news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Two hundredboredom “activists”gathered in Londonin December at JamesWard’s annual banalapaloozaconference,“Boring 2010,” tolisten to ennui-strickenspeakers glorify allthings dreary, includinga demonstrationof milk-tasting (in wine glasses, describingflavor and smoothness), charts breaking downthe characteristics of a man’s sneezes for threeyears and a PowerPoint presentation on thecolor distribution and materials of a man’snecktie collection from one year to the next.Another speaker’s “My Relationship With BusRoutes” seemed well-received, also. Observedone attendee, to a Wall Street Journal reporter:“We’re all overstimulated. I think it’s importantto stop all that for a while and see what severalhours of being bored really feels like.”The Redneck chronicles(1) The Key Underwood MemorialGraveyard near Cherokee, Ala. is reserved ashallowed ground for burial of genuine coondogs, which must be judged authentic beforetheir carcasses can be accepted, according toa December report in the Birmingham News.The Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Associationmust attest to the dog’s having had theability “to tree a raccoon.” (In March, a funeralfor one coon dog at Key Underwood drew 200mourners.) (2) Safety Harbor, Fla. trailer-parkneighbors Joe Capes and Ronald Richardsfought in December, with sheriff’s deputiescalled and Capes arrested for assaulting Richards.The two were arguing over whether thelate country singer Conway Twitty was gay.ironies• A sculpture on display at NormandaleCommunity College in Bloomington, Minn.was stolen in December. The piece, by artistJohn Ilg, consisted of wire mesh over a frame,with 316 rolled-up dollar bills stuffed in themesh. The piece was titled, “Honesty.” (Attitudeshave changed in the two years sincethe piece was first presented, at the MinnesotaState Fair, when visitors liked it so much thatthey added rolled bills to the display.)• Elected officials caught violating the verylaws they have sanctimoniously championedare so numerous as to be No Longer Weird,but the alleged behavior of Colorado state Sen.Suzanne Williams following her Decembercar crash seems over-the-top. Though a strongseat belt and child-seat advocate, Williamswas driving near Amarillo, Texas with her twounbelted grandchildren when her SUV driftedover the center line and hit another vehiclehead-on, killing that driver and ejecting Williams’3-year-old grandchild, who survivedwith injuries. A Texas Department of PublicSafety report noted that Williams was seenscooping up the child, returning him to theSUV and belting him in.Compelling explanations• Unclear on the concept: A 41-year-oldwoman, arrested in Callaway, Fla. in Decemberfor beating her husband with a rock,explained that she was angry that he wasendangering his health by smoking despitebeing ill. Said she, “A woman can only takeso much.”• Katrina Camp, 30, was picked up by deputiesin September on a Forest Service road nearNederland, Colo., having earlier walked awayfrom her unclothed 2-year-old daughter, whomshe had left to fend for herself in a pickuptruck. Camp, however, was candid about theproblem: “I suck.” (“You’re a parent,” she tolda deputy. “[Y]ou know how it is. Sometimesyou just need a break.”)Latest “Rights”
By his own testimony, John Ditullio is ahateful neo-Nazi who despised his next-doorneighbors in New Port Richey, Fla. (a whitewoman with an African-American friend anda son who was openly gay), but when theson was murdered and the mother attacked in2006, Ditullio denied involvement, and thoughhe earned a hung jury in his first trial, his retrialwas scheduled for November 2010. For eachday of the trial, a makeup artist was hired (paidfor by the government at $135 a day) to coverup Ditullio’s swastika neck tattoo and crudephrasecheek tattoo so as to keep jurors frombeing unfairly prejudiced. (Nonetheless, Ditulliowas convicted in December and sentencedto death.)Names in the newsSuspected of stealing scraps of copper inRiverside, Ohio in December: Jesus ChristSuperstar Oloff, 33. Arrested for sex abuseagainst a 6-year-old boy in Oklahoma Cityin October: Lucifer Hawkins, 30. On trial inDecember for extortion in Britain’s SouthwarkCrown Court (threatening to reveal a sexualaffair): Ms. Fuk Wu. Sought as a suspect in aconvenience store killing in Largo, Fla. in December(and an example of the highly revealing“Three First Names” theory of criminal liability), Mr. Larry Joe Jerry — who actually has four first names (Larry Joe Jerry Jr.).

Bright Ideas

• The Toronto Public Library began its “Human Library” project in November with about 200 users registering to “check out” interesting persons from the community who would sit and converse with patrons who might not otherwise have the opportunity to mingle with people like them. The first day’s lend-outs, for a half-hour at a time, included a police officer, a comedian, a former sex worker, a model and a person who had survived cancer, homelessness and poverty. The Human Library actually harkens back to olden times, said a TPL official, where “storytelling from person to person” “was the only way to learn.”

• If life gives you a lemon, make lemonade: (1) When Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula One racing circuit, was mugged in November and had his jewelry stolen, he sent a photograph of his battered face to the Hublot watch company and convinced its chief executive to run a brief advertising campaign, “See What People Will Do for a Hublot.” (2) The treasurer of Idaho County, Idaho turned down the November suggestion of local physician Dr. Andrew Jones — that more cancers might be detected early if the county sent colonoscopy suggestions to residents along with their official tax notices. The treasurer said residents might find the reminders “ironic.”

Least Competent Criminals

Ouch! (1) Joe Colclasure, 25, was arrested and charged with robbing the bank located inside an Albertson’s supermarket in Palm Desert, Calif. in December. Several employees and customers had recognized Colclasure while he was committing the robbery, but it wasn’t over for him until he accidentally slammed the bank’s door on his hand during his getaway. The pain disabled him

long enough so that an employee could hold him until police arrived. (2) Thieves often leave police-trackable trails from the scene to their home, but for alleged shoplifter Michael Barton, 29, of Venango County, Pa., the trail was of his own blood, starting at the Wal-Mart where he had cut himself badly removing razor blades from their packages in order to fit more into his pocket.


Charles Clements, 69, appeared in this space two months ago in a report on his having deliberately shot to death a 23-year-old neighbor whose fox terrier had answered a call of nature on the perfectly manicured lawn of the reportedly obsessive Clements. (According to witnesses, the victim was displaying macho bravado just before the shooting, but Clements admitted he was not under attack when he fired.) On Dec. 29, a judge in a Chicago suburb rejected requests for a 20-year sentence and ordered Clements to serve only four months — out of jail, on probation.

A News of the Weird Classic (January 1998)

A police officer’s dream come true: Vincent Morrissey’s police brutality lawsuit went to trial in New Haven, Conn. in December (1997), and West Haven police officer Ralph Angelo was on the witness stand, claiming that Morrissey himself had provoked the encounter by swinging at Angelo. Morrissey’s attorney, skeptical of the testimony, asked Officer Angelo to demonstrate to the jury how hard Morrissey had swung at him. Before the lawyer could clarify what he meant by “demonstrate,” Officer Angelo popped the lawyer on the chin, staggering him and forcing an immediate recess.

‘© 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate