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Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Norway’s Battle Against Chaos      

Norwegian public television (NRK), which introduced the now-legendary continuous, live log-burning show (12 hours long, with “color commentary” on the historical and cultural importance of fire), scheduled a new program for this week in its appeal to serenity (labeled “Slow TV”). On Nov. 1, NRK is to televise live, for five hours, an attempt to break the world record for producing a sweater, from shearing the sheep to spinning the wool and knitting the garment (current record: 4 hours and 51 minutes, by Australians). (In addition to the log, NRK viewers have been treated to live cams on a salmon-fishing boat and, for five days, on a cruise ship.) Said an NRK journalist, “You would think it’s boring television, but we have quite good ratings for these programs.”                           

 

The Entrepreneurial Spirit            

  • Extract of cockroach is a delicacy among some Chinese, believed able to miraculously reduce inflammation, defy aging and cure tuberculosis, cancer and cirrhosis. Quartz reported in August that Yunnan province is a Silicon Valley-type business center, where pulverized roaches can sell for the equivalent of about $89 a pound, and five pharmaceutical companies have contracts with ranches that have formed the Sichuan Treasure Cockroach Farming Cooperative. (In August, a start-up farm in Jiangsu province was, police suspect, vandalized, allowing at least a million cockroaches being prepared for market to flee to adjacent neighborhoods.)                    
  • Hipster Haven: Two fearless entrepreneurs inaugurated services recently in faux-fashionable Brooklyn, N.Y. Lucy Sun, a Columbia University economics major, began seeking work as a $30-an-hour “book therapist,” to help readers find the “right” book to read or give as a gift, with attention to clients’ “specific situations.” In Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood in September, the stylish Eat restaurant began reserving certain nights’ meals to be experienced in total silence. On opening night, a Wall Street Journal reporter noted one throat clearing and a muffled sneeze, but barely any other human sound. Some diners were won over; another said it felt like “being 50 and married.”    
  • It’s expensive to go broke in America. Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy protection in July (in the face of debts estimated to be at least $18 billion), will nonetheless be on the hook for bankruptcy legal fees that could total $60 million under current contracts. A fee examiner has been hired to keep the expenses in line, but he charges $600 an hour.                                 

 

Medical Marvels                

Blood clots can be especially dangerous, often requiring urgent, harshly invasive open-heart surgery to remove the clot before it can be fatal, but a team from UCLA Medical School reported breathlessly in September that a “minimally invasive,” cutting-edge machine worked just as well: a vacuum cleaner. When a 62-year-old man arrived at an emergency room with deep vein thrombosis, AngioVac lines were inserted in the leg and neck and sucked out the 24-inch-long clot. The patient was back home and full of energy a week later.                                  

 

Weird Animals                  

“Pig Drinks 18 Pints and Has Fight With Cow” read one August headline from Port Hedland, West Australia, after rampaging wild pigs stole and drank 18 beers from a campsite. International Business Times, summarizing recent research in September, noted that moose, especially, are attracted by fermenting apples; that prairie voles are prominent social drinkers (consuming much more available alcohol when other voles are around); and that African elephants often turn violent to secure the fermenting fruit of the marula tree (although the elephant would require 1,400 pieces of fruit to generate the seven gallons of alcohol that—if consumed all at once—would match humans’ legal limit for driving).                                                               

 

Least Competent People  

Criminals Not Ready for Prime Time: A woman notified police in Fremont, Calif., in September that a thief had rummaged through her vehicle at night but had taken only a low-end gift-shop item—leaving behind a checkbook, some money and an expensive pillow. The item, she said, perhaps looked like a small bag of marijuana, but in reality was a novelty-store bag of dried elephant dung. “It’s a great gag gift,” she said.                                      

 

 © 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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