News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
The 90-Minute Day
• The whimsical premise of the iconic movie Groundhog Day (that someone can wake up every day believing it is the previous day) has largely come to life for a patient of a British psychologist writing recently in the journal Neurocase. Dr. Gerald Burgess’ patient, following anesthesia and root-canal treatment, was left with a memory span of only about 90 minutes and awakens each day believing it is the day he is to report for the same root canal. He has been examined by numerous specialists, including neurologists who found no ostensible damage to the usual brain areas associated with amnesia. The patient is able to manage his day only by using an electronic diary with prompts.
Can’t Possibly Be True
• Apparently, “uncooperative” child dental patients (even toddlers) can be totally restrained on a straitjacket-like “papoose board” without parental hand-holding, even during tooth-pulling, as long as the parent has signed a “consent form” (that does specifically mention the frightening practice). A recent case arose in Carrollton, Georgia, but a Georgia Board of Dentistry spokesperson told Atlanta’s WSB-TV that such restraints are permitted (though should have been accompanied by an explicit warning of potential physical or psychological harm). The father of the “screaming” girl said he was initially barred from the exam room and was led to believe, when he signed the consent form, that he was merely authorizing anesthesia.
• (1) A shortage of teachers led Howard S. Billings high school in Chateauguay (in the French-sensitive province of Quebec, Canada) to announce that 11th-grade French classes would this year be conducted using only the Rosetta Stone computer program. (2) Among the new rules proposed by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards agency in May was one to require actors in pornographic movies (whose male actors OSHS has already ordered to wear condoms) to wear goggles—lest bodily fluids splash into their eyes during scenes. (Further, all equipment and surfaces of sets must be decontaminated after each scene and at day’s end.)
• (1) The mayor of Whitesboro, New York, defending to a Village Voice reporter in July the 19th-century-based town seal that features a white settler appearing to push down an American Indian man, denied any racism and said the image is “actually” a typical “friendly wrestling (match) that took place back in those days.” (According to Whitesboro’s website, the Native American supposedly uttered, after the “match,” “UGH. You good fellow too much.”) (2) In April, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to stop relocating whistleblowing employees to “offices” that were abandoned jail cells. The bureau had insisted that the transfers were not punishment for reporting agency misconduct—even though one of the “offices” had no desk, computer or phone and required the employee to walk past prisoners’ cells to get to work.
The Continuing Crisis
• Lindsey Perkins pleaded guilty in June in Newport, Vermont, for an incident in which she joy-rode on the roof of a station wagon with her 5-year-old son while a 20-year-old man drove at 50 to 55 mph on the state’s scenic Route 14 near Coventry.
• In February, the Office of Residential Life at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut), intending to tout its dedication to inclusiveness and the creation of a “safe space” for minority students, posted a notice on its website inviting applications from the “LBTTQQFAGPBDSM” communities. The probable translation: the lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, flexual, asexual, (vulgar word), polyamorous, bondage/discipline and sadism/masochism communities.
• Cosbying 2.0: A court in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany, fined a 23-year-old man in July after he admitted that, one evening last year, he put “four or five drops” of a sedative into his girlfriend’s tea without her knowledge—so that she would doze off for the evening and not bother him while he played video games. She had come home after a hard day at work, expecting peace and quiet, but began complaining about the boyfriend’s machine-gun-fire game.
• The Washington Post’s running tally counts more than 400 people shot to death in the United States by law enforcement already this year with five months to go, but 2014 figures from Norway reveal that officers there shot at people only twice all year. Proportionally (64 times as many people live in the U.S.), American police would still have fired only 128 rounds last year if they showed Norway’s restraint. (Bonus fact: Norway’s cops missed their targets both times.)
• Pharmaceutical companies justify huge drug price markups on the ground that the research to develop the drug was, itself, hugely expensive. In February, a Canadian company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, decided to raise the price of two heart-saving drugs (Nitropress, Isuprel) by 212 percent and 525 percent, respectively, even though it had conducted no research on the drugs. That was because, reported The Wall Street Journal, all Valeant did was buy the rights to the already-approved drugs from another company (which, of course, had thought the drugs—research and all—had been fairly priced at the lower amounts). Said a Valeant spokesperson, “Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value” of our products (even, apparently, if it owned the product for less than a day before jacking up the price as much as five-fold).
Too Much Information
• At a charity event in Philadelphia in July, in the course of attempting to set a Guinness Book record for pogo-stick workouts, Jack Sexty, 25, bounced 88,047 straight times (over a 10-hour, 20-minute session)—to add to his several previous Guinness records. Sexty, who said he was physically uncomfortable at times during the 10-hour ordeal, suggested that he may have “inadvertently” set yet another pogo record—as maybe the only person ever to answer a “number two” call of nature while pogoing. He explained that a guy had offered to hold a pot underneath him as he jumped and did his business—but Sexty confessed, “I couldn’t be very accurate (aiming for the pot).”
Least Competent Criminals
• But A Successful Parent: Scott Birk, 31, was arrested in New Berlin, Wisconsin, in July, thanks to a big boost the police got from his 6-year-old daughter. A Wal-mart security guard noticed, on video, someone breaking into a jewelry case and pocketing earrings, and approached Birk as a suspect, in time to overhear the girl tell her dad “several times” to stop breaking into jewelry cases. Officers running an ID check found no driver’s license and asked how he had gotten to the store, and he said they walked. But Daddy, she said, we came in our car, and she cheerfully pointed it out to police. A search turned up more items stuffed in Birk’s shorts, and he was charged with theft and violating a previous bail condition.
• Summer is state-fair season, i.e., the time of sugar- and fried-fat-based comfort snacks that rarely appear anywhere except at state fairs. Recent samplings: caviar-covered Twinkie (Minnesota), mac-and-cheese cupcake (Minnesota), deep-fried Oreo burger (Florida), deep-fried gummy bears (Ohio), deep-fried beer (Texas)—and old favorites such as chicken-fried bacon (Texas), spaghetti ice cream (Indiana), Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich (California) and the hot-beef sundae (Indiana, Iowa).
A News of the Weird Classic (October 2010)
• Playboy magazine has long published an audio edition, and the Library of Congress produces a text edition in Braille. However, as a Houston Chronicle reporter learned in August (2010), a Texas organization (Taping for the Blind) goes one step further, with volunteer reader Suzi Hanks actually describing the photographs—even the Playmates and other nudes. “I’d say if she has large breasts or small breasts, piercings or tattoos,” said Hanks. “I’ll describe her genitalia. I take my time describing the girls.” “Hey, blind guys like pretty, naked girls, too!”blog comments powered by Disqus
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