News you may have missed...
September 1998

"Enfant terrible" tells it with underpants

BRUSSELS, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Jan Bucquoy's bizarre collection of framed celebrity underwear with smutty collages and photos leaves visitors unsure whether to smile or turn away in disgust. But Bucquoy, dubbed Belgium's "enfant terrible" of the art world, insists there is a deeper message intended.

An eccentric mix of artist, anarchist, overgrown schoolboy and some say dirty old man, Bucquoy giggles awkwardly as he shows off the eyebrow-raising exhibits at his newly reopened "Musee du Slip Belge" (Belgian Underpants Museum). "Everybody wears pants, whether they're rich or poor, famous or unknown. Underneath them we hide our equality -- all men are brothers without their pants on," he explains.

With walls graced by saggy white Y-fronts, black lacy G-strings and Mickey Mouse boxer shorts that smack more of old laundry than art, this is a far cry from your average museum. The only condition? Underwear, donated annually by singers, actors and television presenters, must be used but clean. Ivory satin knickers sported by Miss Belgium 1997 hang alongside the faded cotton pair worn by Bucquoy's present girlfriend the day she gave birth to their son. More controversially, Belgium's late King Baudouin, who died in 1993, and a number of American statesmen are depicted in Andy Warhol-style prints with Y-fronts on their heads.

"It is a bit adolescent," admits Bucquoy, a tubby Flemming with a scruffy beard, round glasses and an infectious smile. A former student of literature, philosophy, film-making and political science, the 52-year-old has been arrested numerous times, had much of his work confiscated and incurred the wrath -- or at best indifference -- of many in this largely conservative and catholic country. Six years ago he was thrown into a police cell for publicly beheading a plaster bust of King Baudouin in Brussels' 17th century Grand Place with an antique axe after the palace ignored his invitation to a real decapitation.

Bucquoy says his activities, which include helping fellow Belgian anarchist Noel Godin smear cream pies into the faces of the rich and famous, help put Belgium on the map. "Belgium is a no-man's land with a no-man's people. I try to give it an identity and a voice," he says. "Belgians are very conservative but we can laugh about ourselves, our death and our sexuality because our existence is not taken seriously."

Not all his countrymen see it that way. A series of collages depicting the much-respected King Bauduoin and other royal figures in pornographic images aroused fury in Belgium and led one television station to ban Bucquoy. His museum also displays paintings of comic-strip hero Tintin sodomising his dog which led to a civil legal suit in France and culminated in a nominal one franc fine. Bucquoy has no qualms about his work. His only regret is that much of it is in the hands of the Belgian authorities, locked away from public view. The Tintin picture tries to show the darker side of the boy detective, he says. "When you put (a respected character) with something sexual it becomes an entirely different thing," he adds, moving into a room full of enormous full-frontal nude photos of himself. And if his mother sees the funny side, why can't everyone? "It makes my mother laugh. She's a liberal woman, she never believed in God," he says. His father was also an anarchist.

Since its debut in 1991, some 5,000 people have visited the museum -- which once included a living exhibition of 13 women. Since it re-opened in his Brussels home two months ago, around 100 visitors have popped in for coffee, biscuits and a guided tour, more of them foreign expatriates than Belgians. "Some are shocked but others stay for coffee," Bucquoy says. Some come to flick through comics Bucquoy has co-written or illustrated or to see the framed ashes of a painting by Belgian surrealist Magritte which Bucquoy burned to make a statement.

A mountain of assorted pants, all worn just once by Bucquoy, doubles as a colourful centrepiece and a raw materials store. "I buy them, wear them, wash them, then put them there to do something with," he says flashing today's purple boxer shorts. His cast-offs are apparently in high demand -- one local computer firm bought 50 pairs to use as offbeat client gifts. Each year Bucquoy sends politely-worded letters to the 500 biggest names in Belgium requesting an "intimate garment".

Underpants aside, Bucquoy has won credibility in Belgium and acclaim internationally for his film work. The success of his first movie "The Sexual Life of the Belgians" paved the way for two sequels: "Camping Ground Cosmos" featuring Eva Ferrari -- a French porn star claiming to have the largest breasts in the world, and "Please Me Please", a film about the closure of the Renault car plant at Vilvoorde, due out in October. Bucquoy plans to move to London or the United States in 2000 to start films based on the sex lives of Britons and Americans. Whether the art world will ever take him as seriously, however, is questionable. "My work is not really something people could ever hang in their living rooms," he says. "But years from now one of these framed underpants will be worth millions of Belgian francs."

China trains chicken army to attack locusts

BEIJING, Aug 25 (Reuters) - China has trained an army of 10,000 chickens to wage war on locusts in northwestern Xinjiang, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday. The chickens, backed by tens of thousands of starlings, were called in after attacks by humans and aircraft failed to eradicate swarms of the hungry insects that had infested grasslands, housing complexes and offices, the agency said. "The chickens undergo a special 60-day training programme shortly after birth," the report said, but gave no details of the young birds' training regimen. Numerous nests were placed in the area to attract the starlings. Xinjiang's worst locust infestation in a decade has affected 174,500 hectares (431,000 acres) of grassland, about a fourth of grass-covered plains in the remote Moslem region, Xinhua said.

Spanish town sees red in massive tomato fight

BUNOL, Spain, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Take 100 tonnes of ripe tomatoes, dump them in a town square in front of tens of thousands of eager throwers and you get one of the world's most spectacularly lurid festivals -- and a very red town. The normally sleepy village of Bunol in eastern Spain came alive on Wednesday when some 30,000 people took to the streets to pelt each other with tomatoes in the annual "tomatina" festival. There was a distinct smell of salad in the air as the revellers, many of whom had partied throughout the night, waded through the ankle-deep red pulp to gather more ammunition to keep the fight alive. Tonnes of tomatoes of all sizes flew through the air in less than an hour, making the streets a slippery red sea and giving walls and buildings a crimson hue.

"The tomatina is meant to come and enjoy -- it's the best there is," said Javier Lozano, a local who came equipped with goggles to protect his eyes from the sting of the tomato juice. Flying tomatoes can be painful, as many quickly discovered, especially when they are thrown by newcomers. Townspeople know the trick of piercing the skin or squishing the tomato before throwing it to lessen the impact, but many of the thousands of tourists learned the trick the hard way. "They hurt when they first hit you," said Monica Kramer, who was visiting from Canada. "But it was part of the fun and the excitement."

The tomatina was said to have begun in 1945 during the village fiestas when someone threw a tomato at a drummer and a fife player who were taking a break during the party. It then erupted spontaneously into a tomato fight. It later became an annual fiesta with townspeople bringing their own tomatoes to throw. As the festival grew it was organised by the town which began to supply the tomatoes.

The organisation was apparent in the cleanup -- an hour after the first tomato was hurled, a rocket was fired to signal the end of the party. Residents then emerged with large wooden rakes and powerful water hoses to clear the streets and walls before the pulp dried in the hot summer sun. Many tomato-drenched people begged to be rinsed off as well. "We're not going to eat tomatoes for a while," Kramer said.

HK woman had sex with gigolo to lift bad luck

HONG KONG, Sept 1 (Reuters) - A woman was conned into having sex with a gigolo three times, believing it would lift the curse plaguing her ex-boyfriend and could reunite them, Hong Kong newspapers said on Tuesday. The 46-year-old woman told the court a man claiming to be her ex-lover had told her over the telephone to sleep with a male prostitute so that his bad luck could be shifted to someone else, local newspapers said.

She said she paid HK$3,700 (US$474) for the sex services and asked the gigolo, 31, to pass on another HK$9,000 (US$1,153) to her former boyfriend, newspapers said. The tale unfolded as To Kwok-hung, who is accused of posing as the woman's ex-lover and also as the gigolo, went on trial on five counts of procuring an unlawful sexual act with false representations and three counts of obtaining property by deception, the papers said. The trial continues.

Yes, size DOES matter...

