For 23 years, Dennis Hope, 55, of Gardnerville, Nev., has operated a business selling people "official" title to land on the moon, Mars and Venus for about $20 an acre. Although others are in the same business, Hope told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in September that he has earned $6.5 million during that period (an average of $270,000 a year). He says his idea was based on something he actually learned in school: that the international Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibited nations from owning celestial bodies but was silent about individual ownership. Hope says he wrote to the United Nations, explained his plan, and asked if they had a problem with it, and no one wrote back.
In September, a committee of Milwaukee's city council approved the application of a strip joint, Club Paradise Gentlemen's Club, to also become a "center for visual and performing arts," the same designation as the Milwaukee Art Museum, by the simple act of placing several pieces of artwork on its walls. Such a classification would allow liberalization of the club's alcohol permit. However, by the time the matter came to the full council, the public had heard about it, and the club withdrew the application.
Raising a stink
In August, computer technician Goran Andervass received the equivalent of $100,000 as settlement of his wrongful-firing lawsuit against Riksbanken, the Swedish national bank, over a 2001 incident that began when a colleague, meeting with him in his Stockholm office, ostentatiously passed gas. Andervass became very upset and started shouting at the man. Supervisors cautioned Andervass, who began a downward emotional spiral and began to take abundant sick leave, leading to further sanctions and eventually to his dismissal.
Cyril Kendall was easily convicted in August in New York City for swindling the American Red Cross and another organization out of $160,000 for family grief counseling over a "son" who "died" in the World Trade Center attack. There are no official records that the son ever existed, although Kendall presented some documents that government experts termed poor forgeries. The grief counseling, priced at $425 an hour, was performed entirely by a company that did not exist, but of which Kendall admitted that he was the sole employee, thus paying himself to counsel himself and his family.
Big babysitter is watching
The Moscow State Circus, touring Britain in July, told reporters its insurance companies had instructed trapeze artists to wear hard hats during their performances, to comply with European Union safety rules. And Beaufort County, S.C., adopted a policy in August that, for two-semester high school courses, a student who fails the first semester would automatically receive an encouraging "62," no matter how low his actual score.
Can't hurt, might help
Carl Hanson of St. Paul, Minn., actually obtained a U.S. patent (No. 6,457,474) in 2002 for what he described as a new method for treating heart-related chest pain, as reported in August 2003 by Scientific American. Hanson's unique invention: He drinks limeade from concentrate. His patent application said that it worked for him, and he wrote out the required details about the structure of the invention, specifically, to purchase cans of concentrate, add water, stir and introduce the juice into the body through the mouth.
Capitalism in action
In September, the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, daily newspaper Al-Watan reported that the father of a prospective bride (whose future husband had not yet met her) had established a new dowry-collection strategy by demanding that the prospective husband pay the equivalent of $300 just to take a pre-wedding glance at the bride (fully clothed, of course).
Among the themed funeral settings available for families recently at U.S. mortuaries, according to a September Associated Press report: bales of hay, wagon wheels, cacti, a cowboy boot and a plastic horse, for the loved one who was a rodeo fan; and "Big Mama's Kitchen," with Crisco, Wonder Bread and fried chicken, for the loved one who was a fan of lavish feasts.
Working for a living
Among the 15 "worst" actual jobs in science (from the October issue of Popular Science): No. 15, county employees who count fish, one by one, that swim by dams in the Pacific Northwest; No. 11, the two government bureaucrats whose job is to convince Americans of the merits of the metric system; No. 7, researchers who reach into a cow's rumen to pull out and analyze the stomach contents; No. 4, mosquito catchers who endure up to 15 bites a minute on three-hour shifts and hope not to get malaria; No. 3, researchers who extract sperm from animals for study or artificial insemination; and No. 1, "flatus odor judges" working for gastroenterologist Michael Levitt, who feeds subjects pinto beans, then gathers gases in plastic collection tubes direct from the source (so to speak), and then has judges sniff as many as 100 samples, rating them for strength.
Did I say that out loud?
In Montreal, Quebec, in October, lawyer Christian Gauthier was referred for disciplinary investigation because, while defending a client accused of killing a police officer, he was overheard singing the Bob Marley song "I Shot the Sheriff" during a courtroom break.