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News of the weird, Oct. 1, 2011

The medical establishment generally regards placentas (afterbirth) as biohazardous waste, but to New York City placenta chef Jennifer Mayer, they are a nutrient-laden meat that can alleviate postpartum depression and aid in breast milk production (among other so-far-unverified benefits). Mayer typically sets up in clients' own kitchens, she told New York magazine for an August story. Some placentas are "really intense, with grief or sadness or uncertainty." Others might be "joyful," "big and round." Mayer's method: Drain the blood, blot dry, cook for a half-hour (leaving something resembling brisket), chop into slivers, dehydrate overnight (rendering it jerky-like). For a popular touch, Mayer then grinds it in a blender and pours the powder into several dozen (one-a-day) capsules. [New York, 8-29-2011]

Can't Possibly Be True

The Learning Channel's "Toddlers & Tiaras" series has pushed critics' buttons enough with its general support of the competitive world of child beauty pageants, but a recent episode provoked unusually rabid complaints, according to a September New York Post report. Mother Lindsay Jackson had costumed her 4-year-old Maddy as "Dolly Parton" –– anatomically correct (chest and backside) Dolly Parton. The Post described Maddy as "embarrass(ed)" at her chest when another 4-year-old pointed at her and asked, "What is that?" (Ultimately, the judges liked Maddy –– for "sweetest face.") [New York Post, 9-2-2011]

Things You Didn't Think Existed: (1) World Record for Length of Tonsils: Justin Werner, 21, of Topeka, Kan., was certified in July the Guinness Book, with tonsils measuring 2.1 inches and 1.9 inches, respectively. The old "champion" was Justin Dodge of Milwaukee. (2) Global Competition in Dominos: The breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia will be the site, in October, of the world domino championship. (Twenty-five countries belong to the International Domino Federation.) [Wichita Eagle-AP, 7-18-2011] [New York Times, 9-9-2011]

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Rob Dickerson finally received his Purple Heart this summer, four years after he was seriously wounded in a rocket attack in Iraq and two years after he began a paperwork battle with the Army to "prove" his injury. Recently, the Army had apologized and mailed him the award, but it arrived C.O.D., leaving Dickerson to pay the $21 fee. (The Army subsequently reimbursed Dickerson the fee, but Dickerson said he hasn't been able to cash the check, in that it was erroneously made out to "Roy Dirksen.") [KELO-TV (Sioux Falls, S.D.), 8-4-2011]

Inexplicable

Madrid's Getafe soccer club, struggling for customers, startled Spain this summer commissioning a porn movie, with zombies, hoping to attract more fans. As if that were not quixotic enough, it then tied the movie to a campaign to solicit sperm-bank donations. Explained the film's producer, Angel Torres, "We have to move a mass of fans to seed the world with Getafe supporters." A promo for the film follows a Getafe fan, armed with a copy of the movie for his viewing pleasure, as he disappears into a clinic's private cubicle to fulfill his donation. [Daily Mail (London), 8-19-2011]

Unclear on the Concept

"Do You See the Blimp Who Robbed You?": In August, 400-pound Eric Kenley, 48, won a new trial for his two New York City robbery convictions after appeals court judges realized that the police lineup that identified him was unfair, in that he was apparently much fatter than the other men in his lineup. The police had attempted to compensate using larger-than-average men and presenting them all seated, to minimize the weight difference. [New York Post, 8-25-2011]

Obviously intense about potential child-trafficking, the government of Quebec, Canada, requires strict proof of a live birth, certified a doctor or licensed midwife. However, the waiting list to hire either one is long, and Heather Mattingsly went with an unlicensed midwife, whose word the Directeur de l'etat civil declined to accept. Four months after the birth, the agency ordered Mattingsly to submit to a vaginal examination. After "calls from the media" (according to a Montreal Gazette report) persuaded the agency that such an exam was useless, it finally agreed, on Aug. 26, to grant a birth certificate if Mattingsly submitted a doctor-certified copy of her pre-birth ultrasound. [Montreal Gazette, 8-26-2011]

You're Doing It Wrong: Jason Dean, 24, was arrested in Ringgold, Ga., in August and charged with false imprisonment after he waited in the parking lot of a Taco Bell, approached an 18-year-old woman and handcuffed her to himself. After her screams brought others to come help her, Dean explained that he had been trying for several months to get the woman to go out with him, but that she had so far refused. [Times Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.), 8-11-2011]

A New York Times obituary for former lead singer Jani Lane of the heavy metal band Warrant revealed that Mr. Lane's birth name (he was born a year after Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy) was John Kennedy Oswald. Rebellious musicians (Warrant's debut album was "Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich") often adopt provocative stage names to enhance their image, but Mr. Lane must be one of the very few to have abandoned a provocative birth name in favor of a bland one. [New York Times, 8-13-2011]

Least Competent Criminals

The man who approached tellers at the Eastern Bank in South Boston on Aug. 25 eventually fled empty-handed, but only after one teller had refused his order for "all your money" (she told him she was "closed") and another had scolded him for breaking into the front of the adjacent line and for not removing his hoodie. [Boston Globe, 8-27-2011]

A man dressed as Gumwas ignored a 7-Eleven clerk when he tried to rob the store in Rancho Penasquitos, Calif., on Sept. 5. The clerk told "Gumby" not to waste his time, and "Gumby" finally fled. The clerk had such little respect for "Gumby" that he did not even report the "robbery"; it came to light only when his boss was reviewing surveillance video. [Seattle Times-AP, 9-7-2011]

New Frontiers in Perversion

Mennonites, a famously patriarchal, closed-sect religion, often live in colonies such as the one in Bolivia founded a group from Manitoba, Canada. At press time, eight men from the colony are on trial in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for rapes of up to 130 women and girls from 2005 to 2009, allegedly instigated Peter Weiber, 48, the colony's veterinarian. Weiber supposedly converted a cow anesthetic into an aerosol sedative that he sprayed into the victims' open bedroom windows at night, after which he and his co-defendants would enter and have their way with the victims. According to an August dispatch in Time magazine, the case is hampered shamed victims' reluctance to testify and the behavior of the defendants, who have been "laughing" at witnesses, "jok(ing) with guards," or "fall(ing) asleep" during the trial. [Time, 8-17-2011]

A News of the Weird Classic (January 2005)

When Billy W. Williams, 53, skipped out during his trial for aggravated assault in 2003 in Dallas, Judge Faith Johnson was obviously annoyed, though Williams was nonetheless found guilty in absentia. When Williams was recaptured and returned to her courtroom in October 2004 for sentencing, Judge Johnson organized a "welcome back" party in his "honor," with balloons, streamers and a cake, to create a festive backdrop for her gleeful announcement that she was sentencing him to life in prison. [CNN-AP, 10-26-04]