WINNIPEG, Manitoba - A 230-pound woman who was denied a chance to strip at a Winnipeg area nightclub said she planned to take the establishment "to the cleaners" if it does not apologize. Sherry VanRooy, aka Scarlet, told Reuters she was humiliated when the disc jockey at the club, at the Balmoral Motor Hotel, refused to allow her on stage on amateur night. "He said I'm overweight, I'm fat, and an embarrassment and disgrace to the hotel."

The nightclub said too many women wished to participate in the event and it was forced to turn VanRooy, 29, and her husband away. The aspiring exotic dancer, however, said it was clear that management thought large women were not entertaining strippers. The hotel dismissed the claims, hinting that sour grapes might be to blame. "Some make it, some don't. She just can't cut it as a dancer," sniffed Jim Major, the club's manager.

Disney ends Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept 2 (Reuters) - Walt Disney World has been targeted by Southern Baptists, animal-rights activists and anti-homosexual groups, but the biggest protests by far have come from fans of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which Disney officials said on Wednesday would soon join the ash heap of history. One of the Walt Disney Co's worst-kept secrets has been its plan to scrap the 27-year-old Fantasyland ride in favor of one featuring Winnie the Pooh.

Disney officials, who were not available for comment, issued a statement confirming Mr. Toad would be closed next Monday. "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh will debut at Fantasyland in summer, 1999, replacing Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," the statement said. "It's just horrible," said Jef Moscot, a 26-year-old computer systems administrator from Miami who has led the fight to preserve the ride. "Disney is ruining the park by closing a classic ride in favor of the next big thing." Many of the ride's fans, who have picketed the park weekly since the rumor of Mr. Toad's demise swept their ranks last April, consider the ride a treasured memory of childhood that they enjoyed revisiting as adults.

"My parents took me on the ride when I was four and I can still remember it," said Wayne Story, of Melbourne, Fla. "Everything else in the Magic Kingdom was all happy, smiley, happy. Mr. Toad was a little more subversive. I still love it." Riders on the low-tech adventure follow the bowler-hatted amphibian from the Kenneth Grahame children's novel "The Wind in the Willows" on a stolen motorcoach as it crashes into a train. Next stop is Hell, inhabited by red devils and a pitchfork-bearing Satan. "I guess Satan has become too politically charged to include on a children's ride," said Laurie Stacy, 31, who was among the hundreds of self-described "Toadies" who have revisited in recent days. On the new Winnie the Pooh ride, which will open next year, riders climb aboard honey pots and meander through a blustery day in the Hundred-Acre-Wood.

This was not the first time Disney has closed a ride, but park officials acknowledged no other closing has provoked as much clamor. The "Take Flight" feature at Tomorrowland, which is closing to make room for a Buzz Lightyear ride, has not raised a ripple of protest. But the hundreds of picketers, the thousands of letters and e-mails that poured into Disney officials from chairman Michael Eisner on down, the web sites and the T-shirts saying "Ask me why Mickey is killing Mr. Toad" could not save the ride. "Some of the employees see the T-shirt and say, "Hey, you're a Toady. Me, too. We know a lot of people love Mr. Toad, but what are you going to do?" said Tim Meyer of Winter Park, Florida. Winnie the Pooh, the creation of writer A.A. Milne, is the most heavily marketed character in the world, according to Disney officials.

I've been on the ride. It's AWFUL -- but in some ways, it's so dreadful that I can see its appeal. Though the major point in its favour is that there never seems to be a queue for it...

An early contender for Most Viable Insanity Plea of 1998

PETALUMA, Calif. - A California mother, said to be an evangelical Christian, appeared in court charged with trying to starve her two young daughters to death after receiving telephone "directions" from the Holy Spirit. Kris Ellen Teixeira, 37, entered a not guilty plea on charges of child abuse for allegedly failing to feed her two daughters, 9-year-old Cecelia and 7-year-old Sylveena, for almost a month. A Sonoma County Municipal Court judge ordered her to undergo a mental health evaluation before a bail hearing Friday and she was taken to jail, where she is being held on $50,000 bail.

Teixeira told investigators she moved the girls into an upstairs bedroom some three weeks ago and cut off all food for the family after receiving "direction" from a ringing telephone that the Holy Spirit was preparing to take them to Heaven. "Teixeira was somewhat disjointed in her statements, as she also stated she did not actually answer the phone, only took direction from the way it was ringing," Petaluma police Sgt. DJ Phimister said in a statement.

Potato chips seasoned with cocaine in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Sept 3 (Reuters) - School children in north-central Mexico were receiving cocaine instead of salt with their potato chips until authorities put a halt to it, Mexican television reported on Thursday. In the provincial capital San Luis Potosi, home-made potato chips sold outside a downtown school came with small packets of white powder wrapped in plastic. It appeared to be salt, but after a few complaints Health Ministry officials analyzed the substance and found it to be cocaine, the Televisa network reported in its nightly newscast. So far no arrests have been made, but local education officials have taken to searching the backpacks of students as they enter school grounds, Televisa said.

Deep inside Bill Clinton...

MOSCOW - A traditional Russian-style matrioshka nesting doll set bearing the image of U.S. President Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky inside is a sellout item on Moscow's Arbat pedestrian mall. "They sell well, we just have this display one left," a street vendor said when Clinton was in town to meet Russian President Boris Yeltsin. "Mostly foreigners like these." Clinton has admitted to an "inappropriate" relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern who is now 25. The matrioshka doll features Clinton in black tie, a smaller Lewinsky inside, then several other women not his wife, including cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers, with whom he told investigators he had an affair in the past. "Oh, how awful," said one American tourist who stopped to marvel at the dolls. The vendor also offered mugs with Clinton and the women. Russian artists are quick to pick up on trends abroad to update the traditional matrioshka dolls, keen to lure tourists seeking souvenirs. Past dolls have featured former American footballer O.J. Simpson when he was on trial for murder, the Beatles, sports stars and others.

Vlad the impaler?

MOSCOW - On the eve of a long awaited Russia-U.S. summit, nationalist deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky told Russia's State Duma lower house that U.S. President Bill Clinton should stay at home and marry Monica Lewinsky. While his fellow-deputies' minds were on Russia's economic and political crisis, Zhirinovsky advised the American president to leave his wife for Lewinsky, a former White House intern with whom he has admitted to having had "inappropriate" relations.

"A visit by President Clinton today is untimely, especially considering his recent moral scandal," Zhirinovsky said in a speech during hearings on confirmation of Acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in the Duma. "We, as individuals with high moral character, would prefer not to meet a person who still can't sort out his relationship with his secretary," he added.

Zhirinovsky has displayed his own moral character by among other things beating a female deputy on the floor of parliament, using his face to sell "Zhirinovskaya Vodka" and making a film in which he covorts with naked women. "In the traditions of Russian society, in such situations one divorces the old wife and marries the secretary, to close the shameful page." he said.

German pogo anarchists ease vote fatigue

DUESSELDORF, Germany, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A group of tattooed punks stands outside a shabby-looking hall swigging beers and chanting "Never work again". A loud cheer goes up as fresh alcohol supplies arrive and the chant changes to "Boozing, boozing, every day just boozing". It may sound more like a rowdy youth protest party than support for a political party, but the distinction becomes somewhat blurred with Germany's Anarchistic Pogo Party (APPD).

For Germans suffering from election fatigue a week before the national polls, the APPD could be just the breath of fresh air they need in a worthy, but not always inspiring, campaign. The APPD advertises itself as a party for non-voters and its brand of brutal honesty and cynicism towards mainstream politics is laced with a sense of humour that could appeal to those disillusioned by everyday politicking. "We are struggling for the total and ultimate dumbing down of mankind," APPD founder Karl Nagel told Reuters in an interview.

The APPD kicked off the so-called "hot phase" of its campaign for the September 27 vote in the western German city of Duesseldorf under the slogan "Brainwashing '98 -- vote APPD". The party's prediction that the event would "dissolve into lustful and excessive orgies" did not come to pass. But judging by both this event and footage of previous ones it is common for leading members of the party to strip naked while giving speeches and even mime sexual antics on stage.

