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News of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Donald Duck may be a lovable icon of comic mishap to American youngsters, but in Germany, he is wise and complicated and retains followers well past their childhoods. Using licensed Disney storyline and art, the legendary translator Erika Fuchs created an erudite Donald, who often “quotes from German literature, speaks in grammatically complex sentences, and is prone to philosophical musings,” according to a May Wall Street Journal dispatch. Though Donald and Uncle Scrooge (“Dagoberto”) speak in a lofty richness, nephews Tick, Trick and Track use the slang of youth. Recently in Stuttgart, academics gathered for the 32 nd annual convention of the German Organization for Non-Commercial Followers of Pure Donaldism, with presentations on such topics as Duckburg’s solar system.

Bright ideas

• The preferred “disciplinary” tactic of Tampa, Fla. high school assistant principal Olayinka Alege, 28, is to have underperforming students remove a shoe so he can “pop” their toes. Five students at King High School complained, triggering a sheriff’s office investigation, but Alege was cleared, and indeed, the students admit that the popping is painless (though “weird,” said some). One apparently incorrigible student said his toes had been popped 20 times. However, the principal recently ordered Alege to stop.

• Chicago banker George Michael, seeking to avoid $80,000 a year in property taxes, decided to call his $3 million mansion a “church” and apply for tax exemption as pastor, and in July 2008, his application was somehow preliminarily approved by the Illinois Department of Revenue. According to a Chicago Tribune report, the application included a photograph of the “church,” which was just a shot of an outer wall of Michael’s house with a large cross on it, except that the cross was later discovered to have been merely placed on the photograph in marker pen. In July 2009, a state administrative law judge finally reversed the earlier approval.

Leading economic indicators

• The economy is working:

(1) Carole Bohanan was hired among 300 applicants by the Wookey Hole tourist facility in Somerset, England in July to be its witch in residence, at a prorated annual salary of the equivalent of about $83,000. The witch’s job is to linger in the caves full-time during tourist season, looking like a hag and cackling.

(2) Officials in Heath, Ohio might have solved their budget problems. The town (population 8,500) reported in July that its new, six-intersection traffic-camera ticketing system issued 10,000 citations in its first four weeks. (Nonetheless, officials admitted that was too many and were discussing how to ease up.)

• The economy is failing:

(1) A 36-year-old woman pleaded guilty to prostitution in Oklahoma City in June, for giving oral sex to a Frito-Lay employee in exchange for a case of chips.

(2) In an interview with the Toronto Star in June, a 36-year-old drag queen, who said he usually gets $60 for oral sex, was lately receiving offers as low as $5. Said “Ray”: “I didn’t spend two hours getting my makeup on and all dressed up for ($5).”

Things that live in the water

• “Goose barnacles”: A 6-foot-long log composed of hundreds of barnacles, locked together, washed ashore near Swansea, Wales in August. Each of the barnacles uses tentacles for snatching food, and a 6-foot mass of snake-like appendages, writhing simultaneously, terrified local beachgoers. Scientists said goose barnacles usually remain on the ocean floor.

• “Tubifex worms”: Using a flexible-hose camera, public utility officials in Raleigh, NC inspected a faulty water pipe under the Cameron Village shopping district in April and found a pulsating, tennis-ball-size mass attached to a pipe wall. Local biologists identified it as a colony of tubifex worms that navigated the system until finding a propitious feeding spot. Officials have attempted to assure residents that the worms are somehow no threat to water quality.

Cutting-edge breakthroughs

(1) In April, researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City reported the ability to encase scorpion venom in “nanoparticles” that were somehow able to guide the venom intravenously to the human brain, to attack tumors, potentially doubling the venom’s success rate.

(2) A team from Britain’s University of Warwick announced in April that it had built a speedy, fully functioning Formula 3 race car using biodegradable ingredients in the frame (including carrots, potatoes and soybean foam) and chocolate oils in the fuel.

News that sounds like a joke

(1) A 114-pound tortoise, part of the Zambini Family Circus performing in Madison, Wis., in July, escaped. He actually made good time on his dash for freedom, covering two miles in six days before being spotted.

(2) About 20 men were present for a Belgian body builders’ championship in May when three anti-doping officials arrived unexpectedly and requested urine samples. Every single contestant abruptly grabbed his gear and fled, according to press reports, and the event was canceled.

Creme de la Weird

According to prosecutors in Britain’s Preston Crown Court in July, Christopher Monks, 24, wanted two things (based on transcribed internet chat room dialogue): his parents killed and his penis bitten off. As the internet is fertile ground for communities of sexual aberrants, Monks easily found a man, Shaun Skarnes, 19, who was searching to accommodate someone on the latter desire and who allegedly agreed to kill Monks’ parents in exchange. However, Skarnes botched the killings, and Monks, himself, is still intact.

Recurring themes

No respect:

(1) The latest community to challenge the taboo about disturbing a graveyard is Peoria, Ill., where the Lincoln Branch Library is planning an expansion, though on land that was a 19 th century burial ground. By law, all bodies must be preserved, but each exploratory dig turns up more bodies, driving up costs to the city.

(2) Neighborhoods near the Wimbledon tennis tournament in suburban London are typically clogged in June, as visitors scramble for parking space. This year, nearby St. Mary’s Church sold parking for 20 pounds a day (about $33), even though the space offered was directly above gravesites in the church’s cemetery.

The Jesus and Virgin Mary World Tour

Latest playdates: Las Vegas, August (Jesus on a sticker on woman’s toilet lid); Bryan, Texas, July (Mary on a bird dropping on the side mirror of a pickup truck); Ravena, NY, June (Jesus in a coffee stain on a mason jar); Dallas, May (Jesus-shaped piece in a bag of Cheetos); Harlingen, Texas, May (Mary’s image on a dry-cleaning company’s press); Calexico, Calif., April (Mary on the griddle of the Las Palmas restaurant); New Gloucester, Maine (Jesus on the neck of a guitar); Sudbury, Ontario, April (Jesus on a maple leaf being raked); Netherlands, April (Jesus on a Kit Kat bar). (Only the news report of the Bryan, Texas sighting indicated that pilgrims were actually visiting the site to pray.)

A News of the Weird classic (March 1998)

Among the exhibits at the Impulse to Collect show at San Jose State University in February 1998 were Chris Daubert’s “Chromatic Extrusions Rodenta” (rats’ droppings following their ingestion of various of his oil paints), Maryly Snow’s collection of 696 toothbrushes (each catalogued on 13 attributes), and Bob Rasmussen’s variety of unrelated items containing red X’s. Among the exhibits rejected were a man’s huge mass of dryer lint, another’s assortment of cat snot on slides and yet another’s 15-year collection of umbilical cords. Said organizer Theta Belcher, on what makes a real collector: “They take it that one step too far.”

Copyright 2009 Chuck Shepherd Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate

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