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Agence France-Presse reported in May on the popularity of gimmick restaurants in Taiwan, as currently evidenced by the lavatory-themed Marton in the city of Kaohsiung. The name is a play on the Mandarin word matong, meaning "toilet," and the restaurant's decor employs toilets as chairs, urinals as light fixtures, and bathtubs topped with glass as tables. Food is served in toilet-shaped plates and bowls; the most popular dishes include curries and chocolate ice cream.

Finer Points of the Law

In June in Lufkin, Texas, 19-year-old Gerardo Flores was convicted of murder for the deaths of five-month-old twin fetuses carried by his girlfriend, 17-year-old Erica Basoria. Basoria testified that inducing a miscarriage was her idea--she'd repeatedly hit herself in the stomach--and that it had taken her two weeks to persuade Flores to help by stepping on her belly, but under state law a woman can't be charged with causing the death of her own fetus. Causing the death of someone else's fetus, however, is a capital crime in Texas; because prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty, Flores automatically received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

London's Independent reported in June on Colin Dowse of Shropshire, England, who's selling Sprayonmud--slightly watered-down mud in a pump bottle--for about $18 a quart. Dowse insisted that his real intended market was SUV owners hoping to make their vehicles look more outdoorsy, not drivers wishing to foil traffic cameras by obscuring their license plates. (The product's Web site pointedly and repeatedly warns that this is illegal.) And in March KMGH TV in Denver reported on Doggles brand prescription glasses for dogs, which starting at $75 may be an economical alternative in some cases to $2,000 canine lens-replacement surgery.

Leading Economic Indicators

In June Adriano Espaillat of Manhattan introduced a bill in the New York State Assembly to establish a minimum wage for comedians: comedy clubs in New York City would have to pay at least $125 per 20-minute set on weekends, $28 on weekdays. And according to an Associated Press article in May, North Carolina officials who were paying prisoners a maximum of $3 a day to sew T-shirts for use in correctional facilities discovered that suppliers in Bangladesh could provide them for 38 percent less.

According to a May article by Agence France-Presse a real estate agency had rented out London's smallest apartment--a 54-square-foot converted storage space in Notting Hill, consisting of a loft bed over a kitchenette, closet, and shower--for the equivalent of $1,065 a month. And in June authorities in the London neighborhood of Crouch End denied landlord Andrew Markey permission to convert the kitchen and hallway of a house he owns into a separate two-story town house eight feet wide. Markey said he would continue to pursue approval for the plan, and agents said such a house might go for the equivalent of $325,000.

Man's Best Friend

In May an inquest concluded that the death of a 57-year-old woman in a London suburb last year, initially investigated as a crime, had been a grisly accident: she was holding the ladder as her husband trimmed tree branches with a chain saw when their dog apparently bounded up behind her with a golf ball she'd thrown.

More Things to Worry About

Five Buddhist monks in Nong Khai, Thailand, were defrocked and fined in May after a street fight with monks from another temple nearby. A Reuters dispatch said the rival monks had for years been exchanging insults and rude gestures when they encountered one another while collecting alms. One ex-monk (who said he'd regularly carried brass knuckles on his route) was quoted in a Thai paper as saying, "When an ordinary person is given a middle-finger sign, he will be mad. So am I." Also in May a 1,500-pound camel living on a West Virginia farm knocked down a woman who was painting a fence and sat on her; no one was around to hear her cries for help, but she managed to call 911 on her cell phone. According to a tape obtained by WBOY TV, her first words to the dispatcher were: "Uh, yes. I'm at the Mayle farm in Shinnston and I'm under a camel."

The Continuing Crisis

In March a columnist for the Australian newspaper wrote about a women's beauty procedure she said was growing in popularity: sphincter bleaching. One beautician in Sydney described a client who wanted the skin around her rectum lightened after her boyfriend commented on how "clean and light" Playboy models looked. Another beautician, who uses a different lightening product, said she'd been providing the service to sex workers and strippers for years but agreed there'd recently been a sharp rise in mainstream demand: "I explain that it will give them eczema and so on, but they want it anyway."

Least Competent Criminals

Awiey "Chucky" Hernandez, 20, sought on robbery charges, was arrested in May at the 90th Precinct station house in Brooklyn: he'd gone in to check the status of a friend being held there and inadvertently stood directly in front of a wanted poster bearing his photo and that of the friend, 18-year-old Huquan "Guns" Gavin.

Thinning the Herd

In May a man (unidentified by police) fell to his death on Interstate 5 in Seattle; he and a friend had been competing to see who could hang from an overpass the longest. And in November a 22-year-old man from Aberystwyth, Wales, fell out a second-story window and fatally impaled himself on a spiked fence; according to friends' testimony at an April inquest, his last act had been to stagger to the window with his pants and underwear around his ankles and yell into the street, "Who wants some of this?" Authorities said alcohol was involved in both incidents.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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