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News of the Weird
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Extreme Worship

Christian stand-up comedian Brad Stine says his muscular GodMen revivals are a reaction to the “wuss-ification” of the Promise Keepers movement and encourage spiritual men to “cowboy-up” and “thank God for testosterone!” According to a December Los Angeles Times report, GodMen celebrates traditional male excesses, such as cussing, raucousness and sexuality. Added a Stine associate, “(F)or heaven’s sake, don’t ask the guys (as Promise Keepers does) to take the hand of the guys next to them.” “Do not think Sunday morning worship. Think Saturday afternoon tailgate.” Back to “Onward Christian Soldiers” rather than Jesus love songs. And tell your wife the rules, Stine says: “Learn to work the toilet seat. (I)f it’s up, put it down.”

Entrepreneurial Spirit!

The Oklahoma City company Skulls Unlimited International is, it claims, the world’s leading supplier of bones -- cleaning and polishing human and animal heads by picking off the tissue by hand and then using dermestid beetles to eat what’s left. Said owner Jay Villemarette, on the greasiness of the human head: “I am not exaggerating. It is nasty.” But, said an employee, you get used to the work: “I’ve been waist-deep in a dead hippopotamus, and I’d rather do that than change diapers.”

Cutting-Edge Inventions: (1) South African inventor Willem van Rensburg has begun to market the Pronto condom, which he promised can be applied directly from wrapper to penis in three seconds (and, with practice, one second). It’s available now only in South Africa, but he has obtained a U.S. patent. (2) On display at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., in October was a $250,000, self-service milking machine (introduced in Europe in 2005) in which the cow wanders in, and lasers and video cameras guide the rubber cups to her teats, with a computer directing the actual milking.

Leading Economic Indicators

  An appeals court in Florida finally applied the brakes to the so-called “contingency fee multiplier” available under state law for lawyers who assist mistreated insurance customers. In extraordinary cases, a lawyer is permitted to recover up to 2 1/2 times the customary fee, which supposedly helps customers with smaller claims to find legal representation. However, the court said the fee is being granted too routinely, and in one October case, a client won his $1,315 claim while his lawyer got $193,750.

Bright Ideas

A Georgetown University student, whose dad bought him a $2.4 million off-campus house and who wants his eight best friends to live (and party) with him, ran up against a Washington, D.C., zoning law permitting no more than six unrelated people per house. In October, after researching the issue, the students filed papers declaring themselves a “church” (The Apostles of O’Neill, after owner Brian O’Neill) because churches are allowed to house up to 15 unrelated people. O’Neill’s dad supports the students, as judged from his testy response to a Washington Post inquiry: “Who says they aren’t a (real) religion?”

Surgeon Michael Koenig of Cologne, Germany, who said he was cheated out of thousands of dollars in fees by women who failed to pay for their breast enlargements, said in October that he had no photos of the women but did have photos of their new chests, and he gave them to the police, hoping they would somehow help in finding the women.

The United Nations Millennium Campaign’s worldwide program to “stand up against poverty” solicited amateur videos for distribution to help dramatize the issue in industrialized nations, but one video drew the attention of a Wall Street Journal reporter in October: Three men were sitting around a table, eating beans and raucously discussing their gas-producing qualities, when the men suddenly turned serious. One looked into the camera and said, “Some folks don’t even have a bowl of beans to eat.” The videomaker said he was “a little disappointed” that his piece was rejected.   Family Values

Christine Marmolejo, 39, of Downers Grove, Ill., pleaded guilty in October to a plot in which she had her 14-year-old son plant marijuana and prescription drugs in the backpack of another boy to embarrass that boy’s mother, with whom Marmolejo had been feuding for years. Marmolejo’s son eventually confessed, and now Marmolejo faces an enhanced penalty since she involved a 14-year-old in drug possession.

New-Age Punishments: Rosewood Elementary School (Rock Hill, S.C.) teacher Daniel Johns was investigated in October for having his students line up and stomp the feet of a classmate, as punishment for the kid’s own foot-stomping. (No criminal charges were filed.) And in a non-classroom incident, Alcorn State University professor Festus Oguhebe was sentenced in Jackson, Miss., in November to two years in prison for disciplining his 11-year-old son by tying his hands and then covering him with ants (which Oguhebe said was a traditional punishment in his native Nigeria).

Christmas Mania (cont’d)

In Mentor, Ohio, firefighters struggled to keep avid Christmas shoppers from continuing to enter the Dillards at Great Lakes Mall after a Dec. 6 electrical fire filled the store with smoke. And in Anderson, S.C., driver David Allen Rodgers, who was driving a float in the town’s Christmas parade on Dec. 3 (despite being inebriated), was arrested after impatiently breaking out of the slow-moving parade line and speeding down Main Street, endangering riders and spectators. And in London, the regional manager of unemployment offices banned traditional Christmas decorations because he did not want his clients (since they are jobless in the holiday season) to feel worse by witnessing any festive spirit.

Least Competent Criminals

(1) The man who stole the safe from a Runza restaurant in Omaha, Neb., in October was forced to abandon it in the middle of a street when he realized his getaway plan (dragging it through town from the back of his car) attracted attention that he had somehow not anticipated. (He fled empty-handed.) (2) Federal inmate Brandon Sample won his appeal in November and is entitled to have on computer disks the public records he requested (rather than the paper copies the Bureau of Prisons was offering). However, Sample still lacks a computer to read them on, and the appeals court ruled that he has no legal right to one.

The Right to Go Through Life Never Being Offended

(1) Last summer, a British Passport Office in Sheffield turned down the application for Hannah Edwards, 5, because her mother had submitted a photograph showing Hannah from the neck up, as prescribed, but wearing a sunsuit that left her shoulders bare. The Passport Office said that Hannah’s exposed skin might be offensive in a Muslim country. (That decision was later overruled, according to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph.) (2) Also in Britain, the Robert Walters employment agency notified its offices in October that the words “vibrant,” “dynamic,” “ambitious,” “energetic,” “experienced” and 17 others must not be used in recruiting ads, lest the company risk lawsuits for age discrimination. ƒç