Getting Old, Young: (1) Jack Smeltzer broke a record in the tractor pull championships in Columbus, Ohio, in January — doing a “full (track-length) pull” of 692 pounds. Jack is 7 years old. The National Kiddie Tractor Pullers Association (holding 80 events a year for ages 3 through 8) uses bicycles instead of motors. Ms. Brooke Wilker, 5, was the youngest champ, lugging 300 pounds 28 feet. (2) Walmart announced in January that it would soon offer a full line of makeup especially for 8-year-olds (and up), by GeoGirl, including mascara, sheer lip gloss, pink blush and purple eye shadow, all supposedly designed for young skin. (An executive of Aspire cosmetics said her research revealed a potential market of 6-year-olds.)
Government in Action!
• Everyone washes hair, but those who want a license to apply shampoo in Texas need 150 hours of training, with 100 hours in “theory and practice of shampooing,” including a study of “neck anatomy.” A February Wall Street Journal report on excessiveness of state regulation highlighted California’s year-long training to be a barber, Alabama’s 750-hour schooling standard for a manicurist’s license, and Michigan’s 500 practice hours for performing massages. (By contrast, many less-tightly regulated states seem not to suffer. Connecticut, without licensing, fielded only six complaints last year against manicurists — four of which involved disputes over gift cards.) Next up for licensing, perhaps: cat groomers in Ohio.
• What Budget Crunch? The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported in January that despite an array of pressing problems, the Broward County public school system has paid about $100,000 per year since 2004 to build and maintain special gardens at selected schools in order to lure butterflies for pupils to study.
• Government That Works: (1) The 2009 federal stimulus program came through just in time with $34,000 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Kearneysville, W.Va., laboratory. Work on the recent dangerous increase in Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs was in jeopardy because money had run out for design of a workable air distribution system for the offices. (2) The City Commission of San Antonio, Fla. (population 1,052), passed an ordinance in January restricting, to a tiny portion of town, where registered sex offenders could live. However, San Antonio has only one sex offender, and that man is exempt from the law because he already lives there.
• David Morice, of Iowa City, Iowa, a teacher at Kirkwood Community College, was best known for a series of “Poetry Comics” until he decided last year to write 100-page poems every day for 100 days, until he had a book totaling 10,000 pages (actually, 10,119). For some reason, the University of Iowa Libraries has published the finished poem, online and in a 2-foot-high hardcopy stack. (Strangely, in a 480-word article describing Morice’s feat, the Iowa City Press-Citizen included not even a hint about the poems’ subject matter.)
• In January, Toronto sculptor-photographer Lisa Murphy added to her reputation for devising “porn for the blind” by producing four more hand-molded erotic figures generated by using clay to replicate photographic scenes of nude and lingerie-clad models (accompanied by descriptions in Braille). “The butt was the hardest to sculpt,” she said. “I wanted to get it nice and even, and give it a feminine softness so it would actually feel like a woman’s butt.” Her first book, “Tactile Mind,” with 17 such raised erotic works, sells for $225 (Cdn).
• Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum is already home to an artist’s rendition of da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” made from burned toast, and now comes a recent version by Laura Bell of Roscommon, Mich.: da Vinci’s masterpiece made with clothes-dryer lint. Bell said she did about 800 hours of laundry of various-colored towels to obtain lint of the proper hues, and then worked 200 more hours to construct the 14-foot-long, 4-foot-high mural.
The Continuing Crisis
• Surprise! (1) New Zealand traffic officer Andy Flitton cited an unnamed speeder recently for the second time in two years — 11,000 miles from the spot of the first ticket. Flitton had moved from the U.K. to New Zealand, and unknown to him, the motorist himself had relocated to New Zealand last year. When Flitton stopped the man in Wellington in December 2010, the motorist recognized Flitton as the one who had ticketed him on the A5 highway near London. (2) Rap singer Trevell Coleman, trying to bring “closure” and “get right with God” for having shot a man in 1993 (since he was never caught), confessed the assault to New York City police in December, hoping that his humility might impress a judge. However, police checked and then booked Coleman — for murder. Said Coleman, “(F)or some reason, I really didn’t think that (the victim had) died.”
• “That Was Easy!”: (1) Several students at Texas’ Carrizo Springs High School were suspended in December, and a teacher placed on leave, after a parent complained that her son had been grabbed by the shirt and stapled to a classroom wall. She said it was at least the second time that it had happened. (2) Jodi Gilbert was arrested in Jamestown, N.Y., in January and charged with domestic violence — stapling her boyfriend in the head several times with a Stanley Hammer Tacker.
• In November, a Taiwanese factory owner accidentally dropped 200 $1,000 bills (worth about $6,600 in U.S. dollars) into an industrial shredder, turning them into confetti. Luckily, Taiwan’s Justice Ministry employs a forensic handwriting analyst who excels at jigsaw puzzles on the side. Ms. Liu Hui-fen worked almost around the clock for seven days to piece together the 75 percent of each bill sufficient to make them legally exchangeable.
Least Competent Criminals
Laconic Perps: (1) A female motorist in Kitsap County, Wash., reported in January being motioned by another driver to pull over, but she ignored him. The man then tried to ratchet up his credibility, motioning her over again but this time holding a hand-scrawled sign reading “sheriff.” (She remained unimpressed.) Seattle Weekly reported that a similar incident had occurred several months earlier. (2) Robert Michelson was arrested in Farmington, Conn., in February, after calling a 911 operator to inquire about the lawfulness of the marijuana plant he was growing. The operator informed him that it was illegal. (All 911 calls are automatically traced, and Michelson was soon arrested.)
People Who Ran Over Themselves: (1) A transit driver was hospitalized in December after his idling bus slipped out of gear and ran over him as he walked around it in front of Waikato Hospital in New Zealand. (2) A 37-year-old woman in Melbourne, Australia, was hospitalized in November after forgetting to engage her parking brake. The car rolled backward down her driveway, knocking her over, then hitting a fence, thrusting forward and running her down a second time. (3) A 67-year-old golfer died on the Evanston (Ill.) Golf Club course in November, apparently run over by his own electric cart. (He was discovered underneath, and the medical examiner ruled the death accidental.)
An Odd Files Classic (November 2004)
Patricia Frankhouser filed a lawsuit in Jeannette, Pa., in November (2004) against the Norfolk Southern railway as a result of being hit by a train 10 months earlier as she walked on the tracks. Most such injuries nowadays involve pedestrians distracted by earphoned music players, but Frankhouser claimed merely that Norfolk Southern was negligent for not posting signs warning that the railroad tracks are sometimes used by trains.