As for policies, unemployment is a key theme for the APPD just as it is for all Germany's mainstream parties -- but with the campaign slogan "Work is shit" it is not job creation schemes that concern their supporters. "We pogo anarchists are realists. We know that most of the five million unemployed will never find work again. Therefore we demand no work and call for money and power instead," the APPD says in camapign leaflets.

The APPD, whose origins are rooted in the punk movement, was originally founded in Hanover in 1981 by Nagel, 37, and now has its headquarters in the northern German city of Hamburg. But despite almost two decades in existence this year marks the party's federal election debut. Nagel, who is also the APPD's chancellor candidate, said the party had around 730 members before the start of their campaign and that this number was rising. The APPD, not to be confused with the APD or German Party of Car Drivers which is also standing, says it is putting up some 130 candidates in nine of Germany's 16 states.

Expectations of how many votes they could capture are low-key even among APPD members, who say they know their supporters too well to predict more. "One of the reasons we don't expect to get a very good turnout is that all our supporters will be at pre-election piss-ups the night before polling day, so we expect many of them to be too hungover to actually vote," said one high-level party member at the Duesseldorf rally.

But there is some motivation to vote -- the APPD has promised that if it manages to win 0.5 percent in the poll and so reclaim its election costs this money will then be returned to its voters in the form of a gigantic free beer festival. "We want to give our voters a chance to get something back for their efforts, but also to show them what the end result of an election is -- a mountain of junk and rubbish," Nagel said.

Other central pledges include: the abolition of traditional schooling, the right to be unemployed on a full salary, pensions for young people rather than old, dissolution of the police force, legalising drugs and closing down prisons. They also advocate an end to traditional Bundestag parliamentary debate and the introduction of Bundestag talkshows where politicians would be encouraged to reveal juicy titbits about their sex lives.

But it is not all sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. They may be anarchists by name but some serious organisation has gone into their election campaign. As well as bringing its own brand of politics and rally style to some 40 cities across Germany in the run-up to the election, the APPD has a 50-page manifesto detailing their carefully thought-out campaign pledges. The party has its own website and telephone information line and is also putting out party political broadcasts on national radio and television. It boasts its own range of election merchandise which seems to accompany any modern, self-respecting political party, including posters, T-shirts, badges, CDs and videos. Nagel said it was mostly through sales of this merchandise and party membership fees that the APPD funded itself.

The APPD is not the only fringe party. A total of 43 parties are fighting this year from both sides of the political spectrum, and some are off the scale altogether. They provide a welcome change from heavy-duty campaigning by the main political players, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). Among them is the Natural Law Party, which says it could cut 600 billion marks ($360 billion) a year off the federal budget through policies based on yogic flying and transcendental meditation.

Also putting up candidates are "The Women", a feminist party in which men are banned; the Animal Protection Party and the Pro-DM party, devoted to saving the deutschemark from extinction and fighting the single European currency. The APPD is one of the most colourful and its attraction lies partly in the fact that even party candidates do not take themselves or other politicians very seriously. "The APPD is a completely normal party," Nagel told the crowds crammed into the dingy hall in Duesseldorf. "Just like the CDU and the SPD are completely normal parties."

Words of "God" reach Florida by billboards, buses

MIAMI, Sept 10 (Reuters) - God is talking to residents of south Florida, and doing so in a typically mysterious way. This week, roadside advertisements for the lottery and local television stations along the region's giant Interstate 95 were joined by this white-on-black billboard question: "What Part of 'Thou Shalt Not...' didn't you understand? - God." Drivers on a jammed commuter road faced this warning, in the same unadorned lettering: "Keep using my name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer," also signed simply "God." And a city bus traveling under the blazing sun of a subtropical September read, "Think it's hot here?" with the same signoff.

