(NOTE: Chuck Shepherd appeared to be getting too close to his subject matter and thus needs about two more weeks off. Before he left, he picked out some golden oldies to tide you over.)

Commissioners in Florida's Seminole County and Manatee County passed ordinances in 1999 prohibiting public nudity by requiring women to cover at least 25 percent of the area of their breasts and at least 33 percent of the buttocks, with highly detailed instructions as to the points from which each coverage must be measured. (News of the Weird includes this refresher for law enforcement personnel: The formula for the lateral area of a cone is pi times radius times slant height; for the surface area of a sphere, it's pi times radius-squared; and, alas, for a flat surface, it's length times width.)


According to a doctor's experience reported in the December 1997 issue of the journal Biological Therapies in Psychiatry, a 35-year-old female patient receiving a traditional antidepressant was switched to bupropion, supposedly just as effective but without her regular drug's side effect of inhibiting orgasm. "Within one week, her ability to achieve orgasm and her enjoyment of sex had returned to normal," the doctor wrote. "After six weeks, however, she experienced (spontaneously, without physical stimulation) a three-hour orgasm while shopping."


Tim Ekelman, 33, was hospitalized in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1998 with a collapsed lung, a sliced throat and voice-box damage after he, believing there was nothing to it, attempted to swallow a friend's 40-inch-long sword. (A professional sword swallower interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator said he would never stick a sword down his throat without first dulling the edges.) Said Ekelman's girlfriend, "I love him with all my heart, but what a jerk."


The Times of London reported in 1997 that when an employee of the James Beauchamp law firm in Edgbaston, England, recently killed himself, the firm billed his mother $20,000 for the expense of finishing up his office work. Included in that amount was a bill for $2,300 to go to his home to find out why he didn't show up at work (thus finding his body), plus $250 to go to his mother's home, knock on her door and tell her that her son was dead. (After unfavorable publicity, the firm withdrew the bill.)


In 1996, Steven Hicks, 38, and his wife, Diana, 35, were sentenced to six months in jail in Cape May, N.J., for child abandonment. They had been having trouble with their unruly son, Christopher, 13, and while he was hospitalized, they had surreptitiously packed up and moved to Inglewood, Calif.


Diane Parker accompanied husband, Richard W. Parker (who had been accused of drug trafficking), to federal court in Los Angeles for a hearing in 1998. According to friends, Diane was such a believer in her husband's innocence that she had come prepared to put up her investment property and her mother's townhouse to make Richard's bail. However, when the prosecutor recited to the judge facts about Richard's double life that included a mistress and a safe house, Diane's expression changed dramatically within the space of a few minutes. According to a Los Angeles Times account, she removed her wedding ring with a flourish, walked out of court, quickly drove to an Orange County office where the mistress worked and punched her several times before being restrained.


Joseph Kubic Sr., 93, was hospitalized in Stratford, Conn., in 1999 after he tried to punch an additional hole in his belt by hammering a pointy-nosed bullet through it. The bullet fired, ricocheted off a table and hit him in the neck. Four months after that, a 19-year-old man was hospitalized in Salt Lake City after undertaking a personal investigation into the question of whether it is possible to "fire" a .22-caliber bullet by placing it inside a straw and striking it with a hammer. Answer: sometimes (including this time; it went off and hit him in the stomach).


Marsha Watt, a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law and formerly an associate at the prestigious Winston and Strawn law firm in Chicago, was disciplined in 1997 by the Illinois Bar over her then-recent conviction for prostitution (i.e., the kind involving sex, for which her published rate, according to a personals ad cited in her conviction, was roughly three times what the law firm was billing for her services).


From time to time News of the Weird has reported on the fluctuating value of the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni's feces, which he canned in 1961, 30 grams at a time in 90 tins, as art objects (though, over the years, 45 have reportedly exploded). Their price to collectors has varied from about $28,000 for a tin in 1998 to $75,000 in 1993. In June 2002, the Tate Gallery in London excitedly announced it had purchased tin No. 004 for about $38,000. (The price of 30 grams of gold at that time was a little over $300.)


According to a 1996 Seattle Times feature, Robert Shields, 77, of Dayton, Wash., is the author of perhaps the longest personal diary in history, nearly 38 million words on paper stored in 81 cardboard boxes covering the previous 24 years, in five-minute segments. Example: July 25, 1993, 7 a.m.: "I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin." 7:05 a.m.: "Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used 5 sheets of paper."


In 1998, Charles Cornell, 31, won his lawsuit at the High Court in London, England, and was awarded about $100,000 in damages. Cornell's insurance businesses failed when sales plummeted following his automobile accident. In the crash, he received a head injury that his doctors said left him with a gentler, more amiable personality that Cornell proved in court was unsuited for the insurance business.


In Dadeville, Ala., in 1999, Mr. Gabel Taylor, 38, who had just prevailed in an informal Bible-quoting contest, was shot to death by the angry loser.

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