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News of the Weird

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Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations, was expelled by the group's leadership last month for allegedly tarnishing the organization's name by having "surrounded himself with idiots." A current leader said the group needed to get rid of the "troublemakers and riffraff" to "clean up [our] image" (though he'd recently threatened to "leave the dead bodies of the enemy scattered everywhere"). Last year Butler's associates opened fire on an innocent motorist after his engine backfired, thinking a government siege was at hand; the motorist was later awarded $6.3 million in damages, which forced the group to sell its 20-acre compound in Idaho.

Jailhouse Rocks

Last September the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated the lawsuit filed by federal inmate William Gerber against the warden of Lancaster State Prison, who would not allow Gerber to send his semen to a Chicago sperm bank to be used in artificially inseminating his wife. The court ruled that Gerber, who's serving a 111-year term for drugs and weapons charges, had a constitutional right to procreate....The next month, Mexican rock star Gloria Trevi, a prisoner in Rio de Janeiro, reportedly inseminated herself with smuggled sperm in order to become pregnant and avoid extradition to Mexico....And in November 2001 the sheriff of Syracuse, New York, reported that a man and wife, both inmates, had conceived a child during their two-minute "contact visit." The wife later said they only needed 30 seconds.

Great Art!

At an art exhibition protesting terrorism, held last October in Kayseri, Turkey, prizes were given to (1) two bakers whose five-foot-high cake was topped by two skyscrapers, one with a hole near the top and the other with a small plane made of frosting embedded in it, and (2) a men's hairstylist who created a swept-up hairdo forming twin towers.

Last December, Britain's prestigious Turner Prize was awarded to Martin Creed, who once said that his work was about the qualities of "nothing." Creed took home 20,000 pounds for an installation that consists of an empty room in which lights switch on and off every five seconds.

Last December the BBC profiled the French artist Cho, whose civic-beautification project consists of decorating, with little flags and painted borders, the countless piles of dog droppings that litter the sidewalks of Paris (totaling about 5,800 tons per year).

People Different From Us

Last October, Kentucky became the latest state to take legal action against entrepreneur Dennis Lee for marketing a machine that he says generates electricity. Lee claims he can power an internal combustion engine using a fuel synthesized from water, gas, crude oil, soy sauce, soda pop, perfume, pickle juice, and human urine.

Recurring Themes

Last September, Joel Damen Montoya was released from prison in Salem, Oregon, and according to the Associated Press, he was stopped later that day trying to "force his way back in...by cutting a razor-wire fence."...Last December, Mark Delude escaped from the Caledonia County Work Camp in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, and was caught trying to sneak back in with a case of Budweiser he'd bought at a convenience store....And last November, James J. Cesarez was arrested at a Wal-Mart in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, and charged with shoplifting toys and medications. He was released on bond, and that night someone smashed a window at the police station and grabbed the box containing Cesarez's allegedly shoplifted items.

Government in Action

Shortly before leaving office last November, Lee Morris of the Atlanta city council tried to rename a pair of obscure streets for his two youngest children. Morris defended his action as an appropriate reward for his kids, who envied their older sister's having been namesake of a street six years earlier.

Our Civilization in Decline

Last month Radovan Karadzic, still being hunted by the United Nations for war crimes in Bosnia, published a book of poetry, From the Crazy Spear to the Black Fairy Tale....And the new board game Dibbles and Dollars, offered for sale in England, allows players to earn money points by kidnapping, selling drugs, and bribing the police.

In the Last Month

In Terrace, British Columbia, a 40-year-old movie patron upset by the violence in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring smashed the theater's soda fountain and cash register and a potted plant in the lobby....In Frostproof, Florida, a five-foot-six, 160-pound man escaped from prison by squeezing through the six-inch-wide window of his cell....And a judge in Bangor, Maine, acquitted two female streakers of indecent conduct, citing a state law that forbids "exposure" of the genitals and reasoning that the women's sex organs were concealed.

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

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