By RICH FOLEY
Since this is my last column for the year, it’s time to review some of the odd stories from 2015 you may have missed. Just when I thought a year couldn’t get weirder than 2014, here came 2015 to prove me wrong.
For example, there’s that little item referred to in the headline. In February, a North Carolina newspaper ran a correction notice, perhaps the strangest one in history, stating that the President was not the Antichrist after running a letter to the editor with the headline “Is Obama the Antichrist?”
The correction in the Lexington Dispatch said that the letter’s author “does not believe President Obama is the Antichrist, who will come after seven kings, according to Revelation. He thinks Obama could be the seventh king.” I’m sure the President appreciated the clarification.
Descendants of former president William McKinley, however, still may consider the current chief executive to be ungrateful. I’m sure most of you heard the news earlier this year when President Obama changed the name of Alaska’s Mount McKinley to Denali, pleasing some while angering others.
Students of American history will recall that McKinley annexed Hawaii in 1898. Had McKinley not done so, Obama would have been born in the Republic of Hawaii, making him ineligible to run for president, and thus unable to take McKinley’s name off the mountain. So much for gratitude.
In happier news, a competitive eater ate three 72-ounce steak dinners in 20 minutes during a contest in April at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. Molly Schuyler not only finished all three steaks, but three baked potatoes, three shrimp cocktails, three salads and three rolls as well.
There’s no word on how much she drank, but an Arkansas man found out there’s a limit to the possible health benefits of tea. Doctors trying to discover the cause of his kidney failure finally learned that he had a habit of drinking an entire gallon of iced tea every day.
A chemical in the tea called oxalate caused his kidneys to be inflamed and clogged. At a gallon of black tea per day, the man was taking in as much as 10 times more oxalate than the average American. But not anymore.
The city of San Francisco is trying a new way to stop public urination, namely painting walls with a repellant paint that causes the urine expelled by an offender to splash back on them. San Francisco was, according to an Associated Press story, the first city in the United States to use the paint, developed by a Florida company. A similar product is being used in Germany.
The issue has been a problem in San Francisco for a long time. Recently, a light pole corroded by urine collapsed and fell on a car.
The director of San Francisco’s public works department told the AP that “offenders will need to make the mistake only once to get the idea.” Hopefully, the Florida firm will develop a similar product to use on auto wheels to teach some manners to dogs and their owners.
Among those passing away this year was sculptor Don Featherstone, whose sole claim to fame was his 1957 invention of the plastic pink flamingo, found for many years in the yards of people with, shall we say, interesting taste. It was only the second of hundreds of lawn ornaments he designed in a career lasting over 40 years, but it’s by far his most famous creation.
Starting in the late 1970s, Featherstone and his wife began wearing matching outfits in flamingo-patterned fabric. To mark the year of the invention, the lawn at his home in Fitchburg, Mass., was for many years decorated with 57 pink flamingos.
Also leaving us this year was Vincent Musetto, a long-time editor at the New York Post, famous for its huge, wacky front page headlines. In 1983, Musetto wrote what many call the best headline of all time: “Headless Body in Topless Bar.” Musetto himself liked one he wrote in 1984, “Granny Executed in Her Pink Pajamas.”
Finally, millions of people who sing “Happy Birthday” every year without paying a fee to the Warner Music Group are now off the hook as a judge in September ruled the song to be in the public domain. You may celebrate birthdays in 2016 by singing the song without fear of the music police. Enjoy!