News of the Weird

Week of February 20, 2011



The ear has a "G-spot," explained the Santa Clara, Calif., ear-nose-and-throat surgeon, and thus the moans of ecstasy that Vietnamese "ear pickers" reportedly elicit from their clients might well be justified. A San Jose Mercury News reporter, dispatched to Ho Chi Minh City in January to check it out, learned that barber shop technicians could sometimes coax "eargasms" (as they removed wax) by tickling a certain spot next to the ear drum served by multiple nerve endings and paper-thin skin. Said one female client, "Everybody is afraid the first time, but after, it's, 'Oh my God!'" Said one Vietnamese man, returning home after a trip abroad, and who went immediately from the airport to a "hot toc" parlor for a picking, "(This) brings a lot of happiness."

The Continuing Crisis

-- Two San Francisco-area counselors recently formed Men of Tears -- a male support group to encourage crying, according to a January San Francisco Chronicle reporter, who observed as nine men recounted touching events in their lives, accompanied by tears that, according to the counselors, make them emotionally stronger and less hostile. One of the counselors praised the recent public cries by Speaker of the House John Boehner and hoped that President Obama (who stopped just short of tears at the memorial service for victims of the recent Tucson, Ariz., shootings) would someday step over that line.

-- Disabled wheelchair user Jim Starr, 36, of Dorchester, England, was recently ordered off of public roads because his "chair" is too big. Authorities told him that his custom-made, motorized chair with caterpillar treads instead of wheels, which moves like a tank, would have to be licensed like one ("Category H" vehicle, one category higher than a "road roller"). Starr said his chair was the only way he could play at the beach with his kids.

-- Beloved Banker: (1) In December, J.P. Morgan Chase abruptly ended a program that had allowed military personnel to defer paying on Chase-owned student loans while on active duty. (2) Three weeks later, NBC News reported that Chase's mortgage division had long been ignoring a federal military protection law by charging 4,000 active-duty personnel higher mortgage-interest rates than permitted (and improperly foreclosing on 14 of them). (3) That same week, Chase was found to be advertising (through an agent) a foreclosed-on, 5-year-old house in Rexburg, Idaho, without adequate notice that it was infested with "thousands" of garter snakes. (In February, Chase reinstated the student-loan deferments and apologized for ignoring the federal law.)


-- Three men visiting Philadelphia in December were charged with a several-store robbery spree, and perhaps luckily for them, they were quickly arrested. The police report noted that one of the victims (who had a gun waved in her face) was Terri Staino, 38, the owner of John Anthony Hair Styling for Men, who is also the husband of Anthony Staino -- reputed to be the No. 2 man in the South Philadelphia mob, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

-- Alex Good, 15, practicing tee shots with his high school golf team on a rainy day underneath a golf course awning, had one of his drives hit the metal pole holding the awning up, causing the ball to ricochet into his eye, resulting in likely permanent damage. Despite the fact that the pole was directly in front of the tee, inches away, Good nonetheless charged the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Hillsboro, Ore.) with negligence and filed a $3 million lawsuit in January.

-- How Not to Do a Laser Bronchoscopy: First, according to a case written up in December in the Massachusetts Medical Law Report, do not let the laser set fire to the patient's throat. More importantly, if a spark does ignite, do not use the everyday home remedy for a small flame, i.e., try to blow it out -- because blowing down the "trach" tube might actually extend the fire, as it did here. (The surgeon and hospital were not named; the lawsuit resulting from the patient's death was settled out of court.)

Bright Ideas

-- Edward Hall III, 24, a Columbia University researcher, was arrested in January for trespassing at JFK airport in New York City after he disobeyed United Airlines personnel and tried an alternative method to board a plane. He told ticket agents he badly needed to be on the flight to San Francisco even though he had forgotten to bring a photo ID. Frustrated, Hall stepped behind the counter and crawled onto the luggage conveyor, where his next stop, minutes later, was the tarmac where bags were being loaded and where he was arrested.

-- A suburban Chicago high school health-class instructor's technique for teaching the names of female reproductive parts caught the ire of the Illinois Family Institute religious organization in January. To some of the kids, teacher Jacqulyn Levin's "game" was nothing more than a mnemonic to facilitate memorizing the anatomy, but others told the institute that Levin's play on words was chantable, could be set to the tune of the "Hokey Pokey," and was referred to by several students as "the vagina dance." Said a complaining parent, "It is disrespectful to women and removes modesty about the reproductive parts."

Least Competent Criminals

-- Failed to Think It Through: (1) Kyle Eckman, 22, was charged with theft in Lancaster, Pa., in November after he was stopped leaving a Kohl's department store, mostly still in his own clothes but also wearing the pair of Elle high-heel shoes he was allegedly trying to shoplift. (2) Jimmy Honeycutt, 27, was arrested in Pawtucket, R.I., in October and charged with five recent robberies of liquor stores. Among the items found on Honeycutt was a telephone directory listing of liquor stores, with the ones recently robbed marked off.

-- Recurring Themes: (1) At a traffic stop, once again a passenger climbed into the driver's seat as the officer approached, trying to save a drug-impaired driver from a citation. However, once again it turned out that the passenger was just as drug-impaired as the driver, and both were cited (Gastonia, N.C., December). (2) Once again a woman tried to conceal drugs by stuffing them down her pants into her most private area, and once again, when police found them, the woman immediately denied that the pills were hers (Manatee, Fla., December).

Undignified Deaths

(1) A 26-year-old man died in Chattanooga, Tenn., in January after being accidentally bitten by a copperhead snake. According to police, a friend had caught the snake and taken it to the man's house because, for some reason, he wanted the man to ascertain the snake's gender. (2) A 21-year-old man was stabbed to death at a party in Bristol, Conn., in January (and three others wounded), apparently because they had been making derisive comments about another man's flatulence. The allegedly gaseous Marc Higgins, 21, was charged with the crimes.

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2008)

Irish director-playwright Paul Walker's production of "Ladies & Gents" opened for a March (2008) run in New York City 29 blocks north of Broadway, in a public restroom. According to an Associated Press report, the entire play takes place among the porcelain in a bathroom in Central Park, portraying "the seedy underside of 1950s Dublin," with the audience of 25 standing beside rows of stalls, near "spiders, foul odors and puddles of questionable origin." Walker proudly admits that he wanted to take his audience "out of their comfort zone." Actor John O'Callaghan recalled that rehearsals were especially difficult: "One man actually came in and had a pee right in front of us."

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