news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

• While the morbidlyobese struggle withtheir health (andsociety’s scorn), thosewho eroticize massiveweight gain arecapturing increasedattention, accordingto a July ABC Newsreport. Commercialand personal websitesgive full-bellied “gainers,” such as New JerseyanDonna Simpson, and their admiring “feeders”the opportunity to express themselves. Simpsonbecame a 602-pound media sensation in March,when she began offering pay-per-view video ofherself to an audience of horny feeders. Wroteanother gainer-blogger, “Lately, I’ve been infatuatedwith the physics of my belly… how it moveswith me.” When he leans to one side, he wrote, “Ifeel a roll form around my love handle.” One sexresearcher called it a “metaphor of arousal.” In theend, though, as a medical school professor put it,“The fetish may be in our heads, but the plaque isgoing to be in [their] arteries.”The enTrepreneurial Spirit!• The dating website,supposedly limiting its reach only to the attractive(though claiming 600,000 members worldwide),announced recently that it would sponsor a companionegg and sperm bank for its members to selltheir essences for a fee. However, as managingdirector Greg Hodge told Newsweek in June,homely customers were welcome. “Initially, wehesitated to widen the offering to non-beautifulpeople. But everyone — including ugly people —would like to bring good-looking children into theworld, and we can’t be selfish….”• The video company EA Sports sells sportsgames based on real-life professional leagues,with its biggest moneymaker Madden NFL 11,which allows joystick-using “coaches” to competewith each other based on actual pro football players’abilities. In June, EA Sports announced a newtouch of realism: Just as football teams “scout”opposing players, EA Sports will sell joystickerscomplex “scouting reports” on the talents andtendencies of their fellow joystickers.Weird Science• Life imitates a Drew Barrymore movie: MichellePhilpotts of Spalding, England and her husband,Ian, and their two children have adjusted,since a car crash 20 years ago, to her anterogradeamnesia, which, every day, robs her of short-termmemory, forcing her to constantly re-learn her life.According to a June profile in London’s DailyMail, that includes Ian’s convincing her that thestranger in her bed every morning is her husband,which he does by showing her their weddingphotographs.• An April National Geographic TV specialtracked “Silvano,” an Italian man for whomsleep is almost impossible. He has “fatal familialinsomnia,” making him constantly exhausted,and doctors believe he will eventually fall into afatal dementia. Only 40 families in the world arebelieved to carry the FFI gene.• Cleverest non-humans: (1) Wild elephantsrecently rampaged through parts of Bangladesh,and according to the head of the country’s WildlifeTrust, those super-intelligent animals “are quick tolearn human strategies.” For example, he pointedto reports that elephants (protecting their migrationcorridors) routinely swipe torches from huntersand hurl them not randomly but directly at thehunters’ homes. (2) Recent research on the “catvirus” (toxoplasma gondii) acknowledges that, tobe viable, the virus must be passed in rodent fecesbut can only be hosted in a cat’s stomach — andthus that the “toxo” somehow tricks the rodentsto overcome their natural fear of cats and instead,amazingly, to entice cats to eat them. Scientists arenow studying whether, when human dopaminegoes haywire, such as with schizophrenia, atoxoplasma-gondii-type phenomenon is at work.• The trials of the cricket-sex researcher: Biologistsfrom Britain’s Exeter University who set outto study the sexual behavior of field crickets in ameadow in northern Spain reported in June thatthey set up 96 cameras and microphones to covera population of 152 crickets that they individuallyidentified with tiny, numbered placards on theirbacks (after DNA-swabbing each one). Publishingin the journal Science, they claimed the study isimportant in helping us understand how “climatechange” will affect habitats.Career doWngrades• (1) In May, Jim Janson, a 20-year veteran“carny” (who ran the games of chance atCanada’s traveling Bill Lynch Shows), graduatedfrom the law school at Dalhousie University inHalifax, Nova Scotia and has set out on his newcalling. (2) Downgrade cut short: Eduardo Arrocha,whom News of the Weird mentioned in 2008when he was “Eak the Geek,” the “Pain-ProofMan” at New York’s Coney Island Sideshow (eatinglight bulbs, putting his tongue in a mousetrap),completed his first-year studies at ThomasM. Cooley Law School in Michigan but decidednot to return and said he would concentrate onpublishing his poetry.Fine points of the law• Things looked grim for Carlos Simon-Timmerman, arrested by US border agents in Puerto Rico while bringing an “underage-sex” video home from a holiday in Mexico. The star of “Little Lupe the Innocent” looked very young, and federal prosecutors in April called an “expert witness” pediatrician, who assured the jury, based on the girl’s underdevelopment, that she was a minor. However, Simon-Timmerman’s lawyer had located “Lupe” via her website, and she cheerfully agreed to fly in from her home in Spain with her passport and other documents to prove, at a dramatic point in the trial, that she was 19 when the video was made. Simon-Timmerman was acquitted.

LeAsT CompeTenT CriminALs

• Questionable judgments: (1) Austin, Texas police issued an arrest warrant in June for Jose Romero, who they say robbed a Speedy Stop clerk after demanding money and menacingly pointing to his waistband, which held a caulking gun. (2) Steven Kyle took about $75,000 worth of merchandise from Cline Custom Jewelers in Edmonds, Wash. in June, but as he left the store, employees shouted to passers-by, several of whom began to chase Kyle. Almost immediately, Kyle dropped his gun and the jewelry and fell to the ground exhausted. (Kyle later revealed that he had only one lung.)

Thinning The herd

• (1) Police in Houston said the man killed when he drove his 18-wheeler into a freeway pillar on July 6 was part of a two-man scheme to defraud an auto insurance company. Police said it was the other man who was originally scheduled to drive but that, citing the “danger,” he (wisely) backed out. (2) Inmate Carlos Medina-Bailon, 30, who was awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges in El Paso, Texas, escaped in July by hiding in the jail’s garbage-collection system. Medina-Bailon’s body was found later the same day under mounds of trash in a landfill.

Armed And CLumsy (ALL new!)

• Men who accidentally shot themselves recently: Robert Stewart, 55, a police academy instructor, during class (Liberty Township, Ohio April). Lazaro Flores, 50, practicing quick-draw at his girlfriend’s house (Cape Coral, Fla., January). Michael Webb, 22, showing friends how to disarm a gunman (Camp Lejeune, NC, February). Michael Randall Jr., 19, outside a convenience store, preparing to rob it (Athens, Ga., December). Vincent Medina, 19, waistband-as-holster mismanagement (hit in the groin) (Fontana, Calif., June). Brandon Boyce, 24, waistband-as-holster mismanagement (hit in the groin) (Omaha, Neb., July).

A news of The weird CLAssiC (AugusT 1992)

• The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in June (1992) on the local “Silent Meeting Club,” consisting of people who gather at various spots around town and make it a point not to speak to each other. Founder John Hudak said his inspiration was his observation that people often feel obligated to talk when they really have nothing to say, such as at parties, and wondered how nice it would be “to have a group of people where you wouldn’t have to talk.” Hudak was interviewed at lunchtime in a downtown park, with several of his fellow members nearby, not talking.

‘ 2010 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate