News of the Weird October 15 2008

LEAD STORY: Angela Pusateri, 79, may be unconventional, but, according to Jenna, 13, “She really is a cool grandmother.” The Hallandale Beach, Fla., woman is a rap-music artist with a new CD (Who’s Your Granny?) and occasional gigs, where she shows up in a hockey jersey, jewels, sunglasses and a baseball cap. Sample rap: “I can bring the noise better than P-Diddy/I am older and wiser, I ain’t a disguiser/I am condo commando in a high-riser, Who’s your granny?” Also, “Move over, Trick-Daddy, ‘cause this is my town/I gotta shuffleboard posse and we’re known to get down.” Actually, conceded Jenna to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in September, “Sometimes it’s embarrassing.”

Cultural Diversity: “In many ways,” reported the Los Angeles Times in August, the Torajans of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island “spend a lifetime preparing for their demise,” in that the most glorious highlight of their existence appears to be planning the elaborate celebration of the end of it. In fact, taking one’s last breath is only the beginning of a lengthy tribute, such as the one for Toraja’s last king, who died in 2003 but has not been put away yet, pending completion of the necessary ritual animal sacrifices. (In the interim, the deceased is considered more “sick” than “dead.”) Said one local (“cheerfully,” according to the Times), “Torajans! We live to die!”

About 250,000 women in the southern India states of Karnataka and Maharashtra are self-described “elite” sex workers whose impoverished, or devoutly pious, parents “dedicated” them as children to the Hindu goddess Yellamma, according to an August dispatch in the New Yorker. Despite the states having outlawed the practice in 1982, the women’s fate as “devadasis” remains an attractive alternative to ordinary marriage (which would usually be to poor and abusive men) and provides a degree of status, in that they dress nicely and can inherit family property, while street prostitutes cannot.

Castrillo de Murcia, Spain, lacks a “running of the bulls” tradition, but since 1620, it has included in its annual El Colacho festival a “leaping over the babies.” In late May, the town’s infants are laid on mattresses in the village square, and people in red-and-yellow devil costumes jump over them and keep running, to symbolize the vanquishing of demons from their lives.

Latest Religious Messages: Toward a More Accessible Anglican Church: 1) In August, Birmingham Cathedral announced plans to open a series of wine bars in London, as (according to an official) one of the “alternative ways” of engaging non-church-goers. 2) The new church curate in Dursley, Gloucestershire, is the Rev. Skye Denno, 29, a married mother of two, whose down time is spent in biker boots, hot pants, a dog collar and her six piercings, listening to the Sex Pistols. “I don’t do it to be difficult. I think it makes me more approachable,” she says.

The Continuing Crisis: The Nebraska Legislature’s new “safe haven” law for unwanted babies, like other states’ laws, allows them to be dropped off anonymously at hospitals to discourage abortions (and neglect by unfit parents). Unlike other states’ laws, however, Nebraska’s applies not just to infants, but “minors,” because, said state Sen. Tom White, “All children deserve our protection.” In September, the first two non-infants were abandoned, as exasperated parents gave up on rebellious sons, age 11 and 15, and critics say the law could apply to those up to age 19.

In July, Abbie Hawkins, 19, a hotel receptionist in Norwich, England, said she found a baby bat nestled inside the padded bra she had been wearing for several hours. “When I was driving to work, I felt a slight vibration but I thought it was just my mobile phone in my jacket pocket,” she told the Daily Telegraph. Hawkins had fetched the bra off of a clothesline that morning, where it had been hanging overnight. First reaction: “I thought how mean I was for disturbing it.”

Fine Points of the Law: Joey Bergamine, 19, who is preparing for a retrial in Fayetteville, N.C., on a DUI charge stemming from a July 2007 incident, will argue that he should have been advised of his right to have a lawyer present when his father kicked open his bedroom door hours after the incident to help police officers who had come to question him. Joey’s father is the police chief of Fayetteville, and Joey’s lawyer said entering a locked room, as well as the subsequent interrogation, constituted “police” action and not “parental” action, and since his dad failed to “Mirandize” him, the charge should be dismissed.

The Weirdo-American Community: Barbie’s Not Just a Girls’ Obsession: 1) Robert Martin, 47, was arrested in Cape May, N.J., in July after a state police officer spotted an array of pornographic magazines in his car in a public parking lot, along with a serving platter resting on his dashboard, piled with women’s underwear, and a collection of naked Barbie dolls lined up on the seat. 2) Christopher Sullivan, 43, was arrested in Oshkosh, Wis., in August as the person who allegedly sent his upstairs neighbors threatening packages, including a Polaroid photo of three naked Barbie dolls with their heads cut off. He told police he was angry that the couple were too loud when they had sex.

Undignified Deaths: A 21-year-old man fishing off Jones Beach on New York’s Long Island in July was killed when he yanked his line back too quickly, propelling his 3-ounce lead sinker out of the water, where it struck his head and penetrated his brain.

© 2008 CHUCK SHEPHERD