Monday, August 30, 2010

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

Prime Cuts of Underreported News, Hand-Picked and Lightly Seasoned by Chuck Shepherd
Special Dog Days of August Edition II
(links correct as of August 16)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Editor's Notes

As previously announced, Your Editor has become overstimulated and needs to rest. I have selected some recent updates to earlier creme de la weird, plus some recent variations on seemingly age-old weird-news themes. The next fresh Pro Edition, dated September 6, will be posted and mailed on Tuesday, September 7 (because September 6 is Labor Day in the U.S., and labor is prohibited by law). During this "break," Your Editor will in no way be on "holiday" except perhaps in the sense that he will be at his desk doing things that require neither his best efforts nor meeting a deadline.


In 2007 News of the Weird highlighted the clothes cults of impoverished Congo: "In [the country that] has lost an estimated four million people in the civil wars of the last decade and where many must get by on about 30 cents a day, 'gangs' of designer-clothes-wearing men" have fashion smackdowns in the streets of Kinshasa to prove that Versace and Gucci styles look better on them than on others. These "sapeurs" (from the French slang for clothes) continue to strut their genuine Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana, according to a March Washington Post dispatch. For one sapeur, "Luzolo," who lives in a one-room shack with no bed, no water, and no electricity (but a closetful of designer outfits) describes the feeling as "like a spirit that comes in me." When he wears "the labels," he said, "I feel there is no one above me." Washington Post

Again this year, in April, the Senjosi Temple in Tokyo hosted the possibly-400-year-old Naki Sumo ("crying baby contest"), in which infants are blessed to good health by having Sumo wrestlers hoist them into the air, hold them at arm's length, and coax them (no squeezing!) to cry, thus signaling that the offering has been heard. This year, 80 babies were glorified, with special spiritual favors afforded those who cried the loudest and the longest. Daily Telegraph (London)

In 2007, News of the Weird mentioned the nightly ceremony on the India-Pakistan border at Wagah Crossing as part pomp, part macho posturing, and part Monty Python ("Ministry of Silly Walks"), in which troops from both sides wearing hard-to-describe headgear perform complicated boot-stomping maneuvers to assure their countrymen that they are protecting their nation from the other one. Lately, however, according to a July Agence France-Presse dispatch, the high-kicking show has become subdued because so many of the soldiers have reported knee injuries from the exaggerated prancing. Agence France-Presse via Google News

Cosmetic surgery-obsessive Sheyla Hershey of Houston, Tex., has endured more than 30 operations, including breast augmentations in increasingly large sizes (in her quest to have the world's largest pair). As News of the Weird reported, her luck started to go south in 2008 when licensed Texas surgeons declined to implant the M cups she wanted, and she was forced to use a clinic in Brazil. Last year, for the birth of her first child, she had the Brazilian implants removed--and later replaced with a smaller pair--but in June 2010, she was diagnosed with a staph infection. At press time she was still being treated with radical antibiotic therapy in Houston and might lose one or both breasts. KRIV-TV (Houston)

Notorious Boston criminal gang leader Whitey Bulger, who has been on the run since 1995, made News of the Weird before that because of some unusual dietary (and hence, excretory) habits. Bulger would now be 80 years old, but law enforcement officials have no idea where he is, or what he now looks like, or even if he is alive, but they believe he likes to browse books. In April 2010, FBI agents blanketed bookstores in Victoria, British Columbia, having gotten word that he might be in the area, but nothing turned up. (Bulger was the model for the Jack Nicholson character in the movie "The Departed.") The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Oklahoma City Bomber-helper Terry Nichols, serving a life sentence at the "Super Max" federal prison in Colorado, recently ended what he said was his third hunger strike of 2010 to protest food quality. Lack of fiber in the diet, he said, causes him "chronic constipation, bleeding, [and] hemorrhoids" and thus disrespects "God's holy temple," which is Nichols's name for his body. The prison continues to offer Nichols only limited dietary options.

Recurring Themes

The most recent instance of the cardinal sin of the jailing profession occurred in a Minneapolis lockup in May, when a witness in an active murder case was arrested, probably on an unrelated charge, but placed in the same cell as the murder suspect, Jonathan "Thirsty" Turner, who knew that the witness had already given a statement against him. The witness was badly beaten, but jailers were not certain enough that Turner did it to file charges.
Associated Press via WCCO-TV (Minneapolis)

The Animal Planet channel, perhaps hard-pressed for new series ideas, has reportedly ordered "The Skunk Whisperer" into production, but there remain multi-use whisperers who claim they can talk to and analyze all critters, with New Zealand's Faye Rogers the latest to draw attention (and she singled out her ability with "worms"). All beings, she said, are "connected by a higher consciousness," allowing, for example, traveling birds to pass on important "international information" to fish. She disputed a notion spread by "horse whisperer" Bill Northern that cats are "wily"-- explaining that cats merely appear wily because they prefer to be asked specific questions rather than generalities. In an August interview with the Christchurch Press, she referred to "clients," indicating that at least some people pay the $65 (N.Z.) an hour ($45 U.S.) for her services. The Press (Christchurch)

Japanese ice-cream makers are famous for expanding the universe of conceivable flavors (as News of the Weird has mentioned several times), but a gathering by the fashion/style website The Gloss in July found several more, suggesting that maybe the world is about to run out of what ingredients can go into ice cream: Haggis ice cream (from Morelli's in London), Sardines and Brandy ice cream (from Helader a de Lares in Venezuela), Caviar ice cream (Petrossian in New York City), and Foie Gras ice cream (Phillippe Faur in Toulouse, France, about $150).

In several regions of the African nation of Cameroon, parents try to keep maturing daughters off the market by "ironing" their breasts (pressing them with heated stones and leaves to make them flatter and the girls thus less desirable for sex). The practice reached world media (and News of the Weird) in 2006 as part of a condemnation campaign by the United Nations, but apparently it continues unabated, according to new videos circulated this year and described in the Washington Post in March. According to that writer, who interviewed numerous health officials in Cameroon, the practice apparently has little effect, in that the teenage pregnancy rate remains very high. Washington Post

Alcor Life Extension Foundation makes the news regularly, as family dysfunctions occur when someone buys a contract to have his head frozen upon death so that some day, if the science advances, he can be thawed and brought back to life. Typically, survivors of little faith in science prefer a more dignified disposal, as was the case with David Richardson, who had his brother Orville buried in February 2009 despite Orville's $53,500 Alcor contract. Most such disputes are raised and decided pre-death or contemporaneous with death, but Alcor appealed an original Iowa court decision in David's favor, and in May 2010, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed, ordering Orville dug up. (Alcor promotion materials say that, for best results, the head should be frozen 15 minutes after the heart stops beating.) Associated Press via Arizona Republic

Reporters (and News of the Weird!) relish playing "gotcha!" with people who convince authorities that they are injured too badly to continue working, setting themselves up for sometimes lucrative lifetime pensions, yet somehow seem to miraculously recover and subsequently engage in vigorous physical endeavors. New York City firefighter John Giuffrida, 42, retired on a disability pension of about $75,000 a year in 2003, based on asthma and other lung ailments from cleaning up the Sept. 11th Ground Zero, but two years later, he was a regular on the mixed-martial-arts circuit and is continuing to beat people up. (Giuffrida told a New York Post reporter that the two activities "completely different." Strength and endurance fighting, he said, is not the same as "running into a building that is on fire with a smoke condition and toxins in the air." New York Post

And my thanks to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors