Lead Stories

In June, after the British musical group the Planets released an album that included a 60-second track of complete silence, representatives of the estate of composer John Cage threatened to sue the group for plagiarizing Cage’s 4’33”, which is 273 seconds of silence. The group argued that the representatives had failed to specify which 60 of the 273 seconds had been pilfered. “Mine is a much better silent piece,” said Mike Batt of the Planets. “I [am] able to say in one minute what [took Cage] four minutes and 33 seconds.”

In July a California court of appeals overruled an arbitration panel that awarded $88.5 million in taxpayer funds–about $8,800 an hour–to attorneys who successfully challenged the constitutionality of a state law….And that same month David L. Brite of California told the St. Petersburg Times that the Florida lawyer he engaged to find his stepgrandmother’s will did only a few hours’ work but claimed 25 percent of the estate, which is valued at $1.4 million.

Ice Cream Rights

Since April residents of four cities have confronted the drivers of ice cream trucks over excessive noise, late hours on residential routes, and the repetitious playing of “Turkey in the Straw,” “(I Am) The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”…And in London, about 50 ice-cream-truck drivers blocked a downtown street, blaring their music, to protest the city’s clampdown on their licenses.

Great Art!

In May the annual “Fierce!” festival in London featured Mr. “Franco B” lightly slicing his abdomen, keeping the wounds open for six hours, and inviting patrons to observe the blood in order to “reexamine their own notions of what’s beautiful and what’s suffering.”…That same month the Artspace gallery in Sydney, Australia, featured artist Mike Parr with his only arm nailed to a wall for 36 hours, to show “the possibility of confloating the body.”…And in June performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli chopped off a pinky finger at a festival in Cali, Colombia, to symbolize the nation’s loss after a popular politician was kidnapped by the revolutionary group FARC.

For three months this spring New York City’s New Museum of Contemporary Art displayed Belgian artist Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca, a room-sized mechanical rendition of a human intestine that periodically processes food into various components just as the body does; the waste product was then scooped up by an attendant and flushed down a toilet.

Government in Action

Since 1999 the health-care plan of Niagara County, New York, has reimbursed employees more than $1.25 million for face peels, breast implants, and liposuction; this year taxpayers finally realized what was going on after property taxes shot up by 20 percent….And San Francisco elections supervisor Tammy Haygood, fired in April for cost overruns and irregularities, continues to fight for her job so that her husband can maintain his transsexual treatment under the city government’s liberal employee health-care plan.

Least Competent Criminals

Last month in Saint Petersburg, Florida, police charged three Miami men with using a stolen credit card in a ticket-scalping scheme. The men bought 180 tickets for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ series against the Seattle Mariners, intending to resell them, but the Devil Rays have one of the lowest attendance rates in the major leagues, and the four games had a total of 127,000 empty seats.

Attackers Playing for Keeps

In June a woman in Carrollton, Alabama, was charged with attempted murder for a knife attack on her boyfriend that resulted in the mutilation of his buttocks and rectum….In April a 21-year-old disgruntled construction worker in New York City was charged with the pickax slaying of his foreman….And that same month another recently fired construction worker in Miami was charged with attempted murder for shooting his former boss in the chest with a three-foot-long spear gun.

In the Last Month

In Martinsburg, West Virginia, a 13-year-old boy was arrested after he allegedly pulled a gun and robbed a convenience store of a sex magazine….In West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, police officer Thomas Richmond performed mouth-to-snout resuscitation on a pit bull that had been hit by a car….In Chungho, Taiwan, a man identified only as Mr. Hsu was rushed to a hospital from an Internet cafe, suffering from paralysis after playing a computer game for three consecutive days….And in Addison, Vermont, a 34-year-old man making his first sky-dive let out a joyous whoop and dislodged his false teeth, which fell 9,000 feet and could not be located.

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