Lead Story

Joy to the World! In San Rafael, California, 39-year-old Jonathan Cantu and 50-year-old Charles Kern, arguing at a Christmas Eve party over whose gift was worth more, smacked each other over the head with flowerpots and had to be hospitalized. In Hermosa Beach, California, 20-year-old Brandi Nicole Nason, dissatisfied with a gift from her former stepmother, allegedly tossed a Molotov cocktail into the woman’s house on Christmas Day, causing $200,000 in damage. In Victoria, British Columbia, a woman was arrested for beating her husband with a Christmas tree after he complained that the gifts he was carrying were heavier than the tree, which she was carrying. And in Jensen Beach, Florida, after Donna Simmons-Groover won a Christmas-decoration contest at her apartment complex, a neighbor who thought he should’ve won ripped out some of her lights and tore his own display down “in a rage.”

Fashion Notes

In October in Hendersonville, North Carolina, 24-year-old Noah Donell Brown, running from police after allegedly attempting to rob a Subway sandwich shop, was apprehended after his baggy pants snagged on a picket fence; when officers caught up with him, he was hanging upside down from the fence and his pants were around his ankles.

Least Competent Criminals

In December in Providence, Rhode Island, 44-year-old Kenneth Martin and 30-year-old Earle Sharpe III were arrested for kidnapping after they abducted a 24-year-old man who reportedly owed Martin money. According to police, after Martin and Sharpe forced the man to let them into his apartment, Martin pointed his gun at the victim and realized it was unloaded–the magazine had fallen out. Martin retraced his steps to search for it, leaving Sharpe to guard the victim with a crowbar, but failed to find the magazine and returned to fetch his accomplice. After warning the abductee not to leave, both men went outside to look for the clip. The victim, of course, immediately ran for help, but officers were already in the building–two friends had been with him when he was kidnapped, and they’d called the police.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In December the government of Singapore decided to begin promoting its high-tech water purification plant, which renders sewer water potable, as a tourist attraction; many officials, including Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, have had themselves photographed drinking from bottles of purified sewage in order to demonstrate that it’s not only safe but delicious. And in November in Oslo, Norway, sanitation officials said they plan to open a “sewer safari park” in the city’s largest underground pumping station, complete with murals, diving and rafting excursions, and tours aboard an amphibious vehicle; they’d been inspired by locals who’d used the station for theater events and private parties.

As New Yorkers frolicked in the fresh snow from the city’s December 7 blizzard, Gilberto Triplitt, 28, set up a cardboard sign on the sidewalk offering snowballs for a dollar each. According to the New York Daily News, he sold six in less than three hours, then created a fresh inventory and sold four more (including a small one for 50 cents) before calling it a day.

Questionable New Products: In November in Tokyo, Swiss lingerie maker Triumph International unveiled a prototype of an antismoking bra, which employs perfume capsules containing lavender (to soothe withdrawal symptoms) and jasmine (which supposedly makes cigarettes taste unsavory). Also in November, Jones Soda of Seattle manufactured 6,000 bottles of its new “Turkey & Gravy” soda–a thick, murky beverage that reportedly approximates the flavor of a pureed Thanksgiving meal. Most of the bottling run was put up for sale online, where it sold out in hours; within a few days two-packs were being bid up past 60 dollars on eBay.

Weird Science

Freelance writer Jean Lund, 51, interviewed for a November Boston Globe story on Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome, said that one of the worst things about the condition is that even doctors rarely take it seriously. According to the story, persistent arousal is intensely uncomfortable and unrelated to desire–in fact, it can make sex an unfulfilling chore, since it neither increases before an orgasm nor subsides afterward. Among the suspected causes: seizures, side effects from psychopharmaceuticals, and irregular connections between certain veins and arteries. “It’s just a horror,” said a 71-year-old sufferer. “This never stops, it never lets up.”

In the Last Month

In Lincoln, Nebraska, a 21-year-old woman was ticketed for public nudity because she’d been naked in a downtown bar, but the only evidence police could provide was a picture of the woman, naked, in the bar, which she’d posted herself on the Internet. In Wichita, Kansas, two armed robbers kicked in a 39-year-old woman’s door but backed off after she told them she had epilepsy; one of the men has a cousin who’s similarly afflicted, and he convinced his partner to call it a night. And in Owensboro, Kentucky, a 36-year-old woman was arrested for stealing 50 antique glass eyes (worth about $2,500 altogether, though they’re very difficult to resell) from a hospital exhibit.

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