News of the Weird

Week of December 27, 2005

LEAD STORY -- SORTING THROUGH 2005'S MAJOR WEIRDAGE

If you spent your year worrying about Angelina and Brad or Tom and Katie or Nick and Jessica, or, heaven forbid, even the important things like Delay, de war and de natural disasters, you probably missed the good stuff. Herewith is our compilation of the most disturbing, underreported stories of the year.

Everything You Know About Art Is Wrong

The genesis of those dogs-playing-poker paintings is the series of nine 1903 originals by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, and in February, two of them were sold by the Doyle New York auction house for a total of $590,400.

St. Petersburg Times, March 4

The Laws of Irony Are Strictly Enforced

-- In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, in response to the question whether President Bush is a "uniter" or a "divider," 49 percent of Americans said uniter, and 49 percent said divider.

CNN, Jan. 19

-- As a registered sex offender in California, James Andrew Crawford was required to notify authorities if he adopted a new "domicile" for more than five days. He was arrested in May for noncompliance after he had been camped for two weeks in a theater line waiting for "Star Wars: Episode III" to open.

North County Times (Escondido, Calif.), May 19

-- Virginia capital-murder inmate Daryl Atkins, who had previously registered an IQ lower than the minimum-70 needed for execution, scored a 76, and a jury then sent him to death row. Legal experts attributed the improvement in IQ to the intellectual stimulation Atkins received from discussing his case with lawyers.

ABC News-AP, Aug. 14

New World Order

The communist government of China presented its quinquennial Vanguard (or Model) Worker award (in the past, given to loyal factory workers, dedicated public-outhouse stewards and the like) to Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets' basketball player who earns about $15 million a year playing and endorsing products -- about 15,000 times what the average urban Chinese worker makes.

Washington Post, April 29

Bring the Pain

South African Sonette Ehlers invented a tampon-like sheath that she says will reduce the country's disturbing number of rapes, but local anti-violence leaders are skeptical -- and alarmed. The 1-Rand (about 15 cents) device folds around the penis with microscopic hooks and, once engaged, requires medical intervention to remove. Critics say it is nearly useless, since a woman must wear one constantly to be protected.

The Times (London), June 8

Tackling the Hard Issues

Oklahoma state Sen. Frank Shurden proposed legislation to revive the "sport" of cockfighting, which the state outlawed in 2002, but to make it more rooster-friendly, he suggested the birds wear tiny boxing gloves instead of razor cleats and wear fencing-type electronic vests to record hits.

Chicago Tribune-AP, Jan. 28

Don't Know Much About History

The Kansas City Star, reporting on a Missouri legislative debate on the Confederate flag, quoted Rep. Jim Avery that the 1803 Louisiana Purchase involved a battle with France, instead of a land sale: "Well, we fought over it. We fought over it, right? ... You don't think there were any lives lost in that? It was a friendly thing?" (And Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick told a middle-school class that the U.S. Congress is different from the Texas legislature, in that in Washington there are "454" members on the House side and "60" in the Senate.)

Kansas City Star, May 9

Austin American-Statesman, April 16

The Jeb Bush Administration Is Also Skeptical of the Geneva Conventions

Laura and Edmund Gerstein, keen to save their beloved grapefruit tree from Florida's citrus canker eradication program, claimed immunity for the tree under the 1949 Geneva Conventions (the paragraph on protecting crops needed for civilians' survival during wartime, in that, said Edmund, "As I understand it, (the U.S.) is in a state of war"). Responded a state Department of Agriculture spokesman, "That tree will be coming down."

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, April 5

Bringing New Meaning to Ticket-Scalping

Reba Schappell, of Reading, Pa., a professional country music singer who is also a conjoined-at-the-head twin with sister Lori, told a BBC radio audience, "When I am singing, Lori is like any other fan, except she's up on the stage with me (covered by a blanket to reduce the distraction)." Said Lori: "I do not ask for anything from Reba. I don't get in to her concerts free just because she's a conjoined twin. I have to pay, just like every other fan ...."

