Monday, November 30, 2009

News of the Weird/Pro Edition
November 30, 2009
mystifying and/or derisory news from November 21-28)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Weekly Gold

A news leak from the Vatican's file nominating Pope John Paul II for sainthood had a high-ranking nun saying she had heard him in the next room a few times self-flagellating [No snickering!], i.e., lashing himself in remorse as bodily penance. She said he mainly did it just before ordaining bishops and priests. Daily Telegraph (London) /// BBC News [background on Catholic self-flagellation]

Pregnant Sara Foss, 39, keeps a spotless house because she doesn't want people to think she's a mooching slob, since she takes £50,000 per year ($82,000) in assistance from the government for raising her 13 kids. Nonetheless, she's adamant. If her current pregnancy does not yield twins, she'll try, try again, and again. (Bonus: Her story caused quite a stir in the British press, for the names of the first 13, which are mostly tributes to her favorite film and literary characters, such as Frodo, Morpheus, Echo, Malachai, Rogue, and Voorhes.) Daily Mail

The high-end fashion store Valentina announced that it had reached a settlement on an out-of-control tab run up by Oprah Winfrey . . 's mother (Vernita Lee of Milwaukee), who owed $155,000 as of July 2008. Their dispute came because Valentina had taken Lee to court in 2002 over a separate, $174,000 tab, but then once again extended her credit. Lee refused to pay, accusing Valentina of exploiting her absence-of-willpower disability. Journal Sentinel

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You

Kevin Derks, 53, Kenosha, Wis., looks like a regular guy but is actually highly irregular. He swears up and down that he has never touched, or even approached, an underage girl. It's just that his apartment is arranged as, according to one detective, a "shrine" to little girls: pictures and posters of famous girls, snapshots of clothed little girls, a bed full of stuffed toys, adolescent-sized mannequins in provocative positions, and traditional child pornography. "This was my own world," he told detectives. "I knew what I was doing. I took a gamble. It's like going to Vegas, except I lost everything. [N]ow my ass is gonna fry." Associated Press via Post Crescent (Appleton, Wis.)

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]


Guilty? Randy Willgues, 32, is charged in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, with stalking a woman. Akron Beacon Journal

What Randy Cliett is charged with is No Longer Weird according to News of the Weird standards. He might have tried to burglarize a business by coming in through a vent but got stuck . . overnight. The fellow who runs the delightful Weekly Vice blog has collected Cliett's previous mug shots, which are presented here for evolutionary insight. Orlando Sentinel /// TheWeeklyVice.com

Sub-Prime Americans

Michael Sampson, 41, chose to go to trial in Salina, Kan., for the crimes of littering and driving on a suspended license, but before it was over, he was facing serious felonies. When the Mafia needs to influence witnesses, they tend to do it behind the scenes, but Sampson, sitting at the defendant's table, allegedly made point-and-shoot gestures, and throat-slashing gestures, at a woman on the witness stand. KSAL Radio (Salina)

Vincent Salters, 46, "shopping" in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Shoe Show on Tuesday, impulsively grabbed seven shoes on display and fled the store, outrunning security. However, they were all "lefts." He was arrested on Wednesday when he returned to the scene of the crime (possibly to grab some "rights"). Knoxville News Sentinel

Things People Believe: (1) Kyung Song Kil was arrested in downtown Washington, D.C., after tossing two Molotov cocktails into the street, which he thought was a good way to convince the government to give him the $200 million he says it owes him for "harassment." (2) James Kromer, 36, was arrested after crashing his car into the Physicians & Surgeons Capital Corp. building in Minneapolis. He explained that he did it because the FBI was inside reading his thoughts and sending him obnoxious messages. WTTV (Washington) /// WCCO-TV (Minneapolis)

From the Clovis News Journal (Clovis, N.M.) Police Report: "The woman . . . said the 38-year-old man had come into the bathroom while she was using it and had grabbed and twisted her nose until she could hear the bones and cartilage cracking. The man was arrested for aggravated assault." Clovis News Journal [3rd item]

The Nampa, Idaho, police are looking for the man who robbed a convenience store Sunday. That's he in the surveillance video, wearing the plaid bathrobe and flip-flops. And here's this guy, who robbed the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and who appears to be . . crying. [There's no crying in bank robbery!] Idaho Statesman /// KTLA-TV (Los Angeles)

Angst, Confusion, Crisis

It's a bad year to be an animal in Nepal. Every five years, in the village of Bariyapur, Hindus behead 250,000 critters to honor Gadhimai, a goddess of power. "Thousands" of buffalo were up first. A cab driver explained to a reporter for London's Guardian: "If we want anything, and we come here with an offering to the goddess, within five years all our dreams will be fulfilled." The Guardian

