Listen back to our best wacky, oddball stories from 2023!

Dec 20, 2023 Episode 169

Listen back to our best oddball stories from 2023 – yes, the wackiest world news stories from the last year all in one place!

Episode Transcript


BOTH: (sings) We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you… (laughing)

LEELA: Well, laughter, of course!

OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”


LEELA: Hello and happy holidays!

MAMA: (sings) Happy holidays, while the merry bells keep ringing…

LEELA: Alright, alright. Someone’s got the holiday cheer.

MAMA: Gotta says, I love the festive season.

LEELA: So, I’m Leela. And that singing lady is well, my producer, otherwise known as –

MAMA: (sings) Leela’s mother. Otherwise known as Santa’s helper… Or just Lyndee.

LEELA: Yes, and we’re the makers of Newsy Pooloozi – your weekly hit of world news. So, we’ll be off next week for Christmas – but don’t worry. This week we’ve got a little gift…

MAMA: Yes, a compilation of the weirdest, wackiest, downright silliest stories of 2023.

LEELA: You said it. So, let’s head on over to the Lucky Dip machine and hear the best of our oddballs this year.

ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”


LEELA: Oh, yes, this is not your normal story. At least not for the subject matter.

MAMA: Uhhh, OK.

LEELA: So, you know how you go to a hair salon and there’s tons of, well, hair being swept up from the floor?

MAMA: Sure.

LEELA: Swept up and thrown away, because, yuck, who wants old hair?

MAMA: Yeah, totally.

LEELA: Well, the Hair Recycle project in Belgium does, actually.


LEELA: Yep, they’re staking out hair salons across the country and asking to bag up and take away those stray strands of hair.

MAMA: Why???

LEELA: Turns out human hair is pretty good at absorbing oil and other hydrocarbons polluting the environment.

MAMA: I did not know that.

LEELA: Neither did I! Well, they feed these locks and tresses into a machine that turns them into matted Kinda creepy looking squares that can be used for all sorts of things.

MAMA: Like? Please don’t say pillows.

LEELA: Yeah, goose down or feathers are fine, human hair: ick. These eco-warriors put human fluff to better use. These squares can be placed in drains to soak up pollution in the water before it reaches a river.

MAMA: Clever.

LEELA: Or they could just be turned into bags. You know, like jute bags, only…. made of us, not the jute plant.

MAMA: I guess matted into a thread, they wouldn’t look too creepy. But it could make shopping a, you know, hair-raising experience.



LEELA: This is odd and… gross! Creepy. Freaky. Warty. Or should I just say, today. (Yiiiick!)

MAMA: Oh, I’ll just get the music lined up, shall I Leela. Deep breaths.


LEELA: OK. I got this. So. Once upon a time. Just the other day. In that hotbed of God-forsaken wildlife known as Australia, far up in the north of Queensland at a place called Conway National Park, rangers were just out strolling along, as you do. When something caught their eye. Something that looked like, and I quote, “almost like a football with legs.” DUHN DUN DUUUUUUHNN!

It was, and I quote again, “a big warty, brown, ugly cane toad just sitting in the dirt.”

Nice to know, right?

How big was it, you ask?

A whopping 6 pounds (or 2.7 kilograms). That’s like the weight of a Yorkshire Terrier dog. A frog the size of a small dog.

No wonder it was nicknamed “Toadzilla.”



LEELA: Yes, it’s not every day that people are on the hunt for a real buried treasure… But it’s an odd treasure that not everyone is thrilled about. Cue the music, Mama.


LEELA: Once upon a time ago, like nearly 80 years ago, the world was at war.

MAMA: That would be World War II.

LEELA: Well, according to the testimony of a German soldier, a bank in the Dutch city of Arnhem, was hit by a bomb in August 1944.

Well, the contents of an exploded vault sent jewelry, coins, precious gems and gold watches flying into the air and landing on the rubble.

Three or four occupying Nazi soldiers quickly rushed around, pocketing all they could and then quickly stashing it in ammunition boxes, where the bullets were supposed to be kept and bread boxes.

MAMA: Not very secure.

LEELA: Well, it was all they could find. Then, in the last weeks of the war, the German invaders were retreating, leaving the Netherlands and the soldiers decided to bury the treasure near a village called Ommere.

After the war a Dutch institute was set up to track down things stolen by the Nazis, and they came across the story. They found him and he sketched a map.


LEELA: Well, the institute tried several times to find the buried booty after the war. But… no luck.  Still, that hasn’t stopped treasure hunters – armed with metal detectors and shovels – stomping through the fields of the village after the map was made public earlier in January.

MAMA: Oh, I bet the villagers love all this new attention.

LEELA: No – they don’t. Most would like the treasure hunters to go away, though some think it’s good for people to remember the war – even if it IS in pursuit of buried booty.



 LEELA: Well, this is definitely a tale you don’t hear every day. A pet owner paying the price for loving his parrot and, well, letting his caged bird fly.

MAMA: Ummm, come again?

LEELA: Well, for this story we need to go to our Taiwan correspondent, Yuching Liu.

MAMA: Take it away, Yuching.

YUCHING: Taiwan is a pet-crazy nation – we love our pets here!

Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, you name it.

Well, this story is about an owner of macaw parrots – you know, the large, really colourful parrots that are native to North and South America and often seen in movies about pirates.

Well, a few months ago, the owner decided to take his birds for a walk as you do.

Ok, he went on a walk and let the birds fly around.

When all of a sudden, one of the macaws landed on the back of a doctor, who was out for a jog!

The bird kept flapping its wings, which naturally startled the doctor who… fell. Badly.

He fell so badly he dislocated his hip joint and fractured his pelvis. Ouch!

The doctor was in hospital for a week and unable to work for over six months!

So, the doctor took the pet-lover to court. It did not go well for the macaw man.

He was given a two-month prison sentence and fined over 3 million New Taiwan dollars, that’s nearly 100,000 US dollars!

Needless to say, he’s appealing the court’s decision, arguing that macaws are not aggressive, and that the compensation is “too high.”

The fate of his naughty parrot, however, is not known.

In Taipei I’m Yuching Liu, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Thanks, Yuching. Well, you know what they say if you have a parrot, it says a lot about you!



 LEELA: Well, let’s say the story is a little “bare” this week. Quite literally!

MAMA: And warning… If you find the idea of someone “baring, it all” in the name of testing the law of course a bit too much then you know you can skip on to the fab facts.

LEELA: She means a kooky man from Spain who finds wearing clothes a tyranny, in other words: a cruel and unfair use of government’s power.

MAMA: Yes… this might be the most political oddball we’ve had on this podcast. Alright over to our Spanish correspondents

LEELA: Nina and Marcky Granena – take it away, guys!

NINA AND MARKY: This is the story of Alejandro Colomar, a 29-year-old computer scientist from Valencia who’s starting a revolution… A revolution against the tyranny of clothes! (muuuu hahahahahaha)

Alejandro gets lots of attention these days because, well, he walks around town naked.

It’s his freedom of expression!

He didn’t always walk around in the buff.

It all started a few years ago. He was working out in the park, and he was hot, so he took off his shirt.

But someone walking by said “Hey! You can´t do that! You can’t just take your shirt off! Get dressed!”

He was blown away “What do you mean, get dressed!?

When he got home, he looked up the laws in Spain about walking around without a shirt on in public.

“HA!” he said “Not only can I go shirtless, I can go totally naked!”

So, he tried out. He started walking around in his small village without clothes on.

“They called the police on me, tried to make me pay fines, saying I was breaking a law.”

But he wasn’t. In Spain there aren´t any laws saying you HAVE to wear clothes.

And what do people say when they see him coming their way?

“Not a lot to be honest. Mostly, they just grin and bare it!”

In Barcelona, this is Nina Granena and Marcky Granena for Newsy Pooloozy.

LEELA: Grin and BARE it.  I got that.  Good one! Thanks a lot Nina and Marky.



LEELA: Well, I think the Lucky Dip Machine was feeling bad that our new correspondent had to do a story about spiders, which she cannot stand, and, so, ummm…

MAMA: Oh, no – you’re turn now?

LEELA: Uh-huh (says nervously).

MAMA: Oh. I think I know what this story is about then…


LEELA: Yes, I do not like frogs.


LEELA: But – what to do? There’s some BIG, and, well, kind of ODD frog news. And I gotta give the news even if it… (shivers) I can’t bare it!

MAMA: Go on Leela You got this you can do this.

LEELA: Yep. Cue the music, Mama. I need all the extra help I can get!


LEELA: Scientists in south American country of Ecuador discovered a newfound species of stream frog. This is no ordinary frog, no.

But a tailless amphibian with pale pink eyes and gold-speckled toes that… looks like a creature Middle-earth… as in something from a Tolkien book.

You know, JRR Tolkien as in the author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”?

That’s why the researchers who discovered it named it Hyloscirtus tolkieni – but already it’s being nicknamed the “Lord of the Rings” frog.

To be precise H. tolkieni is 2.6 inches long that’s 6.5 centimeters and though it has a grayish green and yellow color, it’s covered in black stripes and spots. And has very intense dusty pink eyes with black irises.

MAMA: Well, done you got through it that’s makes me very hoppy. Get it.

LEELA: Oh, that’s a bad one, mother. But, speaking of being happy, do you know why frogs are so happy?

MAMA: Nope.

LEELA: Because they eat whatever bugs them.

MAMA: Bahhdumbumpboo!



LEELA: An odd drink to be precise.


LEELA: But first, let me ask you – what do mozzarella, parmesan, pizza, pasta and olives all have in common?

MAMA: I like to eat them all?

LEELA: You do not like olives

MAMA: I like olive oil.

LEELA: Besides that, please.

MAMA: Ok. You’d find them all at an Italian restaurant.

LEELA: Because…?

MAMA: Uhhh… They all come from Italy.

LEELA: Right. And, you know, Italians love their food so much, well, they just as soon drink it.

MAMA: What? Like a pizza shake or pasta smoothie or something. That sounds disgusting.

LEELA: No, no, that’s preposterous. But olive oil– well now that is finding its way inside another beloved Italian drink.

MAMA: Not prosec…

LEELA: Coffee!

MAMA: Ohh Coffee? Olive oil coffee?! Oh, that can’t be right.

LEELA: Well, it’s on the menu an iced shaken espresso and a latte with olive oil “steamed with goat milk.” Or – to be precise – a cold brew coffee in which and I quote “a silky infusion of Partanna extra virgin oil with vanilla sweet cream foam… that slowly cascades through the beverage.”

MAMA: Wowzers, Well, I never… Who’s offering this?

LEELA: None other than the beloved Starbucks – the American coffee shop that was started in Seattle, Washington in 1971 and is now the biggest coffeehouse chain in the world. Some suspect it’s just a publicity stunt to get Italian patrons to one of their 20 shops in Italy.

MAMA: Oh yeah, but Italians are well known to prefer independent, family-run establishments over chains. Domino’s pizza shut down there recently, didn’t it?

LEELA: Yes, but others say it might – just might – work. Because Italians love their olive oil. Did you know the phrase “drink olive oil” trended last year. So, you never know. Then again, it might just be a pandemic thing.

MAMA: What’s the pandemic got to do with it?

LEELA: Yeah, buying olive oil was prohibited during the lockdown – ‘cos only essential oils could be bought. (laughs) Joke. Just a joke.

MAMA: That’s a pretty good one though!



LEELA: Oh, yes. This story turns our understanding of lips and noses upside-down. At least in the world of whales.

MAMA: Oh, is this a tall tale of a “lippy” whale?

LEELA: You could say that. Because we’ve known for a long time that whales are the loudest or you could say lippiest animals on earth, right?


MAMA: Totally. Loud and haunting, I’d say.

LEELA: They can blast out 180 decibels of sound, did you know? That’s louder than a jet plane! Well, the mystery as to how they make these loud cries is now solved.

MAMA: Do tell.


LEELA: So, these fabulous aquatic animals are some of the longest-living mammals on earth, did you know?

MAMA: I did not know that actually.

LEELA: Yep, killer whales can live beyond a 100 and bowhead whales can reach more than 200-years-old!

MAMA: Wow.

LEELA: So, experts weren’t exactly sure just how whales can make such loud sounds to communicate because, you see, they don’t use their vocal cords like humans do.

We just suck in and out a lot of air and go – hold on, I need to step away from the microphone for this – (screams) ahhhhhhh!

MAMA: Okay Thank you for that.

LEELA: Anytime. But that’s not what whales do.

MAMA: No, might be hard underwater.

LEELA: Exactly. So how they communicate so loudly? Well, a group of whale biologists have realized that whales – get this – use an extra pair of lips to make sounds.

MAMA: Whales have two pairs of lips. They really are “lippy!”

LEELA: Yep. But that’s not all! Guess where these extra lips appropriately called “phonic lips” phonic as in sound guess where they are?!

MAMA: Ummm….

LEELA: Up their nose!

MAMA: Ewwww!

LEELA: Yes, the whales blast air through – what I think should be called – their “nose lips,” which slap back and forth to create a vibration which makes the noise.

MAMA: Well, I never.

