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BIG LIST: Eccentric Eateries
Friday 11 November 2011, 10:50AM
  Buns and Guns – Beirut, Lebanon At Beirut’s Buns and Guns everything is military themed – from the camouflage décor and weapon-adorned names of dishes to the helicopter sounds that play constantly in the background. It apparently reflects the under siege mood of the city during Lebanon’s 2006 war with Israel – because that’s the kind of thing people want to remember. You can order yourself an M16 Carbine meat sandwich, a Mortar burger, or, our particular favourite, a Terrorist meal (which, ironically, is vegetarian).   Nyotaimori – Tokyo, Japan ‘Nyotaimori’ in Japanese literally means ‘female body plate’ – you can pretty much guess where this is going, right? Guess again. Picture an edible body, with dough ‘skin’ and sauce ‘blood’ wheeled into the room on a hospital gurney and placed upon a table. The hostess then cuts into the body with a scalpel and hungry patrons dig in, operating on the body to reveal the edible ‘organs’ inside. Bon appetit.   Cabbages and Condoms – Bangkok, Thailand The only restaurant in the world dedicated to birth control, Cabbages and Condoms offers not mints on your way out the door, but condoms and a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ with various STDs. Their slogan, emblazoned on T-shirts in the gift shop, is “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy”.   Modern Toilet – Taipei, Taiwan At Modern Toilet, yup, you guessed it, hungry customers take a seat on a toilet (Western style, not Asian squat, for the record) and enjoy faeces-shaped chocolate soft serve in miniature toilet bowls (among other more conventional dishes). Toilet rolls are hung over the tables for use as napkins, and drinks come served in miniature urinals. It’s not clear what the actual toilet is like in this place.   Maid Cafes – Tokyo, Japan Japan (surprise) scores another mention on this list with any of the many maid-themed cafes in the Tokyo area. Giggling women in cartoonish maid costumes call patrons ‘master’ and pat them on the heads like babies. Unsurprisingly, it’s not about the food here – which is usually overpriced and less than appetising (think spaghetti topped with ketchup). It’s about the service, which often includes playing games like Barrel of Monkeys (for a fee, of course) and, uh, complimentary ear cleaning.   Pitch Black Restaurant – Beijing, China It’s often said that if you take away one or more of your senses, the remaining ones become stronger. That’s the idea behind Pitch Black, a Beijing restaurant where patrons eat in complete darkness. Illuminating devices like cell phones and watches are strictly forbidden, and it’s so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face – you’ll just have to assume the meals are amazingly presented. Don’t think you can get away with any funny business, either – the waiters all wear night-vision goggles.   New Lucky Restaurant – Ahmadabad, India The name of this place is more than a little deceptive. There’s probably nothing lucky at all about being surrounded by coffins while you eat. It’s probably even less lucky when those coffins are occupied. The New Lucky Restaurant began as a tea stall outside a centuries-old Muslim cemetery, and grew to encompass it over the years. Business is brisk, and the owners say that the graves bring good luck.   The Hellfire Club – Manchester, UK The Hellfire Club, with its Gothic decor and creepy theme, might not seem like a place to enjoy a world-class meal, but if it’s any consolation, the food is apparently pretty good. It’s located in a reportedly haunted 19th century building and resembles a dungeon, with skeletons, coffins and red lights strewn throughout. Menu items include steaks named ‘Kiss of the Vampire’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’. No word if the God of hellfire himself, Arthur Brown, makes a ghostly appearance.   Vampire Café – Tokyo, Japan Continuing the theme of death and pretty much everything else you don’t want to think about while eating, the interior of Tokyo’s Vampire Café (yes, yet another Japanese entry) is almost entirely blood red. Guests are ushered down a long hallway with red blood cells superimposed on the floor, while inside the decor includes heavy velvet drapes, black coffins dripping with red candle wax, skulls and crosses. Many of the meals are vampire-themed, and diners drink red cocktails from martini glasses.   Eternity Restaurant – Truskavets, Ukraine When a group of undertakers set out to open a restaurant, you know it’s going to get a little weird. Eternity Restaurant in the Ukraine is a windowless building shaped like a giant coffin. Inside you’ll find funeral wreaths, black shrouded walls and human-sized coffins. Menu items include dishes with names like “Let’s meet in paradise”. Ummm, let’s not?   Hobbit House – Manila, Phillipines Long before the Lord of the Rings trilogy debuted on theatre screens, the Hobbit House was founded in Manila by former Peace Corps volunteer and Tolkien fan Jim Turner. Don’t expect to find the sort of lush Middle Earth scenery that filled the movies, however – what you’ll encounter instead if you stop at the Hobbit House are ‘the smallest waiters in the world’. That’s right, check your political correctness at the door – this is one group of little people who are okay with being referred to as hobbits.  
Search for the corduroy king
Friday 11 November 2011, 10:46AM
  The most important date in the history of New York’s Corduroy Appreciation Club (no jeans allowed, probably) is here and the club is still searching for its “messiah”. The band of fabric fans are seeking a child who turns 11 on November 11 – or 11/11/11 – the date the club says most closely resembles the ribs of its favorite ridged textile. “That child is the messiah of corduroy,” Miles Rohan, founder of the club, told the New York Daily News. “We liken it to finding the Dalai Lama.” The New York-based club said it had already been contacted by twins from Wisconsin who will turn 11 on November 11, but are looking for a locally based child to attend their “grandest meeting” in Manhattan on that date. The child will be installed on a throne and generally treated like textile royalty after being carried into the meeting. Members who attend the meeting will also be required to wear three items of clothing made of corduroy, instead of the regular two. The club celebrates twice yearly, on January 1 – or 1/1 – and November 11, and has about 250 members. Mr Rohan said he first created the club as a joke and a way of poking fun at secret societies, but his brother – a Massachusetts professor – has given lectures about the “relationship between corduroy and art history”. “[He] is keen on the historical figures who have worn corduroy. It’s the fabric of intellectuals, poets, and Woody Allen.” According to its website, the Corduroy Appreciation Club “wishes to cultivate good fellowship by the advancement of corduroy awareness, as well as, understanding, celebration, and commemoration of the fabric and all related items”.  
BIG LIST: Incredible insurance polices
Friday 14 October 2011, 10:20AM
  There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s insurance. Here are some of the more ridiculous policies that have been taken out by people with valuable ‘assets’ to protect.   MARVELOUS MERV While playing for Australia’s national cricket team from 1985 to 1994, Merv Hughes took out an estimated US$370,000 policy on his trademark walrus-style mustache. Of course his cricketing talent was also pretty valuable, but clearly not as valuable as the mo.   LEGGY BLONDE German supermodel Heidi Klum has both of her legs insured, but strangely enough, one happens to be worth more than the other. The former Victoria’s Secret brand spokeswoman’s right leg is insured for US$1.2 million, but her left only US$1 million. Why the discrepancy? A little scar on her left limb, not that most men on the planet would care in the slightest.   OFF HIS CHEST Believe it or not, Welsh crooner Tom Jones used to be considered a sex symbol. These days, however. 71 year-old Jones lives in fear. Sure, he’s remained famous for half a century, and probably sexed enough women to populate a small and very satisfied country, but he believes it all could come crashing down with a single accident that in any way damages his luxuriant pelt of chest hair. Seriously. To keep his sexiness intact, he’s insured it for a princely sum of US$7 million.   DOLLY BIRD Everyone loves country star Dolly Parton’s music, right? Well just in case that ever goes out of style, Parton has insured each ginormous breast for US$300,000.   EGADS EGON In 1957, world-famous food critic Egon Ronay wrote and published the first edition of the Egon Ronay Guide to British Eateries. Because his endorsement could make or break a restaurant, Ronay insured his taste buds for US$400,000 – sure to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the insurers if he makes a claim. Boom boom.   PROBING THE LIMITS “Alien abduction, impregnation, and consumption”: Non-celeb Paul Hucker would get US$1.5 million should any of those things happen. The policy is actually not as uncommon as you might expect: some 20,000 Americans supposedly have it in some variant. The truth is out there.   REAR-ENDED Jennifer Lopez has a US$27 million insurance policy on her distinctively large rear end – after all, it’s not like the music and movie thing were going to work out forever, as 2003’s Gigli proved.   ¡AY, CARAMBA! When the Mir space station re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, American fast food chain Taco Bell said that if it hit a floating target the company had set up in the middle of the ocean, everyone in the US would get a free taco. Taco Bell hedged their publicity stunt with an insurance policy to avoid going completely bankrupt. For the record, it missed.   JAKE AND THE FATMAN A British male stripper named Frankie Jakeman insured his penis for US$1.6 million in case of damage in the line of duty. Oh behave.   WHAT A YO-YO Representing the Cheerio Yo-Yo Company of Canada, 13-year-old Harvey Lowe won the 1932 World Yo-Yo Championships (a real event, apparently) in London and toured Europe from 1932 to 1935. While there, he taught Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales, how to yo-yo. Cheerio had Lowe’s hands insured for the then princely sum of US$150,000.
BIG LIST: Homeless humour
Friday 7 October 2011, 12:56PM
  Homelessness is never a laughing matter, but this week we have scoured the planet to find people on the street who have chosen to advertise their plight in a variety of creative and entertaining ways.   KISS ME QUICK “Kissing lessons” – This man is a trailblazer for sporting a completely original way to advertise his homelessness – around his head. With reasonable rates ($25.00/hr without teeth, and only $1.50/hr with teeth), and Visa and MasterCard accepted as well as cash – how can you say no to a quick snog?   ANGER MANAGEMENT “Tell me off for 25c” – This man provides a cathartic outlet for displaced aggression, and for a bargain price to boot. Just picture your boss, employees, or conniving ex-girlfriend’s head on his shoulders and let the profanities fly. It’s certainly cheaper than seeing a therapist, and you’ve got to love the afro.   WHEELS OF STEEL “Give me some money or I’ll kick you in the face” – There is nothing like smiling in the face of adversity. For his sense of irony, we think this American man deserves more than a little change.   MOUNTING DOOM “Why lie!! I need a cold beer” – Oh Gandalf, where’s Frodo with a brewski when you need him most?   KUNG FU FIGHTING “Ninja’s killed my family – need money for kung-fu lessons” – Despite confusing Japanese and Chinese martial arts, not to mention grammar, we still think this man deserves a fighting chance.   OUR TWO CENTS “Wife has been kidnapped. I’m 98c short for ransom” – He’s definitely two cents short of a dollar.   ROBO-BUM “Replaced by CGI please help” – In his day, this shiny cyborg was a big screen regular in the films of George Lucas and others. Now he’s turning tricks on the street with his lightsaber. Damn that CGI.   POLITICAL MAN “Obama ain’t the only one who wants change” – Even among the homeless, political satire thrives.   BACK TO THE FUTURE “Time traveller. Help! Need $$ for new flux capacitor.” – Great Scott, Marty McFly is stuck in 2011!   THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK “Help me. I am a disabled clone war veteran. Need $$ to build death star.” – He might be Luke’s father, but even Darth Vader is not immune to the Great Recession. May the force be with him.   MAD SCIENTIST “Need cash for alcohol research” – Forget cancer, this man’s researching the big issues.  
BIG LIST: Stupidly expensive everyday items
Friday 30 September 2011, 10:43AM
  Posh Instant Noodles – B1,290 Yep, even instant noodles come in luxury form. For just B1,290 a cup, you can own one of 100 exclusive Pot Noodle cups. Each posh noodle comes in a hand-flocked gold leaf pot, and because you like to be civilised while you eat your instant noodles, it also comes with a fork and table linen.   Gold-plated Staples – B5,250 If you’re really rich, you know that displaying your wealth goes beyond flashy clothes and a luxury car – a true measure of wealth is in the details. After all, you can’t possibly expect anyone to fully understand just how filthy rich you really are unless even your staples are gold plated. Snap.   Monogrammed Leather Keyboard – B18,000 Plastic? How quaint. When you have the perfect manly study, complete with rich leather chairs, a full liquor cabinet, and a roaring fireplace, would you have a cheap plastic keyboard on top of your solid mahogany desk? Absolutely not. You would have a Gokukawa soft leather keyboard with monogrammed keys to compliment your lavish surroundings – a bargain at just B18,000.   World’s Most Expensive Beer – B24,000 BrewDog, an independent Scottish brewery, sells the strongest and most expensive beer in the world suitably known as The End of History. Infused with nettles and juniper berries, the blond Belgian sells for B24,000 per bottle,and is 55 per cent alcohol. That probably explains why it comes presented in a stuffed stoat or grey squirrel. Though currently sold out, you can order other eccentrically named beers such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Tokyo*, described as ‘intergalactic fantastic oak aged stout’.   Tiffany Tennis Ball Can – B45,000 Since you’re playing to impress, why not get a fancy can to keep your balls in? Of course, because it’s Tiffany, this particular tennis ball can is made of sterling silver and will set you back B45,000. Ace.   Luxury Bullets – B90,000 If all bullets cost this much there would be a lot less violence in the world. Or just between rich people. The Bullet Forge designed 9mm bullets are made from white gold and diamonds, while the 45 ACP hollow-point is made of white gold with 90 diamonds positioned around an amethyst.   Concrete Aalto Doorstop – B105,000 While the rest of us are using cinder blocks for doorstops, somewhere in some mansion there’s a B105,000 chunk of cement holding a door open. You may (but probably don’t) notice that this doorstop is shaped like a world famous Alvar Aalto or Savoy vase, and that’s because it was cast in an original which was then shattered to let out the mold. While the Aalto doorstop looks pretty cool, it may just be a waste of a perfectly good vase (and B105,000).   Gold and Diamond headphones – B155,000 We’ve all seen blinged out iPods, but what about headphones that cost more than your computer? These 18 carat gold earphones feature 118 high quality diamonds and despite all the extra weight are said to be just as comfortable as your cheap plastic pair. Just much, much more expensive.   Louis Vuitton Skateboard – B250,000 If you’re a skater you probably have no interest in a Louis Vuitton skateboard. But to be fair, anyone interested in a B250,000 LV skateboard probably isn’t too interested in skateboarding either.   Crystal Ergoripado Vaccum – B570,000 Combine one average vacuum with 3730 Swarovski crystals and you have the Crystal Ergoripado, possibly the most expensive home cleaning appliance ever built – though with a price tag this high you probably won’t let the maid anywhere near it.   Diamond Computer Mouse – B800,000 With some 59 diamonds, this design by Swiss manufacturer Pat Says Now is not only being the world’s most expensive computer mouse, but also the world’s most useless computer mouse.   Diamond Encrusted Bluetooth Headset – B1.5 million If your wife is concerned that her big ugly plastic bluetooth is overpowering her gold and diamond earrings, why not compromise with this diamond encrusted headset from Plantronics?   Moon Landing Pen – B1.5 million One small pen for man, one giant chunk out of the bank account. The Omas Limited Edition Moon Landing Pen features a globe on the top and 3D imprints of Neil Armstrong’s footprints in the moon (or more realistically, some random guy’s because it’s not like they could cast them from the originals).   The Intimidator Pool Cue – B4.5 million The name says it all. Probably the most bad-ass pool cue ever made features four bladed wings that you wouldn’t want to get anywhere near your felt, or anything else for that matter. Made from a solid piece of stainless steel, this deadly cue took more than 1800 hours to craft and engrave.   Gold and Diamond Sauce Pan – B4.65 million Perfect for the housewife who’s bored with her Swarovski-studded vacuum cleaner, and already has the diamond Bluetooth headset, is this sauce pan with gold handles that’s studded with 200 diamonds.   Precious Fishing Lure – B30 million You read right, that’s a B30 million fishing lure. Made of three pounds of gold and platinum, this MacDaddy's product is encrusted with 100 carats worth of diamonds and rubies – 4753 stones in all. However, you have to wonder who in their right mind would cast this in the drink?  
BIG LIST: Gallery of Gluttony
Thursday 22 September 2011, 04:10PM
  Proving that holding a world record requires nothing more than eating an awful lot of really awful stuff, here are some of the world’s more bizarre eating accomplishments. The only real question is, why?   – Don ‘Moses’ Lerman probably took ten years off his life when he ate seven quarter-pound sticks of salted butter in five minutes at the Fox Glutton Bowl in 2002. – Oleg Zhornitskiy probably took lost 11 years when he consumed four 32-ounce bowls of mayonnaise in eight minutes, making him the “undisputed world mayonnaise eating champion”, according to his online bio. We all have our claims to fame… – Joe Chestnut is probably the biggest name in the ‘sport’ of competitive eating (because apparently it is actually a sport, and people do actually care about it). Among his list of impressively gluttonous records though is his 103 Krystal Burgers in eight minutes on October 28, 2007. That’s just over 16 burgers a minute – or one every 3.75 seconds. – Sonya Thomas holds the record for the largest amount of fruitcake consumed in 10 minutes, scoffing down four pounds, 14 ¼ ounces of Wegmans Fruitcake on December 30, 2003. The record stands since 2003, so it’s probably fair to say that no one has bothered challenging it, if only for the fact that eating even one ounce of fruitcake is gag-inspiring. – Eric Booker is a big man, and obviously has an appetite to match, destroying 49 glazed doughnuts in eight minutes on October 2, 2002. – Perhaps the most impressive record on this list goes to 65-year-old Dick LeFevre, who put away six pounds of Spam from the can in 12 minutes at the Spamarama festival on April 3, 2004. It’s hard to decide what’s more disturbing – that someone ate six pounds of Spam, or that a Spamarama festival actually exists. – Most people know Takeru Kobayashi (if they know him at all) as a skinny Japanese guy who eats a lot of hot dogs. But he also boasts the record for the most cow brains with 57 (17.7 pounds) in 15 minutes. Picture human brains, but smaller and cooked a bit. Mmmm … makes you hungry, right? – With a name like Joey Chestnut, how could you not enter the world of competitive eating? And so it is that Mr Chestnut holds the asparagus record, downing 9 lbs, 5.2 oz of deep fried asparagus spears in 10 minutes at the Stockton Asparagus Fest on April 16, 2011. Mr Chestnut also holds the record for the most grilled cheese sandwiches, scoffing 47 in 10 minutes on June 10, 2006. Oddly, he holds no records for eating chestnuts. – Don Lerman ate six pounds of baked beans in one minute, 48 seconds. You can just imagine the after effects… – The honours for the most amount of pickled beef tongue, with 3 pounds 3 ounces in 12 minutes, goes to Dominic Cardo. – Charles Hardy consumed 6 pounds 9 ounces of giant cabbage in 9 minutes. – Juliet Lee downed 13.23 lbs of jellied cranberry sauce in eight minutes as part of Spike TV’s MLE Chowdown on November 22, 2007. – The record for eating live cockroaches is held by Ken Edwards of Derbyshire, England. In 2001 he ate 36 hissing Madagascar roaches in one minute. – On October 8, 2008, Eric Livingston defied all concepts of human revulsion and downed 3 pounds of Haggis in just 8 minutes. He’s not even Scots. – Eric Booker was understandably tearful after taking out the record for the most onions, ploughing through 8.5 ounces (three onions) in one minute on August 8, 2004. – Arturo Rios, Jr. ate 2.89 lbs of pigs’ feet in 10 minutes at the State Fair Meadowlands on June 23, 2007. – Sonya Thomas has a stomach of steel. Not only does she claim the honour of eating 36 dozen Acme oysters in 10 minutes on March 20, 2005; she also downed 38 Moon Pies in eight minutes at the Lady Luck Caruthersville Moon Pie Eating World Championship on October 16, 2010. For the uninitiated, a moon pie is a pastry which consists of two round graham cracker cookies, with marshmallow filling in the centre, dipped in chocolate. She’s also a turducken champ. A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. If even thinking about that isn’t enough to kill you, try eating 7¾ of this preposterous poultry dish. That’s exactly what Ms Thomas did in just 12 minutes on November 26, 2003. – But the champion of chow-down champions has to be Patrick Bertoletti, who set a record at the 7-Eleven Sports Slurpee competition on April 15, 2010, by downing a 22 oz slurpee in just 9 seconds. It’s not clear how long it took him to recover from the brainfreeze that inevitably followed. That’s possibly why, on May 1 this year Mr Bertoletti swallowed 275 pickled jalapeno peppers in eight minutes at the La Costena “Feel the Heat” Jalapeno Eating Championship this year. How long it took before he could rise again from the can is also not recorded. In between these two feats he set another record, this time on March 19, swallowing 7.5 pounds of fried catfish in 10 minutes at the Rhythm City Casino World Catfish Eating Championships. Enough? Not for Mr Bertoletti. He probably gained instant cholesterol problems after destroying 38 Mars Bars in five minutes at the Red Faction Mars Bar Eating World Championship on July 22, 2010. Oh yes, and in September last year Mr Bertoletti ate 5 lbs 11.2 oz of sour pickles in six minutes at the Isle Casino Pompano Park World Pickle Eating Championship.
BIG LIST: Unusual Protests
Thursday 15 September 2011, 11:58AM
  Blood red Starting locally, in last year’s Red Shirt demonstrations in Bangkok, anti-government protesters approached the office of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vajjajiva, dumping about 300 litres of human blood that had been donated for their cause.   Dedicated to the cause In May 2009, an Egyptian man made probably the most dedicated protest in history, cutting off his own penis to express his displeasure at his parents’ choice of bride. The 25-year-old labourer from the village of Sheikh Eissa in southern Egypt, who also mutilated his testicles, was taken to hospital in a stable condition, but doctors were unable to reattach the severed member.   Name of the game In late 2008, a 19-year-old woman from Virginia in the USA reportedly changed her name to a website address protesting animal dissection. The former Jennifer Thornburg – whose driver’s licence read Cutout after the name change – wanted to do something to protest animal dissections in schools. Her parents still call her Jennifer.   Butter up In a protest that was mercilessly parodied on South Park, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society threw 24 litres of rotten butter at a Japanese harpoon whaling vessel in February 2009. Three of the whalers reportedly vomited from the rancid smell, but Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson insisted the attack was a reasonable way for the activists to send their message. Each to his own.   Shoe storm Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi became an international hero after flinging both his shoes at then-US president George W Bush during a 2008 press conference. He shouted: “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” as he threw the first shoe, and: “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq,” as he threw the second. Initially sentenced to three years in jail for his protest, he eventually served only nine months. Hook, line and silver Alice Newstead likes sharks. In fact she loves sharks. At least that’s what we’re assuming, because in a campaign against shark extinction, she pierced her skin with oversized fish hooks and hung from the ceiling of a Paris boutique. Alice painted her body silver to resemble a shark, before being hoisted into the air with the fishing hooks. The painful stunt went on for 15 minutes. Showered in publicity Less bizarre than funny (though still undeniably bizarre), protesters from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) decided to take a public shower on a busy Hollywood street to make a point on World Water Day about how much water was used by the meat industry. All well and good. Except the sight of two naked women in public is an obvious health hazard and caused a (relatively minor) traffic accident.   Epic protest of miniature proportions The world’s smallest climate campaigners took over a Kingsnorth Power Plant replica at Legoland in California, decorating it with a tiny banner reading “Stop Climate Change”. Six one-inch-tall campaigners could be seen unfurling the banner, as tiny Lego police watched from the ground.   Making it stick Dan Glass wanted to make sure his message to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stuck – so he poured some super glue in his palm before shaking Brown’s hand at an award ceremony. Glass, who was affiliated with climate change group Plane Stupid, said “I’ve just superglued myself to your arm. Don’t panic. This is a non-violent protest.” Mr Brown freed himself after about 30 seconds, and took the stunt in good humour.   Feline frenzy Three journalism students from Denmark got their Facebook profiles deleted after posting graphic pictures of themselves butchering, cooking and eating a feral cat. The students, who partook in the stunt in what many called a misguided effort to draw attention to factory farming, say the cat was killed humanely and were surprised by the negative reaction from the public.   Got milk? Some 2,500 farmers from across the European Union gathered in Brussels in October 2009, to protest at collapsing milk prices, spraying riot police with milk straight from cow udders and then coating them in hay fired from a silo. Milk supply in Europe exceeds demand and farmers claimed they were forced to sell their milk at prices below cost.   Whale of a time In 2007, Greenpeace tried to force the Japanese government into a reality check by dumping a dead whale on the streets in front of the Japanese embassy in Berlin. Japanese whalers kill thousands of whales every year, defying an international ban through a loophole that allows whaling for “scientific” purposes. Japanese lawmakers were largely unperturbed by the whale carcass.   Bricks and mortar Late last year, property developer Cameron Hope bricked up the front door of a Barclays branch in the UK after being turned down for a business loan. Mr Hope was supported by other local business owners as he built a 2.4m by 1.2m wall in front of the bank. Phallic philanthropy In July last year, an 80 metre monster penis was painted on a drawbridge in St Petersburg by activist group Voina. The group stated: “We have painted a giant phallus to show what the FSB and Interior Ministry are doing in terms of security.” Well, if a giant penis won’t get your message across, nothing will. Clowning around In June last year, one hundred professional clowns took to the streets of San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, in protest against the killing of a bus passenger by two robbers dressed as clowns. Complete with oversized bow ties, tiny hats and big yellow trousers the clowns marched through the centre of the capital in an attempt to show citizens that real clowns “aren’t killers”.   Barking mad In March 2007, a former South Korean army commando held a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul to mark the anniversary of peaceful mass demonstrations against Japanese colonial rule that took place in 1919. Apparently he got the brilliant idea of bringing along five dog heads, which were taken from some of the dog meat markets in the city, and placing them on the pavement to symbolise Koreans who supported Japanese colonial rule.   Black swan Controversial “artist” Mark McGowan took his dislike of the Queen to an extreme level – by eating a swan. McGowan was attempting to challenge “the upper classes who shoot game, but never eat it”. In similarly ridiculous and oddly targeted protests, Mr McGowan has sat in a bathtub full of baked beans with chips up his nose and sausages around his head while claiming to be the “defender of the full English breakfast”, and eaten chunks of a Corgi dog in protest against Prince Philip for hunting foxes.   Faecal point Yes, this is indeed about a protest that involved hurling poo. The protesters were a group of South Korean cattle farmers, who were enraged that Korea’s Lotte supermarkets had decided to sell US beef. The photo opposite pretty much says it all – they’re throwing poo at a supermarket.
Horseplay at the World Cup
Thursday 15 September 2011, 11:53AM
  There will be plenty of horsing around when New Zealand takes the rugby field against England later this month. To clarify, we’re not talking about the World Cup. Players on this rugby field have four legs and tend to lack the ball handling skills of their national heroes. All the players are ponies and donkeys from Clevedon Animal Farm, south of Auckland. Lynn Colecutt came up with the idea for the match when Clevedon adopted England as its second team. “It’s supposed to be a laugh,” she said. Laugh indeed. The animals have been training fortnightly for several months and she has now upped that to five days a week. Her coaching tactics are simple: “You get them in the right way and tell them to kick it.” The animals all kick the rugby ball backwards. Now she’s working on getting them to move in the same direction. And training’s also under way for a haka – although it’s not quite clear what exactly that will involve. Although her final lineup for the four-aside teams is undecided, an undoubted star of the Animal All Blacks will be Danny Boy. The five-year-old Welsh pony’s kicking skills have won him the number 10 black jersey – the one worn by his human counterpart Dan Carter. Danny Boy’s younger brother Merlin, aged two, loves kicking the ball too but his position and team isn’t set yet. “I want to see who does what together and will then work out the team,” Lynn said. The farm’s arena has been set up with a mock rugby field complete with goalposts and tiered seating. The players will know it’s a rugby match rather than their normal farm shows when they run on to the field through a special tunnel. There are even cheerleaders – three miniature ponies decked out in ruffles.
BIG LIST: Strange sleepwalking stories
Saturday 10 September 2011, 02:33AM
  Pleasant dreams In 2004, sleep medicine experts treated a rare case of a woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking – that was her excuse anyway. At night while asleep, the middle-aged sleepwalker from Australia left her house and had sexual intercourse with strangers. Her secret came out one night, when her partner awoke to find her missing, went searching for her and found her engaged in a sex act.   Perfect husband Robert Wood, a 55-year-old chef, apparently gets up four or five times a week and heads to the kitchen where he prepares omelettes, stir fries and chips – while asleep. Once he tried to fill a small bowl with a whole box of cereal and a carton of milk.   Out in the cold In January 2009, Timothy Brueggeman, a 51-year-old electrician from Wisconsin, sleepwalked out of his home wearing only his underwear and a fleece shirt. His body was found the next morning about 150 metres from his rural home. With temperatures around -27°C, Brueggeman had died of hypothermia.   Taking the plunge In May 2009, a sleepwalking teenager stepped out of the bedroom window and plunged eight metres to the ground. Rachel Ward, 18, had got out of bed and pulled on a jumper before making her dramatic, unconscious exit. She landed feet first on a narrow strip of grass next to her car, leaving six-inch divots in the ground, before collapsing. Amazingly, she wasn’t injured and didn’t wake up properly until the next day.   Likely story In 2007, Alan Ball went to a New Year’s Eve house party, drank heavily and fell asleep on a sofa. At some point during the night, he got up, went upstairs and climbed into bed with an under-age girl, whom he kissed on the lips. After a lengthy court case, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing because he was asleep at the time.   The constant gardener In 2005, a sleep-walking computer expert was reportedly caught by his wife mowing the lawn stark naked at 2am. She was afraid to wake him up because she had always been told it can be dangerous to disturb someone who is sleepwalking. She just turned off the mower, went back to bed and let him get on with it.   Staying connected In 2005, a 44-year-old woman went to bed about 10pm but got up two hours later and walked to her computer in the next room. She turned it on, connected to the internet, and logged on before composing and sending three emails. Each was in a random mix of upper and lower cases, not well formatted and written in strange language.   Climbing high A London girl climbed the counterweight of a crane at a construction project, some 40 metres in the air. A fireman climbed the crane to try to talk her down, only to find her sleeping. Not wanting to alarm her and make her fall, the fireman did what any responsible public servant would and went through her personal belongings, found her phone and got her parents to call and wake her up.   Lucky break On a frigid Denver night in 2003, a quiet and unassuming nurse took a sleeping pill and went to bed. While still asleep, she got up, slugged down half a bottle of wine and got into her car. Not surprisingly, she crashed, but as two fully awake police officers watched on, the nurse got out of the vehicle and urinated in the road. When the officers went to arrest her, she assaulted them. Prosecutors let her plead guilty to a reckless driving charge alone.   Just desserts When Anna Ryan inexplicably gained 60 pounds, she sought medical help. But to the surprise of both Anna and her doctor, it was discovered she was eating while asleep, literally devouring boxes of bakery goods without her conscious mind realising it.   On the recordDion McGregor wanted to be a songwriter. He also had the habit of talking in his sleep, clearly and succinctly narrating his dreams in a conversational tone. His roommate decided to record the darkest parts of McGregor’s psyche, and then released it on an album. The audio, however, is not for those at work or for more sensitive souls – McGregor detailed the finer points of shoving fruit up one’s anus (or other orifices depending on one’s gender) and swinging from boobs like Tarzan.   Serious nightmare On May 23, 1987, 23-year-old Kenneth Parks got up, got in his car and drove 23 kilometres to his in-laws’ home. He stabbed to death his mother-in-law and assaulted his father in law. All while asleep – apparently. The man was not only acquitted of the crimes, but reportedly ran, years later, for election to his local school board.
Thai with a twist in Phuket Town
Saturday 20 August 2011, 03:58AM
If you want a great night out in Phuket Town, with some of the best Thai food around, look no further than Siam Indigo, Exotique Bar & Restaurant. Co-owner Celine Masson has transformed an historical old building on Phang Nga Rd, into a trendy restaurant oozing with character. Celine and friend Pisit Aongskultong decided to go into business together and began searching for the perfect place in Phuket Town, when they came across the 100-year-old building. They redecorated and the inside of the restaurant is now simply spectacular, with various art gracing the walls. The restaurant offers a mixture of "Thai with a twist" dishes, many of which give traditional Thai recipes new life, such as the signature dish of duck massaman curry (B250). Also sampled was pla neung manaow (seabass fish fillet served with Chinese fungus mushrooms), for B280. The restaurant offers a selection of Thai tapas, which is a fantastic idea to ensure you get to sample all the great dishes. Six tapas are B230 per person, while 10 are 290 pp. Our selection of mixed tapas included fresh tuna laab on shrimp cracker (easily the stand out dish), mini shrimp cakes, smoked salmon on a rice noodle bed, smoked chicken wings, smoked duck rolls with ginger orange salsa, and green mango salad with marinated shrimp. Cocktails, including a spicy mojito which has chilli pieces inside, are B190, except during happy hour from 5pm to 7pm when they are only B100. Celine is the perfect host, and sister Cathy runs the night time operations with the same enthusiasm. You can tell that both these women love Phuket Town and are passionate about the restaurant. Siam Indigo is the perfect place for an evening drink, a romantic meal for two, or simple a night out in Phuket Town. With its well-priced, tasty food, it has got to be one of the best restaurants on the island. So if you haven’t been already, make sure you put Siam Indigo on your to-do list while in Phuket. – Siam Indigo Exotique Bar & Restaurant, 8 Phang Nga Road, Phuket Town. Tel/Fax: 076 256 697 or website: –Claire Connell
