Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009

Tongue-Tied Kids

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Along with the cold, harsh months of winter comes the annual tragedy of young kids who couldn’t resist the age-old experiment of seeing what would happen if they tried to lick a metal pole in subzero temperatures. This winter it happened on successive days: A 10-year-old boy attempted the feat in Hammond, Ind., on Jan. 14, followed by a 6-year-old boy in Omaha, Neb., on the 15th. Both episodes ended badly, with traces of the boys' tongues left on the poles.

 Least Competent Criminals

In January, police in Cape Coral, Fla., were seeking LaKeitha Watson-Atkinson for a possible connection to a shoplifting incident at TJ Maxx. A female thief escaped after running from store security, but not before her getaway car knocked her down—twice. In the commotion, a check made out to Watson-Atkinson fell to the ground.

Luke Radick, 21, was charged with attempted robbery of the National Bank of Palmerton in Sciota, Pa., in January. Bank employees refused to buzz Radick into the building for the simple reason that he stood at the door while covering his face and holding a shotgun.

Grudges

 (1) In December, Marie-Eve Dean, 23, was ordered into intensive therapy by a judge in Ottawa, Ontario, after being convicted of making more than 10,000 crank phone calls to the city's 911 line. Apparently, Dean made the calls simply to protest the legal system's treatment of her former brother-in-law in a child-custody case. (2) A South Korean man identified only as Kim apparently had a more enduring grudge: Police in Seoul charged the 37-year-old man with the November slaying of his high-school music teacher, allegedly because of punishment Kim received for cheating as a student in 1987.

 Cultural Diversity

  • Among the services available by the hour in Japan, according to a January BBC dispatch, are quality time with an animal (about $10 an hour at the Ja La La Cafe in Toyko gets you time with a cat, and other establishments rent time with dogs, rabbits, ferrets or even beetles); a flattering conversation with a college coed (this service at the Campus Cafe is limited to talking and does not include sexual activities); and actors from the I Want To Cheer Up agency in Tokyo, who portray "relatives" for a variety of services, including at weddings and funerals when actual family members cannot attend; “fathers” who help single women with their parenting duties; or “husbands” who help women practice for the routine of married life.
  • An estimated 20 million Chinese people live in caves, though the situation often is not as bad as it sounds, according to a December McClatchy Newspapers dispatch from Miaogou Village. In addition to the obvious advantages, such as not paying a mortgage, some caves have been in families for generations and have electrical wiring, plumbing and cable television. Researchers said that earthen insulation usually keeps the inside temperature from dropping below about 55 degrees Fahrenheit even in the dead of winter.

Questionable Judgments

Photographer Yeon Lee's exhibit in a London gallery in December featured a burqa-clad model, fully robed from head to toe except for one tiny opening. Instead of the typical opening for the eyes, however, this opening exposed one of the model's nipples, highlighting "the ways women are categorized in male-dominated societies," she said.

Family Knows Best: (1) For months, despite her sister’s offer to take care of her, Evelyn Poynter, 86, refused to leave her apartment in Pittsburgh and move to her sister’s home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. According to police, Poynter’s sister, Laura Stewart, 72, took matters into her own hands in December. Allegedly, a fed-up Stewart forcibly wrapped Poynter's arms, legs, neck and body in duct tape, tossed her in the back seat of her car and drove Poynter to her home in Ohio. "There was nothing sinister," said Stewart's daughter. However, Stewart was still arrested. (2) In October, police in Elgin, Ill., said they were investigating an accusation that after a 13-year-old boy and girl ended their relationship, the girl's mother ordered the boy to reconcile with her daughter by threatening to release nude photos of him that her daughter possessed.

Creme de la Weird

 Among the medical oddities mentioned in a December Wall Street Journal roundup was "Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder," in which a person, when startled, would "jump, twitch, flail their limbs and obey commands given suddenly, even if it means hurting themselves or a loved one." It was first observed in 1878 among lumberjacks in Maine but has also been reported among factory workers in Malaysia and Siberia. It is believed to be the result of a genetic mutation that blocks the calming of the central nervous system, though it could also be a psychological reaction to the stress of working in close quarters.

  2009 Chuck Shepherd