News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORY -- Outstanding in Their Fields

The recently concluded Olympics included a few of the more obscure athletic endeavors (such as dressage for horses and steeplechase for humans), but U.S. colleges compete in even less-heralded "sports," such as wood chopping, rock climbing, fishing and broomball. University of Alabama, 2015 national football champions, dominates also in the 280-school bass-fishing competition, and New York's Paul Smith College's 5,000-student campus raucously cheers its championship log-splitting team (against seven other schools). And Ohio State whipped another football powerhouse, Nebraska, in ice-based broomball. [Wall Street Journal, 8-22-2016]

Why? Because We Can, That's Why

-- We now have computer or cellphone apps to, for example, analyze the quality of one's tongue-kissing; alert you when your zipper is inadvertently down; make a refrigerator also be a stereo and photo album; notify you when you need to drink more water; check the male-female ratio at local bars so, if you're on the prowl, you can plan your evening efficiently; and reveal whether your partner has had someone else in bed while you were away (via differential contours of the mattress). And then, in August, the creators of the new "South Park" virtual reality game announced that they had figured out how to release a "fart" smell that is crucial to game-players when they put on the VR mask. [New York Times, 7-10-2016] [New York Post, 7-24-2016] [Daily Telegraph (London), 4-14-2016] [AdWeek, 8-26-2016]

-- Inexplicable: Pizza Hut announced in August that it had finally mastered the technology to turn its cardboard delivery boxes into customers' workable disk-jockey turntables and will make them available shortly in five stores in the United Kingdom. (Each box has two record decks, a cross-fader, pitch and cue controls, and the ability to rewind.) Music stars P Money and DJ Vectra are featured, and the boxes will sync via Bluetooth to phones and computers. [Daily Mirror (London), 8-23-2016]

Compelling Explanations

-- Lame: (1) Steven Scholz was sued for $255,000 in Oregon City, Oregon, in July after he allegedly fired on a family's house (15 gunshots) and traumatized their young son inside. Scholz explained that he thought the Biblical Rapture had just occurred and that he was the only survivor. (2) Aman Bhatia, 27, was charged with battery and lewd molestation in July after allegedly groping six women at Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon water park. Despite witnesses telling police that Bhatia was positioning himself for furtive groping, Bhatia claimed that his glasses were broken and thus he was not aware that women were in his path. [The Oregonian, 7-29-2016] [WKMG-TV (Orlando), 7-6-2016]

-- In July, Ryan Bundy (a leader of the Malheur federal land occupation protest in Oregon in January), exercising his philosophy as a "sovereign," wrote his judge that he rejects the federal court's jurisdiction over him in his upcoming trial, but that he would agree to co-operate -- provided the government pays him $1 million cash. Bundy (who signs court documents "i; ryan c., man") said for that sum, he would act as "defendant" -- or, as a bonus, if the judge prefers, as "bailiff," or even as "judge." (Bundy's lawyer, not surprisingly, is Bundy.) [KOIN-TV (Portland), 7-28-2016]


-- Recurring Theme: People with too much money have been reported over the years to have paid enormous sums for "prestigious" license plates, usually the lowest-numbered. In China, the number 8 is regarded as lucky, and a man identified only as "Liu" obtained Shanghai province's plate "88888" -- for which he paid the equivalent of $149,000. reported in June that "Lucky" Liu was forced into annoying traffic stops by police eight times the first day because officers were certain that the plate was bogus. [Shanghaiist, 6-29-2016]

-- Greenland's first "world-class tourist attraction," opening in 2020, offers visitors a "stunning view" of the rapidly melting ice sheets from the area's famous, 250,000-year-old Jakobshavn Glacier. The United Nations-protected site is promoting a "tourist" vista that some call "ground zero for climate change" -- and which others hope won't be completely melted by 2020. [Mother Nature Network, 7-12-2016]

Unclear on the Concept

-- Third-grade teacher Tracy Rosner filed a lawsuit against the county school board in Miami in July (claiming to be the victim of race and national origin discrimination) after being turned down for a job that required teaching Spanish -- because she doesn't speak Spanish. (Rosner said "non-Hispanics" like her are a minority among Miami schoolteachers and therefore that affirmative-action-style accommodations should have been made for her.) [Miami Herald, 7-25-2016]

-- An Idaho man took his pregnant daughter, 14, and the man who raped her, age 24, to Missouri last year to get married (because of that state's lenient marriage-age law) -- asserting that it is the rapist's "duty" to marry a girl he gets pregnant. The father now says he was wrong, but an Idaho judge nonetheless sentenced him to 120 days behind bars for endangering his daughter. (The rapist received a 15-year sentence, and the pregnancy ended in miscarriage.) [Idaho State Journal (Pocatello), 5-31-2016]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Tykables "baby store for adults" opened in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, recently and so far has outlasted attempts to shut it down (as being, allegedly, inappropriate for the community). Part of the business model is selling adult diapers for medical needs, but a major clientele is adults with a fetish to be treated like helpless babies -- with diapers, clothing, accessories and furniture (oversized high chairs, playpens and cribs). (Though the owner controls store access and has blocked out window views, critics are still uncomfortable explaining the store to their children.) [CBS News, 6-8-2016]

Recurring Themes

(1) Overenthusiastic Insurance Fraud: A 30-year-old woman, "LTN," has so far escaped prosecution in Hanoi, Vietnam -- because her insurance fraud caper already cost her a third, each, of her left hand and left foot. Those are the parts police said she paid a friend the equivalent of $2,000 to chop off to claim a $157,000 disability- policy payout, according to an August dispatch by Agence France-Presse. (2) Husband Who Needs to Believe: Police in Hartselle, Alabama, arrested Sarah Shepard for soliciting a hit man to kill her husband, Richard (after police set up an undercover sting, even working with Richard to stage his fake death to convince her that the job was completed). Now, Richard is trying to help Sarah. In August, he asked her judge to reduce her bail, certain that she had been "entrapped" because, for one thing, she could hardly manage a grocery list, much less a murder. [Agence France-Presse via The Guardian, 8-25-2016] [WAFF-TV (Huntsville, Ala.), 8-16-2016]

The Passing Parade

(1) A traffic officer in Guelph, Ontario, pulled over a 35-year-old motorist on July 11 traveling 67 mph (108 km/h) in a 45 mph zone -- at night on a stretch with no highway lights and no headlights on his vehicle. The stopped driver was given citations even though he pointed out that he was watching the road with a flashlight on his head, held in place by straps. (2) Twenty-three local-government bureaucrats in Boscotrecase, Italy, were disciplined in July after being caught shirking duties, including by falsifying the time clock. It was unclear whether the 23 included the two "mystery" workers photographed punching in for work while wearing cardboard boxes on their heads. [Guelph Today, 7-13-2016] [The Local (Rome), 7-12-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (November 2012)

James Davis, 73, was ordered by the town of Stevenson, Alabama, to dig up his wife's body from his front yard and re-bury it in an actual cemetery. The front yard, he pleaded, is where she wanted to be, and this way he can visit her every time he walks out the door. Davis, who is challenging the order (in 2012) at the Court of Appeals, said he feels singled out, since people in Stevenson "have raised pigs in their yard," have "horses in the road here" and "gravesites here all over the place." [Associated Press via Washington Post, 8-19-2012]


News of the Weird has recently learned that Steven Wayne Hillier, of Australia, listed as a Classic Middle Name murderer in 2010, was found not guilty on retrial.

Thanks This Week to John Lafalce, Paul Peterson, and Christina Swanson, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.