Friday, August 28, 2009


A strange obituary appeared in the Russian press last month, describing a “successful entrepreneur” whose life took an improbable turn when, during a prison stint, he learned to ingest great quantities of poison.

Poison connoisseur Dmitry Butakov, of Lipetsk, had but one superpower–the ability to withstand and enjoy lethal doses of toxic substances.

Butakov would begin his typical lunch with an invigorating glass of acetone before eating a ball of mercury and drinking a bottle of antifreeze, often performing this ritual on camera for the local media.

Butakov baffled medical experts when he suffered no apparent harm after eating toadstools and drinking dissolvent. His test results showed a lethal dose of poison in his bloodstream, but toxicologists agreed that the poison did not appear to have penetrated his system or affected his cells.

His final coolant bender would have a different outcome, of course. Butakov became ill and was rushed to a hospital after drinking antifreeze with a cola chaser. He died several days later of severe blood poisoning.


I am inclined to believe this incredible story is an urban legend. I have been unable to locate any photgraphs or videos of Butakov, even though he was reportedly under the nearly constant surveillance of the news media. The obituaries, appearing in Pravda and other Russian news media, provide no clue as to the date or even the year of Butakov's demise.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


North Korea is one of the world’s leading producers of fresh fruit and vegetables.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, North Korea is the tenth largest producer of fresh fruit, including apples, peaches, pears and nectarines.

The chronically malnourished country is also the world’s 12th largest producer of fresh vegetables.


Unable to experience this incredible bounty, starving North Koreans have increasingly turned to an artificial food composed of twigs, tree bark and leaves. The scavenged ingredients are ground into a paste and formed into dried noodles.

The noodles provide scant nutrition and can cause internal bleeding and dysentery.


Since the mid-‘90's, North Koreans have endured chronic food shortages which have killed an estimated 2 million.

The government in Pyongyang blames natural disasters, such as the floods of 1995, 1996 and 2000, for the food crises–omitting the key detail that the floods were induced by the clearance of massive areas of forest to create more land for growing fruit.


Officially, North Korea espouses a philosophy of self-reliance known as juche, even rejecting various shipments of food aid.

Privately, North Korean officials usher in hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid which is siphoned off by the military and high-ranking members of the Korean Workers’ Party.

Despite its vaunted improved seeds, fertilizers and irrigation methods, the country remains unable or disinclined to feed its citizens.

All of that glorious fruit is destined for export.

"Bodies of Pyongyang" by performance artist Yoonhye Park.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Seeking to capitalize on a surge in banana consumption in Japan, Dole began airing a bizarre commercial this year in which a young man, capable of spontaneously generating bananas, is accosted by throngs of ravenous Japanese.

The bananaman strolls through a park where he encounters a sad woman whom he consoles by firing bananas at her through his nostrils. This seems strange even by Japanese standards.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Curtis Melvin, an American who spends too much time on Google Earth, claims to have spotted one of North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-il’s luxury homes.

The sprawling compound in the Ryongsong district north of Pyongyang features a sparkling pool and water slide.

It would be difficult to imagine a lesser official than Chairman Kim occupying such a preposterously lavish compound in the starving country.

Unnamed sources within North Korea have confirmed that Kim’s residence #21 is located in the Ryongsong district and is where he spends most of his time when in Pyongyang.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Japan is the land of movie monsters. It is also the land of actual monsters.

The Japanese fishing industry has been devastated by repeated infestations of six feet wide, 440-pound jellyfish known as echizen kurage (Nomura’s jellyfish).

The aquatic pests destroy fishing nets, poisoning the catch. Some of the monstrous jellyfish have even managed to breach security at Japan’s nuclear power plants, clogging up the cool-water pumps.

Echizen kurage enjoyed a population boom in 2005 that still has scientists puzzled. Some have cited over-fishing, global warming and agricultural pollution as possible causes of the surge.

The mass of giant jellyfish assembling now in the Yellow Sea off China is the largest ever. Ocean currents will guide the pesky creatures straight to Japan.

Jellyfish are difficult to eradicate because, when under attack, they tend to release millions of eggs.

As the saying goes, when life hands you a bag of lemons, you make lemonade. In the Japanese version, you eat jellyfish ice cream. The Japanese, to their credit, have seamlessly integrated the sea monsters into their cuisine.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PUTIN’S TREASURED CHEST...Crushin’ on the White Russian

As Russian strongman Vladimir Putin poses for another bizarre, shirtless photo shoot, I cannot help but wonder why he constantly feels the need to display his droopy man-boobs.

"It makes no sense to ride a horse shirtless," my wife comments. "He is gross."

Putin’s desperate attempts to prove his rugged masculinity have resulted in an expansive portfolio of homoerotica. The more macho he tries to be, the campier his appearance.

Of course, Putin’s motivation is not rooted in his sexuality per se, but in his tiny anatomy.