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Roman Cosmetics Unearthed in London
Liz Barham with Roman CreamArchaeologists excavating a Roman temple complex in London have found a tin jar containing what appears to be face paint or face cream, still marked with the fingerprints of the last person who used it, nearly 2,000 years ago. Museum of London conservator Liz Barham, who opened the box for the first time on Monday, described the smell of the white cream as "sulphurous" and "cheesy." The container was found in a drain, where it appears to have been deliberately hidden. The cream will now be chemically analyzed to determine its composition.
The complex, in Southwark, dates to 50 CE. It housed two small temples and a guesthouse for travelers. The discoveries at the site have included leather shoes, a wooden writing tablet, and a stone marker bearing the earliest known inscription of the Roman name of London.
The site is slated to vanish under a shopping mall and housing complex this summer.
(Yahoo! News, July 28, 2003)
Manic Guru Held for Murder Plot
Seventeen years ago, Hobart Livingston met a man who claimed to possess advanced spiritual powers, and became his acolyte. Over the years, Livingston paid Robert Brayman thousands of dollars for his prayers, and for advanced spiritual training. Brayman often abused him, but he never complained, for fear of divine retribution, until Brayman asked him to tape a homemade pipe bomb to the gas tank of a car belonging to a woman Brayman was stalking.
Livingston told Connecticut police that he would report to Brayman's house after his shift at Foxwoods Resort Casino, and again after his shift at the Steak Loft Restaurant. Brayman would set him tasks that were supposed to hone his spiritual powers, such as running through the cemetery while Brayman shot at him with a BB gun. Brayman told him that by learning to dodge the BBs, he would learn to fight demons.
Livingston also paid Brayman most of his wages for his spiritual protection of such people as Jon Benet Ramsey and Natalie Portman. For $80 per week, over a period of 173 weeks, Brayman ensured that the "eggs [that] had been implanted in Natalie," would not hatch, because "if the eggs hatched, she would be invaded by creatures that would strangle off her oxygen and she would be torn apart from the inside out."
Brayman has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and third-degree larceny. His bond has been set at $500,000. He has also been charged with being a fugitive from justice, and assault with a deadly weapon. Livingston has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
(The Westerly Sun, July 26, 2003)
Mr. Potter's Heads on the Block
Bridal KittenMr. Potter's Museum of Curiosities is up for sale. Its taxidermied treasures include a lamb with two heads, a wedding party comprised entirely of kittens (their costumes complete down to the frilly bloomers on the bridesmaids), and a monkey riding a goat. Jon Baddeley of Bonhams, the auction firm responsible for the sale, says he's never seen anything like it. Some of the pieces, he admits, seem like "a horrible idea," but he says that "you have to admire the skill."
Walter Potter, an innkeeper's son, founded the museum in his home town of Bramber in the late 19th century. Subsequent owners expanded the collection, which Potter began amassing at the age of 14, and moved it several times. It eventually came to rest at Bolventor's Jamaica Inn, an old smugglers' tavern which inspired a novel by Daphne du Maurier. Kevin Moore, who manages the inn, explained that "The resident taxidermist who tidied up the exhibits when fur started falling out died last year and the curator retired. We tried vigorously to sell the museum in one piece since November last year but despite worldwide interest there was no offer."
The museum receives more than 20,000 visitors per year, all of whom are assured that none of the animals were killed purely for the exhibits. Many were given to Potter by neighbors, local farmers and gamekeepers. Most of them are over 100 years old.
(Yahoo! News, July 25, 2003. Image of bridal kitten from BBC News, November 26, 2002

Update: An art college librarian from the Dartington College of Arts is attempting to save Mr. Potter's Museum. If you would like to help, please visit him. The auction will be held September 23 and 24, 2003; there isn't very much time left.
Dame Edna Gets Her Due
Dame EdnaDame Edna Everage, one of the most annoying—and the most beloved—figures ever to grace the world stage, has finally received her just reward. A law degree. The University of Melbourne awarded an honorary degree to its most famous dropout; Barry Humphries, who brought Edna to life in 1956, in the one-man show, "Pardon I." Explaining how he started out to be a lawyer and ended up a snobbish housewife with bright pastel hair and rhinestone-studded glasses, Humphries said: "I never meant to go to Melbourne University. Barry HumphriesThe fact I became a student there—studying of all things law—was a complete accident and even a mistake. I can barely remember a word of those lectures during my first year in law, wise though they must have been." Now, nearly fifty years after being forced to leave law school because of his grades, Humphries can proudly say that he deserved the honour. "Most of the money I have ever made has found its way into the pockets of lawyers. A matrimonial lawyer—thanks to my munificence—was able to supply his wife with new breasts at an inflationary price. I stand before you today, the grateful and humble recipient of this distinction, but I feel bound to say 'you owe me'."
(news.com.au, July 22, 2003
Image of Dame Edna taken from The Dame Edna Everage Gallery
Image of Barry Humphries taken from The Herald Sun, July 23, 2003)

Teenaged Robber Attempts Auto-Castration
Three teenagers in Delaware were forced to abandon their plan to raid a local resident's marijuana stash after one of the pubescent felons shot himself in the groin. The seventeen-year old gunman was pounding on the door of the near-victim's home with the butt of a handgun when it discharged. County police spokesman Officer 1st Class Trinidad Navarro said, "This is one you'll hear about in the bizarro files about one of the world's dumbest criminals." The target of the bungled robbery attempt was watching a movie with friends when they heard someone banging on the front door. "The door started to bulge," said Navarro, "and the glass broke. So the people inside bolted out the window. At that time they heard one of the suspects claim he had been shot.'' Police found the teenagers' blue Chevrolet Lumina in the parking lot of a local hospital. One suspect, aged eighteen, was arrested there. A nineteen-year-old suspect was arrested later the same night. The would-be gunman will be arraigned after his release from the hospital, where he underwent surgery for his injuries. The three boys were charged with first-degree attempted robbery, possessing a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, burglary and conspiracy.
(The News Journal, July 20, 2003)
Corpse Ring Busted in Zimbabwe
Two workers at a mortuary in Zimbabwe have been charged with renting out corpses to motorists to help them evade long lines at the service station. According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, the two workers, a mortician and assistant from a public hospital, were arrested on charges of violating dead bodies. The two have been accused of selling fake burial orders to motorists, then loaning them the corpses. Most service stations in Zimbabwe give preferential treatment to motorists who have burial orders, or who are taking dead relatives to be buried. The scam was discovered when a hospital worker noticed a coffin being returned to the morgue, its mission apparently complete. Zimbabwe has recently suffered a severe fuel shortage, after a barter deal with Libya fell through.
(BBC, July 19, 2003)
(Thanks to Dan for the story!)
Woman Swallows Roach, Fork
X-Ray of ForkAn Israeli woman is in good condition after swallowing the fork she was using to capture the cockroach that had dropped into her throat. The bug reportedly leapt into her mouth while she was cleaning her home; when she tried to fish it out with the fork, she swallowed them both. Dr Nikola Adid, who operated to remove the fork (but not the roach, which she had already digested), said: "It's a bit of a strange story. This is the first time I've ever encountered anything like this. None of my medical colleagues have heard of anything similar either."
(Ananova, July 11, 2003)
Stuffed Crocodile Captured in Rome
After a barrage of phone calls they originally dismissed as pranks, police in Italy ventured out to Tiberina Island, in the Tiber River, to capture a crocodile that had been terrorizing visitors to the ancient city. The beast wasn't moving, so they lobbed a few stones, which failed to provoke a reaction from the fearsome reptile. The formerly vicious croc, jaws gaping eternally open, was stuffed. "Which is a good thing," according to the police, "since we still don't have a crocodile rapid-reaction unit."
(IOL, July 8, 2003)

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