-- "Splosher" parties are growing in popularity in San Francisco, attended by quasi-sexual fetishists who joyously wallow on floors and furniture, semi-nude, in gobs of mud, cream, and a wide variety of foods such as soups, salads, syrups, ketchup, cakes and pies. According to a March report in SF Weekly, playfulness and lack of inhibition are more important to most participants than overt sexuality. In one couple's intimate scene, the man is a waiter who repeatedly spills food orders on the woman's lap and on her head, causing her to squeal with delight.
-- In scholarly papers delivered at conferences in Japan and the United States in March and April, Japanese researchers from Okayama University and Japan's National Cancer Center announced that beer inhibited liver, prostate, colon and rectal cancers in rats by as much as 50 percent. Professor Sakae Arimoto said beer works on pre-cancers by controlling heterocyclic amines and that unlike other cancer-inhibiting foods (such as spinach and broccoli), only small amounts need be consumed to acquire the beneficial effects.
Among the candidates for county sheriff in the May primaries in Kentucky are four former sheriffs forced from office after being convicted of crimes: Roger Benton (Morgan County), convicted of accepting a bribe; Paul Browning Jr. (Harlan County), convicted of plotting a murder; Douglas Brandenberg (Lee County), convicted of obstructing justice; and Ray Clemons (Breathitt County), convicted of failing to report drug activity. But the situation was more acute in the February legislative elections the state of Uttar Pradesh, India: 910 people with criminal charges against them ran for 403 seats, and 122 were elected, including an accused contract killer (who won perhaps because his opponent was himself the subject of 43 criminal charges).
-- How Japanese Men Spend Their Money: Among the shops recently opened in several Japanese cities, according to a December Irish Times dispatch from Tokyo, are "cabaret clubs" (for drinking and permissible touching of the waitresses), "fetish clubs" (where patrons can act out fantasies, such as groping women on a stage set up like the inside of a train car), and "couples' coffee shops" (where women select from among many men for free, anonymous sex in a back room). Also doing brisk business, according to a December story in Mainichi Daily News, are "mania shops" that specialize in selling the used panties of mostly B-list TV actresses. Said one clerk, "We'd give (a star's panties) a three-month use-by date and put (them) up for sale. (Actress) Hanako's cost 6,000 yen (about $46 U.S.) and sold like hotcakes."
-- A Malaysian businessman in the city of Jalan Beserah, intending to warn others who employ household help, told reporters in December that he had recently dismissed his maid because he had acquired hidden-camera proof that she boiled her underwear in the soup she served him. According to the businessman, a witch doctor in her hometown had told her that such soup would convey a magic spell that would cause the employer to appreciate her more.
-- A major recent influence on child-naming in Papua New Guinea is U.S. pop stars, according to Australian medical student Lisa Thompson, who addressed an Australian government conference in March on her recent health-care-assistance experiences in the country. "My favorite was Elton Travolta," she said, although she also met an Olivia Newton-John and a Bill Clinton, among others.
-- Three Muslim men in their early 20s from the Washington, D.C., area have formed the rap music group Native Deen, whose signature beat resembles mainstream angry rap but whose music is restricted in other ways by their faith, according to a February Washington Post report. They must, of course, dress respectfully, and do not expect their audience to dance, nor women to sing along. Also, they use only drums since they believe string and wind instruments are offensive to Muslims. Their lyrics contain no sex or drug references but rather exhort followers to virtue.
-- God's Will: A van carrying Hindu pilgrims to worship the god of destruction crashed near Calcutta, India, in April, killing 21. And a Baptist preacher, his wife, and two of their children were killed in December when an oak tree toppled over (in perfectly calm weather) onto their Lincoln Town Car, prompting the preacher's deacon to say, "There's no other explanation for this other than this was an act of God" (Cumberland, Ind.).
A Brooklyn, N.Y., housing judge ruled in March that a 71-year-old retired Chinese immigrant had too much stuff in his federally subsidized apartment and that if he didn't get rid of half of it quickly, he would be evicted. Fei Xu, 71, had so many items crammed into his 500 square feet that he had only a 14-inch-wide path by which to walk from one side to the other. Said Xu, of his accumulation (computers, typewriters, 17 suitcases, 13 clocks, 15 folding chairs, seven fans, two each of most appliances, etc.), "'Many' is such a subjective word. For me, many is not too much. (I) thought this was a free country."
Maryland lawyer Peter Angelos decided in March that he would accept the state's offer to pay him only $150 million for his firm's work (instead of $1 billion) in representing the state in the massive 1998 multistate settlement with tobacco companies, in which Maryland was awarded $4 billion of tobacco money over 20 years (for which Angelos' firm had contracted for a 25 percent fee). On the one hand, Angelos accepted 15 cents on the dollar from what Maryland originally agreed to pay him. On the other hand, even the smaller amount compensates Angelos' work at many times his firm's typical hourly billing rate, and for work that in large part was based on investigation and litigation already developed by other states.
Proposed legislation in this session of the Washington Senate would require a $100 deposit by anyone filing a formal complaint about any aspect of the dairy industry (after one free unsuccessful complaint); other businesses in the state would not be subject to complaint deposits. And in February, the managing director of South Africa's Milk Producers Organization demanded that the country's Advertising Standards Authority condemn a beer ad that "discriminates against milk" by implying that it is "dull and boring." (In the ad, three demure milk-drinkers at a cricket match become envious of rowdy beer-drinkers and eventually join them.)
-- An ABC News investigation found that people with terrorist ties, including two defendants in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, have funded their work with $100 million a year from illegally redeeming grocery store coupons (January). The head of the Vatican's agency for humanitarian aid, elaborating on a papal message, said it was a "fundamental law" that illness is a consequence of sin (February). A well-known Toronto panhandler ("the shaky lady") denied a press report that she takes in hundreds of dollars a day, rather than the $25 to $30 (U.S.) she claims; the denial came through her personal lawyer, a member of a prestigious downtown ("Bay Street") firm, in a press briefing in the firm's luxurious conference room (March).
A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged with shooting his long-time friend during an argument over which of the two was the better friend (Gary, Ind.). Two confused Japanese tourists, laden with cameras and guidebooks, wandered to within yards of the West Bank's under-siege Church of the Nativity, oblivious of the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, until flak-vested journalists beckoned them to back away (Bethlehem). A thief came across a malnourished dog during a home burglary and called in an animal-abuse report on the owner (Bolton, England). Researchers said they found what could be considered one massive ant colony, consisting of many nests of ants living (oddly) in harmony, stretching 1,000 miles from Spain to Italy.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Newsweird@aol.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)