News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Signs of the Times
• “Selfie fever” has begun to sully the sacred Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca, according to scholars who complained to Arab News in September. What for centuries has been a hallowed journey intended to renew the spirit of Islam (that all Muslims are called upon to experience at least once) has come, for some in the so-called “Facebook era,” to resemble a trip to Disneyland, with visitors to the Sacred Mosque texting friends the “evidence” of their piety. (Another scholar complained in a New York Times opinion piece in October that Mecca is often experienced more as a tour packaged by marketers and centered around Mecca’s upscale shopping malls rather than religious structures.)
The New Normal
• Just in time for California’s new law requiring explicit consent for students’ sexual activities is the free iPhone/Google app Good2Go, which developer Lee Ann Allman promises will simplify the consent process (and even document it). As described in a September Slate.com report, Good2Go requires the initiator to send the prospective partner to at least four smartphone screens, wait for a text message, provide phone numbers (unless he/she is a multiple-user with an “account”) and choose accurately one’s sobriety level—all before “the mood” evaporates (ending the app’s usefulness). It took the tech-savvy Slate writer four minutes to navigate the process—and she was still unclear which sexual activities had been consented to, since those specifics aren’t referenced. (The app has since been pulled from the market.)
• New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell manages his own fantasy league team by “drafting” NFL players for virtual competitions based on their real-life statistics of the previous weekend. Donnell lamented to New Jersey’s The Record in October that he had benched virtual “Larry Donnell” on his fantasy team the week before because he thought his other tight end (“Vernon Davis”) would do better. In reality, real Donnell had a career-high game, with his three touchdowns leading the real Giants to a 45-14 victory. However, Donnell’s fantasy team lost badly because virtual Larry Donnell (and his weekend statistical bonanza) was on Donnell’s bench.
A Perfect World
• In August, the Tampa Bay Times reported a dispute in Dunedin, Florida, between 12-year-old lemonade-stand operator T.J. Guerrero and the adult neighbor (Doug Wilkey) trying to close him down as an unlicensed entrepreneur, despite T.J.’s business plan for assisting his favorite animal shelter. Of course, T.J. was quickly inundated with donations, media praise and more lemonade sales. Wilkey, however, is under investigation by the city after a tipster revealed that Wilkey himself might operate a home-based financial services business not properly licensed.
The Campaign Trail
• “My Friends, I Am a Man of Action!”: Roger Weber, running for a Minnesota House seat in November, is now being sued by a neighbor over a property-line dispute near Nashwauk. Rather than working with an arbitrator or mediator, or letting the legal process run its course, Weber in 2013 took a chain saw and sliced completely in half the large, two-car garage that Weber says sat half on his property and half on the neighbor’s.
Sensitive in Vermont
• (1) Lianne and Brian Kowiak of Waterbury, Vermont, complained to Ben & Jerry’s in September that its new ice cream flavor, “Hazed & Confused,” was “shock(ing)” and “upset(ting)” and should be changed immediately. Though most customers recognize the name only as a play on the 1993 cult movie “Dazed & Confused,” the Kowiaks insist that they never be reminded that their 19-year-old son died in a college hazing incident. (2) In Winooski, Vermont, in August, the local eatery Sneakers Bistro earned public advertising space by beautifying one of the city’s flower beds, and managers used it for the quixotic ad, “Yield for Sneakers Bacon.” After one woman complained that the sign disrespected those who do not consume pork, Sneakers took it down.
The Foreign Press
• Medical Marvels: (1) In October, workers at a clinic in Honda, Colombia, reported helping a 22-year-old woman who came in several days earlier with vegetation growing from her vagina. She said her mother had told her that inserting a potato (now sprouting) was effective contraception. (2) An 18-year-old woman was admitted to Bishkek Hospital in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, in September with severe stomach pains, which doctors discovered was due to her long-standing habit of chewing both discarded hair and her own. Doctors removed a hairball that weighed 8.8 pounds (and a Yahoo News report had a photo).
• The family of Kai Halvorsen of Lillestrom, Norway, planning a holiday in Thailand, feared that their bulldog, Igor, would be traumatized, having never been left alone. Halvorsen and a friend arranged with Labben Kennel to make a replica of the family living room to calm Igor’s anxiety. The two men painted the walls the same shade of gray, brought in the family couch, built a replica coffee table, and moved in Igor’s bed, carpet, pillows and blankets. (However, according to the friend, Igor spent much of the holiday cavorting outside with his new friend, Helga, the St. Bernard.)
• Prosecutors in Killeen, Texas, are seeking the death penalty for Marvin Guy, who in May shot one SWAT officer to death and wounded three as they conducted an unannounced (“no-knock”) drug raid on his home at 5:30 a.m.—leading Guy to believe hoodlums were breaking in and thus provoking him to grab his gun and start firing. (The tip given to police was bogus; no drugs were found.) However, in December, 90 miles away in another Texas county, mistaken SWAT-raid victim Henry Magee also killed an officer under similar circumstances (except that Magee actually had some marijuana), but was cleared in the shooting by a grand jury’s acceptance of self-defense. Guy is black; Magee is white.
Creme de la Weird
• Harmonic Convergence of Perversions: (1) Palm Beach County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies searching the home of child-pornography suspect Douglas Wescott, 55, stumbled upon about 50 dead cats stored in four freezers. Wescott’s computers were seized, along with another 30 to 35 live cats. (2) In September, following a months-long trial in Canada’s Nunavut territory, defrocked Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger, 67, was found guilty of 31 counts of raping children and one of raping a sled dog.
Least Competent Criminals
• Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) William Dixon, 21, was arrested in Brentwood, Tennessee, in August fleeing a Best Buy store after arousing suspicion. According to the police report, Dixon, on foot, ran across all lanes of Interstate 65, but the chase ended when he collided with a tree. (2) In October, a man unnamed in news reports snatched a bottle of wine from the shelf of a Sainsbury’s supermarket in East Grinstead, England, and dashed for the door. However, he ran into a shelving unit and knocked himself unconscious.
• Walter Morrison, 20, a United Parcel Service baggage agent at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, apparently intended only to swipe random parcels, but inadvertently came upon, in one package, a diamond (later found to be worth about $160,000). Police charging him in September said he traded the diamond to a friend for a gram of marijuana (around $20, retail).
A News of the Weird Classic (November 2010)
• Surreal Estate: Sixty-two percent of the 12 million people of Mumbai, India, live in slums, but the city is also home to Mukesh Ambani’s 27-story private residence (60,000 square feet, 600 employees serving a family of five), reported to cost about $1 billion. According to an October (2010) New York Times dispatch, there are “four-story hanging gardens,” “airborne swimming pools” and a room where “artificial weather” can be created. Ambani and his brother inherited their father’s textile-exporting juggernaut, but notoriously spend much of their time in intra-family feuding. A domestic-worker neighbor told the Times that she makes the equivalent of about $90 a month.blog comments powered by Disqus
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