News of the Weird June 04 2008

Ear wax jelly beans, placenta drinks and more

LEAD STORY: Almost-anything-goes “ultimate fighting,” also known as “human cockfighting,” is a major “sport,” mostly in Southern and Western states. But only in Missouri are kids as young as 6 permitted on the mats, according to a March Associated Press dispatch from Carthage, Mo. Members of the Garage Boys Fight Crew, ages up to 14, including one girl, regularly square off with only a few concessions in rules and protective gear from their adult counterparts. Parents seem to regard the sport as casually as they regard Little League or soccer, and sportsmanship is in evidence, as kids are still best friends, pummeling each other inside the cage but then heading off afterward to play video games.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit! A highlight of this year’s Easter promotion by the Jelly Belly company (as additions to its 50 standard flavors) was its surprise BeanBoozled boxes, with odd tastes and nonstandard colors. Although garlic beans, buttered-toast beans and cheese pizza beans are no longer available, connoisseurs can sample jelly beans made to taste like pencil shavings, ear wax, moldy cheese and vomit. A Jelly Belly spokeswoman told Newhouse News Service in March, “There are 20 flavors in each little box ... so you don’t know what flavor you are tasting ... coconut or baby wipe.”

Los Angeles businessman Llewellyn Werner told the Times of London in April that he plans to spend $500 million to build a Disneyland-type theme park in the heart of Baghdad, with the first phase (a skateboard facility, with 200,000 free skateboards to hand out) to open in just three months. Eventually, the park will include rides and a concert theater adjacent to the Green Zone.

Questionable new products: 1) The Japanese manufacturer Nihon Sofuken recently introduced a slightly peach-flavored drink called Placenta 10000, but was not able to verify whether it contains actual human placenta (which is supposed to have miraculous regenerating powers for some parts of the body). 2) From Nickelodeon merchandising has come a Spongebob Squarepants Musical Rectal Thermometer (which plays the Spongebob theme that – the designer apparently imagines – makes the temperature-taking process less unpleasant).

Science on the Cutting Edge: Prairie Orchard Farms in Manitoba told Toronto’s Globe and Mail in March that it has been successfully infusing hogs with omega-3s, the oils that get the best press among fatty acids, since it is found plentifully in healthful salmon and other seafood. A laboratory analysis of a slab of Prairie Orchard’s “enriched” ham had the omega-3s of almost one-fourth of a large salmon filet, but the best news of all was that a 100-gram side of bacon equaled that of the salmon filet.

While many lab mice get selected, unfortunately, for work like cancer research, one group of male rodents at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston has been hard at work, with constant erections, helping researchers develop a biochemical treatment for priapism, which plagues men with certain blood disorders. (The condition is named for the Greek god Priapus, who, to be punished for sexual misbehavior, supposedly received an enormous, but useless, wooden penis.)

Personality Transplants: 1) Cheryl Johnson, 37, described to London’s Daily Telegraph in March the many ways in which her personality suddenly changed following a new kidney that she received from a deceased, 59-year-old man. Some researchers believe in such a “cellular memory phenomenon,” but it is unclear whether, for example, Johnson’s recent abandonment of trashy reading in favor of Dostoevsky and Jane Austen would qualify. 2) Sonny Graham of Hilton Head, S.C., committed suicide in April after having spent 13 years with the transplanted heart of suicide victim Terry Cottle. The cellular implication is somewhat less likely, though, because Graham’s widow was the same woman who was married to Cottle at the time of his suicide.

Charity on the Cutting Edge: “Obviously, this is not as important as helping starving kids in Africa, but it’s the same basis,” Karla Rae Morris told Canada’s Sun newspapers in February. “They want to help us out,” she said, referring to her benefactors who had donated money (from two men, more than $1,000 Canadian each) so she could afford breast implants, based on arrangements commenced by the website, which facilitates e-mail exchanges and chats for prospective contributors and collects the money until the goal is reached. “It’s like donating to any charity,” said Morris, of her donors. “You feel like you’re doing good.”

Bright Ideas: Among the notable offerings at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland, in April were beer-flavored jelly (nonalcoholic) to spread on biscuits, and artificial, removable nose hair (swabs of pipe cleaner for the nostrils to block pollen and dust). (“Most people do not have enough nose hair,” inventor Gensheng Sun told the Associated Press.) Italian engineer Enrico Berruti said it was his personal laziness that led him to develop a bed that makes itself, with automatic sheet-shaking and straightening.

Least Competent Criminals: Not Ready for Prime Time: 1) Ahmed Jalloul, 20, was convicted in April of robbing a post office in Adelaide, Australia, based on DNA evidence. Witnesses said Jalloul seemed unsteady and unsure of himself during the crime and consequently vomited on the floor before running from the scene. 2) Eric Hardin, 20, was charged in March in St. Louis with possession of child pornography on compact discs, which his former roommates had turned over to police after cleaning his room. They had kicked Hardin out for his unbearably poor hygiene.