Lead Stories

In Berlin at the end of April, the annual World Pole-Sitting Championships began; contestants hope to break the record, set last year, of 196 days. They must sit on a 15-by-23-inch platform atop an eight-foot pole, 24 hours a day, and video cameras and electronic sensors disqualify anyone who so much as lifts a buttock (except during ten-minute rest-room breaks, permitted every two hours). The event’s organizer said that the Dutch are the sport’s purists: in Dutch competitions, “you don’t get to sit on a board, and you can’t come down.”

On May 6 three appellants appeared before Canada’s supreme court to challenge drug convictions by arguing for the decriminalization of marijuana possession; two chose to have lawyers represent them, but David Malmo-Levine, longtime publisher of Potshots magazine, spoke for himself. He waved hello to the justices and then addressed them for 40 minutes, explaining that his “substance orientation,” like sexual orientation, shouldn’t be discriminated against in law. Afterward he told reporters that his entire outfit was made of hemp, and that he had taken a few hits of hashish before speaking. Said Malmo-Levine, “I was happy, hungry and relaxed, but I was not impaired.”

The Things People Believe

In York, Pennsylvania, trial is nearing for Matthew Turner, 22, who was arrested in August after allegedly stabbing a man and pursuing him through town on foot, a knife in each hand, because he wanted to harvest one of the man’s adrenal glands–Turner was convinced it would bring on a weeklong high if licked or eaten.

Compelling Explanations

In April in New York City, the five Republicans on the board of elections killed a plan to repair 7,000 voting machines, which had failed to record about 60,000 votes in the 2000 election. Though an estimated 80 percent of the missing votes would’ve gone to Democrats, commissioner Stephen Weiner, a Republican, denied that the board’s disinterest in properly functioning machines was evidence of political bias: “There are some people who don’t want [their vote] register[ed], but who report to the polls for civic reasons.”

At a May court appearance in Melbourne, Australia, Larry Mendonca was found guilty of keeping unsanitary food at his Rajah Sahib Tavern and Tandoori Grill, despite his claims that the spoiled items inspectors discovered were his, not part of the restaurant’s stock. A plate of sliced chilies topped with mold? His. A moldy tub of beet-and-vinegar salad dressing? His. A jar of chutney infested with fly larvae? For his personal use.

Addressing a February incident at a middle school in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan–a girl performed oral sex on a boy during a science class, and both were suspended–the superintendent and the principal wrote to parents: “Just like our country was shocked into awareness when never-before acts of terrorism occurred in New York City, our district was shocked into awareness when middle-school students engaged in indecent acts in the classroom.” (The boy’s parents have sued, claiming that their son, a special education student, was “victimized” by the girl–his leg was in a cast, and even if he’d been able-bodied, he’d have had no “legal duty” to resist.)

People Different From Us

In March in Tavares, Florida, convicted killer Roderick Ferrell, 23, asked for a new trial, claiming he’d had an inadequate defense. In 1996 he’d admitted he was the “sire” of a teenage vampire clan, that he helped initiates “cross over” via blood-drinking rituals, and that he’d killed the parents of a clan member with a crowbar. Ferrell believes that his attorneys let him down by failing to capitalize on his mental defects and drug use. (During his confession he mentioned he’d been seeing a psychiatrist, and was asked who’d told him to get help; Ferrell replied, “The school, the sheriff’s office, my mom. Basically, the whole city.”)

Masters of Disguise

In February in North Long Beach, California, a man escaped after robbing a Wienerschnitzel drive-through; witnesses had difficulty describing him to police because he’d smeared chocolate pudding on his face. And in April, Edwin Lockhart, 48, received a ten-year sentence for trying to hold up a Sun Trust bank in Palatka, Florida; he was identified despite having stuck several sanitary napkins to his face.

Readers’ Choice

On April 30, Microsoft’s British division announced it was developing the iLoo–a portable outhouse equipped with an Internet-ready computer and plasma screen, to be unveiled for the summer festival season. Microsoft’s stateside headquarters promptly told reporters the announcement had been a hoax; after consulting further with the British division, though, HQ conceded that the iLoo had been a real project but insisted it was being discontinued.

In the Last Month

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, police chief Beverly Lennen announced that activists who wanted to be arrested “to make their statement” during a visit by President Bush could reserve an arrest time up front to avoid a possible confrontation with officers. And in Copenhagen, Denmark, the museum director who’d housed a controversial installation by Marco Evaristti–each of the artwork’s ten functional blenders contained a live goldfish, and patrons were invited to “do battle with their conscience”–was acquitted of animal cruelty because the judge reasoned that the two unlucky fish pureed by visitors had died instantly.

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