CommonOddity (Oct.-Dec. 2010)

 He encountered what could be a new species, a brand new variety of four-legged fauna as yet unknown in the annals of zoology.

So… of course he shot it.

“Well, it’s something strange, so I got my rifle to shoot it, get a closer look. And I’m glad I did, ’cause I don’t know what it is,” (Kentucky farmer Mark) Cothern said.

Don’t know what it is… open up on it! That’s rational. Mark, in Kentucky, I guess. Tell me, when you encounter something new, do you always shred it with gunfire, or do you confine this treatment to chupacabras? Mark, please, stay clear of stuff brand new or unfamiliar, like UFOs or cancer cures. You could get yourself hurt or blow it for the rest of us.
 
I must thank Lee Spiegel for keeping us up to date with his AOL ‘Chupacabra Watch’. Although this beastie may yet turn out to be a hairless coyote – as has been speculated – it’s crucial we’re kept abreast of the latest on this goat-sucking fiend from the beyond. Once unique to Hispanic countries in the Western Hemisphere either crawling with the strange creatures or with farmers muy boracho, chupacabras seem to be turning up in most-unlikely settings. I’m waiting for deep cable to launch “Real Chupacabras of Beverly Hills”, in which the spooky little devil pups nest up above Coldwater, compare cattle mutilations and discuss their breast augmentation.
 
Anyone who knows anything about me knows I’m willing to consider the possibility that cryptozoology is viable research – not silly pseudo-science. However, as a discipline, it must find some crazy new species before I’ll give it my unmitigated stamp of approval and stop ridiculing it between swigs of jug wine. Find me a yeti, or bring me the head of Alfredo Chupacabra, and I’m on your side.
 
Until then, you’re all a bunch’a goofballs.
 
By the way, what the hell is a “hairless coyote”?
 
~ O ~
 
Dammit! DAMMIT! I just knew this was going to be the photographic evidence that would blow the whole cryptozoology/paranormal thing wide open. Finally, proof-positive that would shut up the Big Foot Doubters, the UFO skeptics, the Mothman naysayers. Unassailable evidence that the supernatural world exists aaallll around us!
 
(While we’re on the subject, notice the short, skinny ghostbuster on “Ghost Adventures” is getting a lot beefier. Someone should tell that Spookhouse Bosswalker with arms the size of 1,500-year-old Sequoias to put the steroids on a higher shelf.)
 
Anyway, the “level-heads” seemingly have won again in Louisiana.

A spooky picture supposedly taken by a deer hunter in Louisiana apparently has less-than-supernatural origins.

The picture shows a sinister humanoid figure with glowing eyes. The story circulating on the Internet was a deer hunter was lying in wait in the woods when the monster appeared. In fright, the hunter broke his camera trying to get away, but not before he took a single image of the creature.

Many people were baffled by the image, while others thought it was a hoax using Photoshop. The website Playstation Lifestyle thought the creature was a viral marketing ploy for the video game Resistance 3, but the game’s developer said it was joking when it made a post about the creature on its twitter page.

I think the writer meant “others thought it was a really, really baaaad hoax using Photoshop”…
 
~ O ~
 
How ’bout some Festivus… for the rest of us?
 
No. This story isn’t cute or even mildly amusing. It’s further evidence our society is deteriorating – and soon will be as gone as the Dodo and Freddie and the Dreamers.

An Orange County jail inmate caused a stir this year by successfully claiming the fictitious holiday Festivus, made famous on the television show “Seinfeld,” as part of his religious beliefs to score better meals.

Malcolm Alarmo King, 38, enjoyed “a high protein no salami diet 3 times per day for ‘Festivism’” according to a court order by Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson. [Los Angeles Times]

However, if truly we despair the passing of culture, subsitution of cheap celebrities (Fabio is back) for anything of substance, if we’re disheartened that the line is diminishing between our common reality and half-hour sitcom, we can take comfort, from this inmate’s middle name, that human creativity never is dimmed.
 
~ O ~
 
If you’re bored and want to list all the disgusting crap that’s happened in our endless Iraq quagmire thus far, it’s hard to top the legal lynching of Saddam Hussein, our “war on terror” bogeyman himself, a few years ago.
 
Now the Wikileaks humiliation dump has revealed some fresh details on that ugly affair. For one thing, our diplomats seemed mighty determined to pin the whole thing on Iraqis themselves, even though the prosecutor who put Saddam’s neck in the noose was frisked at the gallows site by U.S. Marshals!
 
Like… Rooster Cogburn?!!

The author of the cable placed responsibility for how the execution was handled squarely on the shoulders of the Iraqi government, saying it “was responsible for the execution building, access to the building and courtyard, and the conduct of the execution. The [government of Iraq's] lack of a clear and coordinated plan to control the witnesses and conduct the execution resulted in a hastily run and confusing event”… (Prosecutor Munqith) Faroon and a judge met with Hussein before the execution to read him the verdict and escort him to the execution site… Faroon admits he “sympathized” with Hussein, who “entered with his covered head, hands tied and shaking involuntarily.”

Now, there’s a surprise.
 
…Maybe he was allergic to rope.
 
~ O ~
 
So let’s say you’re just fooling around, surfin’ the net, y’know. Fun stuff. (MeFister, leathernuns.com and SugarPitInferno are some of my faves.) And you’re looking up old girlfriends, checkin’ out some porn, discovering you’re wanted for murder, shopping for silver engravings at GagMeWithYourSpoon…
 
Wait a damn minute!
 
…WANTED FOR MURDER!!!
 
Yep. Right in the middle of a perfect day…

Zachary Garcia and Zachery Garcia may have homonymous names, but, as you’d imagine, they’re actually very different people. The former is a University of Florida student who works at a sandwich shop. The latter is a teenager accused of murder. Investigators in Polk Country, Florida, however, failed to pick up on the subtle difference in spelling between the two names — a mistake that came to light after a casual Google search.

Turns out, authorities in the region mistakenly circulated a driver’s license photo of Zachary (with an ‘a’), whom they clearly confused with the real suspect, Zachery (with an ‘e’). The college student became aware of the mistake only after Googling his name, and discovering that (surprise!) he was wanted for murder. “I was just very shocked to find my picture and the article saying that I was convicted of a felony murder charge,” he told Tampa Bay station WTSP. “And I was just very shocked and angry that someone put my name up there and said I did something I didn’t do.”

Seems an armed resident took umbrage when Zachery with an ‘e’ and three cohorts broke into his house, and shot one of them – fatally. Since it’s a killing that took place during commission of a felony, ‘e’ is up to his i-balls in trouble. Should’ve minded his p’s and q’s better… no?Zachary with an ‘a’ should be thankful he wasn’t suspected of terrorism. By now, he’d be in a tiny, superheated cell with no bunk, blasted with Queensryche between waterboard gargles.
 
~ O ~
 
Nothing is funny in this story, but it’s so flat-out bizarre – and repellent – this is the only place I can think of to put it:

A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on charges that he solicited a hit man to kill a teenager who had accused him of sexual abuse. Authorities said John Fiala first offered the job to a neighbor, who blew the whistle and helped police arrange a sting. They said Fiala got as far as negotiating a $5,000 price for the slaying before investigators moved in.
The 52-year-old clergyman was arrested Nov. 18 at his suburban Dallas home and jailed on $700,000 bond. In April, he was named in a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family, who accused Fiala of molesting the youth, including twice forcing him to have sex at gunpoint.

I know of tales more strange than this, but I can’t remember them. And I can’t think of more an antithesis of “man of God” than this guy. (Assuming the charges are true, of course…) A cop once told me, back in my reporting days, that child molesters go where the children are, and when you think about it, there are few vocations more advantageous than the priesthood for those with that criminal prediliction. Priests at one time had unquestioned authority over children in their charge, and could do no wrong – as they were God’s emissaries on earth.
 
Only… some aren’t…
 
~ O ~
 
“We were puzzled when Charley Sheen popped out of the smoke, naked, hollering that we’d stolen his wallet…”
 
At first, firemen battling a small-town Pennsylvania motel fire must’ve thought Jeffrey Dahmer had come back from the dead when they discovered a room spattered in blood and littered with whiskey bottles. Obviously… the burning motel was also a murder scene.
 
But… no… it was just a set for a straight-to-DVD masterpiece called “New Terminal Hotel”, with Corey Haim, who apparently has more comeback vehicles than the Mayo Clinic has bedpans. The horror cheapie had been filming at the motel.
 
“I was mad at first because we declared it a crime scene. I had to call my detectives out-that’s eight hours of overtime,” said a detective. He’ll probably get a lot of ribbing for this in the precinct locker room. “Bust any extras lately?”… That sort of thing.
 
No one was injured in the fire, and the only probable damage will be suffered by anyone renting the DVD, assuming this gem is ever fininshed.
 
How come they don’t make actors named ‘Corey” anymore?
 
…And how many folks in this small town were unaware a movie was filming there?
 
~ O ~
 
At first they thought there might be a connection in some way to “Peter Pan” author  J.M. Barrie. But the tale of long-dead nurse Janet M. Barrie would be more at home in a collection of Edgar Allan Poe, or as a companion piece to James Faulkner’s first published short story, the marvelously chilling “A Rose for Emily”.
 
Two mummified infants found in the basement of a picturesque-vintage apartment building in Los Angeles have been established through DNA tests as offspring of Ms. Barrie. The tiny bodies had been wrapped in newspaper from the ’30s, and placed in a steamer trunk that also contained two ticket stubs from Los Angeles’ 1932 Olympics. It’s doubtful cause of death will be established, so it’s unlikely any details will ever emerge of the childrens’ birth and deaths. Everyone can be assured of one thing, though:
 
That basement hasn’t been cleaned out very often.
 
(Just because I am who I am and I’m tuned the way I’m tuned, this all reminds me a bit of the story of Winnie Ruth Judd, a Phoenix doctor’s wife who, in the early 1930s, was convicted of shooting and dismembering a couple of her roomates – rumored to be involved with her in a lesbian triangle. Judd was arrested after an alert shipping clerk in Los Angeles noticed the bodies in streamer trunks; that was unique, even for L.A. Someone, believed to be Judd, had attemped to mail off the crime. Locked up in the state’s forbidding asylum on Van Buren St., she escaped several times. When apprehended the last time in the ’70s, authorities finally turned her loose. She died a dozen years ago, eerily on the same date she surrended to police in 1931, and incidentally outlived Barrie by four years. For decades after the killings, parents in Arizona hushed their children with the warning that if they didn’t pipe down, they’d be snatched away by Winnie Ruth Judd…)
 
What few scraps of information there are in the Barrie case is pored over by the Los Angeles Times:

The new evidence — coupled with a preliminary autopsy that found no signs of trauma — has led police to close the case that, since the discovery last August, has captivated mystery-lovers and armchair detectives around the world. But, police said, there will always be unanswered questions.

Among them: Who was the babies’ father? And why did Barrie, who died in 1994, keep the bodies tucked among her possessions for so many years?

The babies’ bodies were found by two women cleaning the basement of an apartment building near MacArthur Park. When they came upon the old trunk, they broke its lock with a screwdriver. Inside was a trove of antique books and clothing — and two leather doctor’s satchels, each holding a small body.

Through relatives, investigators have been able to piece together a fairly detalied biography of Barrie, a Scottish-born coal miner’s daughter. She and her large family immigrated first to Canada, where she eventually attended nursing school in Winnipeg before moving to the City of the Angels in the 1920s.
 
She ensconced herself in the Westlake apartment building 62 years ago, and worked there as live-in nurse for the ailing wife of a dentist.
 
Nobody knows who the father of the children might have been; Barrie never married. In those days, there was social stigma surrounding unwed motherhood, and that might have had something to do – sinister or otherwise – with this odd story.
 
We’ll never know if Barrie was just a sentimental custodian of two babies who’d died of natural causes, or if she was a socially observant monster, if someone else was involved or how fate penned this tale. It joins the gruesome murder of the Black Dahlia, assassination of Notorious BIG and a host of other unsolved mysteries as part of the dark saga of this crazy town.
 
