news of the weird
Britain’s ITV1 television network announced plans in April to accept “prop placements” to blend into production of its new reality talent show in which actors compete for the lead role in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The network said, for example, that it was seeking coffee machines, which piqued the interest of the De’Longhi brand manager, who offered its top-ofthe-line Magnifica ESAM4200 and, according to its public relations firm, suggested perhaps interrupting the play’s climactic song “The Crucifixion” while Jesus savors a cup brewed from the Magnifica. An April report in London’s Independent noted that the opera’s composer, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, was on board with the idea, but that the original lyricist, Sir Tim Rice, called it “tasteless” and “tacky.”
What Goes Around
NOTE: From time to time, News of the Weird reminds readers that bizarre human adventures repeat themselves again and again. Here are some choice selections of previous themes recently coming around again (plus a couple of updates on earlier stories):
• Each spring in Dongyang, China, the aroma of urine is in the air — specifically, the town’s specialty of eggs boiled in the discharge of young boys (under age 10, typically gathered “fresh” from toilets at local schools). Townspeople have believed for centuries that the eggs, properly cooked, bring health and prosperity. “By eating these eggs,” one shopper told a Reuters reporter in March, “we will not have any pain in our waists, legs and joints. Also, you will have more energy when you work.” In fact, Dongyang officials have proudly proclaimed “virgin boy eggs” as an “intangible cultural heritage.”
• And once again this spring, the Chinese marked the Qingming holiday with celebrations honoring the dead by making offerings to their deceased relatives. At the “tomb-sweeping” festival, people present paper replicas of items their ancestors are believed to need in the afterlife. Uncreative relatives give play money, but the offerings can be elaborate, such as shoes, cars and TV sets, or this year’s hot item — paper iPads, which were selling in Hong Kong for the equivalent of about $3.
• Sound familiar? McDonald’s still proudly serves its coffee hot, notwithstanding the notorious 1992 lawsuit for burns suffered by Stella Liebeck. In March 2012, Mona Abdelal filed a lawsuit in Cook County, Ill. over severe burns that her granddaughter, 4, suffered when fetching Abdelal’s coffee order from a McDonald’s server. According to the lawsuit, the server violated company policy that requires tightly closed lids on coffee cups and prohibits handing the cups to young children even if they are tightly sealed.
• With Afghanistan’s moralistic Taliban in retreat, one social scourge grows stronger than ever (according to an April Washington Post dispatch from Dehrazi): bacha bazi, which are Afghan men’s “dancing boys.” Underage, often poor or fatherless kids become willing “companions” of wealthy men, often for sex. Since young girls are sheltered and chaperoned, only boys are available. Said one man, “You cannot [even] take a wife with you to a party, but a boy you can take anywhere.” The usefulness of a bacha bazi typically ends when he starts growing facial hair, and the boys often drift into becoming pimps or prostitutes.
• The most recent government employee to defraud his agency’s worker compensation program (according to prosecutors in Los Angeles) is firefighter Rafael Davis, 35, who received disability payments for about 30 months during 2008-2011 while at the same time engaging in mixed martial arts matches as “The Noodle.” Davis’ record (according to LA Weekly) was 12-2, with seven of those matches coming during his disability period, including six victories. “MMA” (as noted by the newspaper) requires similar “stamina, muscle and coordination” as is required for firefighting.
• More and more newspapers are assigning reporters to pore through local birth records to sample the diversity of names parents are giving their kids these days. An Edmonton Journal reporter noted in March that the nearly 51,000 babies born in the province of Alberta in 2011 included a boy named Moo, two girls named Unique, an Einstein, a Messiah, a J-Cub, a Smiley, a Tuff, a Tuba, a Jazz, a Camry, an Andromeda and an Xxavier (sic), and a boy named R and a girl named J.
• An increasingly mainstream treatment for the gastrointestinal bacterial infection C. difficile involves transplanting the contents of a healthy colon into the unhealthy one, on the belief that the best way to kill the destructive germs and flora is to attack them with the beneficial bacteria and flora that already reside in a healthy colon. In March an unidentified man in Sydney, New Brunswick, who had been turned down for a transplant by doctors at Cape Breton Regional Hospital, performed a risky transplant of an unreported substance, by himself, in his own bathroom. He apparently suffered no ill effects, but doctors told the Chronicle Herald of Halifax, Nova Scotia, that since the “product” must get into the large bowel, merely giving yourself an enema does not assure success.
• Through the years, unusual highway tractor-trailer spills have fascinated News of the Weird readers — such as the time a truck carrying pork collided with a truck carrying eggs, creating a highway dish of ham and eggs. In March on Highway 11 in northeastern Ontario, a Brinks tractor-trailer carrying nothing but $1 and $2 Canadian coins hit a boulder in the roadway, scattering a “debris field” of millions of dollars, forcing the closing of the road. Among the cleanup equipment required: a “magnetic” crane and a front-end loader that scooped up most of the soil in the field so that the coins could later be sifted out.
Least Competent Criminals:
(1) In Twin Falls, Idaho in April, Dylan Contreras, 19, became the most recent person arrested while trying to avoid police by giving a fake name (“Velesco”) even though his real name (the one on outstanding warrants) was tattooed in plain sight on his forearm. (2) In April, a teller at Chicago’s Northwest Side bank became the most recent to thwart a robbery simply by telling the perp (who had presented a holdup note) that the bank is now closed and suggesting that the robber come back the next day. (The perp walked out and did not return.)
• Fine points of the law: A woman who was injured while traveling on business in November 2007 in New South Wales, Australia was denied worker’s compensation by the workplace safety tribunal on the grounds that the injury occurred in her motel room while she was having sex with a friend. (A wall light fixture came loose as a result of the pair’s vigorous antics.) However, in April 2012, Australia’s Federal Court overturned the decision and granted the compensation, ruling that since the woman was on assignment at the time, the overnight stay, and even the sex, were “ordinary incidents” of the situation her employer placed her in.
• A New York City system-gaming public school teacher, Alan Rosenfeld, 66, continues to show up for make-work (such as photocopying “duty”), at a salary of $100,000 a year, rather than retire. Rosenfeld was accused in 2001 of making lewd comments to female students in his typing class and removed from classroom duty, but he protested and continues to exercise his union “due process” rights. In a January status report, the New York Post noted that Rosenfeld could have retired four years ago, but that by remaining on the “job,” the value of his pension increases, and the light duty enables him to conduct his real estate business while at “work.”
• Fun for everyone: The Ahlgrim Family Funeral Services in Palatine, Ill. (first reported in News of the Weird in 1991), continues to serve its community with the unique game room in the basement that it rents out for parties (except during actual funeral events). Even though the arcade games, shuffleboard and billiards are popular, the main basement attraction is still the nine-hole miniature golf course with its own “hazard” rules (e.g., two-stroke penalty for disturbing a “grave” on the course).
© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate