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News Quirks 12.28.05


Published December 28, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Year-End Review: Chronicles of Human Folly

What explains the preponderance of poor judgment and outright stupidity that plagues the human race? Perhaps we view it as inevitable, since there is no scientific effort to determine the cause of human folly, let alone prevent it. And yet the evidence mounts that dumbing-down far outweighs wising-up. Here, for those keeping track, are the highlights of this year's accumulation.

Mensa Reject of the Year

When Steven Newell set up an aboveground swimming pool on the lawn of his town house in London, Ontario, police told him that he had to move it because it wasn't fenced in. He moved the pool, which measured 8-1/4 feet across by 3-1/4 feet deep, to his balcony. Shortly after, he was relaxing in the pool when it fell 12 feet to the ground, taking the balcony with it.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Police in Kansas City, Mo., reported that Robbin Doolin, 31, opened the door of her fast-moving car and tumbled out onto the busy highway, then hopped up and chased her car as it careened down an embankment toward a construction site. "I leaned out to spit," she told police after being treated for leg, arm and head injuries, "and I leaned too far."

If It Isn't Steroids, It's Coleslaw

The Korean Baseball Association (KBO) banned players on its eight professional teams from putting frozen cabbage under their caps. The ruling came after Doosan Bears pitcher Park Myung-hwan's cap fell off during a game, revealing cabbage leaves, which Park said his wife recommended "to cool my head." KBO officials declared that cabbage is a distraction and cannot be considered part of the standard baseball uniform.

Litigation Nation

The Utah Court of Appeals ruled that two women who gave their life savings to an apocalyptic religious group could proceed with their lawsuit against it. Kaziah Hancock and Cindy Stewart claimed that in return for their contributions, the polygamous True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days promised them land, more money and a face-to-face visit with Jesus. None of these materialized.

- Jim Stelling, the Republican Party chairman of Seminole County, Fla., sued a former county GOP executive committee member who he said defamed him by sending out a letter to state party officials accusing him of having been married six times. Calling the charge "unconscionable," Stelling stated that the correct number of marriages is five and declared, "I believe in family values."

Better Safe Than Sorry

After a British Broadcasting Corporation employee trapped her foot in a revolving door and cracked a toenail, the company issued instructions to all 800 workers at its Birmingham office on how to use revolving doors. The memo included stick figures to show how to walk through the doors.

Tupperware Coffins Next?

The coroner's office in Thurston County, Wash., began seeking bids to build a machine able to shrink-wrap human remains. The machine, which would be paid for with a Homeland Security grant, would enable emergency workers responding to a large-scale disaster to avoid dealing with numerous limp and hard-to-carry body bags. County Coroner Judy Arnold explained that the shrink-wrapped bodies could be moved with forklifts.

Safety First

Nicanor Jose Saleta, 26, tried to commit suicide by accelerating to 60 mph and ramming into a steel-reinforced concrete wall on the sixth floor of a parking garage in South Miami, Fla. The 1993 Mercury Cougar crashed through the wall, slammed into an adjacent drugstore building and fell to the ground. Saleta suffered only minor injuries, however, in large part because he was wearing his seat belt.

Heading for the Promised Land

Border officials in Texas reported that a man tried to enter the United States illegally by rolling down the street disguised as a tumbleweed.

Marketing Geniuses of the Year

Nike introduced shoes for people who like to run barefoot. The company's new Free line of lightweight running shoes is designed so that the balls of the feet, not the heels, absorb most of the impact. Because the concept of running barefoot is so revolutionary, each pair comes with an owner's manual.

- British entrepreneur Colin Dowse introduced a spray-on mud designed to give sport utility vehicles an off-road look. His Sprayonmud, made with authentic mud from Shropshire, sells for $20 a bottle.

- Germany's Thorsten Jahn started selling the exhaust fumes of Communist East Germany's once-ubiquitous and oft-ridiculed Trabant automobiles for $4.81 a can. A friend of his produced 1800 cans of Trabi exhaust by holding pieces of cotton in the exhaust pipe of his Trabant to filter out the toxic particles and leave the noxious but nostalgic smell.

Homeland Insecurity

Although the U.S. drug industry pledged to speed development of new drugs after the 2001 anthrax attacks, only two of the 56 specific drugs, diagnostic tools and vaccines recommended by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board to successfully respond to a bioterrorist attack are available. Drug makers explained that developing new defenses against biological weapons just isn't profitable.

Culinary Scene

Diners began flocking to a new restaurant in Taiwan that serves food in bowls shaped like toilets instead of on plates while patrons sit on white ceramic toilet seats surrounded by urinals and other bathroom decor. The Kaohsiung eatery, named Marton, after the Chinese word "matong," meaning toilet, specializes in mushy, brown offerings like curry chicken rice and chocolate ice cream.

First-Amendment Follies

The Newark City Council unanimously approved paying the Newark Weekly News $100,000 to publish positive news about the New Jersey city.

Faith-Based Initiatives

When Loretta Davis, 65, became ill and had open-heart surgery, she stopped paying her $60-a-month tithe to the Living Word Tabernacle of Waverly, Ohio, because she needed the money for her medical bills. Davis, who has congestive heart failure and uses a wheelchair, received a letter from the church revoking her membership because of her failure to tithe.