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News of the Weird

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LEAD STORY: Jeanette Hall, 29, one of the world's few female taxidermists, enjoyed a mainstream practice in Nevada (elk heads, bear rugs, even some novelties like deer testicles) until she decided recently to create sofa pillows with one side made from the actual fur of her clients' dogs and cats (horses and cows handled, also), for fees of $65 to $150. Though her customers were satisfied ("Most people," Hall said, "were happy that Fluffy was still on the couch"), Hall said others considered her work "sick," and she was deluged with "hundreds of hate e-mails from all over the globe," from "people threatening to burn down my house." (Consequently, she has temporarily retired her pillow work.)

Government in Action: Tattoo/piercing parlor owner Paul Collurafici lost a contentious race in April for mayor of the Chicago suburb River Grove, Ill., the victim not so much of his opponent, Marilynn May, but of her ardent supporter, local official Raymond Bernero, who ranted publicly about Collurafici's work. Bernero disclosed that Collurafici's website previously displayed photos of genital and nipple piercings, among other examples of his craft. Said Bernero, "I'm a big fan of vaginas, but this is really gross," "with stuff stuck through there." Bernero later apologized for his candor and requested that people stop asking him if there was an actual "fan club" they could join.

Cutting-Edge Cow Research: Animal welfare professors at Britain's Bristol University, preparing for a June conference on compassion in world farming, said they will present research to show that cows experience pain, fear and happiness; can form friendships in a herd; are good problem-solvers (with encephalograph-measured brainwaves suddenly active when they searched for a path to food); and can hold grudges against other cows for months or years.

Least Competent Criminals: Joseph R. Holland, 23, who escaped in February from prison in Schuylkill County, Pa. (near Allentown), but was captured the following day, and wrote to a judge in March disputing the escape charge against him: 1) The warden never told him he couldn't escape, he said (in his syntax-challenged petition). "[I] was never provided with any orientation, a handbook or ever signed any contract ... I was never informed to follow any rules, cause I knew no rules!" 2) "I wasn't gone over 24 hours, and all my personal belongings were ever here. I had every intention of coming back, who's to say any different?" 3) And besides, he said, the guards actually opened the gate for him (even though it was really for another inmate coming in, with Holland managing to sneak out at the same time).

Update: A News of the Weird icon, New York public-transit devotee Darius McCollum, 39, was sentenced in April to three years in prison for his latest commandeering of a train and subsequent joyride. Court records showed this was his 20th incident involving trains or buses, an obsession that has so far caused him to spend about a third of his life behind bars. "I just love trains," he told arresting officers. (A week later, police in Melbourne, Australia, charged a 15-year-old boy with two recent incidents of commandeering municipal trams and acting out the role of transit driver, picking up and discharging passengers on the routes. He told police he hopes to be a tram driver when he grows up.)

Recurring Themes: News of the Weird has reported several times on the celebratory but bloody Easter week crucifixions practiced in the Philippines, especially in San Pedro Cutud, which has become an international tourist destination for the exhibitions. This year, Pampanga province police officials decided to fold department discipline into the ceremonies by offering 20 wayward officers who had earlier been absent without leave to do penance by carrying wooden crosses in the festival, and that officers with more than 120 absent days volunteer to be crucified, after which they would be reinstated.

Well-Put: 1) Manuel Fraga, a local official from Galicia in northern Spain, speaking in January in support of the Vatican's tough position on contraception: "I have spent my life telling the truth without condoms, and I plan to die without ever having worn one." 2) Science executive Douglas Carpenter (of the high-tech defense contractor QuantumSphere), on the difficulty of convincing the Pentagon to graduate to weapons made of "nanometals," which pack much more explosive power than current weapons: "Getting the government to change the way they kill people is difficult."

© 2005 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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