LEELA: Impressive, I’d say. If not a bit smelly.

MAMA: Or, you know, it’s all a bit fishy, if you ask me.



LEELA: Well, it’s definitely a little odd – considering this is a story about someone who literally turned his sport upside-down.

MAMA: Ok. I know you don’t use the word literally unless it literally fits – so I must say I’m intrigued.

LEELA: Not just that, it’s a story of determination and – you’ll like this too – thinking outside the box.

MAMA: Oh, yes, I love these kinds of stories! Go for it.

LEELA: I thought you would. But it’s also a little sad because this is technically an obituary.

MAMA: Obituary! As in a report that gives news of someone’s death and details of their life.

LEELA: You got it.

MAMA: Ok, so maybe let me get some gentle music for this one, then.


LEELA: So, his name is Dick Fosbury and he’s just died at the age of 76. But when the American was in high school, he was high jumper. Which, he said in an interview, he sadly wasn’t very good at.

DICK FOSBURY: “When I developed this technique it’s not that I was trying to win – but I was try to not lose. I was the worst high jumper on our team and in our league and I was very frustrated.”

LEELA: But he didn’t give up, oh no.

DICK FOSBURY: “I had that intensity and focus of my mind to succeed, and my body simply followed and adapted to the bar. And my body changed it positioned going from sitting up over the bar to laying flat on my back.”

MAMA: Wow – so back then most high jumpers would throw their legs over the bar, like straddling it, or dive over face-down, right?

LEELA: Yep. But not Mr. Fosbury. That just didn’t feel right to him. Instead, he ran diagonally to the bar, twisted in the air and threw himself backwards over the bar.

MAMA: Huh.

LEELA: And went half-a-foot higher doing so!

MAMA: Whoa. Hold on, though. This backwards glide – isn’t that how they all do it in the Olympics.

LEELA: Now, yes. But he was the pioneer – and took the gold in the 1968 Olympics too. And now the “Fosbury Flop” is the way to go.

MAMA: All because one guy was bad at something but didn’t give up.

LEELA: And didn’t care that he looked floppy in the process. Impressive.



LEELA: Odd and awful. At least it is for me!

MAMA: Oh, let me guess – is this story about creepy crawlies?

LEELA: Yes, and so if you don’t mind, I’m handing the mic to Shaiba Jamsheed, our correspondent in Malaysia who’s gonna take this one for the team.  Cue the music, Mama. Thank you, Shaiba.


SHAIBA: So, Malaysia is known for many things – from its multicultural society to its beautiful beaches, never mind exotic, tropical creatures.

Well, now it can add “Fangs” to the list.


Yes, fangs as in the big, usually sharp front teeth of snakes that contain… venom!

But Fangs – spelt with a capital F – is more than that.


So, apparently snake lovers have very few places to hang out and, you know, talk snakes.

Well, they end up finding other enthusiasts in the snake section of pet stores.

Not very comfortable, is it?

Never mind that most shops won’t allow you to pet and hold their slithery stock.


That’s why the Malaysian snake lover, Yap Ming Yang, decided to open up his Fangs… as in a snake and reptile café, of course.

Corn snakes, leopard geckos, and even bearded dragons are in glass tanks all over the café.

And, yes, visitors can even remove the reptiles from their tanks and let the scaly and slithery creatures snuggle up to them.

Hissssssssss-terical, wouldn’t you say?

In Malaysia, I’m Shaiba Jamsheed, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: Horrible! Just horrible. I mean, not your report – that was great, thanks Shaiba. But who on Earth…!

MAMA: Isn’t it good we don’t all like the same things?!

LEELA: Yeah, maybe… But I’ll stick with going to a cat café, thanks a lot.




LEELA: Oh, this is not just an oddball, it’s a MEAT-ball and a very odd one at that, never mind gigantic.


LEELA: So you remember we did a story a few weeks ago – in Episode 135 about the wooly mammoth being resurrected – which we know from our Easter story is something coming alive again.

MAMA: Well, to be clear, the DNA of an old wooly mammoth is being used to try and genetically recreate another modern-day version. But, as we reported, that’s gonna take a few years so…

LEELA: Oh, this isn’t about the mammoth’s return, but the meat inspired by it!

MAMA: Whaaaat?

LEELA: So, a museum in the Netherlands just revealed a giant meatball – as in the kind you eat with spaghetti – made from flesh of a woolly mammoth.

MAMA: Why has that not really cleared anything up?

LEELA: Because this is LAB-MADE meat.

