News of the Weird

Lead Story
*Allegheny High School in Clifton Forge, Virginia (which is seventeen percent black), suspended two boys and a girl (all white) who wore Ku Klux Klan outfits to school as their Halloween costumes. In Saybrook, Illinois, however, the Lions Club awarded its prize for best schoolkid Halloween costume to Virginia Payne, age fourteen, for her KKK costume, which sported the slogans "White Power" and "Kill Them All." (The Lions later apologized, and Virginia said her costume was an anti-racism statement because she had a teardrop painted on her cheek.)

Cultural Diversity
*From an interview by a Russian weekly magazine in September with the chairman of Chechnya's Islamic Supreme Court, as reported in the Economist: "[Chechnya's president] has said that touching a woman is, for Chechens, the worst crime of all. Even when doing traditional dancing, the Chechen male must not touch his female partner. But under sharia [Muslim] law, [as punishment] you beat young girls and cut their hair off." The Supreme Court chairman responded: "We don't beat them with our bare hands. We use sticks."

*In October a justice of the Northern Territory (Australia) Supreme Court refused to release aborigine Steven Barnes, age 28, for tribal justice, instead holding him under Australian law for the murder of a 23-year-old nephew. Tribal elders had secured Barnes's consent to the traditional punishment for his crime, which included having members of his family punch him in the face, club him with heavy hunting boomerangs, sling the boomerangs at him, and finally spear him in both thighs four or five times.

*A celebration of St. Efigenica in the small town of Canete, Peru, in September was to include the "Great Gastronomic Kitty Festival" (a cat-tasting event), but animal-lover organizations won a successful last-minute appeal. Cats remain a delicacy in town, though; as one citizen told a reporter: "Street cats are the best. They have more flavor."

Great Art
*In a feature article in June, Bangkok's largest English-language newspaper, the Nation, lamented how far Thailand is behind the West in performance art, owing to cultural inhibitions. Nonetheless, mentioned in the article were a woman named Mink who coats the floor with toothpaste and wallows in it to signify, she said, that we all have to wriggle out of difficult situations in order to survive, and the father of Thai performance art Inson Wongsam, who in the 1960s sculpted an elephant out of a block of ice by precise urination.

*In June, to dramatize the dwindling availability of middle-income housing on prestigious Cape Cod, Massachusetts, artist Jay Critchley outfitted an old septic tank in his yard (six feet in diameter, five feet high) with carpeting, a table, a chair, and a television set; entry is through a narrow hole in the ground. His point was that this is just about the only kind of housing the less than filthy rich can afford. According to a Boston Globe reporter: "Burning incense almost masked the telltale aroma."

Family Feud
*In June a judge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ordered the Covey family and the Rosencutter family to jointly operate the 357-grave cemetery that bears both their names and to which both families have legitimate claims. The decision follows a May 25 fistfight and hair-pulling wrestling match engaged in by as many as 150 combatants at the graveyard.

-- By Chuck Shepherd


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