DANGLING MODIFIERS 


News of the Weird has already reported that some people have a fondness for inserting 3-inch steel hooks in their skin and hanging from pulleys for minutes, or even an hour, at a time. In April, about 100 such aficionados attended a gathering in Providence, R.I., and participants seemed thrilled, according to a Reuters dispatch. A Connecticut teen: "It was euphoric. It was spiritual. I'd do it again today if I wasn't so sore." A woman, watching her boyfriend slowly swing: "Look at his face. He's so serene. We've had some really rough times this year, and he needed this really bad." A Canadian man: "The first couple of times, I didn't enjoy it. The first time, I blacked out, and one time I was convulsing. But the third time I got better. I wasn't blacking out anymore."

ROMANCE GETS A TECHNO ASSIST

Almost ready for release is Spanish designer Pep Torres' "Your Turn" washing machine, developed to encourage sharing of housework. Household users, such as a husband and wife, initially register their fingerprints, and Your Turn will not then operate by the same person's print twice in a row. Another product, still in development, is Briton James Larsson's use of lie-detector technology on restaurant utensils so that socially incompetent diners can better gauge how their dinner dates feel about them, by measuring stress as they eat. Reasoned Larsson, "Geeks have major challenges dating."

AFTER THE LIVIN'

Tobin Bros. funeral home in Melbourne, Australia, introduced a rental option this year: a leather-upholstered, chrome-outfitted hearse, with minibar and DVD player, so that the family can relax on the way to the cemetery (with room for the casket in back). Owner Martin Tobin said the van might not be for everyone.

INTO THIN AIRHEADS

Eating disorders have such a hold on many young women that some Internet sites glorify anorexia and bulimia as a quasi-divinity, using religious language to command obedience to a goddess of thinness known as "Ana," according to a May story in Minneapolis' Star Tribune. Said one Minnesota college freshman, "Ana is definitely a higher power, not higher than God, but higher than myself." There are Ana prayers, Ana psalms and Ana commandments. One site has instructions for a ritual at an altar, culminating in a blood contract "with the anorexia deity." An Arizona doctor reported that a 13-year-old anorexia patient suddenly spoke "an incantation, like a hex, as if to scare me off."

FAT CATS FAVOR FAT DUCK

In April, the Fat Duck restaurant, in the countryside west of London, was voted in a poll by 500 industry experts as the world's best. (Specialties include "sardine on toast sorbet" and "leather, oak and tobacco chocolates.") It had rallied from a bad health inspection report the year before, according to The Guardian newspaper, in which it was graded "borderline" for staphylococcus and listeria, and experienced "cross-contamination" and hand-washing problems.

ARMING THE MISSILE

Professor Mikhail Sokolshchik of Russia's National Medical Surgical Center performed a two-stage penile lengthening early this year on a 28-year-old virgin, adding 5 inches to what was an almost dysfunctionally small organ. Sokolshchik first removed the tip and stitched it onto the patient's forearm so that he could graft more tissue onto it (from elsewhere on the arm). After the tip was lengthened, he reattached it to its proper place. According to an April dispatch from Moscow in London's Daily Telegraph, Sokolshchik is optimistic that all functions will be restored, though he said the man will probably be permanently semi-erect.

WORKING OUT THE BUGS

In April, two former Cornell University entomologists, in what they said was a show of respect, named three new species of beetles that feed on slime mold after President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We admire these leaders," said Quentin Wheeler, for their "courage … to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy ... ." The Agathidium bushi are found in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, while the cheneyi and rumsfeldi are native to Mexico.

And a French biologist, writing in an April issue of the journal Nature, described a species of Amazonian tree ant that not only builds complex traps (using plant fibers, regurgitated vegetation and organic mold) but then lies in wait to grab a passing insect with its jaws so that it can stretch it out in the trap in a manner resembling (according to an Agence France-Presse report on the article) "a victim on a medieval rack."

DOC DIZZY, NOT DEVIOUS

In 2001, News of the Weird, summarizing a report in the Chicago Tribune, wrote that physician Krishnaswami Sriram of Lake Forest, Ill., had been charged with 64 counts related to Medicare fraud based on billings for, among other improbabilities, two 70-hour days, one day with 131 house calls, and 32 patient visits subsequent to their dates of death. In April 2005, following hearings on the charges and the sorting out of Sriram's records, federal judge John Darrah absolved Sriram of trying to cheat the government and found him guilty only of "chronically inept" bookkeeping (at a total loss to the government not of $15 million, as prosecutors claimed, but $1,258). Sriram pleaded guilty to three counts and was put on probation.

BLOCKHEAD BEATS BIG HOUSE

Vickey Siles, 35, was arrested in New Haven, Ind., last year and charged with altering a check from the Globe Life and Accident Co. The check was for $1, but Siles had badly obliterated the amount and written in "$4,000,000.00." Furthermore, she believed that she could cash a check for that amount at a neighborhood check-cashing shop, but a clerk alerted authorities. The job was so pitifully done that in March 2005, a judge gave her only a suspended sentence and probation.

MADE YOU LOOK

A Chicago gas-station clerk tricked a robber in February by the simple ploy of telling him there was more money "up there," pointing toward the ceiling. The robber looked, then said, "What are you talking about? There's no money up there." However, there was a surveillance camera there, and police were grateful for a full-face shot of the robber, according to WMAQ-TV.

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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