News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF APRIL 22, 2012

LEAD STORY -- A Continental Cuisine, With Sliders

Fast-Food Culture Shock: Since December, the White Castle restaurant in Lafayette, Ind., has provided diners with a stylish experience that includes table service and a wine selection to go with its iconic "slider" hamburgers. A state wine industry expert told The Wall Street Journal in February, after a tasting, that she would recommend the Merlot, although the Moscato was "fun" and the Chardonnay passable (though all wines come in $4.50, screw-off-top bottles and is served in clear plastic glasses). (As for the sliders, said the wine expert, eyeing the burgers on her plate, "At some point, that was a cow, I guess.") [Wall Street Journal, 2-22-2012]

Leading Economic Indicators

-- When workers at the Carlsberg Beer plant in Vilnius, Lithuania, decided to walk out over poor pay and conditions, the company went to court to block them, and in March, a judge ruled for the company, temporarily halting a strike as not in the national interest because Carlsberg Beer is "vitally essential," thus placing the brew in the same legal category as medical supplies. (Said a British labor union official, "This is probably the most ridiculous decision in the world.") [Daily Telegraph, 3-5-2012] 

-- Recurring Theme: In March, a new peak was reached in New York City's ongoing search for the most preposterously underpriced (because of rent control) apartment in the city. The Gothamist website identified a one-bedroom apartment at 5 Spring Street in Manhattan's SoHo district renting for $55 a month even though, according to a real estate agent, it should be drawing $2,500. The tenant's parents moved in upon immigrating from Italy in the 1940s, and since the tenant, now in his 70s, has a much younger wife, the apartment could remain under rent control for decades. (New York City rent controls were imposed to meet an "emergency" in housing during World War II, but the law gets routinely renewed.) [Gothamist, 3-18-2012]

Trail-Blazing Science

The Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia recently won a $36,000 grant to study the genetic basis of Trimethylaminuria, otherwise known as the disorder that causes sufferers to smell like dead fish. The first case reported in medical literature was in the 1970s, but according to a Science News report, "an ancient Hindu tale describes a maiden who 'grew to be comely and fair, but a fishy odor ever clung to her.'" [ABC News via WLS Radio (Chicago), 3-6-2012; Science News, 3-15-1999]

Animal Tales

-- Eight to Go: (1) After the year-old house cat Sugar survived a 19-floor fall at a Boston high-rise in March, an Animal Rescue League official explained to MSNBC that extra fur where the legs attach to the body enables cats to "glide" and partially "control" their landing. Research suggests that steep falls are thus easier to survive, as cats have time to spread themselves out. (2) The 5-year-old cat Demi survived a 40-minute tumble-dry (temperature up to 104 F) in Whitchurch, England, in March (although she needed oxygen, fluids and steroids to recover). Jennifer Parker, 45, had tossed a load of clothes in, unaware that Demi was in the pile. [Time, 3-22- 2012] [The Sun, 3-21-2012]

-- Something Else to Worry About: A computer science professor working with the Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary in Des Moines, Iowa, has developed a bonobo robot that can be controlled by live bonobos. Among the first applications of the robot, said Dr. Ken Schweller in March, is a water cannon that bonobos will be taught to operate via an iPad app in order to "play chase games" with each other -- "or to squirt guests." [IEEE Spectrum (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), 3-29-2012]

-- In January, Kentucky state Sen. Katie Stine, presiding over a ceremony in the state capitol honoring the Newport Aquarium, posed with aquarium officials and with Paula, a blackfooted penguin brought in for the warm-and-cuddly photo opportunity. It fell to Senate President David Williams to gently interrupt Stine's speech and inform her that Paula was in the process of soiling the floor of the august chamber. [Herald-Leader (Lexington), 1-24- 2012]

The Continuing Crisis

Drive-By Etiquette: In February, Kendall Reid, 36, was extradited from New Jersey back to LaPlace, La., where he had been sought for allegedly shooting at a car on Interstate 10 on Christmas Eve. According to police, Reid failed to hit the car he was aiming at, instead inadvertently shooting out the back window of a car in which two women were riding. However, as the damaged car stopped on the side of the road, Reid pulled his Corvette over, too, walked up to the women, and apologized ("Sorry, wrong car") -- before resuming his pursuit of his intended target. [Times-Picayune, 2-13-2012]

The Redneck Chronicles

(1) A 41-year-old man was treated with antivenom at the USA Medical Center in Mobile, Ala., in March after he was bitten by a cottonmouth. The man had seen the snake at an encampment, beaten it to death with a stick and decapitated it. At that point, according to the man's friend, he for some reason started to "play with" the head. (The dead snake's teeth still contained venom.) (2) James Davis of Stevenson, Ala., vowed in April that he would forever resist a judge's order that he dig up his late wife's body from his front yard and rebury it in a cemetery. "I'm in it for the long haul," he said, promising to wait out the authorities. "I don't have much to do but sit around (and) think about what's going on." [WALA-TV (Mobile), 3-28-2012] [WAFF-TV (Huntsville, Ala.), 4-2-2012]

Least Competent Criminals

Thought of Almost Everything: Mishelle Salzgeber, 20, was arrested in March in New Port Richey, Fla., after failing a drug test, which was a condition of her probation for an undisclosed crime. Apparently, Salzgeber knew that she would probably fail on her own and had gone to the trouble of inserting a small tube of someone else's urine into her vagina. Unfortunately for her, a pre-test body-scan revealed the tube. (Besides, authorities tested the urine in the tube and found that it also failed.) [WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg), 3-20-2012]


Bill Dillon, released from a Florida prison in 2009 after 27 years' wrongful incarceration, received a public apology in March from Gov. Rick Scott (and will get $50,000 from the state for each year of lockup). Dillon is one of the first inmates to have received justice among as many as an estimated 60 who were convicted with the help of the now-deceased dog trainer John Preston, whose supposedly heroic-nosed German shepherds could somehow track smells through water and pick out lone scents among highly contaminated crime scenes -- thus magically confirming speculative parts of prosecutors' cases when no other evidence was available. Pushover judges allowed Preston a free hand until one thought to subject the dog to a simple courtroom smell test, which the dog totally failed. Though satisfied with his own outcome, Dillon begged authorities to open other cases involving Preston's dogs. [Orlando Sentinel, 3-3-2012]

The Weirdo-American Community

In March, authorities in Davis, Okla., after viewing surveillance video, charged Jimmy "Hawkeye" Jeter, 77, with a "detestable and abominable crime against nature" for "violating" a show pig at a barn on the property of the local school system. According to a KFOR-TV report, Jeter told investigators (in farm language, apparently) that he "poured corn out to hold the gilt still" and then "stuck my finger up her private." Nonetheless, he assured them that he was "not trying to poison the gilt" and that he had done this "in the early '70s." Later, he acknowledged that he was acting for sexual gratification. [KFOR-TV, 3-9-2012]

Thanks This Week to Josh Levin and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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