news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Catch-22 catchesdisabled veteran:David Henderson, aKorean War veteranlong suffering fromparanoid schizophrenia,applied 15 dayspast the deadline forenhanced care undera 2001 veterans-benefitslaw and thus was,as required by the statute, disqualified from theadditional benefits. Henderson’s doctor pointedout that major disorders such as Henderson’soften leave victims unable to understand conceptslike “deadlines.” As US Supreme CourtJustice Stephen Breyer asked, during argumenton the case in December, did Congress (whichwrote the statute) really intend to deprive Hendersonof care because of the very disability forwhich he sought help? (A decision is expectedin the spring.)THE CONTINUING CRISIS• Swinging bachelors often try to impresspotential mates with their fancy cars, housesand jewelry, and it appears that male bowerbirdsof Papua New Guinea employ a similarmating strategy by building elaborate treehomes. National Geographic magazine notedin July that the birds can “build a hut that lookslike a doll’s house” or “arrange flowers, leavesand mushrooms in such an artistic manner”that researchers liken them to the craftsmanshipof humans. Biologists observed femalesgravitating to males who had such structuresas a three-foot tower of twigs, nuts and beetles,decorated with “garlands of caterpillar fecesglistening with dew.”• Best not to ask why: Fredrik Hjelmqvist,45, owner of an audio shop in Stockholm,demonstrated in November his system ofbroadcasting music from his stomach. Heswallowed a plastic capsule containing abattery-operated audio set-up, then connectedan amplifier to a stethoscope and held it againsthis belly, and began playing recorded music,including the Village People’s “YMCA,” untilthe battery died three hours later. Hjelmqvistadmitted that the audio quality was poor butstill hopes to sell the system for the equivalentof about $17,000.• Do they know? (1) An October HoustonChronicle review of “authorities” on animal“consciousness” suggested that perhaps dogsare embarrassed when their owners dress themin tacky Halloween costumes. “Pet Psychic”maven Sonya Fitzpatrick said she was certainthat some feel shame at their owners’ poorfashion sense, but another practitioner said dogs’reactions were probably only to their physicaldiscomfort with the clothing itself. (2) A conservationorganization in China’s Sichuan provinceroutinely dresses caregivers in panda suits tosocialize baby pandas that have lost their mothersso that the babies do not become accustomedto humans. However, as London’s Daily Telegraphreported in a December dispatch, expertsacknowledge that they have no idea whether thebabies are fooled.YIKES!• The American Veterinary Chiropractic Associationannounced recently that it is seeking400 dachshunds for experiments in which achiropractic vet will “crack the backs” of dogsfor an unspecified research project. Test subjectsare preferred that have “uneven leg lengththat is influenced with neck flexion” but whichhave not been under the care of a chiropractorwithin the previous 60 days.• Gloria Clark, 62, was charged in the deathof her 98-year-old mother in St. George, SCin December after the mother’s body wasfound among squalid conditions at her home.Though Clark denied she had been neglectful,the mother’s pet parrot might have disagreed.According to the police report, the parrot, inthe mother’s bedroom, continually squawked— mimicking “Help me! Help me!” followedby the sound of laughter.NEWS THAT SOUNDS LIKE A JOKELife imitates a Monty Python sketch: Anunnamed Danish man traveled to Vienna,Austria in July for a trial on his lawsuitagainst the man who had sold him a defectivecockatoo for the equivalent of about $15,000.In a demonstration for the judge in thecourtroom’s hallway, the bird flew “lopsided,”with the probable cause (according to thepurchaser) chronic gout. The judge’s decisionwas not reported.SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED(1) An official release of San Francisco’sDepartment of the Environment in July apparentlycleared up a matter of controversy(according to a report in SF Weekly): Humansemen is one organic waste product not requiredto be disposed of in special “compost”bags under the city’s mandatory compostinglaw. (However, “snot” must be properlybagged.) (2) The Green Party is occasionallycriticized for its overrepresentation of whitesand upper-income people, who are less likelyto flinch at the added costs of environmentalprotections. In October, the Green Party can

didate for governor of Illinois, Rich Whitney, was shocked to see that the sample ballot for the November election mistakenly displayed his name as “Rich Whitey.” (Corrections were made in time for election day.)

First Things First

Darren Suchon, 42 and unemployed (and usually home all day), was charged in October with reckless driving and assault, among other things, for allegedly running his girlfriend off the road in his zeal to catch her after she drove away with his Sony PlayStation console. She had just left for work, and Suchon weaved through traffic in Palmerton, Pa., then bumped her car when he caught up with her at a traffic light, forcing her off the road. According to witnesses, Suchon rushed the car, “clawing” at it, screaming that he would “break the [expletive] window” if he didn’t get his game back.

Cliches Come to Life

(1) In December, Mr. Alkis Gerd’son moved out of student housing at Canada’s University of Victoria, which had been his home since 1991 (even though he long ago obtained his degree and had not taken a class in 13 years). Gerd’son claims various stress disorders (over, perhaps, finding a job?) and had until now stymied efforts to evict him by filing claims before human rights tribunals. (2) Ricardo West, a professional Michael Jackson impersonator (who staged “Michael Lives! The Michael Jackson Tribute Concert”) was charged in August in Allen Park, Mich. with 12 counts of child molestation.

Fine Points of the Law

Kids law: (1) In July, a 5-year-old boy in Dublin, Ireland was awarded the equivalent of about $9,900 from a shopkeeper who had grabbed his arm and accused him, erroneously, of being a thief. Under the law, the boy had to prove that he has, at age 5, a “reputation in the community” for truth-telling and that his reputation had been damaged. (2) A New York City judge ruled in October that an 87-year-old woman who was accidentally knocked down by several kids racing bicycles on the sidewalk could sue the kids, including one who was 4 years old (and who is thus legally presumed to understand the difference between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” behavior).

Least Competent Criminals

Thank goodness for narcissists: (1) Murder suspect Earle Barranco, 24, was arrested in Charlotte, NC in November, three weeks after allegedly killing a man in a New York City diner. Barranco was spotted at a Charlotte Bobcats basketball game, mugging for the arena’s JumboTron while decked out in the distinctive jewelry he wore during the alleged murder. At the next Bobcats game a few days later, with police monitoring that same seat, Barranco was arrested. (2) Dennis Davis, 40, and his wife were convicted in October in Britain’s Staines Magistrates’ Court of manufacturing a line of pirated music CDs. Davis initially denied ownership of the pirated stash but was unable to explain why the CDs bore his company’s label with his own photo on it.

A News of the Weird Classic (August 2001)

In August (2001), Naples (Fla.) City Councilman Fred Tarrant demanded that local artist Ted Lay’s “Famous Tongue Mona Al Monica” painting (side-by-side impressions of Mona Lisa, Albert Einstein and Monica Lewinsky sticking their tongues out) be removed from its place at a Naples municipal art center because he thinks Lewinsky’s “tongue” too much resembled a penis (which Lay denied). According to a Naples Daily News report, Tarrant is in fact blind but said various “advisers” assured him that the tongue resembled a penis.

‘ 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate