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News of the odd and strange with Chuck Shepherd.

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Protecting Our Freedoms

The bold, shameless leering of David Zaitzeff is legendary around Seattle’s parks, and more so since he filed a civil complaint against the city in September challenging its anti-voyeurism law for placing a “chilling effect” on his photography of immodestly dressed women in public. Though he has never been charged with a crime, he roams freely (and apparently joyously) around short- skirted and swimsuit-clad “gals” while himself often wearing only a thong and bearing a “Free Hugs and Kisses” sign. Zaitzeff’s websites “extol” public nudity, wrote the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and explain, for example, that a woman who angles her “bod” to offer a view of “side boob” is fair game for his camera. Zaitzeff’s complaint — that the law criminalizes photography of a person’s “intimate areas” (clothed or not) without explicit permission — is distressing him.

Democracy Blues

Randy Richardson, 42, vying unopposed for the Riceville, Iowa, school board (having agreed to run just because he has two kids in school) failed to get any votes at all — as even he was too busy on election day (Sept. 8) to make it to the polls (nor were there any write-ins). To resolve the 0-0 result, the other board members simply appointed Richardson to the office. Riceville, near the Minnesota border, is a big-time farming community, and registered voters queried by The Des Moines Register said they just had too much fieldwork to do that day.

Medical Marvels

Researchers recently came upon a small community (not named) in the Dominican Republic with an unusual incidence of adolescent boys having spent the first decade or so of their lives as girls because their penises and testes did not appear until puberty. A September BBC News dispatch referred to the boys as “Guevedoces” and credited the community for alerting researchers, who ultimately developed a drug to replace the culprit enzyme whose absence was causing the problem. (The full shot of testosterone that should have been delivered in the mother’s womb was not arriving until puberty.)

Leading Economic Indicators

The serpentine queue extended for blocks in September in Lucknow, India, after the state government of Uttar Pradesh announced 368 job openings (almost all menial) — eventually resulting in about 2.3 million applications, 200,000 from people with advanced degrees (even though the $240/month positions required only a fifth-grade education, according to an Associated Press dispatch). About 13 million young people enter India’s job market each year.

New World Order

— At a September convention on ethical issues involving computers, a researcher at Britain’s De Montfort University decried the development of devices that might permit human-robot sex. Though no human would be “victimized,” the researcher warned that such machines (some already in service) will exacerbate existing “power imbalances” between men and women and pave the way for more human exploitation. One critic challenged, offering that such robots would be no more demeaning to women than, say, vibrators. However, the researcher ominously warned that there may someday be robots resembling children, marketed for sex. (A September USA Today dispatch from Tokyo reported that the company SoftBank had banned sex, via its user agreement, with its new 4-foot-tall human-like robot — even though “Pepper” features nothing resembling genitalia.)

— Thailand’s “Last Resort Rehab” at the Wat Thamkrabok Temple about 100 miles north of Bangkok resembles a traditional drug-detox facility (work, relaxation, meditation) — except for the vomiting. At the “Vomit Temple,” Buddhist priests mix a concoction of 120 herbal ingredients that are nasty, according to the temple’s methamphetamine addicts interviewed for a recent Australian TV documentary. Said one, of the rehab agenda: “Vomiting is at 3 p.m. every day. Foreigners must vomit for the first five days. The vomiting is intense.”

A News of the Weird Classic
(November 2009)

New Zealand’s Waikato National Contemporary Art Award in September (2009) (worth the equivalent of $11,000) went to Dane Mitchell, whose installation consisted merely of the discarded packaging materials he had gathered from all the other exhibits vying for the prize. Mitchell named his pile “Collateral.” (Announcement of the winner was poorly received by the other contestants.)

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