News of the Weird

Week of June 20, 2010


-- Catholic Youth Organization coach Michael Kman, 45, was charged in May with various misdemeanors regarding an alleged attempt over a several-month period to fix kids' basketball games for Kman's Our Lady of Lourdes church team in East Pennsboro Township, Pa. According to police, Kman sent multiple text messages to referees Jay and Jon Leader, offering them as much as $2,500 if certain games reached the "right outcome." The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg has suspended Kman from coaching. In Kman's day job, he is a financial consultant.

Cultural Diversity

-- In May, Britain's Norfolk District Council banned the traditional barroom game of "dwile flonking" just as the inaugural "world championships" were to take place at the Dog Inn pub in Ludham, Great Yarmouth. The game, which some believe has been played since "medieval times," calls on players to fling a beer-soaked rag from the end of a small stick toward the face of an opponent, and in the event the tosser misses the target two straight times, he must quickly down a half-pint of ale. The council called the game a "health and safety" problem.

-- Among the unique dining experiences of the Beijing Zoo is the ability of patrons to view an exhibit of frolicking hippopotamuses and then step into the zoo's restaurant and dine on such dishes as toe of hippopotamus. Also available: kangaroo tail, deer penis, ant soup and other delectables. Animal welfare activists condemned the dining experience, according to a dispatch in London's Guardian.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Virginia state inmate Kendall Gibson, who is serving 47 years for abduction and robbery committed at age 18, has spent the last 10 years in the prison's "hole," 23 hours a day in a cell "the size of a gas station restroom" (wrote an Associated Press reporter), not because he's a danger to the prison population, but because he won't cut his hair. Gibson is a Rastafarian and says his dreadlocks are devoutly authorized by the spiritual Lord, Jah. (A 1999 Virginia prison regulation requires administrative segregation for long-hairs.)

-- In May, in a news reverberation heard around the Arab world from the city of Al-Mubarraz, Saudi Arabia, as a "policeman" from the notorious Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice approached a young couple in public to demand the woman's ID, the woman beat up the cop. Charges are pending against her, but women's rights activists across the Muslim world are reporting the incident as a watershed moment, according to the Media Line (Middle East) news agency.

-- Nelson Derbigney's second wife, Laura, is a Hispanic Catholic, but the first wife has a court order that Nelson's and her joint-custody son from that first marriage will be raised as an Orthodox Jew like his mother. That means that stepmother Laura must learn to create a strict kosher lifestyle when the son stays with his dad. (Said Laura's lawyer, of the logical extension of the court order, if one substituted "fundamental Islam" for "Orthodox Judaism," Catholic Laura might have to wear a burqa in public.)

Questionable Judgments

-- Standing firm under severe local criticism, John Chianelli (the chief mental-health administrator of Milwaukee County, Wis.) has begun housing aggressive males and vulnerable females together in the same unit. Chianelli defended his decision with research showing that, in similar facilities, female patients provided a civilizing influence that reduced males' propensities to violence -- at least males' violence against other males.

-- Bucket Lists: (1) Patricia Edwards, 51, was arrested in Sanford, Fla., in March after being identified as the woman who walked into a Bank of America branch, handed over a robbery note and walked out with money. After being quickly nabbed, she explained: "There was no plan, no nothing, just impulse. I think everyone should have a list of things they want to do before they (die)." (2) Still stuck on the Bucket List (until recently) of great-grandmother Rosemary Douglas was her regret that, at 81, she had still never collected child support payments for her son, who is now 60, from the "boy's" father, Urban Joseph Grass, now 82. In a Los Angeles court filing in April, she claimed $50 per month from the date of the 1951 court order (totaling, including interest, $57,000).

-- "A Brave Man's Solution to Baldness" (read an April Toronto Star headline): Philip Levine, 28, working with artist Kat Sinclair, initially solved the problem of his "boring" shaved head by having her paint original murals on his dome, with the result that he became a star in the London (England) club scene. Since then, Levine has upgraded -- to painstakingly laying jewelry designs on his bald head, employing hundreds of thumbtack-sized Swarovski crystals to create a "swooping, shimmery, rockabilly" dome that dazzles in the light. The crystals shed after about a day, creating the opportunity for more designs.

Fine Points of the Law

(1) Scottish TV personality Drew McAdam, a professional body-language reader who advises the "Five's Trisha" talk show on whether guests with fabulous stories are telling the truth or not, was rejected for jury duty in May after being called by the Livingston Sheriff Court. (Obviously, at least one of the lawyers thought his side would have a better chance without an "expert" lie-detector evaluating witnesses.) (2) Restaurateur Ted Bulthaup told WRTV in Indianapolis in May that he had finally convinced the Internal Revenue Service of a rare, "five-figure" income tax reduction based on years of unusual "disaster" losses. Bulthaup proved to the IRS that he was making good money until Conseco Fieldhouse was built in his downtown neighborhood (occupied 40 nights a year by the mediocre Indiana Pacers NBA team), which caused his business to fall off sharply.

People With Issues

Walter "Butch" Rubincan, 46, was charged in February in Newark, Del., as being a serial thief with perhaps a 20-year habit, specializing in men's shoes. When not out taking things, Rubincan (who "kept to himself," according to neighbors) is a medical technologist at two local hospitals, a part-time actor, and a one-time championship figure-skater. When police investigators first visited Rubincan's home, they discovered 3,900 shoes in about 150 boxes and bags (along with a few more upscale items and stolen photographs of young men), and Rubincan finally admitted he needed help.

Thinning the Herd

Their Getaways Hit a Dead End: (1) Noah Comer, 39, crashed his motorcycle and was killed as he tried to flee sheriff's deputies in San Diego in January after allegedly stealing a pack of cigarettes from the AM/PM minimart. (2) Gordon Wright, 58, and two associates were killed in January going the wrong way on Interstate 94 in a Detroit suburb after allegedly stealing $45 worth of Axe beauty products from a CVS store. (Police said they were not pursuing Wright but that he was merely in a hurry to get away.)

A News of the Weird Classic (May 1998)

British mechanical engineer John Tyrer told an audience at the annual meeting of the Institute of Physics in Brighton, England, in March (1998) that he and his colleagues were using lasers to design a more comfortable bra. "A breast imposes various load distributions ... and vibrational problems as the woman walks," he said, and he criticized the "strap design" that "transmits the load to the wrong places." According to Tyrer, the technology, "Electron Speckle Pattern Interfermometry," analyzes the way a three-dimensional surface (like a bra) changes when a force is applied to it.

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