BBC News, Sept. 21

Reader Advisory: Not to Be Read by the Squeamish

Among the most frightening occasions celebrated in 2005: The world's first "international festival of mimes," in Shfaram, Israel; the convention of Clowns of America in Grand Rapids, Mich., with 300 in attendance; and two attempts, in Kimberly, British Columbia, and St. John's, Newfoundland, at shattering the world record for the number of people simultaneously playing accordions for a half-hour (644 in Kimberly, eclipsed by 989 in St. John's).

YNet.com (Yedioth Aharonoth, Tel Aviv), April 11

Grand Rapids Press, April 22

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Aug. 11

Canadian Press, Aug. 6

The Cop Wanted Credit for Two Collars

Transsexual prostitute Monica Renee Champion, 37, was picked up by police in Richmond, Va., after arrest warrants for indecent exposure had been issued against her in the city's South Side, as a male, and in the North Side, as a female.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Aug. 27

You've Heard of "He Died in the Saddle"?

Hard-core bestiality cases usually involve some hapless man abusing a poor critter, but the death of a 45-year-old man in Enumclaw, Wash., after man-horse sex, was extraordinary, in that the horse was the penetrator (and the man died of acute peritonitis from a perforated colon). According to videotapes seized by authorities, a local farm (apparently known in Internet bestiality chat rooms) was a covert haven for sex with livestock. Washington is one of 17 states with no specific anti-bestiality law; thus, had the man lived, he would not have been prosecuted because the state's animal-cruelty law requires a showing that the horse, not the human, suffered.

Seattle Times, July 15

Great Moments in Government

City council member Yvonne Lamanna, 58, filed a worker compensation claim against the city of Penn Hills, Pa., after she threw her back out while taking her seat at the Feb. 7 council meeting.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 9

"To Whom It May Concern: Please Let Gregory Hang Out Today"

Gregory Withrow and an associate staged a protest at the California capitol in Sacramento, against the U.S.'s Iraq policy and in favor of white supremacy, among other issues. The associate's job was to nail Withrow's hands to a cross so he could stand as a martyr. Withrow had brought notes with him from a Butte County, Calif., health official (OK'ing Withrow's plan to hurt himself) and from the Sacramento Parks Department (acknowledging that no permit was needed for the crucifixion).

Contra Costa Times-AP, April 22

Adventures of the Too-Easily-Dissatisfied

-- Dallas artist James Sooy, weary of his eyeglasses slipping, had a bar inserted through the bridge of his nose and his spectacles affixed to it. Sooy seemed to believe there was money to be made with the idea, but an optometrist pointed out the difficulty in adjusting prescriptions "if you have a hole in your face."

Houston Chronicle, Feb. 23

-- The Oregon board that enforces teachers' standards and practices put Central Linn High School coach, teacher and dean of students Scott Reed on two years' probation after he admitted licking blood from the wounds of at least three students, though, after a hearing, the board was still unclear on his motive.

Associated Press, Aug. 4

Free Longevity Advice for Men

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University Medical School, told a conference in Brisbane, Australia, that he donates blood regularly because a key to females' ability to outlive males is menstruation (in that, he says, iron loss inhibits the growth of free radicals that age cells). "I menstruate," he said, "but only every eight weeks."

News Limited (Australia), March 19

Least Competent Police

In an early-morning shootout on June 4 in the Homewood housing complex in Pittsburgh, two undercover officers and a suspect exchanged a total of at least 103 gunshots but never hit anyone.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 5

Lawyers Unfamiliar With Their Own Client

In court papers filed in 1994 but which only this year drew public attention, lawyers zealously representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., offered a countercharge to a child-support claim against Father Arturo Uribe: that the mother herself was culpable because she failed to use birth control.

Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3

Best Inventions of the Year

-- Yamaha Corp. introduced the MyRoom, a customizable, soundproof, shed-like structure with 27 square feet of floor space, to install inside notoriously crowded Japanese homes, for privacy (or to be exiled to). The company expects a sales surge in 2006, when Japan's first wave of baby-boom salarymen retire and begin annoying their spouses at home.

The Times (London), May 27

-- Spanish designer Pep Torres said he was nearing a launch date for his Your Turn washing machine, which he developed to encourage sharing of housework. Users, such as a husband and wife, initially register their fingerprints, and Your Turn will not subsequently operate by the same person's print twice in a row.

