The silent treatment

In June, after the British musical group The Planets introduced a 60-second piece of complete silence on its latest album, representatives of the estate of composer John Cage, who once wrote "4'33"" (273 seconds of silence), threatened to sue the group for ripping Cage off. But they failed, said the group, to specify which 60 of the 273 seconds it thought had been pilfered. Said Mike Batt of the Planets: "Mine is a much better silent piece. I (am) able to say in one minute what (took Cage) four minutes and 33 seconds."

Chrome wheels of justice

In July, a California Court of Appeal rejected as excessive an arbitration panel's award of about $8,800 per lawyer-hour in fees ($88.5 million total, all from taxpayer funds) "earned" by the attorneys who successfully challenged an unconstitutional state law. Also in July, David L. Brite of California told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that the Florida lawyer he had hired to find his step-grandmother's will did only a few hours' work, at most, yet intended to keep $350,000 (a 25 percent fee) because the will turned out to be worth $1.4 million.

All scream for ice cream

In the last four months, residents of four cities have confronted ice-cream truck drivers over allegedly excessive noise and late hours on residential routes, and especially over the repeated playing of "Turkey in the Straw" (although "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" have also been mentioned). Drivers were ticketed in Brunswick, Ga., and Hartford, Conn.; a protest was being organized in Green Bay, Wis.; and in London, England, about 50 ice-cream truck drivers blocked a downtown street, blaring their theme music at full blast, in protest of the city's clamping down on their licenses.

Suffering for one's art

The annual "Fierce!" festival in London in May featured Mr. "Franco B" lightly slicing up his abdomen and keeping the wounds open for six hours, inviting patrons to observe the blood in order to "re-examine their own notions of what's beautiful and what's suffering." And in May, the Artspace gallery in Sydney, Australia, featured artist Mike Parr having his only arm nailed to a wall, for 36 hours, to show "the possibility of confloating the body." And performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli chopped off a pinky finger in June at a festival in Cali, Colombia, to symbolize the nation's loss after a popular politician was recently kidnapped by the revolutionary group FARC.

A league of their own

St. Petersburg, Fla., police arrested Calvin Calhoun, 25, Lavance Palmer, 22, and Kelvin Charles, 22, in July and charged them with using a stolen credit card in a ticket-scalping scheme. The men, from Miami, bought 180 Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball tickets for a weekend series against the Seattle Mariners, intending to resell them, but there was almost no demand because attendance at Devil Rays' games is among the poorest in the major leagues, and, in fact, there were 127,000 empty seats for the four games.

Sticky fingered

In April in Fayetteville, N.C., Shirley Brigman Turriff, 63, was sentenced to six years in prison for embezzling $1.1 million from the law firm Anderson Johnson, for which she had been office manager. The company had hired her shortly after she had been convicted for embezzling from her first employer. Anderson Johnson was fully aware that she was an embezzler when it hired her because one of its lawyers had defended her in that earlier case.

Laws of nature

In March, Fremont County (Mont.) officials passed a resolution prohibiting "the presence" of grizzly bears within the boundaries of the county. And in May, a Magistrate Anurag Rastogi of the Gurgaon district near New Delhi, India, issued an order forbidding the assembly of four or more pigs. Both the Montana resolution and the Indian order had other sections directed at any humans responsible for introducing the animals into public space, but the above provisions stand alone, seemingly directed at the animals themselves.

Keeping abreast

In January 2001, we reported that a 6-year-old boy had been removed from his mother's home in Champaign, Ill., because she insisted on continuing to breastfeed him. A judge later released the boy back to the mother, and in July 2002, the woman, Lynn Stuckey, 34, appeared on an ABC's "Good Morning America" videotape showing that she is still to this day breastfeeding him (every two weeks or so). Stuckey continues to call it "a perfectly normal practice": "We are your standard middle-class American family, and we're not doing anything wrong."

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