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Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Government in Action

  • Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, whose construction was financed in 1964 by borrowing $25 million (and untold more as part of a subway expansion to service the stadium), was demolished in 2004 and is but a memory to the city’s sports fans. However, nine years later, the city is still paying for it (though next year will retire the $25 million bond and nine years from now, the city hopes, will retire the stadium/subway bond). The city’s deputy controller told phillymag.com in June, profoundly, “When issuing a bond to build a facility, the debt payment on that bond should not outlast the facility.”
  • Toronto is facing such a crippling backlog of challenges to parking tickets, reported the Toronto Star in August, that nearly 74,000 citations from last year were still unresolved and that many cases were proceeding even less hurriedly. Mahmood-Reza Arab, a computer programmer who was ticketed for parking too close to a hydrant in 2005 and who has dutifully met all deadlines for making a proper challenge, has still not had his day in court. A spokesman said the “normal” wait time for a court date is “only” 18 months.
  • “Rules Are for the Benefit of Us All”: Adhering to “federal regulations,” the Denver Housing Authority ordered the immediate ejection of the family of Sandra Roskilly (her mother and autistic son)—because Roskilly had been shot dead in a random homicide in August. The mother, who shared the apartment with Roskilly for 10 years, said she was told that once the head of household is no longer present (no matter the reason), the apartment must be forfeited. Said Roskilly’s astonished brother, “(T)here was no question in my mind that my mother would at least be able to finish out the lease.”

Great Art!

  • Artist John Knuth creates “broad swaths of color that appear to be meticulous impressionistic abstractions,” reported a gizmodo.com writer in July, but in a video made for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Knuth revealed that he makes colors with paint harvested from the vomit of about 200,000 houseflies. Knuth raises the flies from maggots, then feeds them sugar mixed with watercolor pigments, then coaxes the flies to regurgitate—and then captures and uses the result. Of Knuth’s accompanying high-minded explanations of his purpose, Gizmodo wrote, “Once you decide to make paintings from fly barf, you pretty much forfeit any other subtext you'd like your audience to appreciate.”
  • Suspicion Confirmed: A British “art critic” created the “Colne Valley Sculpture Trail” in West Yorkshire by inviting patrons to walk a 3-mile path past derelict buildings and discarded objects that the critic suggested, in a formal leaflet, were purposeful art objects designed to be provocative. (In reality, they were random junk.) An abandoned bathtub (titled “Wash Behind the Ears”) evoked “contradictory concepts of filth and cleanliness…in a countryside setting,” the critic wrote. A collapsed wall was built by fictitious artist Karen Braithwaite, who then destroyed it “with some sense of violence…suggest(ing) a sense of bereavement, the turf above almost seeming to weep.” The author spoke to BBC News in July but insisted on remaining anonymous.

Perspective

America’s military veterans, whom the country supposedly champions wholeheartedly and insists should be properly compensated for their service and the disruption to their lives, must navigate as many as 613 government forms from 18 different agencies to receive what they are due by law, according to a July study released by the American Action Forum. The principal agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, purports to have been making great progress over the last few years, but earlier this year acknowledged that, still, about 70% of claims (covering 600,000 veterans) have been waiting longer than 125 days for yes-or-no decisions. 

© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD