A January New York Times report from Selcuk, Turkey, described the massively popular sport of camel fighting, in which one-ton camels caught up in the throes of mating season push against each other until one falls over. Fame is visited upon the winning animal's owner. And in a March New York Times profile, well-to-do Istanbul builder Ethem Erkoc revealed that he has constructed 10 swimming pools for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who permits his favorite camels to frolic in them.
A cold reception
In April, Japan's ultra-serious Seibotu Raiders easily beat a more relaxed European team in the finals of the Kemijarvi international snowball championship in Finland. Afterward, several Japanese players urged Winter Olympics officials to recognize their sport. (As game play begins, the seven-player teams bring 270 snowballs onto a field that's slightly larger than a tennis court. Some protective barriers are employed; a direct hit eliminates a player, and the first team to seize the other's goal flag wins.)
Smoke gets in your ears
The Brown & Williamson Tobacco company recently added another quixotic 800-number telephone message, this time featuring a male chorus that serenades callers with the sentiment "Oooh, the tobacco plant is a lovely plant/ Its leaves so broad and green/ But you shouldn't think about the tobacco plant/ If you're still a teen." A 1999 message featured a sexy male voice that intoned, "Brown & Williamson Tobacco is in love. We're a giant corporation, and you make us feel like a little kitten. Thank you, lover."
The Hanoi (Vietnam) Institute of Social Sciences reported in February that many men, growing fearful as the end of the lunar new year approached, had apparently turned to sex with pregnant prostitutes as a way of releasing evil spirits.
Men are from sewers
In January, Quebec researcher Jim Pfaus told the Montreal Gazette that the rat is the "ultimate example" of the male mammal in that it is always on the lookout to copulate with new females and, when given alcohol, is notorious for re-attempting sex with lady rodents that have previously rejected it. And school-bus driver Alexandre Belvu, 31, was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., in January for taking three kids on a ride that lasted eight hours. Belvu couldn't find their school and apparently would not stop to ask directions.
King for a day
Henk Otte, 43, lives most of the year as an unemployed construction worker in an Amsterdam, Netherlands, housing project, but he is also the chief of about 40 villages (100,000 people) in a region of Ghana that lays about 45 miles from the capital of Accra. According to a January Associated Press dispatch, Otte was visiting with his Ghanan-born wife in 1995 when natives suddenly concluded he was their reincarnated king. At that time, Otte's reaction was that the villagers were "insane," but now says that being king "is my destiny."
Siegfried and Roy "relieved"
In March, police chasing an escaped circus tiger in a suburb of Warsaw, Poland, accidentally shot and killed the veterinarian who was trying to tranquilize it. And according to a February New York Times story, the textile company Francital has developed a fabric that's specially treated to absorb the perspiration and body odors of people who can't bathe for up to 30 days at a time; the company is headquartered in France.
He saw that one coming
Jose Chavarria, 37, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Adel, Iowa, in February. He had killed his friend Jorge Villalobos only minutes after lamenting to friends that a psychic had told him Villalobos was planning to kill him first.
Making a killing
Sang Lee, the owner of a custom slaughterhouse near Minneapolis-St. Paul that serves the Hmong-American community, spoke to a St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter in January about complaints the establishment has received over its heavy traffic): "We [Hmongs, natives of Laos and Thailand] have a complex culture, and we have to sacrifice animals a lot."
Fight like a man
In February, an 8-year-old boy, coming to his mother's aid, stabbed her abusive boyfriend to death in Coker Creek, Tenn. And in an Islamic public execution in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in February, a 10-year-old boy, now the eldest male in the family, took a rifle and did the honors to the man who had killed his father. And in Dover Township, N.J., in March, a 10-year-old boy argued with his father over some missing chocolate icing; when the father sarcastically suggested the kid just take a knife and kill him, he complied.
And a large pizza, please
In Biloxi, Miss., in January, Ronald Dean Cherry, 52, was arrested after he called the Treasure Bay Casino and threatened to start shooting its customers unless the company delivered $100,000 to his home within two hours. (Cherry helpfully provided the address.) And Ronald Keith Graham, 45, was arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, in February and charged with burglary for stealing a television set; rather than trying to sell it to one of Des Moines' other 200,000 residents, police said, Graham invited its former owners to his apartment and offered it to them for $150. He even suggested an easy payment plan.