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News of the Weird 5/17/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Jesus Java Britain’s ITV1 television network announced plans in April to accept “prop placements” to blend into production of its new reality talent show in which actors compete for the lead role in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The network said, for example, that it was seeking coffee machines, which piqued the interest of the De’Longhi brand manager, who offered its top-of-the-line Magnifica ESAM4200 and, according to its public relations firm, suggested perhaps interrupting the play’s climactic song “The Crucifixion” while Jesus savors a cup brewed from the Magnifica. An April report in London’s The Independent noted that the opera’s composer, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, was on board with the idea, but that the original lyricist, Sir Tim Rice, called it “tasteless” and “tacky.”

What Goes Around NOTE: From time to time, News of the Weird reminds readers that bizarre human adventures repeat themselves again and again. Here are some choice selections of previous themes recently coming around again (plus a couple of updates on earlier stories):

• Each spring in Dongyang, China, the aroma of urine is in the air—specifically, the town’s specialty of eggs boiled in the discharge of young boys (under age 10, typically gathered “fresh” from toilets at local schools). Townspeople have believed for centuries that the eggs, properly cooked, bring health and prosperity. “By eating these eggs,” one shopper told a Reuters reporter in March, “we will not have any pain in our waists, legs and joints. Also, you will have more energy when you work.” In fact, Dongyang officials have proudly proclaimed “virgin boy eggs” as an “intangible cultural heritage.”

• Sound Familiar? McDonald’s still proudly serves its coffee hot, notwithstanding the notorious 1992 lawsuit for burns suffered by Stella Liebeck. In March 2012, Mona Abdelal filed a lawsuit in Cook County, Ill., over severe burns that her granddaughter, 4, suffered when fetching Abdelal’s coffee order from a McDonald’s server. According to the lawsuit, the server violated company policy that requires tightly closed lids on coffee cups and prohibits handing the cups to young children even if they are tightly sealed.

• With Afghanistan’s moralistic Taliban in retreat, one social scourge grows stronger than ever (according to an April Washington Post dispatch from Dehrazi): “bacha bazi,” which are Afghan men’s “dancing boys.” Underage, often poor or fatherless kids become willing “companions” of wealthy men, often for sex. Since young girls are sheltered and chaperoned, only boys are available. Said one man, “You cannot (even) take a wife with you to a party, but a boy you can take anywhere.” The usefulness of a bacha bazi typically ends when he starts growing facial hair, and the boys often drift into becoming pimps or prostitutes.

• The most recent government employee to defraud his agency’s worker compensation program (according to prosecutors in Los Angeles) is firefighter Rafael Davis, 35, who received disability payments for about 30 months during 2008-2011 while at the same time engaging in mixed martial arts matches as “The Noodle.” Davis’ record (according to LA Weekly) was 12-2, with seven of those matches coming during his disability period, including six victories. “MMA” (as noted by the newspaper) requires similar “stamina, muscle and coordination” as is required for firefighting.

• More and more newspapers are assigning reporters to pore through local birth records to sample the diversity of names parents are giving their kids these days. An Edmonton Journal reporter noted in March that the nearly 51,000 babies born in the province of Alberta in 2011 included a boy named Moo, two girls named Unique, an Einstein, a Messiah, a J-Cub, a Smiley, a Tuff, a Tuba, a Jazz, a Camry, an Andromeda and an Xxavier (sic), and a boy named R and a girl named J.

• Through the years, unusual highway tractor-trailer spills have fascinated News of the Weird readers—such as the time a truck carrying pork collided with a truck carrying eggs, creating a highway dish of ham and eggs. In March on Highway 11 in northeastern Ontario, a Brinks tractor-trailer carrying nothing but $1 and $2 Canadian coins hit a boulder in the roadway, scattering a “debris field” of millions of dollars, forcing the closing of the road. Among the cleanup equipment required: a “magnetic” crane and a front-end loader that scooped up most of the soil in the field so that the coins could later be sifted out.

Least Competent Criminals: (1) In Twin Falls, Idaho, in April, Dylan Contreras, 19, became the most recent person arrested while trying to avoid police by giving a fake name (“Velesco”) even though his real name (the one on outstanding warrants) was tattooed in plain sight on his forearm. (2) In April, a teller at Chicago’s Northwest Side bank became the most recent to thwart a robbery simply by telling the perp (who had presented a holdup note) that the bank is now closed and suggesting that the robber come back the next day. (The perp walked out and did not return.) {in}