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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Weirdness Repeats

Last month, some News of the Weird items reminded readers that bizarre human adventures tend to repeat themselves again and again. Here are a few more recent selections of previous themes:


  • In May, a man exploring rural property in Lebanon, Ore., came across what appeared to be a classic World War II-era bomb. Unfamiliar with the proper way to handle this scenario, the man became the most recent person to make the unwise decision to load the bomb into his vehicle and drive to a police station (in Corvallis, Ore.). Officers at the station reacted predictably and logically: They fled the room, closed down the streets around the station and called the nearest bomb squad (which later disposed of it safely).
  • News of the Weird has reported several times on the confusion that many art gallery visitors reveal in evaluating "abstract impressionist" pieces when they compare them to random scribblings of toddlers and animals, such as chimpanzees and elephants. In April, academic researchers at Boston College reported that gallery patrons correctly differentiated serious works from squiggles about 60% to 70% of the time. As one writer noted, it's not a ringing endorsement to hear: "The chimpanzee's stuff is good. I like how he plays with metaphors about depth of field, but I think I like this guy (Mark) Rothko a little bit better."
  • Least Competent DIY Homeowners: Reports still frequently emerge of homeowners battling household pests, only to create an even worse problem. In recent cases, for example, Robert Hughes tried to oust squirrels from his townhouse in Richton Park, Ill., in March. But his smoke bomb badly damaged his unit and his neighbor's. (Firefighters had to rip open the roof in the two units to battle the blaze.) Two weeks after that, in Mesa, Ariz., a man set his attic on fire trying to get rid of a beehive with brake fluid and a cigarette lighter.
  • From time to time, someone visiting a bathroom looks down and finds the eyes of a critter staring back. In March, Dennis Mulholland, 67, of Paisley, Scotland, encountered a 3-foot-long California king snake hiding next to the toilet bowl after escaping from elsewhere in the building. In December a woman in Edmond, Okla., had a similar experience with a squirrel, which, police hypothesized, might have crawled through a sewer drain.
  • "Personal body orifices" as storage units for contraband seem to be more in vogue than ever. Recent inventories made by police of suspects' rectal safekeeping included a man with a baggie of marijuana (Louisville, Ky., March); a man with a marijuana pipe (Port St. Lucie, Fla., May); and a man with 30 items inside a condom (Sarasota, Fla., February), including a syringe, lip balm, six matches, a cigarette, 17 pills and a CVS receipt and coupon.
  • Beauty contests for camels are very big business in Saudi Arabia, as News of the Weird reported in 2007. The first such competition in Turkey was held in Selcuk in January, albeit without the huge prize money (a Saudi camel once won $10 million in a single show). Judges supposedly look for muscle tone, elegance of tail wag and tooth quality, according to a January dispatch in The Wall Street Journal. Charisma is also important, according to one judge. "Camels are very sophisticated and realize people are watching them, so they are trying to pose," the judge said. "Some will stop, open their back legs and wave their tail, or (throw) their head back and moan—this is the kind of posing we are looking for."

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd

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