BBC News, May 1

Reader Advisory: Not to Be Read by the Squeamish

Among the most frightening occasions celebrated in 2005: The world's first "international festival of mimes," in Shfaram, Israel; the convention of Clowns of America in Grand Rapids, Mich., with 300 in attendance; and two attempts, in Kimberly, British Columbia, and St. John's, Newfoundland, at shattering the world record for the number of people simultaneously playing accordions for a half-hour (644 in Kimberly, eclipsed by 989 in St. John's).

YNet.com (Yedioth Aharonoth, Tel Aviv), April 11

Grand Rapids Press, April 22

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Aug. 11

Canadian Press, Aug. 6

The Cop Wanted Credit for Two Collars

Transsexual prostitute Monica Renee Champion, 37, was picked up by police in Richmond, Va., after arrest warrants for indecent exposure had been issued against her in the city's South Side, as a male, and in the North Side, as a female.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Aug. 27

You've Heard of "He Died in the Saddle"?

Hard-core bestiality cases usually involve some hapless man abusing a poor critter, but the death of a 45-year-old man in Enumclaw, Wash., after man-horse sex, was extraordinary, in that the horse was the penetrator (and the man died of acute peritonitis from a perforated colon). According to videotapes seized by authorities, a local farm (apparently known in Internet bestiality chat rooms) was a covert haven for sex with livestock. Washington is one of 17 states with no specific anti-bestiality law; thus, had the man lived, he would not have been prosecuted because the state's animal-cruelty law requires a showing that the horse, not the human, suffered.

Seattle Times, July 15

Great Moments in Government

City council member Yvonne Lamanna, 58, filed a worker compensation claim against the city of Penn Hills, Pa., after she threw her back out while taking her seat at the Feb. 7 council meeting.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 9

"To Whom It May Concern: Please Let Gregory Hang Out Today"

Gregory Withrow and an associate staged a protest at the California capitol in Sacramento, against the U.S.'s Iraq policy and in favor of white supremacy, among other issues. The associate's job was to nail Withrow's hands to a cross so he could stand as a martyr. Withrow had brought notes with him from a Butte County, Calif., health official (OK'ing Withrow's plan to hurt himself) and from the Sacramento Parks Department (acknowledging that no permit was needed for the crucifixion).

Contra Costa Times-AP, April 22

Adventures of the Too-Easily-Dissatisfied

-- Dallas artist James Sooy, weary of his eyeglasses slipping, had a bar inserted through the bridge of his nose and his spectacles affixed to it. Sooy seemed to believe there was money to be made with the idea, but an optometrist pointed out the difficulty in adjusting prescriptions "if you have a hole in your face."

Houston Chronicle, Feb. 23

-- The Oregon board that enforces teachers' standards and practices put Central Linn High School coach, teacher and dean of students Scott Reed on two years' probation after he admitted licking blood from the wounds of at least three students, though, after a hearing, the board was still unclear on his motive.

Associated Press, Aug. 4

Free Longevity Advice for Men

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University Medical School, told a conference in Brisbane, Australia, that he donates blood regularly because a key to females' ability to outlive males is menstruation (in that, he says, iron loss inhibits the growth of free radicals that age cells). "I menstruate," he said, "but only every eight weeks."

News Limited (Australia), March 19

Least Competent Police

In an early-morning shootout on June 4 in the Homewood housing complex in Pittsburgh, two undercover officers and a suspect exchanged a total of at least 103 gunshots but never hit anyone.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 5

Lawyers Unfamiliar With Their Own Client

In court papers filed in 1994 but which only this year drew public attention, lawyers zealously representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., offered a countercharge to a child-support claim against Father Arturo Uribe: that the mother herself was culpable because she failed to use birth control.

Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3

Best Inventions of the Year

-- Yamaha Corp. introduced the MyRoom, a customizable, soundproof, shed-like structure with 27 square feet of floor space, to install inside notoriously crowded Japanese homes, for privacy (or to be exiled to). The company expects a sales surge in 2006, when Japan's first wave of baby-boom salarymen retire and begin annoying their spouses at home.

