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News of the Weird 12/27/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Questionable Judgments Police were seeking a 6-foot-3 man concerning an attempted child-abduction in November after a father intervened as the man led the father’s 2-year-old daughter toward an exit of the Fashion Square mall in Charlottesville, Va. The father alerted Fashion Square’s security, and the cops took the man into “custody,” which turned out to mean escorting him off the property and warning him not to return (catch and release?).

Questionable Product Launches (1) The Demeter Fragrance Library (maker of such “classic” scents as “Dirt,” “Crayon” and “Laundromat”) has added to its line with “Sushi” cologne, reported the website FoodBeast.com in November. Fortunately, the scent is not that of raw fish, but “cooked sticky rice,” seaweed, ginger and lemon essences. (2) A company called Beverly Hills Caviar recently installed three vending machines in the Los Angeles area that sell nothing but varieties of caviar (ranging from pink mother of pearl ($4) to Imperial River Beluga ($500 an ounce).

Government in Action Among the federally funded projects highlighted in the “2012 Waste Book” of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn were a $325,000 grant to develop a “robosquirrel” (to help study the somehow-confusing interaction between squirrels and rattlesnakes) and a $700,000 grant by the National Science Foundation for a New York theater company to create a musical about climate change and biodiversity (which actually opened this year, in Kansas City, and included among its concepts, according to one critic, “flying monkey poop”). Abuses of the food stamp program were also detailed, such as by one exotic dancer who, while earning $85,000, drew food stamps in an amount roughly equivalent to the sum she spent on “cosmetic enhancements.”

Great Art! “I wanted to create a self-portrait that was completely stripped of … visual prejudice,” said Polish-born New York artist Martynka Wawrzyniak, who thus chose the medium of “smell” for her gallery showing in New York City (running through mid-November). For starters, she “scientifically extracted” her hair oils, armpit perspiration and tears (to protest humans’ cloaking themselves in deodorant soaps and laundry powders), and blasted visitors with whiffs of it as they entered the gallery.

People Different From Us Update: There was no one more different from us than Dennis Avner, last reported here in 2005. Having transformed his body through surgery, tattoos and implants, he had almost completely adopted the persona of a cat (“Stalking Cat,” as he was known in the body-modification community). Mr. Avner had tiger-stripe tattoos covering most of his body, dental implants sharpened to points to resemble tiger teeth, and metal-stud implants around his mouth to hold his long, plastic whiskers. Ear and lip surgery had made his head more catlike, and special contact lenses made his eyes appear as ovals. Mr. Avner passed away in Las Vegas in November at the age of 54, reportedly of suicide.

Least Competent Criminals Rookie Mistake: Joseph O’Callaghan, 31, was sentenced to nine years in prison by a court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in November for having robbed an armored-car guard in 2011. He had made off with the guard’s cashbox, but since he had accosted the guard on his way into Northern Bank, and not on his way out, the box contained no money.

Readers’ Choice (1) For two months, up to Nov. 20, the water company serving Johnville, Quebec, had left standing a utility pole even after the Quebec highway department had rebuilt Highway 251 to a location that left the pole squarely in the middle of the new two-lane street (which thus became a popular sight for fans of incompetence). Fortunately, during the two months, no accidents around the pole were reported. (2) A 35-year-old man was shot to death in Wilkinsburg, Pa., in September when he took a break from a game of dominoes on a second-floor balcony around 11 p.m. and urinated over the rail. Unfortunately, an unidentified man was walking below. He yelled, “Yo! Yo!” and fired several gunshots, killing the urinator.
(3) Donna Giustizia lobbied the city of Vaughan, Ontario, in November to chop down all the oak trees in the vicinity of Stephen Catholic Elementary School, claiming that her children and others like them with nut allergies were in danger. She mentioned especially their “anxiety” from even glimpsing acorns on the ground and suggested that the allergic children could be easily bullied by acorn-wielding classmates. (4) In a parental-involvement program with 70 public schools and Walgreen Co., the City of Chicago announced in October that it would give previously uninterested parents $25 gift cards just to come by the schools to pick up their kids’ report cards.

High School Inspirations (1) Trent Bauer became a mid-season replacement as starting quarterback for Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.) after beginning the season merely as the team’s bulldog-costumed mascot on the sidelines. In his first game, in October, he threw two touchdown passes in a 22-19 victory. (2) Also in October, South Plantation (Fla.) High School’s third-string quarterback, Ms. Erin DiMeglio, was voted the school’s homecoming queen. In her first game this season, she had come off the bench in a brief stint and completed two passes.