news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Part-time Devon,England vicar GavinTyte, who serveschurches in Uplymeand Axmouth,recently produced a rapvideo of the Nativity, inwhich he plays a shepherd,an angel and thenarrator. Sample lyrics(about Mary placingher baby in a cattle trough and angels calming thefrightened shepherds): “No hotel, motel, custombaby-changer / She wrapped the baby up andlaid him in a manger” and “Chill out, my friends,there’s no need for trepidation / Got a message forthe world, and it’s elation information.”

Government in Action!

• Apparently, not only will there be fewer overallresources for disabled people in Greece (dueto government austerity), but the resources willbe spread over a larger number of recipients. TheLabor Ministry in January expanded the categoryof eligible “disabled” (with reduced-amountpayments) to include pyromaniacs, compulsivegamblers, fetishists, sadomasochists, pedophiles,exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs. The NationalConfederation of Disabled People said thechanges would inevitably reduce funds availablefor the blind and the crippled and other traditionalcategories of need.• Even at a time of schoolteacher layoffsnationally, the Buffalo, NY school systemcontinues to cover all costs for cosmetic surgeryfor teachers. The benefit was established in thecalmer 1970s, and no one, it seems, anticipatedthe facelift and liposuction crazes that subsequentlydeveloped. The annual expense in recentyears, for about 500 benefit-takers a year, hasbeen from $5 million to $9 million (equivalent tothe average salaries of at least 100 teachers). Theteachers’ union said it is willing to give up thebenefit in a new collective bargaining agreement,but a quirk in New York law lessens the incentiveof teachers to negotiate such a contract (in that thecurrent, highly lucrative contract remains in forceuntil replaced).• In February, Kenneth Gunn, of the UK’sScottish Borders Council, decried the budgetcutbacks that closed down local offices that hadpreviously posted marriage notices. By makingit more difficult for the public to be aware ofspecific marriages, Gunn feared an inevitable increasein incest. “I am aware in my own ward ofbrothers sitting beside sisters they do not know inprimary school.” (The problem is more serious inIceland, whose 300,000 people are far more selfcontained.However, a new website containinggenealogical data back 1,200 years is expected tohelp reduce the risk of incest.)

Great Art!

• But, why? Two British designers (who claimthey had the idea independently and learnedof the other only after they finished) recentlyproduced elegant pieces using parts from a 2012Ford Focus. Judy Clark made a dress and a bikerjacket adorned with car keys, radio and dashboardcomponents, seat covers, a speedometer and redtaillights. Katherine Hawkins created a necklaceusing dials, springs, buttons, seat materials andinstrument panel switches. • In February, a Germancourt awarded artist Stefan Bohnenbergerthe equivalent of about $2,600 from the Munichgallery that had previously housed his work,“Pommes d’Or,” which consisted of two ordinaryFrench fries contrasted with two golden-leafedones. The gallery returned the golden-leafed onesbut claimed it could not find the ordinary fries,and, anyway, pointed out that they were nothingbut old French fries.

Police Report

• Police officers are of course generallyforbidden to engage in sex acts in order to gatherevidence. Thus, a scandal erupted in the UKin January when the Guardian revealed thattwo undercover officers had fathered children(to enhance their credibility) while infiltratingprotest groups beginning in the 1980s. After thetwo women learned in late 2011 who their kids’fathers really were, they filed lawsuits againstthe responsible police agencies. (In Sydney,Australia, a state contractor operated under nosuch restriction when it hired a brothel inspectorin January. Brothels are legal and regulated inSydney, and if off-books facilities are providingsex illegally, the inspector can testify from firsthandknowledge.)• Mayor Jim Preacher of the town of Norway,SC was pulled over by a state trooper in Januaryfor speeding. Preacher was unable to convincethe trooper that his speeding was necessary inthe performance of a mayoral duty, and their encounterapparently ended bitterly. As soon as thetrooper drove off, the mayor turned on his ownblue lights, chased the trooper down and accusedthe trooper of speeding. (Norway disbandedits police department last year, and a questionremains whether the mayor has police powers.)• The price is right: (1) Ms. Khadijah Baseerwas arrested in Los Angeles in January onsuspicion of prostitution. According to severalmen, Baseer had opened their car doors in thedrive-thru lane at a McDonald’s, offering themoral sex in exchange for Chicken McNuggets. (2)Misty Kullman, 25, was arrested for prostitutionin Shelby, NC in January after police stopped aman who said Kullman performed an act for theagreed-upon price of $6. The man said he paidKullman with a $2 bill, three $1’s and coins.


An elite squad of six Chinese soldiers, performinga training ritual for a public audience in HongKong in January, stood in a circle and passed asatchel of live grenades from man to man, countingdown to the expected moment of explosion.At the last possible second, the man caughtholding the satchel discards it, and all dive into ahole for protection. At the exhibition, according toChinese Central Television, it worked out fine.

Least Competent Criminals

Not ready for primetime: (1) An unidentifiedman fled and is still at large after attemptingto break into the change machine at the BusyBubbles laundromat in Winter Haven, Fla. inJanuary. The surveillance video showed theman shooting at the machine four times with ahandgun, but no money came out. (2) Two menwere arrested in Albuquerque in January afterbeing caught in the act of a home burglary by aneighbor, who called the police. The men wereapprehended with various burglarized goodiesas they made their getaway in a grocery storeshopping cart.

Recurring Themes

• When Leona Helmsley’s now-deceased dogTrouble inherited about $12 million from her estatein 2007, it called attention to the occasional decisionby lonely rich people to pass on millions ofdollars to their pets. In December, the former straycat Tommasino inherited the equivalent of about$15 million in Italy when his owner, real estateholder Maria Assunta, died at age 94. The only petsricher than Tommasino were the German shepherdGunter (equivalent of about $140 million in 2000)and the Australian chimpanzee Kalu (equivalentof about $60 million, though the estate he inheritedwas revealed in 2010 to be worthless).

News That Sounds Like a Joke

(1) Fritz Gall, a self-described failed inventor,opened the Museum of Nonsense in Herrnbaumgarten,Austria recently to pay homage,apparently, to even greater failures than his own.Among the exhibits are the “portable anonymizer”(a stick holding a black bar that one holdsover his eyes to obscure identity), a transportablehat rack, a bristleless toothbrush (for people withno teeth), and a “portable hole” (similar to thosethat appear in the ground whenever the RoadRunner needs something for Wile E. Coyote tofall into). (2) Take a wild guess: An unidentifiedman was taken into custody in Chesapeake, Va. inOctober after he rushed into the Regional MedicalCenter with a machete and a can of gasolineand demanded to know the “test results.”

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal PressSyndicate !