Lead Stories

According to a July dispatch from the Agence France-Presse news service, on September 9 some citizens of the former Yugoslavia will announce the creation of an Internet version of their country as it was before 1991, complete with citizenship papers and passports. They hope to eventually apply for United Nations membership. Cyber Yugoslavia has already signed up thousands but will not occupy physical space except about 20 square meters somewhere to house its Internet server (www.juga.com).

In April the bank that held the mortgage on Edward J. Brown’s $90,000 home in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, sold it at auction for $60,000 because Brown had neglected to pay the final $324 last year. Brown apparently ignored several letters and phone calls inquiring about the final payment, having mistakenly thought that the bank would be liable for it.

Tesco, Britain’s Most Eccentric Supermarket Chain

In January Tesco’s owner considered allowing its Hastings store to run a nude-shopping night after the normal closing hour but decided not to because of the potential misuse of fresh fruits and vegetables. In May the chain told farmers to grow smaller melons after focus groups reported that large ones made small-busted female customers feel inferior. Also in May employees tested pies ballistically after receiving a surge of requests for recommendations on which kinds were best for throwing (answer: egg custard). In June the chain began sewing instructions on self-exams for testicular cancer into men’s underwear.


In April the administration at Princeton University reaffirmed its appointment of Australian philosophy professor Peter Singer to a prestigious chair in bioethics, saying that “the strength of his teaching and his research” outweighs “any particular point of view” he holds. Singer believes parents should have the right to kill their severely deformed children in the first month of life.

In May the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (disorders affecting the teeth, hair, nails, and sweat glands of children) complained that it was hard enough to raise money for research without Pfizer stealing its abbreviation, “ED,” for a euphemism for impotence. The foundation started using the term in 1981.

In March the Rocky Flats nuclear-waste cleanup site near Denver announced that it was receiving more radioactive waste than it had facilities for and would have to store some of the steel drums in tents, possibly until the year 2006. The Rocky Flats environmental manager said he was confident the tents could withstand 100-mile-per-hour winds and that the most lethal waste would be stored indoors. An official of the neighboring town of Bloomfield called the idea “ridiculous.”

Government in Action

The New York Times disclosed in June that New York City has kept about 2,000 obsolete, nonfunctioning fire hydrants in place to collect revenue from motorists who park too close to them. Supposedly a contractor will begin removing them soon for a fee of about $3,000 each.

Clean Air Act regulations announced by President Clinton in April establish a goal for returning national parks and wilderness areas to preindustrial purity by the year 2064. States don’t have to submit their cleanup plans until the year 2008. Previous Environmental Protection Agency plans called for clean air in national parks by around 2190.

In March the Oklahoma City council agreed to pay a settlement to local video stores after police illegally seized copies of the Oscar-winning movie The Tin Drum, based on Gunter Grass’s classic novel, which looks at life in World War II-era Germany through the eyes of a young boy. The boy, disgusted by the adults around him, uses special powers emanating from the drum to remain young. Oklahoma City police had classified the movie as child porn because of a scene in which the “boy” has sex. The settlement cost Oklahoma City taxpayers $400,000.

Perverted? Yes. Lazy? No.

In May a 32-year-old Austrian man was charged with harassing women with obscene phone calls over the previous three years. He admitted to making 40,000 calls, about 250 per week. One month later Edward Lightfoot, 28, was charged with continuing to make obscene calls to women from a Michigan prison, where he is serving five years for stalking. In his prime, Lightfoot was said to have made as many as 200 obscene calls a day.

Recurring Themes

In 1988 News of the Weird reported on a Japanese inventor who created a “car wash” for humans using a three-pole-and-brush system hooked to a water supply. When someone squeezes between the poles, the machine squirts water and vibrates. In July a Tokyo beauty parlor announced that it had invented the world’s first washing machine for humans: a seven-foot chamber (covering everything but the head) with 13 shower jets. An 18-minute session sells for about $8 and makes the user feel like “a dish in a dishwasher,” according to a recent customer.

Thinning the Herd

In May an 18-year-old man who jumped a turnstile at a Brooklyn subway station was killed while fleeing police when he leaped from the platform into the path of a train coasting into the station. And in Clearwater, Florida, a 23-year-old man, who had been kicked out of the Turtle Club in March for brawling, sneaked back in and leaped off a staircase to kick another man. He was killed when he landed on his head.

In the Last Month

Amnesty International charged that the Myanmar government had imprisoned a three-year-old girl, whom the group called a political prisoner. Sailor Matt Boreham’s attempt to cross the Atlantic solo ended after four miles when he called the Newfoundland coast guard to pick him up because he wasn’t feeling well. A weaving driver in Jerusalem was ticketed after police discovered he was steering with his elbows because he was using two cell phones at the same time. Virginia legislative candidate Al Bedrosian was arraigned on assault and battery charges for spanking a two-year-old kid, not his own, who was running loose in a Roanoke hospital waiting room. A 20-year-old woman in Olathe, Kansas, suffered a broken arm when she stood too close to a passing freight train while lifting her blouse to flash the conductor.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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