News of the Weird July 09 2008

LEAD STORY: A prominent chef once wrote, “If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing,” and recently restaurants specializing in such “nose-to-tail” cuisine have opened in several cities, according to a May report in Toronto’s National Post. The hamburger at New York City’s Tasting Room includes cow heart, liver, bone marrow, tongue, flatiron, brisket, shank and clod. New York’s Casa Mono features dishes of lamb’s tongue, duck hearts and the red combs on top of the rooster’s head. San Francisco’s Incanto serves lamb necks, pig trotters and venison kidneys. Said Incanto’s executive chef, “It’s about viable cuts of meat that we have thrown into the trash can for years. ... When it comes to food, we have been very wasteful.”

News That Sounds Like a Joke: 1) In April, as a police officer approached a motorist relieving himself on the side of the road in South Kitsap, Wash., the man explained that he had consumed “a bunch” of beers but was not driving drunk. According to the officer, the man said he was slurring his words because “his dentist advised him his mouth was too big for his tongue.” 2) Comedian Aries Spears pleaded guilty in April to assaulting a woman in the audience during his act at a New York City club. Said prosecutor Elizabeth Pederson, ridiculing Spears’ initial explanation: “You can’t high-five a woman’s breast.”

Not My Fault: 1) Accused triple murderer Jeffrey Gilham earned a hung-jury verdict in April in Sydney, Australia, by relentlessly denying that he had stabbed to death his mother and father. They and Gilham’s brother all died by the same knife, at about the same time, stabbed from 13 to 16 times each in the heart, by a murderer kneeling over the victims. Nevertheless, Gilham said he killed only his brother and not the parents. 2) Jessica Vasquez, 19, was arrested in Indianapolis in April for a road-rage assault, but swore she was only exercising self-defense. Her victim, an 81-year-old woman whom Vasquez said was driving too slowly, had been punched in the face, yanked from her car and thrown to the ground, suffering leg fractures in 14 places.

Ironies: The graduation ceremony in May at Naperville (Ill.) Central High School was marred by the revelation that about half of the valedictorian’s speech was plagiarized from a speech on the Internet, but in this case, the principal was helpless to punish him because the principal plagiarized his own speech. (He said he forgot to ask permission of the author, a Naperville Central graduate who was in the audience that day.) The principal has been reassigned, and the valedictorian’s speech was removed from the graduation video.

Among the items on the menu for world leaders who met in June in Rome to discuss the crisis in world hunger: pasta with a sauce of pumpkin and shrimp, veal rolls, pastry puffs with corn and mozzarella, cheese mousse, Parmesan risotto, ragout of veal with legumes and zucchini pie, washed down with fine Italian wines.

Hardcore Ironies: 1) The prominent Texas personal injury attorney Brian Loncar, whose ubiquitous TV ads offer motorists a “strong arm” if they’ve been hurt by another driver’s negligence, landed in critical condition after a Dallas accident caused, said police, when Loncar’s 2008 Bentley failed to yield to an emergency vehicle and was struck by the speeding fire engine. 2) A Lynnwood, Wash., mother has been leading a fanciful campaign to pressure an Urban Outfitters store to remove “sexual”-type books from its shelves, such as Pornogami (“Paper-Folding for Adults”). The mother’s surname closely resembles an acronym familiar to prurient young men: Marci Milfs.

I Demand My Rights! An English professor at Dartmouth College acrimoniously left her position earlier this year to accept one at Northwestern University, but not before threatening to sue Dartmouth and seven students because they so disrespected her theories as to create a “hostile work environment.” Priya Venkatesan’s academic specialty is treating “science” not as natural or physical realities but as mere social or political ideas. She said some students were so “intolerant” of her teaching and so questioned her knowledge as to constitute harassment.

Ari Ne’eman, 20, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has formed the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to persuade public opinion that those diagnosed with autism are not ill or disabled but merely different in the way they process information, in that social interaction is very difficult for them. Those without autism, say the activists, are merely “neurotypical,” and a progressive society must be “neurodiverse.” Notwithstanding such articulate advocates as Ne’eman, most medical professionals continue to consider autism a potentially devastating affliction, according to a June report in New York magazine.

The Democratic Process: Legislating Love: 1) Ecuadorian legislator Maria Soledad Vela proposed in April that the nation’s constitution express the public-health principle that women have a right to enjoy sex and not be mere breeding machines. Opponents ridiculed Soledad Vela’s “right to orgasm” that might lead to lawsuits against husbands. 2) In April, Tommy Tabermann, a member of Finland’s parliament, submitted a bill to require one week’s paid vacation a year solely for romance, to counteract the country’s alarmingly high divorce rate.

The longtime elected clerk of court in Pasco County, Fla., Jed Pittman, admitted to WTSP-TV in May that he rarely comes to work and in fact has researched state law to learn that as long as he shows up once every 43 days, he can’t be fired. (The law provides for removal by the chief judge only if the clerk is absent for “44” consecutive days.) Pittman’s salary is about $136,000 a year, but he exploited another loophole in state law to “retire” in 2004, and then unretire the next day, which brings him an additional $75,000 a year (besides the $362,000 lump sum he received on the day he “retired”).