News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 6, 2005

LEAD STORY

Harvard University this year hired a recent graduate as a full-time promoter and coordinator of social activities, apparently because so many at the school are too busy to relax. According to Associate Dean Judith Kidd, "(T)he kids work very, very hard here. And they worked very, very hard ... to get here. They arrived needing help having fun." (By contrast, two weeks later, a police raid in Durham, N.C., turned up 200 noisy Duke University students, many of them bikini-clad women, wrestling in a plastic pool of baby oil in the basement of a fraternity house, apparently inspired by a scene from the movie "Old School.")

Recent Alarming Headlines

(1) "Man Says Tight Jeans Caused Aggravated Assault Charge" (Sean Duvall, arrested for pulling a gun on police in Belle Vernon, Pa., said he was holding it only because it was impossible to stuff it in his pants; USA Today, December). (2) "Man Arrested for Dumping Dirt in a Forest" (Federal law prohibits unloading anything on federal land, even soil being returned to the Earth for ecology's sake; Associated Press dispatch from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, November). (3) "Lawmakers Asked to Take Helm, Donate Sperm" (To relieve a shortage at Australian sperm banks, some younger state legislators were asked to become role models by giving; Associated Press dispatch, January).

Alcohol Blues

Among recent troubling news: After Rafer Wilson crashed into a parked car in Sydney, Australia, his blood-alcohol content (according to evidence at his trial in December) was tested at an almost death-defying .462, nine times the legal presumption of impairment. (Three weeks later, in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, doctors said a 67-year-old man had produced a blood-alcohol reading of .914, which supposedly stood up through four re-tests, and have stuck with the story despite worldwide alarm.) And Gary W. Rodgers was arrested in November in Lexington, Ky., and according to the county's offender database, it was his 96th arrest for public drunkenness in 2004.

Great Art!

-- In December, outgoing San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez turned over his City Hall office to graffiti artist Barry McGee, who orange-spray-painted the walls with various designs and the message "Smash the State" as Gonzalez's tribute to street art. (Mayor Gavin Newsom, a political opponent of Gonzalez, has been a vocal critic of street graffiti.) Gonzalez promised that, before he left office, he would restore the walls to their previous color.

-- A survey of 500 arts experts, conducted in November by the sponsor of Britain's prestigious Turner Prize, named as the most influential work of modern art (beating out two works by Picasso) Marcel Duchamp's 1917 "Fountain," which is merely a white porcelain urinal. (Duchamp was a central figure in the movement to present ordinary objects as art.)

-- In November at the Tate Britain gallery, sculptor Antony Gormley presented "Bed," a pile of 8,000 slices of bread arranged to resemble a large mattress but from which Gormley had first eaten an amount out of it that represented the volume of his body. Apparently Gormley did not devour the bread so much as chew it and then remove it and form different-shaped pieces, which he then dried out, chemically preserved, and displayed. The Tate Britain was so thrilled with the installation that it became the centerpiece in a room devoted to Gormley's lifetime body of work.

Government in Action

-- The Las Vegas Sun reported in January that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has begun phasing in an underpublicized policy of ending all walk-in traffic. Eventually, all immigration offices, to improve efficiency, will do business only by appointments made over the Internet (even though many immigration clients, most notably migrant workers, obviously do not have convenient Internet access).

-- After five years of the New Mexico government always accepting Viola Trevino's child support claims against Steve Barreras (over the vasectomied Barreras' objections), a court in Albuquerque finally ruled in December that the child never existed. The judge concluded that Trevino had lied numerous times and had forged DNA evidence, birth certificates, and other documents and that Barreras had been unjustly forced to pay $20,000 in support, even though Trevino had never publicly produced the child. In December, having run out of excuses, Trevino borrowed a little girl from a stranger on the street and took her into the courtroom to "be" her and Barreras' daughter (but the stranger followed Trevino inside and exposed the ruse). Gov. Bill Richardson ordered an investigation as to how so many state officials had been hoaxed for so long.

People Different From Us

In January, Rev. Clarence June Love, 83, pastor of the Assemblies of Jesus church in Bristol, Tenn., ejected sisters Reba Storey, 46, and Mary Steele, 64, from a service, rebuking them as possessed by demons because they were wearing blue jeans (in that Pentecostals believe that women should not wear pants). (Said Storey, "I'm glad I serve a God who can work through my pants.") The sisters were trying to visit with their 88-year-old mother, who allegedly was being kept away from them by a third sister, who is also Rev. Love's girlfriend. A few days later, a local judge urged the family to work things out.

Least Competent Criminals

In Vancouver, Wash., in January, Cuitlahvac Renteria-Martinez, 26, was arrested for jumping into an idling 18-wheeler and taking off. However, the rig had a global positioning system that made it easy to track Renteria-Martinez, and he was quickly arrested. He later admitted to police that he had taken a swig out of what he thought was the driver's coffee cup but learned too late that it was actually the driver's tobacco spit-cup.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird recently mentioned the Sinulator, a vibrating device operated over the Internet that permits thrusting movements (typically, by a male) at one computer to be mimicked by an insertable wand (typically, for use of a female) at another computer. For less excitable people, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently developed The Hug, which allows one user (perhaps a grandparent) to squeeze a velour-covered, human-shaped pillow connected to a wireless phone and have that squeeze received (perhaps by a far-away grandchild) on his or her own human-shaped pillow, as if delivered by the grandparent in person. The pillow will also speak in the sender's voice and warm itself up appropriately.

Readers' Choice

Management consultant William Fried, who is a popular motivational speaker in public schools in the San Francisco area, probably wore out his welcome in January at the Q&A session following his "Secret of a Happy Life" presentation at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto. Asked why he had included "exotic dancing" on his list of attractive careers for girls, Fried said the pay was great: $250,000 a year or more, depending on a woman's chest size. "For every two inches up there," he told the class, "you should get another $50,000 on your salary."

Undignified Deaths

A 34-year-old man performing a field sobriety test for a police officer alongside Route 130 in Bordentown, N.J., was killed when a tractor-trailer driver (who police said had probably been drinking) lost control and smashed into him (December). (The officer jumped out of the way in time.) And a 40-year-old New York City man was killed when, inebriated, he fell and broke a fish tank, fatally slashing an artery; he had recently purchased the tank to help his girlfriend's kids learn responsibility (December). And a 47-year-old man was crushed to death in Albany, Ga., when the tree he was cutting down fell on top of him (December).

(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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