~ O ~
 
What if you could build a comfortable family home with square footage no bigger than an average parking space for a car?
 
Pretty revolutionary, huh? Just can’t top the Japanese for coming up with this stuff. Fuyuhito Moriya has been able to pack a whole lotta livin’ in a space barely bigger than a Ford Crown Vic. And here’s the kicker: His mom lives in this micro-habitat with him!
 
When CNN reported this story (a little late, too, since it’s been kicking around news wires since summer), I thought, “Yeah… that’s right up my alley. Sustainable space at very minimum square footage.” A conservative – very conservative – use of the good earth. That’s a real advantage in people-clogged Tokyo, where residents practically live piggy-back in tight, overpopulated affluence.
 
Damn trendy idea. Green, y’know?
 
Then I got to the part in the story that said Moriya built his subcompact dream home for about $500,000.
 
HALF A MILLION DOLLARS TO LIVE IN A GODDAMN PHONE BOOTH?!!!
 
Uh… no.
 
Even here in the sprawling San Fernando Valley you can do  better than that. And even though California home prices have increased – without fail – every decade in 150 years of statehood, that 2008 meltdown means $500,000 will go a mite farther, and in better neighborhoods, that it did in recent years.
 
If I’m going to spend $500,000 for a home, I’ve gotta be able to turn around without getting a doorknob up my ass.
 
Besides, if either Moriya or his mom/roomate snores, that could be grounds for splitting this community property into closetminiums.
 
~ O ~
 
An abnormally large bottle rocket, or maybe a really, really fast bat – perhaps ‘outta hell’ – with its ass on fire.
 
Nobody knows what was that missile-like thingy over Southern California yesterday. Even the Pentagon has shrugged.
 
It would make me nervous, since it seems someone launched a mystery rocket big enough to hit the outer fringes of the atmosphere, but we have no reports that it’s landed. Or gone off.
 
…Exploded.
 
…So I guess we’re OK.
 
For now, I think I’ll just hold tight and await further instructions. I’m not sure from where that information will be coming, since nobody knows or seems to give a rat’s ass about it, but I’ll hold on just the same.

“Nobody within the Department of Defense that we’ve reached out to has been able to explain what this contrail is, where it came from,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said. “So far, we’ve come up empty with any explanation.” [CBS News]

The non-explanation du jour seems to be it was a rocket or… craft… launched by a private company. I mean, we have private armies, private intelligence agencies and police forces. Why not private world powers?
 
I’d feel a lot better if someone, some authority figure, could tie down the facts a little more diligently, delve into the details - if only to make sure North Korean submarines aren’t prowling the West Coast, their crews playing dominoes and singing socialist sea shanties. Just keeping an eye on us – and maybe launching a missile or two for laughs.
 
And I wish someone with some authority would get a little more excited about this… An airplane flies low over New York and the nation craps its pants. We got rockets and who gives a damn?
 
~ O ~
 
This is so damn weird, if I stuck a finger down my throat and wiggled it back and forth, I’d probably puke – I swear! Get this:
 
Ted Sorensen, dead President John F. Kennedy’s ghost writer, died on Halloween!
 
Isn’t that spooky enough to run shivers up and down your spine – especially if you hung a bare electrical cord on the wall, showered and backed into it?
 
Ghost writer? Halloween? Get it? Oooo. I couldn’t be more floored if someone tapped me in a temple with Carl Paladino’s big ol’ crazy, orange Louisville Slugger… bullshit. Cocksucker. Anyway… From the Boston Globe:

…The ghost behind some of John F. Kennedy’s most memorable phrases, died on Halloween, just nine days short of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s presidential victory. For decades, Kennedy’s detractors emphasized Sorensen’s significant role in drafting Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage,’’ his famous inaugural address, and his presidential speeches on civil rights and arms control. Sorensen struggled to answer such criticism; like a butler or valet, a good ghost writer shouldn’t call attention to himself. But that canard was outdated even in the ’60s. What national politician has time to draft all his own speeches? Modern presidents rise and fall in no small part on the quality of their writing shops.

