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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

This Weird Year

Rolland Sweet
Published Monday December 22, 03:44 pm
A month-by-month recap of 2014’s quirkiest news stories

Photo Credit: Illustration by Myron Campbell

Chronicling human folly gets harder every year because as foibles proliferate, news that once would have seemed odd is now almost commonplace. Still, wackadoo shit happens. These unbelievable-but-true stories stand out as 2014’s quirkiest news.


January: Dolphins Vs. Squirrels


RUDE TO FOOD Officials in Taiji, Japan, proposed building a water park where tourists can swim and play with dolphins, and then eat them. The park would tie in with the town’s annual custom of rounding up and killing thousands of dolphins, whose meat is considered a delicacy. (Singapore’s The Straits Times)


UNEXPECTED WEAPONS Helen Ann Williams, 44, of North Charleston, South Carolina, stabbed a man with a ceramic squirrel when he returned home without beer because the stores were closed. (Associated Press)


February: Bugs, Guns & Pot Crocs


ALLIGATORS Drug dealers turned to alligators to protect their stashes, according to law enforcement officials who’ve found the reptiles in raids. “My first thought was, ‘we’re definitely not touching it,’” a police detective in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, said after a raid in which officers encountered a three-foot alligator in a walk-in closet with five ounces of marijuana. “It kept hissing, like, ‘Leave me alone.’” (The Washington Times)


INSECTS Students at Montréal’s McGill University won the $1 million Hult Prize to fund their project to produce insect-based, protein-rich flour to feed malnourished people in other countries. “We will be starting with grasshoppers,” team captain Mohammed Ashour said, adding that team members consumed “kilos” of insects. (ABC News)


LASERS Lacking a laser pointer for a slideshow presentation to a foreign delegation at State Police headquarters in Albany, New York, Jerome M. Hauer, the state director of homeland security, took out his loaded 9 mm Glock pistol and used the laser-sighting device attached to the barrel as a pointer. Three Swedish emergency managers in the delegation were rattled when the gun’s laser tracked across one of their heads while Hauer was trying to find a map of New York to point at. (Albany’s Times Union)


March: That Fresh Mountain Air


HIGH ALTITUDE GARBAGE Hoping to reduce the estimated 50 tons of litter left by people climbing Mount Everest, Nepal ordered everyone descending to carry out 18 pounds of trash. The debris ranges from empty oxygen bottles, torn tents and discarded food containers to the bodies of climbers who died on the mountain. (The New York Times)


FUN WITH ASPHYXIATION Chinese officials considered using giant vacuum cleaners to improve air quality in polluted cities. The device, which resembles a giant hula-hoop, uses an electrified wire to attract smog particles. “It’s not going to cure smog on a large scale,” Dutch inventor Daan Roosegaarde explained, “but at least we can remind people what clean air looks like.”


April: Deep-Fried Creationists


ARKY ARK Christian minister Ken Ham’s goal of building a replica of Noah’s Ark in the Kentucky hills stalled for lack of money until Ham (no relation to Noah’s son) engaged in a debate on evolution with PBS “Science Guy” Bill Nye. Ham’s Answers in Genesis ministry and the Creation Museum received widespread media attention during the debate, which pitted science against the Bible’s explanation of the origins of the universe. Ham said that a flood of donations would allow construction of the Ark Encounter to begin in May and open to the public in summer 2016. (Associated Press)


PRAIRIE PAVEMENT Saskatchewan’s Prairie Energy discovered that used cooking oil from restaurants is an effective topping for dusty rural roads. “It basically penetrates about an inch and a half,” explained the company’s Mark Hryniuk, who came up with the idea. “As you drive on it, it gets harder and harder. And it looks like poor man’s pavement. We’ve done complete villages already.” (CBC)


May: Why Not Minot?


DONE AND DONE Police arrested Michael Schell, 24, and Jessica Briggs, 31, in Minot, North Dakota, for having sex in the bathroom of a convenience store named Kum & Go. (Minot Daily News)


June: Air Spray And Lassos


DUST UP Chinese authorities set up two giant water cannons to fight air pollution in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province. The long-range sprayers shoot a fine mist of tapwater 2,000 feet into the air where, according to Martyn Chipperfield, professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Leeds, it will “stick to the dust and form larger particles and fall back down to the surface under gravity.” The falling mixture would reduce pollution, he added, but it could also cover people in the city of two million with mud. (Britain’s Daily Mail)


ROPED DOPE After Celestino Moras, 25, opened fire at a church picnic and rodeo in Cassville, Georgia, and then ran out of bullets, he was apprehended by one of the rodeo cowboys who lassoed him. Other guests tied Moras up until deputies arrived. (Atlanta’s WSB-TV)


July: She’s Weaponized The Juice!


