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News of the Weird

News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd


In July, Birmingham, England, office worker Beverley Lancaster, 44, won about
$110,000 in damages from the city because of job-related stress based on her
having been promoted to a better job against her will. Lancaster testified
that the city insisted she take the higher-paying job, for which she was not
qualified, by offering her extra training, which she said it did not deliver,
causing her to become severely depressed.

In June, according to a New York Times feature on the decline of urban male
sexuality, author Michael Segell said he found various New York City men who
practiced what he called "sexual payback" (seducing a woman but then, on the
verge of intercourse, abruptly becoming disinterested), or, as one man in a
Segell focus group put it, "The only thing that's more enjoyable than having
sex is making a girl want it and not giving it to her." Segell called this a
passive-aggressive response to women's increasing sexual power.

Leading Economic Indicators

The San Jose Mercury News reported in May that because of a housing shortage
in Silicon Valley, people are renting attics, basements and storage sheds to
live in and that others pay as much as $200 a month for the right just to
sleep in a corner of a living room in order to be close to work and avoid a
lengthy commute from the family home. And in June, The New York Times quoted
a yakuza crime boss in Tokyo, lamenting how his turf has been taken over by
immigrant gangs from China: "(T)he Japanese yakuza think of long-term
business relationships, but the Chinese mafia thinks just of the short term.
Their only goal is money, money, money."

Worst Investment

David Sanchez Hernandez, 18, was convicted in June in Punta Gorda, Fla., of
egging two police officers on foot patrol. Hernandez, who said he did it in
order to win a $2 bet with his brother, was fined $750 and sentenced to 25
hours of community service.

Great Art!

In May, "installation artist" Cosimo Cavallaro outfitted room 114 of the
Washington Jefferson Hotel in New York City in a cheese motif, using a
half-ton of various types from Muenster to Swiss, melted. His only
explanation was that his family owned a cheese shop in Canada and that he
remembers the rush of liberation he got one day by plastering his father's
old armchair in mozzarella. Said former gallery owner Jules Feiler, "When I
first talked to him, I thought he was just another in a series of nuts that
have entered my life."

From a press release on a June San Francisco exhibit by Yukinori Yanagi, who
built a giant ant farm in which sand was intricately dyed to create a finely
detailed, 15-panel image of a large $1 bill visible through the glass and
which the ants would redesign by moving the sand around: "(Yanagi's work) is
a dialogue about the fluency of boundaries in the 20th century and the
dissemination of cultures through the expanding notions of globalism."

At an April show in San Francisco, performance artist Zhang Huan was to
"explore the physical and psychological effects of human violence in modern
society" by spreading puree of hot dogs on his naked posterior as he lay face
down on a cypress branch and permitting eight dogs to enter the room.
Immediately, one dog, Hercules, bit Zhang on the butt, drawing blood and
causing the show to be suspended.

I Have My Rights!

In April, Geraldine Batell filed a complaint against the American Stage in
St. Petersburg, Fla., because the characters in the Noel Coward play "Private
Lives" were puffing cigarettes (as they were supposed to do), causing smoke
to waft to her second-row seat and, she said, violating Florida's Clean
Indoor Air Act. And in February, Matthew and Amanda Parrish of Centerville,
Utah, filed a lawsuit against their downstairs condominium neighbor because
they could somehow smell his smoke when he lit up inside his own apartment.
(The local American Cancer Society said it would not support the Parrishes'

In March, six prison inmates in England and Wales were approved for
transsexual surgery at government expense (about $18,000 each), but in April,
inmate Synthia Kavanagh, who has been repeatedly rejected for such
government-paid surgery in Canada, announced she would plead her case before
the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. (Kavanagh is serving a life term for
murdering a transvestite.)

In April, after its leaders met with the Indonesian government, the Baduy
tribe of west Java was granted the right to refrain from voting in the June
elections. During the previous three decades under President Suharto, the
government forced the Baduy to vote despite their ancient religious
prohibition against politics. (The Baduy have similar prohibitions against
using electricity and toothpaste.)

Human Cuisine in the News

In February, authorities in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Caracas, Venezuela,
were dealing with suspected urban cannibals. In Cambodia, an investigator
found a bag of orderly arranged human bones and parts and surmised that a
woman had been made into soup. In Caracas, Mr. Dorangel Vargas briefed the
press on his preferences, including men over women, and absolutely no hands,
feet or testicles. And in April, a New York jury ruled that murderer-cannibal
Albert Fentress was no longer a danger after 20 years' hospitalization and
should be released. (In June, just in time, a state supreme court justice
overturned the verdict.)

Hugs in the News

A leader of a Colombian social service organization, describing the
reportedly vicious, murderous guerilla leader Carlos Castano, to a Boston
Globe reporter in May: "I think he has a great need to be understood and even
to be loved." And Robert Volpe, father of Justin, the New York City police
officer convicted in May of brutalizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a
toilet plunger, describing his son's depression at being in solitary
confinement: "Justin has to get his five hugs a day. He's a people person."

Food Fights

Two female drivers stopped and fought on an Oakland, Calif., street in May
after one had become angry and tossed a half-eaten burrito through the window
at the other. And Alan Parsons was sentenced in July in London, England, to
three years in jail for the robbery of a bakery; his getaway had been slowed
when the owner hit him with a bun during the chase. And in separate incidents
in June, two San Diego men were charged with assaulting people with large
tunas, causing not-insubstantial injuries both times.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 32-year-old man was convicted of breaking into women's apartments at night
and just sitting there, watching them sleep (Edmonton, Alberta). A
26-year-old man missed the mandatory death penalty for heroin trafficking by
0.11 grams; he had 14.89 and got 20 years and 20 lashes (Singapore). A
7-year-old boy accidentally killed his 3-year-old brother in the course of
demonstrating the pro-wrestling "clothesline" maneuver (Dallas). A bank's new
push-button, upthrusting teller's security shield was successful, trapping a
33-year-old robber by the neck until firefighters freed him (Chester,
England). A Harvard study revealed that college students who binge-drink are
twice as likely to own guns as non-binge-drinkers.
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