Friday, Aug. 1, 2008

Fruit Fascists

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The European Union allows fruits and vegetables to be sold only in prescribed sizes and colors. For instance, it has 35 pages of regulations governing 250 varieties of the apple, as well as rules that cucumbers must be straight and bananas curved.

In June, British marketer Tim Down complained that he was forced to discard 5,000 kiwis because they were 1 millimeter too small in diameter and a quarter of an ounce too light. (It is even illegal to give them away, as that would undermine their market price.) “Improvements” in the EU system continue, according to a July Washington Post dispatch from Brussels: Despite 10 pages of standards on the onion and 19 amendments, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture recently issued a report urging further refinements, which was 29 pages long and featured 43 photographs.

Great Art!

In June, artist Michael Fernandes’ exhibit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, caused a commotion because it was merely a banana on the gallery’s window sill, and Fernandes had it priced at $2,500. (This was a bargain considering the original price of $15,000.) Actually, Fernandes replaced an old banana with a new one every day (and ate the old one). He placed progressively greener fruit on the sill to demonstrate the transitory nature of the banana, “We (humans) are also temporal, but we live as if we are not,” he wrote in a statement. Despite the steep price of the “work,” two collectors placed holds on it, requiring the gallery’s co-owner, Victoria Page, to confirm that the collectors understood that the bananas were real fruit, which would quickly decompose.

Government in Action!

In May, the school board in Barrie, Ontario, requested that Children’s Aid Society investigate Colleen Leduc and her daughter Victoria, 11, because they suspected sexual abuse. The request angered the conscientious Leduc, who until that point had taken extraordinary measures to protect her daughter, who is autistic. Upon investigation, it was revealed that the school board’s suspicion came from a teaching assistant who said her psychic had told her that a girl with a “V” in her name was being abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26. Leduc now refuses to enroll Victoria in public schools because next time “they might want to take out a Ouija board or hold a seance.”

Police Blotter

Police, including SWAT officers, were called to an apartment in Mesa, Ariz., in June after neighbors reported a fight between a man and woman that included yelling and breaking things inside. When they arrived, they found only a 21-year old man conducting the fight by himself, alternating a high-pitched voice with a low-pitched one. He was referred to the hospital for a medical exam.

Questionable Judgments

Sixth-grade teacher Roshondra Sipp of Jackson, Miss., aroused parents’ ire in May for forcing the class to vote on who among them would be most likely to die young, get pregnant while still in school, get HIV or go to jail. Then Sipp posted the results, enraging parents whose little charmers made the lists.

Creme de la Weird

According to an April report by the ABC News Medical Unit, “a person with a sneeze fetish can find erotic pleasure in those few seconds.” Apparently, experts know that the eyes close when the body prepares to forcefully expel air, but the experts are stumped as to why. An Internet “sneeze fetish forum” allows its members to wax rhapsodic (“She has the cutest sneeze ever!”) and recall pleasurable sneezing experiences (“I was thrilled to discover that my new college roommate has allergies and will be sneezing frequently.”)

Least Competent Criminals

Failure to Communicate: (1) The man who tried to rob Cafe Treo in Salt Lake City in April most likely told a cafe employee to “fill” a bag with money, but when the employee reached over and earnestly started to “feel” the bag (according to police), the robber said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me” and ran out of the store. (2) Another man who came away empty-handed had tried to rob a Walgreens in Port Richey, Fla., in July, handing a clerk what appeared to be a holdup note, except that nothing was written on it. The clerk, sensing that the forgetful robber was clueless, boldly dialed 911 in front of him, causing him to flee.

2008 Chuck Shepherd