News of the Weird

Week of April 25, 2010


Computer hardware engineer Toshio Yamamoto, 49, this year celebrates 15 years' work tasting and cataloguing all the Japanese ramen (instant noodles) he can get his hands on (including the full ingredients list, texture, flavor, price and "star" rating for each), for the massive 4,300-ramen database on his Web site, expanded recently with "hundreds" of video reviews and with re-reviews of many previously appearing products (in case the taste had changed, he told journalist Lisa Katayama, writing in April on the popular blog Boing Boing). Yamamoto said he had always eaten ramen for breakfast seven days a week, but cut back recently to five. "I feared that, if I continued at (the seven-day) pace, I would get bored."

Compelling Explanations

-- In January the California Historical Resources Commission formally claimed, on behalf of the state, about 100 items of property on the surface of the moon having been left behind during the 1969 Apollo 11 landing (since California companies were instrumental in that mission and since only the moon surface itself is off limits to ownership claims under international law). Among the items declared are tools, a flag, bags of food and bags of human waste left by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

-- Nicolas Damato, 20, filed a lawsuit in March against Media, Pa., police officer Matthew Bellucci for false arrest after a 2008 traffic stop. Bellucci claimed Damato threatened bodily harm (but a judge later dismissed the charge). Damato acknowledged sending two letters to Bellucci's home, one of which said in part, "God is just, and you will be punished. F you! You are an a------! A f------ a-- ----!" (as the words were represented in the Philadelphia Daily News story). Damato said it was not a threat but that he was merely expressing a "religious" opinion.

-- Louis Woodcock, 23, testified at his Toronto trial in March that he was not involved in the 2005 shooting of a woman, despite being seen on surveillance video approaching the woman and holding his hand inside his jacket until gunshots rang out. He said he often kept his hand inside his jacket to keep from sucking his thumb, which is a habit he picked up in childhood and which did not go over well on the street. (The jury, apparently not seeing him as the thumb-sucking type, convicted him of manslaughter.)

-- In February, Jesse McCabe, 29, was spared jail time (probation and community service only) for his conviction in connection with a missing $18,000 in bank deposits he was to have made for his employer in New Port Richey, Fla. Police discovered 13 deposits, from a six-week period, in McCabe's home, but all the money was recovered, and McCabe persuaded the judge that he just hadn't been able to make it to the bank yet.


-- Karen Salmansohn, 49, prominent author of self-help books for women with relationship and career problems, including "Prince Harming Syndrome" and "How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Successful Dog Trainers," filed a lawsuit in March against cad Mitchell Leff. Salmansohn said Leff had strung her along for months with promises of marriage and a baby, but abruptly cut off support when she became pregnant. Said Salmansohn, "I'm a self-help author, not a psychic."

-- Former baseball star Lenny "Nails" Dykstra recently started accepting clients for his investment advice service, charging $999 a year, according to a March Wall Street Journal report. His Web site discloses that while Dykstra is "NOT" (his emphasis) a "registered" financial adviser, his "proven track record has caught the attention of many." (Dykstra filed for bankruptcy in July 2009 to stave off more than 20 lawsuits against him for entrepreneurial ventures gone bad, and in November, the bankruptcy judge denied him the right to reorganize his debts, converting his case to a chapter 7 liquidation.)

-- In March, Monica Conyers, pleading insufficient funds, was granted a court-appointed lawyer to appeal her bribery conviction stemming from her work as a city councilwoman in Detroit. Conyers is the wife of John Conyers, the Michigan congressman who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. (Mrs. Conyers arrived in court on the day of her sentencing clutching what reporters said appeared to be a Louis Vuitton handbag that sells for $1,000.)

Government Health Care Follies

-- Britain's National Health Service in Warwickshire recently assigned Mavis Eldridge to receive care at the Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham for the age-related macular degeneration she is suffering in her left eye. The decision was puzzling to Eldridge and her doctors because her right eye is already being treated for the same disorder at University Hospital in Coventry, 20 miles away. University officials said they were booked up.

-- Paula Oertel, on Medicare, has a brain tumor that had miraculously been in remission for nine years thanks to a type of interferon approved for multiple sclerosis but not for cancer. Medicare had been paying about $100,000 a year for the drug, but when Oertel relocated from one county in Wisconsin to another, 30 miles away, it triggered an automatic, full-scale review of her records, at which point officials realized that her drug was unauthorized and stopped paying. According to a March Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, her doctors scrambled to find a drug on the "approved" list, but discovered neither a less expensive one nor one nearly as effective, and Oertel's tumor has returned.

Sexual Confusion

(1) A February New York Times/CBS News poll, asking respondents if they approve of gays serving openly in the military, found that 79 percent of self-identified Democrats approve if openly serving gays are referred to in the question as "gay men and lesbians." However, when the openly serving gays are referred to in the question as "homosexuals," only 43 percent of self-identified Democrats approve. (2) In March, the government of New South Wales in Australia granted "Norrie" a certificate as the state's (perhaps the country's, perhaps the world's) only official genderless person. Norrie prefers to live that way, and two doctors had certified that the former male is now "physically and psychologically androgynous."

Creme de la Weird

What stunned officials in Polson, Mont., the most wasn't that Brent Wilson, 53, was charged in March with attempting to illegally acquire ownership of someone else's house. It was that Wilson had attempted to register the title as property located on the "third planet from the sun" and as a conveyance from God, in a transaction that has yet to take place (scheduled for the year 6010). Authorities believe Wilson might have fallen for the elaborate teachings of a scammer who conducts seminars on outsmarting the law governing foreclosures. Wilson was also charged with breaking into the house illegally and changing the locks. Said the recording supervisor of Gallatin County, "I can't explain why people do what they do."

A News of the Weird Classic (November 2003)

In October 2003, West Point, Ky., hosted 12,000 visitors for the weekend Knob Creek Gun Range Machine Gun Shoot, billed as the nation's largest, with a separate competition for flame-throwers. Especially coveted is "The Line," where 60 people (the waiting list is 10 years long to be admitted) get to fire their machine guns into a field of cars and boats, and during which a shooter might run through $10,000 in ammunition. Among the champions: Samantha Sawyer, 16, the top women's submachine gunner for the previous four years. One man interviewed by the Louisville Courier-Journal said he met his future wife at a previous Shoot, impressed that "she could accept flame-throwing as a hobby." Said another: "This is one of those times when you know (America) is the greatest place on Earth."

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