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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In September the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld a divorce court ruling that the dissolution of a couple's marriage was clearly the fault of the husband. The divorce court had found that among the man's several disturbing patterns was his habit of passing gas around the house and reacting testily when his wife complained about it. According to the wife, the husband could easily regulate the offensive activity and would pass gas as a "retaliation thing." Two supreme court justices dissented when the court ruled on the size of the wife's alimony award, with one commenting, "The price of gas is going up in Sioux Falls."

Great Art

Recent newsworthy works of art: a toilet brush, soon to be available for around $30 in the U.S., from the noted French designer Philippe Starck, who calls the work "the apotheosis of my career"; a cage of spiders, snakes, scorpions, and frogs devouring each other as a testament to a Darwinian world, from Chinese artist Huang Yon Ping at a show in Paris last November; and a poem about U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright, in an Iraqi newspaper in October ("Why do you hate the day and love the night? Albright, don't put out the light").

From an Artforum review of a Helmut Federle show, quoted in October in a New York Times article on mundane art criticism: "Federle's grouping of works also suggests a kind of epigenesis of abstraction: each stage offers a greater, more exacting epiphany of the idea of abstraction as such and the essential consciousness--a consciousness that can recognize and deal with essences (in a Husserlian sense)--than the preceding one."

Speaking to high school students in Fairbanks, Alaska, in April, U.S. representative Don Young said he was opposed to federal funding for any art that portrayed people doing "offensive things." Pressed for an example by an inquisitive student, Young quickly answered with an 11-letter word for anal intercourse. He later said that his answer would have lacked impact if he'd used a milder word.

In February in Davis, California, city councilwoman Julie Partansky postponed a routine request to pave an 80-year-old gravel alley that she says qualifies for historical preservation. According to one resident, the alley is muddy in winter, dusty in summer, a mosquito breeding ground in spring, and a "pigsty" in general. Partansky said, "It's real mellow in the alley." The council is studying the problem.

A Wall Street Journal review of New York City's Gramercy Hotel art fair--in which artists set up their wares in hotel rooms and patrons roamed the hallways--reported in May that after one gallery's employees left their card game to attend to customers, other customers commented on the card layout as if it were a work on display. And an installation was ruined when a cleaning lady made an artist's bed by mistake.

The Democratic Process

The city council in Capao da Canoa, Brazil, voted in March to install Breathalyzer equipment at city hall, mainly because one member, Delci Romano, habitually shows up drunk and demands to cast votes on issues not on the agenda. And Katia Nogueira Tapeti was recently re-elected to city council in Colonia do Piaui, and is widely believed to be the most popular politician in the state's history, despite the region's macho culture and the fact that he's a transvestite living openly with his gay "husband."

During an April debate on government funding for abortions, representative Henry Aldridge told the North Carolina house appropriations committee that rape victims didn't need the fund because "they don't get pregnant." The 71-year-old periodontist continued, "People who are raped--who are truly raped--the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work." And in a Georgia house judiciary committee meeting in March representative Brian Joyce said he thought marital rape shouldn't be a crime, but that if the wife says, "I don't want to have sex tonight,' [the husband] should take that into consideration."

Mayors in trouble recently: after being threatened with impeachment, Mayor Lee Young resigned from office in Galena, Missouri, in October and retaliated by taking most of the town's Christmas decorations with him. Said Young, "I probably could be bigger about it . . . but I'm not going to." In April Mayor Russell Holland of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, began serving a 60-day jail sentence for embezzlement. And in February Mayor Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, was released after serving four months in an Illinois prison for trespassing during a nuclear weapons demonstration, the latest of his several arrests for political protest.

Recent voter choices: state representative Ken Calvert was re-elected in California, despite having been caught early in 1994 as a customer in a prostitution sting. According to the Los Angeles Times, Calvert took an "at least I like girls" approach to beat his opponent, a strong supporter of gay rights. In Peru stripper Susy Diaz was elected to congress after a campaign of bumping-and-grinding public appearances. But she vowed to concentrate on helping women, artists, and farmers.

I Don't Think So

New York Daily News photographer Dick Corkery, who had accused comedian Bill Cosby of roughing him up, called the federal court decision in New York City in August a "victory." Because the court found Corkery almost totally at fault, it ordered Cosby to pay damages of ten cents on each of two charges.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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