by Chuck Shepherd’s
Updates In 2007 News of the Weird highlighted the clothes cults of impoverished Congo: “In (the country that) has lost an estimated 4 million people in the civil wars of the last decade and where many must get by on about 30 cents a day, ‘gangs’ of designer-clothes-wearing men” have fashion smackdowns in the streets of Kinshasa to prove that Versace and Gucci styles look better on them than on others. These “sapeurs” (from the French slang for clothes) continue to strut their genuine Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana, according to a March Washington Post dispatch. One sapeur, “Luzolo,” who lives in a one-room shack with no bed, no water and no electricity (but a closetful of designer outfits) describes the feeling as “like a spirit that comes in me.” When he wears “the labels,” he said, “I feel there is no one above me.”
• Again this year, in April, the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo hosted the possibly-400-year-old Naki Sumo (“crying baby contest”), in which infants are blessed to good health by having sumo wrestlers hoist them into the air, hold them at arm’s length, and coax them (no squeezing!) to cry, thus signaling that the offering has been heard. This year, 80 babies were glorified, with special spiritual favors afforded those who cried the loudest and the longest.
• In 2007, News of the Weird mentioned the nightly ceremony on the India-Pakistan border at Wagah Crossing as part pomp, part macho posturing and part Monty Python (“Ministry of Silly Walks”), in which troops from both sides wearing hard-to-describe headgear perform complicated boot-stomping maneuvers to assure their countrymen that they are protecting their nation from the other one. Lately, however, according to a July Agence France-Presse dispatch, the high-kicking show has become subdued because so many of the soldiers have reported knee injuries from the exaggerated prancing.
• Cosmetic surgery-obsessive Sheyla Hershey of Houston has endured more than 30 operations, including breast augmentations in increasingly large sizes (in her quest to have the world’s largest pair). As News of the Weird reported, her luck started to go south in 2008 when licensed Texas surgeons declined to implant the M cups she wanted, and she was forced to use a clinic in Brazil. Last year, for the birth of her first child, she had the Brazilian implants removed — and later replaced with a smaller pair — but in June 2010, she was diagnosed with a staph infection. At press time she was still being treated with radical antibiotic therapy in Houston and might lose one or both breasts.
• Notorious Boston criminal gang leader Whitey Bulger, who has been on the run since 1995, made News of the Weird before that because of some unusual dietary (and hence, excretory) habits. Bulger would now be 80 years old, but law enforcement officials have no idea where he is, or what he now looks like, or even if he is alive, but they believe he likes to browse books. In April 2010, FBI agents blanketed bookstores in Victoria, British Columbia, having gotten word that he might be in the area, but nothing turned up. (Bulger was the model for the Jack Nicholson character in the movie “The Departed.”)
• Oklahoma City bomber-helper Terry Nichols, serving a life sentence at the “Super Max” federal prison in Colorado, recently ended what he said was his third hunger strike of 2010 to protest food quality. Lack of fiber in the diet, he said, causes him “chronic constipation, bleeding, (and) hemorrhoids” and thus disrespects “God’s holy temple,” which is Nichols’ name for his body. The prison continues to offer Nichols only limited dietary options.
Recurring Themes The most recent instance of the cardinal sin of the jailing profession occurred in a Minneapolis lockup in May, when a witness in an active murder case was arrested, probably on an unrelated charge, but placed in the same cell as the murder suspect, Jonathan “Thirsty” Turner, who knew that the witness had already given a statement against him. The witness was badly beaten, but jailers were not certain enough that Turner did it to file charges.
• The Animal Planet channel, perhaps hard-pressed for new series ideas, has reportedly ordered “The Skunk Whisperer” into production, but there remain multi-use whisperers who claim they can talk to and analyze all critters, with New Zealand’s Faye Rogers the latest to draw attention (and she singled out her ability with “worms”). All beings, she said, are “connected by a higher consciousness,” allowing, for example, traveling birds to pass on important “international information” to fish. She disputed a notion spread by “horse whisperer” Bill Northern that cats are “wily” — explaining that cats merely appear wily because they prefer to be asked specific questions rather than generalities. In an August interview with the Christchurch Press, she referred to “clients,” indicating that at least some people pay the $65 (N.Z.; $45 U.S.) an hour for her services.
• Japanese ice-cream makers are famous for expanding the universe of conceivable flavors (as News of the Weird has mentioned several times), but a gathering by the fashion/style website The Gloss in July found several more, suggesting that maybe the world is about to run out of ingredients that can go into ice cream: haggis ice cream (from Morelli’s in London), sardines and brandy ice cream (from Helader a de Lares in Venezuela), caviar ice cream (Petrossian in New York City) and foie gras ice cream (Philippe Faur in Toulouse, France, about $150).