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News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
■ Carry-on Blues: (1) Just after the Aug. 10 restrictions were imposed, British Airways refused to allow disabled New Zealand runner Kate Horan (on her way to the paralympic world championships in the Netherlands) to carry on her prosthetic leg, as she had long been allowed to do. Her checked-baggage leg was then lost in the chaos at Heathrow airport, and the prosthetic’s manufacturer scrambled to make Horan a new one. (The leg was found a week later, and at press time, Horan had won at least one medal.) (2) The Transportation Security Administration’s ban on carry-on liquids, gels and ointments apparently does not apply to small quantities of “personal lubricants,” such as the gels popular as sex aids.
■ Leave No Animal Uneaten: Colombia’s exports of “hormiga culona” (“big-butt queen ants”) are down this year due to a harsh winter and aggressive lizards and birds, creating steep prices for chocolate-dipped ants in London and ant-based sauces and spreads at home, according to an August Associated Press dispatch. And a July Reuters story on the Explorers Club in New York City called it virtually the only place where gourmets can enjoy such delicacies as scorpion, cricket, tarantula and maggot, and pigeon pate, as well as odd parts of common livestock. Worms are also prized if they’ve been “evacuated” on oatmeal for a few days before serving.
■ Weird Chinese: (1) In rural Jiangsu province, some still believe that a well-attended funeral leads to a successful afterlife, but police have recently cracked down on the practice of hiring strippers to punch up attendance, according to an August Reuters dispatch. (2) Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia still celebrate a lunar-calendar oddity termed the “hungry ghost” month, during which the gates of hell supposedly open and create widespread fear. Many Buddhists seek to appease the ghosts (and acquire lucky lottery numbers) by offering them food and paper models of items they can use when they resume being dead.
■ Problem Solved: (1) Darrell Rodgers, 40, was treated at Bloomington (Ind.) Hospital in August after shooting himself in the left knee because he felt he had to try something to end the pain there (pain possibly from having shot himself in that knee 10 years earlier). (2) Electrician Paul Trotman, 51, was arrested in Clay County, Fla., in August after allegedly rigging an electrical device to shock a 3 1/2-year-old boy who lived with Trotman and his wife, after Trotman got fed up that the boy was constantly urinating on electrical outlets just to see sparks fly.
■ The New South Wales state government in Australia will soon propose to install voting booths in bars, according to a July Australian Associated Press dispatch. The booths would have to be located in non-serving rooms, with entrances separate from the bar, but the government said that in small towns, bars are popular community gathering points.
■ In an attempt to raise environmental awareness, two concerned citizens of Walpole, Mass., hosted a “pump-out party” in June, with wine and cheese, to encourage neighbors to keep their septic systems in good order. The hosts allowed their own tank to be publicly cleaned as a demonstration, although the drinking and eating portion of the party came to a halt at that point, according to the Daily News Transcript of suburban Boston.
Latest Religious Messages
■ Accommodating Your Parishioners: (1) Rabbi Yair Silverman recently declared a ring, eight miles in circumference around his Berkeley, Calif., synagogue, to be an “eruv,” or “home,” so that his parishioners could move about more freely on the Sabbath, when Jewish law imposes some “home”-based restrictions. (2) Some Sunni Muslims in Saudi Arabia practice the religious, and legal (though reviled), “misyar” contract, which permits a couple to be married but live separately, joining sometimes only for sex, and without financial responsibility for each other, according to a July Reuters dispatch from Riyadh.
■ (1) Sarah Yule was fired as a receptionist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, N.Y., earlier this year because she refused to remove her lip ring at work, which she said was integral to her religion, the Church of Body Modification. Yule insisted that her several piercings are spiritual, giving her control over her body, and she declined to accept an alternate job at St. Mary’s, away from public contact. (2) Joseph Butts is in jail in Franklin County, Mo., the result of being caught with 338 pounds of marijuana in a traffic stop, but according to an August St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, he informed the arresting officer that hassling him would be a “hate crime” because he was a special courier transporting religious instruments between member monasteries of the Church of Cognizance, which uses marijuana as a sacrament.
Recent Alarming Headlines
■ (1) “Shooting Reported at Firing Range” (an August story on mischief at Shooter’s Choice, in The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C.). (2) “Hong Kong Man Found Being Eaten Alive by Maggots” (an August story in the Sydney Morning Herald about a 67-year-old man who was discovered just in time and is recovering). (3) “Asheville Corrections Official Sent to Prison for Sex With Inmate” (an August story in the Winston-Salem Journal, which seems like welcomed punishment for the official, but actually it was a female official who had sex with a male and was shipped to a women’s prison).
Creme de la Weird
■ A recent documentary produced for Australia’s Channel 4 (and described in a July story in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph) caught up with a Ukrainian woman, now 23, who had been “forgot(ten)” by her mother and father and raised by dogs until discovered at age 8. Oxana Malaya (one of about 100 known feral children) has the tested mental age of 6, stilted speech and an uncoordinated gait, and still buries any gifts she receives and runs into the woods when she is upset. For the camera, Malaya showed she can still bark, run on all fours, pant with her tongue out, and dry herself off by shaking.
Least Competent Person
■ Kaleb E. Spangler, 21, was badly hurt by fireworks in August when, according to his girlfriend, he decided to duct-tape a large “mortar-style” explosive onto a football helmet, put it on and light it, while riding with friends in a car. According to a story in the Herald-Times of Bloomington, Ind., alcohol was involved in Spangler’s decision.
■ News of the Weird reported in 1993 that a nude dancer in Tampa had been spared a more serious injury (according to a police officer) when a gunshot to her chest was deflected by her breast implant. In August 2006, an Agence France-Presse report from a hospital in Nahariya, Israel, credited a young woman’s silicone breast implant for saving her from a more serious injury from shrapnel from a Hezbollah rocket during the recent war.
By the Way, What Stories Have Been No-Longer-Weirded? (Part VII)
Eighty such themes have occurred so frequently that they have been “retired from circulation” since News of the Weird began publishing in 1988, and here are some of them:
■ Carjacking, as a crime of youth, frequently involves perps who commandeer stick-shift cars they never learned how to drive. Suspects fleeing the police near the water decide to swim for freedom, and drown. And remember, years ago, when we thought it weird that perverts would hide tiny video cameras in public restrooms? And can you remember far back enough when you thought it was weird that some women kept too many cats around? Those things, too, used to be weird, but haven’t been in a while now.
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