News of the Weird informed you in 2007 of camel beauty pageants in Saudi Arabia, but the obsession with the animal runs deeper, based in part on nostalgia for the days when camels were important for transportation. Breeders cuddle and nuzzle them, and at the country’s largest camel market near Riyadh in March 2008, they bought and sold based, one breeder told The New York Times, on the standards of “judging a beautiful girl. You look for big eyes, long lashes and a long neck.” Said another, “See this one? She isn’t married yet, this one. She’s still a virgin. Look at the black eyes, the soft fur. ... Just like a girl going to a party.” He added (after kissing the camel on the mouth), “My camels are like my children, my family.” (In January, a prominent cleric issued a decree condemning the pride people take in their camels.)
March is the season for Shinto religious fertility festivals in Japan at which symbolic phalluses are offered to the gods for business fortune as well as good sexual and marital luck. In the small town of Komaki, a 2-meter-long phallus is carried through town every year and presented to the local temple. The best-known celebration is the Kanamara Matsuri (“Festival of the Iron Penis”) in Kawasaki, where colorful phallus floats abound and delight the children of all ages who line the streets.
Because Japan’s suicide rate is so high, there is sometimes collateral damage. In April 2007, News of the Weird reported yet another instance in which a despondent person leaped off of a building (a nine-story edifice in Tokyo), only to land on someone else (a 60-year-old man, who was only bruised). These days, chemical ingestion is the trendy method, and in May 2008, a despondent farmer drank a chlorine solution and was rushed to Kumamoto’s Red Cross Hospital, but as doctors tried unsuccessfully to save him, he vomited, and the fumes sickened 54 workers, including 10 who had to be hospitalized.
With rising prices paid for scrap metal come the increased threat of theft, and metal dealers are on alert, as well as power companies, which use valuable copper wire. However, as the number of thieves increases, so does the number of clumsy ones who fail to respect that electrical substations are live. In May, at least three men were killed and three others badly injured in attempts to steal wire from substations in Lancaster County, Pa., Somerset County, Pa., Savannah, Ga., Chicago and Edmonton, Alberta.
There was yet another fight in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre this past Easter (celebrated in mid-April by Orthodox Christians). This time, Armenians (one of the six Christian branches that share management of the holy site) believed that a Greek Orthodox priest had encroached on their part of the church and tried to eject him, leading to a brawl in which some in attendance used Palm Sunday fronds as weapons. It usually falls on Jerusalem’s Muslim police officers to restore order.
COPYRIGHT 2008 CHUCK SHEPHERD