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News/Opinion
‹‹ V.14 No.52 | December 29 - January 4, 2006

Odds & Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary
Scott Rickson

Dateline: New Zealand—According to police reports, some 40 drunken Santa Claus clones rampaged through the streets of Central Auckland last Sunday, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards. The New Zealand Herald reported that the event was designed as a protest against the commercialism of Christmas. Police said some of the red-clad Santas threw beer bottles, one jolly old elf tried to climb the mooring of a cruise ship and a security guard was punched during the fracas. One of the bearded troublemakers allegedly attacked a Christmas tree. “They came in, said ’Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves,” convenience store staff member Changa Manakynda told the Herald. The event's organizer, Alex Dyer, said the event would end only when someone was arrested. The mass protest was linked to the online site www.santarchy.com, which records similar events going back 12 years. Police said attempts at identifying the criminals led to some confusion. “With a number of people dressed in the same outfit, it was difficult for any witnesses to confirm the identity of who was doing what,” Senior Sergeant Matt Rogers told Reuters News Service.

Dateline: Austria—A fertility clinic has turned to the army for a helping hand, so to speak, after running out of sperm donors. The private clinic in Thalheim, Upper Austria, made a public appeal for soldiers to come forward and offer their services to help keep the institute going. Ramona Schausberger, a medical assistant at the clinic, said, “There are many couples out there who cannot conceive without the help of donors, and the number of men making donations has steadily dwindled. That's why we appealed to the army for help.” She added that, since the call for soldier sperm went out, dozens of recruits had stepped forward to do their duty. “The response was sensational,” Schausberger said. “This is a major success for the clinic.”

Dateline: Japan—With the economy finally picking up, Japanese shoppers just might be in the mood to splurge this Christmas. At least that's what executives at Tokyo's Takashimaya Department store are hoping. Last Tuesday, the store unveiled a decadent, diamond-studded cake. The sparkling pink creation, priced at a mere $1.7 million, “has already received many inquiries” from prospective customers, store spokesperson Takeshi Morinaka told reporters. A total of 223 diamonds--including a 5-carat, heart-shaped stone--adorn the double-layer, marzipan-coated fruitcake, designed by Tokyo-based dessert chef Jeong Hong-yong. “It's entirely edible,” Morinaka said. “Except for the diamonds, of course.”

Dateline: Louisiana—One sure sign of the rebuilding effort in Louisiana: The toilets in Lafayette's Cajundome are ready for a serious flushing. About 70 volunteers were needed to participate in “The Great Cajundome Flushoff,” set for Dec. 27. The Cajundome and Convention Center served as a refugee center for hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Use by thousands of evacuees for weeks took a toll on the arena's plumbing system. “We don't know what ended up in the (sewer) system,” Cajundome director Greg Davis said. According to Operations Manager Phil Ashurst, workers have already found pieces of brick wrapped in a towel, a T-shirt and diapers in the pipes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request to inspect the sewer system with a camera, Davis said. So, to test the plumbing before holding an event in January, some 70 volunteers were asked to spend 15 to 20 minutes flushing toilet paper down 220 or so toilets and testing urinals. “We can't afford to have a problem at a sold-out concert,” Davis added.

Dateline: New York—Police in New Windor probably didn't appreciate the role phallic displays played in ancient Viking winter solstice celebrations when they took up snow shovels and beat a 6-foot snow penis into powder last week. The anatomical tower had been, well, erected by Jessica Sherer on her boyfriend's lawn. “We got some calls that people thought it was offensive,” New Windsor Police Chief Michael Biasotti told the Times Herald-Record. “We thought it was some kids who did it.” Officers reporting to the house on Monday found no one at home. Assuming the sculpture was a prank, they knocked it down. “We came back around 11 in the morning, and it was just a pile of snow,” said Windsor. According to Biasotti, no citations or criminal violations will be issued for the display. The town codes prohibit lewd signs on businesses, but don't mention anything about public snow sculptures. “We probably weren't 100-percent correct in going on the property and knocking it down,” New Windsor Town Supervisor George Meyers told the Herald-Record. “But our intentions were pure.” Of course, the police chief now worries that the controversy will inspire other sculptors. “Now we're going to get snow penises popping up all over town,” Biasotti lamented.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.