Offbeat: Thieving monkeys, men in heels and home-made billboards

A collection of the odd, the crazy and the curious from across the world.

April 18, 2011

Mafia monkeys

London Zoo’s gang of Bolivian squirrel monkeys have embarked on a crime wave. They have been pinching sunglasses from visitors’ heads, adding to a lucrative stash that now includes Ray-Bans and aviator shades.

The monkeys are drawn to the glare reflecting off the glasses’ lenses - but it’s not the first time their light-fingered skills have surfaced. Four years ago, keepers had to train them to stop pinching visitors’ mobile phones.

“They love to see their reflection in the lenses,” zoo keeper Kate Sanders said of the primates’ current predilection. “They find that fascinating sometimes. They’re just a bit cheeky, especially the young ones - they love the glasses the most.”

However, the zoo administration has a different plan for them. To wean the monkeys off thieving, the zoo plans to give them sunglasses with bitter apple sprayed on them as a deterrent.


Can’t pay the mortgage? Turn your house into a billboard

Free mortgage? Who wouldn’t want that? Well, the catch to getting your mortgage paid is to turn your house into bright advertising billboard.

Adzookie, a start up mobile advertising firm based in Southern California, will paint your house to resemble a billboard. In exchange, the company will pay your mortgage each month.

“In fact, paint is an understatement,” the pitch reads. “We’re looking for homes to turn into billboards.”

Adzookie’s website states that the company will pay the mortgage every month the house is painted. Applicants must own their homes, not rent or lease them. The entire house will be painted except the roof, windows and awnings. It must stay painted at least three months and the agreement can be extended up to one year.

After that, or if the company cancels the agreement, the house will be painted back to the original colours.

Adzookie has launched the offer on its website and according to CNN Money, on the very first day, the start-up firm already had more than 1,000 applicants including a church.

“It really blew my mind,” Adzookie CEO Romeo Mendoza told CNN. “I knew the economy was tough, but it’s sad to see how many homeowners are really struggling.”


An eye for pink

A young mother from Greater Manchester, England, has an unusual passion for everything pink, which made her transform her house into a regular shrine dedicated to the popular colour.

Wanda Matthews, 20, loved pink from a young age — and, as soon as she moved into her own place, she set about transforming it. She has converted her three-bedroom house into a giant version of a Barbie house. Everything from the walls to the furniture and even the carpet is pink. From her bedroom to the living room, kitchen, bathroom and in fact the children’s playroom — all are a candy-coloured testament to her passion for pink.

The passion goes beyond the house, the mother of two, wears something pink every day from her pink wardrobe. Nonetheless, even her kitchen items including kettle, toaster, pots and pans are pink. She only buys pink cleaning products, listens to a pink iPod and makes calls on her pink mobile.

Her young daughters have happily fitted in with the colour scheme, wearing pink clothes and playing with pink toys. Though her family is used to her fixation, she admits it has left her boyfriend, Danny, a little bemused.

But it’s too late to stop her now — and there’s always something more to do. “I’m looking for some pink wood-paint to do my garden fence with and I’ve found this special heat-proof pink paint for the oven,” Matthews says.


Help me! I can’t shut my mouth

A student in Britain, who was bored during a class lecture on government and politics, yawned so hard that she dislocated her jaw. Her footage on YouTube has become a sensation after it was seen 600,000 times.

Seventeen-year-old Holly Thompson’s mouth was stuck open due to the big yawn. She had to be taken to a hospital as she had dislocated her jaw. Thompson first told her classmate who attempted to shut her mouth, but without success. The school nurse then tried everything from a hot water bottle to ice packs to unlock her jaw, but that didn’t help either. Finally, she was taken to a hospital, where Ejiro Obakponovwe, a doctor, forced 26 wooden splints into her mouth. This enabled it to open enough to tire out the jaw muscles and allowed it to unlock and be put back in place.

“I was so shocked, my expression probably said it all. When we realised we couldn’t close it, my friend had to tell the teacher. Everyone burst out laughing, it was awful,” Thompson said. She added, “My friends keep asking how my jaw is and saying I’m famous...but I’d rather be famous for something else.”


The ‘corny’ fight

A political battle is under way in New York — over whether the onion or sweet corn should be made the official state vegetable.

While New York counts the apple as its official fruit, the rose as its official flower and even the beaver as its official animal, a vacancy exists for the vegetable that best sums up the empire state.

A bill that would see the onion victorious has been proposed in the state senate by David Carlucci, an independent Democrat from Rockland County.

Carlucci’s constituency produces half of all onions consumed in New York. His bill states: “Onions are one of the most important vegetable crops in New York in terms of crop value.” Meanwhile Michael Nozzolio, a Republican from Seneca County, bill states, “Sweet corn is one of the most important vegetable crops produced in New York state in terms of acreage, crop value and number of producers.”

Amid some controversy, onion loyalists have claimed that sweet corn is in fact a grain and is ineligible. Corn supporters, however, counter that while it may be harvested as a grain, it is eaten as a vegetable. Carlucci has also conceded that onions may have their own fatal weakness: the infamous effect on a consumer’s breath. “I try to avoid them if I’m going to a meeting,” he said. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

While refusing to be drawn into the dispute, Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, also appeared to raise the prospect of a third, wild card candidate. “I don’t have a candidate yet in the race,” he told reporters in Albany, the state capital.


Men in heels

A few dozen men seeking to raise awareness for sexual assault violence against women tried to walk a mile in their shoes - literally.

The fourth annual ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ event held at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA saw some burly and bearded men teeter precariously along the mile-long route, trying to raise money for a local non-profit organisation that supports sexual assault victims.

The men were game, even if it meant nearly tripping over their own stilettos. “Men want to make a public statement that they detest sexual violence,” said Keeley Olson, STAR’s programme manager. “A lot of them have told me that they walk for their sisters, mothers and daughters. They walk because they care about women.”

Amusement factor aside, the underlying message was serious. Signs with messages including, “No Means No!”, “Got Consent???”, “Shatter the Silence” and “Alaskans Can End Sexual Violence” bobbed along in the hands of the participants.


A ‘poochy’ perfect wedding

Britain’s most extravagant dog owner has splashed out an incredible £20,000 to give her pampered pooch the perfect wedding day.

Louise Harris, 32, admits to spending thousands on birthdays, designer outfits, and bespoke jewellery for her six-year-old pet dog Lola.

But now Harris has gone even further - spending more than most human couples do on their nuptials, to organise Britain’s most expensive dog wedding. She invited 80 guests to the lavish ceremony to watch Lola tie the knot with Mugly, a Chinese Crested, who holds the title of the UK’s ugliest dog after first winning the accolade in 2005.

The bash was held in an outdoor marquee in the grounds of a mansion in Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, costing £2,500 for the venue alone. She also spent an incredible £1000 on decorative flowers, £3000 on designers to decorate the marquee, £400 for her own personal wedding planner, and even £400 for security guards.

Harris who runs dog boutique and grooming parlour DivaDogs, in Essex - ran an online competition on her DivaDogs website and Facebook page to find the perfect husband for her princess Lola.

It took her three months to organise this mega event. On the wedding day, Lola wore a £1000 wedding dress, a £400 pearl necklace, Swarovski crystal leg cuffs costing £250, and finally a Swarovski crystal lead costing £350 to complete the outfit.

The human guests were treated to a buffet complete with a six-feet-high chocolate fountain with fresh fruit, mini doughnuts, and fudge, costing £300. Meanwhile, the dog guests had 50 of their own dog-friendly cup cakes, and their own chocolate fountain, before they could settle down for a nap or a bit of play time in the dog crèche, manned by four staff.

Lola still lives with Harris at her home in Essex but sees Mugly once a month.


Up, up and away

A fleet of hot air balloons have completed a record breaking journey across the English Channel (a narrow arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Great Britain from France).

A total of 51 balloonists took off from Lydden Hill race circuit in Kent at about 7am for the flight to France. Among the fleet was a 61-feet dragon-shaped balloon, deemed to be the largest of its kind and the only hot air balloon in the UK with a glass-bottomed basket.

The event marks the first time a Guinness World Records bid has been made for the largest group of hot air balloons to make the Channel crossing, and competitors came from across Europe, including Italy and Germany.


Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th,  2011.


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