Monday, April 05, 2010

News of the Weird/Pro Edition
"You're Still Not Cynical Enough"

Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
April 5, 2010
(datelines March 27-April 3) (links correct as of April 5)

The Art of Teenage Shopping, Plus Hecklers' Rights, Mortuary Golf, and Low-Payout Crimes

Haul Queens
In the spirit of basketball's Final Four, Blair Fowler, 16, is at the top of her game, too, taking it to the next level, giving 110% . . at shopping! "Haul queens" like Blair hit the malls and then display their purchases via YouTube (100,000 videos so far)–but without "bragging," which is regarded as tacky. One sociologist called it "the perfect marriage of two of Generation Y's favorite things, technology and shopping. [V]iewers don't have to spend the money, and you still get the thrill. It's a bit like pornography." (Blair's from Tennessee but attracted the attention of The Times of London's Los Angeles stringer, who noted Blair's "ability to deliver a high-pitched, 10-minute lecture on the merits of skinny versus lowriding jeans." The Times

Tina's Vote in November Counts Just as Much as Yours
Tina Mae Stone, married to the main man of the Hutaree Christian militia arrested weekend before last in Michigan, reportedly explained on her Facebook page part of why she's so damned mad at the U.S. government: "I'm peeved . . . our government passes a bill to spend more than 20 billion dollars to bring Hamas [jihadists] here and supplies them with food and homes that [sic] just wrong." "I'm so stressed I could KILL someone!!!!!!!" (Source of Tina's knowledge of the issue: an e-mail, in which the writer noted, conveniently, that the bill ["H.R. 1388"] was passed "behind our backs. . . . It wasn't mentioned on the news." [ed.: There's a reason it wasn't, Tina.] Detroit Free Press // Detroit Free Press (the Hutaree 9)

Canada's Kinda-Free Speech
Veteran comedian Guy Earle has a court date with the Human Rights Tribunal in Vancouver because he "discriminated" against two rude, obnoxious hecklers–but hecklers who are members of what is called in Canada a legally "protected class." Like any surviving nightclub comic, Earle has a repertoire of heckler-squelchers and fights nastiness with nastiness. And he had the audacity to refer, snidely, to the fact that males were not represented in that particular loving heckler couple. (Also in oh-so-delicate Canada last week, the student government of Queen's University in Ontario blasted the insensitivity of the school's hosting a fundraiser featuring guys doing pratfalls in inflatable sumo wrestler suits, which the students said was shameful, in that the incident disrespected Japanese culture.) Canadian Press /// National Post

American Much-Freer Speech
Insulting a "protected class" in the U.S. is not without its consequences, but at least it doesn't come with stand-alone punishment by government. Thus, Rev. Fred Phelps and the lesser Phelpses of the Westboro Baptist Church won't ever do time just for insulting a dead Marine by picketing his funeral with "God Hates Fags" signs (even though the late Marine was in all likelihood straight). Westboro might get sued, though, for inflicting emotional distress on the family. One judge ruled for the Marine father, but an appeals court (holding its nose) reversed, declaring that the Phelpses were just free-speeching. (But then, the Phelpses, as "winners" of the lawsuit, asked the court for reimbursement of its costs from the "losers," meaning the Marine dad, and the court ordered dad to pay $16,000.) (Update: Fox News's Bill O'Reilly said he'd take care of the tab.) Baltimore Sun

First Things First at a Bulgarian City Council Meeting
Dimitar Kerin was voted off of a key committee as punishment for playing the online game FarmVille during a Council meeting (after warnings–in that several members had been playing). FarmVille, though, requires quick, real-time decisions, since (wrote AOL News) "crops are going to mature and even die whether or not players are logged on. If they want to maximize their yield, they better be [continuously logged on and] ready to bring in their crops the second they're ready to harvest," even if that's in the middle of a city council meeting. Novinte (Sofia, Bulgaria) via AOL News

