News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• Newspapers in Sweden reported in January that two of the country’s most heinous murderers apparently fell in love with each other behind the locked doors of their psychiatric institution and, following a 26-day Internet-chat “courtship,” have decided to marry. Mr. Isakin Jonsson (“the Skara Cannibal”) was convicted of killing, decapitating and eating his girlfriend, and Michelle Gustafsson (“the Vampire Woman”) was convicted of killing a father of four and drinking his blood. Said the love-struck Jonsson (certainly truthfully), to the newspaper Expressen, “I have never met anyone like (Michelle).” The pair will almost certainly remain locked up forever, but Gustafsson, on the Internet, wrote that she hopes they will be released, to live together and “have dogs and pursue our hobbies, piercing and tattoos.”
• In December, music teacher Kevin Gausepohl, 37, was charged in Tacoma, Wash., Municipal Court with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, allegedly convincing a 17-year-old female student that she could sing better if she tried it naked. Gausepohl later told an investigator of his excitement about experimenting at the “human participant level” to determine how sexual arousal affects vocal range. The girl complied with “some of” Gausepohl’s requests, but finally balked and turned him in.
• Thinking Outside the Box: (1) Rock Dagenais, 26, pleaded guilty recently to weapons charges after creating a siege by bringing a knife, a sawed-off rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition to a Quebec elementary school. He eventually surrendered peacefully and said he was only trying to send the kids a message not to disrespect each other by bullying. (2) Daniel Whitaker has been hospitalized in Indianapolis ever since, in November, he drove up the steps of the Indiana War Memorial with a gun, gasoline and an American flag, and set the steps on fire. In an interview in December, he told WRTV that he was only trying to get everyone’s attention so they would think of Jesus Christ and “love each other.”
• Ghosts in the News: (1) Michael West, 41, of Fond du Lac, Wis., at first said his wife hurt herself by falling, but finally acknowledged that she was attacked—but by ghosts, not by him. (He was charged, anyway, in January.) (2) Anthony Spicer, 29, was sentenced in January in Cincinnati after being discovered at an abandoned school among copper pipes that had been cut. He denied prosecutors’ assertions that he was collecting scrap metal—because he said he was actually looking for ghosts, since the school “is supposed to be haunted.”
• The 547-acre FBI Academy on the grounds of Quantico (Va.) Marine Base houses a firing range on which about a million bullets a month are shot by agents in training, but it also happens to be a de facto wildlife refuge for the simple fact that the academy is off-limits to Virginia hunters. Thus, according to a December ABC News dispatch, deer learn that, despite the gunfire (sometimes at astonishingly close range as they wander by the targets), none of them ever gets hit. The academy is also a “sanctuary” for foxes, wild turkeys and other critters.
• Equity Lifestyle Properties of Chicago fired receptionist Sharon Smiley after 10 years’ service because she violated company policy by declining to stop working during her lunch hour. (The company’s strict policy is apparently based on avoiding liability for overtime pay, but Smiley had in fact clocked out for lunch while remaining at her desk.) Smiley subsequently applied for unemployment benefits, but the administrator denied them because the firing was for insubordination. However, in January, a state appeals court granted the benefits.
• A South Carolina circuit court ruled in December that the sales contract on a former theater in downtown Laurens, S.C., was binding and that the rightful owner is the African-American-headed New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church—even though the property’s only current tenant is the Redneck Shop, which features Confederacy and Ku Klux Klan merchandise. (New Beginnings purchased the church in 1997 from a Klan member who was unloading it because of a personal riff with the head klansman and who wanted it back after they reconciled.)
Latest Human Rights
• Librarians typically can shush patrons whose conversation disturbs others, but, at least in Washington state, librarians are powerless to prevent another “disturbance”—when a pornography user’s computer screen disgusts other library patrons who inadvertently glimpse it. A visitor to the Seattle Public Library complained in February that the librarian said she was bound by a 2010 state supreme court decision upholding the right of consumers of otherwise-legal pornography not to be censored.
• Non-Humans’ Human Rights: (1) Elena Zakharova of New York City became the most recent litigant to challenge a state law that regards pets as “property” (and that, thus, the owner of an injured or disfigured pet is entitled to no more consideration than for a defective appliance). She sued a pet store that had sold her a dog with allegedly bum knees and hips, claiming that dogs are living creatures that feel love and pain, that have souls, and that should be compensated for their pain and suffering. The case is pending. (2) In February, a federal judge in San Diego, Calif., heard arguments by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that SeaWorld was confining its show whales in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment (the Civil War-era prohibition of slavery). Two days later, he ruled that the amendment applies only to human slavery.
Least Competent Spies
• In Plain Sight: The embarrassing disclosure in November by the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah, of the CIA’s major clandestine operations in Beirut, likely resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen anti-Hezbollah CIA “assets,” according to ABC News reports. Among the details made public by Hezbollah was that it learned of the agents’ meetings with the potential “assets” (which took place at a Beirut Pizza Hut restaurant) by intercepting agents’ email messages that used the sly, stealthy “code” word “PIZZA.”
• News of the Weird has long reported on gallery patrons’ inability to distinguish “abstract impressionist” works by human artists (even by masters) from the scribbles drawn by toddlers—and even animals. To attempt to add sophistication to the topic, a museum at University College London recently opened a comparative installation of “works” from an elephant and several kinds of apes, leading the museum manager to observe that “art produced by apes is a lot more creative.” The elephant, with brushes affixed to its trunk, “is not deliberately doing anything” when it stomps or swirls the paint around on the canvas, but ape art is “much freer” and “expressive”—“almost indistinguishable from abstract art by humans ...” But, he added sheepishly, “Whether this is actually art is the big question.”
• (1) South Korea’s Customs Service arrested eight men in January for a 2010 scheme to smuggle gold into Japan without paying import fees. The smugglers allegedly broke down gold bars into small beads and brought them in in their rectums. (2) In an advertising campaign in December for a new line of extreme push-up bras, the Dutch department store Hema hired as its fashion model the androgynous (but flat-chested) superstar Andrej Pejic.
• Antidote to Multitasking: The U.K. household services broker LocalTraders.com announced in December that it is planning, for central England in 2012, a “world watching-paint-dry championship,” with a short list selected on “mental strength, concentration and endurance.” Finalists will be asked their favorite color, which will be painted on a wall, and whoever stares the longest without turning away will win. Said a spokesman, “Previous paint-watching experience is not essential.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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