There are a total of nine similar billboard messages along the area's roadways, as well as 100 others affixed to the sides of local buses and 200 more on the inside of others. None are attributed to anyone but God. That anonymity came at the orders of the person who paid for the advertising campaign, which began on Sept. 1 and will last through November, said Andy Smith, president of the Fort Lauderdale advertising agency responsible for the campaign. "There is no call to action. There is no name on the billboard except God and these people are just doing this because of the problems we have in this world," he told Reuters. "They just want people to think about how there are alternatives to many things that people do ... You look at the problems this country has from the White House on down," he said.

Smith insisted the anonymous buyer was not inspired by the President Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. He would not say how much the campaign cost, but an estimate based on the cost of the bus advertisements and the billboards for three months would easily exceed $200,000. "They are local people that just have a desire to get people to get thinking about God and what he can do for them," he said. The campaign's joking tone has been condemned by some religious leaders as possibly blasphemous. But others who have read them have responded positively, as has the public.

Man charged in Sweden after sex with cows

STOCKHOLM, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A 50-year-old man from western Sweden has been charged with cruelty to animals after having sex with two cows, Swedish news agency TT said on Friday. The man from Alingsas near Gothenburg, who has admitted the crimes, became excited after watching a pornographic film and set off for a nearby farm armed with a vibrator and other sex aids, as well as a camera, to abuse the cows. A few weeks later he returned for a second visit, TT said, quoting the local Alingsas Tidningen newspaper. But when he tried to get his films of the cows developed, the local photo company alerted the police, who arrested the man and seized his sex aids. The county vet has examined the photographs of the cows and determined the animals suffered both physical and psychological damage, TT said.
...and you though Bill Clinton had it bad. But this does raise some unanswered questions? Perhaps most importantly, what does "psychological damage" mean to a cow? And how does it compare to the prospect of being turned into quarter-pounders?

Sorry Sony, say Italian software pirates

NAPLES, Italy, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Bargain-hunters scanning stalls in the southern Italian city of Naples for cheap pirate CDs and cassettes had a surprise on Tuesday. A ripped-off version of the software for Sony's <6758.T> bestselling Playstation video game came with an apology. "Sorry Sony but we're out of work," said an inscription on one side of the disc alongside a logo matching the real thing. Naples is Italy's capital of counterfeiting -- tapes at a fraction of their proper price are hawked to drivers at traffic lights -- but the Sony stunt appeared to be the first time the fraudsters had shown a moral side to their merchandising.

Western Canadian fire could be 140 years old

DELBURNE, Alberta, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Farmers near this western Canadian town were left scratching their heads this summer after watching trees and fields burst spontaneously into flames. Now, local fire officials believe the bizarre blazes could actually be part of a fire that has smoldered beneath the prairie's surface for at least 140 years -- before Canada became a nation.

The mystery began in early August, when Darcy Bell, a farmer near Delburne, Alberta, 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Calgary, watched from his backyard patio as a small fire erupted across the Red Deer River during a light rain, then went out. Bell said he first thought little of it, believing it may have been caused by an oil industry crew working in the area. But a few weeks later, he and his wife Valerie saw another blaze roar up the riverbank, seemingly out of nowhere, and into a farmer's field, where it began to burn out of control with flames leaping up to nine metres (30 feet) into the sky. "We didn't know why it happened but it got serious really quick," he said.

Officials now blame the strange fires on a coal seam that runs throughout the region near the river. With little air reaching the coal, it may have smoldered for decades, they said. "It's very possible that this fire has been working in the ground for all these years and just pops out now and then and causes a problem," said Delburne fire chief David Grant.

Grant pointed out that 19th century explorer Capt. John Palliser, who led an expedition to determine if Britain's holdings in the region were suitable for settlement, wrote of the fire phenomenon on the bank of the Red Deer River in 1858, nine years before Canada's Confederation. "We remain at this encampment today to visit the coal beds that were reported to have been on fire," Palliser wrote in his accounts. "It was found to be as the Indians had asserted, and far along the banks of the Red Deer River where the coal appeared, the spontaneous fire was in activity. The Indians say that as long as they can remember this has been the case."

