John Walsh: Any excuse to inflict pain on ourselves

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The Independent Online

Competitive masochism is on the rise. This week the Advertising Standards Authority chastised the travel comparison website Dealchecker for inviting punters to submit pictures of their worst "like a lobster" sunburns, to win a holiday for two, as though asking people to get utterly frazzled for money. Then the Kismot restaurant in Edinburgh issued a charity chilli-eating challenge, which led to contestants being hospitalised. The well-named Curie Kim, 21, a Korean student, had to be taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary twice. Twice? She went back?

* You'd think the initials "WC" on a road sign wouldn't provoke controversy – only sighs of relief. But in Wales, the fact that the abbreviation sometimes appears on road signs without a Welsh translation has offended national pride. The language sub-committee of Gwynedd county council are now meeting to discuss whether "WC" is a symbol, or an English phrase needing translation. Unfortunately, the Welsh for WC is "toiled," which just, frankly, muddies the water.

* News of an unusually difficult neighbour emerged in Exeter Crown Court this week. He was served a restraining order that stops him shouting at his neighbours, staring at them, rifling through their rubbish, harassing them about their cars and ordering them to redecorate their landings. He thought nothing of digging up their gardens and threatening to put any complainers "six feet under". It would be understandable if he was a retired criminal. But Peter Walker, 66, was a retired police officer. He's also been ordered to do 150 hours of community work.

* Now that the increasingly inaccurately named Arab Spring has reached Saudi Arabia, will North Korea be next? A rallying figure appeared this week, when Kim Jong-il's grandson, Kim Han-Sol, appeared on Facebook (briefly – his page was soon taken down). A cool-looking cove with dyed-orange hair, he explained how much he admires democracy and loves American movies. But he sounds like a statesman-in-waiting: "CNN doesn't know the miseries of North Korea," he posted. "I'm studying in Macau. I know my people are hungry. I'd do anything to help them." Fighting talk. Not for nothing does he share a name (almost ) with the hero of Star Wars.