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NEWS OF THE WEIRD

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Chuck Shepherd reports on the odd and strange.

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Pedestrian Calming

Officials in charge of a Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal heritage site recently installed “speed bumps,” similar to those familiar to Americans driving residential streets — but on a pedestrian walkway, with row upon row of risers to resemble a washboard. A Western travel writer, along with editors of People’s Daily China, suggested that officials were irked that “disorderly” tourists had been walking past the ancient grounds too rapidly to appreciate its beauty or context.

The Job of the Researcher

“Marine mammologist” Dara Orbach’s specialty is figuring out how bottlenose dolphins actually fit their sex organs together to copulate. When dolphins die of natural causes, Orbach, a post-doctoral fellow at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, is sent their genitals (and also those of whales, porpoises and sea lions) and fills each one with silicone to work from molds in understanding the sex act’s mechanics. Dolphins’ vaginas are “surprising” in their “complexity,” she told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News in April, for example, with the ability to twist inner folds to divert the progress of any sperm deposited by undesirable mates.

Bright Ideas

Compared to busy coastal metropolises, Indiana may evoke repose, and entrepreneur Tom Battista is suggesting the state’s largest city capitalize on the sentiment by reserving a destination site on a low-lying hill overlooking the chaotic merge lanes of two interstate highways — affording visitors leisurely moments watching the frantic motorists scrambling below. He plans three rows of seats and a sunshade for the relaxed gawkers to take in the “ocean”-like roar and imagine overwrought drivers’ rising blood pressure (while their own remains soothingly calm).

Several treatments are available to combat the heart arrhythmia “atrial fibrillation,” but all require medical supervision, which John Griffin, 69, said he tried to acquire at the emergency room at New Zealand’s Waikato Hospital in April, only to be met with delay and frustration. Griffin went home that day, took notice of his neighbor’s 8,000-volt electric security fence and, with boots off, in a fit of do-it-yourself desperation, nudged it with his arm. He got quite a jolt, he said, but he walked away, and his heart returned to natural rhythm. The medical director of the Heart Foundation of New Zealand said that Griffin was lucky and sternly warned against the “procedure.”

News That Sounds Like a Joke

Sean Clemens, now awaiting trial in Liberty, Ohio, in the death of an 84-year-old woman, allegedly confessed his guilt to a co-worker after telling the man that something was bothering him that he needed to tell someone about — but only if the co-worker would “pinkie-swear” not to tell anyone else. (The co-worker broke the code.)

In the course of pursuing claims against Alaskan dentist Seth Lookhart for Medicaid fraud, government investigators found a video on his phone of him extracting a sedated patient’s tooth — while riding on a hoverboard. (He had apparently sent the video to his office manager under the title “New Standard of Care.”) Lookhart had been indicted in 2016 for billing Medicaid $1.8 million for patient sedations unnecessary for the procedures they received.

Perspective

In April, Tennessee state representative Mike Stewart, aiming to make a point about the state’s lax gun-sales laws and piggybacking onto the cuddly feeling people have about children’s curbside lemonade stands, set up a combination stand on Nashville’s Capitol Hill, offering for sale lemonade, cookies — and an AK-47 assault rifle (with a sign reading “No Background Check,” to distinguish the private-sale AK-47 from one purchased from a federally licensed dealer). (In fact, some states still regulate lemonade stands more than gun sales — by nettlesome “health department” and anti-competitive rules and licensing, though Tennessee allows the stands in most neighborhoods as long as they are small and operated infrequently.)

Ironies

(1) The Wall Street Journal reported in February that among the most popular diversions when Syrian households gather to escape the country’s bombs and bullets is playing the Hasbro war board game Risk (even though the game’s default version contains only five armies — not nearly enough to simulate the many Syrian factions now fighting). (2) The parliament of Australia’s New South Wales, entertaining a February citizen petition to cut societal “waste,” admitted that the petition’s required 107,000 signatures (already on a USB stick) would, by rule, have to be submitted in hard copy (4,000 pages), even though the pages would immediately be electronically scanned into a format for data storage.

People Different From Us

In March, an electrician on a service call at a public restroom in Usuki, Japan, discovered a crawlspace above the urinal area, which had apparently been a man’s home (with a space heater, gas stove and clothing). Investigators learned that Takashi Yamanouchi, 54, a homeless wanderer, had been living there continuously for three years — and had arranged everything very tidily, including the 300-plus plastic two-liter bottles of his urine. (It was unclear why he was storing his urine when he resided above a public restroom.)

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready For Prime Time: (1) In March, WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C., broadcast surveillance video of a 7-Eleven armed robbery in the city’s northeast sector — since some footage offered a clear picture of the suspect’s face. Moments into the robbery, the man peered upward, caught sight of the camera and, shocked, reached for his apparently forgotten ski mask on top of his head, where (better late than never) he pulled it into place. (2) In November, three teenagers were arrested after stealing superfast Dodge cars in the middle of the night from a dealership in St. Peters, Missouri. (After driving less than a mile, police said, the three had lost control of their cars, crashing them, including “totaling” two 700-horsepower Challenger Hellcats.)

No Longer Weird

News that was formerly weird but whose patterns more recently have become so tedious that the stories deserve respectful retirement: (1) On May 5, an elderly woman in Plymouth, England, became the most recent to drive wildly afield by blindly obeying her car’s satellite navigation system. Turning left, as ordered, only to confront a solid railing, she nonetheless spotted a narrow pedestrian gap and squeezed through, which led to her descending the large concrete stairway at the Mayflower House Court parking garage (until her undercarriage got stuck). (2) Police in East Palestine, Ohio, said the 8-year-old boy who commandeered the family car and drove his sister, 4, to the local McDonald’s for a cheeseburger on April 9 was different from the usual underaged drivers in that he caused no problems. Witnesses said he followed traffic signals en route, which the boy attributed to learning from YouTube videos.

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