Monday, February 14, 2011

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

Prime Cuts of Underreported News from Last Week, Hand-Picked and Lightly Seasoned by Chuck Shepherd
February 14, 2011
(datelines February 5-February 12) (links correct as of February 14)
© 2011 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Foliate-Obscured Psychosis, Plus Meat-Eating Furniture and the $4,000 Fanny Pack

★ ★ ★ ★!

Leaf Man: You might remember Matthew Hoffman, 30, from November for having killed a neighbor couple in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and kidnaped their teen daughter, who was rescued several days later in a basement after cops got around to investigating Hoffman, the neighborhood weirdo. Hoffman's safely locked up, and police last week released some investigation records. Hoo, boy! Photos of the Hoffman abode revealed (according to ABC News) "a living room stuffed with leaves, a bathroom lined with more than 100 bags of leaves," "mounds of leaves so high [the cops] feared that bodies could be buried underneath them." And since there were only two trees in his yard, and he rarely raked there, he actually had to haul all his leaves in from elsewhere. ABC News

"Ehhh, I Dunno, What Do You Want to Do with It?: The late outlaw novelist (literaraily-speaking) William S. Burroughs, whose best-known work was Naked Lunch, supposedly saw the butt-end of his last lunch on Earth epoxied for posterity, and now two ridiculously intellectually manic artists are about to make use of it. Except for the sophistication of the science, it sounds like a fraternity prank. They plan to take DNA from his feces and copy it, soak it in gold dust, load it into the kind of air pistol that's used to insert DNA into plants and animals for experiments, and shoot it into a mixture of blood, poop, and semen, to make "living bio-art." Either that, or these two guys (one a college professor in San Diego) are punking us something awful. AOL News

Time Flies: "You're not going to like this," said NPR's Robert Krulwich, as he introduced a wall clock that theoretically supplies its own power not by sunshine but by trapping houseflies and converting the carcasses into electricity, using flypaper and a razor-like scraper. Right now, the prototype's housing requires too much electricity to operate, but the clock itself runs for 12 days on eight dead flies, said the co-designer. (And Krulwich addressed the slippery slope toward carnivorous machines that might someday eat us, raising the point that self-sustaining robots at least ought to be vegetarian-only.) NPR

Big-Dog Chinese Businessmen Carry, er, Purses: It's a luxury designer's (Hermes, Coach, Louis Vuitton, etc.) dream market, in that both women and men are in a frenzy about upscale purses. Coach will have 53 stores in China by mid-year. And "upscale" means upwards of $1,000. (Why, yes--this is the same China that's number one in the world in knock-offs.) Meanwhile, on the runways in New York's current Fashion Week, a $4,675 fanny pack. Los Angeles Times /// Wall Street Journal

License Weird-News Columnists! A Wall Street Journal report on overregulated occupations, e.g., shampooers (100 hours of "theory and practice," including neck anatomy, required in Texas), barbers (1,500 hours' experience required in California), manicurists (750 hours' training required in Alabama), interior designers, tree-trimmers, kick-boxers, cat groomers, tour guides, casket makers, points out that the real deal is that incumbents in those fields use "licensing" to limit competition and squeeze prices upward. Yr Editor, too, would love to limit competition, to return to the good old days when I almost had a lock on the field, with no wannabes underpricing me with inferior goods. Plus, the way these licensing schemes work is that top-drawer incumbents (like me and Roland Sweet) would get grandfathered in. The others would have to do hundreds of hours of "training," and fill out forms, and get recommendations, and prove they're up to the job! Yeah, that's the ticket! Wall Street Journal

And Still More Things To Worry About

Apparently, all the important science projects in the world are fully funded and staffed, so these two guys at North Carolina State were forced to work on the problem of roses wilting--by splicing a celery gene into a rose plant. Eureka! PhysOrg.com [link from Mother Nature Network]]

First, the O.R. nurse stole nearly three-quarters of the surgery patient's anesthesia, but on top of that, when he screamed in pain during the operation, she dogged him to "[M]an up!" Star Tribune

It's a Recurring Theme that women in dysfunctional third-world countries sometimes try to encourage their men to stand up to power by denying them sex (the "crossed legs" movement) (like in Lysistrata). The latest dysfunctional third-world country to experience this in? Er, Belgium. Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

Questionable Campaign Strategy (I): Britain's Marie Stopes International, one of the world's best-known abortion and reproductive health providers, tried a new tack with a rock-music Internet video and catchy lyrics: "One up the bum and it's no harm done / One up the bum and you won't be a mum" Metro (London)

Questionable Campaign Strategy (II): Government and private aid organizations are forever appealing to underdeveloped countries to upgrade their defecation hygiene, including Cambodia (80% without toilets vs. only 60% without cell phones). Still, it was a little harsh for a sanitation team surveying the village of Sieng to publicly single out a certain farmer (in front of all his neighbors) as the local champion--for personally producing more caca than anyone else in the village. BBC News

