Five of the 10 best-selling novels in Japan in 2007 were originally composed, and serialized, on cell phones, thumbed out by women who had never written novels, for readers who mostly had never before read one. The genre's dominating plotlines are affairs of the heart, and its characteristics, obviously, are simplicity of plot and character and brevity of expression (lest authors' sore thumbs and readers' tired eyes bring down the industry). Said one successful cell phone writer, for a January dispatch in The New York Times, her audience doesn't read works by "professional writers" because "their sentences are too difficult to understand."
The Entrepreneurial Spirit!
-- The New Lucky Restaurant has been around since the 1950s in Ahmadabad, India, serving diners among the gravestones located at various points around the tables. No one is certain who was buried under the restaurant, according to a December Associated Press dispatch, but Indians aren't much spooked by the experience. Said a retired professor: "Graveyards in India are never scary places. We don't have a nice literature of horror stories, so we don't have much fear of ghosts." The restaurant's main concern is that waiters know the floor plan and don't trip over the ankle-high monuments.
-- It's the "holy grail" of beers, said a Boston pub manager, but, still, only 60,000 cases a year of Westvleteren are brewed because the Belgian Trappist monks with the centuries-old recipe refuse to expand their business (and even get on the phone to harass black-marketers). Westvleteren is sold only at the monastery gate, by appointment, with a two-case-a-month limit, at a price that's reasonable for retail beer, but anyone who gets it from a re-seller will pay 10 times that much. Producing more, said Brother Joris, to a Wall Street Journal reporter in November, "would interfere with our job of being a monk." Furthermore, said Brother Joris, referencing the Bible, "(I)f you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it."
-- Life's Necessities: (1) In January, Taser International introduced the Taser MPH, a combination dart-firing weapon and MP3 music player (that holds 150 songs). (2) In November, Bergdorf Goodman in New York City revealed that it was offering showings of the Guerlain cosmetic house's "KissKiss Gold and Diamonds" lipstick, which retails for $62,000 (housed in an 18-karat gold tube containing 2.2 carats of diamonds).
Science on the Cutting Edge
-- Latest Ape-Human News: The 4th Texas Court of Appeals in January affirmed a lower court decision that monkeys and chimpanzees have no legal right to file lawsuits against an animal preserve for mistreatment. In Apeldoorn, Netherlands, however, one prominent member of the family is full of human nature: Sibu, an orangutan at the Apenheul Primate Park, has so far rejected all overtures to mate with other orangutans and instead appears smitten with blond female zookeepers, especially those with tattoos, according to an October Reuters dispatch.
-- To learn how cockroaches socialize, a research team from Free University of Brussels created tiny robots programmed to act like cockroaches, doused them with the proper pheromones, and set them free within crowds of cockroaches to see if they could influence behavior. While some of the robots coaxed real cockroaches to follow them into an unshaded area (away from a dark area that most normally prefer), nearly half of the robots, despite programming, fell under the "spell" of the real ones and headed for the darkness.
Leading Economic Indicators
It was not only banks in the U.S. that freely loaned money over the last few years, but also those in India, and not surprisingly, many of their debtors have recently run into trouble making payments. Indian banks, inexperienced at collecting from so many defaulting consumers, often prefer to hire "goondas" (thugs) to settle debts the old-fashioned way, according to a January Wall Street Journal report. Though iron-bar beatings are frowned upon, some bankers say it's their only recourse because of the numbingly slow pace of the Indian legal system.
Would "News of the Weird" Exist Without Alcohol?
(1) On Nov. 18, two inebriated men in separate cars, driving by the Carpet Classic Floor Studio in Highland Township, Mich., lost control at the same time, and both smashed into the store. (2) Christopher Dougherty, 22, the subject of a "drunk pedestrian" police call in Kingsport, Tenn., on Oct. 14, was tracked to a Hardee's restaurant, where he was face-down in a plate of gravy. (3) Tina Williams was arrested in St. Augustine, Fla., on Super Bowl Sunday, charged with DUI and failure to have her 1-year-old daughter seat-belted or in a car seat. However, a case of Busch beer was safely buckled up in the front seat.
The Weirdo-American Community
Police in Madison, Wis., believe they ended the spree of vandal defecations in an apartment house on Schroeder Road (laundry room, hallways, items of clothing) with the January arrest of Ronnie Ballard, 19. At Ballard's first court appearance, Dane County Court Commissioner Todd Meurer set bail at $1,400 and issued a ruling he said he never imagined having to make: As a condition of release, should Ballard make bail, Meurer ordered him to defecate only in toilets.
Least Competent Criminals
A 53-year-old man from Vernon, British Columbia, was arrested in January and charged with robbing a CIBC bank. He had left his 20-year-old companion in the getaway car listening to the radio, but when the alleged robber got in with the stash, they discovered that the car would not start because the radio had drained the battery. The pair were captured in a nearby bakery, where they had fled, as law enforcement was plentiful in the area since the CIBC bank is located in a building with a Mounted Police station.
Undignified Deaths: (1) A 25-year-old woman jumped to her death from a department store roof in Tokyo in November and, as sometimes happens with such suicides, she landed on a pedestrian (who was hospitalized in serious condition). (2) At least five people choked to death in Japan over New Year's, as usual, from eating the extremely sticky "mochi" rice cakes that are a staple of the holiday. (3) In Ogden, Utah, in December, a 73-year-old woman was accidentally fatally run over by a motor home. It was unclear whether the first pass over her was fatal, but the driver behaved as others have: After feeling a thumping sound, he said, he stopped and backed up to see what he had hit, thus driving over the body a second time.
Latest Alarming Headlines
(1) "Jilted Lesbian Rugby Player Killed Herself After Brutally Beating Lover Who Had Webcam Affair" (Daily Mail (London)). (2) "Man, 75, Hurt While Riding Pet Buffalo" (MSNBC.com version of an Associated Press story). (3) "Boy Glues Hand to Bed to Avoid School" (MSNBC.com version of an Associated Press story).
(1) In Chaparral, N.M., in December, a loaded .357 Magnum was being traced by two men onto a pattern to create a custom tattoo design, but somehow, the gun went off. Both men were hit by the same bullet, one in the hand and the other in the arm. (2) A 77-year-old man in Des Moines, Iowa, who was trying a unclog his septic tank in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, lost his balance and fell in, head first with his legs sticking up. He remained in that position for about an hour until his wife saw him and called for help.
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)
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