If you can hum it, I'll play it: Miscellaneous news review of the year

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The Independent Culture
OUR review picks some of the more remarkable stories of 1993 which you may have overlooked.


GERMANY: The Frankfurt District Court rules that too much Swiss music may be a legitimate reason for holidaymakers to demand their money back. A German couple on a Caribbean cruise discovered that 500 of their 600 fellow passengers were members of the Swiss Union of Friends of Folk Music. The expected reggae beat was drowned by entertainment provided impromptu by, among others, a brass band and a yodelling duet. The court ordered the tour company to repay 30 per cent of their money.


RUSSIA: The director of the Russian State Archives confirmed that the remains of Adolf Hitler's skull were held in their library in a box marked 'Blue Ink for Pens'.

KENT: A motorist from Rochester tried to escape a drink-driving ban by eating the paper slip which recorded his breath-test results. He was banned for three years, fined pounds 40 with pounds 35 costs and ordered to do 240 hours' community service.


AUSTRALIA: The Australian tax office made an important ruling concerning worms sold as fishing bait. Distinctions between domestic animals (which attract tax concessions) and wild animals (taxed at the top rate) were extended to cover farmed worms (domestic) and beach worms (wild). 'Beach worming does not fall within the definition of primary production because beach worms are animals ferae naturae,' read the tax office's verdict.

CALIFORNIA, USA: Al Carpenter, owner of Direct Funeral Services, markets a do-it-yourself coffin that doubles as a bookcase until you need it.

CHONGQING, CHINA: Rumours that a child-eating American zombie was on the loose led to a garlic shortage in local markets. Parents made crosses out of chopsticks and put garlic in their children's satchels to ward off the zombie, which was said to specialise in eating children wearing red clothes.

JAPAN: Two students gained admission to the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies despite failing the entrance examination. Authorities upheld their protest that a supervisor's snoring and nose-blowing had interfered with their ability to hear the questions.

WALES: Sales of the Llangeitho Times in Dyfed rose by 17 per cent after the introduction of a 'Spot the Dog' competition. Contestants had to mark a picture of a field full of sheep with a cross as near as possible to the sheepdog's right eye.


BEIJING, CHINA: Li Zandong, an associate professor at Beijing Agricultural University, announced the successful breeding of the world's first ducking outside an eggshell. The achievement crowned three years' work, which had included three failed attempts at eggless ducks.


CHINA: According to a Chinese newspaper, a youth named Zhu smoked non-stop for three hours to win an endurance contest, then collapsed and died.

JAPAN: The Japanese announced the invention of a piano which aids the amateur pianist by lighting up the right keys to play while it hums the tune.


NEW YORK: A survey of 2,000 women aged 18 to 44 by Glamour magazine reported that 86 per cent thought there should be more male nudity in films.


THAILAND: Longman's Dictionary of English Language and Culture is banned for describing Bangkok as 'a place where there are a lot of prostitutes'. Later the same month, it was reported in Bangkok that the Deputy Finance Minister had given a dinner for MPs at which green cards, known as 'keys to paradise', could be exchanged for the services of prostitutes.

AMSTERDAM: Jim Rose, 36, of Phoenix, Arizona, collapsed and underwent treatment after eating a light bulb. Further performances of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow had to be postponed.


LONDON: Scientists solve one of the world's great mysteries: the cause of scum on tea. Michael Spiro and Deogratius Jaganyi of Imperial College analysed the scum and found it was mostly calcium carbonate, formed by chemical reactions between hard water and the tea. Lemon reduces the scum, while milk makes it worse. Scumless tea may be made with distilled water.


STOCKHOLM: Police reported that a woman had lain dead in her flat for more than three years while computers continued to receive her pension and pay her bills. 'It's very unusual for someone to be dead so long without anyone else reacting,' said a police spokesman.

UNITED STATES: The morgue at Dade County, Florida, begins a week-long trial of bar-coded toe tags on corpses, which may be read by scanners to avoid body mix-ups. While praising the new system, officials pointed out that there had only been three misplaced corpses out of 118,437 bodies handled since 1956.


LINCOLN, ENGLAND: The first test-tube pullover came a step closer when Louise Winder, of Lincoln University, grew wool follicles three millimetres long (0.12 inches) in plastic trays from samples of sheepskin. It is hoped that the research will lead to improved methods of growing wool on sheep. Ms Winder believes that the sheep will not be obsolete for many years.

GEORGIA, USA: Meanwhile, in the University of Georgia, the world's first test-tube goats (named Willy and Nilly) were born.

NEW YORK: Sotheby's auctions two signed photographs, one of the Three Stooges, the other of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. They fetch dollars 1,800 and dollars 250 respectively.


HASTINGS: Local authorities ordered a farmer to put nappies on his horse in order to keep manure off the streets. 'I am not sure where I will find nappies big enough,' said the farmer, who runs horse- drawn tours and deliveries.

THAILAND: A Buddhist monk in Chumporn offered to sell his cat, a snow-white Siamese with one completely blue eye, for dollars 6m. The cat was named Sirimongkol, or Prosperity. Some superstitious Thais think blue-eyed cats bring good luck.


NEW ZEALAND: Harry Edgington, friend of Spike Milligan and inspiration behind 'The Ying- Tong Song', dies aged 74. The story goes that Harry Secombe once mistakenly referred to him as 'Edgerton', prompting a correction from Milligan, who said: 'It's Edgington, Edgington,' then emphasised the important syllables with 'Yington, yington'. Secombe added 'Tiddle-i-po' and the rest is history.