News of the Weird

Art history repeats itself

In November, prominent performance artist Marina Abramovic, 59, performed "covers" of other performance artists' seminal works (with their permission) in her Seven Easy Pieces show at New York City's Guggenheim Museum. In one, according to a New York Times profile, she covered her head in honey and gold leaf, cradled a dead rabbit and whispered to it about pictures on the wall (original artist: Joseph Beuys). In another, she lay on a metal bed above lighted candles (original artist: Gina Pane). However, she was stymied by the denial of permission for her fondest proposed "cover": Chris Burden's 1973 piece in which his hands were nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen as it was rolled out of a garage.

Rear projection

A judge in Montgomery County, Md., ruled in January that angrily pulling down one's pants and "mooning" a neighbor (even in front of the neighbor's 8-year-old daughter) is not illegal in the state (though the judge did call it "disgusting").

Kiss army

Malaysian Shahimi Abdul Hamid, 33, announced that on March 11, he will, as a matter of Asian pride, challenge the world record for speed-kissing a venomous snake, which is held by an American, and he smooched up a 9-foot-long cobra at his press conference. And last Oct. 31, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune police column, "An employee of a business … complained that a former co-worker had been constantly showing up and kissing his truck, leaving lip marks all over it. Police warned the man to stay away."

Eating your words

Widespread news reports in December at first said a Blue Springs, Mo., woman had "swallowed" her cell phone after an argument with her boyfriend, but of course, miniaturization technology is not quite that advanced. Several days later, Blue Springs police said it was not a swallowing but an attempted cramming and arrested the boyfriend.

No offense

From the Union Democrat (Sonora, Calif.), Nov. 20, 2005: "Big Oak Flat. A woman said an exhaust system stolen from her vehicle was returned and reinstalled." From the Peru (Ind.) Tribune, Oct. 14, 2005: "(A) caller … told the (sheriff's office) a man was in the middle of the road. The man told officers he was looking for his tooth that he lost yesterday while eating peanuts. He thinks he may have tossed it out the car window while he was tossing out peanut shells."

(We) don't drink the water

The Los Angeles Times, after a public records search, found in January that the city's Department of Water and Power had spent $1 million in the last two years in a campaign to convince residents that the city does, indeed, have top-quality municipal water, yet its employees spent $88,000 of taxpayer money during the same period on commercial bottled water.

Double Dope

If the December robbery of a pharmacy went down the way McMinnville, Ore., police believe, it indicates the suspect, sheriff's deputy David Verbos, 36, had little respect for their crime-solving ability. Verbos allegedly stole OxyContin at gunpoint in the robbery, but later called the McMinnville police to report that someone had stolen his license plates (perhaps hoping to insulate himself in case a witness had glimpsed the plate at the scene). However, when police arrived to take a report, they noticed that Verbos, a stocky man about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, was wearing a black jacket, gray sweat pants and white sneakers, thus fitting nearly dead-on the description of the man who had robbed the pharmacy.

Eating crow

In a race between two African-Americans, Don Samuels was elected again to the Minneapolis City Council in November, despite (or thanks to) his 2004 statements that he can effectively serve the city's blacks because he descended from "house slaves" in the South rather than "field slaves."

Real gone

Some of the most heavily armed park rangers in the world (carrying AR-15 and Galil automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns, and protected by body armor) patrol 124,000 acres west of Mexico City to protect monarch butterflies. The rangers keep loggers out of the area because the monarch population (22 million, this season) represents an 80 percent drop from the year before.

And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service once again in December rejected efforts to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered species in Nevada, despite general agreement among biologists that the last confirmed sighting of one in the state was in 1941. (The agency said its hands are tied by the wording of the law.)