FEAR OF FLYING An unidentified man had to be hospitalized for road rash and fractures after he fell from a pickup truck onto an Interstate highway in Shreveport, Louisiana. He told police he was riding on top of a mattress and a box-spring to hold them down because they weren’t secured, but they suddenly flew out, taking him with them. Police pointed out that it’s physically impossible for a human being to hold down a mattress once it goes airborne. (Shreveport’s KSLA-TV)


BODY SNATCHERS? After losing to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma, in 2012, Democrat Tim Murray switched parties and ran against Lucas in this year’s Republican primary. He received only 5.2 per cent of the votes to 82 per cent for Lucas, but told election board officials that he is entitled to Lucas’s votes because, he said, “it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displaced by a look-alike.” Murray’s website explained that Lucas was “executed by the world court” in Ukraine in January 2011. “I have never been to Ukraine,” said Lucas, who has represented Oklahoma’s 3rd District for the past 20 years, adding, “This is the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a body double or a robot.” (Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV)


TERRIBLE TEEN A 17-year-old girl faced weapons charges after police in Cornwall, Ontario, said she threw a juice box at her grandmother. (Cornwall’s Seaway News)


August: Let Your Fecal Flag Fly

CELIBATES LOSE The four World Cup teams that banned their players from having sex during the tournament — Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile and Mexico — all made early exits from the competition, according to the news outlet Quartz. Players on champion Germany’s team were allowed to have sex. (The Moscow Times)


POOP NEWS A United Nations survey said that more than a billion people defecate in the open. India has the largest number of public defecators: 600 million, despite the government’s “Take the poo to the loo” campaign. Lack of toilets isn’t the problem, the study concluded; it’s people’s attitudes. “If people are not convinced that it’s a good idea to use a latrine, they have an extra room,” said UNICEF statistician Rolf Luyendijk. (Reuters)


September: Enter The Firebirds


ANGRY ANTLERS State police charged Stacy Varner, 47, and Glenda Snyder, 64, with attacking each other with a stuffed deer head during an argument in Cromwell Township, Pennsylvania. (Harrisburg’s The Patriot-News)


A DELICATE MATTER OF LANGUAGE A blogger for a Utah English-language learning centre was fired after he posted an explanation of homophones — words that sound the same but have different meanings. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Tim Torkildson said his boss, Clarke Woodger, told him. (The Salt Lake Tribune)


FLAMING FEATHERS Federal wildlife investigators urged California officials to halt an application to build a state-of-the-art solar plant near the California-Arizona border after concluding that a similar, but smaller, existing plant in the Mojave Desert is causing birds to ignite in mid-air at the rate of one every two minutes. The smaller plant, operated by Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, uses 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, to reflect solar rays onto three 40-storey boiler towers, whose heated water produces steam to turn turbines to generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes. BrightSource senior vice-president Joseph Desmond was investigating ways to scare birds away to curb the incinerations. (Associated Press)


October: Death And Beer


BANNED WORDS Plagued by repeated recalls, General Motors directed its engineers to avoid using 69 words when discussing GM automobiles. Among them: “asphyxiating,” “deathtrap,” “disemboweling,”  “grenade-like” and “powder keg.” (Detroit Free Press)


A BETTER SPREAD The Italian food company Alta Quota introduced spreadable beer, which it said is ideal for “appetizers and cheeses” and “to decorate or fill” pastries, cakes and ice cream. The product, Birra Spalmabile, is composed of 40 per cent beer but contains no alcohol. (United Press International)


November: Boobs, Boobs, Boobs!


SILICONE SHORTAGE Venezuela faces a breast-implant shortage, according to reports noting women are having to settle for implants that are the wrong size or made in China. Quality imported implants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are limited because Venezuela’s restrictive currency controls limit spending on foreign goods to $300. Brand-name implants start at $600, while Chinese implants cost as little as $200. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Venezuelan doctors performed 85,000 implants in 2013, ranking fifth worldwide behind the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Germany. (Associated Press)


TOO BIG TO BURN A crematorium caught fire in Henrico, Virginia, while an employee was cremating a 500-pound body. “The body was so obese that the actual body fat came off and went straight up the stack,” manager Jerry Hendrix said. “The grease hit the roof and started the fire.” (Richmond’s WWBT-TV)


December: A Kinder, Gentler KKK


IT’S NOT THE COLOUR OF YOUR SKIN BUT THE COLOUR OR YOUR HEART The Ku Klux Klan is campaigning to boost membership by recruiting Jews, African-Americans, gays and Hispanics. “White supremacy is the old Klan,” Klan organizer John Abarr insisted. “This is the new Klan.” Abarr says his Rocky Mountain Knights KKK group will fight against the so-called “new world order,” the supposed plan of shadowy international elites to create a totalitarian world government. (Britain’s International Business Times)


The 2014 Quirk Of The Year: Masters Of Lung Fu


Guangming Road Primary School in China’s Hebei province taught children kung fu to defend against air pollution. Yes, really. The school developed 23 moves, two of which involve both pressing an acupoint to help promote lungs’ detoxification, and breathing deeply into the belly to dispel residual gas left in human organs. The school required its 470 students to do the exercises — which take two minutes to complete — four times a day on smoggy days. (International Business Times)

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