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News of the Weird

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In September in Munich, Inga "Hot Pants" Kosak won the first Extreme Ironing World Championships, beating 80 contestants from ten countries on a five-station course (woods, water, rocks, urban, and freestyle). Performances are scored based on degree of difficulty: one competitor ironed while bouncing on a trampoline, another while floating down a river on a surfboard, and another while hanging upside down from a tree. An extreme ironing Web site displays photos of enthusiasts ironing underwater (in scuba gear) and in remote mountain locations, where they must use special battery-powered irons (or very long extension cords). The sport's inventor, Phil "Steam" Shaw, says he does it because ironing itself is so boring.

Two teams of Canadian engineers are building small passenger rockets (one team, Canadian Arrow, has begun seeking astronauts for a 2003 launch) in hopes of winning the X Prize--a $10 million award for the first vehicle to carry three people at least 62 miles into space, then repeat the flight within two weeks. Such rockets are the Cessnas of the space industry, costing $3 to $5 million and generally measuring only 20 to 30 feet long. Canadian Arrow's astronauts will be screened for health problems and receive some training, but its engineers admit the job is hardly for the risk averse.

Leading Economic Indicators

Clothing trends in Asia, according to an October Wall Street Journal dispatch from Seoul, Korea: an aloe vera bra and underwear set that promises to lubricate the skin for up to 40 launderings; "Ki" business suits, which have a powder of charcoal and jade sewn into the armpits and crotch to boost energy and block computer-screen radiation; and "yellow earth" boxer shorts, made of fabric infused with a special soil that supposedly emits far-infrared rays that cut odor and improve circulation.

In November in Norfolk County, England, 19-year-old petty criminal Michael Carroll won a national lottery prize worth $15 million; he'd been released from prison most recently in May, after serving a few months for breaking the window of a school bus filled with children. (Because of a curfew still in force from that sentence, he can't celebrate his win in a pub--and he'll have to wait to buy a new car, since he's currently banned from driving.) Carroll, who has the Chinese symbol for "evil" tattooed on his neck, says he hopes to take his pregnant girlfriend on a Greek holiday.

Latest Rights

In October, Australian inmate Ivan Milat, who's serving seven life sentences for seven murders, lodged a complaint with a state commission requesting $22,000 for a violation of his rights: in 2001 he'd swallowed three razor blades and several staples, and now he claims that prison officials invaded his privacy when they released his X rays to the media. (Milat has also complained about the air quality in his cell.)

In November in Plymouth, England, a coroner ruled that artist Robert Lenkiewicz, who died in August, had been the rightful owner of the embalmed corpse of Edwin McKenzie (known to locals as Diogenes the tramp). McKenzie, who had no known family, was Lenkiewicz's helper for years, and when he died in 1984, Lenkiewicz took possession of the body, had it embalmed, and used it in various art projects (it was found in a drawer in his studio). The executor of Lenkiewicz's estate apparently hopes to use it in a memorial display of the artist's work.

Least Competent Criminals

In November in Fort Worth, Texas, businessman and former Baptist minister James Andrew Smith, 42, was arrested in connection with a PowerPoint presentation he'd made in September for a computer logistics company; he'd clicked the wrong item on his laptop and called up an image of a nude boy, and a subsequent police search turned up more child pornography, both on disk and printed out.

Things You Thought Didn't Happen Anymore

In September, Peruvian congressman Eittel Ramos challenged vice president David Waisman to a pistol duel on a Lima beach (which would be the country's first political duel since a 1957 sword match between a future president and his rival). And in November in Omaha, Nebraska, contractor Art Dore Sr., 66, challenged business rival Virgil Anderson to a boxing match to settle their dispute over municipal demolition contracts. (Anderson, also in his 60s, is unlikely to accept, given that Dore is the founder of an amateur boxing tournament called the Original Toughman Contest.)

Thinning the Herd

In October in Santa Cruz, California, a 32-year-old man was killed when he fell from a fifth-story hotel balcony; he'd been hanging off the edge and shouting to his friends, "Look at this."

In the Last Month

In Crystal Lake, Illinois, Robert and Theresa Dolin pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of their teenage kids by giving them bongs as Christmas gifts....In Elko, Minnesota, an Ojibwe man named Albert LaFontaine declared that the strip club he'd just bought would be a sovereign Indian nation, and that there "ain't no way on God's earth" the government can stop him....And in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, the Evangelical Environmental Network announced a campaign to discourage people from buying gas-guzzling SUVs, using the slogan "What Would Jesus Drive?"

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

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