Lead Story

The Morning Herald of Sydney, Australia, reported in April on a service newly introduced by a Melbourne funeral home: instead of a hearse, families can rent a tricked-out “funeral bus” with room for the casket plus party-suite accommodations–including minibar and DVD player–for up to 12 mourners. The funeral home’s director acknowledged that the bus might not be for everyone.

Arguments Against Eating

In May the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on proanorexia Web sites that encourage the worship of eating disorders as embodied in a quasi-deity called Ana. The sites contain Ana prayers, Ana psalms, and Ana commandments; one provides instructions for building an altar to Ana and signing a contract with her in blood. One version of the Ana Creed reads in part: “I will devote myself to Ana. . . . No one else matters; she is the only one who cares about me and who understands me.” Said one young woman, a Minnesota college freshman, “Ana is definitely a higher power, not higher than God, but higher than myself.” A doctor recalled an incident in Arizona where a 13-year-old anorexia patient he was attempting to treat suddenly spoke “an incantation, like a hex, as if to scare me off.”

Restaurant magazine published its annual list of the world’s best restaurants in April; ranked number one for the first time was the Fat Duck, located in the countryside west of London. Singled out for praise were its “sardine on toast sorbet” and “leather, oak and tobacco chocolates.” The Guardian subsequently reported that in 2004 health inspectors had found three of four samples taken at the Fat Duck to contain unsatisfactory levels of bacteria and advised that staff do a better job of washing hands and equipment; after making some changes in the kitchen, the restaurant was retested and pronounced “satisfactory.”

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

According to a May BBC report, Barcelona designer Pep Torres has created a washing machine, called Your Turn, intended to ensure that no member of a household consistently gets stuck doing laundry. Users must register their fingerprints with the machine via home computer; once installed, the machine will operate only after a user touches its sensor pad, but it won’t accept the same fingerprint twice in a row. And in March British inventor James Larsson announced he had developed cutlery wired with lie-detector-style electrodes to provide the socially incompetent with feedback on how the person they’re eating with is feeling.

Science on the Cutting Edge

According to a dispatch from Moscow in London’s Daily Telegraph, in April Mikhail Sokolshchik and other surgeons from Russia’s National Medical Surgical Center performed a pioneering lengthening procedure on the genitalia of a 28-year-old Siberian man. Sokolshchik said the patient had never had sex due to having what is known in medicine as a “micropenis”–a penis less than two inches long when erect. The surgeons first removed the tip of the penis and grafted it to the patient’s forearm, allowing the tissue to remain alive throughout the 11-hour operation. They then fashioned a shaft by wrapping skin from the forearm around tubular silicon implants; after connecting the tip to the shaft, they reattached the penis–now about seven inches long–to the appropriate spot. The new penis will be permanently semierect but should be otherwise functional.

Least Competent Criminals

Vickey Siles of New Haven, Indiana, pleaded guilty to attempted check fraud in February. Last fall Siles, 35, received a $1 check from an insurance company; after performing what was evidently a very unpersuasive doctoring job (partly mangling the paper in the process), she took it to a currency exchange and tried to cash it for $4,000,000. Two quick phone calls later, she was under arrest.

Gas? Brake? Whatever

More accidents in which elderly drivers apparently stepped on the wrong pedal: Age 85, drove across sidewalk and through post office window; no one injured (West Salem, Oregon, December). Age 87, drove through lobby of animal hospital, causing structural damage and destroying fish tank; only fish seriously injured (Lynchburg, Virginia, December). Age 88, backed over two people in Wal-Mart parking lot; both seriously injured (Pembroke Pines, Florida, January). Age 88, crashed into bank awning; one pedestrian killed (Saint Pete Beach, Florida, February). Age 81, lurched backward while preparing to test-drive car, knocking over 88-year-old husband and the car salesman with open door, then plowing into tree, another car, and wall; salesman treated and released (Fort Myers, Florida, April). Age 84, crashed into pole near hospital entrance, striking son, who had just been discharged; son readmitted (Manchester, New Hampshire, May).

Recurring Themes

In March in Hong Kong a 21-year-old man, reportedly upset about a recent breakup with his girlfriend, responded in a manner familiar to readers of News of the Weird: he tossed everything but the largest furniture and appliances in his 35th-floor apartment out the window. No injuries were reported. Also in March in Gang Mills, New York, Billy Abbey, 31, became the latest person to apparently sleep through a police standoff. When he woke up around 11:30 AM, he seemed unaware that law-enforcement officials, summoned by neighbors’ reports of a disturbance, had surrounded his house about 11 hours earlier and had been trying via megaphone to persuade him and his eight-year-old son to come out.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.