News of the Weird November 12 2008

Brain stimulation, incriminating pooches and more

LEAD STORY: Legendary banjo player Eddie Adcock, age 70 and suffering hand tremors that failed to respond to medication, volunteered for a revolutionary neurosurgery in August in which he finger-picked tunes while his brain was exposed, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center surgeons tried to locate the defective area. In “deep brain stimulation,” doctors find a poorly responding site and use electrodes to arouse it properly. As Adcock, conscious but pain-free, picked out melodies, doctors probed until suddenly Adcock’s playing became disjointed, and electrodes were assigned to that spot. By October, according to an ABC News report, Adcock, with a button-activated chest pacemaker wired to his head, was back on stage, as quick-fingered as ever.

The Litigious Society: Murderers in the Money: 1) Reggie Townsend, 29, serving 23 years in a Wisconsin prison for reckless homicide against an 11-year-old girl, won $295,000 from a jury in September as compensation for a two-month confinement with only a “wet, moldy and foul smelling” mattress to sleep on (about $4,900 per unpleasant night). 2) Muri Chilton (aka Murray Gartton), serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, was awarded $2,500 by a Canadian Federal Court judge in September as compensation solely for feeling “utterly humiliated” in 2000 when guards roared with laughter after he mangled his thumb in a prison workshop accident.

Brian Hopkins, 25, severely burned in 2006 after climbing onto the roof of an empty train at Boston’s South Station at 2 a.m., filed a lawsuit in August against Amtrak. Though he admitted that he was trespassing at the station when he was zapped by 27,500 volts of overhead wire, Hopkins said Amtrak ought to have known that people trespass and climb on top of trains, and therefore should have parked its train in a less accessible place.

Equal Rights for All: Roy Hollander filed a civil rights lawsuit against Columbia University in New York City in August, claiming that its “women’s studies” curriculum teaches a religion-like philosophy that oppresses men by blaming them for nearly all social problems. (When interviewed by the New York Daily News, Hollander declined to give his age, saying such a revelation would crimp his pickup success with young women: Frequently, he said, women “think I’m younger than I am, so I don’t want to disillusion them.”)

Complaints were lodged with the Swedish government in June against the state-run retail pharmacy Apoteket, alleging illegal sex discrimination, in that its stores stock sexual aids that benefit women (e.g., vibrators) but none that particularly benefit men. Said one complainer, a “woman with a dildo is seen as liberated, strong and independent, whereas a man with a blow-up plastic vagina is viewed as disgusting and perverted.” The government’s equal opportunities ombudsman rejected the complaints.

Compelling Explanations: In September, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the 18-year sentence of a 73-year-old South Bend man who had insisted that he was only trying to revive his 68-year-old wife after she became fatally incapacitated in June 2007. Police noted, however, that he had not called 911, nor checked her vital signs, nor performed CPR, but that instead, his “reviving” consisted of performing an oral sex act on her (which the judges concluded was merely the fulfillment of a desire that his wife had long since denied him).

Ironies: 1) In September, alleged flasher Patrick Dodenhoff, 39, fled after a report of indecent exposure, and police chased him from Atascadero, Calif., south to Pismo Beach, and finally caught up with and arrested him at a well-known local nude beach. 2) As urban Detroit continues its decline, with an estimated 5,000 residents fleeing annually, it is not just living people who leave. Dead bodies depart, as well, at a rate of 500 a year, according to an August Detroit News report, as relatives unwilling to travel to the crumbling city’s cemeteries have their loved ones disinterred and relocated.

People Different From Us: Christina Downs, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., mounted a full-blown defense to the speeding ticket (44 mph in a 25 mph zone) she’d received in 2007 (even though the officer said Downs had arrogantly sped off again immediately afterward and had to be stopped a second time). Acting as her own lawyer, Downs filed motions and at a trial, put the officer through a meticulous, 96-point cross-examination about such matters as work schedule, training, engineering studies of road speeds, radar technology, weather conditions, traffic flow, and the use of a tuning fork to calibrate the radar device. The judge ruled against her, and in October 2008, the state Supreme Court ordered her to pay the $100 ticket.

Least Competent People: A 38-year-old woman described as “very large,” using the abductor thigh-tightening machine at the New York Sports Club in Harlem in July, failed to dismount properly, according to a witness, and was “sling-shot” off, across the room, startling other gym users. Paramedics had to use a Stokes basket instead of a regular stretcher to carry her out, according to the New York Post.

Recurring Themes: Food engineers in Japan are especially notorious for their odd-flavored ice creams that challenge the palate, as News of the Weird has noted several times. In August, voters at the Taste of Britain festival selected their own regional favorites, some of which rivaled Japan’s (e.g., ice creams of sausage and mash, pork pie, cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Welsh rarebit and even haggis). The Japanese still love their ice cream, though. Among the flavors at this year’s Yokohama Ice Cream Expo in August (celebrating the 130th anniversary of ice cream in Japan) were beef tongue, octopus, eel and beer.

© 2008 CHUCK SHEPHERD