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News of the Weird

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And there's no gay marriage?: The sacred institution of marriage: In February, Hindus in a village near Pondicherry, India, in a traditional ceremony believed to bring relief to a drought-stricken region, tried to appease the god of rain by "marrying" a neem tree (the bride) to a peepul tree (groom). (In 2002, News of the Weird reported a similar ceremony with two donkeys, and last year, in a wedding to vanquish bad luck from a 9-year-old girl, villagers in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, India, married her off to a dog.) And in Nice, France, in February, Christelle Demichel wed her sweetheart, Eric, in a male-female ceremony. Eric, however, had died in 2002 (killed by a drunk driver). French law allows the marriage to proceed if the paperwork has been completed and if President Chirac approves (which he did).

Are you kidding?: The Galveston, Texas, sheriff's office admitted that Louis Radzielski, 20, had escaped from lockup in December by merely walking out the front door. According to Sheriff Gean Leonard, Radzielski crouched behind a woman who was being legitimately released and remained in step with her as she walked past the two officers working the booking counter. And in January in a Miami courtroom, while the lawyer for defendant Raymond Jessi Snyder vociferously protested a prosecutor's demand that Snyder be locked up pending trial because he was a "flight risk," Snyder slowly eased from his seat and bolted out the door. (He didn't get far.)

A nation of wimps: Donald Johnson sued a West Palm Beach, Fla., Shoney's restaurant for $55,000 because he thought its clam chowder was potato soup; the chowder left him with nightmares. In January, he won $407 in damages. Also in January, Tanisha Torres of Wyandanch, N.J., filed a lawsuit against Radio Shack because she was offended that a clerk had listed her hometown in the store's records by a local joke name, "Crimedanch," which she said makes her feel like a criminal. And William Tremmel filed a lawsuit in September against a company repairing the boardwalk at Virginia Beach, Va., after he used its portable toilet without permission; some of the workers, fed up with strangers using their facility, blocked Tremmel inside for 25 minutes before letting him out. Tremmel wants $100,000 for "mental suffering."

Very edgy: "The Empty Museum" installation by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov consists of four walls, representing the walls of a 19th-century art gallery with nothing on them. According to a New York Times reviewer, "The blank walls and the spotlights suggest the cruel Minimalist reduction and dematerialization of art, and most specifically, perhaps, the death of painting." It is enjoying an apparently successful run through April in New York City.

Budget necessities: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported in January that the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego was hard at work producing a musical theater piece based on the life of serial killer Andrew Cunanan, the 1997 murderer of his former lover, Gianni Versace. The playhouse had received a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the production.

Also, in the last month: A great horned owl that was having trouble surviving in the wild because of cataracts was fitted with contact lenses by a University of Wisconsin-Madison veterinary ophthalmologist. And relatives of a kidnapper's victim, trying to follow ransom instructions, tossed the equivalent of about $600,000 in a sack off a highway overpass but accidentally hit a 57-year-old man on a motorcycle, knocking him to the ground and sending him to the hospital (Taipei, Taiwan). And a 28-year-old motorist escaped serious injury when, on River Road in Beaufort County, S.C., her car was hit by a hippopotamus (which had escaped from a nearby plantation).

2004 CHUCK SHEPHERD

Correction: Three weeks ago, I reported that a convicted sex offender was formerly a teacher at the "prestigious Phillips Academy," but it was the prestigious Phillips Andover Academy that employed him and not the prestigious Phillips Exeter.

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