Must . . Obey . . Rules: The prime minister of the south Pacific island-nation of Vanuatu was bounced from the parliament only because he had missed three consecutive sessions without bringing a note from home. (Seriously.) Parliament will elect a successor this coming week. The Times (London)

A 72-year-old pig farmer in Craigmuir, Scotland, has gone to a lot of trouble over the last seven years to protest his local council's refusal to make repairs to his home (apparently, the plumbing). Lately, he has been saving up his sewage (not the pigs' but his own) and leaving it around town, with 80 barrels' worth on reserve on his property, which bothers the neighbors more than it bothers him. BBC News [with photo of the kind of man who would save his own sewage, for years on end]

There Will Be Lashes: Twelve people were arrested in Tehran, at a wife-swapping party. (Actually, under sharia, there may also be stones!) Australian Associated Press via Sydney Morning Herald

Eyewitness News

Fox News last week dropped this bizarre slide show on us, from the ongoing Census of Marine Life (Univ. of Rhode Island/National Geographic), featuring 22 candidates perhaps for the next Aliens movie or perhaps to showcase "intelligent design" in action. [But to their mommas, they're beautiful.] Fox News

More Things To Worry About

Breast-reduction surgery . . for dogs: They are retired Labrador rescue dogs that have sagging folds of skin after years of "overbreeding," and a kennel near Brentwood, England, is springing for cosmetic surgery to improve their looks, for adoption. Daily Telegraph

It's Good to Be a British Prisoner (continued): The warden at Kirkham prison near Preston came up with a fund-raising idea: sell tickets for £1 each to the inmates, from their allowances, and the winner of the raffle gets a day off, i.e., "See ya back here tonight, OK?" (The warden changed his mind a few days later.) Daily Mail

Government-Sponsored Sex Education in Thailand: Not only do men need to always wear condoms, but the condoms must fit properly. Consequently, the government's passing out disposable paper measuring tapes (49mm width to 56mm width) (though without instructions on what 48s and 57s should do). Asia One (Singapore)

A farmer in Axedale, Australia, called firefighters to report a gas leak, but the arriving firemen immediately sensed the source: a 265-lb. sow. Said one, "I don't know what they were feeding this thing, but we certainly heard it." [Link Fixed] Sydney Morning Herald

Upon Further Review . . .

Life magazine called them 30 "dumb inventions" that had run in its pages, as dynamic breakthroughs, in the years before 1970. Dumb? All are quite remarkable, but try these for 5-star status: Curved Barrel Machine Gun (for firing around corners) /// L. Ron Hubbard's Electrometer (to detect whether tomatoes feel pain when sliced) (They do!) /// Rainy Day Cigarette Holder (a parasol over the lighted end to keep it dry) /// Cigarette Pack Holder (smoke all 20 at once) /// Cigarette Holder Built for Two /// Baby Cage (to hang the tot out the window of a high-rise, to get some fresh air) /// Beating Breasts (they look like breasts and have a "heartbeat," to help lull babies to sleep)

Editor's Notes

(1) A website called Tableseed.com, which provides e-mail birthday clubs to promote restaurants, went off-label last week for publicity and released its findings on 2,000 stories that ran on the Associated Press Strange News wire over the past 12 months, so that it could anoint (per capita) the weirdest state and the weirdest city. Winning state? You need to ask? Second, though, was New Hampshire, and third, Alaska. New York City won, followed by Lincoln, Neb., and Madison, Wis. The top two things "wrong" with this report are: (1) AP editors' ideas of "strange" are often pretty tame for us Pro Weirdos, and (2) The origin of a story depends heavily on the availability of weird-qualified AP stringers, and some locales are dry. (News of the Weird's network is so-o-o-o much better.) Tableseed.com/strange/

(2) All over the news this week was the saga of Mr. Rom Houben of Brussels, Belgium, who was in a coma for 23 years and now "says" that he was conscious the whole time but just couldn't express himself. The Pharyngula blog points out, though, that we only "know" that because an attendant guides Houben's fingers over a keyboard and somehow detects sensations on which keys Houben wants pressed to form his words. There is also the issue of whether he's responding in English or Belch—er, Flemish. Medical "miracles" (i.e., occurrences that science cannot yet explain) happen all the time, but that doesn't mean they happen all the time. The jury is still out. Daily Mail (London) [first report] /// Pharyngula

Newsrangers: Steve Dunn, Eugenia Schenecker, Eric Swanson, John Wildenthal, Tom Barker, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors