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News of the Weird

By Staff | Feb 28, 2008

∫ Five of the 10 best-selling novels in Japan in 2007 were originally composed, and serialized, on cell phones, thumbed out by women who had never written novels, for readers who mostly had never before read one. The genre’s dominating plotlines are affairs of the heart, and its characteristics, obviously, are simplicity of plot and character and brevity of expression (lest authors’ sore thumbs and readers’ tired eyes bring down the industry). Said one successful cell phone writer, for a January dispatch in The New York Times, her audience doesn’t read works by “professional writers” because “their sentences are too difficult to understand.” [New York Times, 1-20-08]

∫ The New Lucky Restaurant has been around since the 1950s in Ahmadabad, India, serving diners among the gravestones located at various points around the tables. No one is certain who was buried under the restaurant, according to a December Associated Press dispatch, but Indians aren’t much spooked by the experience. Said a retired professor: “Graveyards in India are never scary places. We don’t have a nice literature of horror stories, so we don’t have much fear of ghosts.” The restaurant’s main concern is that waiters know the floor plan and don’t trip over the ankle-high monuments. [Detroit Free Press-AP), 12-11-07]

∫ It’s the “holy grail” of beers, said a Boston pub manager, but, still, only 60,000 cases a year of Westvleteren are brewed because the Belgian Trappist monks with the centuries-old recipe refuse to expand their business (and even get on the phone to harass black-marketers). Westvleteren is sold only at the monastery gate, by appointment, with a two-case-a-month limit, at a price that’s reasonable for retail beer, but anyone who gets it from a re-seller will pay 10 times that much. Producing more, said Brother Joris, to a Wall Street Journal reporter in November, “would interfere with our job of being a monk.” Furthermore, said Brother Joris, referencing the Bible, “(I)f you can’t have it, possibly you do not really need it.” [Wall Street Journal, 11-29-07]

∫ Life’s Necessities: In January, Taser International introduced the Taser MPH, a combination dart-firing weapon and MP3 music player (that holds 150 songs). [Los Angeles Times, 1-7-08]

∫ In November, Bergdorf Goodman in New York City revealed that it was offering showings of the Guerlain cosmetic house’s “KissKiss Gold and Diamonds” lipstick, which retails for $62,000 (housed in an 18-karat gold tube containing 2.2 carats of diamonds). [New York Post, 11-23-07]

∫ Latest Ape-Human News: The 4th Texas Court of Appeals in January affirmed a lower court decision that monkeys and chimpanzees have no legal right to file lawsuits against an animal preserve for mistreatment. [Houston Chronicle-AP, 1-18-08]

∫ In Apeldoorn, Netherlands, however, one prominent member of the family is full of human nature: Sibu, an orangutan at the Apenheul Primate Park, has so far rejected all overtures to mate with other orangutans and instead appears smitten with blond female zookeepers, especially those with tattoos, according to an October Reuters dispatch. [Reuters, 10-4-07]

∫ To learn how cockroaches socialize, a research team from Free University of Brussels created tiny robots programmed to act like cockroaches, doused them with the proper pheromones, and set them free within crowds of cockroaches to see if they could influence behavior. While some of the robots coaxed real cockroaches to follow them into an unshaded area (away from a dark area that most normally prefer), nearly half of the robots, despite programming, fell under the “spell” of the real ones and headed for the darkness. [Canadian Press-AP, 11-16-07]

∫ It was not only banks in the U.S. that freely loaned money over the last few years, but also those in India, and not surprisingly, many of their debtors have recently run into trouble making payments. Indian banks, inexperienced at collecting from so many defaulting consumers, often prefer to hire “goondas” (thugs) to settle debts the old-fashioned way, according to a January Wall Street Journal report. Though iron-bar beatings are frowned upon, some bankers say it’s their only recourse because of the numbingly slow pace of the Indian legal system. [Wall Street Journal, 1-8-08]

∫ On Nov. 18, two inebriated men in separate cars, driving by the Carpet Classic Floor Studio in Highland Township, Mich., lost control at the same time, and both smashed into the store. [WJLA-TV (Washington, D.C.)-AP, 11-19-07]

Contact Chuck at letters@graffitiwv.com