Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, March 4, 1998

It’s an odd, odd world
we live in

A hairy-faced woman and a female friend were shot to death in a karaoke bar and a witness said the gunman may have been a spurned lover who mistook the bearded lady for a man.

I didn't make that up. It actually happened in Portland, Ore. It came across the wires with the headline: "Bearded Lady Shot." Strangely, it didn't show up in the "Odd" file, a list of wire weirdness from around the world. Newspaper writers and editors across the country live for the odd file. They check it daily and save the best odd stories to talk about in the bar after work. Some of the current stories on the list are slugged "ODD-BABIES," "ODD-DOG," "ODD-ECLAIR," "ODD-RATS," "ODD-SUICIDE" and "ODD-GRENADE."

I suppose "ODD-Bearded Lady Shot" would have been overkill.

Stories from the Odd file are the most interesting things on the wire. But most of them never seem to get into the newspaper. I guess with so many important stories to run, like 18 zillion words on some White House intern playing "quash the subpoena" with the president, editors figure there isn't enough room for odd stories. Another reason they don't usually get in is that some of them are in really poor taste. The stories, that is. Well, some editors are in poor taste, too, but that's another story.

But mostly, I think editors are just stingy. They like to save the best stuff for themselves. Holding back odd stories gives them something to talk about with their buddies. ("Hey, you see that story slugged ODD-BABIES? That was weird. This pregnant lady in Mexico City was supposed to have nine fetuses but later it turned out she only had seven. But then she only gave birth to six babies. What happened to the other one? Where's that seventh baby?")

I'm not too stingy. I think readers should see the most interesting stories available, no matter how gross they are. The stories, that is. Like the story slugged "ODD-DOG."

"NAIROBI -- A court in Tanzania has sentenced a dog to death and its owner to a suspended jail term because of its name."

Turns out the dog's name was "Immigration," which, on the surface, wouldn't seem to be the most offensive pet name ever thought of. Wrongo.

A magistrate found the dog's owner "guilty of scandalizing the Department of Immigration" in naming his pet, the story said.

So they ended up shooting the dog, the bastards. Every time you think Tanzanians have joined the 19th century, they do something silly like this.

What was the dog owner thinking? What a dumb name for a mutt. Here, Immigration, here boy! Sit, Immigration, sit!

He's just lucky he didn't name is dog after something really revered in Tanzania, like "The Department of Relatively Drinkable Water."

ODD-RATS is a pretty good story, too. It begins: "HANOI -- Vietnam said Monday it was ordering cat-meat restaurants to close and was outlawing exports of cats to China because of growing problems with rats."

There are too many rats. So the agriculture department advised everyone to switch to eating rats instead of cats and snakes.

This seems like a reasonable request. I mean for a varmint- eating country. It would be an odd request if it came from, say, Al Gore to the Boy Scouts of America.

ODD-SUICIDE isn't that odd. Just sad. About a guy who set himself on fire. ODD-ECLAIR is just about some French woman who killed someone with a poisoned eclair. That's not so odd for France. I suspect murder-by-pastry is rather routine in a country with strict gun-control laws.

ODD-GRENADE is a pretty good one. Sorry, I can't tell you about it. I hate to be stingy, but I've got to save at least one to wow the Happy Hour crowd.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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