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News Quirks 08.17.05 

Curses, Foiled Again Authorities in Richland County, S.C., reported that Booker Boyd, 49, disguised himself in women's clothing to rob a bank, donning a black dress with red flowers and a red straw hat to go with his black mustache. Sheriff's deputies arrested him a few minutes after the robbery, driving a stolen Ford Expedition, because he was still wearing the colorful outfit. "We don't speculate on what motivates these people," FBI official Tom O'Neill said, "or their choice of wardrobe."

Size Matters When Eugene Pidgeon, an activist for short-statured performers, learned that film director Tim Burton hired veteran actor Deep Roy to portray all of the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory using computer animation, he published a manifesto, titled "Little People's Progress," condemning the use of such technology. "My argument," Pidgeon told the New Yorker magazine, "is that if you're going to computer-generate us out of roles that we have traditionally taken, you have to provide others. Oompas, trolls, elves, cupids are just going to disappear en masse. For every Deep Roy, there are 150 of us who are forced to do whacked-out shit on 'The Man Show.'"

- Beijing officials are considering raising the height requirement for free bus rides for children because improved nutrition has helped younger people grow taller. According to Quan Zhongmin of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Consultive Conference, the current standard of 3-feet-7-inches "is outdated in the light of our children's physical development status."

- After working for 19 years at Sam's Club and its predecessor, Pace Membership Warehouse, in Clearwater, Fla., Molly S. Beavers, 49, said that she was fired for not smiling. Beavers' face is partially paralyzed from surgery related to her condition as an achondroplastic dwarf. According to her federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart, when Beavers explained her facial paralysis to store manager Ralph Lail after he fired her for not smiling enough at customers and co-workers, he told her, "That's no excuse."

Hot Pants A British court heard that Marcus Danquah, 41, tried to win a 300,000-pound ($533,250) lawsuit by giving himself fake heart attack symptoms using "electric underpants." The Lincolnshire resident insisted that an electric iron he bought was wrongly wired and caused him to suffer a heart attack. The iron maker, Morphy Richards, countered that Danquah, an "alarm engineer with some experience in dealing with wiring," had tampered with the iron himself and used the hidden "amps-in-his-pants" device to create a false reading on a hospital heart monitor. After hearing testimony that the hospital results were produced as a result of interference, Judge Donald Hamilton dismissed Danquah's claim as "a sham."

All in a Day's Work Arthur Richardson pretended to swallow a friend's truck key, but when he put the key in his mouth, he accidentally really swallowed it. Richardson had a doctor X-ray his stomach, then took the X-ray to a locksmith, who used the film to make his friend a new key. "This is truly a first in my career," said John Somers of Al's Lock and Safe in North Platte, Neb.

Seat of Government The government of Tanzania began cracking down on poor-quality toilet paper, warning manufacturers and distributors who fail to meet the national requirements for softness, size or alkalinity that it will take them to court. "The production of sub-standard things like toilet paper is not only bad for the manufacturer," said Charles Ekelege of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards, "but could tarnish the country's image."

They Don't Mind the Middle Seat Transporting bodies has become a moneymaker for U.S. airlines. Delta Air Lines, for instance, told the Wall Street Journal that its body-shipping business has been growing about 10 percent a year and now represents 50,000 corpses. Bodies account for 18 percent of JetBlue's cargo revenue, compared with less than 10 percent a year ago.

One reason for the growth, the paper indicated, is that many families today are spread out all over the country, including retirees who live in warmer climates but want to be buried back home. A shipment from Florida to New York typically costs between $250 and $380. "I have to move close to 1000 pounds of general cargo to equal the revenue of one human remain," JetBlue's Dale Anderson said.

To attract business, many airlines offer funeral directors free-flight coupons to ship bodies with them, even though the families of the deceased pay the cost. "I've sent my mother-in-law to North Carolina and back on coupons, friends from church on coupons, brothers, nieces and nephews," said Art Holloway of Holloway Funeral Home in Oldsmar, Fla., who ships more than 1000 bodies a year on US Airways.

News to Me Wendell Coleman, 47, of Jacksonville, Fla., checked himself into a hospital, complaining that he woke up that morning with a bad headache. Noting that Coleman had difficulty speaking and that his lips appeared to be badly swollen and marked with powder burns, a doctor found a bullet lodged in the patient's tongue. Coleman told police that he had no recollection of being shot, although he did remember talking to a couple in a parked car the night before when a man pulled out a handgun and pressed it against his mouth. Coleman said that he heard the gun fire but didn't feel anything, so he went home and went to bed.

Yo, Yoga The latest step in the commercialization of yoga is hip-hop. Spearheading the marketing of the 5000-year-old discipline of exercise, diet and meditation to inner-city audiences, Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records, released a video series titled "Yoga Live" with instructions set to 72 tracks of original hip-hop music. "We packaged it intentionally in a way for people to digest the physical practice," Simmons said. "It's not meant to get them worried about religion or spirituality."

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Roland Sweet

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Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.

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