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News of the Weird

Eyes of the Beholder

Thirty thousand spiders, led by members of the British Tarantula Society, gathered in Coventry on May 18 for the annual BTS exhibition, with a Socotra Island blue baboon spider taking Best in Show for first-time entrant Mike Dawkins. According to news reports, judges ignore spiders’ personalities and make their selections by objectifying the body—seeking “shiny coats, correct proportions, an active demeanor and proper stance” (which means that “all eight legs should be upright and perfectly poised”). Veteran judge Ryan Hale said winning does not necessarily make a spider more valuable, but is likely to enhance the keeper’s reputation in the tarantula-training community.

Government in Action

• Susan Coppinger, 47, was promoted by the city of Boston in January to a job paying $38,800 in the Inspectional Services Department—even though a month earlier she had been arrested for bank robbery. In fact, police said it was her second robbery of the same Santander Bank in nearby Quincy. Apparently, the city’s human resources office does not monitor mugshots on MassMostWanted.com, but in April, the city finally secured Coppinger’s resignation.

• For panicking drivers headed in an emergency to University Hospital in Tamarac, Florida, ready to turn left into the ER because of bleeding, shortness of breath, etc., the city still requires patiently waiting for the traffic light to turn green—no matter what—and has a $158-per violation red-light camera perfectly aimed, according to a WPLG-TV investigation reported in March. The station noted that the traffic magistrate handling appeals serves at the pleasure of the city and so far has not relented on tickets involving even provable emergencies.

• Alarmed that its internal rating system revealed that some employees actually perform better than others, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced in May that it was scrapping the system. Agency director Richard Cordray expressed dismay that the system failed to reveal worker disparities that matched up on the basis of age, race, union status and longevity with the agency, and said that until they find a system that proves, for example, that union members work just as well (or badly) as non-members, all employees will be paid as if they were doing excellent work.

Great Art!

• Weird Japan: When Ayano Tsukimi, 64, moved from Osaka back to her home village of Nagoro, she found a population of only 37 people and set out to “replace” those who had died or moved away—by creating life-size stuffed dolls, with unsettling facial features, which she positions around town as if to suggest a larger population. Tsukimi estimates that she has created about 350 “inhabitants,” and, reported Global Post in May, “imagines a future where she’s outlived all her neighbors and only dolls remain.”

• Food trucks are ubiquitous in many urban areas, bringing ethnic foods to street corners, and now in the New York City neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Soho, art impresarios bring stage presentations to the insides of 24-foot trucks parked on the street. Typically, ticket-holders (fewer than 20) climb in for a 30-minute play, followed by a 15-minute “intermission” a few steps away at a neighborhood bar, and then it’s back in the truck for another half-hour. One art-truck producer blamed outlandish New York City real estate prices for the turn to mobile sites.

• China’s pre-eminent (and perhaps most terrifying) performance artist, He Yunchang, 48, acknowledged to Agence France-Presse in May that he will do “anything” to advance “art”—as long as it does not kill him. Mr. He most famously removed part of a rib on opening day of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 (on the “lucky” date of 8-8-08) and in 2010 assembled 25 people to vote on whether he should be slashed from collarbone to knee and left bloody on a bed. (Cutting won, 12-10, with three abstentions, and a doctor reluctantly made the incision.) A gallery owner in Australia told AFP that He’s “pain” and “discomfort” “have a transcendent quality” and are “silent rebukes” to Chinese people who endure hardship just for money—ironically believing money will protect them from suffering.

• The Itella postal service of Finland announced in April that it would soon sell stamps featuring 33 designs honoring the late Finnish homoerotic artist Touko Laaksonen, better known as “Tom of Finland.” None were to be “hardcore” images, although a more-explicit companion exhibit will open soon at Finland’s Postal Museum. (Finland, however, is not among Europe’s leaders in progressive treatment of gays.)

Police Report

• Dan Greding, working on contract with the city of Santa Barbara, California, was busy at work one February day installing signs on street lamps warning that only “75 Minute Parking” was permitted. On one block, three signs were called for, but the last one required Greding to drill into concrete, insert screws and wait for the concrete to dry—which apparently took more than 75 minutes, and a passing police officer ticketed his truck. Greding’s first appeal of the citation was denied, but a second appeal was pending at press time.

Least Competent Criminals

• The 9-1-1 call at 1:50 a.m. on May 29 came from a man who said he was lost on Deen Still Road near Polk City, Florida, and being chased by wild hogs. A sheriff’s deputy fairly easily “rescued” Andrew Joffe, 24, but then discovered that Joffe (a) had an active arrest warrant and (b) was in possession of a GPS device that he admitted stealing from a car that evening. The Polk County sheriff told reporters that it was “unusual” for an absconding thief, with a warrant, to bring himself to deputies’ attention like that, but acknowledged with a wink that “it does get pretty dark out on Deen Still Road in the middle of the night.”

The Aristocrats!

• (1) Gregory Schwartz, 40, was arrested in Clairemont, California, in March and charged with crawling under a ladies’ restroom stall door at a Big Lots store to molest a shopper. (Schwartz was dressed as a Barbie doll.) (2) Jeremy Grinnell, 42, pleaded guilty in May in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to having propped up a ladder under a couple’s bedroom window in November and climbed up to watch them having sex. (At the time, Grinnell was a local pastor and assistant professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.) (3) Police in Ypsilanti, Michigan, identified a suspect in May to end a six-months’-long reign of disgust in which someone frequently defecated on the same slide in Prospect Park—even, amazingly, on the coldest days of the season.

Recurring Themes

• (1) A 51-year-old man drowned in Adelaide, Australia, in February, the latest person to inadvisedly jump into the water to retrieve a low-price belonging—this time, his toy boat that had gone awry. (2) A man and woman, both age 40, died in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in February—discovered in their car in a closed garage where the engine had been running, but the car had run out of gasoline. Thus, the partially clad couple appeared to be the most recent to have suffocated in that manner while having sex.

Readers’ Choice

• In April, police in Ottawa, Ontario, arrested a 62-year-old man as the one who had been indecently exposing himself to visitors in Mooney’s Bay Park. Detained was Donald Popadick, whose family name (according to diligent journalism by the National Post) is present in only three Canadian households and is perhaps derived from the Serbian name Popadic. (Popadick’s arrest was made by Sgt. Iain Pidcock.)

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