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News of the Weird


The sound of silence: In June, after the British musical group the Planets introduced a 60-second piece of complete silence on its latest album, representatives of the estate of composer John Cage, who once wrote "4'33"" (273 seconds of silence), threatened to sue the group for ripping Cage off (but failed, said the group, to specify which 60 of the 273 seconds it thought had been pilfered). Said Mike Batt of the Planets: "Mine is a much better silent piece. I (am) able to say in one minute what [took Cage] four minutes and 33 seconds."

I scream for ice cream: In the last four months, residents of four cities have confronted ice-cream truck drivers over allegedly excessive noise and late hours on residential routes, and especially over the repeated playing of "Turkey in the Straw" (although "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" have also been mentioned). Drivers were ticketed in Brunswick, Ga., and Hartford, Conn.; a protest was being organized in Green Bay, Wis.; and in London, England, about 50 ice-cream truck drivers blocked a downtown street, blaring their theme music at full blast, in protest of the city's clamping down on their licenses. Suffering for their art: The annual "Fierce!" festival in London in May featured "Franco B" lightly slicing up his abdomen and keeping the wounds open for six hours, inviting patrons to observe the blood in order to "re-examine their own notions of what's beautiful and what's suffering." And in May, the Artspace gallery in Sydney, Australia, featured artist Mike Parr having his only arm nailed to a wall, for 36 hours, to show "the possibility of confloating the body." And performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli chopped off a pinky finger in June at a festival in Cali, Colombia, to symbolize the nation's loss after a popular politician was recently kidnapped by the revolutionary group

FARC.Government in action: While health insurance plans have long been cut back drastically all over the country, the self-funded insurance of the county employees of Niagara County, N.Y., reimbursed more than $1.25 million since 1999 for its workers' purely cosmetic face peels, breast implants and liposuction; taxpayers finally realized what was going on when property taxes shot up by 20 percent this year.

Least competent criminals: St. Petersburg, Fla., police arrested Calvin Calhoun, 25, Lavance Palmer, 22, and Kelvin Charles, 22, in July and charged them with using a stolen credit card in a ticket-scalping scheme. The men, from Miami, bought 180 Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball tickets for a weekend series against the Seattle Mariners, intending to resell them, but there was almost no demand because attendance at Devil Rays' games is among the poorest in the major leagues, and in fact there were 127,000 empty seats for the four games.

Almost rehabilitated: In April in Fayetteville, N.C., Shirley Brigman Turriff, 63, was sentenced to six years in prison for embezzling $1.1 million from the law firm for which she had been office manager (Anderson Johnson), which had hired her shortly after she had been convicted for embezzling from her first employer. Anderson Johnson was fully aware that she was an embezzler when it hired her because one of its lawyers had defended her in that earlier case.Mother knows breast: In January 2001, News of the Weird reported that a 6-year-old boy had been removed from his mother's home in Champaign, Ill., because she insisted on continuing to breastfeed him. A judge later released the boy back to the mother, and in July 2002, the woman, Lynn Stuckey, 34, appeared on an ABC's "Good Morning America" videotape showing that she is still to this day breastfeeding him (every two weeks or so). Stuckey continues to call it "a perfectly normal practice": "We are your standard middle-class American family, and we're not doing anything wrong."

Also, in the last month: Police officer Thomas Richmond applied mouth-to-snout CPR and revived an apparently dead pit bull that had been hit by a car (West Bridgewater, Mass.). A 34-year-old man on his maiden sky dive let out a joyous whoop at 9,000 feet, which dislodged his false teeth, which fell and could not be found (Addison, Vt.). 2002 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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