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News of the Weird


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Las Vegas body modifier Nathan McKay, 24, complained in November about the difficulty of getting further surgery to prevent his already surgically forked tongue from fusing back together. McKay, who also has one-inch holes in his earlobes for holding ebony disks, explained, "I want my tongue far back as possible, to the uvula, so I have two separate strands in my mouth." The original surgeon, a family friend, has balked at performing the follow-up procedure. Said McKay, "I'm not trying to turn myself into anything except someone to remember."

London's Independent reported from Tokyo in December on the prolonged, even "epic" sulk (called hikikomori) that afflicts a million young professionals. The victims withdraw from their careers and hole up nearly 24 hours a day in their apartments or rooms for months at a time, emerging only to gather food before retreating back inside for TV or other solitary pastimes. Many psychiatrists consider it an extreme reaction to parents who have pressured their sons to succeed.

Compelling Explanations

In a September hearing before an employee appeals panel in Drogheda, Ireland, Paula Levins, 36, claimed the accounting firm M.A. Whately dismissed her because she was unwilling to share an office with an excessively flatulent coworker. Levins said that she was pregnant at the time and that the man's gas exacerbated her nausea, especially in winter when the windows were closed.

In arguments to a federal appeals court, convicted drug dealer Jorge M. Lopeztegui claimed he was not guilty by reason of entrapment, because drug agents had enough evidence to arrest him yet did not, with the result that he felt free to commit more crimes. (The appeal was rejected in October.)

According to an October report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Thomas Wehrer, the city's leading traffic-ticket scofflaw with 250 outstanding tickets totaling $16,375, is angry at the city for changing its rules for collection. Previously tickets were filed by vehicle, so Wehrer would drive junkers and abandon them with impunity. Recently the city began filing tickets by owner, and Wehrer now argues that by continuing to register his junkers the city "enabled" his ticket-accumulation habit. (Wehrer considers himself a good citizen: whenever he parks beside a fire hydrant, he leaves the windows down so firefighters can run their hoses through the car.)

Courtroom Antics

In October a federal appeals court refused to grant a new trial to Texas death-row inmate Calvin Burdine, despite evidence that Burdine's lawyer slept during portions of his trial. The court said that it was unable to determine exactly when the lawyer slept and that he might have slept only during unimportant parts.

A Texas judicial discipline panel issued a public reprimand in April to former judge Robert Hollman, who resigned early in 2000 following a female employee's sexual harassment complaint. According to the panel, Hollman played an almost daily, nonconsensual "bondage game" with the woman in which he bound her hands and ankles, gagged her, and then timed her to see how quickly she could escape.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported on jurors who identify a little too much with the defendant, most recently Gillian Guess, who was convicted in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1998 for her jury-box flirtations with a murder defendant with whom she subsequently had an affair. In August the Washington Post profiled Jennifer Day, 30, a jury foreman in Dale City, Virginia, who in May led a recommendation that rapist-murderer Paul Warner Powell be executed but then spent the next three months visiting him for hours daily, becoming his "soul mate," expressing her "love" for him (though Day claims to be happily married), and ultimately testifying that she and her colleagues had recommended the wrong sentence. Said Day, "It's twisted, I know. I don't know if I even fully understand it."

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (41) Carjackers who come up empty-handed because they never learned to drive a stick shift, such as the teenager who failed to steal a 1998 Mustang GT in Bedford, Texas, in July. And (42) the criminal suspect running from police who leaps into a river, either unable to swim or unaware of the water's temperature or treacherousness, and drowns, such as Louis Wade Hermann, 24, in Louisville, Kentucky, in September. (Hermann would have been charged only with public drunkenness.)

Least Competent Criminals

In The Bar, Norwegian television's version of Survivor, ten participants live and work together for ten weeks, tracked by video cameras 24 hours a day on the Internet (with highlights shown each evening on television). In October a 44-year-old man was arrested after he happened to burglarize the participants' home while they were at work; as the man moved around the apartment gathering valuables, he was shown on 17 video cameras, and staffers for the show rushed to the apartment and captured him.

In the Last Month

A Japanese rail line scheduled some female-only cars during December to head off an expected epidemic of passenger groping by holiday-reveling men, and a deer hunter in Bay City, Michigan, shot himself in the leg while trying to pose a photo in which his dog would be holding a shotgun.

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

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

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