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Miss Cellania's Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2011

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Every week, I comb the internet to bring you strange news stories that you might not otherwise see, and it's been quite an experience. Some are surely worth another look as we say goodbye to 2011. Here are 20 stories from The Weird Week in Review that were particularly bizarre, funny, or memorable.

20. February: Burglar Has No Luck

Do you ever have those days where everything goes wrong? That’s what happened to an unnamed 19-year-old burglar in Frankston, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. His plan was to rob a bakery while it was closed for the night.

The young man broke into the shop, in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston, through a skylight and landed in a locked store room.

So he tried stacking up a number of containers on top of each other to try and climb out.

But they toppled over, throwing him to the floor.

Then he tried to climb shelves to get out, and they collapsed under him.

He fell to the floor several times, and ended up with a number of cuts and bruises.

When he discovered the security camera, he tried to cover it, but too late: his various falls were caught on camera. He eventually escaped, but when his face was publicized, he turned himself in.

19. April: Last Two Speakers of Ancient Language Not Talking to Each Other

An ancient language of Mexico is dying out. The last two people who are fluent in Ayapaneco are not speaking to each other. Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquezto both live in the village of Ayapa in southern Mexico, but don’t get along well.

Daniel Suslak, an Indiana University linguistic anthropologist, is compiling a dictionary to record the existence of the language.

He said he has discovered that the two men ‘don’t have much in common’ and while Mr Segovia, 75, is ‘a little prickly’, Mr Velaquez, 69, doesn’t like to leave his home and is ‘more stoic.’

Segovia speaks to his wife and son in Ayapaneco, and they understand him, but neither can speak the language fluently. Velazquez is not known to speak Ayapaneco at all anymore.

18. November: Wedding Goes On as Lodge Burns Down


Mike and Nancy Rogers were to be married in the main lodge at White Point Beach Resort in Nova Scotia. However, that building was on fire, so they and their guests were evacuated and they held the ceremony in another resort building. Firefighters from ten different departments battled the blaze, but the 83-year-old wooden lodge was a total loss. No one was injured. The newlyweds took the opportunity to pose for a wedding portrait in front of the conflagration. That’s one photo composition you don’t see at every wedding! Image by Nicholas Augustus.

17. June: Credit Card Found 25 Years Later — Underwater!

John Krayeski of West Palm Beach, Florida, was spear fishing in the waters off Singer Island, specifically at an artificial reef called the Triangle. A responsible diver, he often picks up trash he sees underwater. On this trip, he picked up an old JC Penney credit card. Back on land, he read the name on the card: Jack Jacobs. He knew the name, as Krayeski’s construction business had built an addition at Jacob’s home. Jacobs’ wife told Krayeski that they never had a card from JC Penney, but later Jack Jacobs called and said he’d lost that card 25 years ago, before he was ever married! However, he had no idea how it ended up a mile out at sea.

“I told John I’m going to drop another credit card in the ocean and he has 25 years to find it.”

“Make it a gold American Express and I’ll find it a lot sooner,” Krayeski said.

16. July: Duct Tape Used for Ducks

Passersby on Victory Road in Boise, Idaho, noticed something going on in the storm drain. A mother duck was hovering over the drain, and ducklings could be heard trapped below. A small crowd gathered, and the animal lovers wrapped duct tape, sticky side out, on the end of a stick. They used the homemade instrument and a pool skimmer to retrieve three ducklings and reunite them with the mother duck. The story did not say whether the tape used was Duck brand.

15. September: Town Erects Statue to Commemorate Beatles’ Layover

On September 18, 1964, The Beatles changed planes at a tiny airport in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. The 15 minutes they spent there was the biggest thing that ever happened in the small town. Now, 47 years later, the town has unveiled a statue by artist Danny We called “Abbey Road” commemorating the event. Last Sunday, the unveiling was accompanied by a tribute concert and townspeople sharing memories of that glorious day in 1964.

14. April: The Honeymoon from Hell


Stefan and Erika Svanstrom of Stockholm, Sweden set out on a world tour for their honeymoon. They were stranded in a heavy snowstorm in Munich, Germany in December. They arrived in Cairns, Australia just in time for a cyclone. The couple traveled to Brisbane to find flooding, so left for Perth where there were raging brushfires. The Svanstroms then went to Christchurch, New Zealand, arriving just after the big earthquake in February. They went to a few other locations before traveling to Tokyo, Japan, days before the earthquake and tsunami. A calm visit to China wrapped up their trip and they returned to Stockholm on March 29th. The good news is that their marriage survived the trip.

13. March: 30,000 Pigs Lost?

The Queensland, Australia newspaper The Morning Bulletin covered stories from the recent floods. One livestock farmer was particularly devastated.

Mr Everingham said: “We’ve lost probably about 30,000 pigs in the floods, we tried to get as many weaners and suckers out by boat, but we could only save about 70 weaners, and the suckers didn’t survive long, because they needed that mother’s milk, and all the sows have been washed away.

But later the story was corrected.

What Baralaba piggery-owner Sid Everingham actually said was “30 sows and pigs”, not “30,000 pigs”

12. May: Cow Coincidences Cause Cowshed Conflagration

Beware of the Cow

A traffic accident in New Zealand started an almost-unbelievable chain reaction. A motorist was traveling near the town of Kaponga Friday night when he hit a cow, killing it.

The animal was thrown over the top of the car, peeling back the bonnet and shattering the windscreen. The car smashed into a pole which caused a power surge to race along the wires into the farmer’s house.

The same surge blew up the cowshed meter board and set it on fire. However, it melted a water line directly above which extinguished the blaze.

The driver was not seriously injured. Image by Flickr user Tony Bowden.

11. April: Wanted: Buxom Virgins to Pick Tea Leaves with Their Lips


A Chinese tea vendor is marketing a variety of tea as extremely special, with healing properties and even a little magic. Legend says the tea was picked by fairies, who also drop out of the sky when the tea is brewed. The tea is advertised as being picked by the lips of virgins. In fact, the company is advertising for ten more virgins to pick the leaves with their lips and drop them into baskets without using their hands. Another qualification: the pickers must be at least a C cup bra size. Those who qualify can earn £50 ($82US) a day.

10. August: Escaped Kangaroo Steals Underwear

Easy going attitude

Police in Prague, Czech Republic, began receiving calls about thefts of women’s lingerie from clotheslines, at about the same time a man called to report his pet kangaroo, Benji, had escaped. It all made sense when one caller said she had witnessed a kangaroo hopping off with her underwear. The marsupial was picked up shortly afterward.

Benji’s owner Petr Hlabovic, 35, said: “I’m very relieved to have him back. I’ve got no idea what he thought he was up to – he certainly didn’t pick up the habit from me.”

There is no mention of whether the unmentionables were returned to their rightful owners. Image by Flickr user Pierre Pouliquin.

9. October: Driverless Car Doing Doughnuts

Emergency crews responded to a report of a driverless car running in circles in Wildwood, New Jersey. Wildwood Fire Captain Chris D’Amico eventually stopped the vehicle.

“I’ve never corralled a car before,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico said that he found an opportunity to jump into the passenger-side window while he was standing inside the circle the car was making.

See a video of the car in action.

8. July: Banana Attacks Gorilla

The Wireless Center, a Verizon outlet in Strongsville, Ohio, was staging a promotion on June 29th featuring their mascot, a man dressed as a gorilla. Police were called because a man dressed as a banana walked in and attacked the gorilla! The banana then fled on foot with four unidentified men. Police did not find the banana. The gorilla was uninjured, but embarrassed.

7. July: Driver Wore Colander for License Photo


Citing religious reasons, Niko Alm demanded the right to wear a colander on his head for his driver’s license photo in Vienna, Austria. He is a pastafarian, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He was granted his request by licensing officials — but that doesn’t mean pastafarianism is recognized as an official religion by the state. A police spokesman said that the pasta strainer Alm wore on his head did not violate any license rules, which merely state that a driver’s whole face must be clearly visible in the photo. Therefore, a religious exemption for the headgear was not necessary.

