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Among the victims of New Year's celebrations this year were people in Phoenix, Atlanta, and New Orleans, as well as in Italy and Angola, who were killed after bullets from celebratory gunshots fell back to earth, and six people in Japan who choked to death on sticky rice cakes, a traditional New Year's Eve dish. But in Islamabad, Pakistan, the government banned New Year's celebrations after Islamic fundamentalists threatened to smash the cars of people suspected of having any fun.

Questionable Judgments

In November a man in Jerusalem, suffering from impotency and frustrated with his treatments, improperly injected himself with a serum and suffered a 36-hour erection. He was hospitalized until the swelling subsided. Two days later in London accountant Arthur Spears, who was notorious for shunning doctors, died after the cable he had inserted into his urethra to combat a pain caused an infection.

In November Mayor Carty Finkbeiner of Toledo told reporters that the best solution for the increasing noise at the airport was to have deaf people buy the homes of the complainers. (Several days later he apologized.)

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Muslim sect Tehrik-a-Nifaz in Pakistan declared in May that proper Muslims should reject the government's traffic rules and begin driving their cars on the right side of the road (everyone else in Pakistan drives on the left side). There were so many serious accidents the sect was forced to rescind the decree two weeks later.

On Oprah Winfrey in September Merrill Shepro returned items he'd stolen from Marguerite Greer after admitting that he had burglarized her home. Immediately after the show several police departments began investigating Shepro for unsolved burglaries in the Chicago area, where Shepro lives. Later in the month a grand jury indicted him.

A city equipment driver in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana, named Bobby Bouffine had resigned under fire in October. According to city officials, Bouffine had spent several hours in an X-rated video store during a workday, parking the city's $100,000, eight-ton, 25-foot-long pothole-filling machine in the store's parking lot.

Cockpit transcripts of the March crash of an Aeroflot jet in Siberia, released in September, show that the pilot's 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter were constantly playing with the controls during the flight. One of the last communications was the girl's question, "Daddy, can I turn this?"

An alleged drug courier was arrested near Rigaud, Quebec, in August after his car broke down and police found 700 pounds of hashish stuffed in the trunk. The driver had a flat tire but couldn't replace it because the spare had been removed to increase storage space for the hashish. When the tire went flat, the weight in the trunk broke the car's rear suspension. The courier got away, but the hashish he abandoned was worth 5.2 million Canadian dollars.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

In October India's leading Hindu holy "rolling man," Lotan Baba, made a pilgrimage to England in his quest for world peace and eternal salvation, and demonstrated his craft by rolling on his side for three miles through the middle of a town. He says he has rolled more than 4,000 kilometers in India, through deserts and in the middle of monsoons. Said a shopkeeper quoted by Reuters News Service, "I just looked outside and there was this idiot rolling along the ground."

The New York Times reported in October that country-western dancing enthusiast Les Burns of Waxhaw, North Carolina, had received a patent for an electronic sensor that is worn on the arms to alert the dancer that his posture is bad--when he is, according to Burns, "leaning hopelessly to one side or another."

According to a report in the Washington City Paper, in August Harry Finley opened the Museum of Menstruation in the basement of his Hyattsville, Maryland, home, where he set up displays of 20th-century feminine hygiene products and advertisements. Finley, who explains his obsession only by saying that he finds menstruation interesting, plans a Kotex retrospective for 1995.

In September Professor Malcolm Wilkins of Glasgow University told a conference at Loughborough University in England that vegetarians are cruel to plants. "Plants are sensitive organisms," he said, claiming that some plants emit crackling noises (inaudible to humans) when they need water. Wilkins said he's especially annoyed at vegetarians who "don't like animals being killed. I say to them, "You are perfectly happy to slice up a tomato or cucumber. Where is your logic?"'

Albert Cohen of Troy, New York, was awarded a patent in October for an artificial arm that can be attached to a desk, floor, or wall and is designed primarily to be struck by sports fans in need of giving someone a high five when their favorite team enjoys momentary success.

Miscellaneous Eloquence

University of Washington astrophysicist Dr. Bruce H. Margon, quoted in the New York Times on the continuing inability of science to measure or infer what "blackness" in space is, even though they know it must be matter because of its properties: "It's a fairly embarrassing situation to admit that we can't find 90 percent of the universe."

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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