News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Public relations executive Jim O'Connor opened the Cuss Control Academy in Chicago in September; he charges $300 for a five-day program promoting patience and less-hostile language. In a Chicago Sun-Times story about the class, a Northwestern University professor pointed out that discouraging profanity might create "a loss of linguistic vigor" and that Americans "insist on [speaking] the way we like."

*Rev. John Wayne "Punkin" Brown, Jr., age 34, died on October 3 of a rattlesnake bite he received while ministering at the Rock House Holiness Church in northeast Alabama. In a notable book about snake-handling preachers in the South (Salvation on Sand Mountain), author Dennis Covington called Brown the "mad monk," the one most "mired in the ... bloodlust of the patriarchs." His wife died the same way three years ago, at a church in Kentucky.

News Germany Doesn't Need
*A German television network reported in July that, for the past fifteen years, a waste disposal company has been turning the incinerated remains of miscarried fetuses, along with other hospital waste, into material for use in road construction. The regional health minister said she thought the practice was "morally incorrect."

Lonely Guys
*Seattle, July: After a night of drinking, Donald R. Wood III, age 27, fell six floors down an elevator shaft and was not discovered for five days (he survived). Breezewood, Pennsylvania, August: Michael Giovanetti went over an embankment in a one-car accident and was not able to crawl out of his mangled car for four days. He finally made it up a 75-foot slope, and a motorist stopped to help. Tokyo, August: A 23-year-old Chinese stowaway survived a three-hour airline flight by clinging to the landing gear in subzero temperatures at altitudes of as much as six miles. Upon landing he was immediately deported.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
*At a London trade show in September, the NCR Corporation unveiled the MicroWeb, a combination microwave oven/TV/computer with Internet access. The company hopes to consumer-test it soon and will offer it for sale for about $700. Said a spokesman: "As the pizza is happily spinning around, you can ... check your bank balance, send an e-mail, or watch the last five minutes of Friends."

*In May the president of Create Corporation, a Japanese alibi telephone answering service, said he was acquiring clients who were so ashamed of having been laid off from work that they pay the service to create an illusory job and title for them so callers will think they are still employed. (Most of the firm's previous clients were prostitutes who needed to convince their friends and parents they work for a respectable company.)

Least Competent Criminals
*William Lee Beck, age 41, was arrested in August and charged with robbing Starvin' Steve's market in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. According to police, Beck entered the store with a large rock in his hand, grabbed a twelve-pack of beer, and said he'd pay for it the next day. When the clerk objected, Beck raised the rock, said, "How about I crush your skull with this rock?" and left. A half-hour later a woman went to the store and timidly handed the clerk a check to pay for the beer. Sheriff's deputies went to the woman's home and, after considerable difficulty waking him up, took Beck away.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

 
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