Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Cool hot spots," May 17, 2003

"Contrition as a career move"?

Stephen Glass is writing fiction again, but this time he's labeling it as such. Simon & Schuster this week releases The Fabulist, a semi-autobiographical novel from the former journalist who admitted that he used fake material in articles for The New Republic during the 1990s. Mr. Glass's lead character-named Stephen Glass-tries to pass off fake articles as real for the fictional Weekly Washington magazine. The fictional Mr. Glass, like the real one, is also fired after being forced into a tearful confession. Why did the real Stephen Glass make up stories for the liberal political weekly? "I loved the electricity of people liking my stories," Mr. Glass told 60 Minutes last week. "I think I confused them liking my stories with them liking me." But his former editor, Leon Wieseltier, was unmoved, telling 60 Minutes that "what you're covering now is contrition as a career move."

Facial fascists

The Swedish government may frown on unusual names, but the Palo Alto City Council frowns on frowning. The council tried to adopt a code discouraging facial expressions from council members that show "disagreement or disgust" at public meetings but backed down last week when critics raised First Amendment objections. "We complicated it beyond good civil behavior," said council member Jim Burch.

Moral marketing

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Wal-Mart may be hulking, sprawling, and convenient, but it won't be risquŽ. The superstore last week pulled racy men's magazines like Maxim, Stuff, and FHM from its shelves. "Customers from around the country have consistently been telling us they're uncomfortable with us carrying the magazines," Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Christian groups, which contend the bikini-clad cover models and lewd content are nothing more than soft porn, hailed the move. But a spokesman for Dennis Publishing, which produces the magazines, said Wal-Mart carries other magazines that are as racy as its titles. Other big retailers aren't yet following Wal-Mart's lead. A Barnes & Noble spokesman told the paper that the major book retailer has no plans to let such morality guide its marketing plans: "There is a customer demand for [the men's magazines] and we're meeting that demand."

Assault on logic

An unborn child is like a toenail, according to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The court last week ruled that a man who tried to abort his girlfriend's baby by slipping her drugs could be convicted of attempting to commit aggravated assault-but only because the fetus "constitutes a part of the mother's body" like "teeth, skin, and hair." Edwin Sandoval had appealed his 2001 conviction on the grounds that he had tried to harm the fetus, not the mother. (The baby was later born healthy.) Pro-life groups were happy with the upheld conviction but not with the fetus-as-body-part logic. The unborn child "could have had a different blood type, and certainly it had different DNA," noted Bill O'Brien of Connecticut Right to Life.

Joint problem

Canada will go to pot if Jean Chretien gets his way. The prime minister announced last month plans to decriminalize marijuana, making possession of less than 28 grams similar to a traffic violation. Mr. Chretien said this will protect young people from a lifetime criminal record for smoking a small amount of the drug. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters said the plan would bring more pot into the United States, a prospect U.S. authorities would take seriously.

Worldwide water closet

Where do you want to go today? If you want to surf the Internet on a portable toilet, then Microsoft is ready to deliver. In Great Britain, the MSN division of Microsoft is working on the iLoo, believed to be the world's first portable toilet with Internet access. The keyboard is waterproof, but there's no self-cleaning feature. Microsoft officials say they hope to roll out the hi-tech potty in time for summer festivals in England.

Name Nazis

Which is worse, parents who name their child Superman or government officials who try to stop them? Johan Leisten of Goteborg, Sweden, and his girlfriend Sara Lindenger want one of their son's middle names to be Staalman ("Superman" in Swedish). But the Swedish tax authority, which sets rules for names, overruled the parents because the name might "lead to discomfort for the person who uses it."

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