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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

It’s a Sport, By Jiminy

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China’s fascination with crickets has recently been exhibited in cricket beauty contests, singing competitions and prizefights, according to a January Los Angeles Times dispatch. The events have even led to increasing vigilance against cheating, as accusations fly about crickets being given performance-enhancing drugs. The fighters duel in terrarium-sized containers, and, according to the Times, “Overhead cameras (project) the action onto large screens,” allowing spectators close-ups of crickets tossing each other around with their powerful jaws. The best fighters may sell for the equivalent of $10,000, are raised on vegetables and calcium supplements, and are sexually active before fights. The doping issue mostly involves crickets in singing competitions— slowing the vibration of the cricket’s wings produces an attractively lower pitch.

Compelling Explanations
As the home-mortgage industry continued to reel in January from the Countrywide Financial Corp. debacle, a federal bankruptcy judge learned that the company, in at least one case and possibly others, not only backdated crucial documents, but fabricated them altogether— and then told the judge the company was merely trying to be “efficient.” A court approved the recasting of a client’s debt to Countrywide in March 2007, closing the case. But the next month, Countrywide “discovered” a way to get extra money and thus created three letters supposedly sent to that client before March 2007. Countrywide later acknowledged that the letters were actually written after March 2007, but said that making up documents was merely “an efficient way to convey” information.

Ironies
Tolerance: (1) In November, 70 petitioning neighbors said they were fed up with the Museum of Tolerance in West Hollywood, Calif. The final straw was the museum’s application to expand its building, extend hours of operation until midnight and reduce the buffer zone between it and nearby homes. (2) Officials of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, initially agreed to host the annual multidenominational Austin Area Interreligious Ministries Thanksgiving celebration last year, but abruptly canceled when they came to realize that Muslims could pray there as well. In response to criticism over its action, the church said that it hopes the religious community “will…be tolerant of our church’s beliefs” that necessitated the decision.

In January, Chinese retailers at Beijing’s Silk Street Market, which is a notorious supplier of knock-off merchandise of brands such as Louis Vuitton, announced that they would begin creating clothing and other items under their own brand, called SilkStreet. Naturally, they issued a warning that stated, “Anyone using the brand (without permission) will be held liable.”

Creme de la Weird
Kazuo Oshitani, 48, was arrested in Osaka, Japan, in December, accused of being the person who drew more than 170 complaints for draping women’s underwear over objects in his neighborhood (and who allegedly possessed at least 200 such items in his home). He was charged with littering.

Least Competent People
It is apparently becoming more difficult to recruit competent suicide bombers in Afghanistan. Twice in a two-day period in January, clumsy bombers accidentally blew themselves up before they ever had the chance to carry out their plans. One fell down a flight of stairs while on his way to an attack in the town of Khost, and the other’s bomb accidentally exploded as he was getting dressed for an assignment in the town of Lashkar Gah.

Recurring Themes
At least one collector spent the equivalent of $40 on an original “Freddie W.R. Linsky” abstract expressionist painting, praising its “flow” and “energy,” according to a December report in London’s Daily Mail. And a gallery in Berlin was said to have made an inquiry about Linsky’s other works. Linsky, as longtime News of the Weird readers might guess, is an enthusiastic 2-year-old whose mother had him daub ketchup splotches onto canvases and then uploaded the images to art patron Charles Saatchi’s online gallery. Among Mom’s lush captions to Linsky’s ketchup-period works was: “The striking use of Oriental calligraphy has the kanji-like characters stampeding from the page …”

Undignified Deaths
More Ironies: (1) A 66-year-old billionaire roofing company founder was killed at his home in Rock, Wis., in December when he accidentally fell through the roof of his garage. (2) An 18-year-old Amish man was killed in Hustisford, Wis., in October when, working on a construction crew, he came into contact with a high-voltage wire and was electrocuted. (3) Inmate Frederick Fretz, 45, serving time for molesting a young boy, died in January in the dining hall at the federal penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., when he choked on a hot dog.

2008 Chuck Shepherd

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