LEAD STORY: A now-10-year-old church in Denver ministers to (as contemplated by 1 Corinthians 4:11-13) the homeless, the reviled, and the persecuted and formally named itself after the actual words in verse 13, the "Scum of the Earth" Church. The congregation touts nonjudgmental Christianity; owns an elegant, aging building (but holds services elsewhere because of fire code violations); and is a rough mix of anarchists, punk rockers, environmentalists and disaffected teens perhaps mainly keen on angering their parents. "Scum" (as church members matter-of-factly call themselves) tilt mildly philosophically conservative (though not nearly evangelical), connected only by the common belief that "God is love," according to a December report in Denver's Westword.
Great Art! Among the recent works funded by Arts Council England was a "painting" consisting of a blank canvas, for which artist Agnieszka Kurant was paid the equivalent of about $2,300 and on which she intends to paint something in the future. Rounding out her exhibition were a "sculpture" that was not really present and a "movie" that had been shot with no film in the camera.
In October, borrowing from the U.S. Air Guitar Championship (which honors self-made guitar "heroes" playing wild rock 'n' roll as if they were holding real guitars), the second annual Air Sex Championship was held in the Music Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y., and eventually won by Lady C. (whose performance could not easily be described). Each contestant (solo only) had two minutes to cover "all the bases": "meeting, seduction, foreplay, intercourse, and, if successful, afterglow," and exposing body parts was not allowed.
Fine Points of the Law: Questionable Judgments: 1) The New Jersey Government Record Council ruled in December that the town of Somerset had overcharged Tom Coulter in 2008 by $4.04 on the $5 it collected for a compact disc of a council meeting and must issue a refund. The town estimates that it spent about $17,000 fighting Coulter's appeals (and paying his attorney's fees). 2) Brandi Jo Winkelman, 17, was charged in September in Juneau, Wis., with violating the state's child abuse law after a schoolyard fight and risks a maximum of six years in prison. Authorities charged Winkelman even though her "victim" was a classmate older than Winkelman.
Police in Hyderabad, Pakistan, recently arrested a doctor for the increasingly suspect crime of insulting Islam — after he merely tossed away the business card of a man who happened to have the last name "Muhammad." According to a December Associated Press dispatch, "dozens" of Pakistanis are sentenced to death each year for such tangential references to the holy name of Muhammad, but the government fears that trying to repeal the law might incite Muslim extremism.
Police Report: If You're Not Safe in Your Own Home ...: 1) At 2 a.m. on Nov. 13 in Akron, Ohio, a 70-year-old woman was the victim of a home invasion when Cory Buckley, 22, broke in and robbed her. According to the police report, the woman was seated on the commode at the time, and Buckley was dressed in a clown mask. 2) Melissa Wagaman, 33, was convicted in November in Hagerstown, Md., of a February home invasion in which she broke into her neighbor's house while wearing only a bridal skirt and veil. She later blamed cold medicine and marijuana.
Oops! Among the Major League Baseball players (average salary: about $3.3 million) who spent time on the disabled list in 2010: Kendry Morales (Angels), who broke his leg jumping on home plate after hitting a home run; Brian Roberts (Orioles), who was out a week with a concussion when he smacked himself in the head with his bat after striking out; Chris Coghlan (Marlins), who needed knee surgery after giving a teammate a playful post-game shaving-cream pie; and Geoff Blum (Astros), who needed elbow surgery after straining his arm putting on his shirt.
The Weirdo-American Community: Robert Hurst, 47, was charged after an incident at the cemetery in Picayune, Miss., pursuing his hobby of "orb photography" — capturing the images of circles of light at night, especially the ones that appear to him as faces. Hurst was spotted one night in December, naked, setting up his camera, thus giving rise to a charge of indecent exposure. He explained that he thought bare skin would be the "best canvas" for orb photography.
Least Competent Criminals: Fortunately for Police, Disguising His E-Mail Address Did Not Occur to Him: Kyle D. Gore, 23, of Naperville, Ill., was arrested in December for allegedly downloading child pornography on his computer. Police identified Gore as the man trying to find people online who could help him have encounters with children, using the address "firstname.lastname@example.org" (an unimaginative identifier for someone of Gore's initials and born, as Gore was, in 1987).
Recurring Themes: Anatomically Equipped Shoplifters: 1) Video surveillance at the Beall's Outlet store in Crestview, Fla., in December showed a woman handing clothing to a man, who would roll it up and hand it back, and the woman concealing the items in her purse, or in the case of one pair of shoes, under her breasts. The pair were charged with misdemeanor theft. 2) Ailene Brown, 28, and Shmeco Thomas, 37, were arrested in Edmond, Okla., in November and charged with shoplifting at a TJ Maxx store. Surveillance video revealed that, among the items stuffed in the pair's belly fat and under their armpits and breasts were four pairs of boots, three pairs of jeans, a wallet and gloves.
Medicare In Action: The federal agency that administers Medicare acknowledged to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in November that the government often overpays for patient wheelchairs due to a quirk in its rules. Ordinary wheelchairs sell for $100 to $350, but Medicare cannot reimburse patients who buy the chairs; it can only pay for rentals (for up to 13 months), for $40 to $135 a month. (A 2009 audit found that Medicare allowed up to $7,215 for oxygen dispensers that were available for sale for $587 and $4,018 for a power wheelchair that cost suppliers $1,048.)
A December Wall Street Journal investigation turned up instances of physical-therapy doctors earning millions of dollars a year in Medicare payments by "treating" nonexistent patients or by overtreating real patients or by providing controversial "treatments" that other therapists say are useless. Describing the work of hard-partying, spike-haired Miami Beach doctor Christopher Wayne, one former physical-therapy association official likened Wayne's expensive "treatment" to "back rubs." (Medicare law requires prompt payment to doctors but prevents the public release of doctors' billing records — even if all patient identification is hidden — thus ensuring that any Medicare abuses can only be uncovered by a small team of federal investigators and not by the press unless, as the Wall Street Journal did, they investigate patient by patient.)
A News of the Weird Classic (December 2000): London's the Independent reported from Tokyo in December on the prolonged, even "epic" sulk (a state of funk called "hikikomori") that afflicts a million young professionals, who simply withdraw from their careers and hole up nearly 24 hours a day in their apartments (or rooms in their parents' homes) for months at a time, emerging only to gather food before retreating inside for TV or video games. Many psychiatrists call it merely an extreme reaction to parents who have pressured their sons to succeed. (In July 2008, the Japanese software company Avex produced a video to help those men, simply featuring a series of young women staring into the lens, occasionally saying "Good morning," so that hikikomori sufferers can practice feeling the gazes of strangers.)
© 2011 CHUCK SHEPHERD