-- In March, Rogers, Ark., software developer Rick Bray introduced his TVGuardian sound monitor, which silences offensive words in television dialogue and prints tamer substitutes as captions on the screen. Bray expanded George Carlin's "seven words you can't say" to about 100, and says his device can analyze surrounding dialogue so that, for example, "God" will be muted only when used irreverently. (An earlier version of the software captioned "Dick Van Dyke" as "jerk Van gay.")
-- Serious Grudges: In Sissonville, W.Va., in March, Darrell Carpenter drove a front-end loader through his two-story house, flattening it, rather than honor a court order to sell the house and split the profits with his estranged wife. The next day, in Sayville, N.Y., Richard Hellenschmidt, 45, who owed the title to his 35-foot boat to a bail bond company, blew the boat up by igniting propane fumes, rather than surrender it.
-- In March, three men in Ogden, Utah, were arrested for rape, and according to police, two admitted their roles in the crime. However, the police said, Alberto Salgado, 18, gave a different story: While his buddies held the woman down, an unknown person pushed Salgado on top of her, and he "accidentally" penetrated her because his fly was open since he had just returned from using the restroom. As he kept trying to get up, according to the police account reported in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the unknown person pushed him back down, again and again, until he had a sexual climax.
-- Two more houses were revealed in March to be public-health problems because owners had allowed cat-breeding to get out of hand. Fifty-four cats were found in a house in a neighborhood of semi-luxury homes in Tarpon Springs, Fla., and 34 were found in an Edmonton, Alberta, house whose owner insisted, "There is no smell. The neighbors are simply neurotic." Meanwhile, authorities in Vietnam said they are being overrun with rats (despite having exterminated 55 million last year) and blame the problem on the number of cats being taken out of circulation as food delicacies bound for China.
-- Movie producer Warren Weideman announced in February that his company would make a crime-and-intrigue adventure film for the Showtime cable channel based on the work of U.S. Postal Service inspectors and said he hopes it will improve the Postal Service's reputation. Several years ago, Weideman worked for USPS scanning movie scripts, trying to find places to insert positive images of the Postal Service and admitted there were "not that many."
-- In February, police in Corpus Christi, Texas, said they planned to charge a 34-year-old man in a spree of gumball machine thefts. They were tipped by the suspect's landlord, who said the man paid his weekly rent in quarters and that when he went to collect one week, he saw a huge pile of Jawbreakers on the floor. And Charles James Harding, 31, was arrested in January in Bountiful, Utah, and charged with stealing as much as $250,000 a year from vending machines (including some in the lobbies of police departments). Police had gone to a house seeking another man on a drug charge, but Harding was there, too, along with a large box of quarters whose existence neither man could adequately explain.
The Sleepwalking Defense to homicide finally made its way to the United States in February after having achieved success in a famous case in Canada 10 years ago. Phoenix inventor Scott Louis Falater said he was sound asleep during the time he stabbed his wife 44 times and during the time neighbors watched him hold his wife's head underwater in a backyard swimming pool. Just as the Canadian defendant had supposedly driven 14 miles to his mother-in-law's home while asleep and beat her with a tire iron, Falater managed to put on gloves, kill the woman, bandage a cut, and dispose of his bloody clothes, all while asleep. Not impossible, said an expert on sleep disorders.
-- In February, Houston City Councilman Rob Todd sent the vice squad to investigate Myrtle Freeman's Condoms & More shop, but they turned up no violations. Frustrated, Todd, noting that the novelty inventory included chocolate lollipops shaped like breasts and items like "edible panties," then sent the health department in to close the store for not having a license to serve pre-packaged food. To avoid closing, the condom store chose to discontinue its grocery section.
-- In October, the town of Morris, Ala., came within a few days of having the IRS commandeer its assets to satisfy a $60,000 back-tax bill, but it came up with the money by mortgaging City Hall. To solve a similar problem, Mayor Zenon Chica of El Palme, Peru, proposed in March to auction off City Hall altogether and had lined up four bidders willing to start at about $350,000.
-- In November, Oregon State University physics professor John Gardner had a federal grant application rejected, apparently solely because it was not typed double-spaced. (Gardner, himself, is blind; he was applying to work on technology for the disabled.) And in December, the Georgia Court of Appeals turned down, irrevocably, an appeal by the state in a $2.7 million personal-injury case because the state's paperwork was submitted in New Times Roman typeface instead of the required Courier.
-- The Horror of Barking Fish: The new pet nuisance code adopted in January by the city council of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., permits a maximum of four pets, except that five is permissible if none weighs more than 10 pounds, and 10 is permissible if none weighs more than one pound, and 25 is permissible (no more) if they are all fish.
-- In Pittsburgh in September, Francis Glancy, 41, with a blood-alcohol reading more than three times the legal limit, fell off his bike, knocking himself out, and was charged with DUI under a 1993 ruling that makes a bicycle a "vehicle." However, the statute permits first offenders to avoid a conviction if they get counseling and agree to a 30-day driver's license suspension. Glancy had no driver's license so the judge told him to apply for one, then allow it to be suspended for 30 days so he could get the conviction erased.
-- The Beat Goes On in Texas: Donald Wayne Martin killed his wife, two stepchildren and himself in January. Michael Wayne Hall and another white supremacist were arrested in February in the killing of a woman. And faring better was Wesley Wayne Miller, who was finally approved for imminent parole after serving 16 years for the murder of a woman.
-- The latest man to shock mourners by walking in to his own funeral, according to a March Reuters report from Bahia Blanca, Argentina, was Robinson Gonzalez, 21. (His mother had mistakenly identified a shooting victim as her son.) Unlike in at least one of the previous instances, in which the mother of the "deceased" died of shock upon seeing that her offspring was still alive, Mrs. Gonzalez merely suffered an anxiety attack.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)