Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird
Marking Japan’s latest unfathomable social trend, two paperback photo books—both consisting only of portraits of the rear ends of hamsters—have experienced surprising and still-growing printing runs. Japanese society has long seemed easily captured by anything considered “kawaii” (or “cute”), according to a May Wall Street Journal dispatch, and a representative of one book’s publisher called his volume “delightfully cute.” “I can’t stop smiling,” he said, “when I see these butts.” The two books in print are Hamuketsu (Hamster Buttocks) and Kawaisa-ni Monzetsu Hamuketsu (Hamuketsu—So Cute You Could Faint). A third, Ganso Hamuketsu (The Original Hamuketsu), was set to debut in June.
■ Another driver died after being unable to dodge his own vehicle. A 58-year-old man was hit by his SUV in New York City in June after he double-parked and was opening the door on the passenger side and realized that the vehicle was still in reverse gear. He tried to jam one foot onto the brake but hit the gas instead, causing the car to jump backward, ejecting him, and pinning him between the SUV and a van parked alongside. The man suffered a heart attack and died as his vehicle broke free and drifted across the busy Manhattan intersection of Madison Avenue and East 49th Street.
■ Dead or just in “deep meditation”? A renowned Hindu guru, Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, in his 70s, passed away in January (so concluded police in Jalandhar, India), but His Holiness’ disciples have refused to release the body, keeping it in a commercial freezer, contending that he has merely drifted into the deeper form of the meditation for which he is well-known—and will return to life when he is ready. (The guru’s religious order, not coincidentally, is a real estate powerhouse in the Punjab region and on nearly every continent, and the guru’s family is certain the “meditation” is a ruse to allow the ashram’s continued control of the financial empire.)
■ After the U.S. Postal Service finalizes its purchase of “small-arms ammunition,” it will become only the most recent federal agency to make a large purchase of bullets for its armed agents (who are perhaps more numerous than the public realizes). In the last year or so, reports have surfaced that the Social Security Administration ordered 174,000 hollow-point bullets, the Department of Agriculture 320,000 rounds, Homeland Security 450 million rounds (for its 135,000 armed agents), the FBI 100 million hollow-points, and even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 46,000 rounds. (In May, the Department of Agriculture added an order of submachine guns and body armor.)
■ Police in Lincoln, Neb., tracking down a call about a missing 3-year-old boy Downtown, managed to locate him in the type of place where other toddlers have turned up after briefly escaping the sight of their parents: inside a toy vending machine. The boy had crawled up through the toy-release slot of the Bear Claw and was safely, joyously playing among the bin of colorful stuffed animals at Madsen’s Bowling & Billiards.
■ In the second such incident reported here in four months, an overenthusiastic police officer handcuffed and detained a firefighter working a 911 call, ostensibly because the firefighter refused to stop work and go move his fire truck to the officer’s satisfaction. Like the earlier incident in California, the unequivocal state law in Louisiana makes it illegal for anyone to interfere with a firefighter on an emergency call, and the officer from the New Roads, La., Police Department in principle faces a stiff fine and possible jail sentence.
An historic, decades-old snit ended in May in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, where two men (now in their 70s) who were the very last living speakers of their village's Ayapaneco language resumed talking to each other, and through the efforts of Stanford University anthropologist James Fox, their language may now be sufficiently recorded for a preserved historical record. The cause of their falling out was not reported.
© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD