Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010

News of the Weird

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A Family Affair

In November, a man identified by China's Chongqing Evening News as Mr. Zhang, 32, admitted he is competitive with his wife and "never wants to lose an argument." That combativeness, however, inevitably leaves him with "bruises and scars all over" because Mrs. Zhang is a kung fu master. Mrs. Zhang, following negotiations involving both sets of parents, agreed to a contract that would limit any beatings to once a week, with a parent-administered penalty for exceeding that number.

The Continuing Crisis

American Jonathan Littell was awarded the 2009 "Bad Sex in Fiction" award by Britain's prestigious Literary Review, having written passages like these in his novel The Kindly Ones: "I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg." Later: A woman's genitalia resembles "a Gorgon's head … a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks. If only I could still get hard, I thought, I could use my [organ] like a stake hardened in the fire, and blind this Polyphemus who made me Nobody. But my [organ] remained inert, I seemed turned to stone."

Least Competent Criminals

Failed to Keep a Low Profile: (1) A news summary of traffic stops on Christmas Eve in Alice Springs, Australia, noted that 11 people were charged with DUI. One man was spotted driving despite the fact that the hood of his car was broken in the "up" position and had smashed his windshield. The driver maneuvered down the street by craning his neck out the side window. (2) Two weeks earlier, in Trumbull, Conn., police arrested Christopher Frazao, 27, after watching him drive despite a windshield full of snow, except for a small opening he could peer though. A search of the car revealed marijuana and other drugs, as well as items allegedly stolen in recent burglaries.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

n In 2004 in Merrillville, Ind., plastic surgeon Mark Weinberger skipped town to avoid mounting malpractice lawsuits and Medicare fraud charges. Authorities finally cornered Weinberger in December 2009, while he was living in a tent on the southern slopes of Italy's Mont Blanc. As authorities approached Weinberger in order to arrest him, he grabbed a knife and plunged it into his neck. Perhaps owing to his rusty skills—or incompetence, if the malpractice claims are accurate—Weinberger missed the major artery and was captured.

n The Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre in Norfolk, England, lowered the water level in its giant aquarium for Christmas because the center’s big, herbivorous turtles were scheduled to receive their annual holiday treat of brussels sprouts. Officials know from past experience that if they fail to lower the water level, gas bubbles released from turtle farts will lift the water high enough to trigger emergency tank-flooding buzzers.

Having Fun Now!

On the heels of the "Balloon Boy" fiasco in which a father exploited his child in an attempt to win a reality TV show, Jim Dunn of North Vancouver, British Columbia, submitted a demo reel to reality-show producers featuring him and his entire family as gasoline-soaked fireballs. Dunn, one of Canada's leading film stuntmen, and his wife and three kids, ages 15, 12 and 9, have all performed as stunt doubles (though it was the first fire stunt for the youngest, who was 7 when the video was shot), and abundant safety precautions were taken. No one was hurt in the stunt. In his career, however, Dunn has suffered six leg fractures and a cracked skull, among other injuries.

A News of the Weird Classic

Psychology professor Russell Carney of Southwest Missouri State University told the Associated Press in August 1992 that he had developed a technique for improving memory. As a demonstration, he told the reporter how he could facilitate the recall of a particular painting that was done by Degas in 1865. First, think of an object that sounds like "Degas" (day-GAH)—for example, "dagger"—and then memorize the last two digits of the year by learning the sentence "Twin new moons rose low, just clearing four pine saplings," in which the first word begins with a T and stands for "1," the second, N, stands for "2," and so on. Thus, 1865 becomes "65," which becomes "just" "low," which could translate to J-L, which could be "jelly," which would produce a "jelly dagger," to which the subject tries to find a resemblance, somewhere, in the Degas painting. Simple as that!

© 2010 Chuck Shepherd