News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MARCH 15, 2009


In January 2008, London's The Sun found a practitioner of a new art form in which a design is inked, with a tattoo needle, into the sclera, which is the white part of the eyeball. That volunteer (from Canada) may well be the only daredevil, or one of a tiny number, but Oklahoma state senators were alarmed enough that they passed legislation out of committee in February to ban the practice in their state. "If we can stop ... one person from doing it, we've been successful," said Sen. Cliff Branan. An Oklahoma City tattoo artist told KSBI-TV that the law is useless, in that "common sense" will prevent the problem. (So far, only the senators from Oklahoma seem to believe they have constituents who might actually ask for ink to be inserted into their eyeballs.)

Cultural Diversity

-- A member of the Singapore Parliament, Loo Choon Yong, attracted worldwide attention in February when he proposed that his already legendarily hard-working countrymen add Saturdays as a workday, to improve productivity to cover for a declining birthrate. "We should accept that, as a people, our procreation talent is not our forte," he said, and move from a five-day workweek to six.

-- A state-of-the-judiciary report in February by Chief Justice AP Shah of the High Court in Delhi, India, estimated that the backlog of cases in the country's notoriously sluggish legal system would take up to "466 years" to clear. Shah acknowledged that progress had been made since 2007, with 56,000 cases cleared, at an average time of five minutes per case, but that systemic problems remained, among them corruption, the complexity of laws and the low quality of judicial personnel. (One property case from the 1950s was not resolved until the mid-1990s.)

-- In February, at the 500th annual celebration of the Buddhist Saidaiji Eyo festival (reputed to be one of Japan's three "oddest"), about 9,000 men dressed only in loincloths tussled over two pieces of sacred wood that were thrown into what the Kyodo news service called a "writhing throng" of men at a temple in Okayama. Those who somehow emerged with the 8-inch-long planks will supposedly have good luck this year.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Pastor Bob Book of the Church of the Common Ground in Atlanta and his wife scrub the feet of three dozen homeless men every Monday, based on the concept of Jesus washing his disciples' feet, with such pedicures including a soak, pumice-rubbing, nail-trimming and massage, topped off by a clean pair of socks. Book says his crusade makes the down-and-out feel more confident, and the "worst ongoing" threat, according to him, is not Satan in men's minds but fungus in their toes. "It eats away and destroys the toenails and just makes it very hard for people to walk."

-- The Vatican said in January that Pope Benedict XVI would soon issue guidelines to help Catholics understand which "sightings" of the Virgin Mary and Jesus are legitimate and which are phony (such as "apparitions" that seem to have been created for quick sale on eBay). When a claim occurs, the local bishop will be expected to convene a panel of theologians, mental-health people and priests who will investigate (and, if the sighting is demonic, summon an exorcist). (A 2003 Vatican paper noted that only 11 of the 295 reported apparitions during the 20th century were "genuine.")

Questionable Judgments

-- In January, Prince William County, Va., supervisors told Robert Bird, the longtime chief of the volunteer firehouse in Gainesville, that it would be shut down if Bird and his wife and 19-year-old daughter didn't move out. They had taken up residence upstairs from the truck decades ago (a Washington Post reporter was not able to track down exactly when) and built a customized kitchen for themselves with room for 16 guests, a weight room, and a large family room with a 50-inch TV set. Said the chairman of the supervisors, "There is a difference between sleeping in the station and living in the station."

-- "This adds an extra dimension people will appreciate," said Hobart, Australia, mayor Rob Valentine in December, announcing that at the annual Taste Festival later that month, performance artists would entertain in the restrooms. According to Valentine, the performers would also supply soap and towels and would "recite (a) favorite poem, or tell ... a story" while concert-goers "used the facilities."

-- The Giza Zoo (the largest in Cairo, Egypt) is a broken-down version of its former greatness due to poor management, failed international inspections, animal sickness and attrition, and a deteriorating neighborhood, and among the problems now, according to a February Global Post dispatch, is that employees supplement their tiny wages with $2 bribes from visitors who want to fraternize with the animals. "(P)osing with elephants" and "feeding seals" are big attractions, but so are visitors' roaming the cages, "holding lion cubs" and "hugging bears."

The Classic Middle Name (all-new!)

Arrested Recently and Awaiting Trial for Murder: Kevin Wayne Dunlap, Hopkinsville, Ky., October; Richard Wayne Smith, Marietta, Ga., January; Joshua Wayne Cubbage, St. Helens, Ore., February; Timothy Wayne Murray, Slidell, La., convicted on a 2005 cocaine possession charge in March 2009 while awaiting trial for a 2006 murder. Indicted for Murder: Arnold Wayne McCartney, Lewis County, W.Va., March; Arthur Wayne Blood, Pendleton, Ore., March. Convicted of Murder: Michael Wayne Charles, Beaumont, Texas, October; John Wayne Graves Jr., Lancaster, Pa., November; Michael Wayne Sherrill, Charlotte, N.C., February; Douglas Wayne Hall II, Richmond, Ky., February. Sentenced for Murder: Charles Wayne Warden, Brownsville, Texas, January. Murder Conviction Upheld on Appeal: Thomas Wayne Weaver, Gastonia, N.C., February. Executed for Murder: Kenneth Wayne Morris, Huntsville, Texas, March. Died in Prison Awaiting Retrial for Murder: Michael Wayne Jennings, Martinez, Calif., convicted of murder in 1984 but granted a retrial in 2002.

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Matthew Peverada was arrested in Portland, Maine, in December and charged with attempting to rob Dipietro's Market. His first attempt, at about 4 p.m., was rebuffed, but he announced that he'd be back at 11 p.m., and that they'd better have some money for him. He returned, and police were waiting. (2) In Phoenix in January, Shawn Holden, 20, ran from his car rather than be detained at a traffic stop for running a red light, and officers pursued him on foot. As police were wandering around looking for Holden, a truck driver walked by, got into his truck, and drove off, running over the prostrate body of Holden, who had been hiding underneath. He was treated at a hospital and arrested.

Recurring Themes

The Economics of Class-Action Lawsuits: On Jan. 20, L'Oreal, Estee Lauder and seven other cosmetics companies offered one free item per customer ("for as long as supplies last") as penance for having allegedly conspired with department stores to fix prices in the 1990s and early 2000s (but did not admit to any wrongdoing). The total amount the companies agreed to spend on the settlement was $175 million, even though the benefit to any aggrieved customers was merely the price of one cosmetic item. However, lawyers who brought the case took home $24 million.

A News of the Weird Classic (January 1996)

From the Riley County police blotter in the Kansas State University newspaper, Sept. 2, 1995: At 1:33 p.m., disturbance involving Marcus Miles; at 2:14 p.m. (at a different address), "unwanted subject" (police jargon for acquaintance who wouldn't leave) in the home, Marcus Miles told to leave; at 4:08 p.m. (different address), Marcus Miles accused of harassment; at 6:10 p.m., "unwanted subject" call against Marcus Miles. Nov. 14: At 6:47 p.m., "unwanted subject" in the home, Marcus Miles told by officers to leave; at 7:36 p.m. (different address), "unwanted subject" call against Marcus Miles. Nov. 20: At 2:05 a.m. (different address), "unwanted subject" charge filed against Marcus Miles; at 2:55 a.m. (different address), disturbance involving Marcus Miles; at 3:07 a.m. (different address), "unwanted subject" charge filed against Marcus Miles; at 4:11 a.m. (different address), "unwanted subject" report made against Marcus Miles.

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