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News of the Weird



Dinking accomplishments: Editor Frank Kelly Rich's bimonthly tribute to overdrinking : the magazine Modern Drunkard : is a 50,000-circulation glossy "about drinking and only about drinking, and not just drinking, but heavy drinking," he told the Los Angeles Times in January. Recent features included biographies of great drunks, a dictionary of bar slang, and a testimonial on how drinking cured one man's fear of flying. "The most accomplished people," Rich said, "have been drinkers," and he implied that people in the Middle East ought to drink more. Calling serious drinkers an "oppressed minority," Rich said he himself has about eight drinks a day, sometimes up to 30 (when he frequently blacks out). Said Rich's wife, of her husband's career, "When you find your calling, you have to go with it."

Time Is of the Essence: Austrian artist Muhammad Mueller started a project in November, as political commentary, in which two people at a time dig a tunnel from the city of Graz to Gradec, Slovenia, 42 miles away, using only shovels; he estimated the venture would take 5,600 years. And in July, a federal appeals court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency's leak-safety standards for the long-awaited nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain; the EPA had found the proposed site safe until the year 12,000 A.D., but the court said that wasn't long enough (and noted that one National Academy of Sciences report recommended protection until the year 302,000 A.D.)

Improvised Poetic Devices: According to an October Los Angeles Times dispatch from Yemen, one government solution to tame "the violent underside" of the nation's tribal culture is to fund itinerant poets to roam the country and channel lawlessness into constructive thoughts. Illustrative of most Yemenis' opposition to both American influence and their own government is this verse: "The Arab army is just to protect the leaders/They build their rule on the pain of the people/Democracy is for the rich/If the poor man tries it, they'll call him a thief." (And in October, National Liberty Fund published a book of poems by Sami Al-Arian, written from his cell while awaiting trial in Florida on federal charges of aiding the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Sample: "[Was it] worth playing global police/even if it meant half-million Iraqis deceased.")

Bright Ideas: Antonio Hernandez, 29, pleaded guilty in Salt Lake City in December to hijacking a Greyhound bus that had just left Green River, Utah, intending to use it to smash into his estranged wife's trailer home. He was stopped at the hijack scene, but if he hadn't been captured, he would still have had to drive the bus all the way to the woman's home, in Lexington, Neb., about 500 miles away.

People Different From Us: Howard Goldstein, 47, was charged with murdering his landlord and fellow Orthodox Jew, Rabbi Rahamin Sultan, in October in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a rent dispute, and police said that when they knocked on the door to investigate Sultan's disappearance, Goldstein answered dressed (according to the New York Post) in a gray blouse "with a plunging neckline," slacks, and pink high-heeled shoes, and wearing bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow "that clashed with his long beard." A search of his room turned up pre-beard snapshots of Goldstein in an array of fashions and wigs.

Least Competent Perverts: Stephen Kauff, 33, was arrested in Westerville, Ohio, in December in a police Internet sex sting but told officers, when he arrived for a long-arranged meeting with an alleged "14-year-old girl" at an apartment complex, that he really wasn't interested in sex but was just curious whether police actually do set up sex stings over the Internet. (Answer: Yes.) And Ian Finlay, 28, also caught in an Internet sex sting, had denied that he had sex on his mind when he showed up for a long-arranged meeting with a "15-year-old girl" at a McDonald's in Hempfield, Pa.; Finlay claimed that he knew "she" was a cop and wanted to outsmart the cop by pretending to be a sex predator and that he was angry at being arrested before he could reveal his "hoax." (He was convicted in January.)

Obsessions: British garbage collector Tim Byrne is not only eager to get to work every day, according to a report in London's Sun newspaper, but for the past 11 years, he has voluntarily hauled trash alongside local collectors while on holiday in vacation spots such as Tenerife and Mallorca. Said Byrne, "Rubbish plays such a large role in my life that I simply don't need to [get away from it].©

2005 Chuck Shepherd

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