News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
World’s Worst Sculptor
■ It seemed like a good idea when the town of Celoron, New York, agreed in 2009 to pay for a bronze statue honoring the village’s only celebrity. Lucille Ball had spent her childhood years there, and even today, everyone “Loves Lucy.” The result was apparently a monstrosity, described in news reports as “frightening” and unrecognizable by anyone who has ever watched Lucy’s TV shows or movies. The original sculptor first suggested a fee of $8,000 to $10,000 to make a better one, but after Mayor Scott Schrecengost started a fundraising campaign, the sculptor offered to make another one for free.
■ Tough Love: A Catholic priest (unnamed in news reports) in Taranto, Italy, was removed recently after reports that, while attempting to minister to an unemployed laborer, he arranged for online role-playing in which the man was Judas and the priest dispatched him to gay orgies to be punished (for betraying Jesus) by members of the Vatican security force.
■ Paulo Silva, 51, facing bestiality charges in April in Framingham (Massachusetts) District Court, insisted that the charges be reduced to only attempted larceny. Yes, he was caught fondling the male purebred pit bull, but he had no sexual motivation, his lawyer explained. Actually, he said a friend of Silva’s owned a female pit bull and Silva had asked the male’s owner if the two dogs could mate, but when the owner declined, Silva said he was simply trying to collect the sperm himself. Judge Jennifer Stark was unmoved and set the case for trial.
Leading Economic Indicators
■ In additional fallout from the budget cuts and personnel reductions at the IRS, the supervisory revenue official for the Dallas region disclosed in April that his office had so few collectors that it would pursue only scofflaws who owe the government at least $1 million. “I have to say,” the supervisor told a reporter, “nobody’s ever going to knock on (the) door” of anyone who owes from $100,000 to $999,999.
Unclear on the Concept
■ At Australia’s sixth annual National Disability Summit in Melbourne in March, all of the speakers except one were able-bodied. That person, in a wheelchair, had to be lifted up to the stage because there was no ramp. Furthermore, disabled activists in attendance told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the “disabled” section’s table was at the back of the room, the food tables were elevated to accommodate standers, and one accessible toilet was being used as storage space.
■ German high school student Simon Schrader, 17, preparing for the all-important “Abitur” advanced-level tests to identify top-performing students, filed a formal request in April, under North Rhine-Westphalia state’s generous freedom of information law, for an advance copy of the test. “I just wanted to see what they would say,” he said. (He filed a little late, in that the state’s deadline for responding came after most of the testing.)
■ Raising Our Most Delicate Generation: In preparation for the National Union of Students Women’s Conference in Solihull, England, in March some attendees requested that clapping for any of the speakers be discouraged, but that approval from the audience be expressed by “jazz hands”—open hands, palm directed to the stage, and the fingers extended wildly. Using “jazz hands” would show compassion for attendees who have anxiety and other disorders, and for speakers who might be distracted by the din of approval.
People Different From Us
■ Venezuelan women’s well-known obsession with bodily beauty usually focuses on face, breasts and buttocks, and model Aleira Avendano has certainly had those surgeries. However, Avendano’s signature feature is her 20-inch waist, which she says has been maintained by wearing an absurdly tight corset for 23 hours a day for the past six years. “I wash myself and rest for an hour, and then I put it on again. At first, it was terrible, then I got used to it, and (it) became a necessity.”
■ California Law: A jury in Atascadero, California, having already convicted Mark Andrews, 51, of murder, concluded in March that he was legally sane at the time he shot his neighbor to death even though he claimed she was a vampire and that he himself had been, for 20 years, a werewolf. (A month later, a judge in San Francisco acquitted Santino Aviles, 41, of robbery and other felony charges after he claimed that the apartment he broke into was a spaceship that would take him to safety before the imminent explosion of the Earth. His lawyer called his condition a “meth-fueled psychosis,” and he was convicted only of misdemeanors.)
■ (1) No charges were filed in the April incident in Lee County, Georgia, even though a 74-year-old woman was shot by her son-in-law. Deputies accepted the explanation that Larry McElroy shot at an armadillo with his 9mm handgun, killing it, but that the bullet ricocheted, traveled about 100 yards, first off of a fence and then through the woman’s mobile home, hitting her in the back. She was not seriously hurt. (2) Robert Abercrombie became the most recent practitioner of DIY tooth extraction when he yanked out a front tooth of his 8-year-old son, Jason, by tying the tooth to his Camaro and driving away. Jason was perfectly cool with the stunt, which was captured on video and posted on the Internet. “It came out!” Jason is seen shouting joyously (and bloodily) into the camera.
■ Too Much Information: The most recent fatwa, announced in April by the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey, declared that “toilet paper” is now acceptable for pious Muslims. The directorate had previously decreed that only water could be used for such cleaning (or, if none was available, the left hand). (Toilet etiquette, called “Qadaa al-Haajah,” which obviously predates the invention of the actual “toilet,” requires entrance by the left foot, exit by the right, a post-ablution prayer and, most challengingly, “no reading.”)
No Longer Weird
■ Adding to the list of stories that once were captivatingly weird, but have since occurred with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (1) Desperate thieves steal what’s handy, and after a botched attempt on April 8 to steal a truck, the perp grabbed the only item he could take with him as he fled. The owner told the Des Moines, Iowa, police it was a bag of to-be-discarded dog feces. (2) The first joyous “fertility” festival you heard about, where giant penis-float parades and candy souvenir phalluses are treasured by giddy children, was perhaps in Japan. Actually, several Asian nations have had their own, as News of the Weird has tried to keep up with, such as Jeju park in South Korea. Now, Taiwan is capitalizing, with the more subdued, under- construction “Romantic Boulevard” park with gardens featuring statues of copulation (animal and human) and a giant stone phallus that children seem tickled to be photographed riding on.
A News of the Weird Classic (November 2010)
■ In June (2010), the roller coaster at the Funtown Splashdown in Saco, Maine, unexpectedly came to a halt, stranding riders for all of 15 minutes. A reportedly “furious” Eric and Tiffany Dillingham said later that their 8-year-old daughter was so frightened that she had to be taken to a hospital and had nightmares constantly since then, and a lawsuit was a possibility. (Since the purpose of a roller coaster ride is to induce fright, it was not known whether “hospital visit” and “fury” would also have ensued if the ride had been working perfectly.)
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