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A Tokyo correspondent for the Times of London reported in May on a new Yamaha product called MyRoom. Priced from around $4,200 to $5,500 depending on options, MyRoom is a soundproof enclosure with 27 square feet of floor space designed to be set up as a freestanding study, workshop, or home theater within a typically cramped Japanese dwelling. The article pointed to two sociological trends in Japan that might create demand: the impending retirement of the first wave of baby-boomer salarymen and the growing number of "parasite singles," twenty- and thirtysomethings who continue to live at home and thus prevent their bedrooms from being repurposed.

Compelling Explanations

James Carroll Bayley, 44, pleaded guilty in May to the murder of his brother Robert last year in Raleigh, North Carolina, and received a sentence of not less than seven years, ten months. Recounting the incident, Bayley said that his brother, whose autopsy revealed a blood alcohol level of .15, tried to force his way into his house, ostensibly to retrieve a loaned power drill. Bayley, who takes antipsychotic medication, said he got out his gun to protect himself and shot Robert "in the right leg to knock him down. Then, after a short time, I shot him in the head to make him dizzy so he would fall."

Things People Believe

As of late May Oran Ambus had been locked in a standoff with the city of Saint Louis for two weeks over his nine-month-old rottweiler, which had escaped from his yard and was being held in the pound. City ordinance requires that a dog be neutered before being released to its owner, but Ambus said that this policy violated his religious freedom: according to his reading of the Book of Leviticus, a neutered dog will not be admitted to heaven.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported in April on Los Angeles Angels first baseman Darin Erstad and his "balance necklace," a leather pouch worn around the neck containing a combination of minerals that (according to its manufacturer) is designed to "achieve alignment of body, mind and spirit" and "address the electro-pollution, toxic vapors, scars, surgeries and traumas to the skin by organizing the quantum nature of man." Erstad, who lost significant time to injuries during the past two seasons, was given the necklace by teammate Steve Finley, known for his age-defying fitness.

Finer Points of the Law

Upholding two prior rulings, a Massachusetts appeals court ruled in May that a man could not sue his former girlfriend for a 1994 incident in which she unexpectedly changed positions during sex and inadvertently fractured his penis, necessitating emergency surgery. The man, identified in court documents only as John Doe, has since suffered from persistent sexual dysfunction, but the appeals panel wrote that a judge or jury couldn't be expected to determine whether specific consensual sexual behavior was reasonable.

Not My Fault

The BBC reported in May on Julie Atkins, 38, of Derby, England, whose three daughters--12, 14, and 16 at the time--all gave birth last year. She told the Sunday Mercury newspaper, "I blame the schools--sex education for young girls should be better." Also in May Tommy Rollins Jr., 26, who allegedly shot Missouri state trooper Brandon Brashear nine times during a traffic stop on Interstate 470 near Kansas City, told reporters, "The society's what caused me to do what I did. Just look at the society we live in."

Ironies

In Eatontown, New Jersey, in March a man (unidentified by police) carjacked a van that turned out to be transporting inmates from Northern State Prison to a highway work detail. (After a 70-mile chase the suspect was captured and arrested on charges that included second-degree eluding.) And after years of complaints by residents of Woodinville, Washington, about the overpowering odors emanating from a local soup factory (particularly on Monday and Tuesday nights, when onion soup was made), in April Stockpot Soups accepted $23.45 million from King County to move its facilities and thus make room for a new sewage-treatment plant.

Least Competent People

In March near Salina, Kansas, Michael Lewis, 27, placed a .22-caliber bullet on a picnic table to see if he could shoot it with his pellet gun. He could: it exploded, wounding him in the groin. Police said alcohol was not involved. And in April Justin Oaks, 21, and his wife were miraculously uninjured after Oaks, apparently paying too much attention to a phone call while driving on Interstate 10 in Tucson, drifted to his right and wedged their Toyota Corolla underneath an 18-wheeler. The car was dragged sideways 800 feet before the truck could stop.

America's Gun Problem

People who recently shot themselves by mistake: convenience-store clerk Bunny Nat, 26, hip, adjusting pistol carried in waistband for protection, lived (Des Moines, April); Gordon Alterton, 21, mouth, fooling around with what he apparently believed to be unloaded handgun, died (Graham, Washington, April); Rodriquez Massett, 18, foot, running from police after allegedly holding up cabdriver, lived (Roswell, Georgia, May); Kole Maxwell, 18, right side (three shots), cleaning pistol, lived (Centre, Alabama, May); unidentified 16-year-old boy, leg, trying to shoot snake he believed was threatening dogs, lived (Port Wentworth, Georgia, June).

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

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