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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Readers' choice: While camping in the Mojave Desert near Baker, California, in January, 26-year-old artist Trevor Corneliusien locked a heavy chain tightly around his ankles in order to model for a drawing of shackled feet he'd planned to do, but he soon realized that he'd lost the key. According to authorities, Corneliusien finished the drawing, then hopped through the desert for 12 hours before reaching a gas station, where he called for help.

Readers' choice, part 2: Daniel Zeiszler, 22, was sentenced in December to five months' jail time for a September incident in South San Francisco. After smoking meth in his hotel room, Zeiszler attempted to extend his supply by extracting meth residue from his urine; in the process he started a fire, burning himself and causing the hotel to be evacuated. His lawyer and prosecutors agreed that Zeiszler's methodology was sound but that one would need gallons of urine to produce a usable amount of meth rather than the single bladderful he was working with.

Frontiers in Dining

According to a February dispatch from Beijing in London's Daily Telegraph, the recently opened Guolizhuang is the first restaurant in China to specialize in cuisine made from penises and testicles. Its core audience is men hoping to improve their virility; a nutritionist cited in the article advised women to avoid the testicles, as they might impede fertility, but said that penis meat was reportedly good for the skin. Yak penis goes for roughly $60, Canadian seal penis for $380, while the hot pot allows diners to sample six kinds of penis--dog, ox, deer, goat, horse, and donkey--plus four kinds of testicle, all boiled at the table in chicken stock.

In January Der Spiegel reported on a trend in Hong Kong, where crowded living conditions make owning a pet nearly impossible: cafes stocked with dogs for patrons to stroke and hug. And in February, following a publicized dispute with a mother of two, the owner of the Boheme in Augsburg, Germany, confirmed to reporters that while dogs were welcome at his restaurant during dinner hours, small children were not.

Tampa seventh-grader Jasmine Roberts got some national press in February after the Tampa Tribune published the results of her prize-winning science fair project. Analyzing samples at a lab at the University of South Florida, Roberts found that in the majority of cases the ice used in drinks at local fast-food restaurants contained more bacteria than the water in the restaurants' toilets.

Recurring Themes

Joining a long list of people who've argued in court that they shouldn't have to pay taxes, James Clifford Hanna of Whitehorse, Yukon, told a judge via affidavit that his name had been assigned to him at birth without his consent, that it was nothing more than "hearsay" to him, and that therefore he couldn't be held liable for debts the government chose to charge to it; in February the judge ordered him to pay up. And in December 49-year-old Terry Dresdow of Milwaukee became the latest person to have his car stolen, then recovered and returned to him in much flashier condition: his 1989 Chevy Caprice came back with a new paint job, new steering wheel and gearshift, new exhaust system, keyless entry, wire-spoke wheels, low-profile tires, and a 1,600-watt stereo with eight speakers, two subwoofers, and a remote. (He's looking to sell it.)

It's All About Me

At a January criminal hearing in Vancouver, high-end interior designer June Matheson, 72, admitted that she'd poisoned five trees near the city's Stanley Park in early 2004 because they were blocking the view of the ocean from her third-story apartment. According to her lawyer, Matheson was forced to sell the apartment later that year; once the charges against her were made public, along with her address, people began pelting her balcony with eggs, rocks, and bags of dog feces.

Colleen Lacombe, 34, was sentenced in December to two years' house arrest for embezzling $325,000 from the First Church of Lansdowne, in the Philadelphia suburbs. The money was to have been used to fund missionary programs and pay for repairs to the church, among other things; Lacombe used it to buy a second home and get breast implants.

Least Competent Criminals

Matthew Wyman of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, directed to recite the alphabet after being pulled over on suspicion of DUI in November, reportedly told police he hadn't said the alphabet "in years" and asked if he could do a math problem instead. Also in November 36-year-old Frank Traina allegedly tried to rob a Chinese restaurant in Levittown, New York, at gunpoint, but the owner stopped cooperating when he noticed water leaking from the gun's barrel. And in December, according to authorities, a man called a bank in Auckland, New Zealand, identified himself as the guy who'd committed a robbery there some days earlier, and instructed the manager to wait in the street at a specified time with a bag containing more money, which he would drive by and pick up. Apparently suspecting (correctly) that an undercover officer would take the manager's place, the man didn't show up at either of two arranged meets, but police traced his calls and arrested him anyway.

Undignified Deaths

In October an 81-year-old school crossing guard on duty in Park Ridge, New Jersey, was struck and killed by a 70-year-old crossing guard driving to his own post. And a 62-year-old woman was reported missing by her husband in Shelton, Washington, in January. Police searched the couple's house--which was filled nearly to capacity with several tons of items she'd hoarded--for ten hours before finding her body under a pile of clothing that had apparently fallen on her and suffocated her.

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

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