Update: You thought the Catholic priest sex scandals had all played out, but the Los Angeles Archdiocese may still have a card or two left: One priest had not only been retained after admitting a long-term affair and sex addiction but then had been appointed to the Archdiocese's sex abuse advisory board. That's quite a concept--that "forgiveness" thing. New York Times

Update: We were onto J.P. Morgan Chase bank in the last Pro Edition, but another shoe fell this past week: It was revealed that Chase had terminated a voluntary program of deferring, for active duty military, any student loans it had written, for the period of deployment. (Bonus: Combined with last week's story, we can conclude that Chase--at the same time it was applying screws to military personnel on mortgages, decided to bring student loans up to the same screwage level.) (Up-update: After NBC News busted 'em again, Chase reinstated the deferments.) NBC News

Pump That Irony: The lifeblood of the teaching industry is evaluation (A, B, C, etc.). In the history of teaching, there have been about 10 million 10 billion complaints by students that the grading was unfair, and virtually every single complaint was rejected, usually summarily. Now, U.S. News magazine, and a higher-education advisory group are combining to evaluate the 1,000 U.S. teachers' colleges, and it seems there is no indignation quite like teachers' indignation at being evaluated. The criteria are unfair, they say, and not relevant to excellence. Their solution: All evaluators need to go away until they can come up with criteria that are perfect. New York Times

We don't know what name will be given to the new government center in Fort Wayne, Ind., but it won't be the one chosen by online voting--which was to name it after one of the city's most popular mayors of the 20th century, Harry Baals. (Harry's descendants pronounce it "bales," but Harry himself let the obvious pronunciation hang out.) Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)

Losers

Robber Not Ready for Prime Time: Mask on crooked. Tried to carry the entire cash register away, even though it was still plugged in. Fell down when he yanked on the cord. Laid his gun on the counter as he reached to gather the spilled money. Lastly, barely outran the baseball-bat-wielding clerk who chased him out the door. WCNC-TV (Charlotte, N.C.)

Least Competent Smugglers (i.e., actually optimistic about their plans): (1) He thought he could bring 200 live animals (tortoises, squirrels, snakes, etc.) from Thailand home to Indonesia--inside three checked suitcases at Bangkok's airport. (2) The young woman thought guards would never notice if she taped 74 cell phones to her little sister's back as they went for a visit to a prison in Medellin, Colombia. MSNBC /// Time

Compelling Explanation: A guy sent a photo by cell phone of a couple on a couch engaged in oral sex, to a nine-year-old boy, and the boy's mother and grandmother raised hell back at the man. Hey, he said, he has advertised the couch for sale, and that was the only picture he had of it to show, and that's why it was on his cell phone. WBBH-TV (Fort Myers, Fla.)

The Pervo-American Community

Jason Jones, 38, was on trial last week in Hamilton, New Zealand, for flashing his stuff, but even if he's convicted, his punishment is already severe. One victim described the goods as a 2-centimeter "bubble." "I looked away, but it wasn't much of a penis." Waikato Times

A Chicago transit guard (contract worker) was arrested for improperly detaining a turnstile-jumping teenager and creatively interrogating him by removing the boy's shoes and rubbing his genitals over the boy's toes. Then he let him go. [ed.: That's what it says here. It sounds somewhat fantastical, but no more so than a murderer who collects bags of leaves.] WBBM-TV (Chicago)

As late as in the 1990s, there was a by-snail-mail organization called the Diaper Pail Fraternity, composed of . . just what you're thinking. It's the rare perv fetish group that actually has a lower profile in the Internet age. If the DPF were active today, it looks like Tony Barnes, 30, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, would be card-carrying. (Bonus: "Barnes told a probation officer he hopes to return to child care work when he gets out of jail.") QMI Agency via CNews.canoe.ca

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


If Nicole Scott, 27, is guilty of DUI, the key evidence will be either (a) her mugshot or (b) the fact that, in the course of a few minutes' interrogation by the police, she denied four times that she was driving the crashed car and named, each of the four times, different people as the driver. (She was alone.) Sandusky (Ohio) Register

Patrick Bencher, 55, might or might not be guilty of masturbating outside a school, but he is clearly guilty of having an ill-fitting piece of wildlife nesting on his head. Detroit News

Editor's Notes

No time-wasters this week. Just important video. [LINKS OUT OF ORDER: To get to the first site, click the second link; to get to the second, click the first link.] (1) a train's-eye view of a slow-moving, track-crossing pedestrian (and soon-to-be hospital patient) and (2) a slide show of phobias, most of which I'm fearful you've never heard of.

Newsrangers: Pete Randall, Hal Dunham, Brian Cunningham, Gil Nelson, Peter Smagorinsky, Sandy Pearlman, Bruce Leiserowitz, Andy Freeman, and Glenn Mitchell, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors