The phenomenal Japanese singer Hatsune Miku is coming off of a sold-out, 10-city North American concert tour that featured high-energy audiences — blocks-long lines to get in; raucous crowd participation and hefty souvenir sales. One interesting aspect of the tour is that Miku isn’t real. Hatsune Miku is a projected hologram that sings and dances on stage. Her band is human. Her May show in Dallas, according to a Dallas Observer review, typically was attended by frenzied fans who knew the show’s “every beat, outfit … and glow stick color-change.” Her voice, a synthesized “vocaloid,” is crafted in pitch, timbre and timing to sound human. The latest PlayStation brings Hatsune Miku right into the home.
The Passing Parade
The Elanora Heights Public School in Sydney, Australia, recently banned clapping during student assemblies in an effort to help pupils with noise anxieties. To show audience approval, students are asked to “punch the air,” “pull on their faces” or “wriggle about.”
The Continuing Crisis
A year-long, nationwide investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found more than 2,400 doctors penalized for sexually abusing their patients — with state medical boards ultimately allowing more than half to continue practicing medicine. Some doctors, a reporter noted, are among “the most prolific sex offenders in the country,” with “hundreds” of victims.
In August, Houston defense lawyer Jerry Guerinot announced his retirement from death-penalty cases, leaving him with a perfect record: he lost every single time. Twenty-one clients received the death penalty, and 10 have been executed (so far). He made no excuses, pointing out that “gang members, serial killers and sociopaths” were entitled to representation, too, and that he has taken more than 500 noncapital cases to trial (with, presumably, more success).
Make Up Your Mind, Feds
On Aug. 11, the federal government’s Drug Enforcement Agency refused to soften the regulation of marijuana, leaving it, along with heroin, as a “Schedule I” drug. Citing Food and Drug Administration findings, the DEA said marijuana has “no medical use.” But another federal agency — the Dept. of Health and Human Services — had obtained a U.S. patent in 2003 for marijuana-derived cannabinoids, which HHS pointed out have several medical uses — for instance, as an antioxidant and for a means of limiting neurological damage following strokes.
— A New York Times reporter, describing the rising prices of prescription pharmaceuticals, noted that a popular pain reliever (probably oxycodone) was available on the Paterson, N.J., black market for $25 a pill, while heroin was going for $2 a baggie.
— The economic growth rate in Ireland for 2015 was revised upward in July. Growth of its gross domestic product was originally estimated at 7.8 percent. When the paper value of several U.S. companies moving to Ireland to reduce their U.S. taxes was factored in, Ireland was actually growing at 26.7 percent.
— Investigators revealed that an off-duty Aurora, Colo., sheriff’s deputy had fired his gun to resist a parking lot mugging and that one of the bullets from the deputy’s gun had gone straight into the barrel of one of the handguns pointed at him. The investigators called the shot “one in a billion.”
— Matthew Lavin, 39, drew internet acclaim after he was gored through his left thigh while “running with the bulls” in the annual spectacle in Pamplona, Spain. Interviewed in his hospital bed by Madrid’s The Local, he called it “the best time ever,” and said he looked forward to another run next year.
Gary Durham, 40, was shot to death during a road-rage incident in Plant City, Fla., on Aug. 10. Durham had served 10 years in prison after an aggressive road-rage episode in 2001 in which he pursued another driver and knocked him to the ground, causing the man to hit his head on the pavement and die. Included in Durham’s 2002 sentence was an order to take anger management classes.
— The Borough Council of Pompton Lakes, N.J., was surprised to learn in June that, because of an existing local ordinance, dogs were not permitted in its brand-new Pompton Lakes dog park, created with great fanfare in an area of Hershfield Park. The council vowed to fix the problem.
— In June, a police watchdog agency in Dublin, Ireland, asked officers across the country to try to carry out house raids at “reasonable hours” so that they do not disturb the occupants. In one complaint, police staged a 3:15 am raid to search for evidence of stolen vehicle accessories.
Least Competent Criminals
— In July, Joshua Jacobs, 30, accidentally knocked down a traffic sign at 12:45 am in Vero Beach, Fla. Spotting a sheriff’s deputy, he sped away. The deputy gave chase. He was especially determined to catch the driver because of the fully-grown marijuana plant resting in the bed of the pickup. Jacobs was eventually arrested.
— Jeremy Watts, 30, and Jessica Heady, 24, were charged with aggravated burglary in Clarksville, Tenn., in August. The pair offered the electronics they’d stolen to a Cash America Pawnshop. They did not realize that the home they had burglarized was the pawnshop manager’s.
Paid To Go Away
In May, Sports Illustrated noted that some universities are still paying millions of dollars to failed coaches who managed to secure big contracts in more optimistic times. Notre Dame’s largest athletic payout in 2014 was the $2.05 million that went to ex-football coach Charlie Weis five years after he had been fired. That ended Weis’ Notre Dame contract (which paid him $15 million after his dismissal). But he is still drawing several million dollars from the University of Kansas — in spite of having been let go there, also.