Going up nicely
Saturday 20 August 2011, 03:13AM
Last Friday Paolo responded with his second wine dinner, a journey from the sea to the mountains of Italy, accompanied by Allegrini wines via Wine Gallery. As the irrepressible chef explained, all cuisine should be a combination of “tradition, revolution and balance” – Paolo is plainly no follower of fads, no molecular maven. The evening’s first offering was a variation on one of the regulars on the Patong restaurant’s regular menu, carpaccio of scallops, but with the addition of a genuinely memorable teaspoonful of sour cream flavoured with lime. Slippery smooth and then zing. This was followed by a little duet: jumbo shrimp croquette with paprika and capers in filo pastry; and a shot glass of basil pesto foam and caramel hazelnuts. Oh yes. More, please. Into the first course – a rock lobster risotto with saffron and radish. I have to confess that I’ve never been a great fan of risotto. There’s something slippery about it that doesn’t appeal to me. This was tastier than some I’ve had, and others at the table seemed to enjoy it, so let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. The next course was an utter triumph. Given the ingredients it had to be, really: A large raviolo filled with a black truffle and potato filling, a shallot and green apple sauce and topped with foie gras. Pan fried, of course (is there any other way?). And just in case, Paolo came around and shaved a little more truffle on top. “So,” asked Maurizio, “is he going up?” Definitely. Palates cleansed next with a glass of passion fruit and prosecco. The gods were having a good day when they invented passion fruit. Now, the main courses: A tartare of Fassone beef with capers and Parmigiano, followed by braised black Angus fillet mignon in a red wine and mustard sauce.Fassone beef comes from a Piedmontese animal renowned for its muscle mass and sweetish taste. In this case it was mixed with Lardo di Cassone – pork fatback with herbs. The result, very tender but rather greasy. The braised fillet was, if we’re honest, a mistake. Although it was timed to the second, leaving the interior of the meat pink, braising is a technique best left to school canteens. Once one got through the sauce, the meat was tender enough, but rather institutional in taste. The evening was saved, however by the mascarpone mousse dessert, a grand old recipe from Maurizio’s mother, topped with cocoa nibs and a slosh of cognac. Delicious.So Paolo has “gone up”, with a couple of downs. All applause to this delightful man for his courage in going out on a culinary limb. If he falls off every now and again, be sure that he’ll be learning from it - and every diner at Da Maurizio will benefit. As to the wine, Thai law does not permit any discussion of its merits. So while you, had you been at the Da Maurizio dinner, might say that the choice of wines was excellent – particularly the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2007 and the Amarone 2007 Corte Giara –  we can’t possibly comment.      Da Maurizio is on the hill be­tween Patong and Kalim. Web­site: Book through the website or call 076 344079. – Alasdair Forbes
‘Yoda’ top dog in bottom prize
Friday 1 July 2011, 04:26AM
  It may not be the world’s greatest honour, but when you look like 14-year-old Yoda, you have to take what you can get. The Chinese crested-Chihuahua, with her scruffy short tufts of hair, protruding tongue and bulbous, bloodshot eyes, took out this year’s World’s Ugliest Dog Competition. With it came a cheque for US$1000 (B30,000), a trophy, and lots of pet perks after stealing the hearts of judges and the audience alike with her ‘unique’ appearance. Owner Terry Schumacher of Hanford, California, said when she first encountered the pooch, she was convinced that the animal was a rat. After realising that the ball of hair and limbs was actually a dog, Ms Schumacher took the animal home and named her new pet after the pint-sized Jedi master from the Star Wars films, to whom the dog bears a resemblance. Yoda has since become part of the Schumacher family. She eats the same food as the Schumachers, and often accompanies Ms Schumacher to her day job as a dog groomer. At the contest, held at Sonoma-Marin Fair in California, Miss Schumacher hugged and kissed Yoda after she won the title as a first-time entrant in the 23-year-old show. A variety of other dogs, some missing eyes, fur, and others limping on limbs of a variety of sizes, also strutted their stuff at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. The goal of the contest was to raise awareness of rescued dogs and to encourage adoption. Many dogs at the contest were bred unsuccessfully and then abandoned at animal shelters when their owners discovered that they had uneven legs, crooked spines and other deformities. Other competitors included last year’s winner, Princess Abby, a one-eyed Chihuahua, and a blind 15-year-old pug called Hercules.

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