News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In November Wichita, Kansas, police removed four children from their parents' mobile home, which was littered with animal feces.
When police arrived they noticed stacks of Star Trek posters and magazines and heard the parents and kids speaking fluent Klingon, the language created for the Star Trek series.

*In November a Japanese game show assigned a contestant, an aspiring comedian nicknamed "Nasubi," to a small apartment equipped with little more than a video camera. He agreed to remain in the apartment until he entered enough giveaway contests to win $8,500 worth of prizes. The catch was that he had to subsist only on his winnings. Unknown to Nasubi, however, the video surveillance was not simply to make a record of his ordeal but was broadcast live every Sunday night, even though he was usually nude in his apartment (in that he has not yet won any clothing).

Great Art!
*In November Northwestern University ordered sophomore music major Ryan Du Val to whitewash his dorm-room ceiling after he had painstakingly painted on it three of Michelangelo's best-known works from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. After the press reported the incident, several people came to Du Val's aid, and the university said the ceiling can stay as is until the end of the school year. A local businessman offered to pay for the removal of the ceiling intact so that it can be exhibited.

*Among recent performance art in the news: Lisa Levy's July show at Webster Hall in New York City, which consisted of items she had recently shoplifted (and in one case, half of a liverwurst sandwich she snatched from an elderly man at a deli). Also shown was videotape that captured some of the acquisitions. And the Nottingham "NOW ninety8" art festival in England in October featured a seven-hour video, "Filthy Words and Phrases," in which a woman merely writes 2000 sexual and slang terms on a blackboard. The video project was made with a government grant of about $12,000.

Least Competent Criminal
*In December police in Loudon County, Virginia, used phone bills as evidence and arrested Michael Anthony Silver, age 34, a man they believe committed a string of burglaries dating back to 1996. According to police, during one of the first burglaries, Silver paused to call a psychic hotline and ran up a $250 bill on the homeowner's phone. For some reason Silver gave his own name to the psychic.

Weird, But Not True
*Beginning an occasional reader-advisory series of recent stories that were reported elsewhere as real news but which were probably just made up: Time magazine in its December 28, 1998, issue characterized as real a story that ran in March 1998 on one of the wire services of a guy in Japan whose inflatable underwear (he was worried about drowning in a tidal wave) was accidentally triggered on a subway car, creating a huge balloon around him, battering riders against the inside of the car. Weird, but not true.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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