#1. A Major Head Case
Margret Wegner underwent surgery in August to remove a pencil that had been stuck inside her head for 55 years. The German woman had suffered from chronic headaches and nosebleeds after falling at age 4 with the writing implement in hand. “The pencil went right through my skin and disappeared into my head,” she said. It was too risky at the time to remove the three-inch object, which did not pierce any vital parts of her brain. But thanks to significant technological improvements, this summer surgeons in Berlin were able to remove all but the pencil’s tip.#2. A Need for Bigger Buoys?
Some women in the Australian Navy may be noticeably perkier since the government helped pay for their breast enlargements. The Navy said the cosmetic surgeries were carried out for psychological reasons and that without the procedures the female sailors would have been classified as unfit for deployment. But some politicians were up in arms over taxpayers footing the bill for an increased cup size, with one calling the government-funded breast enhancements a “questionable practice.”
#3. Thou Shalt Not Run a Red Light
Have road rage, say Hail Mary’s. In June the Vatican issued a list of 10 Commandments for drivers as part of a 36-page document titled “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road.” According to the document, driving brings out the “primitive” side of man and cars can be “an occasion of sin.” The guidelines call for such things as respecting speed limits and not using cell phones behind the wheel. But en-route praying is encouraged, the document says, because the “rhythm and gentle repetition” of the Rosary “does not distract the driver’s attention.”
#4. Fatal Hydration
A silly water-drinking contest ended in tragedy in January. Jennifer Strange, 28, was trying to win a Nintendo Wii gaming system in a contest a California radio station had dubbed “Hold Your Wee for a Wii.” But the organizers were unaware of the dangers of consuming too much liquid in a short period of time. Contestants started out drinking 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes, and finalists were handed even bigger bottles to polish off. Later that day, Strange complained of a headache and hours later died from water intoxication.
#5. Sleepwalking in the Buff
British budget hotel chain Travelodge reported a seven-fold increase in sleepwalking from the previous year and noted that 95% of the somnambulists had been naked men. When the company released the results of its annual sleepwalker audit in October, it reissued guidelines on how hotel staff should handle wandering snoozers, including keeping a supply of towels behind the reception desk to protect their dignity.
#6. Ho-Ho No-No
Santas in Australia may sound a little less jolly this season after word spread that they had been asked to stop saying “ho ho ho” and to use “ha ha ha” instead. One disgruntled would-be St. Nick said the traditional phrase had been banned because it might be offensive to women. But the management company running the Santa training sessions maintains that it was only a suggestion, and that the greeting is being left up to the discretion of each individual Santa.
#7. For the Love of Publicity
Artist Damien Hirst is no stranger to controversy. (Shark preserved in formaldehyde, anyone?) This year he unveiled “For the Love of God,” a platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds. The artist bought the 18th-century skull in England and maintains that all of the gems were ethically sourced, i.e., no blood diamonds on these old bones. Hirst also claims an anonymous consortium bought the skull for $100 million — which would be a record-breaking sale for a living artist — but many in the art world speculate he faked the sale in order to drum up publicity.
#8. A Synonym for Streetwalker
British legislation is calling for the removal of the word “prostitute” from criminal statutes. The term has been around for 180 or so years, but in July the Justice Ministry argued that the word carries too much social stigma. Ministry officials are pushing to replace it with the phrase “persons who sell sex persistently,” which is defined as twice or more within a three-month period. And the bill would do more than just play with nouns: It would decriminalize less frequent selling of sex and introduce new measures to try to get sex workers out of the industry.
#9. Buzz-Worthy Toads
In October, a Kansas City man was arrested for possession of a peculiar type of drug paraphernalia: a toad. It turns out smoking dried toad venom is an effective, albeit gnarly, way to get high. The venom, which is secreted by the Sonoran Desert toad when it gets angry or scared, contains a hallucinogen called bufotenine. And if “toad-smoking” sounds unbeatably outlandish, consider sniffing jenkem, i.e., the fumes from fermented human sewage. This recreational drug, which originated in Zambia, is also called butt hash.
#10. A Hairy Online Auction
Here’s a worthy contender for world’s weirdest promo: Baseball trading-card company Topps obtained three strands of George Washington’s hair from a historical hair collector, attached them to Washington “relic” cards and inserted them into regular packs of baseball cards. In September, one of the relics ended up on eBay, where bidding reached $8,300 before the item was pulled for violating site policies. The problem? An eBay member complained the founding-father memorabilia should not have been listed as a baseball card.