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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  2008's Weirdest Stories

Through the year (with *cough* occasional delays) I've posted the weirdest two stories of the month. It's time to announce the winner of the weirdest story "contest".

Once I've written the last column for the year, it's a mad rush to choose the two December nominations, then get a voting form together, and then get the hidden voting URL out to the Premium subscribers to do the actual voting. And I have to give them a chance to read the voting request and vote: that's the several days where I sit drumming my fingers, and watch for duplicate votes.

(I make it clear that they can only vote for one story. Oddly, several seem to vote more than once. This year -- careful, you're about to hear someone slap their forehead really hard -- someone voted twelve times, since he apparently thought he was supposed to vote for the weirdest of each month. No... it's the weirdest story of the year competition, and there can only be one weirdest story! As threatened/promised, those who voted more than once had all their votes thrown out, but there were still hundreds of votes to get the results we needed.)

Of the 24 stories, 22 got at least one vote. But, as happened last year, there was a clear winner, which I'll get to in just a moment. First, there was some strong competition, which means several runners-up....

Fourth Runner-Up:

This is America in the 21st Century

"My whole career is in limbo," said a bewildered Jim Piculas. He had been a substitute teacher in Pasco County, Fla., for eight months until his boss, Pat Sinclair, called Piculas over a complaint about his time at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. "She said, 'You've been accused of wizardry'." Piculas says the week before, he did a brief magic trick for his class: he made a toothpick disappear. A piece of tape hid it behind his thumb, and a flick of his fingers brought it back into view. He then showed students how to do the trick. "The whole thing lasted 45 seconds," he said. But Sinclair told him he would not be hired by the district again. (Tampa Tribune) ...And Presto! With the flick of a pen a teacher disappeared.

Voter comments included:

  • This sums up what's wrong with our educational system. It's no wonder our children don't know how to think critically. The people who are in charge of their education don't know how, either. --Janet, Kansas
  • With a name like "Spell", I have to vote for the man accused of Wizardry! --Jon Spell, Utah
  • Sheer institutionalized stupidity. --James, Ontario, Canada
  • When all the real teachers are gone, will we have reached 1984? --Ed, Ohio
  • This story left me speechless before (not an easy task) and it left me speechless when I saw it again. --Dan, Virginia
  • Critical thinking is critically endangered! --Henry, Ontario, Canada

Third Runner-Up:

Committed to the Rage

Paula Small was driving in Gloucestershire, England, and had to swerve to avoid a collision when a woman in another car shot into the roadway without stopping. The offending car then stopped, so Small stopped to see what the fuss was. That's when the woman rammed Small's car, and then kept the pedal floored, spinning her tires wildly, which created so much friction it set the woman's car on fire. A witness tried to rescue the woman, but when he opened her door, "The person replied, 'F*** off, just f*** off' and she raised her right fist towards me in a threatening manner before slamming the door shut." Rather than get out of her car, Serena Sutton-Smith, 54, burned to death, which the coroner recorded as "accidental." (London Times) ..."There is no such thing as accident; it is fate misnamed." -- Napoleon Bonaparte (French Emperor 1769-1821)

Voter comments included:

  • Most of the others I can see the stupidity or over-zealous political correctness, and simply shake my head and give thanks that it's not me. This one is just rage rage rage, beyond the realms of sanity, and I just don't get how anyone could get into that place. --Deborah, Washington DC
  • I think she got what she deserved. --Sandy, California
  • All of the other stories 'I get' on some level. I can see how someone could do the things in the other stories. Even the ZT kind of stuff. But this one is just too weird. --Rachel, Arizona
  • I really wonder what she was thinking, if 'thinking' is the right term at all. And I kind of hope it doesn't win.... --Hunter, West Virginia

Second Runner-Up:

Turnabout is Fair Play

When Roland Scott was confronted by a robber, the Baltimore, Md., man didn't stand for it, even though the robber was pointing a sawed-off shotgun at him. Scott grabbed the man's gun and got it away from him, and turned the tables. The robber, now looking down the business end of his own gun, was ordered to strip, and to hand over his money. The robber took off his clothes, and handed over $800. That apparently didn't satisfy Scott: he started beating the man. "He is beating him with the butt of a sawed-off shotgun," said detective Sgt. Dennis Rafferty Jr. While Scott was beating the man, the shotgun discharged -- shooting Scott in the stomach. He was killed; a witness corroborated the robber's story, and investigators are ruling Scott's death accidental. "You can't make this up. You just can't," Rafferty said. "It is sort of like one for the books." (Baltimore Sun) ...Mine, for sure -- Volume 14.

Voter comments included:

  • I think, out of all the picks, this one's got to be the weirdest. --Octav, Romania
  • Another tough call this year. I had to pick this one simply for the poetic justice of it all. --Bruce, Minnesota
  • I can't get past the poetic justice (times two!) of the robber being beaten with his own gun, and the beater being killed while holding the barrel of a loaded gun and beating someone with it. --Mary, Georgia

First Runner-Up:

The Tomb of Stifled Patriotism

John Haines, a retired car dealer from Glenwood Springs, Colo., wanted to do his part: the marble Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has severe cracks, and he decided to take action. Haines commissioned a new piece of marble from the same Colorado quarry where the original was from, so it would match the original exactly. It took five years to find a perfect match, and it was cut in 2003. He paid $31,000 out of his own pocket for it, and even arranged free transportation for the slab to Washington D.C. But the replacement marble is still sitting at the quarry, since the government won't accept it. Instead, the Arlington National Cemetery has budgeted $2.2 million for the replacement project, $80,000 of which is solely to support the bidding process. "A citizen can't just give us any piece of marble and say, 'This is what we'll use to replace the tomb'," sniffed Arlington's deputy superintendent Thurman Higginbotham. "I understand how the government works," Haines said. "But there comes a point when you just say 'to hell with it'." (Denver Post) ...Mr. Haines, welcome to the tail of a long, long queue.

Voter comments included:

  • Just goes to show, If a job is worth doing, the government will find a way to make sure it --Costs more than it should, --Takes longer than it should, --Breaks down before it should. And that a friend of the current incumbent will get the job and the maintenance contract. --Jim, U.K.
  • This is probably not the "Weirdest" story, but I voted for it because it is the one that pissed -- Oops can't say that -- upset me the most of all the stories you had this year. It is a total reflection of what's wrong in D.C. --Ken, Ohio
  • I almost did not vote for this story, since if the cemetery had accepted the marble that would have been more weird. --Jeffrey, Texas
  • It stands out from all the others because it rouses by far the greatest response: anger! --HJ, Texas

The story was also made into a True video.

And the Winner Is...

How Embarrbutting

Web sites that import news feeds, but then automatically censor "objectionable" words, are sometimes committing "Clbuttic Mistakes". The term was coined when a site changed the word "classic" to "clbuttic" on the theory the word "butt" (for instance) is less objectionable than "ass". Prior to the 2008 Olympics, the American Family Association's news site automatically replaced a word in articles about sprinter Tyson Gay: "Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue," they reported, "sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has." Other mangled language has included "consbreastution", an article on "What did the British Embbutty do for this British National Overseas pbuttport holder," and a "series of previously secret Central Intelligence Agency plots to buttbuttinate foreign leaders." (London Telegraph) ...As if such urinevish buttaults on our language could protect anyone's chasbreasty.

Voter comments included:

  • Part of me understands the reason people want content filters on their sites. Many of them have religious reasons for that, but as a religious person I resent others thinking I need help filtering content because I can't properly use the divinely designed content filter between my ears! --Jim, Oklahoma
  • I studied computer science and can just imagine the morons that came up with this idea. "Oh, we can put a filter in place that will fix things real quickly!" I don't think they were quick enough, though... more like half-fast. (Say that last word out loud.) --Jarred, Washington
  • I was enthusibuttic about the tagline. --Sonia, Colorado
  • It's clear as glbutt, this consbreastutes proof that political correctness is low on buttets. Rather than political correctness, it's more like political correctum. --Jackie, California
  • Once crbutt supersbreastion wins over a sound consbreastution it will lead us into the intellectual morbutt. --Frank, Germany

Not surprisingly, I also made this story into a video -- and I think I did a darned good job at keeping a straight face!

18 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Shaun, Melbourne, Australia on January 6, 2009:

The best response of the year must surely go to Jim of Oklahoma re "How Embarrbutting". I am an atheist but the response from Jim (who refers to himself as "religious") regarding his "divinely divined content filter between my ears" was absolutely on the mark and for that he will have my undying respect. Well put Jim!!!

Posted by Jo Ellen, Florida on January 6, 2009:

Regarding "How Embarrbutting:" Even my lowly Word 2000 allows for a 'whole words only' search and replace. Isn't that type of search and replace available for the news people, too?

---

Only if they have a programmer who can tell his head from his ...uh... butt. -rc

Posted by Skip, in Oklahoma on January 6, 2009:

Hats off to my fellow Sooner, Jim. He hit the nail on the head! Amen!

Posted by Viktor / Boron, CA on January 7, 2009:

For the want of a space at the end of the filter word the story was mangled.

Posted by Paul, in Michigan on January 8, 2009:

Of course, a 'whole words only' search and replace wouldn't help with the 'Tyson Homosexual' goof.

Posted by Garry, Oregon on January 9, 2009:

pop up "Alli" ad blocks top of page - will NOT go away - even after I click on - and visit their web page - whatever they're selling!

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And it makes me really mad -- I'm trying to figure out how to block it. There's a place for advertising, and it's not on top of my text! I'm glad you clicked it and didn't buy anything, since that costs them money, and doesn't earn them a sale. -rc

Posted by Anna, Oregon on January 10, 2009:

I very much agree with all the choices, but especially the last 2! I shook my head in dismay at the nerve & idiocy of some people's children; even tho they are grown and (hopefully) gainfully employed. Go figure! Must be all the previous "neo-con government folk getting things so mixed up!.

Posted by Judith, Charleston, SC on January 10, 2009:

Page is formatted for IE. The Alli ad moves to the left sidebar when viewed in that browser...and ONLY that browser. -That's- how you get to read the whole page.

I don't understand why people are still writing code that works properly in only one format, but they are. So be it.

---

Well, my preference is that it work in ANY browser, and that it ends up breaking my page is irritating beyond belief. I've now figured out who is serving the ad (an "alternate" ad provider), yet their interface doesn't show it. Since they won't let me block it, I'll be blocking them, instead, so they can't put such garbage on my site anymore. -rc

Posted by Kevin, New York on January 10, 2009:

I am not exactly positive, ,but if they automatically download newspaper feeds isn't that copyright infringement? and if they are downloading it, that means it is already online. Now they have just made themselves look stupid.

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There's not necessarily any copyright infringement on the "clbuttic" web sites: one can buy feeds to put on a site. But yes, they did make themselves look stupid! -rc

Posted by Dana H., Colorado on January 10, 2009:

Mr. Higginbotham,

How 'bout spending some of that $80,000 on a plane ticket to visit the marble slab in question, to see if it might just qualify. Or would that be too easy?

Or are you too busy to acknowledge the possibility that general populace might just have a brain or two amongst us? (fool)

Sorry, but that one still burns me up.

Posted by Ken Reading, PA on January 10, 2009:

Shouldn't they change their name to "American Family Buttociation"?

Posted by David, Nanoose Bay, British Columbia on January 10, 2009:

Re: embarrbutting

I remember in the early 90's when our local college (oh, yes... a bastion of free speech!) hired a programmer to modify the word processing programme. It was an era of fervent and fudamentalist feminism running rampant at the college.

The programme was modified so that no one could type any phrase that could be taken as a negative reference to girls or women - too much free time on somebody's hands, I said. Well... many women I talked with who were in a creative writing class were bedeviled by this programme. If one wrote the phrase "the old hag (or witch) answered the door of the cottage", one had to come up with a new word for "hag" or "witch". If one wrote in quotes, " isn't she bitchy, today?" whether spoken by male of female, a word change was necessitated. The word "fireman" had to be changed to "fireperson" even though, in the historical text, the man was a fireman feeding coal to the boiler of a ship. (witching hour, bewitching, haggle, switch, etc. all ran into problems). People who think like this should not be in the education field.

Words for males were not affected. Suffice it to say, after numerous complaints by students, the filters were removed and..... so were the relevant staff! They went north and proceeded to terrorise linguaphiles of both genders, I hear.

Posted by Marlene - Florida on January 11, 2009:

Re: the "cleaning up" of our language - Randy - this would make your Cbuttingham - don't particularly like the sound of it!!! Much prefer the original!

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Watch the video, and watch for my name to show. :-) -rc

Posted by Judy / wurtsboro NY on January 11, 2009:

I am sure you know of the mention of "True" in Wordsmith this weekend. Of course I read both and enjoy each immensely. I noticed that you mentioned Wordsmith this past week...coincidence or something else?

Both of the publications are very worth anyone's time and learning.

---

Not really a coincidence: AWAD was my Bonzer Site of the Week last week, and I'm sure Anu noticed the traffic and/or had the write-up pointed out to him several times. He returned the favor by pointing people to this page, entirely appropriate since an amusing language-based story was named "Weirdest" of the year. -rc

Posted by Michael in Cornwall, UK on January 12, 2009:

As examples of really serious cleaning up, has anyone ever come across a reference to Buttne Wenger, the manager of the English Premiership soccer team, Buttnal?

Posted by Paul, Oklahoma City on January 12, 2009:

I think the Third Runner Up: Committed to Rage and the Second Runner Up: Turnabout is Fair Play should both be nominated for the Darwin Award.

Posted by Tom, Port Townsend, Wash. on February 5, 2009:

"Political correctness" is being forced upon the language by people who probably don't understand English all that well in the first place. Meanwhile, I find these accounts breatillating. I wonder about a line from an old song that might well wind up "...when our hearts were young and homosexual" (from "Old Black Joe," I believe, although that may have since been changed to "Old African-American Joe"). I suppose next a crotchety old man such as I will have to be described as a groinety old man.

Posted by lita, maryland on March 26, 2011:

to comment on the roland scott story its sad and crazy on how it went down but for someone who knows him personally he was not the type to take alot of crap u never know what a persons been through and what there going through and no one was there. so please watch ur comment and be repectful and i feel like it wasnt accidental and the robber should have been charged if he wasn't out there commiting crimes that night it wouldnt have happened. i also feel like if roland would have gotten the best of the robber and blew his head off he would have been charged for his murder were is the justice please remember to be respectful of ur comments if u dont really know the whole story

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I doubt many will try to hack through your semi-literacy, but the bottom line is, the man was beating someone to death, and died in the attempt. To blame it on the robber is a bit much. Once he got the gun away from the robber, the robbery was over. Scott could have -- and should have -- escaped. He chose not to, and instead chose to commit his own crime. And that is the decision that led to his death. To have charged the robber would be an outrage against justice. -rc

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