News of the Weird, March 6, 1998




* Among the exhibits at the Impulse to Collect show at San Jose State University in February were Chris Daubert's "Chromatic extrusions rodenta" (rats' droppings following their ingestion of some of his oil paints), Maryly Snow's collection of 696 toothbrushes (each catalogued on 13 attributes), and Bob Rasmussen's collection of items containing red X's.  Among the exhibits rejected were a huge mass of dryer lint, an assortment of cat snot on slides, and a 15-year collection of umbilical cords.  Said organizer Theta Belcher, on what makes a real collector:  "They take it that one step too far."


* In May 1997, Dalton, Ga., juror Jim Thomas, 69, voted with his colleagues to convict Wayne Cservak of child molesting, but he soon had second thoughts and spent his own money for a lawyer to handle Cservak's appeal.  The victim then admitted he had lied about Cservak, and in December the case against him was dismissed.  Cservak's lawyer said Thomas's deed was "unheard of, not only in Georgia legal history but in the entire American legal history."  Not quite.  In January, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments on the appeal of convicted murderer Adrian Santiago, funded by $12,000 so far from the life savings of regretful juror June Briere.


* "Road Rage" gets the attention, but more rages are coming into

prominence:  Pre-pay Rage, Albuquerque, N.Mex., January (a man wanted to pump his gas before he paid; fired several gunshots into the clerk's car).  Late-Fee Rage, McLean, Va., January (former State Dept. lawyer was not allowed to rent a movie until he settled an old late fee; ran down the store owner with his car, knocking him through the window of a nearby restaurant).  Rain Rage, Los Angeles, February (as two men passed in the rain, their umbrellas accidentally touched; one man then aimed his umbrella at the other's face and thrust the tip through his eye, piercing his brain, sending him to the hospital in critical condition).




* According to a September federal indictment in Des Moines, Iowa, Kenneth Ray Bruner (who is the stepson of a Pentacostal minister in Oklahoma City) led his seven accomplices in prayer three weeks earlier, asking for God's protection just before they set out to knock off Hermans Fine Jewelry.  Bruner acknowledged, according to the indictment, "that they were going to do bad things but that they were not bad people."  No one was hurt in the robbery, and everyone was behind bars by the following day.


* An August Associated Press report described the success of fiery, 10-year-old, traveling Baptist preacher Johnny Brown.  According to his mother, the kid became inspired at age 4 during services in Georgetown, S. Car., one Saturday, saying, "Momma, the Lord told me to get up and say something."  Mrs. Brown said she tried to keep the toddler pinned in the pew, but he wiggled free, walked to the pulpit, and asked for the floor, at which point he began singing the hymn "Down at the Cross," setting the congregation abuzz.  His travel dates are booked solid at churches as far away as New York.


* Taiwanese pilgrims Pi Feng Chiang and Hon-Ming Chen moved their God's Salvation Church from Los Angeles to Garland, Tex., in December based on a heavenly revelation (actually, a skywritten ad for the latest James Bond movie).  (Garland was chosen because it sounded like "God land" to the pilgrims, who speak halting

English.)  Hon-Ming then took a crew to Lake Michigan to scout the location for the March 31, 1998, arrival of God's spacecraft, the loading dock for which will be at the Lake Street Beach in Gary, Ind.  Hon-Ming periodically stares at his hand in public because, he said, that is how he converses with God.


* Dubious Salvations:  In January in Jerusalem, self-described mystic rabbi David Batzri offered specialized blessings in person or by telephone for those who have sinned by masturbation (which he said is the principal cause of demons).  And in Hong Kong in November, self-proclaimed "knight of God" Syed Atta Muhammad, 32, was committed to a psychiatric center after he assaulted a 22-year-old tour guide, whose breasts he thought were too big to serve God because they made her look like a prostitute.


* In October, two months after Gov. Fob James came to the defense of a Jewish family whose children were being harassed by school officials in Pike County, Ala., first lady Bobbie James told reporters that the reason Alabama was attracting so much new business (Boeing, Mercedes-Benz, others) was because God was blessing the state for being friendly toward Israel.  (The Pike County school superintendent admitted that officials ordered the children to remove Star of David pins because he thought they were gang symbols.)


* Pro football star Sean Gilbert sat out the 1997 season because the Washington Redskins had offered him only $20 million over the next five years, $1 million a season less than the figure that came to him last summer, he said, as a revelation from God.




* The Associated Press reported in November on Morgan Wilburn, 7, of Salem, Va., who seems well on his way to a vacuum cleaner obsession.  He owns 21 of them, with a new one showing up each Christmas, and was interviewed with his mother when they both were invited to the Bissell Inc. factory in Grand Rapids, Mich., to check out the new models.  Said his mom, as the two were on their way to meeting Bissell president Mark Bissell, "That's like meeting Michael Jordan."  Afterward, Bissell remarked, "The guy is really focused on product."


* Local prosecutor (described by the Boston Globe as "a rising

star") William Charles McCallum of Brentwood, N.H., was sentenced to 3-6 years in prison in February for theft.  He had confessed to stealing numerous home and office furnishings, ranging from 19th century paintings to leatherbound books to the trousers he was wearing the day his trial opened.  McCallum introduced testimony that he was a hopeless kleptomaniac, but the government thought he was faking.


* Darius McCollum, 32, was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., in November behind the wheel of a New York City Transit Authority truck, wearing a TA uniform, on his way to inspecting sections of track.  However, he is not, and has never been, a Transit worker.

He has been arrested more than 20 times in 16 years for using transit agency equipment and doing transit agency work in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, and has spent four years in prison.  Said a New York TA spokesman, McCollum is an engaging person, but "He just thinks that he's a transit employee, and he's not."


* Dutchman Peter Konings, 38, who had already been scheduled for deportation from England, was convicted in London in January of six counts as a serial buttocks fondler.  All incidents involved Konings's sticking his toe through a gap in the seat in front of him on the No. 21 Nottingham-Stapleford bus route, and annoying the females sitting there.


* In federal court in Camden, N.J., in September, Francis X. Vitale, Jr., 53, pleaded guilty to two counts in connection with embezzling

$12.4 million from his employer, the chemical and metals firm Engelhard Corporation.  He used the money to build one of the world's finest collections of 18th and 19th century European clocks.  Wrote the New York Times, "[His interest] was not just the intricate meshing of gears and inner workings, or the beauty and ornate craftsmanship of the casings, that fascinated him.  It was, he once wrote, 'the fine art of time' itself."


* Martin Moreno, 33, was arrested in Pomona, Calif., in September and charged with stealing, from clotheslines, as much as a half-ton of women's shorts, skirts, and underwear that he thought were too revealing for women to wear on the street.