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In April Sony Pictures Studios sought a court order to keep Raymond R. Taylor off the set of the TV show Wheel of Fortune. Taylor, who was a contestant in 1993, keeps coming to the tapings, sneaking onto the set, and annoying the audience and staff; he's managed to get his face shown on the air four times.

The New York Times, describing several civil wars now raging in Zaire as President Mobutu's 30-year reign ends, reported in April on 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 are circulating about how the mere threat of the Mai-Mai's appearance causes forces to retreat and surrender. However, the Times went on to report, "When the 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."

Also in April, the Associated Press reported that the United Arab Emirates' National Avian Research Center, funded at a generous level by ruler Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, has hired scientists from around the world to use state-of-the-art tracking to save the endangered houbara bustard bird. However, the sheik's main concern appears to be that there are enough birds for rich Arab hunters.

Great Art!

In an October performance at the Kitchen in New York City, the Tokyo-based theatrical company OM2 set up 11 mobile pens inside which the audience sat while the 20 cast members stared at them and moved the cages from place to place. The New York Times said the goals of the piece were "blurring the line between artist and audience, and the ever-popular audience discomfort."

In March South Korean artist Bul Lee's display of rotting fish in sealed bags and glass cabinets was pulled by officials at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City after only a few hours because the museum's 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 he left town. Kulik holed up in a cage wearing only a dog collar and exhibiting 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 audience members.

In a February show at San Francisco's Capp Street Project building, artist Glen Seator used 115 tons of gravel, 30 tons of asphalt, and 100 tons of sand to produce an exact scale model of the outside of the Capp Street Project building and the adjoining street. Seator re-created details down to the placement of poster staples on a telephone pole. And sculptor Lowell Davis, who made News of the Weird in 1995 when he burned down his studio because he was dissatisfied with his career, finished constructing a 50-acre town made up of old buildings he had bought elsewhere and moved to the middle of a Missouri cornfield.

In March University of Pittsburgh art history teacher Jack Sheffler put three tons of Hostess Cupcakes and Sno Balls into the university library's 113-square-foot gallery to point out the similarities between ancient architecture and pop art. And last winter the Institute of Visual Art in New York City toured six cities with its Yugo Art show featuring new uses for the very unpopular car, including a piano, a fireplace, a church confessional, and a car wash with working shower, all made out of discarded models.

In a May show at a SoHo gallery in New York City, Bill Scanga showed "taxidermized" dead mice--propped up in tiny chairs or on the floor--gazing at artwork in miniature 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 zoo-like setting.

In March Penn State University student Christine Enedy presented her work, "25 Years of Virginity...A Self-Portrait," to the consternation of at least one state senator. The work, supposedly a monument to the importance of Catholicism in her life, consists of 25 pairs of underwear with red crosses sewn into the crotches.

Can't Possibly Be True

In November a jury in Dallas awarded about $15 million to two men who were badly injured when their car rear-ended another vehicle that had stopped in a traffic lane to read American Airlines' flight information signs at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The jury said the crash was mainly the airline's fault for putting the signs up. American was also assessed an additional $10 million in punitive damages.

In March former magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, 44, passed away unexpectedly about a week after his memoir went on sale. Bauby had been completely paralyzed since 1995 as the result of a stroke and dictated the entire 137-page book by blinking his left eye.

Inexplicable

The New York Times reported in December that Odell Sheppard, a "middle-aged handyman," had just completed his ninth consecutive year of incarceration in Chicago's Cook County Jail even though he has not been charged with a crime. He was sent there for failing to reveal the whereabouts of his daughter Deborah, 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

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

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 by Shawn Belschwender.

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