FLAT EARTH

A hard day's work

In the past, when Japanese salarymen had a job for life, their employers invited them to take out their frustrations in a special room where they could scream at effigies of their bosses and attack them with baseball bats.

Now, with unemployment turfing people out on the streets, some ex-suits are making a living by acting as human punchbags. Jun Sato parades Tokyo's Ginza district in protective padding. Anyone who wants to punch him for three minutes pays 1,000 yen (pounds 6) for the privilege.

"I enjoy being a punch bag," says Sato. "It's good business and also another way to experience life. I want to continue as long as my body holds up." But his favourite part, he adds, is having the opportunity to chat to his clients afterwards.

Ah, the good old days

They have a funny way of commemorating the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Communism in the former Czechoslovakia. Or could it be devastatingly effective? To remind people what they are missing, Prague TV is rerunning some propaganda classics.

Viewers will have "another chance to see", as the phrase has it, such Soviet-era gems as Festival of Political Songs, Russian Lectures and the little-known A Skirt, But a Green One, the tale of "a secondary school student who resisted her parents and gave up the love of a boy to be able to join military university". There will be an afternoon showing of He Who Searches Finds, which reveals "abuses blocking the development of socialist economy in a washing-machine company".

Dishing the dirt

In the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, you would think television was subject to some of the strictest censorship anywhere. How is it, then, that schoolboys in Ras-al-Khaymah have been caught trading pornographic videos in the playground?

The explanation is that in the emirate $68(pounds 42) buys you a satellite dish with 18 channels, most of them porn. In the short time they have been available, almost half of Ras-al-Khaymah's homes have bought one.

The head of the police department's criminal investigation division is outraged. He claims that the dishes are a threat to society, and wants them outlawed. But the emirate's top official says, funnily enough, that he hasn't received a single complaint.

All this sounds a lot less sick, however, than Berlin's Kiss-FM, where a teenage listener described on air what happened when he microwaved his pet mouse. It later turned out that the mouse was already dead, but that did not mollify the boy's mother, who had to get a new microwave oven.

FIONA BELL

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