Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday’s 5-Star Special
(The August news slowdown is upon us.)

Civilization in Decline
First Great Western, which recently finished last in on-time-ness among British railways, just hired a celebrity poet to give readings at four stations, to, er, make riders happier . . . . . A British company has the bright idea to retrofit school clothing with Kevlar to make it slash-proof.

The Human Condition Today
Amsterdam’s "dirty little secret," according this NY Times dispatch, is that its older (downscale) houseboats dump their sewage into the city's famous canals, which have to be "flushed" twice a week (but the water "is cleaner than it looks," said an official) . . . . . Yr Editor hates to pick on the mentally-ill, but the guy hasn’t been officially declared-so yet, so I guess he’s fair game: An inmate serving time for wire fraud is suing Michael Vick for "$63,000,000,000 billion dollars" for stealing his two pit bulls (which Vick then sold on eBay and used the money to purchase missiles from Iran, which Vick’d need because he has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, the lawsuit goes) . . . . . McClatchy Newspapers squeezed out mounds of statistics on gynecomastia (manboobs), e.g., 70 percent of the annual surgery is on teenage boys.

A storm in Minneapolis uprooted a humongous tree, which landed on and crushed, among other things, a stolen car toolin’ down the street (but the perp escaped) . . . . . Sounds Like a Joke: A guy wanting to have his brakes checked headed for the Les Schwab tire and brake shop, but of course couldn’t stop and went right through the front window.

Roy Pearson, the D.C. pants litigant, stayed in character yesterday. After the lawsuit-winning dry cleaner people graciously offered to drop their claim for lawsuit-loser Pearson to repay their legal expenses (which so far have been covered by donations) (and provided that Pearson forgo an appeal), Pearson filed his notice of appeal. Pearson has become the Ed and Elaine Brown of tort law.

Professor Music’s Weird Links
(Yr Editor just hasn't the energy to work the archives right now.)

NOTW, The Blog
The news is slow in August so let me tell you about two stories that flooded Yr Editor’s Inbox this week but that I won’t be using. A woman in Rochelle, Ga., called police to complain that the crack cocaine she had been sold was bad. That, of course, is No Longer Weird, from way back [NOTW 458, 11-15-1996]. In another story, out of Japan, a motorcyclist said he hadn’t realized, after riding more than a mile after running into a median wall, that his leg had actually been severed below the knee. That’s all we know about the story here in the English-speaking world. This represents two problems, in Yr Editor’s mind: (1) In general, the bar is higher for using a story generated by a non-English-speaking foreign news organization, mostly because any English-language versions of the story are usually written in brief, and thus many legitimizing details of the story may be omitted (or perhaps not ever reported in the first place). The Japanese-language Mainichi Shimbun might have had much more about the biker, but we’re left with the four sentences from the Mainichi Daily News version. Provocative stories (i.e., potentially weird stories) inevitably raise questions in my mind about authenticity, and my ability to see many details is often crucial to whether I recognize it as legitimate. (2) No matter where the story originated, I have to guard against stories that could have emanated merely from the fanciful narrative of the chief actor in the story, even though that narrative might have been sincerely believed. Without more details, it strikes me as just as likely that the biker did know, or must have known that something terrible had happened to his leg at the moment of impact. U.S. reporters (and especially editors) are trained to inquire about those things, e.g., get witnesses who could corroborate that the biker acted as though nothing was wrong, or medical experts who would say that his behavior was perfectly believable for someone so traumatized. (In the biker case, "the police" ostensibly legitimize the story, but then, they don’t, really, because all they did was repeat what the guy told them.) Without details, I’m forced to consider running a story based entirely on the chief actor’s say-so, without the substantiating influence of a journalist’s detailed investigation. [Ed. Is anyone who started reading this still awake? Ehhhh, I didn’t think so.]

Newsrangers: Stefan Palys, Tom Barker, Ed Chebret, Nelson Waller, Wendy Palm, Karl Olson
This posting to News of the Weird Daily is © 2007 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.