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LEAD STORY: Homaro Cantu (described by one customer as Chicago's "mad scientist" gourmet chef) creates his signature dishes with the help of cutting-edge technology, such as fishless sushi made with edible, fish-flavored paper containing designs produced on an inkjet printer. Among the projects planned for his Moto restaurant: baking with a "class IV" laser (the kind used in welding and surgery) that will cook the center but not the outside; using helium and superconductors to make food levitate; and developing edible utensils, tables and chairs. Said Cantu, to a New York Times reporter in February, "Gastronomy has to catch up to the evolution in technology."

In Their Own Words: "This is so embarrassing. We had never done that before, and now she's in the hospital, and my cat's dead." (Said by a name-withheld New York City man in January, after he and a neighbor decided to have sex but then accidentally ignited a comforter with a candle, starting a major fire in his apartment.) And, said Elaine Edwards of Mink, La., one of the last remaining places in the country to be without telephone service, until lines were installed in January: "It wasn't 15 minutes after that phone was in before a telemarketer called me."

More Scenes of the Surreal: 1) In January, Felipe Rose, a member of the Village People music group and who is part Lakota Sioux, said he felt so remorseful at missing the opening last year of the National Museum of the American Indian that he donated his gold record the group received for the 1978 song "Y.M.C.A.," which is ostensibly about gay men looking for sex in the big city. 2) In late 2004, officials of the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris said they were forced to cordon off the statue of 19th-century journalist Victor Noir (who was reputed to be quite a ladies' man) because too many visitors were rubbing Noir's clothed crotch for good luck.

Can't Possibly Be True: News of the Weird reported in September on Koko, the gorilla that knows about 1,000 words in American Sign Language, and in February, she was back in the news at her home at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, Calif. Two of Koko's female handlers filed a sex discrimination and wrongful discharge lawsuit against the foundation because its president, Francine Patterson, had allegedly pressured them to display their breasts to Koko in order to better "bond" with her. According to the lawsuit, Patterson herself had been "bonding" with Koko for quite some time and thought Koko needed a little variety.

Inexplicable: Wade Harris, 39, was arrested in Pittsburgh in December and charged with stealing at least 100 (maybe as many as 400) parking meters. According to detectives, a meter usually contains only $10 to $15 in coins but requires about 90 minutes "of hard work" to break into (and the job creates a risk from the noise made by the initial removal of the meter from the street).

Least Competent Criminals: In January, Daniel D. Salazar, 20, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for attempting to rob a Bank of America in Kansas City, Mo.; he first came to the attention of police when he called a station house and offered to turn in his partners in the crime in exchange for the $5,000 reward.

Update: In November 2003, when last we left America's most uninhibited public gay-basher, Topeka, Kan., preacher Fred Phelps, he was proposing a statue to celebrate the murder of a gay man. In December 2004, his Westboro Baptist Church issued a press release praising God for the "Tsunami & 2,000 dead Swedes!!!" after he assumed that Swedes were among the vacationers who drowned at resorts in Thailand. Phelps had denounced Sweden for jailing a gay-condemning preacher (the Rev. Ake Green, since released). According to Phelps, the Swedish homosexuals who died were "vacationing on their fat expendable incomes without kids to bother with and spend money on."

Readers' Choice: On a July evening, two girls, ages 17 and 18, decided to bake cookies as a gesture of kindness for their neighbors and then to deliver them right away (with notes reading, "Have a great night!"). Their town of Durango, Colo., is small enough (population, 14,000) that nighttime visits can sometimes be made without creating anxiety, but apparently not at Wanda Renae Young's house. She was so traumatized by the 10:30 p.m. knocking at her door that she wound up in the hospital emergency room the next day, then sued the girls for that expense, and in January was awarded $900 by a judge, sending the girls into tears. (Townspeople chipped in to pay the $900.)

© 2005 Chuck Shepherd

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