News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In May Walter Scott Knieriemen, who admitted breaking into a woman's home in Wheeling, West Virginia, was acquitted of burglary charges after a jury apparently found that he lacked criminal intent. A psychiatrist testified that Knieriemen suffered from a childhood-based sexual dysfunction that compelled him to grab a pair of leather gloves he had recently seen the woman wear.

*The London newspaper the Guardian reported in May about the enormous television audiences in Brazil watching the nightly Jerry Springer-like show Ratinho Livre (roughly, The Mouse, Unleashed), a forum for the downtrodden. Among recent guests were patients with horrible medical conditions begging for otherwise-unaffordable treatment: an eight-year-old boy with 21 tumors in his mouth and a woman whose eyes were skewered and ears lopped off in a domestic fight.

*Cafe Ke'ilu ("Cafe Make-Believe") opened in a trendy section of Tel Aviv, Israel, in April with tables, chairs, plates, silverware, menus, and servers, but no food or drink. Explained manager Nir Caspi (who calls the experience "conceptual dining"), people come to be seen but not to eat. The menu, designed by top-rated chef Phillipe Kaufman, lets diners order exquisite dishes (eel mousse, pomegranate salad) "served" on empty platters.

May I Return These Flowers?
*On April 23 Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare interrupted his play-by-play to announce the death of actor James Earl Jones, about whom Frattare rhapsodized briefly for his role in the baseball film Field of Dreams. The actual decedent was Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray.

How Many Mangoes Did We Get for Gary Sheffield?
*In March the Romanian soccer team Jiul Petrosani sold midfielder Ion Radu to the Valcea team for about $2500 worth of pork. Jiul Petrosani had already traded defenseman Liviu Baicea for ten soccer balls.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
*In February Christian Poincheval, a radio station manager in Le Mans, France, introduced Petit Lutin toilet paper for the "reading room," on which are painted short articles about French current affairs, geography, and culture, done in no-stain ink.

*Recent restaurant openings: in Tokyo the trendy Alcatraz BC, named for the California prison; diners are handcuffed, eat in cells, and must beg permission from the guards to be allowed to visit the bathroom. And in London, a pill-themed restaurant called the Pharmacy (designed by edgy artist Damien Hirst) with prescription containers everywhere, barstool seats resembling aspirin, and staff dressed as surgeons. ("The challenge," said co-owner Jonathan Kennedy, "is how far you can go before it becomes too much.") And in Singapore, the House of Mao, an otherwise upscale Chinese restaurant but with green-uniformed staff and pictures of Mao Tse-tung.

Thinning the Herd
*In Columbus, Ohio, in May a suspected burglar in his midtwenties was found dead, his body hanging outside a second-floor apartment; he had stubbornly squeezed his head through the burglar bars when his ladder tipped over and he was strangled. And a fifteen-year-old boy in Odenton, Maryland, jokingly holding a gun to his head in front of his girlfriend, shot himself to death in February. He was apparently unfamiliar with semiautomatic pistols; though he had removed the magazine, he didn't realize that one round remained in the chamber.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd