Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird
■ “For Japanese boys, the train driver sits alongside footballer, doctor and policeman as a dream job,” according to a September Agence France-Presse dispatch, and consequently, the system for the Tokyo metro area (covering 35 million people) runs with the “precision of a finely crafted Swiss watch,” where delays, even for as long as a minute, seldom occur. (When they do occur, operators repeatedly apologize and hand out “notes from home” to commuters to present to their bosses to excuse the tardiness.)
■ Among the surprising legacies of the oppressions of communist East Germany is modern-day Germany’s commonplace “clothing-optional” lifestyle (FKK, or “Freikoerperkultur”—free body culture). A September GlobalPost dispatch counted “hundreds” of FKK beaches across the country and referenced a turned-up snapshot (not yet authenticated) of a young Angela Merkel frolicking nude in the 1960s or 1970s. Foreigners occasionally undergo culture shock at German hotels, saunas and swimming pools, at which swimsuits are discouraged (as “unhygienic”).
Latest Religious Messages
■ Recent separate testings in 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna yielded a conclusion that 86% of the holy water in the country’s churches was not safe to drink—most commonly infected with diarrhea-causing E. coli and Campylobacter. University of Vienna researchers found samples with up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, and the busier the church, the higher the count.
■ Various studies show “churchgoers” to be happier, more optimistic and healthier than other people, leading some atheists and agnostics to wonder whether the church experience could be fruitfully replicated but minus the belief in God. Hence, the “Sunday Assembly” was created in London, and has now spread to New York City and Melbourne, Australia, with 18 other hoped-for openings by year’s end, according to a September report in The Week. Founders seek such benefits as “a sense of community,” “a thought-provoking (secular) sermon,” “group singing” and an “ethos of self-improvement,” exemplified by the motto “live better, help often and wonder more,” and they hope that eventually Sunday Assembly will organize Sunday school, weddings, funerals and “non-religious baptisms.”
Least Competent Criminals
Ariel Sinclair, 23, an assistant manager at a Rite Aid drugstore in Virginia Beach, Va., was charged in October with stealing $6,000 from the store’s Virginia State Lottery machine. According to police, access to the machine requires an authorized fingerprint, which she supplied, apparently failing to think ahead that this would eventually be difficult to explain. “We work a lot of different cases,” said a police spokesman, and “some are (easier) than others.”
(1) Among the things responders mentioned in Public Policy Polling’s October release as being viewed more favorably than the U.S. Congress were hemorrhoids, the DMV and toenail fungus. The same firm’s polling earlier in the year showed Congress less likable than root canals, head lice, colonoscopies and Donald Trump, but back then, Congress did beat out telemarketers, ebola virus and meth labs. (2) Among the reported personal-residence expenditures provoking Pope Francis in October to remove Limburg, Germany, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst: his bathtub (equivalent of about $20,000), cupboards and carpentry ($400,000) and artwork ($500,000). (Days later, the Vatican announced that the church would open a soup kitchen at the bishop’s mansion.)
A News of the Weird Classic (May 2008)
People With Too Much Money: In April (2008) the Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome (which the year before created a watch made from remnants of the Titanic) introduced the “Day&Night” watch, which unfortunately does not provide a reading of the hour or the minute. Though it retails for about $300,000, it only tells whether it is “day” or “night” (using a complex measurement of the Earth’s gravity). CEO Yvan Arpa said studies show that two-thirds of rich people “don’t (use) their watch to tell what time it is,” anyway. Anyone can buy a watch that tells time, he told a Reuters reporter, but only a “truly discerning customer” will buy one that doesn’t.
© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD