Religion Adapts to Technology
A network of freelance Buddhist priests in Japan last year began offering in-home, à la carte services (for those adherents who shun temples) through Amazon in Japan, quoting fixed fees and bypassing the usual awkward deliberation over "donations." And in September, Pastor David Taylor of Joshua Media Ministries International (St. Louis, Mo.) announced, to great fanfare, that he had "resurrected" a diabetic woman, 40 minutes after her death, by sending the lady a text message through Facebook (though, of course, neither she nor any family member was available for an interview).
As a dispute escalated between two brothers at their recycling plant in Bow, N.H., in October, Peter Emanuel used his front-end loader to tip over the crane being operated by Stanley Emanuel (who managed to jump out just in time). Peter was arrested.
• Thousands flocked to the annual Roadkill Cooking Festival in Marlinton, W.V., in September, featuring an array of "tasting" dishes (e.g., black bear, possum, elk, snapping turtle) with a competition in which judges deducted points if the "chef" had not managed to remove all gravel or asphalt.
Fine Points of Canadian Law
Luckily, thought Jamie Richardson of Whitehorse, Yukon, she had medical insurance for her 7-year-old Akita, who had torn a ligament in a hind leg, but it turned out that the policy, written by Canada's largest pet insurer, Petsecure, did not cover dog injuries from "jumping, running, slipping, tripping or playing"—that is, Richardson concluded, injuries caused by "being a dog." (After Richardson protested, Petsecure relented but, it said, only because Richardson had been a longtime customer.)
• Who is the most at fault when 1. a mother provides beer to her underage son, 2. who then, with a pal, gulps down a bottle of vodka and steals a car from a dealer's lot and 3. drunkenly crashes, leaving the pal with a catastrophic brain injury? In October, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a jury verdict that parceled out "fault," but assigned more to the victim of the 2006 car theft (Rankin's Garage of Paisley, Ontario) than to the mother or the driver (because Rankin's having left the key in the car overnight made it irresistible to "teenage car thieves").
The Job of the Researcher
Charles Foster, recent recipient of the "Ig Nobel" prize in biology (and a fellow at Oxford University), has recently lived as a badger (inside a hole in Wales), an otter playing in rivers, and an "urban fox" rummaging through garbage bins in London, in addition to a red deer and ("ridiculously," he admits) a migratory bird mapping treetop air currents—all in order to authentically experience those creatures' lives apart from their physical appearance, which is generally all that humans know. "We have five glorious senses," he told the Ig Nobel audience, and need to "escape the tyranny" of the visual. "Drop onto all fours," he recommended. "Sniff the ground. Lick a leaf."
Awesome Numbers in the News
Charles Diggs, facing child pornography charges, was found with supposedly a record haul for New Jersey—325,000 child-porn images and files at his Roselle home in October.
• The Justice Department revealed in an October court filing that former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin III, 51, had stolen at least 500 million pages of "sensitive government files," bit by bit over two decades. (Bonus questions: How does no one notice, for years, and anyway, how many total pages of "sensitive government files" are there?)
Leading Economic Indicators
In October (as in supposedly every previous October since the 13th century), some British official arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and paid rent to the queen for use of two properties—for the sum of "a knife, an axe, six oversized horseshoes and 61 nails," according to reporting by Atlas Obscura. "No one knows exactly where these two pieces of land are," the website reported, but one is in Shropshire County, and the other near the Royal Courts.
New York City sculptor Bryan Zanisnik, operating on a grant from an emerging-artist program of Socrates Sculpture Park in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens, recently created a 10-piece "garden" of concrete Christopher Walken heads to honor the actor, who grew up in Astoria. Said Zanisnik, "Perhaps the project suggests that Walken's DNA was imbued into the soil of Astoria, and now Walken mushrooms are growing everywhere."
• "To be honest," wrote New York Times art critic Holland Cotter in his lead sentence on Oct. 7, "I wonder what a lot of people see in abstract painting." Then, nevertheless, Carter began praising the current Guggenheim Museum collection by abstract artist Agnes Martin, highlighted by her "Untitled No. 5," which consists of a pinkish horizontal space, on top of a yellowish horizontal space, on top of a bluish horizontal space, exactly repeated underneath except the pinkish and bluish spaces are shortened near the edges of the canvas, but not the yellowish space. Asked Carter, "How do you approach an art empty of ... evident narratives" and "make it your own?" His unrestrained 1,600-word rave did not quite answer that, except to quote Martin's suggestion that the visitor just "sit and look."
A recent Better Business Bureau study in Canada found that, contrary to popular belief, it is the "millennial" generation and those aged 25 to 55, rather than seniors, who are more likely now to fall victim to scammers, fueled by users' lax skepticism about new technology. If accurate, the study would account for how a Virginia Tech student in September fell for a telephone call from "the IRS" threatening her over "back taxes." She complied with instructions from the "agent" to send $1,762 in four iTunes gift cards.
Most old-time liquor restrictions have fallen in America, but Utah continues to hold out. The new Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City, opened in October, has an elegant lobby with several floors of balconies overlooking it, but its liquor license was delayed briefly when it was realized that visitors on the upper floors could peer down at the lobby and witness alcoholic beverages being mixed and poured—a violation of state law. (At lobby level, there was a "Zion Curtain" to shield drink preparation, but the theater realized it would also need a "Zion Ceiling.")
In October, sheriff's deputies in Pinellas County, Fla., detaining the 350-pound Columbus Henderson, 45, discovered (in one of Henderson's "orifices") a glass "crack pipe" stuffed with steel wool. (A week earlier, Henderson had shoplifted two 40-inch TV sets from a Wal-Mart in Fort Lauderdale, and fled, though he was identified when his loosely worn pants, containing his ID, fell completely off as he "dashed" through the parking lot.)
• Police said Ms. Taccara Nauden, 28, had no contraband, but was using an "orifice" for her ID card, during a traffic stop in Hollywood in October. She did not want police to knowher identity, since there was an arrest warrant on her.
Thanks this week to Michael Brozyna and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.