This smells like a success

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Daily Variety reported in January that Britain's Pathe Pictures had scheduled an April shooting date for the $7 million comedy "Thunderpants." The film is described as the story of "an 11-year-old boy whose amazing ability `to break wind` leads him first to fame and then to death row, before it helps him to fulfill his ambition of becoming an astronaut."

Takes a licking and ...

Twenty-two-year-old Devin Grant survived virtual target practice by three Atlanta police officers on Dec. 14, catching 16 bullets in the neck, back, arms and leg, with 24 separate wounds, but was out of the hospital seven days later. One bullet severed an artery, but Grant's muscularity slowed the release of blood, allowing him to remain alive until he could be treated. (He went immediately from hospital to jail, however; the shots were fired after Grant allegedly pointed a gun at officers following a 20-mile automobile chase, which started, police said, when Grant attempted to evade an arrest warrant for a traffic violation.)

Sex symbols

Welsh entrepreneur Ben Holst formed a company recently to distribute pillows shaped like breasts (the TitPillow Co.), following a grant from the Prince's Trust (headed, on paper at least, by Prince Charles). And at the stage show "Puppetry of the Penis," which ran for three months recently in London's 600-seat Whitehall Theater, nude actors artistically twisted their private parts into shapes resembling, for example, the Olympic torch and a hamburger. And a November feminist conference at Penn State University featured workshops and exhibits organized on a theme of regaining control of a word the organizers regard as empowering but which is now a despised vulgarity (calling their event "Cuntfest").

Someone to watch over me

In November, the Russian Orthodox Church named the apostle Matthew as the patron saint of the country's tax police. The church felt the group needed an image boost because it employees resemble SWAT teams, dressing in black masks as they barge into businesses to audit them. And in October, the Vatican announced a patron saint for politicians (St. Thomas More of England, who was beheaded in 1535), the latest of nearly 300 named by Pope John Paul II, and Vatican observers believe St. Isidore of Seville will soon be named the patron saint of the Internet.

Highway to heaven

A 45-year-old woman who was killed as she walked onto I-55 near Sherman, Ill., in October was revealed to have been a member of a Jehovah's Witnesses breakaway group that believes they should test their faith (much like snake handlers do) by standing in the middle of traffic. A few days before her fatal demonstration of faith, she had been pulled to safety from the same highway as she attempted to proselytize to drivers zooming by.

Stalk is cheap

New York state Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, co-sponsor of anti-stalking legislation, pled guilty in January to harassing her ex-boyfriend in 1999, including, the man said, making dozens of hang-up phone calls; bursting into his home in the middle of the night; tailgating him in a car; and posing as a cosmetics saleswoman in order to get the phone number of the man's new girlfriend.

Blind justice

In October, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that, just because a man had been convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing his 8-year-old stepdaughter, he did not necessarily pose a threat to molest his own children, aged 3 and 5, and thus could retain custody of them. And the same month in Chicago, juvenile court judge Michael Brown ruled that a father could have an unsupervised visit with his three adopted sons even though recently accused of sexually abusing other foster children under his care.

Stored-up anger

In December, Yokohama, Japan, shopkeeper Akira Ishiguro, annoyed at shoppers who are "teasers," allegedly made a woman get on her knees and apologize to him because she did not want to buy the coat she had just been handling. Ishiguro had once locked a woman inside the store until she agreed to buy something, and in fact pressured the coat-handling woman into changing her mind and handing over about $25 as a down payment.

Take up a collection

Super-messy homes have been a News of the Weird theme since its first year in 1988 (reporting on a San Jose, Calif., couple and their adult son, who collected garbage from dumps to store at home and in a growing number of storage lockers). In December 2000, a married couple (both well-paid U.S. Department of Labor employees) in Fairfax County, Va., were ordered out of their three-story home by authorities because of the mess. Trash was so heavy that walls had separated from ceilings; cleanup crews had to crawl on their stomachs to get to some of the garbage; and feral cats, rabid raccoons and rats (a nest in the oven and one rodent weighing nearly 3 pounds) ran wild. As she witnessed the county's cleanup, the wife moaned that she was losing "everything that was precious to me."

Burning desires

In November in Plainfield, Ind., a space-heater fire wiped out George Marchiando's two-story dream house that he had spent all his spare time over the last 10 years building and which was three-fourths finished.

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