“By 7:30,” according to an Associated Press reporter who witnessed an outing in August, the team had left behind a “gleaming public toilet, looking as good as the day it was installed.” Explained the hygiene-intense Satoshi Oda (during the week, a computer programmer), the mission is “for our own good” — work that leader Masayuki Magome compares to the training that Buddhist monks receive to find peace. (In fact, to fulfill the group’s motto, “Clean thyself by cleaning cubicles,” the scouring must be done with bare hands.) A squad supporter spoke of a sad, growing apprehension that the younger generation no longer shares the Japanese cultural conviction that rest rooms should always be clean and safe.
Colleagues were stunned in May when ABC News editor Don Ennis suddenly appeared at work wearing a little black dress and a red wig and declaring that he had begun hormone therapy and wanted to be called Dawn Ennis. As co-workers accommodated his wishes (which did not seem so unusual in contemporary professional society), Ennis began to have second thoughts, and by July had blamed his conversion on “transient global amnesia,” brought on by marital difficulties, and had returned to work as Don. Apparently the primary lingering effect is that he must still deal with Dawn’s hormone-induced breasts.
The entrepreneurial spirit
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a mirror that makes a person appear happy even when not. A built-in camera tracks facial features in real time, then tweaks the image to turn up the corners of the mouth and to create the beginnings of a smile in the eyes. Of what practical use would such a mirror be? Other Japanese researchers, according to a Slate.com report in August, believe that happy-face mirrors in retail stores would improve shoppers’ dispositions and lead to more sales.
— A home ownership boom in China has led to heavily attended housing fairs, in which builders compete zealously to sell their homes, leading to offbeat schemes to draw attention. Among the latest, according to China Daily, is one that dresses female models in bare-backed evening wear, with sample floor plans and other housing information painted onto their skin, and sends them wandering through the crowds.
Animals gone wild
SyFy Channel’s recent original movie Sharknado briefly became a media sensation in July with a storyline involving large schools of oversized sharks lifted from the ocean by waterspouts and deposited, alive (and angry!) on land to wreak havoc. But as the website Mother Nature News subsequently reported, animals actually have been lifted to land in that fashion in the past. Previous documented news reports of the phenomenon include airborne fish (mudfish in the Philippines, perch in Australia); frogs (in Odzaci, Serbia, in 2005); jellyfish (Bath, England, in 1894); worms (Jennings, La., in 2007); and, according to an 1887 New York Times story, eight alligators in Silverton Township, S.C.
— Two macaques escaped from the Straussberg Adventure Park in eastern Germany in July, apparently on the run from the jealous bullying of “Cornelius,” the resident alpha male. When park officials recaptured the two, they reported that (even though everyone seems to be against “bullying” these days) “Fred” and “Richard” would have to be castrated. It was not punishment, the officials explained; it was to calm them and reduce the overall “hormone imbalance” in the park, since males greatly outnumber females.