In the news: "Mentally Disabled Taught How to Vote" (a Mainichi Daily News report on how employees at a nursing home in Yokkaiichi, Japan, have for years instructed residents how to print out names of their favorite candidates on ballots) (November). "Woman Gets Probation for Chasing Kids With Dildo" (a Pottstown, Pa., Mercury report about Linda Schultz, 36, engaging in inexplicable conduct in front of three small children and being referred for psychological counseling) (October).
From brainy to brainless: In October, San Francisco artist Jonathon Keats, 32, registered his brain as a sculpture and began selling future contracts on its 6 billion neurons, offering buyers the rights to any creative products it might produce if science learns how to keep it alive after his death. He also wrote a prospectus for investors, with MRI scans showing the idea-fertility of various brain areas. For now, he is selling inexpensive options ($10) to buy a million neurons for $10,000 when he dies; he sold 71 the first day. California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (runner-up to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the October recall election) is not the family's only public figure. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in September, his sister Nao Bustamante, 39, is a prominent performance artist whose work includes (1) wearing a strap-on burrito for men to kneel before and bite in order to absolve themselves of "500 years of white man's guilt" and (2) sticking her head into a plastic bag filled with water and tying it around her neck to resemble a Houdini stunt, to create "an urgent situation to respond to."
Government in action: Norway is different: Lena Skarning, 33, who calls herself a witch, won a government startup grant of the equivalent of US$7,400 for her Oslo-based Forest Witch Magic Consulting business (but conditioned on her refraining from casting evil spells). Said the modest Skarning in October, "I'm [just] an ordinary witch who came up with an original business idea." And in November, a Norwegian court ordered the government to buy a 22-year-old, 4-foot-2-inch man a car because of his severe anxiety about riding public transportation due to his size, which has made him the subject of taunts ever since he was a child. George Duncan was finally fired by the New York Department of Corrections in November, after having taken 744 "sick" days in 15 years (for spikes of high blood pressure), none of which were ever authenticated by doctors examining Duncan afterward. And a week before that, the city of Vicksburg, Miss., took a step to alleviate its own problem with employees' illnesses: Henceforth, city workers will be expected to give 48 hours' notice before taking sick days.
In a September story, the local Spokesman Review reported that putting a stop sign at the Spokane, Wash., junction of Havana Street and Eighth Avenue is tricky because the intersection is subject to the jurisdiction of three different entities. West of the center line of Havana is regulated by the city of Spokane, and east of it by Spokane County, and to stop Eighth Avenue traffic heading west, permission is also needed from incorporated Spokane Valley, which controls land up to the edge of Eighth Avenue. Said resident Ed Weilep, "You get a real thrill going through that intersection."
The big O: News of the Weird reported in 2001 that Dr. Stuart Meloy had inadvertently discovered a side effect of an electrical implant whose purpose is to block spinal pain: It taps into the nerve that produces orgasms in women. By November 2003, Meloy had Food and Drug Administration approval for clinical tests of this "side effect," but said, surprisingly, he was having trouble attracting volunteers at his clinic in Winston-Salem, N.C. He said the only volunteer to that point had had a terrific experience, but that at least eight more women were needed.
Extreme piercings: A 14-year-old boy has made nearly a full recovery after a pal accidentally slung a steel rebar rod at his face; it penetrated 6 inches, between his nose and lip, knocking out two teeth and piercing his tongue (Spokane, Wash., September). And a man miraculously survived an accidental fall from a ladder onto an 18-inch-long auger bit firmly locked into his drill, penetrating his right eye, nudging his brain, and exiting above his ear (Truckee, Calif., August).
God's will: Brian Lawrence, 38, died of a heart attack five days before he was due in court to answer the charge that he and his girlfriend had had sex in New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral in August 2002 as part of a radio station's stunt (September). And eight people on a 16-day sightseeing tour sponsored by their First Baptist Church of Eldorado, Texas, were killed when their bus slammed into a tractor-trailer (Tallulah, La., October). And at least 39 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a stampede of crowds while waiting to ritually bathe their sins away in the holy Godavari River in western India (August).