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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In November Amsterdam hosted the first world championship in a new hybrid sport called "chess boxing," the invention of Dutch artist Iepe--each match consists of six four-minute chess rounds alternating with five two-minute boxing rounds, with victory coming by knockout, checkmate, or judges' scoring (if the contestants go the distance). Both the Royal Dutch Chess Association (KNSB) and the Dutch Boxing Organization (NBB) have endorsed the sport and helped organize the championship, and matches have been scheduled for later this year in Berlin and Moscow.

Great Art!

In October in San Francisco, conceptual artist Jonathon Keats, 32, registered his brain as a sculpture (which he'd created "thought by thought") and began selling futures contracts on its six billion neurons, offering the rights to its creative output after his death--assuming, of course, that the medical science of the future can keep his brain functioning. Keats has written a prospectus for investors, which includes MRI scans showing the localized activity that occurred when he thought about love, art, death, and so on; for now he's selling ten-dollar options to buy a million neurons for $10,000 when he dies. (He sold only 71 the first day.)

California's lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante (runner-up to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the October recall election), isn't the only public figure in the family: as the San Francisco Chronicle reported in September, his 39-year-old sister, Nao Bustamante, is a prominent performance artist whose works have included (1) wearing a strap-on burrito dildo that men could kneel before and take a bite from, in order to absolve themselves of "500 years of the white man's guilt," and (2) submerging her head in a clear plastic bag filled with water and then tying it closed around her neck, a low-budget knockoff of a Houdini stunt intended to create an "urgent situation to respond to."

Government in Action

According to an October Boston Globe profile, Raimundo Delgado, 50, a charismatic middle school teacher in New Bedford, Massachusetts, ran in this year's mayoral and city council races despite his bipolar disorder, which he has publicly acknowledged (and which resulted in his involuntary commitment during the campaign). Among his proposals: to "create a city underwater"; to "free the dogs, the sheep, the goats"; to grow a tropical forest on what is now Route 18; and to give $10,000 raises to several city employees he's met. He failed to mount a significant challenge in either election, though he did make it onto the ballot for city council (and outpoll an opponent with schizophrenia).

Norway Is Different: In October self-described witch Lena Skarning, 33, won a government startup grant of roughly $7,500 for her Oslo-based business, Forest Witch Magic Consulting (on the condition that she not cast any harmful spells). Said Skarning, "I'm an ordinary witch who came up with an original business idea." And in November a Norwegian court ordered the government to buy a 22-year-old man a car because riding public transportation causes him severe anxiety--he's only four foot two, the result of radiation treatments as a child to kill a brain tumor, and he's been taunted on buses for most of his life.

In November the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, attempted to address the problem of municipal employees abusing its sick-pay system: henceforth, city workers will be expected to give 48 hours' notice before taking time off due to illness.

In September the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington, reported on resident Ed Weilep's attempts to get a stop sign installed at the junction of Havana Street and Eighth Avenue, an area subject to the jurisdiction of three different entities: territory west of the center line of Havana is regulated by the city of Spokane, and the land up to the east edge of the street is administered by incorporated Spokane Valley--which leaves the northbound lanes of Havana under the authority of Spokane County. Said Weilep, "You get a real thrill going through that intersection."

Extreme Piercings

In September in Veradale, Washington, a 14-year-old boy had made nearly a full recovery after a friend, who was helping him clear a vacant lot, tried to toss aside a length of rebar and accidentally struck the boy in the face; the steel rod hit him between his nose and upper lip and penetrated six inches deep, knocking out two teeth and piercing his tongue. And in August in Truckee, California, a construction worker fell face-first from a six-foot ladder onto his drill, which had an 18-inch chip auger bit locked in place; the bit, with a diameter of 1.5 inches, passed through his right eye socket, nudged his brain aside, and exited the back of his skull. He lost the eye but survived with no brain damage.

In the Last Month

In Kern County, California, the 41-year-old mayor of the town of Alvin, who'd been cited for having illegally tinted car windows, filed a complaint against the ticketing officer for repeatedly referring to him as "dude." And in Limburg, Germany, three 19-year-olds allegedly hacked into an Internet auction account and in two hours bought $160 million worth of goods (including industrial machinery, patents, and light airplanes); they claim they did it because they were bored.

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

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