News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M502, November 20, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
While "democracy" in most of America means electing representatives to run government, in San Francisco it also on November 8th expected voters to decide 43 often vague, densely-worded "issues" that, according to critics, could better be handled by the professionals who are, after all, elected by those very same voters. Except for hot-button issues like tax increases or hardened legislative gridlock, solutions on these "propositions" (e.g., how certain contractors' fees should be structured; which obscure official has primary responsibility for which obscure job--or the notorious proposition asking whether actors in the tax-paying porno industry must use condoms) would be, in other states, left to elected officials, lessening voter need for a deep dive into civics. [CityLab.com, 1-7-2016">CityLab.com, 11-7-2016
Inexplicable: (1) The police chief of Bath Township, Ohio, acknowledged the overnight break-in on October 10th or 11th at the University Hospitals Ghent Family Practice but said nothing was missing. It appeared that an intruder (or intruders) had performed some medical procedure in a clinical office (probably on an ear) because instruments were left in bowls and a surgical glove and medication wrappings tossed into a trash can (and a gown left on a table). (2) A 35-year-old man was detained by police in Vancouver, British Columbia, in October after a home break-in in which the intruder took off his clothes, grabbed some eggs, and began preparing a meal. The homeowner, elsewhere in the house, noticed the commotion, and the intruder fled (still naked). [WEWS-TV (Cleveland), 10-27-2016
] [CTV News (Vancouver), 10-20-2016
How To Tell If You've Had Too Much To Drink: Ashley Basich, 49, was arrested in Cheyenne, Wyo., in October and charged with DUI after police found her, late at night, using an industrial forklift to pick up and move a van that she explained was blocking her driveway. Problems: She works for the state forestry department and had commandeered a state-owned vehicle; she had a cooler of beer in the forklift and was operating it while wearing flip-flops (OSHA violation!); and the van "blocking" her driveway was her own. [Wyoming Tribune Eagle (Cheyenne), 11-2-2016
Though most Chicago Police Department officers get no more than five civilian complaints in their entire careers (according to one defense attorney), CPD internal records released in October reveal that some had more than 100, and, of 13,000 complaints over 47 years in which police wrongdoing was conceded, only 68 cases resulted in the officer actually being fired (although the worst police offender, Jerome Finnigan, with 157 complaints over two decades, is now in federal prison). [Associated Press via Chicago Tribune, 10-15-2016
Two men in rural Coffee County, Ga., told sheriff's deputies in November that they had planned to soon attack a science-research center in Alaska because peoples' "souls" were trapped there and needed to be released (or at least that is what God told Michael Mancil, 30, and James Dryden Jr., 22, causing them to amass a small, but "something out of a movie" arsenal, according to the sheriff). The High Frequency Active Aural Research Facility, run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has long been a target of conspiracists, in that "the study of the Earth's atmosphere" obviously, they say, facilitates "mind control," snatching souls. [WALB-TV (Albany, Ga.), 11-1-2016
Well, Of Course! (1) Motorist Luke Campbell, 28, was arrested near Minneapolis in September and charged with firing his gun at several passing cars, wounding one man (a bus passenger)--explaining to a bystander that shooting at other vehicles "relieves stress." (2) Briton Mark Wright, 45, caught with illegal drugs taped to his penis following his arrest for burglary, told Newcastle Crown Court in September that he had "hidden" them there to keep them secret from his wife (perhaps identifying one place that she no longer visits). [Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 9-23-2016
] [The Chronicle (Newcastle), 9-28-2016
Leading Economic Indicators
Recent Hospital Bills: (1) Paula D'Amore claimed she deserved a discount from the $7,400 "delivery room" charge for the April birth of her daughter at Boca Raton (Fla.) Regional Hospital--because the baby was actually "born" in the backseat of her car in the hospital's parking lot. (Nurses came out to assist D'Amore's husband in the "final stages," but, said D'Amore, only the placenta was delivered inside.) (2) In October, new father Ryan Grassley balked at the $39.95 line-item charge from Utah Valley Hospital (Provo, Utah)--for the mother's holding her new C-section son momentarily to her bare chest (a "bonding" ritual). (Doctors countered that C-section mothers are usually drugged and require extra security during that ritual--but that Utah Valley might rethink making that charge a "line item.") [WPTV (West Palm Beach), 10-31-2016
] [CTV News (Toronto), 10-4-2016
People With Issues
A 49-year-old man was partly exonerated by a court in southern Sweden in September when he convinced the judge that he had a severe anxiety attack every time he received an "official" government letter in the mail (known as "window envelopes" in Sweden). Thus, though he was guilty of DUI and several other minor traffic offenses while operating his scooter, the judge dropped the charge of driving without a license because the man never opened the string of "frightening" letters informing him that operating a scooter requires a license. [The Local (Stockholm), 9-3-2016
Least Competent Criminals
Jacob Roemer, 20, was arrested in Negaunee Township, Mich., after a brief chase on October 29th following an attempted home invasion. The resident had confronted him, chasing Roemer into the woods, where a State Police dog eventually found him lying on the ground unconscious and bloody, after, in the darkness, running into a tree and knocking himself out. [Marquette Mining Journal, 10-30-2016
(1) The most recent case in which an unlucky cannabis grower came to police attention occurred in Adelaide, Australia, in August when a motorist accidentally veered off the road and crashed into a grow house, collapsing part of a wall. Arriving police peered inside and quickly began a search for the residents, who were not at home. (2) The latest market price for a coveted automobile license plate is apparently the equivalent of $9 million--the amount paid by Dubai developer Balwinder Sahni at government auction recently for plate number "5." [The Advertiser (Adelaide), 8-1-2016
] [CNN Money (Dubai), 10-31-2016
For not the first time in history, a fire broke out this year in a hospital operating room caused by the patient's passing gas during a laser procedure. The patient at Tokyo Medical University Hospital, in her 30s, suffered burns across her legs in the April incident, which was finally reported in the Japanese press in October when the hospital completed its investigation. [Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo), 10-30-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) Asher Woodworth, 30, was charged with misdemeanor traffic obstruction in the Portland, Maine, arts district in October as he stood in a street after covering himself with branches of evergreen trees. A friend described Woodworth as a performance artist contrasting his preferred "slow life" with the bustle of downtown traffic. (2) Aldeburgh Golf Club in England saw fit in September to issue a special rule allowing a no-stroke ball "drop" for players plagued by neighbor Peter Bryson's cat Merlin's habit of snatching about six balls a day from the 14th fairway. [Portland Press Herald, 10-26-2016
] [BBC News, 9-19-2016
A News of the Weird Classic (January 2013)
Anthony Johnson, 49, was convicted in October  in Hartford, Conn., of stealing an improbably large amount of money--as much as $70,000 a weekend, off and on for five years--by crawling on the floor of darkened theaters and lifting credit cards from purses that movie-watching women had set down. The FBI said Johnson was careful to pick films likely to engross female viewers so that he could operate freely, and that he was often able to take the cards, leave the theater, and make cash-advance withdrawals from ATMs before the movie had ended. [Hartford Courant, 10-22-2012]
Thanks This Week to Caroline Lawler, Jenny Van West, Babs Klein, Larry Nixon, Maggie Morgan, Zach Riipinen, Andrew Hastie, and Elaine Weiss, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
In 1979, officials in Deerfield, Illinois created a "No Kissing Zone" at the town's railroad station. The zone was designated by a sign showing a man and woman kissing, with a red slash superimposed over their profiles. The idea was to stop commuters from slowing down traffic by kissing their significant other as they were dropped off. Deerfield simultaneously created a "kissing zone," where kissing was allowed.
Chicago Tribune - Mar 22, 1998
The Tennessean - Nov 26, 1979
The Franklin Daily Journal - July 7, 1982
This apparently was the first, and only official no-kissing zone in America, and probably the world. The no-kissing image became quite popular, sold on t-shirts and mugs. The designer Kate Spade even inquired about licensing the image
Inspired by Deerfield, the English town of Warrington created its own no-kissing zone at its train station in 1998, using Deerfield's sign (with permission).
BBC News - Mar 2, 1998
However, neither of these "No Kissing Zones" have survived to the present. Deerfield got rid of its zone sometime in the early 21st century, and Warrington likewise took down its no-kissing sign in 2009, relacing it with several pro-kissing signs: "Kiss Me Quick" and "Kiss Me Longer."
In 1917, Charles F. Pidgin received a patent for an invention to allow "visible speech" to be added to (silent) motion pictures by means of "inflatable balloons being shown for carrying the words and for enabling them to be blown from the mouth of the characters."
From his patent application:
In carrying out the present invention the dramatis personae speech is introduced or incorporated in a picture by means of an expansible inflatable device adapted to be blown up by the actors or characters of the picture...
Any form or shape of balloon may be employed for this purpose and a series of pictures or exposures may be taken during the inflation of the balloons, which may be successively or simultaneously inflated according to the requirements of the photo-play or other motion picture production. The blowing or inflation of the devices by the various characters of a photo-play will add to the realism of the picture by the words appearing to come from the mouth of the players.
I don't believe that Pidgin's visible speech system was ever used in a film. After all, critics ridiculed it even in 1917. From the New Castle Herald
(Dec 1, 1917):
Imagine Francis X. Bushwah expanding his handsome cheeks and blowing — "I love you, will you be mine?" at Beverly Payne, while the latter, with a similar explosion of wind power, puffs back — "Darling, I am yours!" Or Theda Bara Backa breathing forth sausage-like declarations of vampirish passion at her victims!
According to his obituary, Pidgin (1844-1923) was also a merchant, statistical expert, inventor of tabulating machines, and a noted historical novelist. More info: wikipedia
New Castle Herald - Dec 1, 1917
Elmer "Jet" Simrell, an early crusader for men's rights, vowed to "fast until death" to publicize his views on the "menace of modern womanhood." He declared he wouldn't eat until newspapers published his manifesto on the "ruination emancipated women are bringing the world."
Simrell was in jail on account of having written hoax death threats to 10 judges, angry at the California judicial system because it had awarded his wife custody of their two daughters during their 1956 divorce.
In an earlier stunt (done, he said, to publicize "America's headlong rush to destruction via the divorce courts"), he had written to newspapers declaring that he had killed "a mother and three kids." Police immediately investigated and discovered he had killed a pregnant mother goat and two baby goats.
Simrell started his "fast until death" on Thanksgiving Day (Nov 26), 1959. It lasted until Dec 1, when he broke down and had some beef, soup, salad, coffee, and bread. So, all of five days. No papers ever published his manifesto.
Simrell (center) being taken into custody following his goat-killing stunt. via USC Digital Library.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Nov 27, 1959
The Evening Independent - Dec 3, 1959
In September 1966, the first ever "Destruction in Art Symposium"
was held in London, highlighting the work of the self-styled Destructivists. Basically, they destroyed things and called it art.
staff writer Robert Toth delivered the following report from the Symposium (LA Times
- Sep 11, 1966):
The artists say they create by demolishing objects and even killing animals. Destruction seems a negation of art, but they say it's creative destruction — "like when you burn a picture you create ashes," one explained.
But to justify slaughter of a flock of chickens, more pretentious words are demanded. Said one abortive chicken killer, Ralph Ortiz:
"Destructivist art gives our destructive instinct its essential expression while coming to terms with destruction's most primitive maladaptive aspects — aspects that ordinarily would prove to work for the destruction of the species rather than its survival."
After those words, which seem to mean emotional release for him, the American "artist" looked absurd when the law intervened to prevent the massacre (which, incidentally, was to have bloodied 10 elegantly tuxedoed men as an added attraction).
Ortiz came up with a lone canary but no, not that either, said the RSPCA inspector.
Could he let the bird out the window? No again, for it was a cold night.
The frustrated Ortiz settled for showing a film of a chicken-killing, but not before the coup de grace was administered.
Why not stomp a caterpillar, suggested an onlooker. "I'm not a caterpillar-killer," huffed the affronted artist.
His less ambitious colleagues have fared better. One broke a chair to smithereens. Another created a hole with an ordinary shovel, and promptly priced it at $350.
Ortiz did, however, help axe a piano apart.
In 1996, Raphael Ortiz (he was no longer calling himself Ralph) re-enacted his piano-axing performance at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art... but with one small change. According to NY Times
critic Michael Kimmelman, he was now accompanied by "a woman in pigtails and ruffled apron standing on a ladder dropping eggs into a bucket and chanting Humpty Dumpty
Ralph Ortiz destroying a piano — 1966
Incidentally, literary critic Robert Grossmith has noted
that one of the reasons for the obscurity of the Destructivist Art movement is that "not a single Destructivist work of art exists. There are no primary sources. Not a solitary Destructivist novel, poem, play, story, painting, sculpture, film, dance or piece of music was ever produced or, if produced, allowed to survive. In fact if a Destructivist work of art was to turn up today, its very existence would automatically disqualify it from being considered as genuinely Destructivist. There can in short never be a Destructivist work of art, in any accepted sense of the word ‘be’."