6. Girls Caught with Stolen Goat

Just Kidding

Two girls, ages 6 and 7, were approached by police in Mankato, Minnesota, when they were seen in their pajamas walking a goat at 11:30 PM. They told the officers that the goat lived in their bedroom closet and they walked it every night. The said the goat was hidden from their father, who didn’t know their mother bought it two weeks earlier! The police didn’t buy that story, and took the girls, who are stepsisters, home to talk to their parents. The mother explained that the girls had been to a birthday party that featured a petting zoo earlier that day. They had apparently liberated the goat and took it home with them. Image by Flickr user Andrew Hux.

5. May: Man Blew Up Like a Balloon

A 48-year-old truck driver was the victim of a bizarre accident in New Zealand that reads like a classic cartoon script.

Steven McCormack was standing on his truck’s foot plate Saturday when he slipped and fell, breaking a compressed air hose off an air reservoir that powered the truck’s brakes.

He fell hard onto the brass fitting, which pierced his left buttock and started pumping air into his body.

“I felt the air rush into my body and I felt like it was going to explode from my foot,” he told local media from his hospital bed in the town of Whakatane, on North Island’s east coast.

“I was blowing up like a football,” he said. “I had no choice but just to lay there, blowing up like a balloon.”

Co-workers released a valve to stop the air pressure, and he was taken to a hospital. Doctors say the air inflated McCormack’s body under his skin as it separated fat from muscle. He is expected to recover.

4. June: Man Tries to Remove Wart

Sean Murphy of South Yorkshire, England, tried to remove a wart from his finger the old-fashioned way -with a gun. Murphy was at work when he shot a stolen 12-bore Beretta shotgun at the offending wart. He ended up shooting off most of his middle finger.

But he said: “The best thing is that the wart has gone. It was giving me lot of trouble.”

Murphy, a security officer at Markham Grange Nurseries, Brodsworth, at the time of the incident in March, has since lost his job. He had suffered with the wart on the joint closest to the tip of his middle finger for more than five years.

Murphy was arrested for theft of the gun and other firearms charges. Prosecutors said alcohol was involved.

3. June: Portland Drains Reservoir Over Urination

Officials in Portland, Oregon, closed a drinking water source and drained 7.8 million gallons of water from a Mt. Tabor reservoir because 21-year-old Joshua Seater peed in it. David Shaff of the Water Bureau said the cost of the drainage is about $7,600 and lost revenue would be around $28,500. Although dead animals are pulled from the reservoir without incident, and the water is treated before entering the system, Shaff said this was different because people would be “squeamish” about the urine. Seater has not been cited or arrested yet. He said he thought the treatment facility was a sewage plant.

2. December: Mythbusters Wrecks Neighborhood


How fast can a cannonball travel? Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage were tackling this question Tuesday for an episode of their TV show Mythbusters when things went completely wrong. The cannon misfired, and the cannonball went up into the air over Dublin, California.

It flew straight though the front door of a home on Cassata Place, and bounced around like a pinball, flying up to the second floor before blasting through a back bedroom wall.

The wayward cannonball then blasted across a busy road and through a second home some 50 yards away, demolishing roof tiles.

The story doesn’t stop there, and neither did the cannonball. It finally came to rest inside a minivan at a third home. The driver had left the vehicle just minutes before. Incredibly, no one was injured in the incident. Hyneman and Savage visited the affected homes to apologize. Image by Perception Builders.

1. June: Horse Herpes Forces Rodeo Queens to Ride Stick Ponies

An outbreak of equine herpes virus is causing havoc on the rodeo and show horse circuit. Normally, the contestants in the Davis County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest in Utah ride horses as they compete, but this year rode stick ponies instead. The competition is a little tougher as the horses will not being doing any of the work. The stick pony competition tests how well the riders know the routine. Although not sexually transmitted, equine herpes is highly contagious among horses, incurable, and can be fatal. Image by KSL TV.
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There may be weirder news stories out there that never made it into my weekly column, because I tend to skip those that are overly prurient or tragic. If you have a favorite odd headline of 2011, share it in the comments!

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The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox
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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

YouTube

Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

Getty Images

Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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