Public debate over the essence of masculinity broke out in Norway in September after the principal of Dvergsnes elementary school in Kristiansand, citing complaints from the janitorial staff about poor aim, proposed a rule requiring male students to urinate sitting down. Some parents and political figures reacted bitterly: the mother of a seven-year-old boy told the press, "This rule goes against everything that I have tried to teach my son," while one right-wing leader demanded that local government step in, calling the proposal "an assault on God's creations" and declaring that it was a "human right not to have to sit down like a girl."
In October in Kisarazu, Japan, 60-year-old psychiatric counselor Akira Haraguchi set what appeared to be a new world record when, in front of a rotating crew of witnesses, he recited from memory the number pi to 100,000 decimal places. A spokesperson said that uninterrupted video footage of the 16-hour feat (including periodic bathroom and snack breaks) would be sent to London for verification by Guinness World Records, which currently lists a record of 42,195 digits set in 1995.
Roughly a dozen masked people burst into a Taco Bell in Marion, Indiana, one night in August, dropped off six 40-gallon trash bags containing an estimated 25,000 Taco Bell sauce packets, and left. An accompanying note explained the group had been accumulating the packets for three years and felt they ought to return them; police said no crime appeared to have been committed.
Can't Possibly Be True
Christine Smith, an assistant youth cheerleading coach in Frederick, Maryland, was dismissed without warning in September after she tried to raise the spirits of her squad of seven- and eight-year-olds, dejected during a losing football game, by lifting her shirt about three inches to reveal a smiley face she'd drawn on her stomach. This reportedly got the laughs she was hoping for, but youth sports association president Kathy Carey heard about it and fired both Smith and the head coach in front of the kids at practice two days later. Carey explained to reporters that "pulling up your shirt is inappropriate and it's not what our organization is about." Meanwhile, also in September,
a youth sports association near Asheville, North Carolina, responded to complaints and pulled the plug on a fund-raising raffle offering the prize of an Uzi submachine gun.
In October UK public health minister Caroline Flint warned about what she believed, based on anecdotal evidence, to be an alarming trend: pregnant teenagers deliberately smoking in hopes of a lower birth weight for their child and thus an easier delivery.
Not Getting Along
Charges were pending in September against 34-year-old Lorenzo Martin of Cottonwood, Alabama; apparently upset that his wife had filed for divorce, he allegedly retaliated by holding her leg in a bed of fire ants, which stung her more than 100 times. Also in September, in Cheshire, Oregon, 58-year-old Mary Kay Gray allegedly shot her husband in the back after he killed her favorite chicken.
On the Campaign Trail
West Virginia state senator Randy White announced in October that after consulting his estranged wife and their children he'd decided to continue his run for a second term, despite the appearance on a Charleston news broadcast of photos showing him with at least two other men, all wearing nothing but body paint. White said he'd been struggling with depression and a "personal identification situation." And Pat Carr, a city council member and mayoral candidate in Rochester, Minnesota, admitted in August that he had, as user 127179, posted dozens of messages at the Rochester Post-Bulletin Web site praising his own accomplishments and character, always referring to himself in the third person. After someone at the paper noticed similarities between Carr's speech and 127179's writing, an editor twice contacted Carr and warned him that if he kept it up the paper would consider reporting on it, but the messages continued for months. Carr acknowledged receiving the warnings but insisted on his right to defend himself from critics: "I stand by what I said."
Least Competent Criminals
A 37-year-old man was charged with burglary in Waterbury, Connecticut, in September after he was caught allegedly selling his victim's furniture and home fixtures at a yard sale in front of his own house, just a few doors down the street.
Least Competent Emigres
BBC News reported in August on two unidentified Egyptian men, traveling in eastern Europe on Russian visas, and their attempts to tunnel into the EU using only shoehorns--according to prosecutors, they didn't want to attract attention by purchasing actual shovels. Impressively, they made it under the heavily guarded border between Belarus and Poland but got turned around at some point and, apparently believing they were now tunneling under the Polish-German border, they in fact dug their way back into Belarus, where they were immediately arrested. After ten days in jail, they were put on a train bound for Moscow but got off early and allegedly tried to dig another tunnel, this time to Ukraine, before being captured again.
Driving: How Not To
Late one September night in Newton, Massachusetts, 17-year-old Christopher Bordne was arrested on DUI and other charges after an officer found him stopped at a traffic light that had turned green, apparently sound asleep with his foot on the brake. Following several minutes of the officer tapping on the window, yelling, and eventually banging on the roof with his flashlight, Bordne allegedly woke up, saw the officer, and drove off, ignoring the light that had again turned red; according to the police report, Bordne promptly hit a telephone pole a block away, backed up, drove into the pole again, then backed up and drove into it again. He was apprehended when he pulled onto a lawn nearby, where a police cruiser boxed him in.
Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader,
11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to email@example.com. © 2006 Chuck Shepherd
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/ Shawn Belshwender.