Lead Stories

Last month the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that California filmmakers Ray Laticia and Ty Beeson had sold about 10,000 copies of their video Bumfights, which features homeless people (many of them intoxicated) engaging in fistfights and dangerous stunts on the streets of Las Vegas. Some participants say the video is a realistic portrayal of their violent everyday existence, and the filmmakers profess sympathy for their subjects, subtitling the video Cause for Concern.

In April the Denver fire department, responding to an emergency call from the adjacent city of Montbello, discovered that a woman had been trapped in her home when tumbleweeds filled her yard and jammed against her house to a height of 16 feet….And in January, residents of Kennewick, Washington, were deluged with tumbleweeds “as big as Buicks,” according to one man, including a small number that seemed to have come from the highly contaminated Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Beyond Tough Love

Last month in Fairbanks, Alaska, a father pleaded guilty to stuffing so much toilet paper down his seven-month-old daughter’s throat that some of it had to be surgically removed….In April a mother and stepfather in Newark, Delaware, were charged with forcing their 12-year-old boy into a doghouse and blowing cigarette smoke at him through the door….And in March a Miami woman was convicted of attempted second-degree murder after she discovered that her boyfriend had become romantically involved with her 16-year-old daughter, doused the girl with gasoline, and set her on fire, leaving her horribly disfigured.

The Continuing Crisis

Kathy Wallace, coordinator of the Georgetown College beauty pageant in Georgetown, Kentucky, was charged with assault in February after she allegedly roughed up 18-year-old contestant Keaton Lynch Brown. As part of the talent competition, Brown had insisted on lassoing a stuffed pig; another contestant explained, “There was some controversy over whether her talent was ladylike.”

In January the constitutional court of South Africa barred Garreth Prince, a self-proclaimed Rastafarian, from the practice of law, citing his admission that he intends to continue smoking marijuana. Said Prince, “It’s my mission, man. Mandela struggled for 27 years.”

Last month Korean-born artist Hoon Lee licked yellow cake icing off 2,500 square feet of floor in an Omaha art gallery, intending for visitors to “look at the icing and feel a certain way [about the color yellow], whether they know what [that feeling] is or not.”

Least Competent Criminals

Anthony Lanza (whose father was alleged to have been a capo of the Genovese crime family) was on trial in April for driving the getaway car in a murder near Saint Petersburg, Florida, when the jury deadlocked 11-1. Lanza, certain that only one juror stood between him and acquittal, waived his right to a unanimous decision against his attorney’s advice, but the vote turned out to be 11-1 for conviction, and Lanza was sentenced to life in prison.

Last month 21-year-old Amadeo Salguero of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was charged with carjacking after he called one of the alleged victims and, according to police, asked how to hook up the car’s stereo amplifier. Police traced the call to Salguero’s cell phone and arrested him.

Our Civilization in Decline

The restaurant of the brand-new Ritz-Carlton in New York City employs what may be the world’s first water steward, who matches fancy dishes with bottled waters from the restaurant’s collection….In April the education committee of the California State Assembly voted to require that school textbooks be smaller so as not to tax students’ backs….And that same month in Richmond, Virginia, Daniel Lee Zirkle was executed by lethal injection for murdering his daughter and stepdaughter; as a gesture of contrition, Zirkle had asked that his ashes be spread over his victims’ graves, but the girls’ horrified mother obtained a court order preventing the act.

In the Last Month

In Hertfordshire, England, 27 men with outstanding arrest warrants turned themselves in to police so that they could serve their sentences immediately and not miss the World Cup finals….In San Jose, California, a state medical marijuana program was criticized by several participants because of the low quality of the government’s dope….And in South Bronx, New York, crack addicts lounging on a discarded sofa on a side street were shooed off by police and learned to their dismay that they’d been sitting on a hidden cache of cocaine worth $8 million.

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