Posted by: L. E. Barnes | July 7, 2010

Stranger than Fiction

Mark Twain remarked, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” The follow stories seem to bear out his observation.

You’re probably already aware that Iran’s strict Islamic government has enacted laws that are far more puritanical than anything the Puritans ever dreamed up, but this just beats all:


Hair styles to battle the Great Satan.

[T]hese haircuts are not just a summer fashion. They are being promoted by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance as Islamically permissible models, part of an effort “to halt the spread of unconventional styles and promote Islamic culture.” More styles are set to be unveiled Sunday as part of the ministry’s Veil and Chastity Day festival.

 The haircut catalog is part of the Iranian government’s long-running battle against Western cultural influence. Every summer, the country’s morality police renew their crackdown on “un-Islamic” dress and styles, including loose veils on women and long hair or ponytails on men.

This year the crackdown appears to have been especially harsh, perhaps in part because of the government’s efforts to foil any renewed protests on the June 12 anniversary of the disputed presidential election last year. Special police squads have stopped or arrested unmarried couples, women wearing too much makeup and people playing Western music….

Curiously, not one of the young men in the photographs is wearing a beard, long considered a mark of Islamic orthodoxy in Iran. One appears to be wearing a necktie, long eschewed by Iranian leaders as a Western fashion.

All I can say is thank God I don’t live in Iran… (The story is from the New York Times. You can read the full article here.)

In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Chevy Chase (playing Clark Griswold) remarks that his cousin-in-law’s “heart is bigger than his brain” (i.e., he means well but lacks sense). Well, here’s an actual case of a person (and not some dumb ox who lives in a ramshackle motor home, but a real estate tycoon!) who suffers from the same condition:

Tensions were brewing in the family of Zell Kravinsky, 48, and his psychiatrist-wife Emily over what she believes is his excessive altruism (according to an August 2003 profile in The New York Times). Kravinsky is not just a passionate philanthropist (from his fortune in commercial real estate), but such a strict utilitarian that he says he would sacrifice his one good kidney (he’s already donated the other one) if it were needed by someone doing more social good than he. “No one should have two kidneys,” he says, “until everyone has one.” He said he cannot value his own kids more than anyone else’s, a point that has angered his parents and caused Emily to threaten divorce and two friends to abandon him. [New York Times, 8-17-03]

Folks, in your endeavors to do good, please don’t forget to use good judgment.

And one more for the road…

As a Catholic, I do believe there have been authentic apparitions of Christ and Mary, but I’m sure you’ll agree that these stretch the bounds of credibility:

The Jesus and Mary World Tour (all-new)

Recent Playdates: (1) Old Forge, Pa., February (Jesus appearing in a bucket of sauce at Brownie’s Famous Pizzeria). (2) Lockport, N.Y., December (joint appearance of Jesus and Mary in an orange, sliced open on Christmas morning). (3) Rockford, Ill., April (Jesus appearing in the MRI of a thoracic spine examination). (4) Brownsville, Texas, May (Mary appearing on bark from a tree toppled during a storm). (5) Salford, England, February (Jesus appearing on a frying pan following the burning of a pancake). (6) Old Hatfield, England, February (Jesus appearing on a partially burned log in a fireplace). [Times-Tribune (Scranton), 2-25-10] [WGRZ-TV (Buffalo), 1-12-10] [ (Annals of Improbable Research), 4-25-10] [Houston Chronicle-AP, 5-19-10] [United Press International-Daily Mail, 3-11-10] [Welwyn Hatfield Times, 2-17-10]

Methinks these folks are too desperate for a miraculous sign. How about you?

(The last two crazy reports are taken from News of the Weird. Check it out, but I must warn you that you may suffer brainlock over whether to laugh or cry.)

So do you think Twain had it right?



  1. […] Stranger than Fiction […]

  2. …an effort “to halt the spread of unconventional styles and promote Islamic culture.”

    The Mullet Jihad.

    • Do you suppose they think fighting in such a war will gain them a spot in paradise? 😉

      “Destroy the evildoers who wear mullet cuts, and you will get 70 virgins!”

  3. 🙂 Hilarious. I’ve never heard the whole Twain quote, only the first part. Very interesting to see it in context!

  4. Very entertaining. I grew up reading nearly every book Twain wrote and loved every one of them. His down-home plain talk reminds me of Will Rogers, another of my favorite people. You’ve picked some great examples to illustrate his point.

    • I think Twain had some insight! The weirdest things do happen sometimes… as though life is competing with fiction!

  5. How often do we say things like, “You couldn’t make this stuff up”? Reality is often so much stranger (and miraculous) than fiction!
    Love the Mark Twain quote!

    • Glad you liked it!

      I doubt even good fiction writers could make up stuff as good as this!

  6. Funny how the most trivial things get so much attention

    • Or rather, that the Iranian authorities pay so much attention to such trivial things. Talk about being control freaks!

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