Latest Religious Messages
India has supposedly outlawed the “baby-tossing” religious test popular among Hindus and Muslims in rural villages in Maharashtra and Karnataka states. But a July New York Times report suggested that parents were still allowing surrogates to drop their newborn infants from 30 feet up to get the gods’ blessing for a prosperous, healthy life. In all cases, according to the report, the gods come through; a bed sheet appears below; the unharmed baby is caught.
Government In Action
— Federal civilian employees have “arrest and firearms authority” outnumber active-duty U.S. Marines, according to a June report by the organization Open The Books, which claims to have tallied line-by-line expenditures across the government. Several agencies (including the IRS and EPA) purchase assault weapons and other military-grade equipment (camouflage, night-vision goggles, 30-round magazines) for their agents. Even the Small Business Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Dept. of Education buy their agents guns and ammo.
— San Diego Padres outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr.,was traded on July 23 to the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle of a series between the Padres and the Blue Jays in Toronto. Normally, such a player would merely gather his belongings and walk down the hall to the other team’s locker room. However, while Canada treats Blue Jays’ opponents as “visitors,” Blue Jays players are Canadian employees, and if they are not Canadian residents, they must have work permits. Upton had to leave the stadium and drive to Lewiston, N.Y. — the closest place he could find where he could apply to re-enter Canada properly. He made it back by game time.
Leading Economic Indicators
Since Bulgaria, on Romania’s southern border, lies close to Romania’s iconic Transylvania region, Bulgarian tourism officials have begun marketing their own vampire tourism industry. The industry got a boost from a 2014 archaeological find of a 4th-century graveyard of adolescents with iron stakes through their chests.
“A dog has better protection than our kids,” lamented an Oregon prosecutor in May. Unlike the pet abuse law, the child abuse law requires proof the victim experienced “substantial” pain, which a young child often lacks the vocabulary to describe. The appearance of welts and bruises is insufficient, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled.
New World Order
Australians are about to learn how particular some people are about their genders. Queensland University of Technology and three other sponsors have created an online survey that asks participants to decide among 33 “genders.” Male and female are clear enough. Otherwise, it’s “trans” or “transsexual” or the more complicated bigender, omnigender, polygender, pangender, intergender, genderfluid, “cisgender,” trigender, demigender, “gender non-conforming,” “non-binary,” “none gender” and a few others.
Big Names In News Of The Weird
— Police in Southampton, N.Y., confirmed a July altercation in which model Christie Brinkley water-hosed a woman she spotted urinating on her beachfront property. Erica Remkus, 36, said her need was urgent. But Brinkley shouted, “How dare you! I walk on these rocks.”
— Also in July, actor Brooke Shields made the news when she — as a curator of an art show in Southampton, N.Y. — managed to rescue a piece that custodians had inadvertently tossed into the garbage. The statue was of a raccoon standing next to a trashcan, ready to rummage in it.
The Redneck Chronicles
— Knoxville, Tenn., firefighters were called to a home when a woman tried to barbecue brisket in her bathroom. She wound up melting her fiberglass bathtub. Firefighters limited the damage — by turning on the shower.
— In Union, S.C., a 33-year-old woman called police to her home, claiming that she had fallen asleep on her couch with her “upper plate” in her mouth. But, she said, when she awoke, it was gone. She said she suspected a teeth-napping intruder.
Are You Drunk?
The owner of the Howl At The Moon Bar in Gold Coast, Australia, released surveillance video showing a man trying to enter the locked bar at 3 am. He tossed a beer keg at a glass door three times, finally creating a hole large enough to climb through. As he climbed in, he fell to the floor — a lit cigarette remaining firmly between his lips. Once inside, he stood at the bar, apparently waiting for someone to take his order. When no one came, he meekly left the same way he’d come in.
For Good Measure
Rhys Holman pleaded guilty to a firearms charge in Melbourne, Australia, for shooting 53 bullets into his brother’s Xbox. The brother had urinated on Holman’s car.
A Prize For Bites
A 9-year-old girl named Irina won a contest in Berezniki, Russia, for letting mosquitos bite her more often they bit other contestants. It’s the signature event of the annual Russian Mosquito Festival. The girl’s 43 hits were enough to earn her the title of “tastiest girl.” The annual Great Texas Mosquito Festival in Clute, Texas (south of Houston), apparently has no comparable event.
In Aug., 2012, a Michigan government watchdog group learned that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department still has one person on the payroll classified as a “horseshoer.” The Department owns no horses. Over the years, the position had become a patronage slot paying $57,000 a year in salary and benefits. Sometimes the “horseshoer” has been asked to do “blacksmith” work, such as metal repair. The group learned that the city employees’ union fights to retain every job, no matter its title.