Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird
Thirty thousand spiders, led by members of the British Tarantula Society, gathered in Coventry on May 18 for the annual BTS exhibition, with a Socotra Island blue baboon spider taking Best in Show for first-time entrant Mike Dawkins. According to news reports, judges ignore spiders’ personalities and make their selections by objectifying the body—seeking “shiny coats, correct proportions, an active demeanor and proper stance” (which means that “all eight legs should be upright and perfectly poised”). Veteran judge Ryan Hale said winning does not necessarily make a spider more valuable, but is likely to enhance the keeper’s reputation in the tarantula-training community.
Government in Action
■ Susan Coppinger, 47, was promoted by the city of Boston in January to a job paying over $38,800 in the Inspectional Services Department—even though a month earlier she had been arrested for bank robbery. In fact, police said it was her second robbery of the same Santander Bank in nearby Quincy. Apparently, the city’s human resources office does not monitor mugshots on massmostwanted.com, but in April, the city finally secured Coppinger’s resignation.
■ For panicking drivers headed in an emergency to University Hospital and Medical Center in Tamarac, Fla., ready to turn left into the ER because of bleeding, shortness of breath, etc., the city still requires patiently waiting for the traffic light to turn green—no matter what—and has a $158-per-violation red-light camera perfectly aimed, according to a WPLG-TV investigation reported in March. The station noted that the traffic magistrate handling appeals serves at the pleasure of the city and so far has not relented on tickets involving even provable emergencies.
■ Weird Japan: When Ayano Tsukimi, 64, moved from Osaka back to her home village of Nagoro, she found a population of only 37 people and set out to “replace” those who had died or moved away—by creating life-size stuffed dolls with unsettling facial features that she positions around town as if to suggest a larger population. Tsukimi estimates that she has created about 350 “inhabitants,” and, reported GlobalPost in May, “imagines a future where she’s outlived all her neighbors and only dolls remain.”
■ Food trucks are ubiquitous in many urban areas, bringing ethnic foods to street corners, and now in the New York City neighborhoods of Williamsburg and SoHo, art impresarios bring stage presentations to the insides of 24-foot trucks parked on the street. Typically, ticket-holders (fewer than 20) climb in for a 30-minute play, followed by a 15-minute “intermission” a few steps away at a neighborhood bar, and then it’s back in the truck for another half-hour. One art-truck producer blamed outlandish New York City real estate prices for the turn to mobile sites.
■ China’s pre-eminent (and perhaps most terrifying) performance artist, He Yunchang, 48, acknowledged to Agence France-Presse in May that he will do “anything” to advance “art”—as long as it does not kill him. Yunchang most famously removed part of a rib on opening day of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 (on the “lucky” date of 8-8-08) and in 2010 assembled 25 people to vote on whether he should be slashed from collarbone to knee and left bloody on a bed. (Cutting won, 12-10, with three abstentions, and a doctor reluctantly made the incision.) A gallery owner in Australia told AFP that Yunchang’s “pain” and “discomfort” “have a transcendent quality” and are “silent rebukes” to Chinese people who endure hardship just for money—ironically believing money will protect them from suffering.
Least Competent Criminals
A 911 call at 1:50 a.m. on May 29 came from a man who said he was lost on Deen Still Road near Polk City, Fla., and being chased by wild hogs. A sheriff’s deputy fairly easily “rescued” Andrew Joffe, 24, but then discovered that Joffe, (a) had an active arrest warrant and (b) was in possession of a GPS device that he admitted stealing from a car that evening. The Polk County sheriff told reporters that it was “unusual” for an absconding thief, with a warrant, to bring himself to deputies’ attention like that, but acknowledged with a wink that “it does get pretty dark out on Deen Still Road in the middle of the night.”
© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD