Dog-eat-dogs world

At an April show in San Francisco, performance artist Zhang Huan was to "explore the physical and psychological effects of human violence in modern society" by spreading puree of hot dogs on his naked posterior as he lay face down on a cypress branch and permitting eight dogs to enter the room. One dog, Hercules, immediately bit Zhang on the butt, drawing blood and causing the show to be suspended.

Upward immobility

In July, Birmingham, England, office worker Beverley Lancaster, 44, won about $110,000 in damages from the city because of job-related stress based on her having been promoted to a better job against her will. Lancaster testified that the city insisted she take a higher-paying job for which she was not qualified, then failed to deliver the extra training she was promised, causing her to become severely depressed.

Hard to get

In a June New York Times feature on the decline of urban male sexuality, author Michael Segell said he had found various New York City men who practiced what he called "sexual payback" -- seducing women but abruptly becoming disinterested when on the verge of intercourse. Or, as one man in a Segell focus group put it, "The only thing that's more enjoyable than having sex is making a girl want it and not giving it to her." Segell called this a passive-aggressive response to women's increasing sexual power.

Show me the mobsters

In June, The New York Times quoted a yakuza crime boss in Tokyo as lamenting his turf's takeover by immigrant gangs from China: "`T`he Japanese yakuza think of long-term business relationships, but the Chinese mafia thinks just of the short term. Their only goal is money, money, money."

The price of eggs

David Sanchez Hernandez, 18, was convicted in June in Punta Gorda, Fla., of egging two police officers on foot patrol. Hernandez, who said he did it in order to win a $2 bet with his brother, was fined $750 and sentenced to 25 hours of community service.

Master Kraftsman

In May, "installation artist" Cosimo Cavallaro outfitted Room 114 of New York City's Washington Jefferson Hotel in a cheese motif, using a half-ton of types from Muenster to Swiss (melted). His only explanation was that his family had owned a cheese shop in Canada, and that he remembered the rush of liberation he got one day by plastering his father's old armchair in mozzarella. Said former gallery owner Jules Feiler, "When I first talked to him, I thought he was just another in a series of nuts that have entered my life."

Prison can change a man

In March, six prison inmates in England and Wales were approved for transsexual surgery at government expense (about $18,000 each). But in April, Canadian inmate Synthia Kavanagh, who has repeatedly been rejected for such government-paid surgery, said she would appeal to Canada's Human Rights Tribunal. (Kavanagh is serving a life term for murdering a transvestite.)

Absentee ballots

In April, after its leaders met with the Indonesian government, the Baduy tribe of west Java was granted the right to refrain from voting in the June elections. During the previous three decades under President Suharto, the government had forced the Baduy to vote, despite their ancient religious prohibition against politics. (The Baduy have similar prohibitions against using electricity and toothpaste.)

Warm and fuzzy

A leader of a Colombian social-service organization described the reportedly vicious, murderous guerilla leader Carlos Castano to a Boston Globe reporter in May: "I think he has a great need to be understood and even to be loved." And the father of Justin Volpe, the New York City police officer convicted in May of brutalizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a toilet plunger, related his son's depression at being in solitary confinement: "Justin has to get his five hugs a day. He's a people person."

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