News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*The New York Times, describing several civil disturbances now raging in Zaire as President Mobutu's 30-year reign ends, reported in April about the "quixotic on-and-off conflict waged by Mai-Mai guerrillas, who hide in the jungle and smoke large quantities of marijuana." People fear the Mai-Mai because it is believed that bullets turn to water before hitting them, and stories circulate about how the mere threat of the Mai-Mai presence causes forces to retreat and surrender. But, the Times report continued, "When Mai-Mai were killed in [a recent battle], it was speculated that they might recently have had sex, which, some Zairians say, destroys the Mai-Mai's protection from bullets for a day or two."

*Sony Pictures Studios sought a court order in April to keep Raymond R. Taylor off the set of the TV show Wheel of Fortune. He had been a contestant in 1993 but keeps coming to the tapings, sneaking onto the set and annoying the audience and staff. He has managed to get his face shown on the air four times.

Great Art
*The Tokyo-based theatrical company OM2, in a performance at the Kitchen in New York City in October, set up eleven mobile pens inside which the audience sat while the twenty cast members stared at them and moved the cages from place to place. The goals, said the New York Times, were "blurring the line between artists and audience, and the ever-popular audience discomfort."

*South Korean artist Bul Lee's display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in March, which consisted only of rotting fish in sealed bags and glass cabinets, was abruptly pulled by officials after only several hours' display because the ventilation equipment failed. The show was titled "Majestic Splendor."

*In April Russian performance artist Oleg Kulik opened a two-week show, "I Bite America and America Bites Me," in which he stayed in character as a dog from the time his plane landed in New York City until the time he left town. Kulik holed up in a gallery cage, wearing only a dog collar, and exhibited the entire gamut of dog behaviors and emotions; visitors could enter the cage to play with him only after putting on protective padding in case Kulik bit them. Kulik has been arrested in three countries for biting observers.

*In May at a SoHo gallery in New York City, Bill Scanga showed "taxidermized" dead mice propped up in tiny chairs or on the floor. They were gazing at artwork in miniature rooms that were exact replicas of rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, watching a small TV set that played Tom and Jerry cartoons, and observing live mice in small cages in a zoolike setting.

*The New York Times reported in December that Odell Sheppard, a "middle-aged handyman," had just passed his ninth consecutive year of incarceration in Cook County Jail in Chicago, even though he has not been charged with a crime. He was sent to jail for failing to reveal the whereabouts of his daughter Deborah, who was the subject of a child-custody dispute between Sheppard and Deborah's mother. Sheppard maintains he has no idea where the girl is.

Bottom of the Gene Pool
*Toby L. Sanders, age 34, was charged with aggravated battery in Carmi, Illinois, in January for chopping off the right middle finger of Lester E. Massey, age 35. According to police, each man agreed to let the other chop off a finger, but apparently Sanders reneged after he saw how bad Massey's hand looked. (Police said alcohol was involved in the plan.)

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd