For years, many traditional funerals in Taiwan -- especially in rural areas or among working classes -- have included pop singers and bikinied dancers, supposedly to entertain the ghosts that will protect the deceased in the afterlife. According to a recent documentary by anthropologist Marc Moskowitz, some of the dancers until 20 years ago were strippers who did lap dances with funeral guests, until the government made such behavior illegal. Contemporary song-and-dance shows, like the traveling Electric Flower Car, supposedly appeal to "lower" gods who help cleanse the deceased of the more mundane vices such as gambling and prostitution (compared to the "higher" gods who focus on morality and righteousness).
-- California's state and local governments are rarely discussed these days without the pall of budget cuts looming, but apparently the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is safe because it is spending a reported $1.5 million to move a big rock in from Riverside, about 60 miles away. It's a 340-ton boulder that the museum intends to display above a sidewalk ("Levitated Mass"). The move will require a 200-foot-long trailer with 200 tires, with one semi-tractor pulling and one pushing, at night, maximum speed 8 mph.
-- Tennessee State Rep. Julia Hurley apologized in July and said she would pay for the refinishing of her desk in the legislative chamber after it was revealed that she had carved her initials in it during a January session. "It was like one in the morning on the last day of the session," she told WSMV-TV. "I wasn't thinking straight." Rep. Hurley, 29, who has a daughter, 14, unseated a nine-term incumbent legislator in 2010 with a campaign that touted her time as a Hooters waitress. "If I could make it at Hooters," she wrote in the restaurant's magazine, "I could make it anywhere."
-- In June, the California Court of Appeals threw out the three counts of possession of child pornography for which Joseph Gerber had been convicted, even though what Gerber had done was paste face shots of his own 13-year-old daughter onto ordinary pornographic photos. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2002 that a conviction for making "child pornography" requires actual sexual abuse. (Gerber had also been convicted of supplying the daughter with drugs and the court ordered Gerber re-sentenced.)
-- Georges Marciano, co-founder of the clothing company Guess? Inc. and ostensibly in no trouble with IRS, nonetheless demanded in 2009 that the agency audit him over the previous several years. IRS turned him down, and he sued the agency in federal court in Washington, D.C., but in July, a judge rejected the case, declaring that federal law and the U.S. Constitution do not give anyone a "right" to demand that IRS collect more taxes from them. (Marciano perhaps hoped for IRS to uncover cheating by his former employees and accountants, whom he thought were stealing from him. Paying higher taxes might have been worth it if the agency had made it easier for him to sue any cheaters.)
-- A Singaporean army draftee caused a public stir in March when he was photographed by a visitor as he underwent physical training in army fatigues but with his maid following behind him carrying his backpack on her shoulders. (Army officials told reporters the draftee had since been "counsel(ed).")
-- Helping Disaster Victims: (1) In May, following near-record floods in fields south of Montreal, Quebec, farmer Martin Reid made sure to apply for his fishing license because he had learned the hard way that when his land gets flooded, he cannot remove the fish washed onto it unless he is a licensed fisherman. After flooding in 1993, Reid and his father failed to secure a license and were fined $1,000. A second offense brings a fine of $100,000. (2) Two weeks after the catastrophic April tornadoes hit Alabama and neighboring states, Bailey Brothers Music Co. of Birmingham offered to help. To soothe those suffering depression and grief from devastating property losses, Bailey Brothers sponsored weekly drum circles.
-- Must Be Guilty: Arrested in Woodbridge, Va., in July for burglary after being discovered by police inside the MVC Late Night adult store: U.S. Army officer Justin Dale Little Jim, 28 (who was found physically engaged with a "blow-up doll"). Little Jim's chances for acquittal are slim under News of the Weird's insightful theory of criminal culpability known as the "Three First Names" hypothesis.
-- In June in the Houston suburb of Alvin, Texas, a petite, 42-year-old Walmart customer came across three men running out of the store carrying shoplifted beer. She decided that it was up to her to take a stand because, as she said later, she was "sick of the lawlessness." The woman (whose name, coincidentally, is Monique Lawless) chased the men, climbed onto the hood of their getaway car, even jumping up and down on it, to delay their escape. The three were eventually arrested: Sylvester Andre Thompson and his brothers Sylvester Durlentren Thompson and Sylvester Primitivo Thompson.
(1) If Yogi Berra Wrote the Headline: "Woman Missing Since She Got Lost" (Chicago Sun-Times, 5-17-2011). (2) Please Explain: "Teen Dies of Shaken Baby Syndrome" (Chicago Tribune, 3-9-2011). "Man With Clown Nose in New Cumberland Poses No Serious Threat" (Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa., 7-3-2011). (3) Run for the Hills: "Return of the Giant Carnivorous Hermaphrodite Snails" (Yahoo News-LiveScience.com, 6-3-2011). (4) Not What You Think: "Showboat Casino Hotel to Become First Dog-Friendly Casino in Atlantic City" (Press of Atlantic City, 2-3-2011) (Guests' dogs can be admitted to the floor, but dogs are still forbidden to play poker.)
The usual furtive restroom photographer is male, but sheriff's deputies in Plantation, Fla., arrested Rhonda Hollander, 47, in July and charged her with several misdemeanors and a felony stemming from an episode in which she allegedly followed a man inside the men's room at the West Regional Courthouse and snapped photos of him at a urinal. Hollander insisted she had violated no law, and indeed the charges against her were only for conduct after she was confronted by deputies (when she continued to take pictures as they led her away). Hollander is actually Judge Hollander, who works in the building as a traffic magistrate.
Advances in DNA testing have improved society in several ways in the last two decades, especially in criminal justice, but in many states, one area remains a backwater, as News of the Weird has noted over the years: men's obligation to pay support for children they did not father. Ray Thomas of Houston is the most recent frustrated complainant, with a court refusing to relieve him of the $52,000 in back child support he owes for a "daughter" that DNA has subsequently shown is not his. Ironically, in March the Texas legislature became one of the few to allow men like Thomas to present DNA evidence in order to end court-ordered support, but the state attorney general noted that the new law covers only prospective judicial orders.
Board-certified Kansas City, Mo., psychiatrist (and University of Kansas School of Medicine graduate) Dr. Donald Hinton told reporters in February (2002) that "Elvis Aron Presley, the entertainer (whom) everybody believes died in 1977," is alive and that Hinton has been treating him for migraine headaches, among other things, for five years. Hinton, 35, said he has several items from Presley containing his DNA and has continually denied that he's running a scam. An Elvis Presley Enterprises official was unfazed, insisting that Elvis is still "in the garden (at Graceland)." (Update: Dr. Hinton subsequently self-published a book, co-authored with Elvis, explaining their relationship, and was subsequently investigated by the Missouri Healing Arts Board, which ultimately closed the investigation without charges.)