Australian surfer Shane Willmott became a national media sensation in July when reporters showed up to watch him put his three trained mouse surfers through their paces in local creeks and in the Pacific Ocean. Willmott trained them in a bathtub and built them little surfboards and Jet Skis.
Can't Possibly Be True
In May the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation made a $700,000 grant to a World Wildlife Fund program to protect the apparently gorgeous forests in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan even though (according to a 2003 report in National Geographic) the recipient of the attention, the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, was explicitly created to protect the migoi, Bhutan's version of Bigfoot.
The Most Frightening Stories of the Week
In Kimberly, British Columbia, in July, trying to establish a Guinness Book record, 644 people at a music festival played their accordions simultaneously for half an hour. And in August, the Bradenton Herald in Florida reported that business is strong for local resident John Flannery, who at age 78 still works 15 to 20 times a month posing for artists as a nude model.
Unclear on the Concept
Charbel Hamaty spent six months in jail in Raleigh, North Carolina, after being arrested last year and charged with sexual exploitation of his infant son. The evidence consisted of family snapshots of Hamaty playfully kissing the nude tot's belly button. Only after a protest campaign did a judge finally dismiss the charge, according to a July report by WRAL TV. Not so lucky was Fitzroy Barnaby of Evanston, Illinois, who angrily grabbed the arm of a 14-year-old girl he almost ran over when she walked in front of his car. He was convicted of "unlawful restraint of a minor," which requires that violators be listed as sex offenders (even though the trial judge and, in June, the state appellate court both discounted any sexual motive).
Elijah Walker, 35, who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in Cincinnati in June, resisted complying with the state requirement that he also give up a DNA sample, because he feared the state would use it to create a clone of him. Said the prosecutor, reassuringly, "I'm not sure the state really wants another Elijah Walker."
The Absolute Right to Never Be Offended
Earlier this year the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Belfast, Northern Ireland, banned the use of the term brainstorming when referring to thinking up ideas, instead decreeing that staff will use the term thought-showers since the old term might be offensive to some people with brain injuries.
Arlyne Reiter, of Pompano Beach, Florida, describing the experience of rising in the morning to encounter an iguana in her bathroom last month: "It was like Jurassic Park in my toilet."
Connecticut saddle maker Mike Derrick, on why he set up a booth in Boston at the August Fetish Fair Fleamarket: he could spend six hours creating a bridle for a horse and earn $40, he said, but "make one for a human, $120."
Least Competent Criminals
In Clovis, New Mexico, in July, Danny J. Jimenez, 51, was sentenced to six years in prison for a pair of 2003 burglaries. Police had captured Jimenez by following the blood trail that resulted from his encounter with a pawnshop's glass jewelry case. The paper bag he used to carry the loot broke as he made his getaway and he lost most of the jewelry. While burglarizing a church the same night, Jimenez accidentally hit himself in the head with a hammer. He made off with less than $100 and a bottle of communion wine; according to the DA he was intoxicated when police picked him up.
Among the stories fabricated by the former New Republic writer Stephen Glass was a March 1998 description (picked up, unfortunately, by News of the Weird) of two Wall Street companies' ritual worship of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. (Two months later, the magazine fired Glass and apologized for the fictions.) Last month Erin Crowe, a recent art graduate of the University of Virginia, placed in a New York gallery 18 paintings and sketches she had made over the years of Greenspan, a subject she chose "because his face is so interesting, his lips, his ears" and "his forehead, his comb over." By August 9, after CNBC ran a couple of short segments on them, all 18 pieces had sold at prices as high as $4,000. "I had money managers calling from Nevada, Dallas, California. I had one woman call, I don't know what she did for a living, but . . . Greenspan was her hero, and she had to have a painting."
The District of Calamity
In June, the District of Columbia agency that approves charter schools turned down the Dupont Circle International Academy (a rigorous international baccalaureate program), citing that the school will not admit or pass students who perform below their grade level. The agency's chairman told Washington City Paper, "[A school] has to serve everybody that shows up."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.