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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In November in Tampa, Florida, Paul Covani, 18, filed a lawsuit against his father, retired military physician Ricardo Covani, alleging years of abuse and humiliation. According to the lawsuit, his father not only verbally abused him but until recently systematically measured his body parts, took nude photographs of him to chronicle his growth, brushed his teeth at night, bathed him, and inspected his stools.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

China's Xinhua news agency reported in July that Yu Qian, a dentist in Heilongjiang, built an eight-foot-high tower consisting of 28,000 diseased teeth to help raise awareness of dental hygiene.

A researcher concluded in the July issue of the European Journal of Physics that the torque of an average piece of buttered toast falling off a table of average height causes "an inevitable butter-down final state [hitting the floor]."

According to a July Associated Press story, Ellie Jenkins, of the Mosquito Control Commission in Savannah, Georgia, spends her workdays driving around to specified locations, standing with her arms and legs spread, and ascertaining how many bites a minute she receives--five a minute is the threshold to summon county spraying trucks. And a June Toledo Blade story reported on the work of Mike Pixley, who tests La-Z-Boy chairs at the company plant in Monroe, Michigan. For $6 an hour Pixley rocks about 2,800 times a day. Said his supervisor, Judy Fay, praising Pixley, "I want someone who's self-motivated, who sets their own personal goals."

Recent contests in the news: In June contestants hurled 45-pound toilets through the air at the Blue Tip Festival in Wadsworth, Ohio, with the winning toss receiving a complimentary toilet. And the 16th annual World Worm-Charming Championship was held in England in June. One contestant drew worms out of the ground by playing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head."

In June the Iowa State Historical Society finally opened boxes of self-published autobiographical journals donated by a not particularly prominent architect named Charles Remey, who died in 1979 and was apparently obsessed with making sure the public wasn't denied his life story. A Des Moines Register writer wrote that one of the volumes, The Wardrobe of Gertrude Heim Remey, was "quite likely the best book ever written about his wife's clothes."

According to current and former members of Japan's AumShinriKyo cult (accused of the subway gas attacks) quoted by Reuters news service in September, leader Shoko Asahara collected a souvenir pubic hair from each of the 30 to 40 female followers with whom he had slept. Asahara reportedly placed the strands of hair in small plastic bags inside bottles, each labeled with the woman's name.

Cultural Diversity

A municipal official in Tehran announced in August that its minibuses, like Iran's other buses, would be gender-segregated. He reasoned that "if ten men brush against [the 370,000 female daily riders], 3.7 million accountable sins are committed every day." And in May 3,300 couples were married in a mass ceremony in Tehran designed to discourage masturbation. Said Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi, "[The masturbator's] eyes, his nerves, many of his body organs will be so affected that medical science cannot cure him."

After a two-day trial in April, a judge in London, Ontario, found David Peterson of Warrenville, Illinois, not guilty of the "excessive" spanking of his five-year-old daughter. Peterson had hit the girl on her bare bottom with his hand after she slammed a car door on her two-year-old brother's fingers. Police filed charges alleging that the spanking was illegal because it was carried out in anger.

A September Associated Press dispatch from Sri Lanka reported that a 30-year-old man had been sentenced to prison for three months for having sex with a cow and for another three months for raping a woman. However, the judge, apparently thinking two sentences were excessive, then suspended the first one.

In July preacher Abdul Talib Harun, 35, was sentenced to two years in prison in Kuala Lumpur for having ten wives, which is six more than permitted under Muslim law. All ten, with whom he has had 17 children, strongly supported Harun during his yearlong trial. The four lawful wives were also sent to jail for a month for permitting the illegal cohabitation.

According to a May Wall Street Journal article, Palestinians intent on improving their personal religious standing now suffer from "martyr inflation"--terming any relative who passes away a martyr. Muslims believe that a martyr goes straight to paradise, sits with God, is absolved of all sins, and enjoys 70 virgin brides. According to a Palestinian journalist, "It's not easy to come to a family and say, 'Your relative is not a martyr. He's just dead.'"

Creme de la Weird

Officials in South Hams district in England filed charges in October against farmer Trevor Sedgbeer for defying an order to dismantle his two-bedroom bungalow, which was built without a permit. Instead of dismantling it, Sedgbeer had removed the roof, filled the house with dirt, and planted grass and bushes on it. When he thought police were satisfied that the house had been torn down, Sedgbeer removed all the dirt and reattached the roof. But authorities came by again and saw that the house had reappeared.

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

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