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News of the Weird 3/1/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Newspapers in Sweden reported in January that two of the country’s most heinous murderers apparently fell in love with each other behind the locked doors of their psychiatric institution and, following a 26-day Internet-chat “courtship,” have decided to marry. Mr. Isakin Jonsson (“the Skara Cannibal”) was convicted of killing, decapitating and eating his girlfriend, and Michelle Gustafsson (“the Vampire Woman”) was convicted of killing a father of four and drinking his blood. Said the love-struck Jonsson (certainly truthfully), to the newspaper Expressen, “I have never met anyone like (Michelle).” The pair will almost certainly remain locked up forever, but Gustafsson, on the Internet, wrote that she hopes they will be released, to live together and “have dogs and pursue our hobbies, piercing and tattoos.”

Compelling Explanations In December, music teacher Kevin Gausepohl, 37, was charged in Tacoma, Wash., Municipal Court with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, allegedly convincing a 17-year-old female student that she could sing better if she tried it naked. Gausepohl later told an investigator of his excitement about experimenting at the “human participant level” to determine how sexual arousal affects vocal range. The girl complied with “some of” Gausepohl’s requests, but finally balked and turned him in.

Thinking Outside the Box: (1) Rock Dagenais, 26, pleaded guilty recently to weapons charges after creating a siege by bringing a knife, a sawed-off rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition to a Quebec elementary school. He eventually surrendered peacefully and said he was only trying to send the kids a message not to disrespect each other by bullying. (2) Daniel Whitaker has been hospitalized in Indianapolis ever since, in November, he drove up the steps of the Indiana War Memorial with a gun, gasoline and an American flag, and set the steps on fire. In an interview in December, he told WRTV that he was only trying to get everyone’s attention so they would think of Jesus Christ and “love each other.”

Ghosts in the News: (1) Michael West, 41, of Fond du Lac, Wis., at first said his wife hurt herself by falling, but finally acknowledged that she was attacked — but by ghosts, not by him. (He was charged, anyway, in January.) (2) Anthony Spicer, 29, was sentenced in January in Cincinnati after being discovered at an abandoned school among copper pipes that had been cut. He denied prosecutors’ assertions that he was collecting scrap metal — because he said he was actually looking for ghosts, since the school “is supposed to be haunted.”

Latest Human Rights Librarians typically can shush patrons whose conversation disturbs others, but, at least in Washington state, librarians are powerless to prevent another “disturbance” — when a pornography user’s computer screen disgusts other library patrons who inadvertently glimpse it. A visitor to the Seattle Public Library complained in February that the librarian said she was bound by a 2010 state supreme court decision upholding the right of consumers of otherwise-legal pornography not to be censored.

Non-Humans’ Human Rights: (1) Elena Zakharova of New York City became the most recent litigant to challenge a state law that regards pets as “property” (and that, thus, the owner of an injured or disfigured pet is entitled to no more consideration than for a defective appliance). She sued a pet store that had sold her a dog with allegedly bum knees and hips, claiming that dogs are living creatures that feel love and pain, that have souls, and that should be compensated for their pain and suffering. The case is pending. (2) In February, a federal judge in San Diego, Calif., heard arguments by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that SeaWorld was confining its show whales in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment (the Civil War-era prohibition of slavery). Two days later, he ruled that the amendment applies only to human slavery.

Least Competent Spies In Plain Sight: The embarrassing disclosure in November by the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah, of the CIA’s major clandestine operations in Beirut, likely resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen anti-Hezbollah CIA “assets,” according to ABC News reports. Among the details made public by Hezbollah was that it learned of the agents’ meetings with the potential “assets” (which took place at a Beirut Pizza Hut restaurant) by intercepting agents’ email messages that used the sly, stealthy “code” word “PIZZA.”

Recurring Themes News of the Weird has long reported on gallery patrons’ inability to distinguish “abstract impressionist” works by human artists (even by masters) from the scribbles drawn by toddlers — and even animals. To attempt to add sophistication to the topic, a museum at University College London recently opened a comparative installation of “works” from an elephant and several kinds of apes, leading the museum manager to observe that “art produced by apes is a lot more creative.” The elephant, with brushes affixed to its trunk, “is not deliberately doing anything” when it stomps or swirls the paint around on the canvas, but ape art is “much freer” and “expressive” — “almost indistinguishable from abstract art by humans ….” But, he added sheepishly, “Whether this is actually art is the big question.”