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News of the Weird

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Chuck Shepherd is on vacation. The following items are reprinted from the News of the Weird archive.

Lead Story

Autobiography of the Least Interesting Man in America: A 1996 Seattle Times feature described Robert Shields, 77, of Dayton, Washington, as the author of perhaps the longest personal diary in history--at the time, nearly 38 million words stored in 81 cardboard boxes. The diary covered 24 years in five-minute increments, with entries like "July 25, 1993, 7 AM: I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin. 7:05 AM: Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used 5 sheets of paper."

Least Competent People

Joseph Kubic Sr., 93, was hospitalized in Stratford, Connecticut, in 1999 after he tried to punch a hole in his belt by hammering a pointy-nosed bullet through it. The slug ricocheted off a table and hit him in the neck. Later that year a 19-year-old Salt Lake City man was hospitalized with stomach wounds after investigating whether a .22-caliber bullet could be fired from a drinking straw by hitting it with a hammer.

Tim Ekelman, 33, was hospitalized in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1998 with a collapsed lung, cuts in his throat, and damage to his larynx after he attempted to swallow a friend's 40-inch sword. (A professional sword swallower interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator revealed an important trade secret: dull the edges first.)

Great Art!

From time to time News of the Weird has reported on the market value of Piero Manzoni's feces, which the late Italian artist canned in a limited run of 90 tins in 1961. Over the years 45 of the 30-gram tins have reportedly exploded, and the price of the remaining ones has fluctuated from $75,000 in 1993 to $28,000 in 1998. In 2002 the Tate Gallery in London announced it had purchased tin 004 for about $33,000; at that time the price of 30 grams of gold was about $340.

Cliches Come to Life

In 1998 Charles Cornell, 31, won a lawsuit at London's high court and was awarded about $100,000 in damages. Cornell's insurance businesses failed when his sales plummeted following an automobile accident in which he sustained a head injury that his doctors said left him with a more pleasant personality. Cornell claimed his new disposition made him unsuited for the insurance business.

According to a doctor's account in the December 1997 issue of Biological Therapies in Psychiatry, a 35-year-old female patient receiving a traditional antidepressant had been switched to bupropion, supposedly just as effective but without the first drug's side effect of inhibiting orgasm. "Within one week, her ability to achieve orgasm and her enjoyment of sex had returned to normal," the doctor wrote. "After six weeks, however, she [spontaneously] experienced a three-hour orgasm while shopping."

Life Imitates a Rodney Dangerfield Joke: In 1996 Steven Hicks, 38, and Diana Hicks, 35, were sentenced to six months in jail in Cape May, New Jersey, for child abandonment. While their unruly 13-year-old son, Christopher, was hospitalized, the couple surreptitiously packed up and moved to California.

Lawyers Being Lawyers

The Times of London reported in 1997 that after an employee of the James Beauchamp law firm in Edgbaston killed himself, the firm billed his mother for roughly $20,000 in expenses. Included were charges of about $2,300 for checking on him after he didn't show up at work (and thus finding his body), about $500 for identifying the body, and about $250 for going to his mother's home, knocking on her door, and telling her that her son was dead. After unfavorable publicity, the firm withdrew the bill.

Marsha Watt, a 1990 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law and former associate at the prestigious law firm of Winston & Strawn in Chicago, had charges filed against her in 1997 by the Illinois Bar Association's discipline committee over her most recent conviction for prostitution. The rate given in her personal ads was roughly three times what the firm had billed for her legal services.

Surprise!

In 1998 Diane Parker accompanied her husband, Richard W. Parker, to federal court in Los Angeles. Richard had been accused of drug trafficking, and according to friends Diane went prepared to put up her investment property and her mother's town house to make his bail. However, when the prosecutor began recounting details of Richard's alleged double life, including a mistress and a safe house, Diane's expression changed dramatically. She removed her wedding ring with a flourish, walked out of the courtroom, drove to the Orange County office where the mistress worked, and punched her several times before being restrained.

Gone On to Their Just Rewards

After winning an informal Bible-quoting contest in Dadeville, Alabama, in 1996, Gabel Taylor, 38, was shot to death by the loser. And in 1998, 34-year-old Reverend John Wayne "Punkin" Brown Jr., a prominent snake-handling preacher, died of a rattlesnake bite while ministering at the Rock House Holiness Church near Scottsboro, Alabama. Brown's wife, Melinda, had died the same way three years earlier at a church in Middlesboro, Kentucky.

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

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