Two hundred boredom “activists” gathered in London in December at James Ward’s annual banal-apalooza conference, “Boring 2010,” to listen to ennui-stricken speakers glorify all things dreary, including a demonstration of milk-tasting (in wine glasses, describing flavor and smoothness), charts breaking down the characteristics of a man’s sneezes for three years, and a PowerPoint presentation on the color distribution and materials of a man’s necktie collection from one year to the next. Another speaker’s “My Relationship With Bus Routes” seemed well-received, also. Observed one attendee, to a Wall Street Journal reporter: “We’re all overstimulated. I think it’s important to stop all that for a while and see what several hours of being bored really feels like.”
The Redneck Chronicles
(1) The Key Underwood Memorial Graveyard near Cherokee, Ala., is reserved as hallowed ground for burial of genuine coon dogs, which must be judged authentic before their carcasses can be accepted, according to a December report in The Birmingham News. The Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Association must attest to the dog’s having had the ability “to tree a raccoon.” (In March, a funeral for one coon dog at Key Underwood drew 200 mourners.) (2) Safety Harbor, Fla., trailer-park neighbors Joe Capes and Ronald Richards fought in December, with sheriff’s deputies called and Capes arrested for assaulting Richards. The two were arguing over whether the late country singer Conway Twitty was gay.
• A sculpture on display at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn., was stolen in December. The piece, by artist John Ilg, consisted of wire mesh over a frame, with 316 rolled-up dollar bills stuffed in the mesh. The piece was titled, “Honesty.” (Attitudes have changed in the two years since the piece was first presented, at the Minnesota State Fair, when visitors liked it so much that they added rolled bills to the display.)
• Elected officials caught violating the very laws they have sanctimoniously championed are so numerous as to be No Longer Odd, but the alleged behavior of Colorado state Sen. Suzanne Williams following her December car crash seems over-the-top. Though a strong seat belt and child-seat advocate, Williams was driving near Amarillo, Texas, with her two unbelted grandchildren when her SUV drifted over the center line and hit another vehicle head-on, killing that driver and ejecting Williams’ 3-year-old grandchild, who survived with injuries. A Texas Department of Public Safety report noted that Williams was seen scooping up the child, returning him to the SUV and belting him in.
• Unclear on the Concept: A 41-year-old woman, arrested in Callaway, Fla., in December for beating her husband with a rock, explained that she was angry that he was endangering his health by smoking despite being ill. Said she, “A woman can only take so much.”
• Katrina Camp, 30, was picked up by deputies in September on a Forest Service road near Nederland, Colo., having earlier walked away from her unclothed 2-year-old daughter, whom she had left to fend for herself in a pickup truck. Camp, however, was candid about the problem: “I suck.” (“You’re a parent,” she told a deputy. “(Y)ou know how it is. Sometimes you just need a break.”)
By his own testimony, John Ditullio is a hateful neo-Nazi who despised his next-door neighbors in New Port Richey, Fla. (a white woman with an African-American friend and a son who was openly gay), but when the son was murdered and the mother attacked in 2006, Ditullio denied involvement, and though he earned a hung jury in his first trial, his retrial was scheduled for November 2010. For each day of the trial, a makeup artist was hired (paid for by the government at $135 a day) to cover up Ditullio’s swastika neck tattoo and crude-phrase cheek tattoo so as to keep jurors from being unfairly prejudiced. (Nonetheless, Ditullio was convicted in December and sentenced to death.)
Names in the News
Suspected of stealing scraps of copper in Riverside, Ohio, in December: Jesus Christ Superstar Oloff, 33. Arrested for sex abuse against a 6-year-old boy in Oklahoma City in October: Lucifer Hawkins, 30. On trial in December for extortion in Britain’s Southwark Crown Court (threatening to reveal a sexual affair): Ms. Fuk Wu. Sought as a suspect in a convenience store killing in Largo, Fla., in December (and an example of the highly revealing “Three First Names” theory of criminal liability), Mr. Larry Joe Jerry — who actually has four first names (Larry Joe Jerry Jr.).
• The Toronto Public Library began its “Human Library” project in November with about 200 users registering to “check out” interesting persons from the community who would sit and converse with patrons who might not otherwise have the opportunity to mingle with people like them. The first day’s lend-outs, for a half-hour at a time, included a police officer, a comedian, a former sex worker, a model, and a person who had survived cancer, homelessness and poverty. The Human Library actually harkens back to olden times, said a TPL official, where “storytelling from person to person” “was the only way to learn.”
• If Life Gives You a Lemon, Make Lemonade: (1) When Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula One racing circuit, was mugged in November and had his jewelry stolen, he sent a photograph of his battered face to the Hublot watch company and convinced its chief executive to run a brief advertising campaign, “See What People Will Do for a Hublot.” (2) The treasurer of Idaho County, Idaho, turned down the November suggestion of local physician Andrew Jones — that more cancers might be detected early if the county sent colonoscopy suggestions to residents along with their official tax notices. The treasurer said residents might find the reminders “ironic.”
Least Competent Criminals
Ouch! (1) Joe Colclasure, 25, was arrested and charged with robbing the bank located inside an Albertson’s supermarket in Palm Desert, Calif., in December. Several employees and customers had recognized Colclasure while he was committing the robbery, but it wasn’t over for him until he accidentally slammed the bank’s door on his hand during his getaway. The pain disabled him long enough so that an employee could hold him until police arrived. (2) Thieves often leave police-trackable trails from the scene to their home, but for alleged shoplifter Michael Barton, 29, of Venango County, Pa., the trail was of his own blood, starting at the Wal-Mart where he had cut himself badly removing razor blades from their packages in order to fit more into his pocket.
Charles Clements, 69, appeared in this space two months ago in a report on his having deliberately shot to death a 23-year-old neighbor whose fox terrier had answered a call of nature on the perfectly manicured lawn of the reportedly obsessive Clements. (According to witnesses, the victim was displaying macho bravado just before the shooting, but Clements admitted he was not under attack when he fired.) On Dec. 29, a judge in a Chicago suburb rejected requests for a 20-year sentence and ordered Clements to serve only four months — out of jail, on probation.
An Odd Files Classic (January 1998)
A Police Officer’s Dream Come True: Vincent Morrissey’s police brutality lawsuit went to trial in New Haven, Conn., in December (1997), and West Haven police officer Ralph Angelo was on the witness stand, claiming that Morrissey himself had provoked the encounter by swinging at Angelo. Morrissey’s attorney, skeptical of the testimony, asked Officer Angelo to demonstrate to the jury how hard Morrissey had swung at him. Before the lawyer could clarify what he meant by “demonstrate,” Officer Angelo popped the lawyer on the chin, staggering him and forcing an immediate recess.