News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



"Cow-tipping" (the legendary prank of sneaking up on a dozing cow and pushing her over) was exposed as a near-impossibility by researchers at the University of British Columbia, according to a November report in The Times of London. Calculating the newtons of force required to topple an average cow (estimating the angles between left hooves, right hooves and the point of push; and the resistance of the cow to downward pressure), Dr. Margo Lillie found that two people could exert the required force only if the cow made no reaction at all to the initial touch, but that more than likely, a successful tipping would require at least five people.

Cultural Diversity

-- Prozac Nations: An official adviser to the Blair government warned in September that Britain urgently needed 250 special treatment centers, staffed by 10,000 therapists, to deal with what he called the country's "biggest social problem": a national epidemic of "unhappiness." And in October, German companies donated the equivalent of about $35 million for a media campaign to make their countrymen feel better about themselves. (Sample script: "(O)utdo yourself. Beat your wings and uproot trees. You are the wings. You are the tree. You are Germany.")

-- Prominent Spanish entertainer Juan Manuel Fernandez Montoya ("Farruquito"), 23, was married in Seville in September to a teenage bride in a televised ceremony that included, for the cameras, the so-called Gypsy custom of the "test of the handkerchief," in which the bride's friends use the garment to ascertain whether the "three drops of blood" (said to be present in a virgin) will appear. (Mrs. Fernandez Montoya evidently passed, but women's organizations in Spain were outraged.)

-- Japan's Pro Baseball Owners' Association decided in August that, beginning next season, leaders of cheering sections at its games will be required to submit to background checks and be licensed. Permits will be required for anyone who plays drums or trumpets at the game, waves flags or banners, or leads organized chants. Owners say organized-crime gangs were moving into the cheering sections and shaking down fans for tips.

-- Strange Customs: (1) New Zealand's road safety manager acknowledged in October that the recently enacted Community Roadwatch program does indeed permit police to issue a traffic ticket solely on the say-so of another driver (if there is evidence that the reported vehicle was at the scene and provided the complainer is willing to go to court). (2) Reuters reported on the annual November ritual in Finland in which the income-tax agency makes public everyone's tax records for the previous year. (Personal disclosures of income are considered vulgar in Finland, but apparently the November ritual is welcomed.)

Latest Religious Messages

Adam Turgeon, 27, and Lisa Wagner, 26, were arrested in October for vandalizing the Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Church in Decatur, Ala., which they both said they were moved to do by Jesus Christ himself. Turgeon explained that the couple, independently, had experienced visions of Jesus, and when they found themselves in services on Oct. 2, they re-enacted the part of their dreams in which they wrecked the church's altar as a protest against "manmade religion" and idolatry. Turgeon said he was especially bothered by people who balance their checkbooks during church services and by religions that believe only parts of the Bible.

Least Effective Protest

On Nov. 2, about 45 demonstrators lined up outside the Alliant Techsystems headquarters in Edina, Minn., to protest, for the 512th consecutive Wednesday, the company's work making military weapons that "indiscriminately" kill civilians. However, Alliant says it long ago stopped making those munitions (e.g., land mines, cluster bombs), although it still makes bullets. In fact, much of Alliant's work these days is on "alternative" military weapons that limit civilian casualties. According to a report in Minneapolis's Star Tribune, the demonstrations have taken on a life of their own as a regular gathering for the area's peace protesters, thus amusing and bemusing many Alliant employees.

People Different From Us

(1) The Royal Meteorological Society, seeking evidence of global warming for a journal article, happened upon data collected by a fellow named David Grisenthwaite, 77, of Kirkcaldy, Scotland, who has logged detailed information about every single time he mowed his lawn since 1984; he has inadvertently documented that grass-growing season is longer lately. (Grisenthwaite said he also memorizes transit bus timetables.) (2) In England's Lincoln Crown Court, in October, municipal parking employee Julie Wall, 46, was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling the equivalent of about $1 million over 10 years (spending nearly the entire amount on Elvis Presley records and memorabilia, most of which were found unopened at her home). (Said her lawyer, "She simply wanted to own (the items).")

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Barbara King, 35, was arrested in Largo, Fla., in October on a warrant for forgery and prescription fraud; when police knocked on her door, a man told them that she wasn't home, but a 4-year-old girl standing alongside said, "Mommy's in the closet!" (2) Police in Memphis, Tenn., reported in October that they had closed down a crack house on Rosamond Street, a task made easier because the resident usually announced the start of business hours by hanging out a sign reading, "Crack House." (3) Christina Goodenow, 38, of Medford, Ore., was arrested in October for using a stolen credit card, but a conviction would be especially disastrous for her since she just won $1 million in the lottery with a $1 ticket she bought with the credit card (thus voiding the ticket).

Readers' Choice

In November, a jury in Westmoreland County, Pa., awarded Ken Slaby $46,200 for genital injuries inflicted by his vengeful ex-girlfriend, Gail O'Toole, in 2000. While Slaby was napping (according to a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), O'Toole had glued Slaby's buttocks cheeks together, his penis to his abdomen, and his scrotum to his leg, all as payback for his having moved on with his life after their breakup. (O'Toole said it was all part of consensual sex between them, but she had earlier pleaded guilty to simple assault for the incident.)


-- In October, martial arts instructor Andrew Jacobs was arrested for allegedly assaulting two 10-year-old girls in their bedroom in Vienna, Va. (but being fended off by them based on skills they learned as students at Mountain Kim Martial Arts Center, where Jacobs was their teacher). Jacobs told police his plan was to tie the girls up so he could steal things from the home.

-- In a September road-rage incident in Salt Lake City, a woman sped by in a blocked-off lane to get around a 25-year-old motorist on Interstate 15, then rolled down her window and screamed at him. The man, according to a report in the Deseret Morning News, made an "obscene hand gesture." The woman then pulled out a .357-caliber revolver, shot off the tip of his middle finger, and sped away, outdistancing the man but later crashing into a barricade.

Smooth Reactions

(1) Car salesman Philip Vandergraff, 35, was arrested in September on a battery charge after an incident at a Ford dealership in Atascadero, Calif. According to customer Jeff Walston, the two were haggling over a car purchase, and when Walston offered $5,000 less than Vandergraff's price, Vandergraff punched him in the face. (2) According to police in New York City, after Joe Daniels complained to neighbor Paul Kim in September that Kim's dogs had bitten Daniels' cat, Kim allegedly attacked Daniels and in the course of the fight, bit him.

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