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Friday, Dec. 10, 2010

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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‘Real’ Estate Boom

The collapse of the economy in 2008 might have reached the far corners of the Earth, but evidently it did not make it to Planet Calypso, the make-believe asteroid containing make-believe real estate in the multiplayer online game “Entropia Universe,” where entrepreneur Jon Jacobs recently cashed out his properties for $635,000—in real (not make-believe) U.S. dollars. Jacobs’ original 2005 investment was $100,000, meaning he has earned more than an average 35% annual return. As players landed on Jacobs' properties, they paid fees, and Jacobs' buyers are obviously optimistic they can maintain that income stream. A recent study by the marketing firm In-Stat estimated that online players would spend $7 billion in 2010 on make-believe property and goods.

Guilt-Ridden New Jersey


When law enforcement officials staged a "Safe Surrender" program in Franklin, N.J., in November—inviting fugitives to give up in exchange for lighter punishments—3,900 people surrendered over four days. But it turned out that 550 of them were not wanted on any warrant. Said a parole board spokesman, "For some people, this seemed to be a way to check." A few days later, in Wayne, N.J., hospital pharmacy manager Leonardo Zoppa, 34, was summoned to a meeting with the hospital's security director. Zoppa arrived noticeably nervous, inquired about the agenda, and eventually volunteered that he had set up a secret surveillance camera in a men's restroom. The security director said he was taken aback because the only purpose of the meeting was to advise Zoppa of routine security code changes.

Fair Warning


In November, patrons using restrooms at City Hall in Chandler, Ariz., were stunned to see wall signs warning users not to drink out of the urinals and toilets. (Officials explained that the environmentally friendly toilets flush with "reused" water from the building's cooling system, which normally must be colorized to discourage inadvertent drinking. By regulation, when this type of reused water is not colorized, it must be accompanied by warning signs.)

Meet You Where?


According to an October report in The New York Times, one of the favorite meet-up spots in Manhattan is by Colombian artist Fernando Botero's 12-foot-tall "Adam" statue at the Time Warner Center. However, according to the center's general manager, maintaining the statue has become a problem since Adam is nude and the statue is so pedestrian-friendly. As the Times described it, "Most of Adam is a deep dark brown," but the easily accessible penis "is worn golden from extensive handling." (The Times also noted that "at the Botero" is a less-popular meet-up suggestion than "beneath a certain part of the sculpture.")

Police Report


Sheriff's deputies in Manatee County, Fla., arrested two men in October after a traffic stop in which, following a thorough search of the car's trunk, they found marijuana. In fact, the search of the messy trunk was so thorough that they also turned up a bong that driver Mark Fiasco said he had lost seven years ago.

Recurring Themes


Wandering Kids: In October, firefighters again were called to a claw vending machine filled with toys to extract a boy who had crawled up the toy-release chute—this time at a Wal-Mart in Sun Prairie, Wis. As is often the case, the boy appeared to be joyously in his element among the toys and not immediately receptive to coaxing from firefighters or his parents.

A News of the Weird Classic (2006)

Dave "The Dragon" Lockwood and his tournament-tested sons Max, 16, Jon, 13, and Ben, 10, of Silver Spring, Md., might become to competitive tiddlywinks what the Manning family is to football, according to a January 2006 Washington Post story. Dave was previously ranked No. 1 in the English Tiddlywinks Association (and is currently No. 8, with Max No. 52). "Tiddlywinks doesn't sound very serious," said Max, but "there's so much strategy." Dave said he plans to get Britain's Prince Philip, a tiddlywinks aficionado, to suggest tiddlywinks as a demonstration "sport" at London's 2012 Summer Olympics.

2010 Chuck Shepherd