While Canadian "global warming" protesters express alarm at the dwindling outdoor hockey season (fewer months with ice, fewer days cold enough for hard ice), a growing number of "hockey" players are taking the game underwater, according to a November Associated Press story. With six breath-holding players per team, passing a puck with sticks at the bottom of a pool, and players surfacing for air as seldom as possible, dozens of club teams worldwide play (nearly 50 in the U.S.), with a championship tournament scheduled next year for Sheffield, England. Said a Cincinnati high school player of the respiratory challenge, "(W)hen you're close to the goal, you're like, 'Do I want to score a goal or breathe?' Most of the time I say, 'Score.'"
Performance artist Tomoko Takahashi, 39, working on a British government grant of the equivalent of about $8,600, gave an exhibition of inebriation in October at the Chapter arts center in Cardiff, Wales. Dressed in business suit and high heels, Takahashi drank a large amount of beer over a three-hour period, periodically checking to see how far she could walk across a narrow beam about two feet off the floor without falling. A Chapter spokesman called the demonstration a "powerful piece of art."
-- Albania's Gen. Pellumb Qazimi told Reuters in October that the military is scrapping its fleet of obsolete Chinese-made MiG fighter jets, which the country never used in battle but in which 35 Albanian pilots died over the years in operational mishaps. And the Hindustan Times revealed in September that the local New Delhi government's 97 paid rat-catchers have not caught a single rodent since 1994. (And residents complain that rats are not difficult to find in New Delhi.)
-- Are We Safe? In October, the federal Department of Homeland Security announced a $36,300 grant to the state of Kentucky, earmarked to prevent terrorists from using charity bingo and other games of chance to raise money. (One astonished bingo worker in Frankfort told the Associated Press that the need to protect bingo parlors from terrorists "would never even enter my mind.") Also in October, the Tampa Tribune reported that two lower-tier Florida tourist attractions (the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid show and Dinosaur World in Plant City) were on Homeland Security's list of sites that the state had to "harden" against terrorist attacks, even though officials complained that major sports venues and more popular entertainment sites were not on the list.
-- The Democratic Process: Randy Logan Hale won election to the school board in Homeland, Calif., in November, despite having been incarcerated since September for a parole violation. (He gets out in February.) And James Skwarok campaigned for mayor in Victoria, British Columbia, as a one-issue candidate opposed to pumping raw sewage into open waters, appearing always in costume as a chunk of that sewage, named "Mr. Floatie." (Skwarok dropped out of the race in October.)
-- (1) Police in Fairfax County, Va., discovered, as one of their only clues in an October rape, a hockey puck from a junior league team in Wichita Falls, Texas, apparently accidentally dropped by the assailant. Said an officer, "It's the first time I'm aware of that a hockey puck has ever been left at a crime scene." (2) Also in October, a surveillance camera at Sonny's Pizza & Pasta in San Clemente, Calif., showed a burglar entering, pocketing cash, and then stopping to make himself a large pepperoni pizza from scratch (before being surprised by an early-shift worker and fleeing).
-- The bane of all fair-minded office sports teams is the "ringer," the super-athlete from outside who is imported to help the office team win. Former minor league baseball player Mark Guerra, 33, was accused by Florida authorities of being such a ringer, imported for the Apalachee Correctional Institution's team, which he led to victory in a Department of Corrections softball tournament. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Guerra in October and charged him with fraudulently accepting a $1,247 "salary" as a temporary Apalachee "employee" (but never actually doing any work).
(1) Michael Plentyhorse, 18, was charged with indecent exposure in Sioux Falls, S.D., in November, when he was discovered partially undressed, in a store, fooling around with a semi-nude female mannequin. (Said a police officer, "There was inappropriate activity between him and the mannequin. That's the only way I know how to put it.") (2) Registered sex-offender Sean Cobin, 20, was arrested in Milwaukee in November on suspicion of reckless endangerment for his role in pressuring a woman to drink concentrated drain cleaner, allegedly because he gets excited by making women vomit. (He was convicted in 2004 in a similar incident.)
(1) A new land speed record for a blind driver was set in September (Mr. Hein Wagner, 33, reached 160 mph in a Maserati V8 GranSport on an airstrip in Mafikeng, South Africa, with help of a navigator). (2) Harvard's libraries contain at least four books bound in human skin, including a treatise on Spanish law with an inscription calling the binding "all that remains" of a fellow named Jonas Wright (according to research by student Dan Alban, writing in the Harvard Law Record in November).
In accord with Thailand's cultural traditions and accompanied by much pomp and circumstance, officials married off Chuang Chuang and his gal Lin Lui, the country's only giant pandas (at the Chaing Mai Zoo in November), and Thong Kham and his gal Thong Khaow, a pair of dwarf Brahman cattle in Sa Kaew province in July (both ceremonies before thousands of spectators). And in Roseville, Mich., in November, Susan Laurer spent $1,200 to marry off a pair of pug dogs, Bobby and Gracie, dressed in formal wedding wear before 70 guests at the Evangel Christian Church. (The maid of honor was a Chihuahua.)
Bryan Perley, who apparently held a grudge against a child-support caseworker, was charged in Orlando, Fla., with several felony counts when he tried to arrest her by impersonating a military officer and holding a fake, handwritten arrest warrant. When the woman's colleagues would not cooperate with him, Perley actually called for police backup, according to a report by WFTV-TV. He told the dispatcher, "(The colleagues) don't understand the chain of command in government. I've warned them."
In October, the Tennessee Supreme Court finally dashed Knoxville prosecutors' hopes of convicting Thomas "Zoo Man" Huskey as a serial killer in a case News of the Weird first mentioned in 1992. Courts had tossed out Huskey's confession (the centerpiece of the case), finding that the incriminating statements were made not by Huskey but by "Kyle," his alter ego, and although Huskey himself had been given a Miranda warning, "Kyle" had not. ("Kyle" supposedly had a grudge against Huskey.) "Zoo Man" (named because a zoo was the venue for some of the crimes) is nonetheless serving 66 years in prison on other charges.
A 43-year-old motorcyclist was killed on Interstate 35 near Osceola, Iowa, when he tried to stand on his bike with his arms folded (and smashed into a guardrail) (October). A 19-year-old driver, performing for two pals who were videotaping, was killed in West Rutland, Vt., when he attempted a "Jackass"-like stunt by leaping from the car at about 30 mph (September). A 39-year-old bicyclist was killed when he raced, unsuccessfully, to beat an oncoming train through a railroad crossing in Oakland Park, Fla., and was knocked more than 100 feet (November).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)