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News of the Weird 9/26/13

by Chuck Shepherd

Home Sweet Home “With its neatly cut lawns and luscious tropical vegetation,” wrote a BBC News reporter in July, Miracle Village, Fla., is an “idyllic rural community” of 200 residents — about half of whom are registered sex offenders, attracted to the settlement near Lake Okeechobee because laws and ordinances elsewhere in Florida harshly restrict where they can live (e.g., not within a half-mile of a school or park). Incumbent residents might have been apprehensive in 2009 when a pastor started the local rehabilitation ministry (one even called it a “nightmare on Elm Street”), but since then, no one could recall a single impropriety involving an offender, and lately, 10 to 20 more applications arrive each week (screened to keep out diagnosed pedophiles and those with a history of drugs or violence).

Can’t Possibly Be True Dana Carter’s debut as principal of Calimesa Elementary School in California’s San Bernardino County was quite inauspicious, as parents quickly objected to his August policy of requiring kids to drop to one knee when addressing him. One parent said her daughter was forced to kneel while awaiting his attention and then to rise only when he lifted his arms. Carter said he would discontinue the policy and insisted he had instituted it for “safety” and not because he imagined himself as royalty.

• Many consumers already distrust food imports from China, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture nonetheless announced recently (and “quietly,” according to NPR) that it would exempt four Chinese companies altogether from USDA inspections of their processed chicken exports. The changes are part of the department’s money-saving streamlining that also cuts back domestic regulation — proposals that have already drawn criticism from the Government Accountability Office because they would replace many on-site USDA inspectors with employees of the food-processing plants themselves.

• It was a tough sell for performance artists Doug Melnyk and Ian Mozdzen to defend their controversial show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in July. (Wrote one reviewer: “What I saw (on the stage) were not one, not two, but three mayonnaise enemas. (I) do not need to see any more mayonnaise enemas for the rest of my lifetime.”) Explained Melnyk, to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter in July, if all you’re trying to do is “figure out what people want and you make it for them, that’s not art. … (Y)ou’re just a shoemaker.”

Unclear on the Concept In August, the Mother Nature Network website showcased an array of camping gear seemingly designed for the daintiest of those ostensibly “roughing” it. The Blofield outdoor couch inflates in minutes to produce a facsimile of a Las Vegas lounge sofa. The Rolla Roaster’s 42-inch-long steel fork assures elegance (and evenness) in marshmallow-roasting. For fashion-conscious backwoods women, Teva makes high-heeled hiking sandals ($330). The mother of all Swiss army knives, by Wenga, has so many gadgets that it suggests a parody of a Swiss army knife. To be a camper is to sleep in a tent, though, and why not the trailer-mounted Opera tent, including hardwood floors and a wine cooler?

• A July direct-mail campaign by Canada’s Conservative Party, intended to show concern for the disabled population, might have fallen short, according to a Toronto Star report. The first wave of brochures, “Supporting Jobs for All Canadians” (meaning the disabled as well), featured the well-known wheelchair symbol and a message in a series of Braille dots. However, the brochure was useless to blind recipients, who could neither see the dots nor read them, as the dots were printed on a flat surface.

• By her own admission, Joan Hoyt, 61, of St. Louis, has difficulty writing, is easily distracted, needs frequent breaks, and “reads about 2 1/2 times slower than her peers” — yet wants to be a lawyer. She filed a lawsuit recently against the Law School Admission Council for special accommodations to take the standardized admissions test after the council offered to grant her “only” 156 extra minutes for the exam. She also demanded a room by herself with a “white noise” machine and the ability to bring a computer and food and drinks to the exam. (States have made similar accommodations for bar exams — but those applicants have already successfully endured the intellectual rigors of law school.)

Inexplicable Is oral sex permitted in Orthodox Judaism? If so, must any lubricant used be kosher (or is kosher required only for substances ingested into the body)? These questions were not answered by California’s Trigg Laboratories, which decided recently to vie for a kosher label for eight lines of Ecstasy lubricant under its Wet label — and, following an inspection by the Rabbinical Council of California, was granted it. Many authorities believe that nonkosher products can be used if, like lipstick, they are “applied” but not ingested.

• Because We Can, That’s Why: Two onetime roommates at the University of Michigan announced in August that they have developed a smartphone app to accommodate the questionable number of people who seek an easy way to share leftover food on restaurant plates (to save it from wasteful discarding). Using smartphones’ location service, one diner could offer to clean another’s plate or have a stranger rush to his own table for scraps. “We’re not gonna make millions,” one of the developers told NPR in July.