Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Weird Universe!
Effective tomorrow morning, you can read Yr Editor's daily column of news 'n' commentary at its new home, www.WeirdUniverse.net! My pals Alex Boese, creator of the Museum of Hoaxes, and Paul Di Filippo, the noted sci-fi story-teller, and I will do our best to keep you entertained, as well as, y'know, wary of your surroundings (because there's a awful lot of weirdness going on). "Chuck's Hand-Picked Overnight Weird News" will be available Monday through Saturday by 9 a.m. Eastern time, in just about the same form in which you've come to expect it. Hope you'll switch over to Weird Universe and enjoy all the other funny, disturbing, scary, ridiculous stuff we come up with. (News of the Weird Daily will remain up, but not updated.) You can still use the links on this page to subscribe to the Google Groups e-mail feeds of the weekly News of the Weird column and of Chuck's Hand-Picked Overnight ("DailyWeird") (although I warn you right now that there may be a glitch or two on the latter before we get it working on Weird Universe, and you should have patience). Problems, questions, etc.: WeirdNews at the domain Earthlink net.
NOTE: Today is the last day you can read fresh news on NOTW Daily. Tomorrow morning, you’ll have to go to Yr Editor’s new co-op blog. Details below, in NOTW, The Blog

Creme de la Weird

France’s gov’t-paid massage therapists face cutbacks
“The National Baths of Aix-les-Bains have been a symbol of France’s cushy health-care,” reports the Wall Street Journal. (Travel and accommodations at the spa are gov't-paid, too.) Now, the staff of 165 (who have no alternative job market) would be cut in half by President Sarkozy’s reforms. The physiotherapists are so upset at this that at least 27 have gone on generous medical leave for depression. More bureaucracy: France has 721 diplomats in Senegal vs. 271 in India. “Is that normal?” Sarkozy asked. Wall Street Journal

The “no straight bananas” rules are under attack in the European Union (but only by a few countries)
Most countries continue to insist that, for example, the 19 pages of regulations on the color of fruits and vegetables are crucial to consumer choice (and that it would be beside the point to just put the fruit out and let consumers actually judge the color for themselves). From the Washington Post:
Let’s consider the onion for a moment, and the E.U.’s ‘Regulation (EEC) No. 2213/83 of 28 July 1983 laying down quality standards for onions and witloof chicory.’ You would think that the 10 pages of standards and the 19 amendments and corrections made in the 25 years since the regulation’s enactment would leave little doubt about the required size, shape, and color of an onion, and the amount of peeling, bruising, staining, cracking, root tufting, and sprouting that is permissible. You would be wrong. In January 2007, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture issued a report in which it took 29 pages to explain ‘quality standards for onions,’ complete with 43 photographs.
Washington Post

“Ozone treatment” for pancreatic cancer gets dissed in an Australian Parliamentary committee
The patient died 36 days after treatment in 2003, and by “treatment,” we mean “vaginal blowing” of the ozone, during which she had to move up and down on the bed while saying “Oh, boy.” The purveyor of this therapy, a fella named Lupo Bitelco, is thought to be still practicing. The Advertiser (Adelaide)

Octopuses given Rubik’s Cube to find out if they have a favorite tentacle
Are they octidextrous, or do they have assigned tentacles for different things (eating, thinking, flirting, etc.)? If we knew, we could reduce the poor things’ stress levels, explained England’s Sea Life Centre. Daily Mail (London)

Last words of a Texas trucker
He was about to unload his haul of heavy pipes and started to loosen the safety straps, and a guy said, Better wait for the crane to do that. And the trucker said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got it.” Then a 4-ton pipe rolled off the truck. Houston Chronicle

Updates: It’s that time of the year when reporters discover things we weirdos have known for a while
Among the annual events that were weird when we first heard about them but by now zoom by blankly: (1) The Michigan cherry-pit spitting contest (won again by one of the hockin’ Krauses); (2) Finland’s wife-carrying championship (yep, pick her up and tote her); (3) The running of the bulls in Pamplona (and the bulls picking off, wildebeest-like, the slowest humans); (4) The several dozen people who under-respect July 4th fireworks; (5) Macon, Ga.,’s Redneck Games (highlight this year: a muddy wedding, which was shown last night on the CMT cable channel). Not really “annuals,” but recurring themes: (6) The German chess-boxing championship was decided (alternate 4 minutes of chess with 3 minutes of the sweet science, until one gets checkmated or his ass kicked); and (7) Another guy, like the legendary Larry Walters, took off (and landed safely) in a lawn chair held aloft by helium balloons.

