News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



Dave "The Dragon" Lockwood and his tournament-tested sons, Max, 16, Jon, 13, and Ben, 10, of Silver Spring, Md., might become to competitive tiddlywinks what the Manning family of quarterbacks is to football, according to a January Washington Post story. Dave was previously ranked No. 1 in the English Tiddlywinks Association (and is currently No. 8, with Max No. 52). "Tiddlywinks doesn't sound very serious," said Max, but "(t)here's so much strategy." (For the uninformed: You mash a "squidger" down on a "wink" to propel it either into the "pot" or to "squop" it onto an opponent's wink to temporarily disable it.) Dave said he plans to get Britain's Prince Philip, a winker, to suggest tiddlywinks as a demonstration "sport" at London's 2012 Summer Olympics.

Cultural Diversity

-- In November, the military ruler of Myanmar, Gen. Than Shwe, ordered his entire government to immediately pack up and move from Rangoon to a new capital 200 miles away in the small town of Pyinmana, based on dire warnings from his astrologer (though the move had been long-rumored). (Myanmar/Burma has a history with astrology and numerology, and in fact, democracy activists purposely commenced their most propitious demonstrations on Aug. 8, 1988, at 8:08 a.m.) Shwe was just named the world's third-worst dictator by Parade magazine.

-- The traditional Norwegian dish of smalahove is smoked sheep's head with all parts except the skull itself counted as delicacies. Especially tasty are the eyes, said a restaurateur quoted in a November Agence France-Presse dispatch from Voss, Norway, since they are the most-used muscles in the face: "(Eye) just melts on the tongue." A visiting Englishman, served eyes, lips, tongue and ears, remarked that it is "a bit of a visual challenge, but the meat is very good."

-- Recent News About the Scottish Meal That Melts on the Tongue: In September in Bethlehem, Pa., the annual haggis-eating contest was won by Darren Lucey of Brooklyn, N.Y. (1-1/2 pounds in 2 minutes), but the only female entrant, slow-eating Joanne Shaver, said she competed only to get the free haggis, which she loves. (Haggis is sheep stomach stuffed with tongue, heart, liver, oats and onions, best served at the enticing color of gray.)

Latest Religious Messages

-- In January, an Anglican church vicar in Cambridge, England, commenced twice-monthly services for goths (with black garments and rock music) at his St. Edward King and Martyr church. Vicar Martin Ramshaw, 34, said he is a goth himself and reports that his dozen or so worshippers go straight from services to a goth nightclub. (He will soon issue goth T-shirts with Jesus speaking, "If the world hates you, remember, it hated me first.") And in Waco, Texas, in January, in another congregation-building move, Catholic Monsignor Isidore Rozycki, attending a gala opening, blessed the city's new Hooters restaurant.

-- Evangelical Christian minister Rob Schenck and two colleagues entered a U.S. Senate hearing room the day before the January confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and daubed each seat with "holy oil" to bless the proceedings, saying that things had gone well when they had done the same thing for Chief Justice Roberts' hearings. "God ... is interested in what goes on" there, Rev. Schenck told a Wall Street Journal reporter.

Questionable Judgments

-- Illinois Sentencing Guidelines: (1) Judges in Springfield, Ill., twice failed to order jail time in November for Jason Holman, 27, for the two latest of his 185 traffic tickets, opting merely for what amounted to probation. (2) After a Jacksonville, Ill., judge, in September, gave Oscar Cushionberry, 49, three years in jail for a probation violation, the prosecutor praised the judge for finally sending Cushionberry "a message that, at some point in time, you run out of options," that one only gets "so many chances at probation." In the past 10 years, Cushionberry has 93 arrests and 29 convictions (including some felonies).

-- The University of Florida announced in January it would provide health care and other benefits to domestic partners of their employees, provided the employee certifies that the pair are having sex (specifically, having a "non-platonic" relationship). A University human resources official said such a pledge is "increasingly standard" in domestic-partner programs, even though married couples are not required to certify that they actually have sex.


(1) Hunter Raybon E. Upton was tracked down and rescued by his worried wife near Mount Holly, Ark., in December, after he spent almost nine hours hanging upside down from branches following his entanglement in his tree stand. He was hospitalized with hypothermia and required surgery. (2) A fire rescue officer had to pull Australian Robin Toom, 38, out of a commercial washing machine in Townsville, Queensland, in January after he got stuck while playing hide-and-seek with his kids.

The District of Calamity

(1) In a Washington, D.C., pedestrian tragedy in December, prominent urban designer Charles Atherton, 73, was fatally struck down by a driver, but then when paramedics arrived, they discovered that D.C. police had already been there and had issued Atherton a $5 jaywalking ticket. (2) In December, a special committee of the D.C. Council, seeking to move the annual Martin Luther King Day parade from January to a warmer date, chose "April 1." (Committee members later said they never realized that that was April Fool's Day.) (3) The Washington Post found in December that the D.C. medical examiner's backlog of autopsies stood at 1,038, including 84 homicides more than a year old.

Least Competent Criminals

Techno Wizards: (1) Boris Alvarado, 31, was arrested in September and charged with violating his Texas probation for a 2004 conviction for soliciting an underage girl online for sex. Alvarado made it easy for investigators because he was still using the same screen name he had used in 2004. (2) Ten people were arrested on counterfeiting charges in Phoenix in November, helped along when two of them brought a computer printer to a shop for repair, and technicians found it clogged with counterfeit money. [Press release of Attorney General of Texas, 9-20-05] [Arizona Republic, 11-15-05]

Update on Fetishes

(1) The bestiality count News of the Weird reported in October against mortgage broker Brendan McMahon in Sydney, Australia, was dropped in November, but McMahon is still charged with abusing rabbits in other ways. A court psychiatrist said McMahon probably genuinely believed he was helping the rabbits. (2) Former Oklahoma district judge Donald Thompson was finally scheduled for arraignment in January, 12 months after he was charged with indecency for allegedly using a noisy masturbation aid under his robes during trials and other court business. An additional count was recently filed based on a court reporter's statement that she saw him shaving his pubic hair during a trial.

The Only Way Out

Twice recently came news reports of people attempting suicide by sticking their heads in toilets: a 23-year-old woman being held in Chicago for three murders and using her cell's toilet (unsuccessful), and a man being held on a murder charge in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in December (successful, in that his head lodged in the toilet during flushing). And in Belmont, N.H., in January, a suicidal man was successful with his elaborate, homemade guillotine, although the blade merely left a gash in his neck, causing him to slowly bleed to death. (He also had wired fire bombs to burn down the house as he died, but he apparently forgot to flip the electrical trigger before the guillotine came down.)

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