The Times (London), May 27

-- Spanish designer Pep Torres said he was nearing a launch date for his Your Turn washing machine, which he developed to encourage sharing of housework. Users, such as a husband and wife, initially register their fingerprints, and Your Turn will not subsequently operate by the same person's print twice in a row.

BBC News, May 1

You'd Think He'd Have Learned to Relax By, Say, the 40th

William Woodard, suspected by police in the Trenton, N.J., area of more than 50 burglaries, was arrested after authorities said they could match him to one of the "signatures" of the crime spree: random splotches of excrement at several crime scenes. (In the course of the arrest, a nervous Woodard failed to control his bowels.)

The Trentonian, March 11

Crooks With Money Management Problems

-- Thanh Nhat Le was arrested in Dorchester, Mass., when he tried to cash a check he wrote to himself for $7,550 on his account at a Sovereign Bank. He had opened the account two weeks earlier, with $171 in small bills, but then subsequently tried to add to it by mailing in three checks for deposit, of $250,000, $2 million and $4 billion.

Boston Herald, April 7

-- A judge gave Vickey Siles of New Haven, Ind., just a suspended sentence and probation, ostensibly out of pity at the lousy job she did altering a check from Globe Life and Accident Co. Siles had badly obliterated the "$1.00" amount of the check, written in "$4,000,000.00," and then tried to cash it at a neighborhood check-cashing store.

Fort Wayne News Sentinel, March 19

-- Police in Twin Falls, Idaho, confiscated almost $1 billion in counterfeit money (which a man tried to leave as collateral for a loan) in a scheme doomed from the start because all bills were of the nonexistent denomination of $1 million.

Fox News-Twin Falls News-Times, Oct. 17

Most Disturbing Culinary News

Mark Nuckols, a business student at Dartmouth, began selling the tofu-like Hufu, flavored to resemble what he believes is the taste of human flesh. His target audience is tofu eaters who want a challenge, plus any actual cannibals who might settle for artificiality in order to avoid legal problems and logistical hassles. Nuckols based his recipe on cannibals' reported descriptions of the flavor.

Stanford Daily, May 25

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution dispatch from El Alberto, Mexico (near Mexico City), profiled a theme park in which wannabe emigrants to the U.S. can test their survival skills in an obstacle course that touches on the rigors migrants must endure sneaking across the border.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 20

He Put This Life Behind Him

A Lake Jackson, Texas, woman was for a while under indictment for negligent homicide in the death of her husband, who suffered acute alcohol poisoning from having ingested three liters of sherry wine via enema, which authorities said she provided him. However, the woman freely discussed with reporters her husband's longstanding addiction to enemas, pointing out that he also did them with coffee, "Castile soap, Ivory soap. He had enema recipes. ... I'm sure that's the way he wanted to go out because he loved his enemas."

Houston Chronicle, Feb. 10

Soon to Be a Case Study in Business Schools

When a Japanese art collector had to choose between Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses for a big sale and quixotically asked the two to play Rock-Paper-Scissors for the privilege, Sotheby's chose Paper and lost out on the eventual $2.3 million commission. (A Christie's executive had taken the advice of one of his 11-year-old daughters, who said, "Everybody knows you always start with Scissors.")

New York Times, April 29

So Inexplicable That It Must Be the Product of Intelligent Design

According to a Phoenix New Times cover story, local man Willie Windsor, 54, has for several years lived 24 hours a day as an infant, not only wearing baby clothes and diapers, but sucking on pacifiers and eating only Gerber cuisine, in a home filled with oversized baby furniture. And the diaper is not just a prop. Windsor said he worked diligently to make himself incontinent, even chaining his commode shut to avoid "temptation," and the New Times reporter admitted feeling "disconcert(ed)" that Windsor might be relieving himself at the very moment he was describing his anti-toilet training. Windsor is a semi-retired singer-actor and said, not surprisingly, that he's been celibate for nine years.

Phoenix New Times, June 9

Leading Economic Indicator

A 1958 Pablo Picasso original, "Atelier de Cannes," went on sale on the Web site of the discount chain Costco, priced to move at $129,999.99. Costco began offering art on consignment from dealers last year, but "Atelier" (a crayon drawing authenticated by daughter Maya Picasso) is its most expensive piece.

