News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JANUARY 23, 2005

LEAD STORY

Editor Frank Kelly Rich's bimonthly tribute to overdrinking -- the magazine Modern Drunkard -- is a 50,000-circulation glossy "about drinking and only about drinking, and not just drinking, but heavy drinking," he told the Los Angeles Times in January. Recent features included biographies of great drunks, a dictionary of bar slang, and a testimonial on how drinking cured one man's fear of flying. "The most accomplished people," Rich said, "have been drinkers," and he implied that people in the Middle East ought to drink more. Calling serious drinkers an "oppressed minority," Rich said he himself has about eight drinks a day, sometimes up to 30 (when he frequently blacks out). Said Rich's wife, of her husband's career, "When you find your calling, you have to go with it."

Time Is of the Essence

Austrian artist Muhammad Mueller started a project in November, as political commentary, in which two people at a time dig a tunnel from the city of Graz to Gradec, Slovenia, 42 miles away, using only shovels; he estimated the venture would take 5,600 years. And in July, a federal appeals court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency's leak-safety standards for the long-awaited nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain; EPA had found the proposed site safe until the year 12,000 A.D., but the court said that wasn't long enough (and noted that one National Academy of Sciences report recommended protection until the year 302,000 A.D.)

Achieving the Perfect Society

(1) In the fall of 2004, Ron Nunn Elementary school (Brentwood, Calif.) ended its "Golden Circle" program, which officials soured on because it honored only kids with good grades, and established in its place the "Eagle Society," which also celebrates personal, nonacademic achievements. The principal said he could not bear to see the sad faces of kids left out of the Golden Circle and wanted "all of our kids to be honored." (2) The city council of Ota (north of Tokyo) implemented a policy in January to require that male city workers take six separate weeks of paid leave sometime before their new child's first birthday so that (said one official) "men (get) involved in raising children." The men will also have to submit written reports on child-rearing.

Women Scorned

Olga Abramovich, 49, was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October and charged as the person who, in a rage, had painted as many as 20 swastikas on buildings and cars in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods; police said Abramovich, a Christian, was upset that her ex-husband had re-married to a Jewish woman 14 years younger than she. And Julie Rose, 37, was convicted of assault in Yeovil, England, in October, for angrily slapping a new neighbor; the victim had apparently provoked Rose by declining her welcome-to-the-neighborhood suggestion that the Roses and the new couple engage in mate-swapping.

Improvised Poetic Devices

According to an October Los Angeles Times dispatch from Yemen, one government solution to "tam(e) the violent underside" of the nation's tribal culture is to fund itinerant poets to roam the country and channel lawlessness into constructive thoughts. Illustrative of most Yemenis' opposition to both American influence and their own government is this verse: "The Arab army is just to protect the leaders/They build their rule on the pain of the people/Democracy is for the rich/If the poor man tries it, they'll call him a thief." (And in October, National Liberty Fund published a book of poems by Sami Al-Arian, written from his cell while awaiting trial in Florida on federal charges of aiding the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Sample: "(Was it) worth playing global police/even if it meant half-million Iraqis deceased.")

Bright Ideas

-- Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's November project to bring peace to strife-torn southern provinces fell short of its goal, as resistance by separatists hardened. Shinawatra had airdropped about 100 million origami paper peace doves (which, unfortunately, wound up more resembling cranes) from military aircraft, some with prize coupons attached, hoping to distract people from their grievances.

-- The renegade Mormon splinter group headed by Warren Jeffs and holed up mostly in a few small towns in Utah and Arizona was largely responsible for the collapse of the Bank of Ephraim, according to Utah regulators interviewed for a December Associated Press report. Church officials had taken a secret oath to borrow, furiously, as much money as they could, because according to Jeffs, the world was about to end anyway, and they wouldn't have to pay it back.

-- Antonio Hernandez, 29, pleaded guilty in Salt Lake City in December to hijacking a Greyhound bus that had just left Green River, Utah, intending to use it to smash into his estranged wife's trailer home. He was stopped at the hijack scene, but if he hadn't been captured, he would still have had to drive the bus all the way to the woman's home, in Lexington, Neb., 500 miles away.

-- Sylvain Didier (a mechanic by profession) was found guilty of sexual assault in Longueuil, Quebec, in December stemming from a self-invented procedure (the "Slimtronic") he was offering to female customers of his wife's weight-loss clinic. The Slimtronic supposedly took off pounds via electrical currents passed through rubber patches placed on the vulva, and one woman who agreed to the procedure filed charges against Didier after he kept moving the patches around with his probing fingers.

People Different From Us

Howard Goldstein, 47, was charged with murdering his landlord and fellow Orthodox Jew, Rabbi Rahamin Sultan, in October in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a rent dispute, and police said that when they knocked on the door to investigate Sultan's disappearance, Goldstein answered dressed (according to the New York Post) in a gray blouse "with a plunging neckline," slacks, and pink high-heeled shoes, and wearing bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow "that clashed with his long beard." A search of his room turned up pre-beard snapshots of Goldstein in an array of fashions and wigs.

Least Competent Perverts

Stephen Kauff, 33, was arrested in Westerville, Ohio, in December in a police Internet sex sting but told officers, when he arrived for a long-arranged meeting with an alleged "14-year-old girl" at an apartment complex, that he really wasn't interested in sex but was just curious whether police actually do set up sex stings over the Internet. (Answer: Yes) And Ian Finlay, 28, also caught in an Internet sex sting, had denied that he had sex on his mind when he showed up for a long-arranged meeting with a "15-year-old girl" at a McDonald's in Hempfield, Pa.; Finlay claimed that he knew "she" was a cop and wanted to outsmart the cop by pretending to be a sex predator and that he was angry at being arrested before he could reveal his "hoax." (He was convicted in January.)

Recurring Themes

Latest in Upscale Pet Care: Much plastic surgery on dogs, said Brookline, Mass., veterinarian Scott Groper, is done for medical reasons (e.g., Boston terriers' small noses interfere with breathing), but vanity (but not the dog's vanity) sometimes plays a role, as Los Angeles surgeon Alan Schulman told the Boston Herald in January. "Most of the time," he said, "it's women who have already done everything they possibly could to themselves and are starting to (make over) their dogs," with pooches' low-hanging lips and drooling problems being the primary reasons for dog face-lifts.

Obsessions

British garbage collector Tim Byrne is not only eager to get to work every day, according to a report in London's Sun newspaper, but for the past 11 years, he has voluntarily hauled trash alongside local collectors while on holiday in vacation spots such as Tenerife and Mallorca. Said Byrne, "(R)ubbish plays such a large role in my life that I simply don't need to (get away from it).

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

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