I phoned my brother in New York and told him to vote for The Rent Is Too Damn High Party (see below) and he never got back to me. ‘Course, I was drunk and sorta laid into him about a bunch of childhood guilt shit. And pottymouth. Gotta love that coming through call screening at 3 a.m. Anyway… I know he’ll be interested in this. He once worked with someone from the Kennedy White House, or something.
 
This is true: Sorensen came up with Kennedy’s monumental phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Very understandable sentiment coming from someone who was a veteran of World War II, maybe. But here’s the tweeze in the Coke can: Those very same sentences wouldn’t be out of place in Hitler’s Third Reich, either. The Nazis probably would replace “country” with “fatherland” – they were like that. Pronounce it “vaterlant”, too. Like we call it “homeland” today.
 
~ O ~
 
Simply because I cannot leave the brother alone:

NEW YORK (AP) – The Rent Is Too Damn High guy is getting his own action figure. New York governor wannabe Jimmy McMillan is running under the “The Rent Is Too Damn High Party” banner. He became a political sensation during the candidates’ debate, wearing black gloves and mutton chops. He was even satirized on “Saturday Night Live.” McMillan’s action figure will sell for about 50 bucks and is being marketed by Herobuilders.com. The company’s line includes action figure notables like President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and former V-P candidate Sarah Palin.

Jimmy, the rent is too damn high. I don’t care if it’s squeezed from a poor tenant left lying drunk on the sidewalks of New York, or some dejected soul sitting on the dock of the San Francisco Bay, watching the tide… rooooll away. And maybe wondering if the End Times truly are nigh – and the Giants will win the Series.
 
This is a MUST item for gift-giving Election Eve. We might as well celebrate Christmas next week, since by the time the holidays really DO roll around, we’ll all be broke. …At least in part because the rent, yes, is too damn high.
 
If we make it to Yuletide, I hope Jimmy’s action figure has enough juice to still make it under the tree. Who knows? He may win. Then this little gimcrack will be worth a king’s ransom. Or maybe a damn high Park Avenue rental.
 
~O~
 
Maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man – to quote simperingly naive Joni Mitchell lyrics – or maybe it’s just that this somewhat gruesome tale originates from my hometown…
 
A pile of human bones have been excavated from a cemetery in Bisbee, AZ. Wait a minute… I know what you’re thinking. ‘So what?’ Right? Cemetery… bones. Coals… Newcastle. But hold on here.
 
This suspicious ossuary was discovered unexpectedly at Memory Gardens Cemetery by some gal looking for a headstone. These pits are big, and according to AOL (one news source that appreciates the offbeat), “investigators want to find out if the remains were handled properly by a cremation business that was contracted to dispose of them for a medical research company… the pits contained countless human bones – some with artificial knees and hips still attached – and were so large it took several tarps to cover each one while investigators examined the scene.”
 
Cemetery owners are saying the pits are mere “scattering grounds” for bits and pieces of human remains picked over by medical researchers, then cremated and mostly pulverized into human talc.

Virginia Parker said the scattering grounds are where remains from donors are kept when their families don’t want them returned. “When it’s full, we cover it and then open another,” she said… She believes police and reporters were trying to make a big deal of the pits.

OK. That’s a believable story. Would’ve been more… delicate, perhaps… if they’d bothered to better camouflage this people ash, so bigger chunks containing prostheses and identifiable portions of Uncle Lou and Aunt Weezy wouldn’t be tripped over by survivors looking for gravesites of their own dearly departed. As is, it’s a somewhat unpleasant reminder of mortality’s messier aspects.
 
Jarring, too.
 
Since the Arizona Department of Health Services, and even the state’s Board of Real Estate (which regulates sale of grave plots) have washed their hands of the case – so to speak – that leaves the determined, conscientious Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers to look into the cremation process that prepped the bones pre-dumping… er… “scattering”. However, the board has no actual jurisdiction over burial sites or procedures themselves - deeply ritual or off-handedly casual.
 
I get an uncomfortable inkling our economic meltdown will cause a lot more possible violations like this to be hot-potato’d to inaction.
 
Look, over there by the Masonic plot restrooms… Alas, Yorick…