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News of the Weird

Lead Story

While the morbidly obese struggle with their health (and society’s scorn), those who eroticize massive weight gain are capturing increased attention, according to a July ABC News report. Commercial and personal websites give full-bellied “gainers,” such as New Jerseyan Donna Simpson, and their admiring “feeders” the opportunity to express themselves. Simpson became a 602-pound media sensation in March, when she began offering pay-per-view video of herself to an audience of horny feeders. Wrote another gainer-blogger, “Lately, I’ve been infatuated with the physics of my belly ... how it moves with me.” When he leans to one side, he wrote, “I feel a roll form around my love handle.” One sex researcher called it a “metaphor of arousal.” In the end, though, as a medical school professor put it, “The fetish may be in our heads, but the plaque is going to be in (their) arteries.”

The Entrepreneurial Spirit!

• The dating website, supposedly limiting its reach only to the attractive (though claiming 600,000 members worldwide), announced recently that it would sponsor a companion egg and sperm bank for its members to sell their essences for a fee. However, as managing director Greg Hodge told Newsweek in June, homely customers were welcome. “Initially, we hesitated to widen the offering to non-beautiful people. But everyone—including ugly people—would like to bring good-looking children into the world, and we can’t be selfish ....”

• The video company EA Sports sells sports games based on real-life professional leagues, with its biggest moneymaker “Madden NFL 11,” which allows joystick-using “coaches” to compete with each other based on actual pro football players’ abilities. In June, EA Sports announced a new touch of realism: Just as football teams “scout” opposing players, EA Sports will sell joystickers complex “scouting reports” on the talents and tendencies of their fellow joystickers.

Weird Science

• Life Imitates a Drew Barrymore Movie: Michelle Philpotts of Spalding, England, and her husband, Ian, and their two children have adjusted, since a car crash 20 years ago, to her anterograde amnesia, which, every day, robs her of short-term memory, forcing her to constantly re-learn her life. According to a June profile in London’s Daily Mail, that includes Ian’s convincing her that the stranger in her bed every morning is her husband, which he does by showing her their wedding photographs.

• An April National Geographic TV special tracked “Silvano,” an Italian man for whom sleep is almost impossible. He has “fatal familial insomnia,” making him constantly exhausted, and doctors believe he will eventually fall into a fatal dementia. Only 40 families in the world are believed to carry the FFI gene.

• Cleverest Non-Humans: (1) Wild elephants recently rampaged through parts of Bangladesh, and according to the head of the country’s Wildlife Trust, those super-intelligent animals “are quick to learn human strategies.” For example, he pointed to reports that elephants (protecting their migration corridors) routinely swipe torches from hunters and hurl them not randomly but directly at the hunters’ homes. (2) Recent research on the “cat virus” (toxoplasma gondii) acknowledges that, to be viable, the virus must be passed in rodent feces but can only be hosted in a cat’s stomach—and thus that the “toxo” somehow tricks the rodents to overcome their natural fear of cats and instead, amazingly, to entice cats to eat them. Scientists are now studying whether, when human dopamine goes haywire, such as with schizophrenia, a toxoplasma-gondii-type phenomenon is at work.

• The Trials of the Cricket-Sex Researcher: Biologists from Britain’s Exeter University who set out to study the sexual behavior of field crickets in a meadow in northern Spain reported in June that they set up 96 cameras and microphones to cover a population of 152 crickets that they individually identified with tiny, numbered placards on their backs (after DNA-swabbing each one). Publishing in the journal Science, they claimed the study is important in helping us understand how “climate change” will affect habitats.

Career Downgrades

• (1) In May, Jim Janson, a 20-year veteran “carny” (who ran the games of chance at Canada’s traveling Bill Lynch Shows), graduated from the law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and has set out on his new calling. (2) Downgrade Cut Short: Eduardo Arrocha, whom News of the Weird mentioned in 2008 when he was “Eak the Geek,” the “Pain-Proof Man” at New York’s Coney Island Sideshow (eating light bulbs, putting his tongue in a mousetrap), completed his first-year studies at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan but decided not to return and said he would concentrate on publishing his poetry.

Fine Points of the Law

• Things looked grim for Carlos Simon-Timmerman, arrested by U.S. border agents in Puerto Rico while bringing an “underage-sex” video home from a holiday in Mexico. The star of “Little Lupe the Innocent” looked very young, and federal prosecutors in April called an “expert witness” pediatrician, who assured the jury, based on the girl’s underdevelopment, that she was a minor. However, Simon-Timmerman’s lawyer had located “Lupe” via her website, and she cheerfully agreed to fly in from her home in Spain with her passport and other documents to prove, at a dramatic point in the trial, that she was 19 when the video was made. Simon-Timmerman was acquitted.

Least Competent Criminals

• Questionable Judgments: (1) Austin, Texas, police issued an arrest warrant in June for Jose Romero, who they say robbed a Speedy Stop clerk after demanding money and menacingly pointing to his waistband, which held a caulking gun. (2) Steven Kyle took about $75,000 worth of merchandise from Cline Custom Jewelers in Edmonds, Wash., in June, but as he left the store, employees shouted to passers-by, several of whom began to chase Kyle. Almost immediately, Kyle dropped his gun and the jewelry and fell to the ground exhausted. (Kyle later revealed that he had only one lung.)

Thinning the Herd

• (1) Police in Houston said the man killed when he drove his 18-wheeler into a freeway pillar on July 6 was part of a two-man scheme to defraud an auto insurance company. Police said it was the other man who was originally scheduled to drive but that, citing the “danger,” he (wisely) backed out. (2) Inmate Carlos Medina-Bailon, 30, who was awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges in El Paso, Texas, escaped in July by hiding in the jail’s garbage-collection system. Medina-Bailon’s body was found later the same day under mounds of trash in a landfill.

Armed and Clumsy (all new!)

• Men Who Accidentally Shot Themselves Recently: Robert Stewart, 55, a police academy instructor, during class (Liberty Township, Ohio, April). Lazaro Flores, 50, practicing quick-draw at his girlfriend’s house (Cape Coral, Fla., January). Michael Webb, 22, showing friends how to disarm a gunman (Camp Lejeune, N.C., February). Michael Randall Jr., 19, outside a convenience store, preparing to rob it (Athens, Ga., December). Vincent Medina, 19, waistband-as-holster mismanagement (hit in the groin) (Fontana, Calif., June). Brandon Boyce, 24, waistband-as-holster mismanagement (hit in the groin) (Omaha, Neb., July).

A News of the Weird Classic (August 1992)

• The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in June (1992) on the local “Silent Meeting Club,” consisting of people who gather at various spots around town and make it a point not to speak to each other. Founder John Hudak said his inspiration was his observation that people often feel obligated to talk when they really have nothing to say, such as at parties, and wondered how nice it would be “to have a group of people where you wouldn’t have to talk.” Hudak was interviewed at lunchtime in a downtown park, with several of his fellow members nearby, not talking.

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