-A frequent sight on Soweto, South Africa, streets recently is crowds of 12-to-15-year-old boys known as “izikhotane” (“boasters”) who hang out in their designer jeans, “shimmering silk shirts, bright pink and blue shoes, and white-straw, narrow-brimmed fedoras,” according to a February BBC News dispatch. Flashing wads of cash begged from beleaguered parents, hundreds may amass, playing loud music and sometimes even trashing their fancy clothes as if to feign an indifference to wealth. Since many izikhotanes' families are working-class survivors of apartheid, they are mostly ashamed of their kids' behavior. “This isn't what we struggled for,” lamented one parent. But, protested a peer-pressured boaster, “(Y)ou must dress like this, even if you live in a shack.”
-India's annual “Rural Olympics” might be the cultural equivalent of several Southern U.S. “Redneck Olympics” but taken somewhat more seriously, in that this year, corporate sponsorships (Nokia and Suzuki) helped fund the equivalent of about $66,000 in prize money for such events as competitive pulling using only one's ears or teeth. “We do this for money, trophies, fame and respect,” one ear-puller told The Wall Street Journal in February. This year, in the four-day event in Punjab state, the 50,000 spectators could watch a teeth-lifter pull a 110-pound sack upward for about eight seconds and an ear-puller ease a car about 15 feet.
-Weird Japan: (1) A generous local businessman recently graced the city of Okuizumo with funding for replicas of two Renaissance statues (“Venus de Milo” and Michelangelo's “David”) for a public park. Agence France-Presse reported in February that many residents, receiving little advance warning, expressed shock at the unveiling of “David” and demanded that he at least be given underpants. (2) Fax machines, almost obsolete in the U.S., are still central to many tech-savvy Japanese families and companies (who bought 1.7 million units last year alone), reported The New York Times in February. Families prefer faxes' superiority to e-mail for warmly expressing Japan's complex written language, and bureaucrats favor faxes' preserving the imperative of paper flow.
Latest Religious Messages
-The 14 guests at a jewelry party in Lake City, Fla., were initially incredulous that home-invader Derek Lee, 24, meant to rob them, but when they saw that he was serious (by putting his gun to the head of one woman), the hostess went into action. “In the name of Jesus,” she shouted, “get out of my house now!” Then the guests chanted in unison, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” over and over. Lee, frightened or bewildered, sprinted out the door empty-handed and was later arrested.
-The president of the National Black Church Initiative told the Associated Press in January that its pastors are generally free to ordain new pastors as they wish, and that consequently Bishop Wayne Jackson of Detroit did nothing wrong in his ordination ceremony (which was surreptitiously video-recorded and uploaded to YouTube), even though it consisted of Jackson in robes, praying while lying on top of the new bishops, who were also praying. (The AP noted that Bishop Jackson had been the target of that's-so-gay YouTube comments.)
-Yet Another Fatwa: Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, in an interview in February on al-Majd TV, decreed that female babies should wear full-face veils (burkas) to help shield them from sexual advances. (According to a former judge at the Saudi Board of Grievances, Saudi authorities have issued standards for fatwas, thus urging people to ignore “unregulated” ones such as Skeikh Daoud's.)
-In January, Lhokseumawe City, Indonesia, drafted new ordinances, including one that prohibits women from riding motorcycles with their legs straddling male drivers, since that would tend to “provoke” them. A proponent said the ban “honor(ed)” women “because they are delicate creatures.” Immediately, some authorities denounced the legislation, pointing out that riding “side saddle” is much more dangerous in cases of sudden swerves and collisions. As of press time, the mayor had not decided whether to implement the ordinance.
-In February, an off-duty Tampa police officer and an off-duty sheriff's detective from nearby Hernando County were awarded the sheriff's office's highest honor, the Medal of Valor, for exemplary bravery in an October incident in which a 42-year-old naked woman was shot to death by the officers. The woman was holding a gun and had made threats, and a 5-year-old boy was inside a truck that she wanted to steal. However, even though a neighbor had simply wrestled the woman down earlier, the officers still thought their only move was to shoot to kill. Said the woman's brother, “They shot a mentally disturbed, naked woman. Is that valor?”
-In 2011, Julian Pellegrino pleaded guilty to DUI involving serious bodily injury to Mark Costa in Chicopee, Mass., and was sentenced to serve 18 months in jail, but that did not deter Pellegrino from filing a lawsuit in December, demanding $1.1 million for Costa's somehow “caus(ing)” his car to collide with Pellegrino's. Pellegrino (with a broken neck) was actually more seriously injured than Costa, who sued back, asking nearly $200,000. (In 2010, while Pellegrino was awaiting disposition of the case with Costa, he pleaded guilty to another DUI.)
Fetishes on Parade
Paul Jamrozik, 63, was arrested in Upper Darby, Pa., in January and charged as the man who lured a 12-year-old boy into his home and, under the guise of pretend-podiatry, spritzed his feet with athlete's-foot spray and tickled them before performing an exam of his ears and nose with medical equipment. When the kid asked to leave, according to the police report, Jamrozik withheld his shoes until he promised to bring his friends by the next day to be examined.
Least Competent Criminals
Lee Wildman, 35, and Adrian Stanton, 32, pleaded guilty in connection with a burglary at Durham (England) University's Oriental Museum, in which they heisted artwork worth the equivalent of about $2.7 million and hid it in a field in April 2012. However, they have been unable to help authorities locate the bounty (even with the reward of sentence-reduction) -- because they have forgotten exactly where they stashed it. Eventually, hikers unconnected with the case discovered it and notified police. Said Judge Christopher Prince, “This is not an offense that can be described as sophisticated.”
(1) Two brothers, celebrating a winning lottery ticket in Wichita, Kan., in February, bought a stash of marijuana, but then, attempting to light a bong using butane lighter fluid, one accidentally blew up the family home. That brother was hospitalized with second-degree burns, and the other was arrested for marijuana possession. (2) Megan Thode, 27, went to trial in February in Easton, Pa., suing Lehigh University, accusing a professor of illegally discriminating against her with a C-plus grade in a class in 2009 in the school's graduate counseling program, in which a B was the minimum required to continue. Thode demanded $1.3 million for future damage to her career (but not a tuition refund -- as she had matriculated for free because her father is a Lehigh professor). Four days after the trial began, the judge ruled against her.
Thanks This Week to Richard Schneider, Harold Gaines, Don Ball, Joan Rohrbach, and Peter Smagorinsky, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.