News of the Weird July 23 2008

LEAD STORY: China continues to prepare for the Olympics: Officials have issued a standard chanting routine that all Chinese spectators should employ during competitions (translated as “Olympics! Add fuel!” with two claps and then both thumbs up, then “China! Add fuel!” with two more claps and raised fists, according to a June Reuters dispatch). (“Add fuel” is apparently a traditional motivational chant in China.) Also preparing was Dr. Wei Sheng, the Chinese man who holds the Guinness Book record of sticking 1,790 needles into his head at one time. In June he stuck himself with 2,008 pins in the Olympic design and colors.

Cultural Diversity: Dozens of spas operate in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains region, exploiting the mineral springs in the area, and apparently colonic treatment is a specialty. In fact, in June, the Mashuk-Akva Term spa in Zheleznovodsk unveiled a large monument to the enema (an 800-pound brass syringe bulb held aloft by three angels). “Let’s beat constipation,” read one banner. Said the sculptor: “This device is eternal; it will never change. We could promote this brand, turn it into a franchise with souvenirs and awards for medical doctors.”

The reputation of the Japanese for being humble is falling to Western norms among primary-school parents, according to a June dispatch from Tokyo in The Times of London. “Across Japan, teachers are reporting an astonishing change in the character of parents” as they push for their children’s “rights.” In one school’s performance of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” there were 25 Snow Whites after “monster parents” bullied officials into admitting that it was not fair to have just one kid in the title role.

A 50-year-old woman, married for 30 years, asked for a divorce last October (according to the Al-Arabiya news website in Dubai) because her husband had peeked at her face under her veil as she slept. The man apologized and said he would never do it again, but she said the customs of her village (near the Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt) dictate that he had contaminated the marriage by seeing her face.

Questionable Judgments: A bus service that shuttles gamblers from Colorado Springs to nearby mountain-town casinos has been awarded $382,000 in Homeland Security anti-terrorism grants, according to a May report by the Colorado Springs Gazette. Federal officials said the grants were part of the Infrastructure Protection Activities program, with the money used for “vehicle security,” GPS systems and training drivers, which means, according to a bus company official, teaching them “to be aware of their surroundings, of what’s unusual and the people on board.”

Officials in Chongqing, China, abruptly shut down the lifestyle magazine New Travel Weekly in May after it published a photo spread of sexy women in lingerie posing in the rubble at one of the country’s recent earthquake sites. The editorial staff was fired and the company ordered into “rectification,” which is apparently the process of self-examination of what in the world the company might have been thinking.

You’ve Been Left Behind LLC has begun offering an e-mail service to Christians who are preparing for the Rapture (in which all “true” Christians ascend to heaven to meet the Lord). Since the Rapture may commence suddenly, those chosen may have to depart without saying goodbye to their less worthy friends and besides will leave their property behind during the ensuing seven years before Armageddon. For $40 a year, Christians can maintain an e-mail list of up to 62 people who would be notified and can store encrypted electronic documents, such as PIN numbers and powers of attorney. “There won’t be any bodies,” the website warns, pointing out an advantage of its service, “so probate court would take all seven years just to clear your assets to your next of kin.”

The Aristocrats! 1) Shauntel Mayo, 29, was convicted in Tyler, Texas, in May of forcing four children (the youngest beginning at age 5) to perform sex acts on stage for something called the Mineola Swingers Club. Four other adults are scheduled for trial (including Patrick “Booger Red” Kelly, 41), even though Mayo’s jury deliberated only four minutes before finding her guilty. 2) Todd Barkau, 35, and a 44-year-old woman were indicted in May in Kansas City, Mo., on charges of training the woman’s daughter (beginning at age 12) to become a dominatrix whose services were for sale on the Internet.