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News of the Weird 6/12/14

By Chuck Shepherd

Eyes of the Beholder Thirty thousand spiders, led by members of the British Tarantula Society, gathered in Coventry on May 18 for the annual BTS exhibition, with a Socotra Island blue baboon spider taking Best in Show for first-time entrant Mike Dawkins. According to news reports, judges ignore spiders’ personalities and make their selections by objectifying the body—seeking “shiny coats, correct proportions, an active demeanor and proper stance” (which means that “all eight legs should be upright and perfectly poised”). Veteran judge Ryan Hale said winning does not necessarily make a spider more valuable, but is likely to enhance the keeper’s reputation in the tarantula-training community.

Government in Action Susan Coppinger, 47, was promoted by the city of Boston in January to a job paying $38,800 in the Inspectional Services Department—even though a month earlier she had been arrested for bank robbery. In fact, police said it was her second robbery of the same Santander Bank in nearby Quincy. Apparently, the city’s human resources office does not monitor mugshots on MassMostWanted.com, but in April, the city finally secured Coppinger’s resignation.

• Alarmed that its internal rating system revealed that some employees actually perform better than others, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced in May that it was scrapping the system. Agency director Richard Cordray expressed dismay that the system failed to reveal worker disparities that matched up on the basis of age, race, union status and longevity with the agency, and said that until they find a system that proves, for example, that union members work just as well (or badly) as non-members, all employees will be paid as if they were doing excellent work.

Great Art! Weird Japan: When Ayano Tsukimi, 64, moved from Osaka back to her home village of Nagoro, she found a population of only 37 people and set out to “replace” those who had died or moved away—by creating life-size stuffed dolls, with unsettling facial features, which she positions around town as if to suggest a larger population. Tsukimi estimates that she has created about 350 “inhabitants,” and, reported Global Post in May, “imagines a future where she’s outlived all her neighbors and only dolls remain.”

• Food trucks are ubiquitous in many urban areas, bringing ethnic foods to street corners, and now in the New York City neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Soho, art impresarios bring stage presentations to the insides of 24-foot trucks parked on the street. Typically, ticket-holders (fewer than 20) climb in for a 30-minute play, followed by a 15-minute “intermission” a few steps away at a neighborhood bar, and then it’s back in the truck for another half-hour. One art-truck producer blamed outlandish New York City real estate prices for the turn to mobile sites.

• China’s pre-eminent (and perhaps most terrifying) performance artist, He Yunchang, 48, acknowledged to Agence France-Presse in May that he will do “anything” to advance “art”—as long as it does not kill him. Mr. He most famously removed part of a rib on opening day of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 (on the “lucky” date of 8-8-08) and in 2010 assembled 25 people to vote on whether he should be slashed from collarbone to knee and left bloody on a bed. (Cutting won, 12-10, with three abstentions, and a doctor reluctantly made the incision.) A gallery owner in Australia told AFP that He’s “pain” and “discomfort” “have a transcendent quality” and are “silent rebukes” to Chinese people who endure hardship just for money—ironically believing money will protect them from suffering.