Lead Story

On January 17, the Catholic feast day of Saint Anthony, bonfires burned in celebration in small towns across Italy, and residents of Capena–including children as young as six–lit cigarettes from the fire in their village square, honoring a centuries-old tradition. (Originally everyone smoked dried rosemary, and some still do.) Despite Italy’s recent ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, many Capena parents encouraged the kids, pointing out that they only smoke once a year, but Italian health professionals insist it’s a bad idea to teach children to associate smoking with festivals. (Perhaps they also should’ve reminded everyone that Anthony is the patron saint of grave diggers.)

Thinking Man’s (Alleged) Pervert

In November in Royersford, Pennsylvania, 35-year-old Jon Paul DiVincenzo was arrested for allegedly peeping at girls and women in a restroom at Spring-Ford Intermediate School: he’d apparently repositioned the wall mirrors in the boys’ room, where his presence wouldn’t cause suspicion, and then posted signs claiming the girls’ room was out of order. DiVincenzo stood out of sight in the dark and used the mirrors, which he’d placed in the stalls at just the right angles, to spy on girls using the toilets.

Scenes of the Surreal

In January in Covington, Louisiana, state judge Peter Garcia was driving to city hall when he noticed two women in pink lingerie posing for a professional photo shoot in the municipal cemetery across the street. One of the women was holding a whip, and a man dressed as Elvis was standing nearby. Garcia stopped the car and grabbed his camera to take his own photo, which apparently angered the woman with the whip; unaware Garcia was a judge, she charged his car, called him an asshole, and claimed that what he was doing was against the law. When she started whipping the car, Garcia slowly drove away.

In November, according to a story in the U. of C. newspaper the Chicago Maroon, several gay, lesbian, and transgendered students held an open panel discussion to publicize the need for a greater number of “gender-neutral” campus restrooms. One panelist said he knew people who’d developed bladder infections because being forced to choose between a men’s room or a women’s room bothered them so much that they just didn’t go all day. Panelist Mary Anne Case was particularly disappointed by the stylized figure in a dress used on many women’s rooms: “Going into it implies that we are willing to be associated with that image.”

According to a January Los Angeles Times story, the owners of the Sportfishing bait shop in Marina del Rey, California, reap a windfall once a month or so thanks to a Tibetan Buddhist study group: after meditating on the “liberation of beings,” the Buddhists stop by the shop en masse and buy as much live bait as they can afford–sometimes spending $5,000–and “set it free” in the harbor. Local anglers claim that after the study group passes through they often catch unusually big fish–drawn to the piers, no doubt, by all the liberated squid, sardines, and anchovies.

The Laws of Irony Are Strictly Enforced

In January, convicted murderer Paul Charles Denyer, who’d told police at the time of his arrest that he killed three women because he “just hate[s] ’em,” submitted an application at Barwon Prison (near Lara, Australia) in hopes of receiving hormone treatment and sex-reassignment surgery. (His prospects are dim, however: officials have already denied his request to wear makeup in jail.)

Last summer the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, whose mission is to help unemployed Indianans (many of whom are out of work because their jobs have been outsourced overseas), awarded a $15.2 million computer services contract to Tata America International. The firm was to hire 65 programmers to work on the DWD’s information software starting in November, but by the end of the month state officials had canceled the contract in embarrassment: Tata is a subsidiary of a company based in Mumbai, and the 65 programmers were being brought in from India.

Readers’ Choices

In January near the city of Omsk in Russia, army troops and divers spent several days rescuing ten tons of beer in kegs from a truck that had fallen through the ice on the frozen Irtysh River, using a tank to pull the towrope. (The truck itself slipped back underwater when the rope broke, but no one seemed to care about that.) Also in January in Tainan City, Taiwan, the corpse of a 50-ton, 55-foot-long sperm whale, which was being transported by flatbed truck to a research station, exploded due to a buildup of gases from decomposition and drenched bystanders and nearby cars in an astonishing deluge of stinking intestines and coagulating blood.

In the Last Month

In Heuvelton, New York, a 24-year-old man was charged with several flashing incidents directed at Amish families: he parked his car in front of a house, jumped out naked, and then climbed back in and drove off. (Authorities speculate he targeted the Amish because they wouldn’t have phones to call police.) And a leading Swedish veterinary organization suggested that the increase it’s seen in the rate of bestiality since 1999–it estimates that 200 to 300 pets are injured annually by sexual assaults–has occurred because Sweden banned child pornography that year (but animal sex is still legal).

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