news of the weird
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines… and Your Stereos
Sophisticated automobile technology makes high-performance engines purr in relative silence, but automakers fear that their most demanding drivers are emotionally attached to the engines’ roar. Consequently, as Car and Driver reported in April, the 2012 BMW M5, with 560 horsepower tempered with sound deadeners, has installed pre-recorded engine noise, channeled into the car’s cabin via the stereo system. A computer program matches the amplitude of the engine’s growl to the driver’s accelerator-revving. In other automobile tech news, Peugeot technicians announced in March that they were preparing “mood paint” for the body of the company’s iconic RCZ model. The paint’s molecular structure would be alterable by heat sensors in the steering wheel and elsewhere that measure a driver’s stress levels. A calm driver might see his car turn green, for instance — but watch out for road-rage red!
The Continuing Crisis
• With only 30,000 hotel rooms in Rio de Janeiro, and 50,000 visitors expected for the June United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, officials persuaded owners of many of the city’s short-time “love hotels” (typically renting for four hours at a time) to change business plans for a few days to accommodate the delegates. A BBC News stringer reported that the hotels will remove some special fixtures and furniture, such as “erotic chairs” and velvet wall coverings, but that the large, round beds would stay. Fortunately, the conference does not begin until June 13. The night of June 12 (“Lovers Day”) is a big income-producer for short-stay hotels.
• The Marine Wounded Warriors Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC generally enjoys excellent support from the community, but in an April report of the Government Accountability Office, Marines complained of a “petting zoo” environment in which civilian charities and advertisers use the battalion to seek out “poster” faces and bodies that “looked the part” of wounded veterans, such as those severely burned or missing limbs. Warriors who suffer post-traumatic stress or brain injuries often appear outwardly “normal” and are likely to be ignored by the support organizations, thus setting a “bad tone” among the wounded.
• Not your classic perps: (1) In October, Dr. Kimberly Lindsey, 44, a deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control’s Laboratory Science, Policy and Practice Program Office, was charged with two counts of child molestation and bestiality involving a 6-year-old boy. (2) In April, Yaron Segal, 30, a post-doctoral researcher at a physics lab at MIT, was arrested upon arriving in Grand Junction, Colo. after arranging with a woman online to have sex with the woman’s underage daughter (an adventure that was the product of a law enforcement sting). (Two weeks later, Segal was found dead in his jail cell of an apparent suicide.)
• Oh, dear!: (1) At a March Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance, the music continued uninterrupted as two patrons engaged in a fistfight over box seating. Conductor Riccardo Muti “never stopped conducting,” said a patron. “He very gracefully, without missing a beat — literally — he brought [the second movement] to a very quiet and subdued close.” (2) It costs $8,500 (plus $3,000 annual dues) to join the ultra-prestigious New York Athletic Club, which counts Olympic champions among its upper-crust members. However, an April brawl in a back room, said to have begun over a woman, saw (according to witnesses) fighting “wolf packs” in a “lion’s pit” that resulted in several bloody injuries, with two people sent to the hospital and three arrested.
Names in the News
(1) Arrested for felony battery in Bloomington, Ind. in April: Ms. Fellony Silas, 30.
(2) Announced as eligible for parole in June by the Kansas Prison Review Board: Mr. Wilford Molester Galloway.
(3) Arrested for hit-and-run in April in Roseville, Calif.: Mr. Obiwan Kenobi, 37.
(4) Arrested on drug and weapons charges in Clarkstown, NY in April, Mr. Genghis Khan.
(5) Among the silly town names uncovered in an April report on SmarterTravel.com: Why, Ariz.; Whynot, Miss.; Hell, Mich., Pig, Ky.; El ephant Butte, NM; Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky.; and Embarrass, Minn. The report also found towns in Wales and New Zealand that are 58 and 57 letters long, respectively.
• Following her recent holiday in the United States, in which she passed through Boring, Ore. (pop. 12,000), Scotswoman Elizabeth Leighton returned home to suggest that officials in her hometown of Dull, Scotland arrange for the two towns to become “sister cities,” even though they did not qualify under normal protocols because of Boring’s larger size. (The Oregon town was named for a Civil War soldier, William H. Boring.)
• Some villagers in China’s Shandong Province who are too poor or isolated to hook up to home heating fuel service have an alternative, according to a March report by China News Center. They take giant, heavy-duty balloons that resemble 15-footlong condoms and walk to filling stations to inflate them with natural gas every four or five days. The danger of explosion is high, but the balloons remain many villagers’ best option.
• A better reason to de-fund Planned Parenthood: The organization has survived a controversial de-funding campaign over its limited abortion program, but its Washington state chapter, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, began a quixotic safe-sex campaign in February in which thousands of condoms were distributed with scannable barcodes. The plan was that users would automatically register information about their locations during sex, and, if the users chose, other information about the particular sexual experience they just had. Among the choices: “Ah-maz-ing,” “Rainbows exploded and mountains trembled,” “Things can only improve from here.”
• At the 10th Arab Shooting Championships in Kuwait in March, as medals were presented and winners’ national anthems were played, officials were apparently illprepared for medalist Maria Dmitrienko of Kazakhstan. Consequently, her “national anthem” was, inadvertently, the humorous ditty from the movie Borat. (Instead of such lyrics as “sky of golden sun” and “legend of courage,” the audience heard “Greatest country in the world / All other countries are run by little girls” and “Filtration system a marvel to behold / It removes 80 percent of human solid waste.”) Dmitrienko reportedly kept a mostly straight face throughout, although Kazakhstan later demanded, and received, an official apology.
• Clumsy: (1) In March, Germany’s celebrity rabbit — the genetically “earless” bunny Tiny Til — was accidentally crushed to death in a zoo in Limbach-Oberfrohna when a cameraman accidentally stepped on it while setting up for a news conference. (2) In 2011, a photographer snapping pictures for an art magazine moved a 2,630-year-old African sculpture to get a better shot, and accidentally smashed it (“to smithereens,” according to the owner, Corice Arman, who filed a $300,000 lawsuit in April 2012 against the photographer and his magazine).
People Different From Us
Lawrence Cobbold, 38, has a house in Plympton, England, but has to make living arrangements at his parents’ home or elsewhere because his place is totally taken over by his 21,000-item collection of bird ornaments and doodads. Before heading off to sleep elsewhere, he spends an average of four hours a day tidying up the collection. His dad (who described his other son as “completely normal”) said, “I just hope I die before [Lawrence]. I don’t want to [have to] clear all this out.”
Least Competent Criminals
Questionable strategy: Robert Strank, 39, was arrested in Beavercreek, Ohio in April and charged with trying to rob the Huntington Bank. According to police, he had approached the bank’s counter but become ill and asked a teller to call 911 to summon medics. There were conflicting news reports about when medics arrived to treat Strank, but there was agreement that Strank recovered and subsequently presented the same teller his pre-written holdup note demanding cash. He was arrested in short order.
© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate