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6/29/2006

Columns > News of the Weird

NEWS OF THE WEIRD

 

noblesse oblige

Britain’s Prince Philip has for at least 30 years accommodated a “cargo cult” of 400 people on the South Sea island of Tanna, who revere him as the human face of an ancestral spirit, according to London’s Daily Mail in June. Both sides have been discreet, but the prince has acquiesced by sending the tribe signed photographs, including one in which he is holding the traditional war club (even though a totally authentic pose would require that the prince hold it while naked). Cargo cults are so named because, lore has it, an ancient god forecast that one day, wealth would fall from the sky, and then, during World War II, it did, in the form of parachuted-in supplies for American troops who used the islands as staging areas.

Everbody’s doing it

An Iowa tribunal turned down Chris T. Coppinger’s demand for unemployment benefits in May, following his firing from a charitable fund-raising company in Davenport for various alleged indiscretions. Among the company’s charges was that Coppinger had had sex on top of his desk with a co-worker, but Coppinger argued that that should not be a terminating offense, since many other company employees had had sex on his desk, too.

Never Give Up

Ronald Blankenship, a shoe repairman in Birmingham, Ala., finished second in June’s Democratic primary for sheriff and was placed in a run-off, when the Birmingham News discovered details of an apparently shady past: faking his death in connection with an insurance policy, assault and passing bad checks. Blankenship’s defense, a week later: It must be another Ronald Blankenship (even though “both” men have the same middle name and birth date and coincidentally are married to women with the same first, middle and maiden names).

radical Honesty

Jonifer Jackson, 20, was arrested in Clarksville, Tenn., in April and charged with reckless endangerment for firing a 9 mm pistol while street-preaching. (He told police it was the only way he could get people to listen to him.) And Phillip Daniels, 42, was arrested in Dallas in April, as the one who had set off five explosives in the previous two weeks (which he told Dallas’ KXAS-TV he did just because he likes the sounds). Finally, Yasuhisa Matsushita, 25, was arrested in Iwata, Japan, in March as the man who stole a high school girl’s swimsuit, put it on and pranced around in it while relieving himself because, he told police, “(I)t felt so good.”

Let’s go Surfing now

In the course of an April ruling that the New York City school system had gone too far by firing Toquir Choudhri for poor work habits, administrative law judge John Spooner declared that city workers have a “right” to surf the Internet for personal use while at work. Choudhri was expecting reinstatement, but two weeks later Chancellor Joel Klein fired him anyway, citing poor work habits beyond his web-surfing. (Choudhri was unavailable for comment; he was suspected of being on leave in a country on whose tourist websites he had been lingering.)

do as we say, not as we do

In April, The Washington Post, covering outdoor press conferences by Capitol Hill legislators to decry the then-recent bump in gasoline prices, reported that the vehicle of choice for most of them returning to offices only a few blocks away was a gas-guzzling SUV, and in fact that several senators hopped into idling SUVs even to travel across the street from the Capitol to their offices.

Least Competent Criminals

John Faux, 41, was arrested in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in April and charged with robbing a Key Bank branch of about $2,000; Faux had complained to the teller that he had clearly demanded not $2,000, but “$100 million,” and the two were still arguing when the police arrived. And Tekle Zigetta, 45, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles in March to trying to smuggle $250 billion into the country (which Customs agents discovered, in the form of 250 bills of the denomination of $1 billion, each bearing a picture of President Grover Cleveland).

dentally challenged

London’s Guardian reported in April that access to British dentists is becoming so difficult that in a recent week, 6,000 do-it-yourself crown-and-cap replacement kits had been sold to consumers.

Correction

Four weeks ago, News of the Weird reported that a “side business” of British farmer David Lucas was building gallows for export to Zimbabwe and other countries that still execute by hanging. After the story was widely reported in the British press, a man who identified himself as Lucas’ sometime-business-partner told reporters that Lucas had been joking, that he had built only one gallows and was not actually in the business. At press time, it is unknown whether Lucas, or his partner, was telling the truth.

 

 

 

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