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News of the Weird

9/18/2013

Happiness is a clean toilet

Beginning in 2011, about three dozen people in Tokyo have been meeting every Sunday at 6 a.m. on a mission to scrub down, one by one, the city’s grungiest public rest rooms. “By 7:30,” according to an Associated Press reporter who witnessed an outing in August, the team had left behind a “gleaming public toilet, looking as good as the day it was installed.” Explained the hygiene-intense Satoshi Oda (a computer programmer), the mission is “for our own good,” work that leader Masayuki Magome compares to the training that Buddhist monks receive to find peace. (In fact, to fulfill the group’s motto, “Clean thyself by cleaning cubicles,” the scouring must be done with bare hands.) A squad supporter spoke of a sad, growing apprehension that the younger generation no longer shares the Japanese cultural conviction that rest rooms should always be clean and safe.

 

Medical marvels

Colleagues were stunned in May when ABC News editor Don Ennis suddenly appeared at work wearing a little black dress and a red wig and declaring that he had begun hormone therapy and wanted to be called Dawn Ennis. As co-workers accommodated his wishes (which did not seem so unusual in contemporary professional society), Ennis began to have second thoughts, and by July had blamed his conversion on “transient global amnesia” brought on by marital difficulties and had returned to work as Don. Apparently the primary lingering effect is that he must still deal with Dawn’s hormone-induced breasts.

 

The entrepreneurial spirit

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a mirror that makes a person appear happy even when not. A built-in camera tracks facial features in real time, then tweaks the image to turn up the corners of the mouth and to create the beginnings of a smile in the eyes. Of what practical use would such a mirror be? Other Japanese researchers, according to a Slate.com report in August, believe that happy-face mirrors in retail stores would improve shoppers’ dispositions and lead to more sales…

 

Animals gone wild

Two macaques escaped from the Straussberg Adventure Park in eastern Germany in July, apparently on the run from the jealous bullying of “Cornelius,” the resident alpha male. When park officials recaptured the two, they reported that (even though everyone seems to be against “bullying” these days) “Fred” and “Richard” would have to be castrated. It was not punishment, the officials explained; it was to calm them and reduce the overall “hormone imbalance” in the park, since males greatly outnumber females.

 

First-world problems

Self-indulgent New York City parents have been hiring “play-date” coaches for their preschool youngsters, apparently out of fear that the kids’ skill set for just having fun might not impress admissions officers at the city’s elite private schools. The CEO of one consulting outfit told the New York Post in July that $400 an hour gets expert monitoring of a 4-year-old in small groups, evaluating, for example, how the child colors in a book, shares the crayons, holds a pencil and follows the rules of Simon Says.

 

Fine points of the law

The question in a vandalism case before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston in July was whether Ronald Strong’s messy bowel movement in a federal courthouse men’s room in Portland, Maine, was “willful” or, as Strong claimed, an uncontrollable intestinal event. Three rather genteel judges strained to infer Strong’s state of mind from the condition of the facility. A cleaning lady had described scattered feces as “smeared,” but Judge Juan Torruella took that to mean not “finger smears,” he wrote, but “chunks,” “kind of like chunky peanut butter.” Two other judges, outvoting Torruella, seemed skeptical that feces could have landed two feet up the wall unless Strong had intended it. (Even so, Judge Torruella was unimpressed, implying that if he were intending to smear feces in a men’s room, he surely would sully the mirrors, but that all mirrors were found clean.)

                 

People with issues

John Anderson, the town administrator of Derry, N.H. (pop. 34,000), was accused by police in August of indecent exposure and lewdness after, naked, inviting a DirecTV salesman into his home and performing unspecified conduct in front of the man. Anderson was previously town manager of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. CV

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