People Different From Us

In St. Paul, Minn., a domestic spat between Jacoby Smith, 33, and Tiesha Bell, 28, got out of hand ("We both need anger management," she said). Bell is missing both lower arms and both lower legs from a childhood illness, but, said Smith, she will "push me down and choke me with her nubs." This time, Smith smacked Bell "maybe twice" (his version) or many times (her version) before she applied the coup de grâce, emptying her bedpan on him. (In Port St. Lucie, Fla., Steven Plank, 52, ticked off at his father for using the stove out of turn, also applied the No. 1 weapon, grabbing the urine cup hanging on dad's walker and pouring it on him.) St. Paul Pioneer Press /// WPTV (West Palm Beach)

George Jolicoeur, 38, is a mess, but can't be brought to justice in Sanford, Fla., where he has pleaded no-contest in absentia to several counts of scamming stores with claims of tainted food. Jolicoeur weighs about 600 lbs., is in extremely poor health, and is nursing-home-bound. His crime spree started in 2007 when he falsely claimed that he had bought $50 worth of beef jerky that was moldy. (Even if that works, you still might only wind up with $50 worth of fresh beef jerky.) Orlando Sentinel /// Fox News [mugshot]

Cunning! A New York couple in their 60s bought box after box of Jell-O at about $1.40 each, took them home, ate the Jell-O, then filled the boxes with sand and returned them to get their $1.40 back. Husband was just the chauffeur; it looks like this was the wife's idea, and she is said to be not in her right mind. New York Post

Below The Fold

You know what they say about what "homophobia" really represents. Well, in Calgary, Alberta, psychiatrist Aubrey Levin was arrested for allegedly making sexual advances on a man (and is suspected in "dozens" of other incidents) in the course of his work at University of Calgary's medical school. In his previous life in South Africa, Dr. Levin was a notorious homophobe, conducting years of electroconvulsive shock "therapy" that he said would "cure" gays into going straight. (Also, in his spare time in Pretoria, he helped the apartheid government "deal with" dissidents.) The Guardian (London)

The European Union's trademarks office has approved the application of two German marketing executives to register their proposed beer under the name [ed. This is a family-friendly web post. The name is two words long; the second is Hell; and the first is the -ing form of the F-word]. The EU office reasoned that there's a town in Austria whose actual name is that first word, and "hell" is German for a light ale. (Never mind that that Austrian town has no brewery.) (Bonus: The mayors of the Bavarian towns of Kissing and Petting, and of the German town of Pissing, are now quite apprehensive.) Spiegel Online

The semi-pro English soccer league called Blue Square Premier announced they'll experiment in the coming season with letting referees call the game while riding Segways, which can move about as fast as the best players can sprint (and much faster than aging referees can lope). The Sun (London)

Last Monday, two students at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Mass., held the first fencing competition among blind people. Coach Felix Morales came up with the idea, with only minor modifications of regular fencing rules. (We all like to see the mainstreaming of people with disabilities, but still– . . .) (Also last week, coincidentally, Turkish singer Metin Senturk set the land-speed record for a solo blind driver [181 mph] in a Ferrari F430.) Boston Globe /// Reuters via Washington Post

A 30-year-old University of Illinois graduate student took The Only Way Out, from the 18th floor of the Burnham 310 building in Champaign, but had to demonstrate special resolve. He landed on an adjoining four-story building–at that point, still alive. What do the grittiest among us do when dealt bad fortune? He picked himself up, brushed himself off, and jumped again from that building–this time, successfully. [LINK CORRECTED] News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana)

Readers know from News of the Weird that brain tumors can leave a patient with hallucinations and bizarre behavior changes, depending on the particular region affected, but apparently so can an ovarian tumor. The patient, with no warning, claimed to be in labor and later to be proudly referring to her new, nonexistent baby, then later aggressively demanding that an exorcist be brought in. Surgeons (University Hospital in Cincinnati) found no triggers in her health or family history but did locate a tiny "teratoma" of cells growing out of control on an ovary and thus crossing up various body signals. [ed.: Still, don't be misled; the vast majority of bizarre behaviors that you and I encounter are not tumor-based, but rich human folly.] Cincinnati Enquirer

The Pervo-American Community

Teacher Fernando Gonzalez, 35, got seven years in a federal pen on possession of child porn, which came to the attention of authorities when Fernando was spotted inside his classroom at North Shore High School in Galena Park, Tex., blissfully "going blind" at the computer. His only explanation, when caught, was that he was forced to browse his child porn at school because his fed-up wife had banished his disks from their home. Houston Press

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

William Moore told his daughter that she could entertain her new boyfriend at their home but that he had to be out by midnight. At 3 a.m., Moore awoke to find her, as they say, "performing a sex act" on the guy. Someone then fired a shotgun blast at the boyfriend. Would that be Moore? (Bonus: Moore's daughter is 40-ish, but the boyfriend still had to be gone.) KENS-TV (San Antonio, Tex.)

