[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]
Culinary Sleight of Pan
Slaved over a hot stove: Delivering gourmet meals to customers’ doors is a fast-growing business model, with chefs in nearly Chuck Shepherd every large modern city trying to cash in.
So far, perhaps only London’s brand-new Housebites goes the extra step. According to its press release, cited by Huffington Post in June, Housebites not only homedelivers “restaurant quality” cuisine (at the equivalent of about $15 to $20 per entry), but offers an optional dirty-pans service (about $8 extra), lending out the containers in which the food was prepared, thus allowing clients entertaining guests to display “evidence” of their culinary skills and hard work.
Government in Action
• Big fish: The US Department of Justice has been widely criticized for failing to bring to fruition investigations of Wall Street traders’ alleged lies (such as accusations that the firm MFS Global made bets on European bonds by illegally using clients’ money, of which CEO Jon Corzine suspiciously professed to be unaware). However, in several notable instances, its investigators have been relentless — for instance, prosecuting baseball’s Roger Clemens for lying to Congress and, in January, indicting marine biologist Nancy Black, who faces 20 years in prison for allegedly lying to investigators about whether her crew might have illegally fed whales to attract their attention for a boatload of whale-watchers.
• The government office in Liverpool, England that takes applications for benefits from disabled persons acknowledged in March that it needed to relocate. The office’s parking garage is 13 stories high, but that still requires visitors to climb two more flights of stairs from that level to reach the offices. A Liverpool Council statement admitted that the office was “not [in] the ideal location.”
Government Grants for Everybody!
• Worth every penny: (1) In April, police chief John Crane of Gadsden, Ala. learned that his department has owned, for two years, two unmanned aerial drones. He said he has no idea why they were purchased (at about $150,000), but that local taxpayers need not worry since they came with a federal law enforcement grant. (2) NBC Bay Area reports periodically on uses of 2009 federal stimulus money distributed in the San Francisco area, and in May revealed that the University of California, San Francisco, had received $1.2 million to interview 200 men on what effect being overweight has on their sex lives. A government budget activist decried funding a “sex study over fixing bridges and roads that are crumbling every day.”
• The indispensability of arts and crafts:
(1) There are not enough video games, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, which in April awarded a $40,000 grant to the University of Southern California to help produce another, based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. (2) Australia’s Council for the Arts announced in May that it would give A$20,000 (US equivalent, $20,380) to the “death-metal” band Ouroboros, citing the band’s distinct genre and its need for a symphony orchestra for its next album. Said the drummer, “We wouldn’t consider hiring an orchestra to do this without [the grant].”
• In May, performance artist Stuart Ringholt opened his show, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, naked. His pieces (a hodgepodge of exhibits on current art-world commentaries) were secondary to his insistence that all visitors to the show also shuck their clothing. His subtext, he said, was to explore reactions to extreme embarrassment (and told a New York Times correspondent that in an earlier self-shaming display, he had stood by a marble fountain for 20 minutes, dressed formally but with toilet paper trailing from his trousers). According to a Times dispatch from Sydney, Ringholt was joined by 48 nude-yet-nonplussed patrons — 32 men and 16 women.
• London’s Hayward Gallery staged an exhibition in June of “invisible art” — pieces that depend almost completely on the imaginations of viewers. For example, “1000 Hours of Staring” by Tom Friedman is a blank piece of paper that Friedman eyeballed off and on over five years before deciding that the object was finished and display-ready. Friedman also “submitted” an empty section of floor space, which he said was once cursed by a witch. Also there: an Andy Warhol bare platform that looks like it should have something resting on it, but doesn’t, and, by Yoko Ono, a typed set of instructions urging patrons to imagine some stuff.
• Germany’s Spiegel Online reported in April that police in Hamburg had charged a 33-year-old man with 96 burglaries based in part on the “ear prints” he left at each scene when he leaned against a front door to detect whether anyone was home. DNA and fingerprints were also collected, said a police source, but “earprints are of similar value as fingerprints in terms of evidence.”
• Easy collar: Kalvin Hulvey, 35, was charged with attempted auto theft in Tulsa, Okla. in June after jumping into Jeremy Penny’s van and fleeing. Penny and his dad took up the chase and caught Hulvey. Said Penny later, “I rodeo. [Dad and I] both rodeo.” When police arrived, Hulvey had been neatly hog-tied and secured to a fence. Explained Penny, “[L]ately, I’ve been having bad luck keeping calves tied [in rodeos], so [Dad] did the tying up.”
The Pervo-American Community
(1) Charles Marshall, 28, was arrested in Cincinnati in June and charged, for the fourth time in two years, with crimes involving exposing himself and simulating sex with a teddy bear. (It was not reported whether it was the same teddy bear.) (2) A 36-year-old man was arrested in Harvard, Idaho in May and charged with indecent exposure. A newspaper account reported that the target of his flashing was a dog, which he was allegedly trying to entice to approach the fence and nuzzle the man’s genitals.
Least Competent Criminals
You would think…: (1) In June, Logan Schwab, 20, who used to work at the police department in Carlisle, Pa., was seen on surveillance video sneaking into an office at the station, prying open a desk, and taking away $200 to $300 in parking-ticket money. (2) In Panama City, Fla. in May, Michael Marquez, 34 (who had been arrested with another man after being caught fighting over suspected stolen goods), was seen snatching a clock off the wall of the room in which he was being interrogated. He had stuffed it into his backpack when an officer left the room briefly, but was recorded on surveillance video.
In the US, most preschoolers who parade down pageant runways with their mothers cheering them are 5- and 6-year-olds. Britain’s upcoming Miss Mini Princess UK will probably feature Eleanor June Rees-Sutherland, who has yet to reach her second birthday. Though Eleanor June’s father strongly disapproves, Mom Robyn told the London’s Daily Mail that Eleanor June is a born pageant contestant (“such a girly girl”) who loves to wear makeup and nail polish, especially bright colors, and already owns a wardrobe of 20 dresses and 15 pairs of shoes. Robyn seems assured that pedophiles pose no threat: “I don’t think there’s anything sexy about a child who’s dressed like a little princess.”
Movie Cliche Come to Life (and Death)
Tragedy struck Poplar Bluff, Mo. on June 5 when five teenage girls parked their Jeep on railroad tracks at night at a spot notorious in local lore for the “ghost train” that once killed two people. As a train approached at 12:30 a.m., the girl driving tried to start the Jeep, but, as in the movies, the engine failed. Three girls fled, but, as in the movies, two were not able to unfasten their seat belts in time (and began screaming). One of the girls returned and helped one trapped girl escape, but the rescuer and the other trapped girl died when the train hit the Jeep.
‘© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.