then clicked back to the originating restaurant's kitchen, which has the order ready in less time (30 seconds less, on average, with fewer errors) than the average McDonald's takes.

-- An econometric study of "happiness" by professors David Blanchflower (Dartmouth College) and Andrew Oswald (Warwick University, England), announced in July, found that a successful marriage brings such a level of joy that those without it would need an additional $100,000 to compensate. They conclude: Money can buy happiness (but each unit of it is very expensive); increasing the frequency of sex from monthly to at least weekly brings the same happiness as a $50,000 raise; and those who must buy their sex are the least happy of all.

Punk Science

-- A U.S. Army laboratory in Natick, Mass., has developed a lightweight, dried-food meal that can be safely hydrated by adding virtually any kind of liquid, from dirty swampwater to a soldier's own urine, according to a July report in New Scientist. A membrane with ultra-tiny gaps allows only water molecules to pass, filtering out "99.9" percent of any bacteria and most chemicals. (While urine will theoretically work in a pinch, the developers discourage its use since urea is not blocked and will build up in the kidneys over time.)

-- Least Competent Animals: Police in Yuba City, Calif., responded to a motorist's call and freed a chicken that had flown into a car and become tangled in its windshield wipers (August). And a black bear drowned in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania after he resisted several attempts by Samaritans to remove the plastic jar that had become stuck on his head after he had raided a camper's food supply (July). And organizers of a 93-mile homing pigeon race, between the Swedish cities of Ljungby and Malmo, let 2,000 go on a perfectly clear day, but only 500 found their way home (July).

People Different From Us

The Gentle Wind Project of Kittery, Maine, was recently in the news for filing a federal lawsuit against a couple who had allegedly slandered the group with claims of mind control and child neglect, among other charges. According to a Gentle Wind spokesperson, each human lives inside an energy field 8 to 10 feet high, 4 to 6 feet wide, which sometimes gets damaged and must be repaired. Its "healing instruments" are just the tools to do that, bringing good health, based on "20 years" of research. For example, its "Puck Puck" (which resembles several tuning forks) is said to bring relief from high blood pressure, arthritis, migraines, ulcers and chronic fatigue to those who merely hold them, and it has even been known to help people "forgive." On the other hand, wrote the spokesperson, "We're not New Age wackos."

Unclear on the Concept

A New Hampshire judge was suspended, and the state's attorney general resigned, both over allegations of sexual misconduct stemming from their after-hours behavior (in separate incidents) at the same conference, which had been called in May as a workshop on preventing sexual and domestic abuse. Five women complained of being groped by Judge Franklin C. Jones, 55, and one woman complained that Attorney General Peter Heed had touched her inappropriately on the dance floor. (The local prosecutor later said there was not enough evidence to file a criminal charge against Heed.)

Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story? (a) A high school principal in Boston was admonished by the school board for trying to shut down football practice as violating the school's new "zero tolerance" rule for violence. (b) Hong Kong's mainstream press reported that a lonely widower in Beijing was found to have, as "pets," 200,000 cockroaches in his home. (c) A 17-year-old boy in New Haven, Conn., arranged for a friend to shoot him in the leg, later explaining that he didn't want to be sent to Iraq and thus was scheming to avoid the "draft." (d) A 47-year-old woman in Lumberton, N.C., was charged with animal cruelty for giving pap smears to her Boston terrier. (Answer at end of column.)

Least Competent Criminals

More Unprofitable Counterfeiting: Japanese police have made no arrests in connection with a flurry of 400 counterfeit 1,000-yen notes that keep turning up in vending machines in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo; in each one, a real 1,000-yen note is cannibalized to supply a key part of the bogus note. Similarly, in Calgary, Alberta, in July, Jason James Cremer was fined about Cdn$800 for passing a set of counterfeit $20 bills that he made by removing the optical security devices from real $20 bills and inserting them onto his bogus ones (and discarding the remnants of the real bills, believing them then worthless, which police said was not true).

Recurring Themes

More Clumsy Gunmen: Drew Patterson, 27, getting his .22-caliber pistol ready after news got out of an escaped fugitive in the area, stuck the gun into the waistband of his trousers and accidentally shot himself in the buttocks (Bristow, Okla., August). And David Walker, 28, carrying his shotgun back into a pub to settle an argument over whose turn it was to buy, accidentally shot himself in the scrotum and then in July was sentenced to five years in prison for illegal possession of the shotgun (The Crescent, Dinnington, England).

Readers' Choice

In August in a camping area of Baker Lake, Wash., Fish and Wildlife agents found a black bear passed out amidst three dozen empty (clawed- and bitten-open) cans of locally brewed Rainier Beer. "And (the bear) definitely had a preference," said an officer, noting that only one can of Busch beer had been drunk, though many unopened ones were nearby.

Answer to Almost All True: (b), (c) and (d) are true.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like News of the Weird