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Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

May. 8, 2013
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Well-Earned Retirement

In March, twin sisters Louise and Martine Fokkens, 70, announced their joint retirement after more than 50 years each on the job—as Amsterdam prostitutes. (In February, the minimum age for prostitutes in the Netherlands was raised to 21, but there is no maximum.) The twins estimated they had 355,000 client-visits between them, and Martine noted that she still has one devoted regular who she'll have to disappoint. Louise, though, appeared happier to hang up her mattress for good because of arthritis. The sisters complained about the legalization of brothels in 2000 (with East European women and pimps out-hustling the more genteel Dutch women) and ensuing taxation (which required the women to take on more clients).

Cultural Diversity

  • "Traditional Taiwanese funerals are elaborate, combiningsombre mourning with louder, up-tempo entertainment to fire up grieving spirits," reported BBC News in February. They are tailor-made, in other words, for Ms. Liu Jun-Lin, 30, and her Filial Daughters Band with their acrobatic dance routines because Liu has the reputation as Taiwan's most famous professional mourner. After the musical festivities, Liu dons a white robe and crawls on her hands and knees to the coffin, where she "performs her signature wail."
  • Norwegian Wood: A 12-hour TV miniseries shown this winter on Norway's government channel NRK, "National Firewood Night," was conceived as a full series, then cut to "only" 12 hours, eight of which focused entirely on a live fireplace. Nearly a million people tuned in to the series, and at one point 60 text messages came in complaining about whether the wood in the fireplace should have been placed with bark up or bark down. "(F)irewood," said the show's host, "is the foundation of our lives." A New York Times dispatch noted that a best-selling book, Solid Wood, sold almost as many copies in Norway, proportional to the population, as a book's selling 9.5 million copies in the U.S.
  • Most of Iceland's 320,000 inhabitants are at least distantly related to each other, leading the country to compile the "Book of Icelanders" database of family connections dating back 1,200 years. With "accidental" incest thus a genuine problem, three software engineers recently created a mobile phone app that allows strangers to "bump" phones with each other and know, instantly, whether they are closely related. In its first few days of release in April, the developers said it had already been used almost 4,000 times.


While "comprehensive immigration reform" winds through the U.S. political process, a few countries (including the United States) have already severely bent the nationalistic standards supposedly regulating entry of foreigners. The U.S., Britain, Canada and Austria allow rich investors who pass background checks to qualify for an express lane to residence or citizenship, and the line is even less onerous in the Caribbean nations of Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis, which offer quick citizenship for investments of $100,000 and $250,000, respectively—the latter especially valuable, allowing access to 139 countries including all of Europe. (The U.S. minimum is $1 million, or half that for investment in an "economically depressed" area, but the reward is only a "green card," with citizenship still five years away.)

Readers' Choice

(1) A vendor at the largest bazaar in Buenos Aires has recently been selling knock-off "toy poodles" that were actually artistically groomed ferrets raised on steroids. It has been suggested that such a report might be an "urban legend," but a Buenos Aires TV investigation exposed the scam, revealing two victims, one of whom paid the equivalent of about $150 for his "purebred." (2) Wayne Klinkel's golden retriever Sundance, locked in a car while Klinkel, of Helena, Mont., went to dinner in December, set about dining himself on whatever he found, including the five $100 bills Klinkel had stashed. Klinkel managed to recover the scraps (in precisely the way you suspect he did), washed and dried them several times, and as of early April, was still awaiting word whether the U.S. Treasury would exchange his scraps for five new ones.

© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD       


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