News of the Weird 

Cricket beauty contests, energetic perverts and more

Lead Story: China's historical fascination with crickets has recently been exhibited in cricket beauty contests, singing competitions and prize fights, according to a January Los Angeles Times dispatch, and has led even to increasing vigilance about crickets cheating with performance-enhancing drugs. The fighters duel in terrarium-sized containers and, according to the Times, "Overhead cameras [project] the action onto large screens," allowing spectators close-ups of crickets tossing each other around with their powerful jaws. The best fighters may sell for the equivalent of $10,000, are raised on vegetables and calcium supplements and are sexually active before fights. The doping issue mostly involves the "singers"; slowing the vibration of the cricket's wings produces an attractively lower pitch.

The Litigious Society: In October, Korie Hoke filed a $1.6 million lawsuit against the Tempe, Ariz., police, claiming it was actually an officer's fault that she, after a New Year's Eve bender, crashed into a cement wall and suffered serious injuries. Hoke had called police to a party, distraught that she had caught her boyfriend cheating on her, and the officer summoned her parents to pick her up. (Hoke was cited only for underage drinking, but she later tested above the blood-alcohol legal limit.) The officer, after obtaining Hoke's assurance that she would await her parents and after searching Hoke and her car and finding no car key (Hoke had hidden it), left the scene. Hoke then drove away and crashed, and now claims it was the officer's fault for not staying with her.

Scott Anthony Gomez Jr. filed a lawsuit in January against jail officials in Pueblo County, Colo., alleging among other things that they failed to take security precautions to prevent him from escaping. He seriously injured himself last year when he fell 40 feet while scaling a wall in his second escape attempt. He said that, after his first escape, he had told then-sheriff Dan Corsentino how lax security was, but that no "improvements" had been made.

Ironies: California's Solar Shade Control Act protects solar panels from obstructions from sunlight, and in January, Santa Clara County officials sought to enforce the law against homeowners who themselves are staunch environmentalists. Since the back yard of Prius owners Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett contains lush redwood trees that block their neighbor's panels, the county ordered that the trees be cut down.

Tolerance: Officials of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, initially agreed to host the annual multidenominational Austin Area Interreligious Ministries Thanksgiving celebration last year, but abruptly canceled when they came to realize that Muslims might actually pray there. Under criticism, the church said that it "hopes" the religious community "will ... be tolerant of our church's beliefs" that necessitated the decision.

Creme de la Weird: Energetic Perverts: 1) Elementary school principal John Stelmack, 60, was arrested in Bartow, Fla., in December and accused by prosecutors of innocently photographing young girls but then using a computer software program to place their heads on photos of nude women (which may not even be illegal, according to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision). 2) Kazuo Oshitani, 48, was arrested in Osaka, Japan, in December as the one who draped perhaps more than 170 items of women's underwear over objects in his neighborhood (and who possessed at least 200 more such items in his home). He was charged with littering.

Least Competent People: It is apparently becoming more difficult to recruit competent suicide bombers in Afghanistan because twice in a two-day period in January, clumsy bombers accidentally blew themselves up before they ever had the chance to take their targets out. One fell down a flight of stairs while on his way to an attack in the town of Khost, and the other's bomb accidentally exploded as he was getting dressed for an assignment in the town of Lashkar Gah (although the latter bomber did take three colleagues with him).

Recurring Themes: At least one collector spent the equivalent of $40 on an original "Freddie W.R. Linsky" abstract expressionist painting, praising its "flow" and "energy," according to a December report in London's Daily Mail, and a gallery in Berlin was said to have made an inquiry about Linsky's other works. Linsky, as longtime News of the Weird readers might guess, is an enthusiastic 2-year-old, whose mother had him daub ketchup splotches onto canvases and then uploaded the images to art patron Charles Saatchi's online gallery. Among Mom's lush captions to Linsky's ketchup-period works was: "The striking use of oriental calligraphy has the kenji-like characters stampeding from the page."

Undignified Deaths: More Ironies: 1) A 66-year-old millionaire roofing-company founder was killed at his home in Rock, Wis., in December when he accidentally fell through the roof of his garage. 2) An 18-year-old Amish man was killed in Hustisford, Wis., in October when, working on a construction crew, he came into contact with a high-voltage wire and was electrocuted. 3) Inmate Frederick Fretz, 45, serving time for molesting a young boy, died in January in the dining hall at the federal penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., when he choked on a hot dog.

© 2008 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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