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Friday, June 22, 2012

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Language Barriers

Collections of comically poor translations are legion. The Beijing municipal government, in sympathy with English-speaking restaurant-goers, recently published a helpful guidebook of what some restaurateurs were trying to say. In an April interview with the authors, NBC News learned the contents of "Hand-Shredded Ass Meat" (merely donkey meat) and other baffling English descriptions (all taken from actual menus), such as "Cowboy Leg," "Red-Burned Lion Head," "Blow-up Flatfish With No Result" and the very unhelpful "Tofu Made by Woman With Freckles" and "Strange Flavor Noodles."

Cultural Diversity


  • In the spirit of empowerment, activists in Ukraine and South Africa recently created statues that lampoon leaders. In Kiev and the western city of Lviv, Ukraine, activists unveiled 5-foot-high statues of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin urinating. (Police in both cities took them down quickly.) A museum in South Africa exhibited artist Brett Murray's red, black and yellow acrylic painting of President Jacob Zuma (Hail to the Thief II), which exposes Zuma's genitals in an allusion to Zuma beating a rape charge in 2006. (In May, the gallery, which first resisted pressure to remove the painting, agreed to take it down.)
  • Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced in April that it would begin a national inquiry into the alarming number of bathtub deaths in 2011—an estimated 14,000 Japanese citizens die in a tub each year, nearly three times the number of those killed in traffic accidents. News reports pointed out that many Japanese workers relax in tubs at the end of the day, a time in which some may have over-imbibed and become vulnerable to drowning.


Wait—That's Illegal?

(1) In Kent, Washington, in May, Yong Hyun Kim, 21, was charged with assault at a movie house. Annoyed by a group of kids in the row behind him who were talking, laughing and throwing popcorn during Titanic, Yong slapped the nearest boy, bloodying the boy's nose and knocking out a tooth. (2) In Pirmasens, Germany, in May, a 61-year-old woman was fined the equivalent of almost $1,000 for assault. Frustrated by telemarketers constantly cold-calling her, she took it out on one by blowing a whistle into the telephone, allegedly causing permanent damage to the telemarketer's hearing.

Latest Religious Messages

Two veteran Church of England vicars were in the news in May for their unique approaches. Rev. Andy Kelso left the church after 25 years to start an Elvis Gospel Tribute Act as "Elvis Prayersley." Said Kelso, "I felt God say to me very strongly, 'Take Elvis to the church.'" And Rev. Nick Davies of Cheltenham, England, promises to continue breathing fire during his sermons (to mark Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus' disciples, appearing as "tongues of flame").

People Different From Us

(1) Calvin Hill, 54, was arrested in Greenwood, S.C., in May after allegedly stabbing a 41-year-old man during an argument in the back seat of a car. The police report stated that the men were arguing about “who can have the most sex.” (2) WJBK-TV reported in June that two men in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit wound up in a gunfight over which one made a better version of Kool-Aid. (Neither man was hit, but two bystanders were reportedly wounded.)

Correction: Contrary to the report in the May 31 "News of the Weird," prominent "breatharian" Ellen Greve is not dead, which clearly means that she has been cheating on the "sun and air only" diet that she promoted during the 1990s. In reading a news story, I must have confused Greve with one of her followers (who apparently faithfully observed the diet).

© 2012 Chuck Shepherd