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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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New York University arts professor Wafaa Bilal had a camera surgically removed in February—the one that was implanted in the back of his skull in November to take pictures, at 60-second intervals, of the places he had left behind. (The images were then beamed to a museum in Qatar.) The camera had been mounted under his skin and braced by three titanium posts, but his body very painfully rejected one of the posts. His temporary solution is to tie the camera to the back of his neck, although he said that the work-around is unsatisfactory because it represents a less-personal "commitment" to the art. In the future, he said, communication devices like his will routinely be a part of our bodies.

A Friend—For a Price

In December, a company in eastern Ukraine announced a "drinking buddy" service in which, for the equivalent of about $18, it would supply a barroom companion for the evening. The companion would be "qualified" to discuss politics, sports, women, etc., and even to offer psychological counseling, if appropriate.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • Till Krautkraemer's New York City beverage company MeatWater creates dozens of flavors of water for hearty gourmets who would like their daily salads (or shellfish, or goulash, etc.) from a bottle instead of from a plate. Among the new flavors introduced in January, according to an AOL News report, were poached salmon salad water and a Caribbean shrimp salad water that can double as a vodka mixer. Old standbys include Peking duck water, tandoori chicken water, bangers 'n' mash water and Krautkraemer's favorite, German sauerbraten water.
  • Not Your Father's Scotch: (1) The Panamanian company Scottish Spirits recently introduced a straight Scotch whisky in 12-ounce cans. The company envisions a market for people who prefer not to invest in a whole bottle. The international Scotch whisky trade association expressed alarm. (2) At Clive's, of Victoria, British Columbia, Glenfiddich Scotch whisky is only one ingredient in the signature cocktail "Cold Night In," which, according to a January New York Times review, combines "molecular mixology" and comfort food. An especially buttery grilled-cheese sandwich is soaked overnight in the Scotch, along with Mt. Gay rum and Lillet Blanc wine. Following a brief freeze to congeal any remaining fat, as well as double straining, it is ready to serve—with a celery stick and other garnishments.          

Science on the Cutting Edge    

"You're not going to like this," warned NPR's Robert Krulwich, about to deliver a February story about visionary robotics developers James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau. Auger and Loizeau created a carnivorous clock, supposedly able to power itself for 12 days merely on the carcasses of eight dead houseflies (which the clock traps with fly paper and then mechanically razors in two). The pair also showed a prototype of a coffee table that catches mice by using cheese to lure them up the table legs into a hole in the center, where they are guillotined. Auger and Loizeau said their creations are just extensions of TV nature programs showing animals hunting in the wild, but Krulwich found it a little repugnant and disliked the idea of "giving robots a taste for flesh."    

A News of the Weird Classic

Bangkok economics student Panupol Sujjayakorn interrupted his studies in November 2005 to defend his title at the World Scrabble Championship in London. He is one of many non-English-speaking competitors who achieve top-of-the-line rankings by memorizing up to 100,000 words in English without ever knowing their meanings. Like the others, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Panupol first learned those premium words that use the most prominent Scrabble letter tiles (such as "aureolae").

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd

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