News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Weird News You Can Use
• It turns out that a person having a heart attack is usually safer to be in an ambulance headed to a hospital than to already be a patient in a hospital, according to a study by University of North Carolina researchers. It takes longer, on average, for non-ER hospital staff to comply with hospital protocols in ordering and evaluating tests (nearly three hours, according to the study) than it does for ER (and ambulance) staff, who treat every case of cardiac symptoms as life-threatening. Overall, according to a February Wall Street Journal report, the study found the mortality rate for heart-attack victims treated in emergency rooms is 4 percent, compared to 40 percent for patients already admitted for other reasons and then suffering heart attacks.
The Continuing Crisis
• Uh-Oh: The man hospitalized in fair condition in January after being rammed from behind by a car while on his bicycle happened to be Darryl Isaacs, 50, one of the most ubiquitously advertising personal-injury lawyers in Louisville, Kentucky. Isaacs calls himself the “Heavy Hitter” and the “Kentucky Hammer” for his aggressiveness on behalf of, among other clients, victims of traffic collisions. The (soon-to-be-poorer) driver told police the sun got in his eyes.
• Elephants in Love: (1) India TV reported in January that a wild male elephant from an adjoining sanctuary had broken into the Nandan Kanan zoo in Odisha, wildly besotted with a female, Heera. The male cast aside two other females trying to protect Heera and mated with her. The male lingered overnight until zookeepers could shoo him away. (2) A frisky male elephant crushed four cars in 10 days in January at Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park—the result, said a park veterinarian, of the stress of the mating season. (Only the last of the four cars was occupied, but no injuries were serious.)
• While nearly all Americans enjoy low gasoline prices, residents of sea-locked Alaskan towns (Barrow, Kotzebue, Nome, Ketchikan) have continued to pay their same hefty prices ($7 a gallon, according to one January report on Alaska Dispatch News). Though the price in Anchorage and Fairbanks resembles that in the rest of America, unconnected towns can be supplied only during a four-month breather from icy sea conditions and thus received their final winter shipments last summer. The price the supplier was forced to pay then dictates pump prices until around May or June.
The Ever-Valuable Internet
• In January, “Captain Mercedes,” a registered user of the Reddit.com social media site, announced he had compiled a data file cataloguing every bowel movement he had in 2014 and was offering the file to other users to design hypotheses and visual representations of the data in ways that might improve his relationship with his alimentary canal. According to the data-analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com, the “researcher” used the standard “Bristol stool scale” (seven categories of excreta, by shape and consistency) “and produced interesting hypotheses in the ensuing Reddit conversation.”
• (1) A January examination of New York City records through NYC Open Data found that the five most common first names of taxicab drivers licensed by the city are five variations in the spelling of the name “Mohammed.” (2) The last McDonald’s burger to be sold in Iceland before the chain abandoned the country in 2009 has been on open display at the National Museum of Iceland and was recently moved to the Bus Hostel in Reykjavik, “still in good condition,” according to the hostel manager. “Some people have even stolen some of the fries.”
• Harvard University medical researcher Mark Shrime documented recently how easily made-up research can wind up in reputable-sounding academic journals—by submitting an article composed by random-generating text software, supposedly about “the surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals” (and authored by “Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles”). Of 37 journals, 17 quickly accepted it, some feigning actually having read it, with the only catch being that Shrime would have to pay a standard $500 fee for publication. Shrime warned that some of the journals have titles dangerously close to highly respected journals and cautions journalist (and reader) skepticism.
• Ms. Meng Wang filed a lawsuit recently in New York City against Gildan Outerwear over her disappointment with Kushyfoot Shaping Tights. In television ads, Wang wrote, a young model sashays down a city street with her eyes dreamily closed and “moans and utters highly sexually charged phrases” “including ‘That’s the spot’ and ‘so good’…passersby (stop) in their tracks to look at her with mouths agape.” Wang said the ad clearly implies that the tights produce an orgasmic sensation of some sort, wrote Gothamist.com, but that she, herself, has come up empty.
Cliches Come to Life
• (1) Margaretta Evans, 63, finally reported her missing son to the Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Police Department in January. She said Jason Callahan, who would be 38, had been missing since “early June of 1995” when he left home to follow the Grateful Dead on tour in California and Illinois. (2) Riccardo Pacifici, described as the head of Rome’s Jewish community, was accidentally trapped while visiting the Auschwitz prison death camp in January on Holocaust Remembrance Day, after staff had departed. When Pacifici and four associates crawled out through a window, security officers spotted them, provoking the New York magazine headline, “Polish Police Detained a Jewish Leader Trying to Escape Auschwitz.”
Least Competent Criminals
• Two men remain at large after stealing an ATM from Casino Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, in January. They had smashed through glass front doors, unbolted the machine, put it on a dolly and rolled it to a waiting car (though it briefly toppled over onto one of the culprits). Managers told police the ATM was empty, disabled and scheduled to be moved to another location later that day. A Calgary police officer expressed bemusement at the city’s recent ATM smash-and-grab epidemic, since the machines are hard to unbolt, hard to open and emptied several times a day. “It’s a very ineffective way to make a living.”
• Unwise Robbery Target: Police in Champaign, Illinois, charged Clayton Dial, 23, with robbery on New Year’s night, for carrying a pellet gun into the Kamakura Japanese restaurant and demanding money from the hostess. However, he fled quickly when chef Tetsuji Miwa walked over, holding his large sushi knife. “He saw the blade,” Miwa said later, and “started running.” (Miwa and two co-workers gave chase and held him for police.)
• One of the legendary American lawsuit successes is the 1970 award of $50,000 to Gloria Sykes, whose brain injury on a San Francisco cable car left the previously modest Midwestern woman with an unrestrained libido. News of the Weird reported a similar such case, from London, in December 2006. Now, in January 2015, the British Columbia Supreme Court awarded Alissa Afonina $1.5 million for her auto-accident brain injury. She was apparently a demure, high-achieving student, but following the 2008 collision, she had no impulse control, become “isolated,” had “outbursts,” made “inappropriate sexual comments”—and was able to earn a living only as a dominatrix. (Alfonina’s mother, also injured in the accident, was awarded $940,000.)
A News of the Weird Classic (October 2011)
• “My ultimate dream is to be buried in a deep ocean close to where penguins live,” explained the former Alfred David, 79, otherwise known in his native Belgium as “Monsieur Pingouin” (Mr. Penguin), so named because a 1968 auto accident left him with a waddle in his walk that he decided to embrace with gusto. (His wife abandoned the marriage when he made the name change official; being “Mrs. Penguin” was not what she had signed up for.) Mr. Pingouin started a penguin-item museum that ultimately totaled 3,500 items, and he created a hooded, full-body black-and-white penguin outfit that, according to a September (2011) Reuters dispatch, he wears daily in his waddles around his Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek.
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