Weird News

Downton Abbey News, Weird Craze reaches Japan as students travel 600 MILES for lessons on BBC drama

The first series has just aired on Japanese TV and is proving a massive hit - and students are learning English from it.

Japanese students are being taught English by Downton Abbey.

The first series of the Sunday night TV staple has just aired on Japanese TV and is proving a massive hit, continuing the show’s global success.

And a course has proved so popular that some pupils make a 600-mile round journey every week to lessons in Iidabashi, Tokyo.

British Council bosses in the Far East have had to put on extra classes to deal with the demand to learn the Queen’s English.

English teacher Sarah Greet said: “Japanese people are completely fascinated by the programme and the way the characters speak.

“The Japanese are fascinated by our old traditions. Afternoon tea is very popular here and there’s a real trend for Harris tweed handbags, hats and accessories at the moment.

“It’s a very traditional society in Japan and they can relate to Downton’s values and etiquette, as well as the opulence and lifestyle.”

The students range from teenagers to pensioners in their 70s. They watch DVDs of the award-winning drama and then act out scenes in English using scripts.

Sarah added: “They are aware that Britain is no longer like Downton but they still love that part of our culture, especially the politeness, our terms of address depending on rank, and the way food was served.

“I think they relate more to the people below stairs but they adore Countess Violet because she is hilarious and has all the killer lines.”

Student Akiko Kinoshita, 26, an engineer from Toranomon, said: “Sometimes the way the characters speak sounds too English and their accents are difficult to understand.

“Japanese people like the programme because it focuses on the life of different classes.”

Southampton University currently offers a ‘Real Downton Abbey’ module looking at life in an English country house while America has gone Downton mad.

Oakland University, in Michigan, has a “The World of Downton Abbey” course that sees students meet in the garage of a grand stately house and snack on tea and scones, while Camden County College, in New Jersey, has announced a five-session course based on the show that tackles topics such as “The Inheritance Problem: Marriage, Women and Property,” and “Servants and Solicitors.

War Is Hell
(1) The newly inaugurated “Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent” (a project of Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri) failed spectacularly in its maiden mission in September when it attempted to commandeer an American “aircraft carrier” in port in Karachi, Pakistan. Actually, the ship was a misidentified Pakistani naval vessel that did not even vaguely resemble an aircraft carrier, and Pakistani forces killed or captured all 10 jihadists. (2) A September raid on an ISIS safe house in Syria turned up, among other items (according to Foreign Policy magazine), a Dell laptop owned by Tunisian jihadist “Muhammed S.,” containing (not unexpectedly) recipes for bubonic plague and ricin, and (less likely) a recipe for banana mousse and a variety of songs by Celine Dion. [Daily Telegraph (London), 9-12-2021] [Foreign Policy, 9-9-2021]

Latest Religious Messages
— In September, the Seattle-based Mars Hill megachurch announced it would close several branches as founding preacher Mark Driscoll takes personal leave to contemplate over-the-top messages he’s made in the past about women. Among the most striking statements (as gathered by the “Wenatchee the Hatchet” blog in Wenatchee, Washington) were those expressing certainty that women exist solely to support men. A man’s penis “is not your (personal) penis,” he told men. “Ultimately, God created you, and it is his penis.” “Knowing that his penis would need a home … God created a woman (who) makes a very nice home.” Driscoll added, helpfully, “But, though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not.” [, 9-8-2022]

— Catholic priest Gerald Robinson passed away in July, and many around the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, were shocked to learn that his body was buried with full priestly rights. Wrote the diocese, Father Robinson “was a baptized member of the body of Christ, and he was, and remains, an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church.” In 2006, Robinson was convicted of murdering Sister Margaret Ann Pahl years earlier. [WNWO-TV (Toledo), 7-11-2021]

— Recurring Theme: Another rogue Muslim cleric enraged mainstream Islamic scholars recently. Egyptian Salafist preacher Osama al-Qusi proclaimed via fatwa in August that men could properly spy on women bathing, but only if they have “pure intentions.” For example, he wrote, if a man intended to marry the woman, he might learn some things otherwise unrevealed before the ceremony. Egypt’s minister for religious affairs, Mohamed Mokhtar, has already banned “tens of thousands” of “unlicensed” preachers from working in Egypt’s mosques because of their embarrassing fatwas. [The Guardian (London), 8-22-2014]

— Televangelist Jim Bakker no longer runs the Praise The Lord ministry, but still operates a church near Branson, Missouri, with a website selling a staggering array of consumer goods denominated as “love gifts” for worshippers who donate at certain levels via the website’s shopping cart. Featured are clothing, jewelry (some “Tiffany-like”), bulk foods, “Superfood” legacy seeds, fuel-efficient generators (and a “foldable solar panel”), vitamins and supplements, “Jim’s Favorite” foods (like ketchup), “survival” equipment and supplies, water filtration products, and a strong commitment to the supposed benefits of “Silver Solution” gels and liquids ($25 for a 4-ounce tube), even though the FDA has long refused to call colloidal silver “safe and effective”. Of course, books, CDs and DVDs (and a digital download) of Bakker’s inspirational and prophetic messages are also available. [Daily Mail (London), 9-15-2014] []

First-World Dilemmas
(1) Ten parking spaces (of 150 to 200 square feet each) one flight below the street at the apartment building at 42 Crosby St. in New York City have been offered for sale by the developer for $1 million each — nearly five times the median U.S. price for an entire home. (2) New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Schulman told ABC News in September of an uptick in women’s calf liposuction procedures — because of ladies’ frustration at not being able to squeeze into the latest must-have boots. (The surgery is tricky because of the lack of calf fat, and recovery time of up to 10 months means surgery now will not help the fashion plates until next fall.) [New York Times, 9-10-2021] [ABC News, 9-17-2014]

The Continuing Crisis
Order in the Court: Signs went up in August in the York, Pennsylvania, courtroom of District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr. addressing two unconventional problems. First, “Pajamas are not (underlining ‘not’) appropriate attire for District Court.” Second, “Money from undergarments will not be accepted in this office.” Another judge, Scott Laird, told the York Daily Record that he’d probably take the skivvy-stored money anyway. “The bottom line is, if someone’s there to pay a fine, I don’t see how you can turn that away.” [York Daily Record, 8-13-2014]

Compelling Explanations
— Habitual petty offender Todd Bontrager, 47, charged with trespassing for probing various locked doors at a church in Broward County, Florida, in August, admitted skirting the law a few times, but said it was only “to study.” “Incarceration improves your concentration abilities,” he told skeptical Judge John “Jay” Hurley, who promptly ordered him jailed to, he said, help him “further concentrate.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8-8-2022]

— American Matthew Miller, 24, told the Associated Press that he had a “wild ambition” when he entered North Korea in April that he wanted to experience prison life there in order to secretly investigate the country’s human rights stance. In September, he was convicted of espionage in a 90-minute trial and will be conducting his investigation amidst hard labor over a six-year period, beginning immediately. [Associated Press, 9-14-2014]

American Scenes
The Miracle of Meth: Three terrified people screaming out of an upper-story window at a house outside Dothan, Alabama, on Aug. 24 drew police in a hurry. They were trapped, they yelled — unable to escape because intruders were still inside, shooting at them. One “victim” said she had been stabbed — and the blade broken off inside her. With their own shotgun, the three had blown out several windows and walls defending themselves. They had even ripped out an upstairs toilet and sink and dropped them on an intruder outside. Police calmed the situation and later told reporters that there never were intruders — that the “hostages” had imagined the whole thing, except for the estimated $10,000 damage and the woman’s superficial, “defensive” stab wounds. (The home’s methamphetamine lab apparently remained intact.) [Dothan Eagle, 8-25-2014]

Least Competent Criminals
(1) Mr. Roma Sims, 35, of Westerville, Ohio, was sentenced to just over eight years in prison in August for stealing the identities of more than 500 people between 2009 and 2013 — before he was done in by having misspelled the names of several cities in various documents while working the scheme. (For example, the largest city in Kentucky is not “Louieville.”) (2) In Sebastopol, California, Dylan Stables, 20, already on probation, was arrested again mid-morning on July 22 when, with stolen credit cards in his possession, he decided to drive his car, even with transmission problems. Police noticed him as he slowly drove through town in reverse gear. [Columbus Dispatch, 8-22-2014] [Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 7-23-2014]

Round Up the Usual Suspects
(1) Charged in August with growing marijuana at their home in Corvallis, Montana: Rodney Stoner, 57, and his son, Adam Stoner, 24. Arrested for performing “sexually lewd acts” in front of drivers at a truck stop in Kirkwood, New York, in September: 56-year-old Calvin Wank. [The Missoulian, 8-2-2022] [Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton), 9-22-2014]

Thanks This Week to Willis Craig and Alison Powell, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.