Your Daily Loser
Awesome! An 18-yr-old man in a suburb of Detroit gave a rich lesson in how to turn a routine traffic stop into various felony charges in the space of just a few minutes. (Bonus: The shades he was offering the cop to let him go were, he claimed, worth $3,500!) Detroit Free Press

Your Daily Jury Duty
[no fair examining the evidence; verdict based on mugshot only]
Actually, this one isn't very challenging. Sorry. Ladies and gentlemen, straight from central casting, a 40-ish brother and sister charged with incest. [LINK CORRECTED] WCPO-TV (Cincinnati) [picture of brother on the far right]

It says here that the origin of the discomfort felt by the Holiday Inn employee was finally tracked down: She had a baby bat nesting in the bra she was wearing . . . . . A Lakewood, Colo., man tried to tell police that the gunshot that killed the Jack Russell terrier was fired by . . the dog (while noodling around with that loaded .357).

NOTW, The Blog
Tomorrow morning, Yr Editor and his pals will launch our new full-service blog o’ weirdness, and to get Yr Editor’s morning news feed from now on, you’ll have to make a habit of going there, not here (or subscribing via newsreader). We’re not quite finished yet, so I’m not going to post the address here until 2 p.m. Eastern time today and I’ll mail the address to the DailyWeird list at that time, as well. (As I moaned about yesterday, I can’t guarantee that the DailyWeird mailing changeover will be smooth; it might not operate for a few days. On the other hand, it might operate fine. If you suddenly don’t get the mailings, please come to the new blog to find out the status.)

Newsrangers: Matt Geis, Larry Seltzer, Stephen Taylor, Chris Doyle
This posting to News of the Weird Daily is © 2008 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 07, 2008

NOTE: Stop the presses! Yr Editor is moving this-here base of operation. Read all about it below, in NOTW, The Blog

Monday’s Creme de la Weird

There are spas for everything in New York City, including this one specializing in hoo-hahs
A female gyno is set to open a “pelvic fitness” center whose signature service is tightening vaginal walls, but also offering other “pelvic health” integrations. Said another gyno, “The common practice in gynecology is we treat where there is a problem. It’ll be interesting to see if there are people who actually request these services.” New York Times // ThePerfectPhit.com

The $2,500 banana
Artist Michael Fernandes opened his, uh, installation on the street in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and offered it for sale when the show’s over. It’s a banana. Actually, a different banana each day. In progressively unripened states. Just lying on the sidewalk. But since he eats each one at the end of the day, what would the buyer get for $2,500? Answer: “The concept.” (Bonus: He has two takers so far.) The Globe and Mail

The most patriotic American of ‘em all
Immigrant Sam Bloomfield loves America even more than you love Ben & Jerry’s. He’s tattooed his face red, white, and blue, and under his left eye “God Bless America,” under his right “Land of the Free.” And those are just for starters. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If you gave to a charity, like for missing kids, the only kids you just helped were the fundraising company’s employees’ kids
The Los Angeles Times did a major takedown yesterday of charities’ fundraising expenses, and it turns out that when they hire a company to do it, around 85 cents of the dollar (and often more than that) stays by contract with the fundraiser. In a few cases, there’s a negative return. (Yup, you give $100; the fundraiser keeps it all and charges the charity a fee, and all the charity gets is the name and address of the suck–uh . . contributor.) Los Angeles Times

Mommy’s little Lolita
A BBC documentary next week will chronicle unrequited model Jayne Pennington, 31, in her efforts to tart up her pre-pube daughter Sasha, 11, who has run herself out of child-modeling jobs because she no longer looks like a child, thanks to $600-a-month glamour treatments. But Sasha seems to “get it,” after all. How do you see yourself, she was asked by the interviewer. “Blonde, pretty, dumb. I don’t need brains.” (Mom “laughed her head off at this.”) Daily Mail [plenty of glamour shots of both babes]

