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[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]

by Chuck Shepherd

Snail Mail: There’s an App for That

Wait… what? A startup company in Austin, Texas, also serving San Francisco, promises to take its customers’ incoming US mail three times a week, photograph it and deliver it back to the customers via mobile phone app, for $4.99 a month. The company, Outbox, provides some value-added services, removing the customer from junk-mail lists and paying bills. Still, Outbox’s unorthodox business model assumes that a growing number of people absolutely hate opening, filing or discarding pieces of paper. Co-founder Will Davis told CNN in February that at least he does not fear competition: “No one is crazy enough to do what we’re doing.”

Oops!

• College basketball player Shanteona Keys makes free throws at a 78 percent rate for her career, but on Feb. 16, she weakly shanked one of those 15-foot shots, causing it to thud to the floor about eight feet short of the rim — the worst collegiate free-throw attempt of all time, according to several sports commentators who viewed the video. Keys explained to Deadspin.com that she always brings the ball close to her face when she shoots, “and my fingernail got caught on my nose, so I couldn’t follow through correctly.” Her Georgia College (Milledgeville, Ga.) team lost to rival Columbus State, 70-60.

• Research Hurts: Between 2002 and 2010, according to the March BJU International (formerly British Journal of Urology), an estimated 17,600 patients came to US hospital emergency rooms reporting genital injuries from trouser zippers (presumably by accident, but researchers took no position on that). Seven authors (six from University of California, San Francisco) took credit for the report, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, and found that “zip” wounds were only about one-fifth of emergency penile injuries.

Family Values

• Rachel Hope and Parker Williams, both apparently intelligent and attractive, decided to procreate and fully raise a child together — even though neither has romantic intentions toward the other. Their relationship is likened to a business one, according to a February New York Times profile, in which they do their respective biological duties, separately, and then each basically outsources half the subsequent child-rearing to the other. Said another parent in a similar relationship: “When you think about the concept of the village, and how the village was part of child-rearing for so many cultures… it makes total sense.”

• Robert Burton, 34, got a 15-year prison sentence in February for forcing women into prostitution, with evidence including a police report quoting Burton’s 7-year-old son, who was in the car with Burton and two women when Miami police stopped them. The kid had earnestly identified the women: “Those are my daddy’s hoes.”

The Continuing Crisis

• Professor Peter Froehlich, who teaches computer science classes at the highly competitive Johns Hopkins University, contractually grades “on a curve,” automatically marking the highest grade an A, with other grades trailing based on their proximity to the class’s best. One clever student tried to organize the entire class for December’s final exam, to persuade everyone to do no work at all — thus rendering the “highest” grade a zero, meaning an A for everyone. (Of course, if a single student broke ranks, everyone except that student would receive an absolute zero.) Fortunately for the students, according to InsideHigherEd. com, the class held together, and a shocked professor Froehlich nonetheless honored his contract, giving everyone an A (but subsequently closing the loophole).

• Thieves broke into the home of Earlie Johnson in Muskegon, Mich. in February and made off with several flat-screen TVs, but what really irked him was that they also stole his entire DVD pornography collection, consisting, he said, of the films of every African-American porn star since the 1970s. (“I’m not no scumbag guy, pervert, or nothing like that,” he told WZZM-TV. “I just thought it was cool to own my own porn collection. It keeps my relationship [with his fiance] fresh and tight.”) As soon as the news of Johnson’s misfortune spread, several adult video companies donated DVDs to help restore the collection.

• Sex is dangerous: (1) Officers from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority reported in March that a lion had attacked a couple having sex in the bush, killing the woman and sending the man dashing down a road wearing nothing but his condom (which reduced his chances of receiving help from motorists). (2) Near Daytona Beach, Fla. in February, Ms. Asia Walker, 30, driving her boyfriend around, could not resist his amorous advances and soon lost control of the car. It left the road and plowed completely through a vacant house. She was briefly hospitalized, but her boyfriend was not hurt.

Fine Points of the Law

Even though the British government refused to grant trademark protection to the Italian maker of “Jesus Jeans” because it would be “morally offensive to the public,” the US Patent and Trademark Office had no such qualms and approved the application in 2007. Since then, according to a February Wall Street Journal story, the company has prevented a dozen other companies from using such clothing names as “Jesus First,” “Sweet Jesus,” “Jesus Couture” and, most recently, “Jesus Surfed.”

People Different From Us

A persevering Brooklyn, NY high school teacher, Ronald Grassel, finally relented and submitted himself to a psychiatric evaluation that had originally been ordered in 1997 after he angrily and overenthusiastically dumped teachers’ union literature in his principal’s office. Grassel had refused the exam and been benched, and for 14 years was neither fired nor paid while he filed a series of unsuccessful legal actions to overturn the decision.

According to a March New York Post report, when he finally submitted to an exam in 2011, he was declared fit (his world-class obstinacy apparently not counting against him) and in September 2012 was back on the job.

Perspective

Humans’ belief that fragrances improve their allure can seemingly never be overestimated. Dutch-based artists Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug told the New York Times in March that they recently created a concoction to call attention to our neediness for artificial scent. Noting the deluge of new industry creations in 2012, Engelberts explained, “Our point is, why do you need nearly 1,400 new scents in one year?” The pair created Everything, which they claim contains a bit of every one of the year’s fragrances they were able to obtain (including Fame by Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend), dumped into one bottle and left to marinate — and they offered it for sale for the equivalent of about $39,000.

Least Competent Criminals

Not ready for primetime: (1) Paul Masters, 47, was charged with a roof-entry burglary of a Roses department store in Lexington, Ky. in March. Those burglaries are common, but almost always nighttime jobs, when no one else is on the premises. Masters, though, dropped in just after lunchtime. After police swarmed the store, Masters eventually fell through a drop ceiling and was arrested. (2) Jarad Carr, 37, was arrested in Chippewa County, Wis. in March after he persisted in demanding a refund for the computer printer he said he had bought at a Wal-Mart (though he lacked a receipt). While examining the printer, the Wal-Mart employee noticed a sheet of paper still inside — showing two counterfeit $100 bills — and called police, who arrived while Carr was still haggling for a refund.

© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.

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