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News of the Weird 3/27/14

by Chuck Shepherd

Sentimental Journey Kevin Walters, 21, staged an emotional, though unsuccessful, one-man, chained-to-the-door protest in March to prevent the closing of a commercial rest stop along the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway near Des Plaines, Ill. Ultimately, the Des Plaines Oasis, housing shops and fast-food restaurants, will be demolished as part of a highway-widening project. Walters told WBBM Radio that his poignant attachment to the oasis was because his parents had told him it was where he was conceived as they returned home from a 1992 Phil Collins concert.

Cultural Diversity In tribe-controlled areas of India, children who disrespect their families by marrying outside their castes are still, occasionally, put to death despite strong national laws. However, enlightenment is advancing, and Mr. Sidhnath Sharma recently filed a lawsuit instead against his caste-straying son for “destroying the family tradition” and “lowering his father’s prestige.” Sharma, a lawyer in Patna, India, is demanding that the son pay a monthly royalty of the equivalent of $163 for the son’s now-unauthorized use of the father’s name.

• Fighter jets from France were forced in February to accompany the hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane commandeered by the co-pilot, who had diverted the plane to Geneva in order to apply for asylum. The Swiss air force would normally have taken over the mission in its own air space, but the incident occurred at 4:30 a.m., and Swiss air force pilots were likely still asleep, as they work only “regular office hours,” beginning at 8 a.m. (French military officials said they are accustomed to covering for Switzerland.)

• Sweden’s foul-smelling canned herring (surstromming) inexplicably raises passions among some traditionalists—which is why it was big news in February when a man found a bulging tin whose contents had been fermenting for about 25 years and reckoned he needed help to “disarm” it, lest it “explode” and damage his cabin. Ruben Madsen of Sweden’s Surstromming Academy agreed to attend the can-opening and assured the man that spewing, not explosion, was the likely outcome.

• In 2010, News of the Weird reported on the enthusiastically obese Donna Simpson, who ate meals in front of her webcam so that “chub chasers” could watch her (pay-per-view) growing larger before their eyes. Now comes a South Korean, Ms. Park Seo-yeon, 34, not at all overweight, also on pay-per-view, breaking bread with friend-challenged people desperate to avoid eating alone, however forced the circumstances. Reuters reported that Park’s “gastronomic voyeurism” earns her, some months, the equivalent of more than $9,000 for her series of two-to-three-hour meals, featuring real-time chatting.

Latest Religious Messages Pastor Allen Parker conducts services in the nude, for the nude, according to a February report on WWBT-TV (Richmond, Va.). Parker’s White Tail Chapel is located on a similarly named nudist resort in Ivor, Va., and even in winter, when disrobing visitors are scarce, the chapel is open for congregants. (In summertime, when naked people abound, the chapel’s services are often standing-room-only.) Baring the body to Christ is hardly unusual, Parker reminded, since that’s the way we all come into the world.

The Cutting Edge (1) Among the filings published in November by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was Google’s 2012 application covering a throat tattoo—actually a mobile skin “microphone” with lie-detecting capability, presumably to encourage truthfulness from people as they speak. The application explains how to couple an electronic skin tattoo to a mobile device, using “flexible substrate.” (2) Among the “secrets” revealed recently on a BBC television special on South America’s beauty-queen obsession was one by Ms. Wi May Nava, first runner-up for Miss Venezuela 2013. Nava had a patch of plastic mesh sewn onto her tongue to create so much pain when she ate that she was forced to stick to liquids.

Fine Points of the Law An Iowa administrative law judge ruled in February that it might be reasonable to accidentally damage a stubborn vending machine that ate your money—but not by commandeering a forklift, raising the vending machine 2 feet off the concrete floor, and slamming it to the ground to dislodge the reluctant candy bar (a Twix). Consequently, Robert McKevitt, fired recently over the incident by Polaris Industries in Milford, Iowa, was deemed not entitled to worker compensation. (McKevitt admitted picking up the machine with the forklift, but said he just shook it and then set it down gently.)

• In November, a New York appeals court approved a Rockland County judge’s jury instructions, which had resulted in the jury’s absolving Brittany Lahm of fault when she flipped her car on the New York Thruway, killing one passenger and injuring others. Lahm was driving friends home from the beach when one passenger unexpectedly unfastened Lahm’s bikini top, leading her to stretch her arms to re-tie it, which caused her to lose control of the car. The judges ruled that the jury could (and ultimately did) consider that Lahm faced an “unforeseen emergency” and was not negligent. (The only fatality in the crash was the original unfastener.)