By Chuck Shepherd
4:25 PM EDT, October 8, 2013
American Exceptionalism: Which is more characteristically American — that a Texas company could invent an ordinary rifle that mimics a machine gun or that America's incomparable legal minds could find a loophole in existing anti-machine-gun laws to permit it to be manufactured and sold? The Slide Fire company's weapon can spray bullets “like a fire hose” from a legal, semiautomatic gun by simple application of muscle, yet an official opinion of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives acknowledges that the agency is powerless to regulate it because of the wording in 1934 and 1986 legislation that otherwise restricts private ownership of machine guns. One gun shop owner told London's Daily Mail in September that the Slide Fire rifle is “not as easy” to use as a machine gun, but still, “(I)t's fairly idiot-proof.”
Fine Points of the Law
(1) In July, a New York City judge tossed out Joseph Lozito's lawsuit against the police -- even though two officers had stood by in February 2011, out of harm's way, while a man attacked Lozito as part of a four-murder crime spree. The judge ruled that it was not clear enough that Lozito was in danger when the officers began to ignore him (while they were inside a subway motorman's booth). (2) In September, a federal jury in New York City upheld an employment agency worker's claim that she (an African-American) was racially harassed by her boss. The supervisor, Rob Carmona, had insisted that he could not be liable for race-based harassment because, he, too, is African-American and thus entitled to use the “n-word.”
The Continuing Crisis
-Busy Being Superheroes: In separate incidents on successive September days, people dressed as Batman and Captain America rescued a cat from a burning house in Milton, W.Va., and Superman came to the aid of Wonder Woman in Hollywood, Calif. (The West Virginia pair were performing at a function when they noticed nearby smoke, and Superman and Wonder Woman were posing for tourists' tips when a passerby got belligerent.) In July, another Superman tackled a shoplifter on the streets of Sheffield, England, where he was appearing at a fundraiser. (However, less elegantly, two Captain Americas and a Spider-Man brawled briefly in May over access to a contested, lucrative Hollywood street corner.)
-Our Freedom to Doze Off, Now in Danger: The training technology company Mindflash recently revealed a feature for iPads that prevents student inattentiveness during an online course. Facial recognition software notices a user looking away (or, worse, falling asleep) and thus pauses the course at that point until the eager learner re-engages the screen. (Mindflash assured reporters that the program has more serious uses, such as treatment of autism and Alzheimer's disease.)
-For people who believe that “rave” parties' music is too faint, an August event at England's Liverpool International Music Festival offered a solution: The DaDaFest program featured an ear-crushing sound level especially staged for deaf people's dancing -- since they can “hear” only by the vibrations saturating their bodies; the non-deaf should bring earplugs. Among the performers: deaf DJ Troi “Chinaman” Lee, who claims he easily feels distinctions in his mix of hip hop, R&B, reggae, dance and electro swing.
-In an epic failure, according to Madrid's El Pais newspaper, a 20-story condominium building (“InTempo,” likely the tallest residential edifice in the European Union) in the resort town of Benidorm, Spain, was hastily upsized to a planned 47 stories, but a series of architectural mistakes and developer bankruptcies has left it limping, still 65 percent unsold. Most notably, El Pais discovered in 2012 that the then-current design made it impossible to build an elevator shaft to go past the 23rd floor because of space limitation. (The architects resigned, and unconfident developers were forced to turn to financing from one of the shakier banks in the country's feeble economy.)
-In a YouTube video, reported by the political website RawStory.com in August, well-known tea party activist Jerome Corsi elaborates on the biblical importance of child-bearing and implores followers to “(hold) the line” on the principle that “(s)ex is about the procreation of children.” “(S)ex is not about fun,” he says. “If you want to have fun, read a book, go to a movie.”
-Evidently, Surgery Is Kinda Boring: A 36-year-old patient is suing California's Torrance Memorial Medical Center, claiming that anesthesiologist Patrick Yang decorated her face with stickers while she was unconscious and that an aide took photos for laughs, later allegedly uploading them to Facebook. Dr. Yang and the aide were later disciplined but remained in good standing. Some hospitals (not Torrance Memorial yet) prohibit cellphones in operating rooms at all times.
-According to his road manager, pioneer 1970s musician Sly Stone (of Sly and the Family Stone) has a lot of “real interesting ideas,” including once trying to hire “ninja chicks and clowns” for his security entourage. Stone's latest brainstorm, reported London's The Guardian in August: form a musical group of albinos, which Stone says “could neutralize all the racial problems” that plague society. “To me,” he said, “albinos are the most legitimate minority group of all.”
-In the concluding race in September of the Rally de Misiones in Campo Viera, Argentina, it was important for drivers to complete the laps even if they had no chance of winning, but near the end, driver Sebastian Llamosas experienced a throttle malfunction and began coasting, still about a half-mile from the finish line. However, in a move reminiscent of actor Slim Pickens jumping on the atomic bomb in “Dr. Strangelove,” Llamosas's quick-thinking partner Mauricio Sainz jumped onto the open engine and accelerated the car by hand while Llamosas steered the final distance.
(1) Klaus Eder, a 25-year veteran team trainer for Germany, working its World Cup soccer qualifier match with Austria on Sept. 8, had a rough time despite the players' 3-0 win. Rushing onto the pitch during the game to treat player Marcel Schmelzer, Eder first tore a muscle in his left leg and then, as he fell to the ground, broke a finger. (Schmelzer's injury was comparatively minor.) (2) Dallas police officer Antonio Quintanilla was the victim in an August incident, but handled it by the book -- even though what the perp had done was urinate off a balcony at 3 a.m., onto Quintanilla's head. (Because the bladder-reliever did not know that Quintanilla was a cop, he was given a nonarrest citation.) Quintanilla also calmly helped a colleague investigate the crime scene -- locating the “wet and humid areas where the urine had fallen,” according to the police report.
Perverts on Parade
A 35-year-old man was charged with sexual assault in Solvesborg, Sweden, in July, for allegedly following a 50-year-old woman home, apparently intending to flash her. After she made it safely inside before he could expose himself, she noticed some noise at the front door and found that the man had stuck his penis through the door's mail slot.
A News of the Weird Classic (December 2008)
One of the world's best-known strategists on the game of checkers passed away in November (2008). Richard Fortman was Illinois state champion six times and in the 1970s and 1980s published a seven-volume handbook on rules and tactics. Many people now considering the game would be astonished to know that, as in chess, there are masters and grandmasters, international rankings, that experts actually study historical opening moves and endgames, and that some play, move-by-move, via the U.S. Mail. A New York Times obituary noted that Fortman played as many as 100 games simultaneously, and won games blindfolded. Until the end, according to his daughter, Fortman spent “hours each day” playing checkers online.
Thanks This Week to Kirsi Hannonen and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
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