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British TV guide: In December the BBC tried one more time to save the 1980s hit show One Man and His Dog; nothing but shepherds and their dogs herding sheep into pens in competition. Producers tried to jazz it up by equipping some sheep with microphones. And last fall saw the premiere of the British-made documentary Hidden Love: Animal Passions. It reported on members of Missouri's "zoophile" community (i.e., humans romantically involved with animals), including an interview with an uncloseted zoophile gushing over his "wife," a horse named Pixel. Said one activist, "We are not sick at all. Zoosexuality is [merely] an alternative lifestyle."

In January London's Daily Telegraph reported on government-funded research that shows that within ten years countries could require car manufacturers to install devices that would use satellite technology to control the maximum speed that cars could travel depending on traffic, highway design, and driving conditions.

Latest Nearly Ultimate Wisdom

Convicted murderer William "Cody" Neal, at his sentencing hearing in Golden, Colorado, in September: "I [accept] responsibility for the [murder]. If I lose my life, I can live with that." And an unnamed woman in Appleton, Wisconsin, when police came in December to take her children away because of a complaint that she had given her 11-year-old daughter a "swirly" (held her head in a flushing toilet): "I haven't had a vacation in 13 years. Go ahead and take them."

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

At a meeting of African leaders in Tripoli in September, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi unveiled a prototype "car of the future" that he said he had personally engineered: the low-slung, five-passenger "Rocket of the Jamahiriya," which features front and rear ends designed to deflect collisions, supposedly making it the world's safest car. Libya would produce 50,000 cars a year priced in the "upper-middle-class" range.

A September Deutsch Presse-Agentur report profiled Rainer Thoenes, 33, of the German village of Kalkar, who works as a hairdresser for cows being readied for cattle shows. "The trick," said Thoenes, "is to highlight the cow's strong points and hide the weak ones," but his professional standards prevent him from supplying artificial parts.

In December the Village Voice ran a story about the hand-carved potato dildos of California artist "Pommela de Terre," who said spuds are more sensual than carrots or commercial dildos. De Terre adds lemon juice to prevent the potatoes from changing color plus olive oil for flexibility and said she's never had a potato break during use.

Weird Science

In November the Associated Press reported on stabbing victim Michael Hill, 44, of Jacksonville, Florida. Hill is slowly recovering from an incident two years ago in which a neighbor jammed an eight-inch serrated blade into his skull. Doctors pulled it out without major damage, but Hill still takes pain and seizure medications and has trouble with emotions and short-term memory. Hill's sister, at whose house Hill was staying when he was stabbed, believes the attack was intended for her husband.

In September engineer Henry Payne of Palm Bay, Florida, renewed his call to the scientific community to test his theory that bombarding developing hurricanes with nuclear weapons would cause them to dissipate. Payne first made the claim in 1997, but a federal weather official said too many bombs would be needed, resulting in serious nuclear fallout.

Recent addictions: In September in Haymarket, England, Daisy Hales pleaded guilty to stealing books to feed her paper-eating habit. In October researchers told a conference in Los Angeles that more men than women suffer from "body dysmorphic disorder," which causes people to see themselves as horribly ugly and sometimes undergo radical plastic surgery. And Canada's National Post reported in October on polydipsia (self-induced water intoxication), sufferers of which guzzle water until they get high, at which point the disorder becomes life-threatening. Some polydipsiacs even drink from toilet tanks for a fix.

People Who Are Not Like You and Me

Subletters Stuart and Susan Levy were at last fined $8,000 in December by a New York appeals court. They had refused to move from their rented Manhattan apartment after being given 30 days' notice to vacate by the principal tenant in March 1985. It took seven years for the tenant to get a formal ruling that the Levys had to move. After that, the Levys stalled for four more years by claiming that the principal tenant should pay all of their legal fees.

Recurring Themes

Just before hurricane season in 1998, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his 700 Club TV audience that God would visit hurricanes and tornadoes upon the city of Orlando for sponsoring that year's "Gay Days" festival. In fact, 1998's first hurricane hit Robertson's headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In November 1999, the supreme Islamic leader in Afghanistan said that if Americans did not "cease hostility against the Taliban," the United States would suffer earthquakes and storms. As proof the leader pointed to September's Hurricane Floyd.

Least Competent Criminals

Jesus Gutierrez, 17, was arrested in Springfield, Oregon, in October, and Lawrence Eaddy was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, in July, both charged with carjackings. Both realized too late that they'd stolen cars with stick shifts--which they couldn't drive. And a man who robbed a bank in Columbia, Tennessee, in December managed to escape even though he'd locked the key inside the stolen getaway car he'd left idling.

In the Last Month

A Canadian judge denied a work permit to an "unqualified" immigrant stripper from Romania, saying she had only worked topless while the Canadian job required full nudity. A 792-square-foot home on a 2,800-square-foot lot in Palo Alto, California, went on the market for $409,000 and was expected to sell for more. Britain's nuclear agency said a kids' Christmas exhibit built by nuclear-plant employees was safe even though it was made of containers that once held radioactive waste. A one-year-old girl in Winnipeg idly punching numbers on a telephone keypad dialed 911, bringing police to her home, where her father was hiding out on a parole violation. A 20-year-old man, picked up on a bad-check charge in Crossville, Tennessee, was arrested again for swiping a door handle off a squad car as a souvenir.

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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