Dispatches > The Buzz

Quick Takes

Issue: "UN's abuse of power," July 24, 2004

One for the ages Some music recitals may seem to last forever, but they have nothing on an ongoing organ performance at an abandoned church in Halberstadt, Germany. The performance began on Sept. 5, 2001, and is scheduled to run for 639 years. The AFP news service reports that two new notes in the piece began playing last week. The performance "opened" with silence, not sounding the first chord -- G-sharp, B, and G-sharp -- until Feb. 2, 2003. The notes are held down by two weights on the organ, and two E notes were added last week. These notes will play until March 5, 2006, when a chord of A, C, and F-sharp will be sounded. U.S. composer John Cage, who died in 1992, wrote the piece of music. Among other Cage works: "4'33," an orchestra composition that consists of complete silence for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Orbital graveyard A trip into space this fall will cost only $1,000 for some civilians, and they will get to stay in orbit for years. Requirements, however, include that they are dead and only 1 gram of their remains can make the trip. The Reuters news service reports that Space Services, Inc. plans to launch the partial remains of up to 150 people into space in September, with families able to buy a video of the launch and software to track the location of the deceased in space. A similar launch three years ago was unsuccessful, but Space Services CEO Charles Chafer told Reuters that the company hopes to make three to four such launches per year: "The key to the business is routine access to space." Cash and carry Would you be nervous carrying thousands of dollars in your stomach? A traveler at the Bogota, Colombia, airport apparently looked that way, so airport police X-rayed him. They discovered dozens of latex-wrapped packets in his stomach carrying a total of $47,500. "We find drugs inside the stomachs of smugglers all the time, but this is the first time we've ever found dollars." Napoleon lives After Berlin firefighters brought the body of a victim out of a burning house this month, police used a form of CPR to resuscitate him and then rushed him to doctors in their police car. The victim in this case: a dwarf rabbit named Napoleon. The Reuters news service reports that officers revived the pet by breathing down a ballpoint pen into his mouth and gently massaging his chest. The veterinarians treating Napoleon said they would release him after a few days of observation. Jailed jockey Authorities aren't laughing at a recent on-air prank by Austin, Texas, radio station KHFI. Disc Jockey Dan Chappell executed the gag by donning a ski mask and strolling through a local convenience store, using a phone to narrate events over the air. He didn't make any verbal threats, but a nervous store clerk pressed an alarm. Police arrested Mr. Chappell for making a terrorist threat, and the DJ could face a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Talking tombstones Those who want to leave a message on their tombstone may soon have a video option. The New Scientist reports that California inventor Robert Barrow is seeking a patent on video-screen tombstones with wireless headphones. The tombstone contains a computer and a flat LCD touch screen that allows a person to leave a video message for visitors. The cemetery's lighting system would supply the power. Uncommon insult Everybody is somebody in Italy. The Reuters news service reports that an Italian man is in legal trouble for shouting, "You are nobody!" at a parking attendant. An appeals court this month upheld a $370 fine against the man, ruling that the phrase constitutes slander because it "means precisely 'you are a nonentity' and to state that a person is a nonentity is certainly offensive because it is damaging to the dignity of a person." However, Italian courts have deemed some other insults, including obscene ones, not slanderous because they are "in common usage."

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