In December, inmate Michael Polk (serving time for robbery and aggravated assault) filed a federal lawsuit against the Utah Department of Corrections for denying him the right to properly practice his religion, Asatru. According to its teachings, adherents must communicate with ancient Nordic gods (such as Odin, Thor and Heimdal) and for that, it is crucial that they have a Thor's Hammer, a Mead Horn (for drinking Wassail), a drum of wood and boar skin, a "rune staff," and a sword (though Polk graciously said he would accept a cardboard sword).
-- A warehouse on Chicago's West Side is "the world capital of fake (latex) vomit, where it's still made the old-fashioned way, ladle by ladle, formed and coagulated," reported the Chicago Tribune in December. Though it is not as popular as 50 years ago (7,000 units sold yearly, compared to 60,000 then), Fun Inc. President Graham Putnam said, still, "It's the best vomit on the market." According to the awe-struck Tribune reporter: "The texture is soft and sturdy, pliable and complex, with ridges of multihued solid chunks looking like a jagged lunar landscape ... perfect for the bathroom, refrigerator, auto seat or sidewalk."
-- Exciting Japanese Products: (1) The clothing company Konaka announced that it will start selling press-free men's and women's suits in February that can be cleaned by hanging them under a warm shower. (2) Not actually for sale is bra-maker Triumph International's prototype "chopstick bra," shown in November in Tokyo as an environment-friendly demonstration project. The bra houses two reusable chopsticks (to publicize a national campaign to discourage use of disposable ones), which can also be positioned to enhance the wearer's cleavage.
-- Leading Economic Indicator: Evangelical Christians, among all people of faith, seem excited to purchase products that reinforce their religious values, according to a marketer cited in a December Denver Post report, with the result an explosion of Jesus-themed merchandise such as Jesus riding a bull, surfing and playing soccer, Jesus air-fresheners and Grapes of Galilee wine. (Among the tackier products, according to a November report in London's Daily Telegraph, are "thongs of praise" underwear with an image of the Madonna and child, and a template to place on a bread slice in an oven to create toast with the Virgin Mary's likeness.)
-- Males Will Be Males: University of Lausanne (Switzerland) researchers discovered that not only are cichlid fish oriented to "oral sex" (because the female stores fertilizable eggs in her mouth) but that studlier males have evolved a trick to get females to open up: Super-procreative males create egg-like growths on their fins, which females imagine are their own missing eggs and try to suck them up, thus improving the male's opportunity to slip sperm in, according to a November report in New Scientist.
-- A research team led by Richard Hanson of Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland) has produced a colony of "supermice" whose physical abilities are the rodent equivalent of those of gifted humans. By modifying a single metabolism gene, researchers enhanced the mouse's ability to use body fat for energy, creating a mouse that can run five hours without stopping, live longer, and have three times as much sex as ordinary mice. According to Hanson, humans have exactly the same modifiable gene, "(b)ut this is not something that you'd do to a human. It's completely wrong."
-- It is well-known that methane released by cattle forms a significant amount of the greenhouse gases in some countries, but getting people to abruptly drop beef from their diets might be unrealistic. However, a senior researcher for the Queensland (Australia) government, Athol Klieve, told Agence France-Presse in December that it would be possible to transplant the stomach bacteria of kangaroos into cows to reduce cattle's gas-passing proclivity to the much gentler level of kangaroos' (since the latter have much more efficient digestive systems).
(1) Salt Lake City police reported that an out-of-town man was treated at a local hospital on Dec. 1 after being beaten up by gang members. The man had earlier mentioned to the gangbangers that "Utah gangs" are not as tough as those from his hometown. (2) In October in West Palm Beach, Fla., Jacqueline Holmes filed a lawsuit against a nightclub named Coco Bongo for injuries after a disco ball fell from the ceiling and conked her on the head.
(1) Ryan Holle, 25, is serving a life sentence (with no possibility of parole) in Florida even though his only connection to a 2003 murder was that he loaned his car to one of the killers. According to a December New York Times report, Florida, even when dispensing its second-worst punishment of all, does not restrict "aiding and abetting" to just those who consciously assist a murder. (2) Scott Masters, 41, faced a potential 30-year sentence for shoplifting a doughnut in a Farmington, Mo., convenience store in September because, as he exited the store, he pushed a worker aside. Prosecutors said that "assault" made the crime a "strong-arm robbery" (but in December, a judge decided 90 days in jail was more appropriate).
Small-Town News: (1) Nicholas Palmer, 22, briefly took to the woods near Swanville, Maine, in October after an altercation with his sister. He had tried to snip the cord of the clipper she was using to shave the family cat to rid it of fleas and ticks. (2) Robin Handel, 44, was arrested in Rowlett, Texas, in December and charged with conspiracy after allegedly convincing her mother to kill Robin's husband to protect a romance she was having via the Internet. (The small-caliber handgun that the mother used failed to inflict life-threatening wounds, either to the husband or when she shot herself as police closed in.)
-- Unclear on the Concept: The 44-year-old man who allegedly skipped out on a court appearance in April in Vernon, British Columbia, in connection with marijuana-growing was arrested in December in Mission, British Columbia, when he applied for a job at the county jail. Also in December, police in Oakland, Calif., charged Jason Brooks, 24, who had just recently applied to be an Oakland police officer, with a string of 18 armed robberies dating back to May. (Brooks told the arresting officers that, still, he'd like to join the force.)
-- Michael Millhouse was arrested in Clarkston, Wash., in December and charged with stealing a woman's wallet at a convenience store -- a crime that was captured on surveillance video, one image from which was subsequently published on the front page of the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune. Also on Page One that day was a news photo of a man painting Christmas messages in a local store window. A Tribune editor noticed that the two men bore a resemblance and called the police, who agreed, and arrested the painter, Millhouse.
In 1964, a chaste, 23-year-old woman was injured in a municipal streetcar collision in San Francisco, and in one of the most notorious turns in medical history, became a nymphomaniac because of injury to the part of her brain that controls impulsive behavior. (According to her lawyer, she once had sex with partners 50 times in one week.) She sued the city, and a jury awarded her $50,000, but then she seemed to vanish. In November 2007, a reporter from KPIX-TV in San Francisco tracked her down to an assisted-living facility in the Midwest. Gloria Sykes, 66, told the reporter she had lived in the Bay Area for a while, had married, and had traveled, but otherwise declined to talk.
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)