According to an October Philadelphia Inquirer report, several dozen astrologers now dispense financial advice, and investors can subscribe to a newsletter, Investing by the Stars, for $300 a year. Appliance repairman Robert Hitt of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, tracks celestial alignments at $35 a month for the 200 subscribers at his AstroEcon Web site and says the market will tank on May 5, 2000. One mainstream financial adviser said many investors just "want somebody to tell them what to do."
In October ex-policeman Paul Harrington, 53, was arrested in Detroit for killing his wife and son, reportedly because he was having trouble providing for them and didn't want them to become homeless. In 1975 Harrington killed his first wife and their two kids, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to a mental institution; he was ruled no longer a danger and released within two months.
Fools for Clients
Latest adventures of defendants who elected to be their own lawyers: Joe Pietrangelo, 54, on trial in September for assaulting the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, refused to register a plea because the "corrupt" judge would not allow him to complain about issues concerning his father's will. (He was convicted.) Lawrence Brown, 30, on trial at press time for murder in Toronto, decided he didn't need a lawyer even though he had told a guard, "You guys are always picking on me because I killed some white bitch." And Norman Laurence, 37, awaiting trial for murder in Warwick, Rhode Island, and acting as his own counsel, told the judge: "I did kill the woman. But that confession isn't right."
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
In July the San Francisco Chronicle profiled local beggar David "Bushman" Johnson, who solicits spare change after trying to scare passersby by leaping out from behind a bundle of branches he holds in front of him. His partner, Gregory Jacobs, holds the collection can, admonishing, "Hey, the Bushman got you fair and square! Pay the man!"
University of California at Davis researcher Gang Sun told the American Chemical Society annual meeting in August that he has developed a way to attach antimicrobial substances to textiles, clearing the way for the manufacture of self-cleaning clothes. He said the substances could be used to reduce the spread of germs in hospital gowns and bedding and to control odor in sports clothing.
Richard and Peter Walkley of Hemel Hempstead, England, started a shopping-tip Web site this year with about $19,000 they made the previous year by exploiting discrepancies between posted prices and scanned prices at Sainsbury's supermarkets, which offers mispriced items free. The Walkleys examined every item in the stores and came away with large quantities of mispriced products, such as 19 cases of Rolling Rock beer.
A May Wall Street Journal dispatch from Beijing profiled the first successful franchised restaurant in China, Shen Qing's Baked Pig Face, which features a whole pig's head cooked with herbs for 12 hours. Connoisseurs eat all of it, said Shen, including the brain, which "can make you smarter." Among the restaurant's side dishes: roast ox penis.
This year Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center announced that volunteers sniffing the sweat of happy people and fearful people could generally tell which was which, and that the sweat of elderly women makes sniffers feel happy while the sweat of young men produces depression. The center employs 50 scientists who gather most of their data the old-fashioned way: they sniff armpits and have people exhale in their faces.
In a summer issue of the journal Pediatrics, doctors reported on a two-year-old boy with pubic hair, acne, and an enlarged penis as a result of repeated contact with his father's high-testosterone bodybuilding cream; the father often played with the child bare-chested after he had applied it. And at an inventors' fair in Pittsburgh in May, renowned Japanese inventor Yoshiro NakaMats introduced his Love Jet spray-on libido booster to the U.S.; when applied directly to the genitals it supposedly helps the body release inhibition-reducing hormones.
Australian biologist Mark Norman of James Cook University reported in July that male cuttlefish that are too small to attract females have the ability to change their color and shape to resemble females. According to an article in New Scientist magazine, this allows them to swim with male-female pairs and then to steal the female as soon as the larger male is distracted.
Break Into Jail, Go to Jail
A 30-year-old man was arrested in July at a prison in Montreal after he jumped over barbed wire to get inside; officials suspect he was rendezvousing with buddies. In August several men broke into a jail in Sao Paulo and stole about $28,000 from the inmates' savings bank. And in September a 21-year-old man, released at 12:01 AM from a jail in Ottawa County, Michigan, was back in lockup by 12:10 after he climbed back over the fence to give a buddy a cigarette.
In 1997 News of the Weird reported on Thailand's annual Vegetarian Festival in the city of Phuket, in which hundreds of men demonstrate spiritual devotion by impaling parts of their bodies with things like rods and tree branches and then marching through the streets, hoping for good health and prosperity. At this year's festival in October, devotees criticized the growing commercialization of the event, illustrated by men skewering themselves merely to advertise their businesses, such as a tour-boat operator who put a swordfish beak through his cheeks.
Least Competent Criminals
Jesus T. Rodriguez, 34, was arrested in September on drug trafficking charges; he had aroused suspicion when he walked into a bank in Strongsville, Ohio, with two grocery bags full of cash totaling $300,000 yet listed himself on a form as unemployed. And Drtangyn Sinclair, 33, was arrested in Franklinton, Ohio, in October and charged with robbing a pharmacy; he had yanked the cash register off the counter and carried it away, unaware that the cash drawer was a separate unit under the counter.
In the Last Month
The postal service abandoned a promotion putting Y2K countdown clocks in post offices because they reminded customers how long they'd been in line. A hospital in Hong Kong suspended a surgeon after a complaint from a patient that he chatted with a car salesman on a cell phone during the patient's colon operation. The city of Santa Cruz, California, announced an adult-education class in the value and techniques of screaming and yelling. The Florida Department of Corrections traded death-row inmate William Van Poyck to Virginia for a prisoner to be named later.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.