Seniors who confuse the gas pedal and the brake, version 2.0
He was 75, swerved out of control in Niles, Ill., hit two kids, a man, and an elderly woman, and then, afterward, of course was clueless how it happened except that it was some sort of vehicle malfunction. Version 2.0: He’s a Shriner and was driving a go-cart in a parade. Chicago Sun-Times

Wannabe-Pundit Astrologers Handicap the Presidential Race
Seven of ‘em predicted Obama’s moon rising, “citing Saturn’s opposition to Uranus on Election Day as a celestial occurrence that pits a stodgy planet against one of rebellion, resulting in transformation and social upheaval,” reported ABC News. Others say the game will be changing drastically in August because there’ll be two eclipses, which will signal new directions for Hillary Clinton and Mayor Bloomberg (because his February birthday is the calendar opposite of one of the eclipse days). ABC News

Maryland Corrections Department (ROTFL)
A heavily-fortified van showed up to transport prisoners from jail to court, but one inmate was brought to the pickup point late, and a mixup in orders had him hopping into an ordinary Corrections van. No cage in back, no siren, no gun, no cuffs, no radio, no cell phone. Not surprisingly, at the first traffic light, he opened the door and climbed out, and they haven’t seen him since. Said the judge: “If I were a young enterprising criminal, I’d come to Baltimore to set up my practice. This is the place to be. This is the Promised Land.” Baltimore Sun

Update: Susan Sykes, the stripper with 40-lb. gazongas, returned to the zeitgeist by auditioning for America’s Got Talent (her art: crushing beer cans by you-know-what method)
In 1997, a strip-club customer named Bennie Casson sued Sykes (aka Busty Heart) for too much audience-performer interaction, i.e., she repeatedly slammed her sofa bolsters against his head, aggravating an old neck injury (but he eventually dropped the lawsuit and two yrs later, took The Only Way Out). In the latest episode, AGT judges Sharon Obsourne, Piers Morgan, and David Hasselhoff said, No thanks. Daily Mail (London) // NOTW 495 (8-1-1997), NOTW 577 (2-26-1999)

Update: The composition As Slow As Possible is progressing, um, slowly
They moved on to a new chord (the 6th, in 5 yrs) of John Cage’s composition, which is being “played,” or maybe just “dwelt on,” in Halberstadt, Germany. The sound of the chord will continue, probably for months, before the organ goes to number 7, and the whole thing will wrap up in the year 2640. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News // NOTW 785 (2-23-2003)

Update: That solid-gold bathroom in Hong Kong is, not surprisingly, being melted down
Jeweler Lam Sai-wing built the monument to excess when gold was $200-something an ounce, but now it’s more than 4x that, so piece by piece, he’s cashing out, except for the toilet (24-karat, fully functional, flushing toilet). “I don’t care if gold hits $10,000 an ounce. I’m not melting [that] down.” Wall Street Journal // NOTW 695 (6-3-2001)

The Human Condition Today
Hey, I may be a petty thief, he said, but we can’t let the terrorists win (so when he broke into a van, and saw gas cans, devices with wires, etc., he called the police, and lucky he did) . . . . . Poplar Bluff, Mo., police are looking for the guy who stuck a gun in Mr. Heath Chandler’s belly and demanded money, and when Chandler handed over his $25, the guy took it, gave him a big hug, and left . . . . . Woo, is James K. Pope ever a bad guy! (He was just sentenced, for sexual assault on two teenage girls, to, um, 4,060 consecutive yrs in prison, meaning his countdown calendar will be set to the year 3209 (A.D.) . . . . Like in the movies: Phillip Boucher floored his Buick LeSabre and tried to jump the rising drawbridge in St. Catharines, Ontario, and he almost made it [and I guess you know what that means].

