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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Chinese cricket-fight promoters staged their annual national championship matches in Beijing in October despite fears that illegal gambling is ruining their 1,000-year-old sport, according to a New York Times dispatch. Thousands of men descend on farmers in Shandong province each summer seeking crickets that can win rough matches inside eight-inch-wide plastic containers. Matches end when one contestant tries to flee or gets hopelessly tossed around by the other.

The University of Surrey in England announced in October that it was planning to appoint a professor of airline food to teach in its service-sector management courses. A Surrey official said the school intended to beef up its course offerings in in-flight catering and told the Guardian that the professor would be appointed from either the field of gastronomy or food science.

Middle Fingers in the News

In August, Janet Woods, the acting principal of Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pennsylvania, angry at reporters' questions about a rumored incident with a gun, allegedly displayed a middle finger and told camera operators to "Shoot this!" Also in August, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Kamol Kaewmora, 50, was arrested and charged with shooting to death a 41-year-old German motorcyclist who had given him the finger. And again in August, a state court in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and a federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, dismissed criminal charges against people who had flipped the bird, and the Arkansas judge ruled the defendant's right to do so at a state trooper was protected by the Constitution.

Oops!

Body piercer Lorna Larson of Newcastle, England, accidentally hit a vein while working on the tongue of Gemma Danielson, 18, in July; by the time Danielson got to the hospital, she had lost four pints of blood. Danielson said the doctors "said they had never seen anything like it." Larson said she was mortified: "That's the last tongue I do."

Joseph Pileggi, 69, filed a lawsuit in Akron, Ohio, in July seeking monetary damages over his 1997 marriage to Carli Buchanan, 61. He claims he actually intended to marry his longtime girlfriend--Buchanan's mother, Ducile Palermo, 83. He claimed that he didn't realize until May 1999 that Buchanan's name was on the license (despite Buchanan's insistence that Pileggi consummated the marriage with her on the wedding night).

Latest highway truck spills: 26 alligator carcasses, weighing nearly five tons, headed for a processing plant near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in October; U.S. Army rockets from a military truck, adjacent to an elementary school near Hugo, Oklahoma, in August; and a load of completed advanced-placement tests being taken from a New York City testing center to the Educational Testing Service in New Jersey, 84 of which were never recovered, in May.

Adventures in Ignorance

In August, Scott Searcy, a police officer in Davidson, North Carolina, asked to search a woman's car for drugs because he saw a copy of the weekly newspaper Creative Loafing, which featured a cover story on local drug enforcement illustrated with a photo of a marijuana plant, on the front seat. Assistant Chief Butch Parker said Searcy "thinks he had reasonable suspicion, and we do too." The woman consented to the search, and nothing illegal was found.

In July, the Reverend Nelson W. Koscheski, a Dallas delegate to the national Episcopal convention in Denver, was seen scattering salt under the tables of openly gay and lesbian delegates. According to some authorities, tossing the salt is a symbolic gesture to rid the premises of Satan. After some participants expressed their outrage, Koscheski resigned as a delegate.

Lisa Alger of Roy, Washington, had to take her claim all the way to state judge Paul Treyz in June, but she finally got a dismissal of one of the municipal citations against her for housing an unlicensed cat named Patches. The reason: Patches is a stuffed animal. The local humane society, going door-to-door to check for pet-licensing violations, wrote Alger up when her seven-year-old son mentioned Patches and the society didn't find a license for the "pet" on its list.

Payback

Guards in Nova Scotia jails had their "privilege" of being able to eat free in the inmates' dining room taken away in July because of budget cuts and must now pay $2.50 to get a meal. And Brazilian multimillionaire Jair Coelho, 68, was arrested in August and locked up before trial; he had made a fortune on the country's jail contracts, supplying nearly inedible food, but the government proved that he got the contracts through bribery.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird mentioned in 1999 that a detective agency in Osaka was selling about 200 aerosol spray kits a month (at $400 each) to help women find out whether their men are having affairs by detecting the presence of fresh semen on their underwear. In July of this year, according to a Phoenix New Times report, a venerable local medical lab introduced Forensex, which charges people $350 and up to test partners' underwear for semen.

The Only Way Out

In August a 20-year-old man who worked for a landscaping company in Phoenix proposed to his girlfriend (she accepted), took her to his work site, turned on a wood chipper, climbed in, and tried to pull her in too. He was killed, but she escaped. Also in August, the style and etiquette columnist for the Times of London was found dead, clad only in a shirt, beneath his fourth-floor apartment window, but colleagues doubted it was a suicide: said one friend, "He'd have wanted to be really dressed appropriately." Said the coroner, "It would be likely that he would write a letter to explain, and no doubt on the Smythson's notepaper that was found in the [apartment]."

In the Last Month

On a well-publicized kayaking voyage around New York City, the new head of a Hudson River environmental organization discovered a floating corpse. In Lusaka, Zambia, a man was granted a divorce after testifying that his wife routinely locked him in the bedroom at night to stop his philandering. Police in Albuquerque said two burglary suspects, left alone briefly in a combination storage/interview room, stole some Twizzlers and the change from the office coffee-fund box. Police-dog trainee Ben, let out of a squad car on a rural road in Perkins Township, Maine, to relieve himself, picked up the scent of a 125-plant marijuana field nearby.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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

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