Squatters know best 

Police arrested a squatter couple who had boldly commandeered an unoccupied (but definitely not abandoned) house in isolated Tunbridge, Vt., and had begun elaborately remodeling it. Their work was in keeping with their professed belief that property should be shared rather than privately owned. Jeremiah Sturk, 38, and Rene Hunt, 26, had torn out walls, ripped out plumbing and were starting to redo a bathroom (financed by selling some of the house's antiques) when the owners arrived from their principal home in Massachusetts. Said the arresting officer of the couple: "(They're) definitely (people) with a different mindset."

Car-mic Relief

IBM said its "artificial-passenger" dashboard device might be on the market in three years, helping to make highways safe from dozing drivers by (among other things) shooting a stream of cold water into the driver's face. According to a July issue of New Scientist, when the device detects drowsiness, it launches into jokes and other conversation and automatically rolls down windows, sounds an alarm and changes radio stations.

State of the arts

Tatsumi Orimoto, "a grand old man of Japanese contemporary art," according to a report in London's Observer, said he will be working his signature piece of performance art off and on until the day he dies: It's called "Bread Man," in which Orimoto roams a city's streets with a half-dozen baguettes wrapped tightly around his head to pay homage to the Christian homily of "bread means body."

Several days after Moema Furtado's exhibit opened, municipal officials in Knoxville, Tenn., told her to remove her installation of latex likenesses of large pieces of pulled human skin hanging from the museum's walls and ceiling. Furtado said they were testaments to the horrors of the Holocaust. City official Mickey Foley said that the exhibits reminded her too much of huge, used condoms and that East Tennessee was not ready for that kind of art.

In June, playwright Bob Ernst suffered a setback at his final dress rehearsal for his work, "The John," which was being staged entirely inside a basement men's room at Maritime Hall (capacity: 20 seats). The story is of a middle-aged theatergoer who meets "Death" in a men's room during an intermission of "King Lear." Ernst had officially rented the space, but the only Maritime supervisor with keys to the "theater" had taken the day off. When the room was finally opened, Ernst realized that it had not been cleaned in a while. Nonetheless, the show went on.

Fly the sweaty skies


Among the Cold-War intelligence ideas of the mid-1970s was the British MI5 agency's proposal to station gerbils at airport-terminal gates, in the hope that they would exercise their ability to detect passengers who were unusually sweaty. The agency's reasoning: Such passengers were disproportionately likely to be spies entering Britain. MI5's director-general during that time, Sir Stephen Lander, who spoke at an intelligence-agency conference in June, said the idea was abandoned when the MI5 realized that lots of people who go up in airplanes sweat.

Late, miles high?

London's Steve Bennett continues his quest to become the world's most successful amateur rocket engineer, with all systems go for launching himself into space (to an altitude of 10,000 feet) in a "test flight" scheduled for 2003. Most professional engineers are calling the expedition foolhardy, according to a story reported by the BBC. The more that is known about Bennett's mission (e.g., he recently said it would be a rocket capsule made from a cement mixer, with modest installation and a small computer), the more rocket scientists believe his launch will result in instant death. However, the louder the criticism, the more certain of himself Bennett professes to be. He still rejects conventional preparations such as wind-tunnel tests and g-force tests: "That is what the test flight is for," he said.

Same day deposit

According to the account of police in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Darryl Owens, 33, may be the least intellectually equipped bank robber of the year so far. He walked into a Huntington bank as it was opening at 9 a.m. and approached a teller, demanding money in a threatening manner. The teller told him to go back and get in line with other early arrivals. Owens threatened a second teller, who pulled out a large wad of money and laid it on the counter for him; Owens took about half of it and fled. Before police arrived, Owens walked back into the bank, laid the money on the counter and asked for a $45-money order. The teller, thoroughly confused, told Owens to get out of the bank, which he did, leaving his entire stash on the counter. Police chased down Owens' car a few blocks from the bank and arrested him.

Piss poor politician

Also, in the last month: St. Louis Alderman Irene Smith, reluctant to yield the floor during a filibuster against a redistricting plan, took a restroom break at the podium; she was shielded by aides holding up a quilt. ... A man quietly playing dominoes while seated in a hillside café was knocked unconscious by a wandering cow that fell through the roof (Nevsehir, Turkey). ... The Transport Minister in Abuja, Nigeria, Ojo Maduekwe, while pedaling to a cabinet meeting to promote greater use of bicycles in the traffic-snarled city, was knocked into a ditch when he was hit nearly simultaneously by two passing buses. ... A man was arrested at a store in Plainville, Conn., after surveillance cameras caught him three times urinating, inexplicably, on the back of a man's trousers.

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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