News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In October the New York Times reported on an emerging mental health condition called "uplift anxiety," in which Prozac users who were uplifted by the drug grieve for their former selves because, in the words of a writer who has overcome depression: "The most fundamental aspect of yourself [unhappiness] has been ripped away."

*A pamphlet written by a Utah criminology professor and recommended by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, identifies "excessive preoccupation with social issues, race relations, environmental issues, etc.," as warning signs of marijuana use by children. Also mentioned, according to an October Washington Post report, were more telltale signs: staying out all night, needing more money, and showing interest in Rastafarianism.

Life Imitates Barney Fife
*In July eight inmates escaped from the jail in Rayong, Thailand, while the guards were hunched over a TV set watching the World Cup match between Germany and Croatia. A nearby monitor showed the breakout in progress on the jail's closed-circuit system, but apparently the game was too engrossing for the guards to notice that prisoners were escaping. And in May, a jailer in Clinton County, New York was fired when he rigged one of the prison's closed-circuit monitors so that it would show the final episode of "Seinfeld." No incidents were reported.

Air Travel Ain't What It Used to Be
*Medical tests showed that six-year-old Kyl Hardy was bitten by a poisonous taipan snake in October. According to Hardy and his mother, the incident occurred when he reached under his seat on an Ansett Airlines flight from Melbourne, Australia to Perth to retrieve a lollipop he had dropped. (The snake, which Hardy said felt like a string, was not found.) Also in October, passengers and crew aboard an Air Canada flight to England spent twenty minutes trying to catch a dive-bombing bat that had been carried on to the plane in a passenger's carry-on bag.

Government in Action
*In June, while remodeling city hall in Echo, Oregon, workers ventured into the 4000-square-foot attic, which had apparently been unused since the building opened in 1916. They were astonished to find that pigeons had been roosting there for decades and had been entering through holes in the roof and the windows. It took a professional waste-removal crew a week to clear out the 51U2 tons of droppings. The city manager said, "It's a wonder the ceiling didn't collapse."

*July marked the start of a statewide program called "Better Brains for Babies: Maximizing Georgia's Brain Power." Governor Zell Miller, persuaded by research showing that classical music energizes parts of the brain that might otherwise fall into permanent disuse, is making sure that every baby born in Georgia will receive a classical-music CD. Although Sony supplied the disks for free, the cost-effectiveness of the program was still in question, because Miller also commented, "I've always thought the children of Georgia were the smartest anywhere."

*In May the city of West Haven, Connecticut, installed a flashing "Noise Laws Strictly Enforced" sign in an effort to encourage tranquillity on the three-mile drive along the city's picturesque coastline. Several hours later, the mayor had the sign removed because the generator that powered it was making too much noise.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd