Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Earthquake in Bam," Jan. 10, 2004

It's all academic

The Modern Language Association held its convention last week in San Diego, and in addition to numerous sessions on sensible topics, such as "Musicality in Modern Poetry," many sessions showed the increasingly bizarre tendencies of American academia. Among the topics discussed: "'She Must Be Raggin!': Children's Literature and Menstruation" "Annulling Gender: The Legacy of Monique Wittig," which included a discussion of Wittig's work, "One Man Out of Two Is a Woman" "Finding the Niche: The Gay Chicano Mystery Novels of Michael Nova" "Tortilleras on the Prairie: Latina Lesbians Writing the Midwest."

Reindeer games

Meghan Stapleton, a reporter for NBC's affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, hit the big time last month, but it took getting hit big time. Ms. Stapleton made the national news after a reindeer named Blitzen became spooked during a news report from Santa Claus House, a gift shop and tourist attraction near Fairbanks, and blitzed the reporter. A witness said Blitzen "tackled" Ms. Stapleton and dragged her a couple of feet. Ms. Stapleton was not injured and managed to hold onto the reindeer's leash: "The last thing I wanted to do was let Blitzen get away, especially two days before Christmas."

Angry millionaires

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Most people would be happy with a $76,000 pay raise, but then most people aren't professional athletes. The average salary for major league baseball players last year grew to $2,372,189, up from $2,295,649 in 2002, but officials with the players' association say that may not be enough. Michael Weiner, in a memo to players' agents last month, wrote of "troubling conduct by club officials" in negotiations with players. Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said no evidence exists of any improper collusion: "It continues to be disappointing that the union fails to recognize a robust market when it sees one."

Will to live

James Mondy is one tough Arkansas farmer. Last month, he found himself in a fight for his life after his right arm was severed in a tractor accident. Mr. Mondy managed to pick up his arm, get back on the tractor, steer it onto a road, and start driving home before a passerby helped him to a hospital. Mr. Mondy is recovering from his injuries and is a bit embarrassed by the attention he has received. "What was I supposed to do?" his wife says he asked. "Lie there and die?"

Appetite killer

Homosexual activists have long said that they have a right to society's approval of their lifestyle. Now the owners of a gay-themed restaurant in New York say they are entitled to society's approval of their food. The owners of Lucky Cheng's, a Manhattan eatery that features transvestite waiters and entertainers, last month sued the popular Zagat Survey for $10 million, saying a negative review in October has sent diners back into their closets. One Zagat contributor opined that "you don't go for the food" at Lucky Cheng's but instead to "gawk" at the wait staff, who "tell dirty jokes" and "offer lap dances for dessert." The review said the food rated only a 9 on a scale of 1 to 30. That opinion amounts to libel and negligence, say Lucky Cheng's owners. Zagat officials are standing by the review.

Paying for their protest

Angry protesters who block traffic regularly make the news, but rarely do those whose lives they disrupt-until now. The Quebec Superior Court last month allowed Boris Coll of Montreal to sue city workers who slowly drove city trucks around a government building with their horns blaring on Sept. 17. Mr. Coll is seeking $650 in compensation from the workers' union for being stuck in the resulting massive, three-hour traffic jam. His attorney, Bruce Johnston, says that if all the drivers affected by the protest join the class-action suit, the union could face a $6.5 million payout.

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