Opinion

Always say sorry with a
dead goat

When young pop singer Minami Minegishi, 20, broke her no-dating promise, she apologized by shaving off all her hair and weeping in public. One of her fans of her pop group, which is called AKB48, told me this has triggered an interest in traditional penances, which are much more powerful than the feeble modern ways of saying sorry, such as sending SMS texts saying: “My bad”. Four ways people in Asia expressed sorrow in the past: 1) Lying on a bed of nails (Hindus). 2) Sacrificing a goat (Animists). 3) Wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on the head (Hebrews). 4) Weeping and gnashing teeth (early Christians).

 But I remind the reader that physical penances still occur in Asia. On a sleeper train in India recently, a member of parliament whose bed was badly made demanded a physical expression of apology. He made his attendant do “50 sit-ups holding his ears”, newspapers said. I think the attendant held his own ears, but it may have been the parliamentarian’s ears.

 There’s no denying the power of old-fashioned apologies. Husbands: Next time you screw something up (ie, later today), try this: “Sorry I forgot our anniversary, darling, but look, I got you this dead goat.”

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Youthful despot Kim Jong-un was spotted with a smartphone recently (HTC brand). So now we know where he got the idea for his country’s hobby of firing missiles in all directions: Angry Birds.

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This column regularly prints “dumb criminal” tales, but last week a “smart cop” crime occurred. A plain-clothes police officer arrested a man for trying to sell him a packet of drugs. But when the evidence was examined, the parcel turned out to contain nothing but a half-eaten chicken sandwich, the Times-News of North Carolina reported last week. “It is not against the law to sell your partly-consumed lunch,” said reader Davis Pile, who sent me the link. But the officer, unwilling to let the man go, filed an alternative charge that the villain was caught being a counterfeiter of medical products.

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Chinese movie censors have given themselves a new title: Literary editors. After hacking a massive 40 minutes of Cloud Atlas, the movie’s mainland China distributor explained that they cut sections which “weakened the theme or confused the plot”. This is curious, since none of the censors has even five minutes experience in screenwriting, movie-making or being a half-intelligent, walking, talking human being, come to that. On the other hand, if they think people will actually believe their statement, they certainly have powerful imaginations.

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Japanese scientists discovered a type of sea slug which discards its penis after use and grows a new one, Biology Letters reported. Clearly this is one of those genes that scientists will eventually transplant to human beings, after which we guys better be careful with the timing of conjugal activities. “Let’s have an early night, darling.” “Er, give me a couple of days, sweetheart.”

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The only New Year’s resolution you will actually keep: I pledge to eat sensibly, go to the gym, and do lots of exercise for the first few weeks of the year, then turn into a fat, lazy slob for the rest of it.

The writer is a columnist and journalist.

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