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Italian physics student Lino Missio, 26, announced in May in Rome that he'd just patented a condom that will play Beethoven if it breaks during use. The condom is coated with a substance whose electrical conductivity changes when it's ruptured, setting off a microchip that produces the sound. Missio said that instead of music he might use a verbal warning to the parties involved to stop what they're doing immediately.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

At an April fashion show in New York City Cuban designer Manolo presented a collection with a metal motif inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge and made largely from scraps gathered there. One outfit featured a steel-wool jumper worn underneath a metallic vest and a spiked-metal "muff." Shoes featured metal suspension wires connecting heel and toe.

According to a Baltimore Sun feature in April, Japan's newest museum is a $34-million structure in Yokohama dedicated to ramen, the Japanese noodle. Every day the building draws 7,000 people, who wait up to two hours in line.

Farm Show magazine reported recently on an archaeological group that specializes in digging at old outhouse sites. The National Privy Diggers Association of Mechanicsville, Virginia, prefers urban outhouses to farm ones because city folk often threw their discards--buttons, wine bottles, glassware, false teeth, watches, dolls--into the pits.

The first official World Toe-Wrestling Championship was held in June in Derbyshire, England. Contestants place one foot on the floor, lock big toes, and try to force the top of the other person's foot down.

The Associated Press reported in April on a middle-aged man who anonymously runs the Apology Line telephone service in New York City. Callers can express regrets for anything or can listen to tape recordings of others' apologies and comment on them. A "greatest hits" tape is for sale to help finance the service.

In April, shortly after the Texas Tech University student newspaper featured freshman Kirk DeVore's 25 Mickey Mouse tattoos, Jim Jones, 41, of Spring Hill, Florida, showed a reporter his 340-pound body and its 117 Disney-oriented tattoos, the largest of which is Cinderella's castle. Jones estimates he's spent 72 hours under the needle.

Great Art

In November a Los Angeles Times critic reviewed a body of art by minimalist Richard Serra (of which Well Wrought, a large drawing consisting only of a black rectangle within a white square, was typical) and described the work as known for its "inflexible austerity, ungiving impenetrability and stubborn bombast." The work was also described as "sensuous, exquisite and delicate" and "extremely weighty, grave, authoritative" and "of fugitive beauty."

Sculptor Rachel Whiteread, 30, won the coveted Turner Prize as the best British artist of the year in November during a show at the Tate Gallery in London. While the show was still up she was also voted worst British artist by the K. Foundation, whose prize money--about $60,000 in pound notes nailed in clumps to a board--was twice the amount of the Turner Prize.

In June Beijing police raided a performance-art show that consisted of artist Ma Liuming, naked, cooking potatoes in a pot along with a watch and an earring, and then burying the potatoes. Liuming and ten audience members were detained by the authorities.

Conceptual artist Ronnie Nicolino continued to collect brassieres in a spring whistle-stop tour of western states, with the goal of stringing 10,000 bras across the Grand Canyon to symbolize "the chasm between human nature and America's obsession with breasts." He now has more than 2,000, but prospects of his getting permission to rig the Grand Canyon are still dim. And the Salvation Army in Dartington, England, recently formed a "bra bank" to help outfit women in developing nations. Said an organizer, "In Russia bras cost an absolute fortune, and in India and Pakistan the bra is a serious status symbol."

Latest Messages Received

Recent tragedies befalling people while worshiping: At least 250 Muslims were trampled to death while inching toward a cave for the symbolic stoning of the devil during the annual pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in May. Ten Tanzanian Seventh-Day Adventists drowned trying to walk on water as a test of faith near Dar es Salaam in October. More than 100 drowned near Calcutta in January as two boats returning from a Hindu pilgrimage collided. And three churches were destroyed and 19 worshipers killed during Palm Sunday services when tornadoes struck in Piedmont, Alabama.

In May in Capitol Heights, Maryland, two men robbed worshipers during a Wednesday-night service, making off with about $2,000. Five months earlier, in nearby Annandale, Virginia, a burglar attempting to break into the Holy Spirit Catholic Church fled when a priest fired several shots at him with a nine-millimeter handgun.

In October in West Palm Beach, Florida, a judge was forced to declare a mistrial for religious leader Clarence "Brother Bill" Williams, who'd been accused of having sex with a teenage girl. The girl testified that Williams is circumcised, but Mrs. Williams testified that he is not. Juror Peggy Kiltau attempted to resolve this conflict by quoting for jurors Genesis 17:10, which calls on all men to be circumcised, and which she thought indicated that Williams was guilty.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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