Your Daily Loser
Lamont Cook, 22, Mr. Tough Guy. On the lam around Philadelphia for several violent crimes, he was arrested about 4 a.m. Thursday . . and promptly peed in his pants. Philadelphia Daily News

People Whose Sex Lives Are Worse Than Yours
Aussie Rodney McLagan, 48, indignantly told police that the only reason he had child porn was that it was incidentally acquired when he was busy downloading bestiality porn (including that stuff showing sex with .. an octopus). The Mercury

Your Daily Jury Duty
[no fair examining the evidence; verdict based on mugshot only]
And Paul Franke, 43, indignantly told police that the only reason he had child porn on his computer was curiosity about how easy it was to get. (Answer: really easy, and he says he’s quite upset about that!) MetroWest Daily News

In one village in India, the gov’t’s giving people $1 a month to take dumps in a toilet, to keep streets clean . . . . . Reuters profiles a couple in Portugal who are the last of the world’s great ceramic-penis artists.

NOTW, The Blog
(1) Listen up. I have partnered with two other esteemed weirdo writers (Alex Boese, proprietor of MuseumofHoaxes.com, and Paul DiFilippo, renowned sci-fi writer (The Steampunk Trilogy), to form a full-service, 24/7, all-things-bizarre blog, launching on Wednesday, July 9th. We don’t quite have it ready yet, but I’ll give out the address starting tomorrow. We will blast off on Wednesday, and you’ll have to go there every day, six days a week, to read Chuck’s Hand-Picked Overnight Weird News. (Tomorrow, though, I’ll still be right here.) (2) My main task on the new blog is to do the same thing I’ve been doing here for two years, except, y’know, more seriously. (NOTW Daily will remain up, but inactive.) Since my pals are going all-out, I have to, also. Dazzling, nicely packaged, easy on the eyes, a must-read for those who realize that you need to keep an eye on . . those other people. We can help. (3) Just one problem: Those of you who get NOTW Daily by e-mail from Google Groups may not get them for a few days starting Wednesday. And then on the other hand, you may get ‘em just fine. Depends on the gods. If you don’t get yours on Wednesday, pleeeeze come to the new blog and read it, or subscribe to the RSS feed. (I’ll give ya the address tomorrow!) ‘Ta

Newsrangers: Steve Dunn, Stephen Taylor, Phillip Schiavone, Ladonna Weeks, Jessica McRorie, Paul Music, John Huizinga, Bob Pert, Alan Magid
This posting to News of the Weird Daily is © 2008 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I'm not being sarcastic here (for once) (and this will be the only time!). Google AdSense may be posting some ads on this site soon. Do not click them. Seriously. Don't. I will be in big trouble if you do. Thank you. Come back Monday morning (7-7-2008) for an explanation.
Yr Editor

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wednesday’s Creme de la Weird

For part of this month, it’ll be illegal to “annoy” or “inconvenience” someone in downtown Sydney
Unfortunately, that’ll only be during the July 15-20 World Youth Day festival, when 200,000 Catholic pilgrims visit, but it could serve as a demonstration project! AP via Fox News

California hospitals commit about 100 “serious” errors a month
These are the ones they’re required to report (e.g., wrong-patient and wrong-site surgery, bedsores so serious that there’s rotting, items left in after surgery). Los Angeles Times

Can’t possibly be true: A college with a concierge desk, free snacks, live music in the cafeteria, and more
High Point (N.C.) University, and it has a “director of WOW!” (By the way, enrollment is up.) Chronicle of Higher Education // High Point Univ. website

Update: German banknote printer loses one of its most lucrative contracts (Zimbabwean dollars)
Until now, tons of paper arrive regularly in Harare because the incumbent multibillion-dollar notes go worthless every week or so, but the German gov’t has successfully leaned on the company. An official of Zimbabwe’s central bank [LOL!] said the country has a backup plan, but that it’s secret. Wall Street Journal

Update: Moe the chimp is missing in southern California
He’s the one adopted, toilet-trained, and otherwise humanized by the Davises of Covina (Moe slept in their bed, watched TV with them, was best man at their wedding), who fought the town to be able to keep him, but finally lost, then were forced to settle for daily visits at a local sanctuary, and it was there in 2005, taking Moe a birthday cake, that they were attacked by two other chimps, with Mr. Davis maimed (losing, among other appendages, his testicles and nose). The Davises are heartbroken that Moe has walked away, and they’re out looking for him in the nearby forest. AP via Charlotte Observer [contains a not-safe-for-stomachs photo of the noseless Mr. Davis]

