Future of Travel
Australian aviator David Mayman has promised investors that his personal jet packs will hit the market by mid-2017, though early adopters will pay about $250,000 for one, to fly a person at up to 60 mph for 10 minutes. The JB-10 (developed by Mayman and designer Nelson Tyler) has made about 400 test runs in Monaco and over downtown London and New York City, but the partners realize that ultimate success will require that the fuel tanks be downsized so that the craft can be powered electrically—and thus seek crowdfunding both for that model and a larger one to accommodate the Pentagon's (Special Operations Command) tactical needs.
The Continuing Crisis
The state agency Colorado Parks and Wildlife filed 21 criminal charges in October against the Squirrel Creek Wildlife Rescue center in Littleton, alleging that some of the orphaned and rehabbing animals Kendall Seifert houses are not being kept according to the state's strict standards—and that Seifert's 15-year-old center is also home to his popular swingers' club (Scarlet Ranch) featuring weekend sex parties. One of the criminal charges suggests that rescue animals could be stressed by gazing at activity in the ranch's bar area. Seifert said he will challenge the charges out of fear that many of the raccoons, foxes, song birds, coyotes, skunks, rabbits and squirrels he would have to relinquish would not find suitable facilities elsewhere.
• In St. Paul, Minn., a 25-year-old woman told police on Nov. 3 that she was involuntarily roughed up several hours after being voluntarily roughed up at Arnellia's Bar's weekly "Smack Fest"—in which female patrons competitively slap each other's faces for three "rounds" under strict house rules. The woman said she spoke amicably with her opponent, but by closing time, the opponent and several friends, including men, punched and kicked her outside the bar. In other slapping news, a 71-year-old woman died in Lewes, England, in November while participating in a Chinese healing seminar that emphasizes being slapped repeatedly to rid the body of poisoned blood and toxins. The "healer," Hongshi Xiao, charges clients around $900 to beat what he calls the "sha" out of them.
• In November, in a remote area of Oregon's Maury Mountains, a 69-year-old man killed an elk and dragged the carcass behind his off-road vehicle up a hill. According to the Crook County Sheriff's office, the vehicle suddenly flipped over backward, and the man landed on, and was impaled by, the elk's antlers. Fellow hunters summoned a helicopter, and the man has apparently survived.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
In a retail market long dominated by priests, "nonsectarian" funeral eulogizers now offer to give individually tailored remembrances of the deceased for a fee, according to an October report by a New York Post reporter who interviewed two local "celebrants," who cited the declining appeal of "prayers."
• The British retailer ASOS announced in August that 3-foot-long clip-on dinosaur tails had sold out in one of its two models, although New York magazine, which reported it in the U.S., was, for obvious reasons, baffled about why.
The Way the World Works
Brittany Maynard, then 29, became "the face of the Right to Die movement" in 2014, according to a New York Post column, when she chose a legal physician-assisted suicide rather than awaiting the growth of her terminal brain tumor. In October, terminally ill California mother Stephanie Packer hoped to be "the face of the Right to Live movement" after revealing that her insurance company denied coverage for a drug that could extend her life—but at the same time disclosed that her suicide drugs are covered, and even disclosed her co-pay ($1.20).
Margaret Boemer's baby LynLee was "born" twice. In an October Texas Children's Hospital interview, doctors described how the need to rid Boemer's fetus of a rapidly growing tumor required them, at Boemer's 23rd week of pregnancy, to remove the fetus completely from the uterus until it was "hanging out in the air" so that they could cut away the tumor and then reposition the fetus into the uterus. LynLee was "born" again by C-section 13 weeks later.
San Francisco State University researchers revealed in April that no fungi or fecal bacteria were found on the seats of the city's bus line or rapid transit trains (unlike their findings in 2011 before officials adopted easier-to-clean seats), but that a "rare" and "unusual" strain, called Pigmentiphaga was found—previously associated only with South Korean wastewater and the South China Sea. The city's Department of Health said, of course, not to worry.
A high-level policy document released by the Chinese government in September detailed plans to use technology to monitor citizen behavior to such a degree that each person would receive a "social credit" score (similar to a FICO score in the U.S. but covering a range of conduct beyond financial) that would be the basis for allotting perks such as government support in starting businesses and whether parents' children are eligible for the best schools. "[K]eeping trust is glorious," according to the document, and "good" behavior promotes a "harmonious socialist society."
Kristi Goss, 43, an assistant to a Garland County (Arkansas) judge, was arrested in October and charged with stealing nearly $200,000 in public funds, which she used to buy such things as a tuxedo for her dog, sequined throw pillows, a "diamond bracelet" (retailing for $128) and, of course, Arkansas Razorback football tickets.
Motorist Kurt Jenkins, 56, was arrested in November in Boynton Beach, Fla., after a pedestrian said Jenkins, naked, motioned him to his car to take a look. The pedestrian said there were children in the area—and also that Jenkins appeared to have wires running from his genitals to an unidentified "electrical device."
• Among a stash of pornography found recently on the computer of Michael Ward, 70, were photos of humans having some sort of sex with "horses, dogs, [an] octopus and [an] eel," according to a report of England's Chelmsford Crown Court proceedings. A pre-sentencing order forbade Ward to have contact with children under 16, but was silent about possible contact with fish or mollusks.
The Passing Parade
At press time, "Bugs Bunny" and "Pink Panther" were on trial in St. Catharines, Ontario, on aggravated-assault charges from a Halloween 2015 bar fight in which "Dracula's" ear was severely slashed with a broken bottle. "There was a lot of blood," said a witness (but coming from Dracula, not being sucked out by Dracula). Update: The judge cleared Bugs, but was still deliberating on Panther.
• The tardigrade is an ugly micro-organism that is perhaps the sturdiest animal on Earth, able to endure otherwise-impossible living conditions and (thanks to gene-sequencing) known to be composed of DNA not seen elsewhere. A Japanese company recently began selling an oversized, cuddlable tardigrade toy "plushie" authenticated by science's leading tardigrade authority, professor Kazuharu Arakawa of Keio University.
A News of the Weird Classic
The usual 20,000 or so visitors every year to Belgium's 30-acre Verbeke Foundation art park are allowed to reserve a night inside the feature attraction: a 20-foot-long, 6-foot-high polyester replica of a human colon created by Dutch designer Joep Van Lieshout. The area at the end of the structure gives the installation its formal name, the Hotel CasAnus. The facility, though "cramped," according to one prominent review, features heating, showers and double beds, and rents for the equivalent of about $150 a night (the rate in 2012).
Thanks this week to Jim Doughtie, Gary Krupa and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.