News of the Weird
(1) Two Brazilian firms collaborated recently to test a whimsical device that could perhaps lessen splashing on men’s room floors: a urinal containing a fretboard that makes musical sounds as liquid hits it (if the stream is strong enough). According to a May report in the Brazilian edition of Billboard magazine, versions were set up in several Sao Paulo bars to see if men’s aims improved. (Flushing produces an online address from which a sound recording of the user’s “music” can be retrieved.) (2) In a project that has already gone live in 200 Michigan bars and restaurants, the state’s Office of Highway Safety Planning has installed “talking” urinal cakes featuring a female announcer urging inebriated patrons to call a taxi.Cultural Diversity
• Television ads appeared recently in India exploiting women’s obsession with lightening their skin — a fascination already responsible for a rich market in facial bleaching. Now, ads for “Clean and Dry Intimate Wash” promise to “refresh” a woman’s private parts by making them fairer. Female columnist Amrit Dhillon, viewing an ad of a disinterested husband ignoring his too-brown wife, denounced the product as catering to “self-hatred — of race and gender” and urged the banning of the ads.
• In May, the Beijing Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment issued a formal rule to crack down on unhygienic public restrooms. The toilets’ attendants will be ordered to take corrective action any time they count a number of flies equal to two times the number of stalls in the restroom. The city official in charge downplayed the likelihood of inspectors themselves counting flies. “The regulation is specific ... but the inspection methodology will be flexible.”Questionable Judgments
• Adriana Villareal of Dos de Mayo, Argentina, lost her husband two years ago but now makes it a point to visit his tomb about four times a year, and not just briefly. Villareal brings bedding, an Internet connection, and a small stove so that she can remain three or four days at each visit. Said Villareal, according to a June Agence France-Presse dispatch, “When you love someone, you do all sorts of things.”
• The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling in June in which Marshall Hollins was sentenced to eight years in prison for taking cellphone photographs of a 17-year-old girl with whom he was having sex. That sex was voluntary and, since Illinois’ age of consent is 16, legal. However, the court ruled, it is still illegal in Illinois to take sexual pictures of a child, and that particular law defines underage as under 18. (Hollins had claimed, unsuccessfully, that he surely ought to be able to take pictures of a legal event.)
• British soccer player John Terry was acquitted in July of hurling racial abuse at opponent Anton Ferdinand, even though Terry’s three-word phrase was acknowledged by the judge to contain the word “black” and two words that are commonly censored in family newspapers. According to a New York Times dispatch before the verdict, there was much testimony about the “paint-peeling profanities” that soccer opponents routinely use on the pitch (in particular, referencing each other’s mothers’ sex lives). In handing down the verdict, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court judge said he was not certain that Terry was not simply repeating a slur that he had heard moments earlier.
Latest Religious Messages
• Recurring Theme: From time to time, Buddhist groups attempt to improve their “karmic balance” by doing good deeds for Earth’s animal cohabitants. (Previously, “News of the Weird” mentioned a California group’s “freeing” fish by buying out a pet shop’s inventory and liberating the “lucky” fish into the Pacific Ocean — where they were undoubtedly eaten almost immediately by larger fish.) In June, about 50 members of the Let Blessings and Wisdom Grow Buddhist group in Beijing bought at least 200 snakes, took them into a rural area of Hebei province and, chanting, released them. Almost immediately, the snakes infested the nearby village of Miao Erdong, horrifying the villagers, who were able to club to death some of the snakes, but who remained on edge.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality newsletter reported in June that, officially, 11 newborn Jewish males in New York City between the years 2000-2011 were diagnosed with herpes simplex virus that had been passed on by a circumcision technique in which the “mohel” (circumciser) contains bleeding by sucking blood directly from the wound.
• Prominent filmmakers Daniel Junge (an Academy Award winner) and Bryan Storkel have been raising money for their documentary “Fight Church,” featuring devout Christian mixed martial artists viciously pummeling each other — but only after the brawlers begin the match with a prayer and commitment to serve Jesus Christ. Among those featured is Pastor Paul Burress of Rochester, N.Y., who says he “loves to fight” and sees no problem with MMA’s barbaric nature. “These (techniques of fighting savagely) are the gifts and the skills God has given me.”
• Scottish officials were reportedly optimistic about a recent decision of the legislature of Louisiana. State officials this year broadened a voucher program to allow parents to choose private schools with Christian fundamentalist curricula. One prominent textbook for that curriculum (offered by the Accelerated Christian Education program) touted sightings of Scotland’s Loch Ness monster as “evidence” that humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time, thus undermining the widely accepted scientific theory of evolution. Officials now anticipate an influx of tourists to Loch Ness, near Inverness.
No Longer Weird
Some events, no matter how “weird” they first seemed, now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation. Surely there are now too many instances in which a worker drawing disability benefits cheats by taking on strenuous pastimes or even second jobs while claiming to be unable to function normally at work. One of the most recent involved letter-carrier Jacquelyn Myers of Tallahassee, Fla., who was put on “light duty,” with worker compensation benefits, because of a back injury from heavy lifting. Over a several-months period after her May 2009 injury, investigators found that she had entered more than 80 long-distance races, including the Boston Marathon. Investigators also noted that her race times improved after her “injury.”