Lead Stories

British artist Damien Hirst, who has already earned several mentions in News of the Weird (in one case for an exhibit of skinned cattle copulating in formaldehyde), told the Guardian in June that, since giving up drinking six months earlier, he’s discovered a new refinement. Said Hirst: “I can drink, I can take drugs, and I can produce art. But the art starts looking stupid.” (He claims he once decided it’d be a great idea to cover a pig in vibrators and call it “Pork-u-pine.”) Hirst’s next installation, scheduled for London in the fall, will feature Jesus and the apostles as 13 Ping-Pong balls bobbing on fountains of red wine, several pickled bull’s heads, and a six-legged cow entitled His Infinite Wisdom.

On June 28 in Orange County, California, sheriff’s deputy Owen Hall was standing next to a car he’d pulled over when he was struck in the leg with an arrow. Deputies combed the neighborhood and the next day arrested amateur archer Tri Thanh Lam, 44, who’d apparently been practicing in his backyard when one of his shots went awry. He was freed two days later, after authorities determined that the state law criminalizing negligent shooting does not apply to bows.

Things People Believe

In June the Christian Broadcasting Network warned that it was no coincidence that the Bush administration’s pronouncements this spring in support of a Palestinian state were followed by “the worst month of tornadoes in American history” (including 375 in one eight-day stretch); God is punishing the country for condoning the division of Israel, which would contravene His covenant with the Jews. And in May in Brunswick, Georgia, 71-year-old Mary Burgess, who’d inherited a cockapoo and $10,000 to care for it, informed a probate court that God had told her she’d need $50,000 for the dog’s upkeep, despite the fact that the animal is only expected to live seven more years. (Burgess’s projected expenses–$225 a month for haircuts, for instance–actually added up to even more, but she said she’d accept the Lord’s number.)

Government in Action

In April in Frankfort, Kentucky, a pair of bald eagles at the state’s game farm produced an egg–an extremely rare event for captive eagles, who rarely mate (this pair was thought to be sterile). However, staffers destroyed the egg, because allowing it to hatch would have violated the farm’s permit–it’s only allowed to exhibit bald eagles, not raise them. (A federal official said the Kentucky farm should have simply shipped the egg to a facility with the proper permit.) And in May in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Laurie Hanniford was fined $352 for failing to file a state tax return in 2000, when she was 14 years old; she’d earned $316 at a summer job, of which $3.16 had been withheld in local taxes, and no additional tax was due.

People With Issues

In June in Easton, Pennsylvania, 39-year-old Richard James Clader was sentenced to 20 months in prison for a series of episodes on state highways in the first nine months of 2002: a total of 27 people contacted police to report encountering a motorist (identified as Clader) who was blaring his van’s horn and vigorously masturbating. Clader told the judge that he believes the behavior stemmed from feeling neglected by his mother as a child (and by his wife as an adult); he’s now seeing a therapist and claims to be making progress.

Democracy in Action

In May the speaker of the New Zealand house ruled that it was not inappropriate for a member to knit during sessions; another legislator, offended by the decision, asked if it’d be acceptable for him to bring in a carburetor he was working on–and the speaker said yes, he could bring it in, provided he didn’t make too much noise. And in May in Granada, Spain, the Green Party platform for the municipal elections included a proposal to issue “sex vouchers,” which would give young adults half-price hotel rooms in an attempt to encourage healthy intimacy and safe sex (due to a flagging economy, most of the young people in the area still live with their parents).

Least Competent People

In January in Racine, Wisconsin, city and state officials knocked on Angie Anderson’s door to inform her that they were about to net a sickly owl in a tree in her yard; she pointed out that it was a fake owl, not merely ill and immobile, and explained that she’d purchased it two years earlier at Wal-Mart for $14.99.

In the Last Month

In Neustrelitz, Germany, a 67-year-old woman, outraged that Guinness recognized 831 gallstones removed in a single surgery as the world record, promised to submit evidence that she’d had 3,110 stones removed in a 1981 operation (fortunately, she still has most of them). The city government in Tokyo, where space has long been at a premium, put 50 bed-size cemetery plots on sale (the first such public offer since 1960) for prices ranging from $35,000 to $80,000. And in Cambridge, England, 35-year-old Gary Cowan, a career criminal with 184 convictions, confessed to three more crimes just before his scheduled release from a six-year sentence–he hopes to stay in jail long enough to finish a catering course, so he can run his father’s restaurant when he gets out.

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