Alibi V.28 No.33 • Aug 15-21, 2019 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: Turkmenistan

Last week, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov released video footage of himself stunt driving in a rally car near the mouth of a burning crater to prove that rumors of his death were unfounded. According to CNN, Berdymukhamedov disappeared from the public eye for several weeks in July, prompting rumors concerning his health to circulate. A Russian radio station reportedly spoke to a little-known analyst who claimed businessmen in Turkmenistan “who have acquaintances in the security services” told him the president was dead. Berdymukhamedov's death was widely reported in Russian media, despite denials from the Turkmenistan government. The president's lack of media presence made some skeptical, however, as he often appears in state media broadcasts. Last Sunday, a 25-minute state-sponsored film was released that featured a montage of footage showing Berdymukhamedov riding horses, shooting guns, exercising, composing music in a recording studio, bowling and driving in circles near the edge of the Darvaza Crater. The crater is a natural gas cavern that was set alight by Soviet geologists in 1971 to avoid the spread of methane. The crater, commonly known as the “Gateway to Hell,” has not stopped burning since then. According to Newsweek, the Turkmenistan government released a statement claiming the president was on vacation and “continues active art activity, it is well-known that [the] Turkmen leader invariably tries to pay some time to do sport exercises, music, writing and scientific work despite his tight working schedule filled with important government affairs and events, visits and high-level meetings.” Critics have pointed out that the footage is heavily edited and it's not known when the scenes were filmed. Turkmenistan is noted for its human rights violations. Human Rights Watch has accused Berdymukhamedov of being a dictator. The nation is considered the second most isolated country in the world, superceded only by North Korea.

Dateline: Japan

A permanent museum dedicated to the poop emoji has opened in Tokyo, Japan. According to TimeOut, a temporary pop-up Unko Museum (“unko” is Japanese for “poop”) was so successful that a permanent site has opened. The museum is a cute and colorful celebration of the famous poop emoji, boasting neon rainbow exhibits and installation art that expresses the concept of Max Unko Kawaii (“the maximum cuteness of poop”). The first exhibition opened in March in Yokohama. It was only meant to be a temporary installation and was set to close in September, but the response from visitors prompted organizers to open a permanent site in Tokyo’s amusement district, Odaiba. The new site is even larger than the pop-up was and includes new poop-related attractions. Visitors can expect to see exhibits like a poop-shaped volcano that expels smaller foam poops, lessons on restroom terminology from around the world and an entire room dedicated to Umberto, the museum's mascot—a man made of fecal matter who always carries a toilet. An arcade known as the “Kusogame Center” (“kuso” is a derogatory Japanese term for poop) gives players access to seven kuso-themed video games. Tourists can still visit the original exhibit in Yokohama until Sep. 30, but the new museum will be a permanent fixture at the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza shopping mall.

Dateline: Brazil

A Brazilian gang leader attempted to escape prison by using an elaborate disguise and posing as his daughter. The New York Times reports that Clauvino da Silva—also known as Baixinho (“Shorty”)—attempted a jailbreak earlier this month during a visit from his 19-year-old daughter. The Penitentiary Administration Secretariat of Rio de Janeiro released footage of the man wearing jeans, a pink T-shirt, a hoodie, glasses and a silicone mask. In the footage, the prisoner removes each piece of the disguise before being asked to identify himself. The video of the incident went viral in Brazil and internationally. Authorities are still unsure whether his daughter, who exchanged places with him during the incident, was involved in planning the escape attempt. Police are investigating da Silva's visitors to find out where the prisoner got his disguise. Da Silva, a member of Brazilian drug gang Red Command, was serving a 73-year sentence for drug trafficking. It was reportedly not his first escape attempt. According to The Guardian, da Silva was found dead in his cell days later. Prison officials say he committed suicide.

Dateline: New Jersey

The owners of the infamous “Watcher” home have finally sold the property at a loss. Bloomberg reports that Derek and Maria Broaddus bought the $1.4 million Westfield, N.J., home in 2014 but never moved in after they began receiving threatening letters signed by a stalker calling themselves “The Watcher.” The letters claimed that the writer had been the spiritual guardian of the house for 20 years. “Why are you here? I will find out,” one letter read. “Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in.” The writer complained about renovations being done to the house and claimed to have left an object in one of the walls. The incidents gained national attention in 2015 when the Broaddus family sued the home's previous owners for not disclosing the existence of the stalker. The case was dismissed. The family tried to sell the home on a number of occasions since the purchase but were unsuccessful until recently. They reportedly sold the house on July 1 for $959,360.

Compiled by Joshua Lee. Email your weird news to josh@alibi.com.