Monday 9/22/08

Human Interest News   —   Posted on September 22, 2008

By The Editors of

Pretend champ
With much flailing and novelty, Craig Billmeier of Pleasanton, Calif., has found a degree of international fame not in his original career as a musician, but in his more recent hobby as a virtual musician. In two rounds at the Air Guitar World Championships, the two-time American champion Billmeier toasted the competition with two near perfect performances of imaginary guitar playing, landing him with the title of world-champion air guitar player. Competitors at the annual championship held in Finland on Aug. 22 score highly with judges for the ability to accurately simulate guitar-playing motions to match the accompanying guitar solos, the stage presence of the sans-guitar performer, and the artfulness of the performance as a whole. In a 2007 interview with a San Francisco blog,, Billmeier, who is known as “Hot Lixx Hulahan” on stage, gave advice for a future generation of faux-rockers: “Go Big. Ditch the shame. Grow your hair out.”

No horsing around
Say goodbye to Peter Rabbit. Despite a lobbying effort that crashed the Hickman, Neb., city government email server three times, the brown Morgan-quarter horse crossbreed owned by 76-year-old Harley Scott will be put out to a pasture far away from the Nebraska pasture where the horse was born in 1976 and has lived its 32 years since. A last-ditch effort to save Peter Rabbit failed Aug. 26 when the city council failed to ratify a horse exemption to the city’s livestock ban. In 2006, Hickman annexed Scott’s pasture, bringing with it a ban on all livestock. And with a Sept. 15 deadline approaching to be rid of the animal, horse lovers from around the country began phoning and emailing city leaders asking for relief to no avail. After the deadline, Scott could be penalized up to $100 a day for violating the ordinance.

Killer carcasses
Donnie Halcombe of Allensville, Ky., may have thought he was simply going after coyotes, but his ploy to thin out the local coyote population landed him a $50,000 fine and six months of home confinement. In court, Halcombe admitted to poisoning deer carcasses near his Kentucky home with pesticides in order to kill coyotes. But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Halcombe’s poisoned carcasses also cut down dogs, opossums, hawks, owls, and vultures. Halcombe was sentenced by a federal judge in August after pleading guilty last April to breaking federal law including the National Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Ashes to diamonds
Most people treasure family members, but a Swiss company is perhaps helping people go a little too far. For about $7,500, Algordanza of Chur, Switzerland, will take the ashes of a dead relative and turn them into a synthetic diamond. The company’s chairman, Veit Brimer, told the Reuters news service that, “astonishingly,” many of his customers are Christians: “They say: ‘Why should I say goodbye? I’ll see my husband in 15 years in heaven anyway.'” The technology, which involves high pressure and temperatures on carbon, is reportedly improving, and other companies are getting into the business. U.S.-based LifeGem offers to turn hair, including that of dead pets, into diamonds.

Living to spend
Gordon Taylor knows it’s going to be a good day when Joseph Macko walks into the showroom in Flint, Mich. That’s because Macko has faithfully purchased a new Cadillac for each of the past 53 years-for the past 22 years from Taylor. “He looks forward every year to buying a new car,” Taylor said. “He wants that same vehicle.” In August, Macko drove home a 2009 Cadillac DTS. Macko’s reason for picking up a new set of wheels every year? “You only live one time. Money is to spend,” the retired General Motors worker told The Flint Journal. “I spend it once I get it.”