Lead Story Civilization in Decline: “Tom Tom,” a 2-yearold Yorkshire terrier, was laid to rest at the Oakland Cemetery in Monticello, Ark., in March, even though he was in good health. His owner, Donald Ellis, had just passed away but had left explicit instructions that he wanted Tom Tom buried along with him, and not later on, because he felt that no one could love Tom Tom as much as he did. Ellis’ reluctant family finally took Tom Tom to a veterinarian, who tried to change their minds but ultimately acquiesced and euthanized the dog out of fear that they would put him down anyway, less humanely.The Entrepreneurial Spirit!
Shaking Up the Condom Market: (1) The Swiss government announced in March that it would help bring to market “extra”-small condoms for boys as young as 12. (The decrease in circumference from a “standard” condom would be about 5/16th of an inch.) (2) The Washington Post reported in May that high school and college-age adults had complained that condoms given away by the District of Columbia’s HIV-prevention program were of too-low quality and that the city should spring for deluxe Trojan Magnums (in gold-colored packaging, giving them, said a city official, “a little bit of the bling quality”).
At least two employees at the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, Calif., were accused in May of carrying on a makeshift “beauty salon” in side the facility’s Neonatal Intensive Care unit. Allegedly, eyebrow waxes and manicures were given near sensitive equipment used to combat infant infections and respiratory disorders.
An investigation is continuing, but a hospital official said the notion of a “salon” was overblown and that perhaps a few nail treatments were involved. (Simultaneously, the facility is being investigated for taking kickbacks from nursing homes for placing discharged Medicare or Medicaid patients into those homes.)
On an August ABC-TV “Nightline,” professor Matt Frerking of Oregon Health and Science University allowed cameras to record his narcolepsy-like “cataplexy,” which causes temporary muscle paralysis each time he contemplates romantic love (hugging or holding hands with his wife, viewing wedding pictures, witnessing affectionate couples). He noted that he can often fend off an impending attack by concentrating on his own lab work in neuroscience.
Breakthroughs: When Ron Sveden’s left lung collapsed in May, doctors initially diagnosed a tumor, but on closer inspection learned that Sveden, of Brewster, Mass., had ingested a plant seed that had somehow migrated to his lung and sprouted open. He is recovering.
Leading Economic Indicators
To most, the toilet is a functional appliance, but to thoughtful people, it can be an instrument upon which creativity blossoms. Thus, the price tags were high this summer when commodes belonging to two literary giants of the 20th century went on sale. In August, a gaudily designed toilet from John Lennon’s 1969-71 residence in Berkshire, England, fetched 9,500 pounds (about $14,740) at a Liverpool auction, and a North Carolina collectibles dealer opened bids on the toilet that long served reclusive author J.D. Salinger at his home in Cornish, N.H. The dealer’s initial price was $1 million because, “Who knows how many of Salinger’s stories were thought up and written while (he) sat on this throne!” Blairsville, Ga., advertising agency owner Mike Patterson introduced the “first ever patriotic home-based business opportunity” recently, and, though it resembles a traditional “pyramid” scheme, Patterson termed it “network marketing” and an important way to fight government “tyranny.” For joining up at $12, $24 or $50 a year and enlisting others, Patterson promises recruiters “up to $50,000” (actually, up to $283,000 by securing $50 memberships). On spelling- and grammar-challenged Web pages, Patterson laid out salesmanship “levels” and “matrix” patterns that promise a member 60 cents per $24 recruit -- leaving $12 for patriotic programs and $11.40 for Patterson. (For some reason, after rounding up 29,523 members—Level 9—the recruiter payout drops to 15 cents each.)
Questionable Judgments Disrespecting Electricity: (1) New Hampshire teenager Kyle Dubois was critically injured in March when, during an electrical trades class, he and fellow students attached clamps to his nipples and plugged in an electrical cord. Dubois suffered permanent brain damage, and in August his parents sued the school district and the teacher. (2) As an alternative to the surgical scalpel, zapping a penis with electricity can produce a cleaner cut and with much less blood, according to a team of doctors from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering in Taiwan. Best of all, their July report noted, since the experiments were too risky for ordinary test volunteers, they performed all procedures on themselves.
A News of the Weird Classic (January 2003)
In 2001, a woman filed a federal lawsuit in Minnesota (Engleson vs. Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce), seeking to recover for injuries she suffered when she tripped over an orange traffic cone. The lawsuit was dismissed in November 2002 by Judge Donovan Frank, who said that since the very purpose of the bright orange traffic cone is to warn of imminent risk, citizens should not need to be warned that they are approaching bright orange traffic cones.
Illustrations by Tom Briscoe. Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or visit www.newsoftheweird.com.