While March Madness dominates intercollegiate athletics, another group of collegians works out amidst coaches' whistles, endures bloody, 12-hour practices, and cheers on teammates preparing for the national championship in meat-judging, in which about 40 colleges compete, according to a March Wall Street Journal report. Coaches at powerhouses like Colorado State and South Dakota State say skills such as evaluating T-bone cutting and spotting whether a pig has too much back fat come with determination and concentration (and, of course, practice, as one coach said it all comes down to time spent in the meat locker, at 38 degrees (Fahrenheit)). (And pro scouts are watching from the stands, representatives of U.S. meat companies, seeking talent.)
(1) Italy's highest appeals court ruled in March that it is not illegal for a woman to lie in a police investigation if the reason is to cover up her adulterous affair. Court of Cassation judges said that her honor is more important than providing intimate information about her lover. (2) The North Carolina Court of Appeals voted 2-1 in February to approve a worker compensation claim for only one of a woman's breast-implant replacements, ruling that the other implant ruptured (in a job-related accident) only because it had been improperly installed. (The dissenting judge said, even so, the compensation fund should pay for the second replacement, too, because to achieve their purpose, both breasts must be aligned properly on the chest.)
-- When Johnny Diablo's year-old vegan restaurant failed to catch on in Portland, Ore., last year, he converted the space into Casa Diablo's Gentlemen's Club, which is what he believes is the world's only vegan strip club. He has no rule against meat-eating dancers, he told Willamette Week newspaper in February, but won't permit leather, fur, silk or wool outfits on stage (no "murder victims" in the club, he said).
-- Cosmetics from the American company Blue Q, under the "Lookin' Good for Jesus" brand urging users to "Get Tight with Christ," were pulled from stores in Singapore in February due to complaints, but Blue Q said it's not abandoning that line of hand and body creams, lip balm, breath spray and bubble bath. (Of course, Blue Q also markets similar cosmetics under such brands as "Dirty Girl," "Cute as Hell," "Total Bitch" and "Virgin/Slut," as well as a car air-freshener by its brand "Cat Butt.")
-- A team of researchers from the University of Calgary and the Tokyo Institute of Technology proudly announced in February that they had successfully stored "nothing" inside a puff of gas and then had managed to retrieve that same "nothing." That "nothing" is called a "squeezed vacuum," and the physicists tell us that a light wave can be manipulated so that its phases are of uncertain amplitude, then the light itself removed so that only the "uncertainty" property of the wave remains.
-- In February, the South Korean cell phone company KTF announced a new voice-analysis program for its customers to enable them to evaluate their sincerity when calling a lover. The caller can point the phone's camera at himself and see a meter on the screen measuring his own passion, then receive a text message afterward noting voice expressions by the person receiving the call (surprise, honesty, etc.).
-- To feed the fast-growing women's hair-extension business, brokers in India scour the countryside for Hindu temples that encourage female worshippers to shear themselves as good-luck offerings to the temples' gods, according to a February dispatch in Germany's Der Spiegel. Historically, the hair was used to make mattresses, but because the celebrity-driven extension business is so large, salons around the world pay from $125 to $250 per pound for strands of never-chemically-treated hair of desirable hues. Shaving is a Hindu tradition, and one donor told Spiegel she had long prayed for her husband to stop drinking and that when that "miracle" happened, she felt compelled to offer her hair.
-- In the worst slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (where 80 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day), rice now sells for 30 cents a cup (double the price of a year ago), according to a January Associated Press dispatch, leaving the poorest of the poor to subsist mainly on "cookies" made with dirt. Choice clay from the central plateau is at least a source of calcium and can be baked with salt and vegetable shortening. However, recently in the La Saline slum, the reporter noted, the price of dirt, too, has risen about 40 percent.
At a February casting call in Pittsburgh for the movie "Shelter" (to star Julianne Moore), producers announced they were seeking extras to play West Virginia mountain people from the hollers (Pittsburgh is about 40 miles from the state line), specifically an albino woman, extraordinarily tall or short people, those with unusual body shapes and faces (especially eyes), and "a 9- to-12-year-old Caucasian girl with an other-worldly look. 'Regular-looking' children should not attend."
Takahiro Fujinuma, 37, was arrested and charged with making at least 2,600 calls (perhaps more than 10,000) to directory assistance ("I would go into ecstasy when a lady (operator) scolded me," he told a reporter) (Tokyo; January). Ms. Lee Amor, 23, pleaded guilty to calling or texting her jilting ex-boyfriend more than 10,000 times over a 65-day period (South Devon, England; February). John Triplette was arrested, suspected as the one who made more than 27,000 calls to "911" since May 2007 (consisting mostly of mumbling and making bodily noises) (Hayward, Calif.; February). Paul Kavanagh, 40, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for making about 15,000 calls in 12 years to women asking them about their underwear (West London, England; November).
Not Ready for Prime Time: Robber Adam Grennan, 39, did not make it out of the Mt. Washington Bank in Dorchester, Mass., in December. So intent was he in not appearing nervous that he waited patiently in line, eyes straight ahead, until the time came to hand the teller his holdup note. He did not notice that a uniformed Boston police officer, working security, had slipped quietly behind him in line, and he arrested Grennan immediately as Grennan was quietly demanding large bills and "no funny money."
Padre Pio, who died in 1968 and was sponsored for sainthood by Pope John Paul II, has been a controversial figure, as News of the Weird reported in 1999. He was wildly loved by his parishioners, yet viewed skeptically by some Vatican officials who found his claim of hands bleeding from crucifixion holes (similar to those of Jesus), and of having been eye-gouged in a wrestling match with the devil, to be difficult to authenticate. On orders from Pope Benedict XVI, Padre Pio's body was exhumed in March, to be placed on public display for several months at the Vatican, even though problematic for two reasons. The top part of his skull is exposed, presenting an unsettling image, but more important, there obviously are no crucifixion holes or scars on his hands or feet.
Latest Electro-Sensual Accidents: Toby Taylor, 37, of York County, Pa., was charged with involuntary manslaughter in January after his wife died of a heart attack in an accident during sex, and police found the woman's body (according to the York Daily Record) with "alligator clips on the end of a stripped electric cord ... attached to her breasts," with an on-off switch. About two weeks earlier, 100 miles away in New Berlinville, Pa., a 23-year-old construction worker was electrocuted when he placed electric clips to his chest piercings (despite colleagues' warnings).