More Things To Worry About

Safety First in Britain: A resident called up Bolton Metropolitan Council to inform them that there was a discarded mattress in a public place that needed to be removed. The mattress was eventually picked up by (guess which one) (a) two guys in a van, in a four-minute job, or (b) four workers using a 1.7 ton JCB digger (driver, banksman to guide him, and two supervisors) a week later, after a "risk assessment" official had come out to survey the scene. Daily Telegraph (London)

At the link is a municipal road sign from Treviso, Italy, advising motorists that they are entering a zone notorious for prostitutes. From the design of the sign, it is unclear whether these signs are "warnings" or "advertising." Daily Telegraph (London)

Questionable Judgment: R&B singer Erykah Badu figured she just had to shoot the video of her latest number (a) stripping nude, one item at a time, as she walked around downtown Dallas and (b) winding up at the semi-sacred Dealey Plaza, the site of John F. Kennedy's assassination. KDFW-TV (Dallas) via WTTG-TV (Washington, D.C.)

Partisan political aggressiveness continues, this time in Jefferson City, Mo., where state Rep. Linda Fischer (Democrat) is being challenged by Republican John Fischer, her husband, against whom she also has a judicial stay-away order for domestic violence (hence, no debate-appearances). (He denies physicality and insists that he's challenging her only on the issues.) Associated Press via Springfield News-Leader

Mexico City has enjoyed a rebirth of traditional Mayan games by citizens trying to prevent them from dying out. Said one, "We want our kids to rediscover our roots." At the top of the list, said USA Today, is pelota purépecha, which resembles field hockey except that the ball is on fire. (Bonus: They can play it at night even on fields without lights.) USA Today

Editor's Notes

Updates on News of the Weird stories: (1) BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, reported here last week to have denied coverage to a 14-day-old baby, citing a "pre-existing condition," changed its mind. (2) It took a while, but Antwon Womack finally opted out of the race for school board in Birmingham, Ala. You may recall Womack from NOTW M135 (11-8-2009) as the guy who got caught fudging/lying about several things in his campaign literature but then ballsily telling reporters that his campaign was not about accuracy but about "leadership." It turns out Antwon not only wasn't a college or high school graduate but might even have failed his GED. (3) The only convicted Lockerbie bomber, who has terminal prostate cancer and whom Scotland released from prison in August out of compassion, so he could live out his final days under house arrest in his native Libya [NOTW/Pro, 3-1-2010], has apparently made a "remarkable recovery" and celebrated his 58th birthday last week with a big bash. Some families of the 270 Lockerbie victims are beside themselves. [LINKS CORRECTED] Fort Worth Star-Telegram /// Birmingham News /// New York Daily News

And For Further Review . . .

Famously, for now almost 45 years, the Ahlgrim Funeral Home in Palatine, Ill., has tried to put a little joy in the bereavement racket with a playground of games in its basement (not available for use during actual services, though). Founder Roger Ahlgrim's centerpiece is a 9-hole miniature-golf course with death-themed holes. (Also, shuffleboard, Ping Pong, pool tables, video games, and a "haunted house" with a toy guillotine, spider webs, tombstones, and caskets.) News of the Weird informed readers of this amusement in 1991 (NOTW 163, 3-22-1991) and then again on Ahlgrim's 35th anniversary (NOTW 694, 5-27-2001), but here are some recent snapshots of the layout.

Newsrangers: Gary Davidson, Nigel Parry, Rebecca Malmstrom, Chris Fulmer, Patrick Fletcher, Aulton Smith, and Vic McDonald, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors