December 26, 2008 / 4:02 AM / in 9 years

World keeps humor in 2008 despite economic woes

BERLIN (Reuters) - Whether smashing plates in San Diego to relieve frustration or drinking “Bailout Bitter” beer in Canada sold as a “bitter ale for bitter times,” people the world over kept a sense of humor in 2008 despite financial woes.

<p>A customer with a protective gear smashes a dish to a wall inside a truck named "The Venting Place" at Tokyo's Akihabara district December 20, 2008. Picture taken December 20, 2008. /Issei Kato</p>

Some of the year’s top off-beat tales included a Canada brewery that created a special tough times bitter and “Sarah’s Smash Shack” in California, which charges patrons $10 for 15 minutes of pleasure pulverizing dinnerware against a wall.

“It was the best $50 we’ve spent in the last two years,” said insurance broker Adam DeWitt, who smashed plates in San Diego with his wife after his home mortgage loan was rejected.

A glance back at 2008 shows a world full of wonderful, weird and whacky stories both before and after the financial upheaval.

In May, a Wall Street restaurant boasted it was selling the costliest burger in New York, with the $175 patty made of Kobe beef, black truffles, seared foie gras and flecks of gold leaf.

“Wall Street has good days and bad days,” said Heather Tierney at her Wall Street Burger Shoppe. “We wanted to have something special if you really have a good day on Wall Street.”

One bank in Kazakhstan offered a diamond-encrusted credit card for well-heeled clients with incomes over $300,000. A jeweler in Tokyo kept busy selling 13-piece tableware sets made of gold for $1 million -- aimed at newly rich Chinese customers.

Yet there was no need for any plates at all in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states where authorities encouraged people to eat rats to fight rising food prices and save grain stocks. They praised rat meat a healthy alternative to rice.

In Germany, the crisis sparked an unlikely revival of interest in Karl Marx, the founding father of communism whose heavy analysis of capitalism “Das Kapital” became a top seller.

“Bailout” was crowned as the U.S. word of the year, and the financial crisis also had implications in Russia where vodka consumption fell sharply and the National Alcohol Association lobby group in Moscow said vodka stockpiles were six times higher than usual.

<p>A $175 hamburger, is prepared at The Wall Street Burger Shoppe in New York in this file photo from May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>

A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment’s employees, making some extra money on the side. After 14 years, the couple are divorcing.

GREAT ESCAPES

But away from the financial turmoil, the world had its usual slew of whacky news as well in 2008. In China, the world’s tallest man, Bao Xishun, became the world’s tallest father with the birth of his first child.

In Italy, a man accused of being a Mafioso got out of prison after a court ruled he was too fat for jail. Guards said the 210-kg (462-pound) man could not fit through the bathroom door.

In Germany, dozens of lobsters destined to be boiled alive made a successful getaway from a supermarket, crawling out of a poorly secured wire mesh one night and squeezing past an unlocked metal door to freedom.

In China, a pig that survived 36 days buried in the Sichuan earthquake rubble was voted the country’s favorite animal. But he suffered the curse of celebrity: he was later criticized for basking in the limelight while growing fat and bad-tempered.

One Italian couple was caught red-handed having sex in a church confessional box while morning Mass was being said while a British virgin celebrated her 105th birthday by telling journalists the secret to longevity was avoiding sex.

An Australian outback mayor won the country’s outrageous sexism award for urging lovelorn female “ugly ducklings” to move to his remote mining town, where men outnumber women 5-1. He said: “Beauty-disadvantaged women should proceed to Mount Isa.”

An Indian Muslim couple made news for exchanging wedding vows by phone after the groom, who lives abroad, said he did not have money to return home. The whole village witnessed the ceremony when clerics put the mobile phone on speaker mode.

But not everyone managed to keep a sense of humor. In Senegal, a 70-year-old man used his hunting rifle to shoot at a rap group at a concert because he felt their lyrics -- about a “cranky old man” -- were insulting him. Five people were injured. (Additional reporting by Reuters bureaux)

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith and Miral Fahmy

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