Update: The story of that North Carolina politico in yesterday’s NOTW Daily (charged with rape, assault, Satanism) is much richer than initial reports indicated
She and her hubby were both sweethearts in their day jobs, but, man, oh, man, on their own time . . whew! According to police, their cults are things called Order of the Morning Star and Indigo Dawn. News & Observer (Raleigh) // WTVD-TV (Durham) // Indigo Dawn website

Update: The discovery last yr of potentially-live World War II bombs underneath an Orlando middle school was just the beginning
Homeowners in the area have found ‘em all over the place, and some people have been injured, and the Army Corps of Engineers has upgraded the search to a high priority, even though it’s not really sure it can find ‘em all. (Reassuring Army Corps quote: “Chances are, it’s not a problem.” [Yr Editor nominates this as official alternative to the ubiquitous “close enough for gov’t work”] CNN

Your Daily Loser
Police in Mesa, Ariz., called by neighbors to a loud domestic fight where a woman and a man were screaming at each other, arrested a 21-yr-old man who cops said was the only one there, alternating a high-pitched voice with a low-. Arizona Republic

People Whose Sex Lives Are Worse Than Yours
Mr. Nicodeme Petion, 41, who was arrested in Fort Pierce, Fla., sittin’ in his car with his pants down, porno magazines and condoms nearby, and a sock over his stuff (suspected of being “used,” if you get my drift). Fort Pierce Tribune

Your Daily Jury Duty
[no fair examining the evidence; verdict based on mugshot only]
John Walsh, 69, arrested in Australia and charged with axe-murdering his wife and two grandchildren. Australian Broadcasting Corp. News

A policy study group has concluded that Denmark is the world’s happiest country (except maybe for the hard-core Muslims there, still fuming over those cartoons) (and Zimbabwe the least happy; U.S. 16th happiest) . . . . . The French military, desperately needing a victory to shore up its image, won a firefight in Carcassonne–oh, wait, it wasn’t a battle; it was a domestic military exhibition that accidentally used live ammo when shots were fired into the crowd (wounding 17) . . . . . Recurring: Yet another of those fatal “running down the hallway” stunts that did not end at the end of the hallway but, rather, out the window and four flights down (AWI, of course).

(1) San Francisco’s foreign policy of escorting Honduran drug-dealing, illegal-immigrant youth home every time they get arrested [NOTW Daily, 6-30-2008] has been changed, now that Mayor Newsom has decided he may run for governor (and the fallback position, of sending those kids to shelters in San Bernardino County, caused County officials to hit the ceiling) . . . . . (2) The Utah Supreme Court overturned the 2005 manslaughter conviction of the guy who blew away the fella who had just given him a turbo-wedgie, saying the killer might deserve a little understanding.

Professor Music’s Weird Links
Yr Editor doesn’t read Turkish, but this appears to be the lovely Mrs. Ahmadinejad [link from Fark.com]

NOTW, The Blog
Yr Editor is now off-duty until Monday while Americans celebrate We Kicked England’s Ass Day.

Newsrangers: Brian Rogers, Pamela Lee, Diana Lelle
This posting to News of the Weird Daily is © 2008 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday’s Creme de la Weird

War-crippled Iraqis train for the Paralympics
Said one coach, “As a country that participated in many wars since 1980, we have many disabled people. Our Paralympic team is better than our Olympic team.” New York Times

Is moonlight the miracle cure?
London’s Independent sent a reporter to about an hour out of Tucson, Ariz., to the six-story-high Interstellar Light Collector, which magnifies lunar light and treatments of which, its advocates claim, have cured asthma, etc., and provided casino jackpots. (“Etc.” includes one woman’s husband’s hemorrhoids) The ILC’s most visible creation so far, it appears, is the on-site accessories store, selling pre-treated jewelry and crystals. The Independent (London)

Why the Brits are setting terrorists free
A Daily Mail columnist, writing in the Wall Street Journal today, explains that, if the gov’t thinks it can only prove relatively minor charges against known immigrant terrorists, it would rather just deport them, but it can’t do that because almost all are from countries that might possibly torture them when they land, and British judges in effect grant them humanitarian asylum. (Bonus: The terrorists’ families are thus entitled to welfare benefits!) (Double Bonus: All the international terrorist organizations know Britain does this!) Wall Street Journal

Update: Artist-extraordinaire Martin Creed is back at the Tate Britain
He made NOTW and lots of other places with his 2001 Turner Prize for, well, an empty room with a light bulb going on and off (and on and off, and on and off, until they finally kicked him out). Creed’s back, and this time, every 30 seconds, a runner will sprint through one of the galleries (Work No. 850). Tate Britain’s director, obviously using Artist Keyboard Macros, described the work as “compelling,” “it upsets,” “art space,” and “preconceived ideas,” among other assurances. (Actually, our last encounter with Creed was in 2006, when he released his “Sick Film,” consisting only of people throwing up on camera. He said he had planned to do a similar film, titled with another 4-letter word beginning in S, but it’s not clear that he ever got any movement on that.) Reuters // NOTW 732 (2-17-2002) // NOTW 968 (8-27-2006)

Update: Abu Dhabi, where people pay more for the proper license plate than for their luxury car
It has been No Longer Weird for a while that people with money to burn don’t mind paying a premium for a “lookee how rich I am” license plate, but Abu Dhabi’s ridiculous. “It’s not enough to just have a Ferrari anymore,” said the city’s license plate, er, auctioneer. Plate “1" went for $14m; “5" for $9m. Buying “430" for your Ferrari F430 (car price: $180k) was a steal: $120k. Wall Street Journal

The Human Condition Today
Mega-rich financier Jeffrey Epstein reported to prison to do 18 months on a sex-tourism guilty plea, and he’s both wistful and remorseful, in that he has organized (for when he gets out) what he called a “board of directors” to counsel him on his reckless behavior . . . . . A local politico in North Carolina resigned after being implicated in a kidnaping, rape, and assault that might have connections to a Satanic cult and to her day job as “past life reconstruction” consultant . . . . . The Colorado Springs Gazette interviews a joyous, intelligent, uninhibited panhandler who has scoped the demographics, chosen his site, and makes $25 an hour.

Your Daily Loser
A 14-yr-old kid in Falmouth, Mass., first just up and shoved a 71-yr-old man (fishing with his grandson) off the dock into the water because, he said, he “thought it would be funny.” Then, after his arrest, police gave him his phone call, and he rang up a buddy to “brag and laugh” about it, according to police. Cape Cod Times

People Whose Sex Lives Are Worse Than Yours
Alan Patton, 56, is already a registered sex offender, but that was then, and now he says there’s no personal contact with boys, just laying down Saran Wrap in toilet bowls, placing cups at the bottom of urinals, and collecting the gold. WBNS-TV (Columbus, Ohio)

Your Daily Jury Duty
[no fair examining the evidence; verdict based on mugshot only]
David Gebhardt, 42, is facing a minor charge or two in Connecticut for walking along Interstate 291 wearing a thong, wig, and fake breasts. (No pedestrians allowed on Interstate highways!) Hartford Courant

The New York Times catches us up on that “federal agent” who blew into tiny Gerald, Mo., and virtually took charge of local crime-fighting (for which the community was grateful) [NOTW Daily, 5-15-2008], but he’s been busted as a wannabe, creating several distinct questions, all beginning with the phrase “why would somebody.”

Professor Music’s Weird Links
Sako Kojima, the performance artist who tries as hard as she can to, er, be a hamster “because they don’t meditate, they aren’t thinking deep.” “[A]fter time, [my] works show a sense of irony, pain, and sadness of individual human experience.”

NOTW, The Blog
Yr Editor plans to publish tomorrow, July 2nd, but that'll be it until Monday, July 7th.

Newsrangers: Joe Weckbacher, Emmitt Dove, Mark Neunder, Michael Lawlor, Darryl McMiller, Eric Appellof, Scott Langill, Sam Gaines
This posting to News of the Weird Daily is © 2008 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.