Editor Frank Kelly Rich's bimonthly tribute to overdrinking – the magazine Modern Drunkard – is a 50,000-circulation glossy "about drinking and only about drinking, and not just drinking, but heavy drinking," he told the Los Angeles Times in January. Recent features included biographies of great drunks, a dictionary of bar slang, and a testimonial on how drinking cured one man's fear of flying. "The most accomplished people," Rich said, "have been drinkers," and he implied that people in the Middle East ought to drink more. Calling serious drinkers an "oppressed minority," Rich said he himself has about eight drinks a day, sometimes up to 30 (when he frequently blacks out). Said Rich's wife, of her husband's career, "When you find your calling, you have to go with it."


Austrian artist Muhammad Mueller started a project in November, as political commentary, in which two people at a time dig a tunnel from the city of Graz to Gradec, Slovenia, 42 miles away, using only shovels; he estimated the venture would take 5,600 years. And in July, a federal appeals court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency's leak-safety standards for the long-awaited nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain; the EPA had found the proposed site safe until the year 12,000 A.D., but the court said that wasn't long enough and noted that one National Academy of Sciences report recommended protection until the year 302,000 A.D.


In the fall of 2004, Ron Nunn Elementary school (Brentwood, Calif.) ended its "Golden Circle" program, which officials soured on because it honored only kids with good grades, and established in its place the "Eagle Society," which also celebrates personal, nonacademic achievements. The principal said he could not bear to see the sad faces of kids left out of the Golden Circle and wanted "all of our kids to be honored."


The city council of Ota (north of Tokyo) implemented a policy in January to require that male city workers take six separate weeks of paid leave sometime before their new child's first birthday so that (said one official) "men (get) involved in raising children." The men will also have to submit written reports on child-rearing.


Olga Abramovich, 49, was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October and charged as the person who, in a rage, had painted as many as 20 swastikas on buildings and cars in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods; police said Abramovich, a Christian, was upset that her ex-husband had remarried to a Jewish woman 14 years younger than she. And Julie Rose, 37, was convicted of assault in Yeovil, England, in October, for angrily slapping a new neighbor; the victim had apparently provoked Rose by declining her welcome-to-the-neighborhood suggestion that the Roses and the new couple engage in mate-swapping.


According to an October Los Angeles Times dispatch from Yemen, one government solution to "tam(e) the violent underside" of the nation's tribal culture is to fund itinerant poets to roam the country and channel lawlessness into constructive thoughts. Illustrative of most Yemenis' opposition to both American influence and their own government is this verse: "The Arab army is just to protect the leaders/They build their rule on the pain of the people/Democracy is for the rich/If the poor man tries it, they'll call him a thief." And in October, National Liberty Fund published a book of poems by Sami Al-Arian, written from his cell while awaiting trial in Florida on federal charges of aiding the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Sample: "(Was it) worth playing global police/even if it meant half-million Iraqis deceased."


Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's November project to bring peace to strife-torn southern provinces fell short of its goal, as resistance by separatists hardened. Shinawatra had airdropped about 100 million origami paper peace doves from military aircraft, some with prize coupons attached, hoping to distract people from their grievances.


The renegade Mormon splinter group headed by Warren Jeffs and holed up mostly in a few small towns in Utah and Arizona was largely responsible for the collapse of the Bank of Ephraim, according to Utah regulators interviewed for a December Associated Press report. Church officials had taken a secret oath to borrow, furiously, as much money as they could, because according to Jeffs, the world was about to end anyway, and they wouldn't have to pay it back.


Antonio Hernandez, 29, pleaded guilty in Salt Lake City in December to hijacking a Greyhound bus that had just left Green River, Utah, intending to use it to smash into his estranged wife's trailer home. He was stopped at the hijack scene, but if he hadn't been captured, he would still have had to drive the bus all the way to the woman's home, in Lexington, Neb., 500 miles away.


Sylvain Didier (a mechanic by profession) was found guilty of sexual assault in Longueuil, Quebec, in December stemming from a self-invented procedure (the "Slimtronic") he was offering to female customers of his wife's weight-loss clinic. The Slimtronic supposedly took off pounds via electrical currents passed through rubber patches placed on the vulva, and one woman who agreed to the procedure filed charges against Didier after he kept moving the patches around with his probing fingers.


Howard Goldstein, 47, was charged with murdering his landlord and fellow Orthodox Jew, Rabbi Rahamin Sultan, in October in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a rent dispute, and police said that when they knocked on the door to investigate Sultan's disappearance, Goldstein answered dressed (according to the New York Post) in a gray blouse "with a plunging neckline," slacks and pink high-heeled shoes, and wearing bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow "that clashed with his long beard." A search of his room turned up pre-beard snapshots of Goldstein in an array of fashions and wigs.

More by Chuck Shepherd


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