*Joe Firmage, age 28, multimillionaire founder of the high-profile Internet consulting firm USWeb, resigned in January out of fear that the company's reputation was being hurt by his public announcement that extraterrestrials are responsible for many high-tech inventions, such as semiconductors and lasers. According to his autobiography, which is posted on the Internet, Firmage was visited by an extraterrestrial in his bedroom in 1997, an experience that has caused him to reaccept Jesus Christ after a childhood falling-out with the Mormon church.
*Faced with retirements and a precipitous drop in new blood, Catholic officials in the United States have stepped up priest recruitment to include irreverent advertisements that appeal to Generation X men, according to a December Washington Post report. The Providence, Rhode Island, diocese, for example, recently ran an ad campaign on MTV. And in January a group of British churches, led by the Church of England, began a campaign to attract young parishioners by displaying Jesus Christ as the late Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. "We want to get away from the wimpy Nordic figure in a white nightie," said one priest associated with the campaign.
*Last year the state historian of Florida kicked off a millennial project that would name the 2,000 all-time greatest Floridians. She originally set a deadline of December 31, 1998, for nominations, but recently announced a four-month extension because nominators were unable to name more than several hundred candidates.
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*In January the Saguaro High School (Scottsdale, Arizona) newspaper editor, Sam Claiborn, wrote an editorial criticizing the culture of violence of football heroes, who he said often turn out to be drunks and spouse-abusers. An unnamed member of the school's football team took offense and beat up Claiborn. The player was suspended.
*According to statistics published in November in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro, 53 percent of people in France don't bathe or shower daily, 50 percent of men don't use deodorant daily, and 40 percent of men don't change their underwear daily (15 percent admit wearing the same pair three days in a row). According to an expert on French culture, hygiene is considered merely the hidden face of beauty in France, and because it is invisible to others, it isn't a priority.
*Wild white bushmen, known locally as ferals, reside in rural Australia south of Brisbane, near the coastal resort of Byron Bay. They closely resemble the savages shown in the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and reek of stale body odor and bush herbs; some carry pet rats in their severely matted hair. Although the ferals' occasional forays annoy residents and tourists, some locals are thankful for them for environmental reasons, according to an October report in the Times of London. "Americans come out here and go, 'Yuck, everyone's so dirty [so let's not even think of developing this place].' The ferals have saved a lot of forest," said one resdent.
-- By Chuck Shepherd