TV painter Bob Ross has been gone for 24 years. But his inspiration lives on at Madison Middle School in Abilene, Texas, where, on Feb. 7, students in Brady Sloane’s art class donned curly brown wigs and blue shirts for a “Flash Bob Flash Mob.” Sloane’s pre-Advanced Placement students were stressed out about grades and projects. She “wanted to find a way to reward them,” she told the Abilene Reporter News. The students used music stands as makeshift easels. They painted “happy little trees” and watched an episode of The Joy of Painting as parents memorialized the day with photos and videos.
Least Competent Criminals
— Jason Mackenrodt, 37, was making his getaway after robbing the Bangor Savings Bank in Waterville, Maine. He scrambled across four lanes of traffic and into a restaurant parking lot, where he slipped on the ice and sprawled on the ground — right in front of Maine State Police Special Agent Glenn Lang, who was sitting in his parked car. Lang didn’t know the bank had been robbed, but he became suspicious when “the money and the gun [the robber] had stashed in his jacket pocket spilled onto the parking lot,” said Police Chief Joseph Massey. The weapon turned out to be a BB gun. Lang tackled Mackenrodt and took him into custody as police were responding at the bank. Mackenrodt was charged with robbery and terrorizing.
— On Jan. 31, Julian R. Mitchell, 20, tried to use a debit card from a wallet he had stolen at a Nashville bar. But a fraud alert tipped off bar employees that the card had been lost or stolen. So they asked for photo ID. Mitchell fished out the Tennessee driver’s license from the wallet. It was, according to the Davidson County arrest affidavit, “plainly obvious” that the photo on the card was not of Mitchell because of the difference in height. Mitchell was charged with identity theft; officers found several other cards belonging to the same victim in the wallet.
Asalene Branch, 29, said she was was only defending her spot in a McDonald’s drive-thru lane when she stabbed another woman in the head. Fox News reported that Branch and the other woman were waiting at a Memphis restaurant when a physical fight broke out over their places in the line; Branch took out a knife and assaulted the alleged victim, resulting in injuries that were not life-threatening. Branch was tracked down by police and charged with aggravated assault.
The Foreign Press
Valentine’s Day is complicated in Japan. On Feb. 14, women traditionally give men chocolates: “giri choco,” or “obligation chocolates,” to their male colleagues, and “honmei choco,” or “true feelings chocolates,” to their boyfriends or husbands. Men return the favor on White Day, March 14. But according to Japan Today, Japanese women are rebelling against giri choco; 40 percent of workers see the custom “as a form of power harassment,” and some companies have banned the practice. Women find giving chocolates to associates stressful: “Before the office ban, we had to worry about things like how much is appropriate to spend on each chocolate and where we draw the line in who we give the chocolates to,” said one worker.
People Different From Us
A newly listed suburban Philadelphia home offers something a little different from your typical basement rumpus room. The five-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath brick colonial in Maple Glen has three fireplaces, a gourmet kitchen — and a sex basement. The finished lower level includes a bed-in-a-cage, complete with straps, whips and other accouterment for any buyer’s 50 Shades of Grey fantasies. Realtor Melissa Leonard stresses, however, that the basement “can be converted back to a typical suburban basement.” Neighbors are shocked to find out what’s been going on in their ‘hood, but “I know it’s a way of life for people,” Leonard told Slate magazine.
Government In Action
You think things are wild in the U.S. Congress? In Albania, Edi Paloka, an opposition lawmaker, was asked to leave the parliament hall on Feb. 14 and suspended for 10 days after throwing ink at Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. It all started when Rama scolded a fellow lawmaker for making accusations of corruption against the leftist government. A statement from the center-right Democratic party explained, “The action of ink-throwing is a rejection of the bullying exerted by the PM, which is witnessed by the public opinion.” Apparently, Rama had repeatedly mocked Paloka during previous sessions of parliament.
The Weirdo-American Community
A dispute over a box of Cheez-Its provoked a DeKalb County, Ga., man on Feb. 12. As Jeremy Lamar Wyatt, 32, his brother and 61-year-old mother argued over the salty snacks, Wyatt went outside, locked his family inside the home, poured gasoline on the front steps and started a fire, according to WGCL-TV. Wyatt’s brother was able to lower the mother down from a second-story window, and both escaped without injury. Wyatt, who had reportedly been enjoying some adult beverages with his Cheez-Its, was taken into custody at the scene and charged with arson and criminal damage to property.
News That Sounds Like A Joke
At Towson University in Maryland, an unidentified woman was reported wandering around campus just before Valentine’s Day, showing coeds a photo of her son and asking if they’d like to go on a date with him. The woman, thought to be in her 50s, staked out the Cook Library and the Center for the Arts in hopes of securing a love connection for her son. Towson police are hoping to identify her — not so they can arrest her, but so they can simply ask her to stop.
The Continuing Crisis
Passengers on a 12-hour Air France flight became alarmed when a man seated in the bulkhead row boarded the plane, removed his pants and socks and settled into his seat in just his boxers and a T-shirt. Sitting across the aisle from him, passenger Lizzie Thompson took photos and posted on Twitter throughout the flight. “[She] alerted the flight attendant. He offered to move me … but just shrugged when I suggested he ask the man to put his pants back on,” she wrote. Thompson also wrote that six hours into the flight from Paris to Los Angeles, the scantily clad passenger got cold, “so put on his puffy jacket.” The man put his pants and socks back on after the landing, much to Thompson’s relief. “Nothing bonds a group of passengers like a man half naked in your section,” Thompson wrote.
The Meth Made Me Do It
In Seattle, Douglas Braden Smyser, 21, boarded a plane on his way to Los Angeles and a drug rehab center in Malibu. But his behavior during the flight finally caused the pilot to land in Portland and have him removed from the plane. Smyser, from Bonney Lake, Wash., would not stay in his seat; tried to sit in first class; and threw his backpack in the aisle. Passengers helped contain him until the plane could land safely. Smyser admitted later that he had ingested meth before boarding, which made him “suspicious and paranoid.” He also claimed to have a gun. He was charged with second-degree disorderly conduct and menacing, along with a federal charge of interference with a flight crew.
It’s Good to Have Goals
Pavol Durdik added another Guinness world record to his collection on Aug. 3 in Puchov, Slovakia, by extinguishing 62 lighted matches with his tongue within one minute, according to United Press International. In a video posted by Guinness World Records on Jan. 25, Durdik had the matches laid out in front of him and lighted each one before putting them out on his tongue. He also holds the record for most socks put on one foot within 30 seconds.
So much for advanced Russian security. As art lovers browsed through an exhibition at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, a thief nonchalantly strolled in, plucked a 1908 landscape by Arkhip Kuindzhi off the wall, and walked out of the building. Police quickly viewed surveillance video and arrested a 31-year-old man, who admitted he hid the painting, worth $185,000, in an unfinished building nearby. The gallery was able to recover the painting and announced that “security measures have been reinforced …”
Least Competent Criminal
Police in Austin, Texas, caught up with 19-year-old suspect Luca P. Mangiarano a month after a bank robbery. He was captured in large part because of his choice in getaway vehicles. According to police, Mangiarano stepped into the BBVA Compass bank and handed a note to a teller: “This is a robbery, please give me all your 100s and 50s in a envelope and everything will be OK.” The employee did as directed, and the robber left the building. He then hopped on a Jump electric scooter and took off down the sidewalk. He perhaps failed to consider that the scooters are linked to GPS tracking systems and online accounts with phone numbers, email addresses and credit card information. After police obtained this information from Jump, it led them to Mangiarano. Austin Detective Jason Chiappardi told The Washington Post, “We had never had a scooter involved in a robbery.”