Even today, the ground around where the most recent fires erupted is hot to the touch. So hot, in fact, that water poured on to it quickly emits steam and snow melts quickly in the winter. "It doesn't look like it's burning at all, but if you walk up there, your feet get hot and if you touch the ground you actually burn your hand," Grant said. He said fire officials were concerned that the burning coal could cause sinkholes in the ground, posing the danger that someone walking by could fall in and get burned.

Ouch!

Shaun Gilbert explains his nightmare accident at Mt.Hotham last season: "I had just started to get a bit of speed up when I took a spill. After coming to a stop, I realised me pants were wedged right up my ass and it was hurting like fuck. To my shock, I looked back up the hill and noticed a branch sticking out of the snow. I landed on the branch so hard that it pulled my ass cheeks so wide apart that it had split my ass, including a piece of me ring."

But the fun didn't end there; after seven days in hospital, the doctor wouldn't let Shaun out until he proved his asshole was in perfect working order. "So with all the courage I could muster, I squeezed one out, and it hurt that much I was on pain-killers for two days. After seeing the photos [NOT for the faint of heart!] and the position I was in, I prayed the surgeon wasn't a poof."

A comment on last week's report about the man arrested for having sex with a cow. Sven Taveby, a Swede himself, says: "One question that arises is the content of the video: 'It made me so horny I had to drive through the night to a farm right in the middle of nowhere and do strange things...'". In the light of last week's motorway accident involving 22 tonnes of CJD-infected blood, he is also right when he adds that, "Strange Swedes do strange things to cows, but strange Englishmen do strange things with cows' blood... :-}" And speaking of blood...

Could rabies explain the vampire legend?

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Could rabies be behind the legend of the vampire? A Spanish neurologist, proposing a novel genesis for one of the most feared ghouls in Western culture, says the tale of the blood-sucking predator may have originated with a major rabies epidemic in Europe in the 1700s. "Sometimes things that are apparently bizarre and senseless can have a logical explanation," said Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso of Xeral Hospital in Vigo, Spain. His rabid vampire thesis appears in the issue of the journal Neurology released on Monday.

Gomez-Alonso said he had always assumed vampires were fictional creatures from Europe's superstitious past. "Then one day I saw a classic Dracula film," he said. "I watched the film more as a doctor than as a spectator, and I became so impressed by some obvious similarities between vampires and what happens in rabies, such as aggressiveness and hypersexuality."

Gomez-Alonso said he began his research by looking into statistics on rabies symptoms, and found that 25 percent of rabid men "have a tendency to bite others." He then went to the history books and found that early tales of vampirism frequently coincided with reports of rabies outbreaks in and around the Balkans, stretching back to a particularly devastating epidemic of rabies in dogs, wolves and other animals in Hungary from 1721-28.

Ticking down the characteristics most frequently associated with vampires, Gomez-Alonso said he believed he could explain almost all of them as symptoms of rabies. The vampire's famous aversion to garlic and to mirrors could be ascribed to hypersensitivity, which comes with rabies infection, according to his theory. "Men with rabies ... react to stimuli such as water, light, odors or mirrors with spasms of the facial and vocal muscles that can cause hoarse sounds, bared teeth and frothing at the mouth of bloody fluid," he said. In the past, he contended, "a man was not considered rabid if he was able to stand the sight of his own image in a mirror."

The vampire's voracious sexual appetite and nocturnal habits -- depicted in movies and on television as the suave Count Dracula appearing on a moonlit balcony -- could be attributed to the effect of rabies on the parts of the brain that help regulate sleep cycles and sexual behavior. "Hypersexuality may be a striking manifestation of rabies," Gomez-Alonso wrote in his article, adding that "the literature reports cases of rabid patients who practiced intercourse up to 30 times in a day."

The common association of vampires with animals such as wolves and bats could be explained by the fact that those creatures are susceptible to, and often the source of rabies infection, and can exhibit the same snarling, bloody-mouthed visage as an infected human. "It would be imaginable that men and beasts with identical ferocious and bizarre behavior might have been seen as similar malign beings," Gomez-Alonso said.

He said even the vampire's fatal kiss, the bite itself, could be traced to rabies. "Man has a tendency to bite, both in fighting and in sexual activities," Gomez-Alonso says. "The intensification of such tendency by rabies increases the risk of transmission, as the virus is in saliva and other body secretions."

Leaded or bedded?

SHANGHAI - Enterprising petrol stations in western China have taken service to new heights by offering sex with a tank of fuel. Some of the more than 1,000 filling stations in the region of Ningxia have been luring motorists with the services of a prostitute along with petrol and diesel, an industry publication said. "Sometimes there is no clear dividing line whether the customers come for gas or sex, but the sex service is based on the condition that you have to buy petrol first," said China OGP, which is published by the official Xinhua news agency. "The term no money, no honey has changed into no petrol, no honey," it said.

Thais take "hands-on" approach to film censorship

BANGKOK, Sept 22 Reuters) - Thai censors have ordered the Bangkok film festival to blur scenes in an avant garde film by getting staff to put their hands in front of the projector. Organisers said censors had accepted an appeal against a ban on the screening of a comedy from New Zealand, "Topless Women Talk About Their Lives", but were dismayed to learn that several scenes in the movie had to be blocked from public view. "The Board of Censorship ruled (it) can screen this week at the festival on condition that projectionists put their hands in front of the projector during certain scenes," the festival organisers said in a statement.

Thailand has one of the world's biggest commercial sex industries with an estimated 300,000 prostitutes working in bars and brothels throughout the capital and in provincial towns. But it has a strict attitude to pornography and bans risque magazines and films. The festival organisers said the censors had ordered two films -- "Bugis Street" and "My Teacher Eats Biscuits" -- to be cut heavily or not screened. "Those who came to see Bugis Street on the festival's opening night were shocked to discover that the film -- which screened in conservative Singapore -- was banned in Bangkok," they said.

Thailand's English-language Bangkok Post agreed. In an editorial headlined "Keystone Kops at the Movies", the daily noted the irony of such censorship in a city famed for the sex trade. "It is odd indeed that the police told a projectionist at the festival to use a hand to blur parts of 'Topless Women Talk About Their Lives' when the city's red-light areas are bursting with topless women talking about all sorts of things under the very noses of the police," it said.

Carrot controversy hits Brazilian soccer

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - A carrot controversy hit Brazilian soccer on Tuesday after Atletico Mineiro striker Edmilson ate one of the vegetables in a goal celebration at the weekend. His gesture was seen as provocative by supporters and players of rival team America-Belo Horizonte, nicknamed the rabbits, and criticised by former World Cup referee Jose Roberto Wright. One America player was sent off for a vicious tackle on Edmilson in the second half in an apparent reprisal.

Edmilson pulled the carrot from his shorts, ran to the crowd and began eating it after scoring the opening goal in Atletico's 2-0 win in a Brazilian championship derby on Sunday. Both teams come from Belo Horzionte, Brazil's third largest city, where the carrot celebration became a major talking point amongst the public.

"I didn't want to offend anyone with the joke. It was just to liven up the derby," Edmilson told the sports daily Lance, adding that he kept the carrot in his shorts from the start of the game until scoring in the 20th minute. "Did I find it revolting to eat it? Of course not. I don't find my own body revolting." He admitted, however, the America midfielder Dinho, the player shown the red card, was not amused. "Dinho was upset. He said it was a humiliation. He was very violent with me and was so angry that he spat in my face. He didn't see the funny side."

Wright, a referee in the 1990 World Cup, was another critic. "What he did...with the intention of provoking the rival fans, merited a yellow card," Wright said. "But what most amazes me was the taste the carrot must have had. All sweaty and kept in his shorts. The Atletico player clearly has a lot of courage and desire to make the fans happy."

Brazilian players have always been among the trend-setters in eccentric goal celebrations. A wave of choreographed moves to mark a goal hit the Brazilian game several years ago while the telephone celebration, in which the goalscorer runs to the public phone behind the goal at the Maracana stadium and pretends to make a call, has also become popular. Two years ago, a Corinthians players caused a storm by impersonating a floundering fish after a goal against Santos -- nicknamed "The Fish."


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