News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

Week of March 29, 2009


A 1970s-style San Francisco commune is organized around the practice of "orgasmic meditation," but for women only, in daily sessions that start promptly at 7 a.m. Men belong to the commune, too, but are useful only digitally to the women and must remain clothed, according to a March report in The New York Times. The founder of the One Taste Urban Retreat Center, Nicole Daedone, 41, is considered by some former members to be running a "cult," because of her dominant personality and ability to play on the vulnerabilities of her members, but the three dozen now in residence seem to admire her vision. One man said, according to the Times, that he had improved his own concentration at work (as a Silicon Valley engineer) through "the practice of manually fixing his attention on a tiny spot of a woman's body."

The Continuing Crisis

-- We Welcome Our New Monkey Overlords: Researchers recently revealed that they had observed monkeys (1) planning future combat and (2) perhaps teaching their young to floss. A researcher from Sweden's Lund University, writing in the journal Current Biology, described a daily ritual of a 30-year-old chimpanzee that loathes his human visitors at a zoo north of Stockholm and thus begins every morning by roaming his enclosure to collect stones and place them strategically in handy piles for subsequently hurling at irksome visitors. And a researcher at Kyoto University's Primate Research Center told Agence France-Presse in March that he had observed mother long-tailed macaques in Thailand flossing their teeth (with strands of human hair) more frequently if their young are present and hypothesized that they were teaching dental hygiene.

-- Questionable Pricing: (1) Yale University student Jesse Maiman, 21, filed a lawsuit against US Airways in March because someone stole the Xbox console from his luggage, for which he wants $1 million. (2) In January, after the New York City subway system barred the oversized "assistance dog" of Estelle Stamm, 65, she filed a lawsuit for $10 million. (3) In Lonnell Worthy's lawsuit against Bank of America, filed in November in California, Worthy values his now-ruined iPod playlist at $1 trillion.

-- After Elizabeth Russell, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter were arrested in February in Hartford, Conn., and charged with shoplifting from a Kohl's department store, her husband, Daryll, 47, and son, Jonathan, 19, arrived at the police station to bail them out. However, a quick check revealed that both Daryll and Jonathan had warrants against them for violating probation, and were arrested. Said a police lieutenant, "I don't ever recall having four related people in lockup at the same time."


-- In December, Idaho State University sent certified-mail letters to its adjunct faculty to disclose (as required by law) that some of them would soon be laid off. However, only the first-class mail fee was billed to the university, leaving each professor to pay on receipt the certified-mail surcharge in order to find out what the university would send them that was so important. (The Idaho State Journal reported that it was the Postal Service's error.)

-- Jailers Not Paying Attention: (1) Christian Colon, 21, had a plea deal worked out to testify against alleged murderer Joel Rivera in exchange for a lighter sentence, but suddenly decided in February that he would not take the stand. The change of heart came right after Colon was accidentally housed in the same Milwaukee County Jail holding cell with Rivera. (With no plea deal, Colon got 46 years.) (2) At least Colon is still alive. A 23-year-old inmate at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary was found beaten to death in March after being mistakenly assigned to the same cell as his ex-partner-in-crime, against whom he had testified in a 2002 murder trial.

Bright Ideas

-- At least four culinarily daring food emporiums in the U.S. serve deep-fried pizza, including the takeout Pizza Snobz in Wilson, Pa., though owner David Barker admits the specialty is more common in Scotland. The key point, he said, is to begin only with frozen pizza; otherwise, the cheese soon slides off into the fryer.

-- When a supporter of the animal-rights organization PETA contributed, for a fund-raising auction, a towel that had recently been used by actor George Clooney, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk had what she thought was a better idea: extracting Clooney's perspiration from it and using the sweat to flavor a tofu dish. "I can see people having parties to try CloFu," she said. (Clooney rejected the idea, according to a March Washington Post report.)

-- In February, Britain's Southwark Crown Court ordered so-called "countess" Eida Beguinua to give back the equivalent of $1.2 million to investors who had believed her story that she could recover treasures in the Philippines but needed money for expenses. Despite the setback, she told the judge that she was sticking with her story and begged him for more time to look for the "22 caves," protected by "10,000" guards, containing tons of jewelry and gold worth "300 followed by 41 zeros" (presumably in British pounds).

News That Sounds Like a Joke

(1) The venerable 17th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei was honored at a gallery in Florence, Italy, in February to mark the 400th anniversary of his transformative work, which was widely discredited at the time (as contradicting the Bible) and which subjected him to vicious slanders. The exhibit includes Galileo's only preserved body part: one of his middle fingers. (2) London's Royal Opera House announced in February that its next biennial original production will be a libretto based on the life of the late Anna Nicole Smith.

Semi-Clever Perverts

(1) The Court of Appeal in Brisbane, Australia, rejected in March the challenge of the man convicted last year for having sex with his underage stepdaughter but who had tried to protect himself by having her sign a "contract" of consent. (When arrested, the incredulous stepfather indignantly asked the police, "Did you not see the (expletive) contract?") (2) Schoolteacher Andrew Melville, 48, was sentenced in January in Scotland's Edinburgh Sheriff Court for possession of child pornography after the tribunal heard that Melville had initially sought to cover up word of his March 2008 arrest by buying up all copies of the newspapers in his hometown of Gullane.

Recurring Themes

Least Competent Criminals: (1) Alleged bank robber Feliks Goldshtein was arrested after a brief chase by police, who were summoned to National City Bank in Stow, Ohio, in January. Employees may have been tipped off because Goldshtein, wearing a ski mask, had waited patiently in a teller's line and only displayed a gun when he finally reached the counter. (2) Romeo Montillano, 40, who was being sought in the December robbery of a Kmart in Chula Vista, Calif., pleasantly surprised the cops when they learned that a "Romeo Montillano" had registered for the upcoming police officers' exam on Feb. 25. Indeed, he showed up, and he was arrested.

A News of the Weird Classic (October 1999)

From a May 1999 police report in The Messenger (Madisonville, Ky.), concerning two trucks being driven curiously on a rural road:

A man would drive a truck 100 yards, stop, walk back to a second truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the first truck, stop, walk back to the first truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the second truck, and so on, into the evening. He did it, he told police, because his brother was passed out drunk in one of the trucks, and he was trying to drive both trucks home, at more or less the same time. (Not surprisingly, a blood-alcohol test showed the driver, also, to be impaired.)

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