News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORY -- The Continuing Crisis

Government restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 have had no effect on a growing trend on the island of Okinawa, Japan, called "rojo-ne" (literally, sleeping on the road), which local authorities blame on the island's balmy weather and people's habit of overindulging in "awamori," a traditional rice-based liquor. Okinawa police have fielded more than 2,700 reports of rojo-ne in just the first six months of 2020, The Guardian reported, putting the island on pace to match last year's 7,000 reported incidents, which resulted in 16 accidents and three deaths. Tadataka Miyazawa, the police chief, said he "didn't even know the term 'rojo-ne' before coming to Okinawa." [The Guardian, 8/19/2020]

Putting on the Brakes

Organizers of Philadelphia's 12th Annual Naked Bike Ride have canceled the event, scheduled for Aug. 29, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Associated Press reported. Ride organizer Maria Serrahima said she hopes people will be able to return next year and that riders are "taking advantage of the emptier streets and riding -- masks up." The Philly Naked Bike Ride attracts thousands of riders and covers a 10-mile course taking in the city's landmarks such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. [Associated Press, 8/15/2020]


-- People living around Olten, Switzerland, got a surprise on Aug. 14 when it began snowing cocoa powder. Strong winds that morning distributed the cocoa dust from a malfunctioning ventilation system at the Lindt & Spruengli chocolate factory nearby, delivering enough to cover at least one car, the Associated Press reported. The company offered cleaning services, but no one took them up on the offer. The ventilation system has been repaired. [Associated Press, 8/18/2020]

-- The very last Blockbuster store, in Bend, Oregon, is offering Deschutes County residents three one-night sleepovers through Airbnb on Sept. 18, 19 and 20 for $4 -- about the cost of a video rental, Oddee reported. Lucky movie lovers will have a pull-out couch, bean bags and pillows for their viewing comfort, plus 2-liter bottles of Pepsi and snacks to enjoy during a marathon of "new releases" from the '90s. "Nothing can replace going to the store with loved ones to browse the shelves and find a movie that suits whatever mood you're in," said Sandi Harding, the store manager. [Oddee, 8/17/2020]


A mystery unfolded in the Mystery section of the Walla Walla (Washington) Public Library in late July when workers performing renovations during the COVID-19 shutdown demolished a section of shelves and discovered a disintegrated paper bag with five full cans of Hamm's beer and an opened bag of Godzilla Heads gum. Library staff determined the hidden snacks dated back to the 1980s, CNN reported. Library director Erin Wells posited that "somebody had stashed it there and maybe thought they could get it later ... but there was no way to get it out." [CNN, 8/13/2020]

Fine Points of the Law

Utica (New York) City Court Judge Ralph Eannace was outraged, but did not set bail for defendant Anthony Walker on Aug. 13, which surprised even Walker, who had been arrested for the second time in two days for leading police on a high-speed chase. "Because, I guess, of the new bail reform law," Walker said, Judge Eannace said he had no choice but to let Walker go. On Aug. 9, Walker had hit another car while driving a Maserati that had been reported stolen. "I plan to do the right thing this time, man. I'm tired of this," he told WKTV, apologizing if anyone was hurt. Utica police noted that Walker made the same pledge after his first arrest. "Yeah," said Walker, "I did take them on a high-speed chase ... nobody's perfect." [WKTV, 8/13/2020]

Happy Ending

Residents of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have been cheered recently by the unexpected presence of a corn stalk growing up through a crack in the pavement at a busy intersection. Dubbed the 57th Street Corn, the stalk had its own Twitter account and was hailed as a symbol of resiliency and hope in hard times; Mayor Paul TenHaken called it "amaizing." But on Aug. 19, the Argus Leader reported, neighbors found the plant had been ripped from the ground overnight, prompting sorrow on social media and a flower memorial. "I didn't want to see her story end like that," said resident Chad Theisen. Together with his children, Theisen rescued the corn stalk, renamed it Cornelia and is nursing it back to health in a 5-gallon bucket. He hopes to find a permanent home for Cornelia, now a local celebrity, with the city's help. [Argus Leader, 8/20/2020]


Sheriff's deputies in La Push, Washington, said they received a report of a suspicious person trying to rent an airplane without a pilot's license or insurance at the Jefferson County International Airport on Aug. 18. The man, later identified as Richard Jordal, 59, then tried his luck at Tailspin Tommy's, another plane rental business at the airport, KIRO reported, and was again refused, but surveillance video showed Jordal returning later to steal the keys to a Cessna airplane, which he fueled up before taking off and flying erratically, according to authorities. Business owner Nataliya Yeshyrina and her husband watched the plane on radar: "Altitude would change dramatically from 5,000 feet to 2,000. Up and down and then doing loops and doing twirls." Authorities said a possible plane crash was reported around 10:30 p.m., but no wreckage could be found in the heavily forested area that evening. A U.S. Navy helicopter crew returned the next morning and found the plane, with Jordal unconscious inside. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition. [KIRO, 8/19/2020]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- The Associated Press reports that a company in Toyko called Kowagarasetai (which roughly translates to Scare Squad) has launched a drive-thru haunted house that allows patrons to socially distance from its "zombies" while getting a good fright. With customers safely sealed inside their cars, the zombies do their best to scare the occupants, draping themselves over the cars and smearing them with fake blood. "The distance (between customers and cast) has actually gotten shorter since there is only a window between them," said Daichi Ono, a cast member. The zombies then helpfully clean the cars when the 13-minute show is over. [Associated Press, 8/19/2020]

-- The Krone Circus in Munich, Germany, has come up with a stinky idea for making extra money during COVID-19 restrictions: selling jars of excrement from its 26 lions and tigers (price: $6 each). While some buyers opt in to support the circus or to offer the jars as a prank, Reuters reported, others are using them to repel pests: "I am told it keeps cats away from the garden, and ... it keeps the animals away from the car, where they eat all the electric cables," lion tamer Martin Lacey said. Some of the funds go to a charity that improves living conditions for captive animals. [Reuters, 8/10/2020]

Bright Idea

Renowned architect Shigeru Ban is attracting attention with new public toilets he designed in two parks in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. The toilets are surrounded by transparent colored glass that turns opaque when the door is locked on the inside, Sky News reported. "At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern," said Ban. The technology allows users to see whether the toilet is clean and empty before entering. But users say while inside, they can't tell that the glass has turned opaque, leaving them with an unsettled feeling. [Sky News, 8/19/2020]

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