Four men were recently jailed for providing matchmaking services for ghosts. They supplied 10 female spirits for 10 lonely male spirits. The female ghosts have been returned to their original graveyards.
This story, published recently in the Xi'an Evening News of China, tugged at my heartstrings. The matchmakers were jailed, but surely the ghosts are the real losers?
Since this columnist has written regularly about ghost weddings, I wasn't surprised to get a call from a foreign correspondent from Europe for background on this tale. "Why do ghosts need matchmakers," she asked.
I explained that men who die single in Asia turn into lonely guy ghosts who refuse to leave this world, and instead hang around moping. This puts a serious downer on family parties. "Who's the transparent guy?" "That's Cousin Chen, deceased. He's a bit of a wallflower."
The only way to solve this is to find the ghost an attractive female spirit of the right age and class. Agents offer female ghosts, in the shape of corpses, at a retail price of $5,000, but if you go direct to the supplier, the wholesale price is $3,000.
"But in this case, several things went wrong," I explained. The four men, named Pang, Bai, He and Zhang, should have advertised for info about women who died single. Instead they saved time by simply visiting graveyards at night and digging up recently buried female corpses.
They then turned up at possibly haunted homes offering them for sale. "Good morning, ma'am, can I interest you in a fresh corpse?"
When I was a kid we lived next door to a graveyard for a while. My mother said she didn't mind their presence except for the fact that they "smelled like they were rotting", which I always felt was a bit like complaining that water is wet.
Canadian scientists expressed amazement last week after finding Arctic seals which can keep half their brains awake while the other half is in a deep sleep. I guess these researchers never met university students.
A man who committed suicide recently demanded a Gangnam Style funeral. Sok Udom, 24, of Prey Nob, Sihanoukville, Cambodia, left a note saying he wanted "Gangnam style instead of funeral music", the Cambodia Herald reported. I don't envy the presiding minister, who's going to have a tough time getting a suitably solemn mood.
But it got me thinking: What if he had been a Queen fan, and his favorite song was "Another One Bites The Dust"? With help from readers, here are the five other worst songs to play at funerals: 5) "Highway to Hell", 4) "Burn, Baby Burn", 3) "Staying Alive", 2) "Going Underground" and the worst song to play at a funeral, particularly if the deceased is female, 1) Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.
Two apprentice hangmen dropped out from their unique training course unexpectedly, I hear from a correspondent in Sri Lanka. Police are searching for them. Anyone fancy taking their place? Lessons include: "Calculating Length of Rope in Relation to Height of Victim", and "Use of Sandbags to Test Hanging Mechanism".
In Iraq in 2007, the gallows were set up wrong. Instead of being hung, Saddam's brother Barzan had his head pulled off. Witnesses described the execution as "inelegant", which I suppose is one way of putting it.
A man who started his own cobra farm annoyed his neighbours when the snakes escaped. I expect snake-farmer Cai Yong doesn't expect to win many Good Neighbour awards just now.
When journalist Tom Lasseter visited Xianling Village in Hunan, China, he was shown a government leaflet featuring some worrying math: "A total of 160 snakes escaped," it said. "Of these, 159 were caught and one was killed. A few may still be at large."
The sneak thief who was stealing money from Nozato Elementary School in Osaka City, Japan, has finally been caught, the Daily Yomiuri reported. It was the school's vice principal. A hidden camera revealed footage of 57-year-old Takashi Honda going through bags and jacket pockets.
Well, I suppose it's educational, in a way. "A is for appropriation. B is for burgle. C is for criminal. D is for Detention when you get caught."
A girl despot? North Korea watchers tell me they are not surprised by the silence surrounding the birth of a female baby to the hermit kingdom's leader. "This is an extremely macho society," said a gentleman who likes to be known only as The Listener. "If the only heir to the Kim throne is female, that's a shocker."
I know North Korean women. They are ultra-soft and feminine on the outside and as hard as diamond or Donald Trump's head on the inside. The standard North Korean threat - "Grovel before me or I WILL NUKE THE WORLD" - will disappear. In its place, expect subtler threats: "Do you think I'm cute? If not I WILL NUKE THE WORLD."
But worse news was on the horizon. Scientists found a biochemical trigger which makes female chicken embryos hatch as male chicks, I read in my copy of the Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. Boffins at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine said "the research could be expanded to mammals".
Asia's tragic over-supply of men could get much, much worse. My single female readers were delighted. "Woohoo, I'm going to the gym to get ready," said reader Lucy Pink. "Boy City," said another. People these days don't take anything seriously enough.
The Chinese health ministry announced a massive toughening of toilet cleanliness regulations. "Only one fly will be allowed in public toilets built within other facilities," said a draft hygiene standards law released for public consultation recently. Not sure how they plan to regulate this. Perhaps they'll have some sort of tiny turnstile, so that a fly can enter only when the previous fly has washed its hands and left.
The ministry has also helpfuly created a four-level index of smells: No Smell, Slight Smell, Definite Smell and Strong Smell. Special teams of smell inspectors will enforce a rule which says no public toilet is allowed to have more than a Slight Smell. Anyway, Public Toilet Sniffer is our new a candidate for Worst Job Ever, nudging out the previous holder of that title, Masseur for John Travolta.
Police officers in Bosnia-Herzegovina were baffled when their new shoes fell apart after one day. They turned out to be single-use footwear items designed to be worn by corpses at funerals.
In East Asia, they make flimsy shoes for this purpose, since decomposing corpses don't do a lot of moving around, unless of course they're members of the Rolling Stones.
Did you hear about that 104-year-old woman who complained that she can't put her correct age on Facebook because the website's birth choices start at 1910? Easy problem to solve. "We'll start re-writing the program, ma'am. Please check back in a couple of years."
Australian billionaire Clive Palmer revealed that he has commissioned Asian shipbuilders to make him an exact copy of the good ship Titanic. I can see this ending in tears. "Why are we sinking?" "We copied everything, sir, including the big hole in the side."
(15.03.2013 - Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)