Lead Story

As of February, postal employee and professional magician George Reiger of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had 1,579 Disney-related tattoos, including 102 dalmatians (on his right leg) and the whale from Pinocchio (on his belly); he adds about one a week, the latest a portrait of Ellen DeGeneres, who voiced one of the characters in Finding Nemo (on his right knee). Reiger owns 19,000 items of memorabilia and spends about $50,000 a year on his Disney habit–even the doorways in his house are shaped like Mickey Mouse ears. He’s critical both of Disney chairman Michael Eisner and of Comcast, which is trying to buy the company, insisting that they’re indifferent to the original Disney magic. “A lot of people ask me,” Reiger says, “if I got [a tattoo of Eisner], where would I put it?”

Least Competent Good Ol’ Boys

In December in Dade County, Georgia, six men needed two tries to set fire to a cross in the yard of a white woman whose daughter was dating a biracial man (they’d shrouded the cross in white cloth and doused it with transmission fluid). Once the fire finally got going, it threatened to spread to the nearby home of an elderly couple; one of the men panicked and called 911, which led to the arrest of all six. Though Dade County is still 99.4 percent white–it’s sometimes known as the “state of Dade” for its isolation and insularity–Sheriff Philip Street tactfully denounced the cross burning as “old school.”

Life Imitates Christine

On January 30, 20-year-old Angel Eck was driving into Denver on Interstate 70 in her Pontiac Sunfire when the car began to accelerate on its own. Stuck in overdrive by a damaged clutch, it topped 100 mph, forcing Eck to careen off the road to avoid rear-ending other vehicles; the brakes had no effect, the emergency brake didn’t work, and she couldn’t shut off the engine. Seventy-five miles and 45 minutes later, two Denver police officers–employing a tactic they joked they’d learned from CHiPs–slowed Eck down by cutting her off in their cruiser, instructing her by cell phone to hit their rear bumper, and then braking for both cars until they came to a stop. A few days later, idling in neutral at Green Mountain Auto Service, Eck’s Sunfire spontaneously dropped into gear and nearly pinned a mechanic against a wall.

Latest Religious Messages

Update: Indian sadhu Lotan Baba made News of the Weird in 1995 for covering the 2,485 miles from his home in Ratlam to a shrine in the foothills of the Himalayas not by walking but by lying on the ground and rolling (he averaged about seven miles a day for more than eight months). In September 2003 he set out on a 1,500-mile journey, this time rolling from Ratlam to Lahore, Pakistan, where he says he hopes to thank President Pervez Musharraf for his role in the India-Pakistan peace process. Just as on his earlier pilgrimage, he claims he will not eat for the duration, only take sips of water and smoke an occasional cigarette.

In September the New Yorker ran a story on the prerelease controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Among Gibson’s statements: “There is no salvation for those outside the [Catholic] Church. . . . Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian. . . . [S]he believes in God, she knows Jesus. . . . And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it [to heaven]; she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.”

Bright Ideas

Mile High Outfitters, a backcountry expedition organizer based in Challis, Idaho, has petitioned the U.S. Forest Service for permission to install hot tubs for its clients at three locations in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a two-million-acre swath of unspoiled public land. The tubs would be set up in the spring and dismantled in the fall, and each would require 1,250 gallons of water, to be heated by wood-burning stove and replenished every three days. Unfortunately, no motorized vehicles are permitted in the wilderness area.

According to city planner Jenni Faulkner and landfill manager Mike Niewind, the town of Burnsville, Minnesota, hopes to expand its landfill from 81 to 119 acres by 2007 and in the process both cut its electric bill and stimulate its economy: within the enormous mass of garbage, layers of plastic sheeting will trap methane gas, which will be piped off and burned at a generating station capable of powering 3,000 homes; the top of the 100-foot-high trash plateau will be covered with soil and sculpted into an 18-hole golf course with scenic views of the Minnesota River basin.

In the Last Month

In Akron, Ohio, 27-year-old Farrah Daly–who’d told police, upon her arrest for allegedly helping to steal $1 million in diamonds from her employer, that she was too “cute” to go to prison–was sentenced to three years behind bars. And in Evansville, Indiana, a 30-year-old man who’d been stopped for speeding claimed that the police search of his 18-month-old son’s diaper, which turned up a stash of crack cocaine, had been unconstitutional–but officers defended their actions, saying they’d noticed a “large load” in the diaper.

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