News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JUNE 19, 2005


Yamaha Corp. recently introduced the MyRoom, which is a customizable, soundproof, shed-like structure, with 27 square feet of floor space, for installation inside notoriously crowded Japanese homes, so that a resident can get privacy (or be exiled if he or she gets annoying). The company expects a sales surge in 2006, when Japan's first wave of baby-boom salarymen retire and begin staying home a lot. Yamaha developed the MyRoom concept for musicians to practice in, but subsequently realized that the boxes (which sell for the equivalent of about US$5,500) had a much larger appeal.

Compelling Explanations

-- James Carroll Bayley, 44, pleaded guilty in May to killing his brother, Robert, in an incident in Raleigh, N.C., in which James alleged that Robert had come by, drunk, to retrieve his power drill that James had borrowed. James told the judge that he certainly didn't mean to kill Robert, but had grabbed his gun for protection, then "shot him in the right leg to knock him down." "Then," said James, "after a short time, I shot him in the head to make him dizzy so he would fall."

-- In May, Mr. Oran Ambus was locked in a standoff with the St. Louis dog pound, which was holding his 9-month-old rottweiler. Ambus could pick up the dog any time he wanted, reported KSDK radio, provided he would neuter him, but he refused, citing the Book of Leviticus, which he believes permits animals in heaven only if they are unaltered. (Thus was Ambus' dilemma: Get his dog back unholy or, given the pound's put-to-sleep policy, allow its imminent, but holy, demise.)

-- A man (identified in court papers as John Doe), who suffered injuries and sexual dysfunction 11 years ago when a woman unexpectedly changed positions during intercourse (and fell on him and fractured his penis), was again turned down in his attempt to sue the woman. The Court of Appeals of Massachusetts said in May that it would be impossible for a judge or jury to decide which movements in consensual sex were legally reasonable or unreasonable.

-- The San Diego Union Tribune reported in April that Los Angeles Angels' first baseman Darin Erstad was wearing a leather-pouched "balance necklace" of minerals that (according to the manufacturer) will "achieve alignment of body, mind and spirit" and "address the electro-pollution, toxic vapors, scars, surgeries and traumas to the skin by organizing the quantum nature of man," which are things important to Erstad to avoid the kinds of injuries he had experienced in previous seasons. Erstad said that since he has been injury-free so far in 2005, "it must be working," but the player who recommended the necklace, teammate Steve Finley, is substantially underperforming so far this season.

Not My Fault

(1) Julie Atkins, 38, of Derby, England, featured in a May BBC TV documentary on childbirth because her three daughters gave birth last year at, respectively, ages 12, 14 and 16, told the Sunday Mercury newspaper: "I don't care what people say about me. I blame the schools. Sex education for young girls should be better." (2) Tommy Rollins Jr., 26, who police say shot Missouri state trooper Brandon Brashear nine times during a traffic stop (chasing him onto the median of Interstate 470 in Kansas City), told reporters in May, "The society's what caused me to do what I did. Just look at the society we live in." (At press time, Brashear was in critical condition.)


(1) In Eatonton, N.J., in March, a man carjacked a van even though, unknown to him beforehand, it was transporting inmates from Northern State Prison to a highway work detail. (The suspect was arrested after a 70-mile chase.) (2) Washington's King County agreed in April to pay $23 million to Stockpot Soups to relocate to make room for a prospective sewage-treatment plant. Until recently, Stockpot had famously tormented its neighbors most Mondays and Tuesdays (its onion-soup-making days) with a putrid, body-odor-type smell.

Nicely Put

-- A reporter for the Elyria (Ohio) Chronicle-Telegram, observing the workings of modern pothole-filling technology for an April story on the local street department, described the "Super-Patcher" machine as releasing a flow of "what appeared to be greasy, black beans" following a "phlegm-textured stream of sticky tar" that "coated the pothole like a pound of snot."

-- After a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show proclaimed the use of Premarin vaginal cream and Preparation H on her face to smooth out wrinkles, Baltimore's WBAL-TV did a follow-up with local doctors, who generally agreed that the ingredients might work but were nonetheless harmful to facial skin. Said female Maryland gynecologist Terry Hoffman, "Personally, if something is meant for my 'hu-ha,' I don't think I'm going to put it on my eyes."

Least Competent People

-- (1) Michael Lewis, 27, decided for some reason to fire his pellet gun at a .22-caliber bullet lying on a picnic table to see if he could hit it. He did; it exploded; and some of the bullet fragments lodged in his groin. He was hospitalized at Salina (Kan.) Regional Medical Center in March. (Police said alcohol was not involved, leaving "judgment" as the likely explanation.) (2) Justin Mitchell Oaks, 21, and his wife were miraculously uninjured after Oaks inadvertently drove their Toyota Corolla underneath an 18-wheeler on Interstate 10 in Tucson, Ariz., in April, got stuck, and was dragged 800 feet before the truck could stop. (Alcohol was not the problem here, either, but rather a cell-phone conversation.)

-- Christopher Lamping, 20 at the time, was arrested for DUI in Indiana, Pa., in March, after he leaned on the horn repeatedly through three light changes because the car in front of him would not go through the green lights. The car in front was a marked Indiana police cruiser whose officers were talking to a man on the sidewalk, and after hearing enough of Lamping's horn, one officer walked over and noticed Lamping's odor of alcohol. According to the Indiana Gazette story, Lamping later explained that he "just didn't think of" driving around the stopped car.

Recurring Themes

Australian Jo Lapidge is the latest to offer a toilet training system for cats, according to a May Reuters dispatch. Her Litter-Kwitter is a four-step process to accustom the cat to relieve itself over a toilet bowl: (1) a red toilet-seat "disc" on top of cat litter; (2) the red-seat-and-litter device placed on top of the bowl requiring the cat to jump up to use it; (3) a yellow-seat disc without litter but with a small hole so that the water below is not prominent; and (4) a green-seat disc with a larger hole. Lapidge said it took eight weeks to train her cat, Doogal, even with his problem of climbing voluntarily into the bowl from time to time to play.

The Shame of the Clumsy Gunman (all-new)

The following people accidentally shot themselves recently: Accused taxicab robber Rodriguez Massett (in the foot, while running from police) (Roswell, Ga., May). Convenience store clerk Bunny Nat (in the hip, while adjusting the "protection" gun he carries in his waistband) (Des Moines, Iowa, April). A 21-year-old man (who, while horsing around, fatally believed an "unloaded" gun could not also have a bullet in the chamber) (Tacoma, Wash., April). A 16-year-old boy (in the leg, while aiming at a snake in his yard) (Port Wentworth, Ga., June). Kole Eugene Maxwell, 18 (shot himself three times during one session of cleaning his 9mm pistol) (Centre, Ala., May).

CORRECTION: According to a spokesman for the Liftport company, developing the "space elevator" (in News of the Weird last week), the version now being considered is not a shaft but a 3-foot-wide ribbon to which orbitable objects will be attached.

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