MAMA: Ahhh, gotcha.

LEELA: The meatball was created by an Australian “cultured meat company,” called Vow as in they vow to make meat in a lab by using the DNAof an extinct woolly mammoth.

MAMA: Interesting.

LEELA: To be precise – the meatball was made of sheep cells inserted with a regular mammoth gene called myoglobin, which is responsible for the smell, color and taste.

MAMA: Leela, are you sure we haven’t been duped, as in tricked? Are you sure this wasn’t an April Fool’s story last week that the Lucky Dip Machine spit out?

LEELA: I’m sure. The company swears it’s no April Fools’ joke. It says it wants people talking about cultured meat – AKA: lab-meat, calling it a more sustainable alternative for real meat.

MAMA: Well, I guess they didn’t pull the wool over your eyes then. Get it?

LEELA: Oh, Mama. You can’t resist the bad mom – jokes, can you?

MAMA: Nope. But neither can you actually. Well, thanks for that report, Leela. Speaking of April Fool’s it’s time for us to reveal our scam story last week as we presented five wacky world news stories – four which were real and one was an April fools.

LEELA: Yes. And, boy, did we fool you listeners!

MAMA: We asked y’all to contact us with your guess about which one was the spoof story.

LEELA: In fact, we even said we’d give away a free T-shirt to the three of who got it right.

MAMA: But of all the entries we had, we are stunned that only 2 of you got it right.

LEELA: So, congratulations to Krystal from California and Jacob from Dubai.

MAMA: And the rest of you would you like know which story was the spoof?

LEELA: Drumroll, pls.


LEELA: No, of course it wasn’t Facebook and Insta getting sued by its own county. That’s for real.

MAMA: Nor was it the snake café in Malaysia.

LEELA: Real sadly. And horrible.

MAMA: It wasn’t the 2,400-year-old flushable toilet found in China either.

LEELA: They really did find that – though, it no longer works.

MAMA: And as crazy as it sounds making dresses from spare auto-parts, that’s real too.

LEELA: Honestly, I’m not sure you could make that one up, it’s so weird. So, the Newsy Pooloozi April Fool’s story of 2023 was…

MAMA AND LEELA: Pungent paints.

LEELA: Yes, we made that up.

MAMA: And while it sounds plausible – paint that leave a canvas smelling for 3 months like roses, freshly cut grass, apple pie, coffee…

LEELA: Or even fish – ewwww!

MAMA: It isn’t real. But I like that y’all have such faith in innovation and creativity that you think it could easily be true.

LEELA: Personally, I like that we… fooled ya!



LEELA: Well… let’s call it more of a furball than an oddball, shall we?

MAMA: Eeewwww. I do not like the sound of this.

LEELA: Oh, no, don’t worry. This is odd, but not quite as ick as was first thought. Cue the music, Mama.


LEELA: So, once upon a time – back in 2018 – way up in the gold fields of Canada’s Yukon territory…

MAMA: Goldfield is not a fairy tale fake place, by the way, but a real thing.

LEELA: Yes, it’s an area or district in which gold is found as a mineral. Not quite dazzling fields of gold, sadly. Anyway, hard at work finding the shiny stuff, some gold miners found a furball in the permafrost instead.

MAMA: Yiiiiihhh. So… anyway first of all in case you didn’t know, permafrost is when soil, rock and any other sediments are frozen for more than two years in a row. But back to the story.

LEELA: Thank you. Actually, it was more than a ball of fur. But a clump of fur, claws and limbs.

MAMA: Oh, gross. I thought you said this story was going to get better.

LEELA: It is. Because after carefully studying this thing for several years, scientists realize that it’s actually a mummified squirrel.

MAMA: Ahhhh. That’s quite cute.

LEELA: A perfectly preserved 30,000-year-old squirrel at that! Called “Hester” – named after the area where it was found.

MAMA: Ahhhh cute.

LEELA: Hester likely died while hibernating, all curled up – as Arctic ground squirrels do – in its underground den.

MAMA: Oh, poor dear.

LEELA: Of course, they didn’t unfurl the poor thing, not wanting to mess up the mummy, but an Xray revealed its intact bone-structure.

MAMA: Wow – after all that time. I have to say – this story is kinda nuts. Get it… squirrels, nuts…

LEELA: Oh, mother. You love to end a story with acorn-y joke, don’t you!

MAMA: Look who’s talking.



LEELA: Odd and kinda yuck.

MAMA: Again?

LEELA: Oh, yeah, I think the oddball machine likes to… freak us out!

MAMA: OK. Let me get some freak out music, “Ah, freak out…”

LEELA: Okay okay okay…!


LEELA: So, do you know what this is?


MAMA: Ummm…


MAMA: Oh… is it… little horrible squeaky rodents?

LEELA: Right. Except there’s nothing little about these rats! Turns out the Big Apple – as in New York City – has a BIG rat problem.

MAMA: Yuck…

LEELA: Never fear – the rat czar is here.

KATHLEEN CORRADI, NYC RAT CZAR: There’s a new sheriff in town. You’ll be seeing a lot of me – and a lot less rats.

LEELA: That’s Kathleen Corradi – a former schoolteacher who hates rats. So much she’s made it her life’s work to rid schools of the horrid creatures. And now she’s taking on America’s most populous city, where rat sightings have jumped in recent years. Back in 2014 a study estimated there were two million rats in the city. That’s one rat for every four residents. Nine years ago. Today… the number is likely to be even higher!

MAMA: Yiiick! Better her than me.


LEELA: Yep. That’s why she’s being called the Rat Czar.

MAMA: Czar, of course, is the old title for the emperor of Russia, but has come to mean someone with a lot of power in a particular activity.

LEELA: Yep – let’s hope her power and disgust sends New York City’s rats packing.



LEELA: Oh, yes. This is odd. No music necessary, Mama. This has a rhythm all its own…



LEELA: Ah, the sounds of seagulls at the beach… or ummm, humans in a bar in Belgium imitating the intrusive bird.


MAMA: Good heavens, why?

LEELA: Well, many people think opportunistic, pesky pests with wings are frowned upon by the public – go figure. Never mind the food-stealing birds can eat up to 20% of their body weight in food each day, did you know?!

MAMA: I did not.

LEELA: Nevertheless, seems a group of animal lovers, off the coast of Belgium, set about getting humans to imitate them to boost their image… by hosting the… “European seagull screeching contest!”

MAMA: As you do.

LEELA: And they didn’t just imitate the shrieky tweets, oh no. Seeing the 50 or so competitors were not only judged on how well they imitated the seagull’s sound for a possible 15 points, but they got an extra five points for how well they imitated their behavior. And, boy, is it funny.


LEELA: Yes, we have links to the videos in our transcript. You really should have a look.

MAMA: Oh, my stars. I’m watching it now. Yep… This is one to see, folks. Or should I say, sea and gulp. Get it? Seagull seagulp….

LEELA: Oh, dear….

MAMA: And Leela what’s your best seagull

LEELA: Making seagull voice.




LEELA: Oh, yes, this is odd. But kind of sad too.

MAMA: Odd but sad. I think I might have the right tune for that…

LEELA: So, the pandemic has affected all of us in different ways, right?

MAMA: Totally true.

LEELA: So, here’s a question – when you were wearing a mask all those days, did you still smile underneath?

MAMA: Oh, yeah. I’m a smiler. But I admit, it was hard to convey my smile to others. Often, I’d actually resort to telling people, “Hey, I’m smiling under here, promise.” Sometimes I’d even quickly pull the mask down to prove it.

LEELA: Right. Well, you’re in one camp, OK. So, it seems there was also a totally different camp. They don’t have to bother the camp of people who didn’t bother to smile when they had their masks on. For months. And – in Japan – we’re talking three years for some parts of the country.

MAMA: Yikes. That’s a long time without a smile.

LEELA: And now it turns out many people are finding it challenging to adjust to life without face coverings… by which I mean… some people have forgotten how to smile!

MAMA: What? No way.

LEELA: Yes, way. You see, many Japanese people are seeking the expertise of “smile tutors” who knew there was such a thing?!  to relearn the art of smiling. Or for some just to feel less self-conscious about it.

MAMA: Well, I never.

LEELA: I also didn’t know there was a “smile education company” but so there is. And there, students begin with facial stretches to relieve tension, followed by mirror exercises. Yes, they use handheld mirrors to see their smile, get comfortable with the act of showing your teeth and making adjustments until they’re satisfied. What are you doing?

MAMA: Facial stretches to relieve tensions.

LEELA: You look like a chimpanzee.

MAMA: Yeah, maybe I need to move on to the mirror exercises.

LEELA: Yeah, maybe so. Then again. Maybe the mask isn’t such a bad idea after all…



LEELA: Well, this story takes the cake, as the saying goes. Or, actually, I should say takes the gravy! Or actually, now that I think about it, this story brings a new meaning to the expression of exasperation, “good gravy!”

MAMA: Excuse me? What exactly have you the oddball machine spit ou this week?

LEELA: Well, it’s more slippery than spitty, but no less weird or gross. Yes, I’m talking about wrestling in a pool of…… gravy.

MAMA: Gravy – like the stuff you put on meat and potatoes?

LEELA: Or in a curry. Yes. The gloopy stuff, which most people enjoy eating. But some rather foolish folks from a corner of the world known for its eccentricities… especially in the name of raising money for charity… yes, I’m talking about the British, they enjoy wrestling around in the stuff.

MAMA: OK, what?

LEELA: Yep. Let’s cut across to none other than Jackson Hosking, our UK correspondent, for the details.

JACKSON: Thanks, Leela.

Hundreds of people flocked to a small English village up in the county of Lancashire for a wrestling tournament…with a twist.

Yes, this was wrestling all right.

But NOT as we normally know it.

For a start, the contestants all had to wear fancy dress – as in, put on some sort of costume or, well, fancy dress.

But – as you know – that’s not the weird bit.

No, it was the temporary and rather large pool set up in the back of a pub that was filled with GRAVY that was a…  little…  odd.

Even for Britain, a country that hosts a wide range of crazy competitions – from an annual toe-wrestling championship to a cheeseball rolling contest.

The 15th annual World Gravy Wrestling Championship contestants included an Elvis impersonator and a woman dressed as an Italian mobster.

The event is a knockout style competition where the winner of each 2-minute bout is decided by three judges.

But they’re not just judged on their wrestling ability, oh no.

Extra points are given not only for their fancy dress, but their comedic timing and, well, just how entertaining they were.

Of course, like most kooky competitions in the UK, this wacky wrestling is all done in the name of… yes… raising money for charity.

It remains unclear just how the gravy tasted.

But so far, no contestant has complained that it was too lumpy.

The same, however, can’t be said about the wrestlers…!

In England, eating gravy – and certainly NOT wrestling in it – I’m Jackson Hosking, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: I should think not! Thanks a lot, Jackson for that, uh, disgustingly delectable report!

MAMA: Well, you know life is good if you can waste tasty gravy on that! It’s all gravy, as the saying goes.

LEELA: Uh, excuse me? That’s a saying?

MAMA: Yes, in England. And in case you need THIS slang explained – that’s a phrase from a traditional English saying that compares ordinary life to meat and potatoes, while the luxuries are gravy.



LEELA: So, Mama.

MAMA: So, Leela.

LEELA: You know guys surf, right?

MAMA: Sure do.

LEELA: And women and girls surf too.

MAMA: Like you!

LEELA: Exactly. And we’ve seen with our own eyes a dog on a board?

MAMA: Oh, that was so sweet. We saw that in Thailand.

LEELA: And on video – that cat.

MAMA: Oh my gosh, I remember that one. Crazy.

LEELA: So, you could say anything goes when you’re hanging 10 – as in hanging your ten toes off the side of a surfboard – out in the ocean, right?

MAMA: Yeah, I’d say so.

LEELA: Well, not in Australia!

MAMA: What?!

LEELA: Yup, not all pets are allowed. Especially not the ones that sound like this…


MAMA: Oh, man! Well, when you put it like that, yeah… I don’t want that on the water.

LEELA: For the story, let’s go to our Australia correspondent, Caitlyn Brooks, who has this week’s oddball. Take it away, Caitlyn!

CAITLYN: Thanks, Leela! That’s right.

Recently, on the gold coast in Queensland, a surfer has been “hanging 10” out on his board with something a little unusual joining him…


Yep – his pet snake!

And not just any little grass snake. Or even a water snake.

This is a python we’re talking about!

One of the largest snakes in the world.

To be fair, Higor Fiuza’s pet python, Shiva, is only about 4 to 5 feet long.

And used to be seen frequently, chilling out in the waves.

But because Fiuza liked to boast and post about his pet’s surfing – authorities got to know about it from social media and fined him $2,300 Australian dollars, that’s $1,500 US dollars.

You see, when you own an exotic pet, you must have a permit to keep it.

And Fiuza did have a permit to keep Shiva – at his house.

Not out in public!

Think the fine is a bit of an overreaction?

Well, think about it.

How would you feel if you saw a python slithering your way in the water?


But actually, this fine wasn’t done for the benefit of the swimmers – but the snake!

Yep, snakes are cold-blooded animals, so they would have found the Rainbow Bay water extremely cold.

Plus, authorities said, the only snakes that should be in the ocean are sea snakes.

Fiuza says his snake appeared to enjoy the water, because she didn’t hiss out on the waves, like she did other times she was annoyed.

Then again… maybe she was just too terrified being in a such a strange environment to open her mouth or hiss!

In Newcastle, Australia, this is Caitlin Brooks, reporting for Newsy Poolooziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

LEELA: Epic story, Caitlin! Thanks so much. But frankly, I don’t even like to even think about that fact there are snakes – even regular sea snakes – in the water to be honest…



LEELA: Well, this story is all about proving age is just a number.

MAMA: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.

LEELA: At least that’s what you and an older woman – a bit older than you, Mama – from Chicago in the US think.

MAMA: Oi…!


LEELA: Dorothy Hoffner left her walker behind – you know, those double-leg walking sticks that people use to hold onto to be able to shuffle abut – well, she ditched the walker to… sky dive.

MAMA: Excuse me?

LEELA: You know, jumping out of a plane!

MAMA: Right. As you do. You certainly don’t need a walker for that.

LEELA: Correct. Nor is there an age limit. Oh, no. Dorothy Hoffner is no ordinary elderly woman. For a start – she’s a centenarian.

MAMA: No way!

LEELA: Yes, way. And in case you don’t know what that is – it’s a person who is a hundred or more years old!

MAMA: Wowzers.

LEELA: This isn’t her first skydive either. She did that on her 100th birthday.

MAMA: That’s a way to celebrate turning a century hence the name, centenarian, like.

LEELA: Exactly. But that dive wasn’t enough as Dorothy wants to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. And there’s already a centenarian on record – a 103-year-old Swedish woman. Of course, these are tandem jumps – that means two people or piece of equipment that works together to achieve the same result, like a tandem bicycle that’s for TWO cyclists.

MAMA: Got it. But still. That’s no less impressive! Is it?

LEELA: Tell me about it. She also said she wanted to do it again, because this time she didn’t want to be pushed out of the plane – she wanted to take the lead on the jump.

MAMA: Man, that’s exactly the kind of centenarian I want to be, let me tell you!

LEELA: Well, you’ll have to live past 104 if you want to break Dorothy’s record. Not long to go though.

MAMA: Ha, ha – very funny!



LEELA: Well, the lucky dip machine is on point this week – as we talk about the power of light over darkness.

MAMA: Oh, really? Good old lucky dip machine!

LEELA: Yes, a curious new campaign is being launched in Sweden where this time of year the sun barely shines up there in the top of the Northern Hemisphere.

MAMA: I know! I think I’d go bonker-brains with only four or five hours of sunlight a day.

LEELA: Well, the poor city of Luleå only gets THREE HOURS of sunlight in winter! So, it’s no wonder the people there have a reputation for being quiet and unsociable. Or, I mean, very reserved.

MAMA: Yeah, with such blink-and-you-miss-it short days, never mind the cold, I guess face-to-face conversations are pretty rare in the winters there.

LEELA: I know. And get this – they’re so reluctant to be social – that even the teeny-tiny word “yes” is replaced with just… a sharp intake of breath!

MAMA: No way!

LEELA: Yes way. Or, I mean, [sharp intake of breath]! Which is why city officials have launched a curious campaign to get people to say “hi” to each other or, I should say it in Swedish, “hej.” Yes, that’s hi – or hey – in Swedish, pretty cool, huh? In fact, that’s the name of the campaign – “säg hej” – though in the Swedish spelling it looks QUITE different.

MAMA: And this campaign is just about saying hey? That’s it?

LEELA: Yep. They’re starting small. Don’t want to overwhelm the super shy.

MAMA: Hmph. OK.

LEELA: They reckon just saying a neighborly “hey” will bring a smile and inspire that person to do the same to the next neighbor and so on.

MAMA: I see. Taking the cool edge off the city by making it a little more sunny in attitude if not longitude. Get it?

LEELA: [Sharp intake of breath] Very clever. But yes – you’ve got the idea.

MAMA: [Sharp intake of breath]

LEELA: [Sharp intake of breath]

MAMA: I could get used to this.


LEELA: And with that 2023 is a wrap!

MAMA: As we said, we’re taking Xmas week off. But we’ll be back in the new year with a serious look at the past big news stories.

LEELA: So, we can start afresh with the new stuff. See you in 2024, everyone! Here’s to a great new year!