New York Post, Aug. 12

Bling 1, Maternal Instinct 0

Firefighters in Stamford, Conn., had to break a car window, against the owner's wishes, to rescue her 23-month-old son, whom she had accidentally locked inside along with the key. The kid had been sweltering for more than 20 minutes on an 88-degree July day when Susan Guita Silverstein, 42 (who was later charged with reckless endangerment), begged firefighters to wait until she went home to get a spare key so they wouldn't have to damage her Audi A4.

Stamford Advocate, July 26

The Classic Middle Name

Once again this year, as a public service, we release this crucial homicide data, all-new in 2005.

Arrested in 2005, and charged with murder:

Darrell Wayne Maness, 19, Wilmington, N.C. (January)

Timothy Wayne Ebert, 40, Cleveland, Texas (February)

John Wayne Blair, 49, Sevier County, Tenn. (April)

Derek Wayne Jackson, 18, Norristown, Pa. (April)

Nathaniel Wayne Hart, 34, Austin, Texas (April)

Kenneth Wayne Keller, Denton, Texas (August)

Ronald Wayne Lail, Burke County, N.C. (September)

Timothy Wayne Condrey, Caroleen, N.C. (September)

Roy Wayne Russell, Vancouver, Wash. (December)

Jeremy Wayne Hopkins, 22, Denton, Texas (November)

Reginald Wayne Thomas, 23, Huntsville, Texas (November)

Matthew Wayne Almand, 18, Melbourne, Fla. (November)

Convicted of murder:

Donald Wayne Shipe, 37, Winchester, Va. (May)

Sentenced for murder:

Emmanuel Wayne Harris, 28, Bisbee, Ariz. (February)

Tyler Wayne Justice, Alice, Texas (September)

Douglas Wayne Pepper, 44, Greensboro, N.C. (November)

Executed for murder:

Dennis Wayne Bagwell, 41, Huntsville, Texas (February)

Lonnie Wayne Pursley, 43, Huntsville, Texas (May)

Melvin Wayne White, 55, Hunstsville, Texas (November)

Committed suicide while suspected of murder:

Eric Wayne Jacobs, 27, Castroville, Calif. (April)

Michael Wayne Baxter, Edgewater, Md. (October)

Died of a drug overdose while serving two life terms for murder:

Russell Wayne Wagner, Jessup, Md. (February) (but buried at Arlington National Cemetery based on Army service in Vietnam, prompting Congress to propose to ban capital criminals from having military burials at Arlington)

One final note: Police in New Scotland, N.Y., arrested Corianna Thompson for the murder of her mother. Thompson's birth name was Corey Wayne Balashek, and before his sex change, he had served nine years in prison for another killing. Authorities believe Thompson/Balashek is the first American, let alone the first middle-name-Wayne, to be arrested for homicide in both genders.

SOURCES FOR CLASSIC MIDDLE NAME

Maness: Asheville Citizen-Times, Jan. 20

Ebert: Houston Chronicle, Feb. 22

Blair: WBIR-TV (Knoxville), April 28

Jackson: Pottstown Mercury, April 21

Hart: Austin American-Statesman, April 12

Keller: Dallas Morning News, Aug. 13

Lail: Charlotte Observer, Sept. 22

Condrey: Daily Courier (Forest City, N.C.), Sept. 22

Russell: The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.), Dec. 4

Hopkins: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 22

Thomas: Houston Chronicle, Nov. 23

Almand: Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 30

Shipe: Winchester Star, May 4

Harris: Sierra Vista Herald, Feb. 18

Justice: Alice (Texas) Echo-News Journal, Sept. 15

Pepper: Austin American-Statesman-AP, Nov. 8

Bagwell: Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 18

Pursley: Houston Chronicle, May 3

White: Houston Chronicle-AP, Nov. 3

Jacobs: Houston Chronicle, April 14

Baxter: The Capital (Annapolis), Oct. 8

Wagner: Washington Post, Aug. 5

Thompson/Balasek: Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), April 12

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

(Read more weird news at www.WeirdUniverse.net; send items to WeirdNews@earthlink.net, and P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)

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