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Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

Dec. 8, 2015
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Can’t Possibly Be True    

Mexican artist Renato Garza Cervera’s work usually involves realistic-looking figures created to startle (e.g., a “piggy bank” as a scowling hog of a man down on all fours), but his recent “gang member” floor rugs seem a career peak. Rejecting bear rugs and lion rugs, Cervera’s “Of Genuine Contemporary Beast” project features exquisitely constructed, life-size, snarling, naked, heavily tattooed men’s bodies (as if skinned) as rugs, representing “modern” beasts—Salvadorean gang members. Actually, Cervera has stated that he intended sympathy: “Societies always invent new beasts in order to make others responsible for their problems.”                                        

The Finer Points of the Law           

* Justice! In September, federal judge Cathy Seibel ordered the town of Liberty, N.Y. (100 miles from New York City), to stand trial for failure to teach police and prosecutors proper free-speech law—thus giving plaintiff Willian Barboza revenge for his arrest for writing a “crude” message on the speeding ticket he paid three years ago. Seibel ruled that Barboza’s phrase (urging intercourse upon the manure-like town) posed no “imminent” threat and, besides, was obviously just a complaint about government services. Seibel also raised the possibility that money damages will come from the prosecutor’s own pocket.  

* Dr. Bilgin Çiftçi was fired in October from Turkey’s Public Health Institution and later charged with violating one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s favorite laws—against “insulting” the president (which carries a maximum four-year prison term)—because Çiftçi had joined a Turkish Facebook thread that was denouncing Erdoğan with facial images comparing him to the Lord of the Rings character Gollum. The judge, admitting his unfamiliarity, appointed a five-person group of experts to advise him whether the Erdoğan-Gollum comparison was “insulting.” (The Lord of the Rings film director Peter Jackson immediately protested that the images depict not Gollum but his benign alter ego Smeagol, making the comparison obviously uninsulting.)                                      


The Job of the Researcher              

Scientists from Australia's University of Queensland have developed “swimsuits” to act as diapers for six giant loggerhead turtles as they study their diets by examining their feces. “To our great surprise,” said one researcher, they “worked perfectly.” The suits were easy to put on, comfortable for the sea turtles to wear (according to the researchers, not the turtles), looked great (ditto), and the researchers were “able to collect the entire fecal sample,” he bragged to a London Daily Telegraph reporter in Sydney.                                             


Least Competent Criminals           

Damon Matthews, 19, surrendered to police in Bay City, Mich., in November and confessed to robbing a 7-Eleven. His sister had convinced Matthews that police would soon arrive to apprehend him because, even though he wore a ski-mask "disguise," Matthews is 7-foot-4 and a former high school classmate of the clerk. It was left unreported why Matthews thought the mask would help him.                                            


Recurring Themes            

* Once again, someone minding his own business here became royalty elsewhere. This time, it was a 32-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia, man with a wife and baby, working as a landscaper—until he learned that a 6,000-person tribe in Ghana wanted him for their king. Thus, Eric Manu, a nephew of the king who died in 2013, was asked in July 2015 to come take over (part-time, at least), and by tradition, Manu’s Canadian wife will join him as queen (“mother of all mothers”). Manu said the couple will do whatever they can to improve lives in their village.           

* Achan Agit presents a worst-case scenario for the weirdness in how some state governments over-regulate professions, and she is currently suing the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences for burdening her right to make a living. As forbes.com reported in October, Achan was a war refugee from what is currently South Sudan and is now a permanent resident of the United States—and skilled in braiding hair, which she learned from elders when she was 5. However, a licensed braider in Iowa (maximum penalty if caught unlicensed: prison, plus a $10,000 fine) needs a high school diploma or equivalent and 2,100 hours of cosmetology coursework—more than the combined training for dental assistants, bus drivers, EMTs, child care workers and security guards—and for which Iowa’s 27 cosmetology “schools” might charge up to $22,000.               




Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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