Lead Story

As of October 1 a product called the WC Geist, or “toilet ghost,” had sold two million units in Germany. Intended to reduce bathroom messiness, the device attaches to the underside of a toilet seat; when someone lifts the seat a recorded voice instructs the lifter to urinate sitting down instead. Several different models are available, including one imitating Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. And in August artist Leonard van Munster outfitted toilets in an Amsterdam cafe with similar audio and even more elaborate sensors, enabling them not only to admonish stand-up urinators but to offer, for example, an antismoking message if a user lights up.

Animal Lovers Only

According to an August article in the Washington Post, Maura Hall of Washington, D.C., has spent more than $25,000 on a kidney transplant and postoperative care for Lily, her gray long-haired cat. And an August BBC News dispatch from Sao Paulo reported on veterinarian Edgard Brito and the various cosmetic procedures he offers for dogs and other pets, such as wrinkle reduction, eyebrow correction, and even full face-lifts. While Brito has performed plastic surgery on top competition dogs, he said he draws the line at operations to conceal genetic defects from show judges: “I would never attach an artificial testicle.”

The Sacred Institution of Marriage

The late Mgwanini Molomo was married to the late David Masenta in a posthumous wedding ceremony in the village of Ceres, South Africa, in August. A Reuters report said that family and friends wished to remember them as a “happy couple,” even though, according to police, Masenta had shot the pregnant Molomo, then killed himself.

The Continuing Crisis

California’s budget crisis explained: In August the state legislature reached a compromise with persistent and well organized owners of illegal pet ferrets, which have long been banned in California as potential menaces to wildlife. The proposed law would have granted amnesty to all currently resident ferrets–there may be as many as 500,000–for a $75-a-head registration fee. However, even though the state desperately needs more revenue, this money would have been used only to fund a study on the environmental impact of ferret legalization. (In September Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying that such a study was needed before, not after, ferrets become legal.)

The Associated Press reported in August that three Michigan entrepreneurs, alarmed at the rise in childhood obesity, have released a DVD called My Kid’s First Coach, featuring exercise regimens for children as young as six weeks.

In August, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation rejected an appeal by quadriplegic Mark Fosbrook, ruling that he was too able-bodied to play on the British Paralympic rugby team. Fosbrook has no feet and just two fingers on each hand, but the federation rated his functionality at 4.0, with 3.5 the highest level allowed in Paralympic rugby competition.


A 20-foot-high wall of suds engulfed Jonesboro Road in Dunn, North Carolina, in August, obscuring not only the roadway but at times the telephone lines running alongside. Water-quality officials said the foam was created when heavy rain washed residue from the former site of a detergent factory into an overflowing swamp nearby.

People With Issues

Michael J. Sterkins, 51, of Gray, Louisiana, was arrested in July for five incidents in which he allegedly grabbed girls and women visiting cemeteries and cut off their ponytails. And in June a police search of the Tigard, Oregon, home of 30-year-old Sung Koo Kim–linked to the disappearance of a young woman in Corvallis–turned up over 3,000 pairs of women’s underwear and bras, many bearing tags with dates and names of college dorms; dryer lint from the missing woman’s apartment building laundry room, bagged and labeled with the name of another local woman; and video of two women doing laundry.

Least Competent Criminals

At an August hearing in Calgary, Alberta, in which sex trade workers testified against a 17-year-old male customer who had allegedly committed armed robbery against them, one described the incident that eventually led to the boy’s capture: while he held a knife to the woman’s chest and rummaged through her purse, he came upon an eviction notice, prompting him to give her his phone number in case she wanted to rent the basement apartment in his home.

Recurring Themes

Once again cleaning staff at a museum mistook part of an art installation for garbage and threw it away: this time it was at London’s Tate Britain gallery in June, where a plastic bag of scrap paper and cardboard was an element in Gustav Metzger’s Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art. And once again a person committed suicide by jumping off a building and also killed a pedestrian below: this time a 30-year-old man took a 20-year-old man with him in Nishinomiya, Japan, in August.

Readers’ Choice

In Cumberland County, New Jersey, in August, 42-year-old Kenneth Davis apparently tried to let a six-foot-long blacksnake into the home of Michael File, 26. File’s father saw the snake in the yard, however, stepped on it, and beat it to death with a piece of wood before an enraged Davis allegedly knocked him down. When Michael File came to his dad’s defense, Davis picked up the dead snake and began to whip File with it. File had grabbed a baseball bat and hit Davis in the head by the time authorities arrived. (According to police, alcohol was involved.)

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