Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "2004 Election: Dubyafest," Sept. 11, 2004

Trashy art

If German-born artist Gustav Metzger was going for realism, he may have succeeded too well. The Reuters news service reports that a cleaning worker at London's Tate gallery threw away a full, transparent garbage bag that was part of Mr. Metzger's "Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art" exhibit. A Tate spokesman said the artist replaced the garbage bag and the gallery has taken measures to protect the artwork from dutiful cleaners: "It's now covered over at night so it can't be removed."

Salt or sugar?

Is the Church of England's Nigel McCulloch sugar-coating the gospel? The Daily Telegraph reports that Rev. McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, is hoping to persuade his countrymen to return to church by sponsoring a "Back to Church Sunday." Parishes will distribute official invitations for the Sept. 26 event and give goody bags full of chocolate to those who come and remain for the full service. The paper reports that he is encouraging pastors to try out different things during the service, "such as showing a comedy video."

Can't buy me love?

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In what may be a picture of low-fertility Europe's future, a lonely, 79-year-old Italian widower took out a classified newspaper ad on Aug. 28 in hopes of renting a family for about $600 per month. The Reuters news service reports that Giorgio Angelozzi's ad ("Elderly retired school teacher seeks family willing to adopt grandfather. Will pay.") prompted dozens of responses. Fertility rates across Europe have plunged in recent decades to well below replacement levels.

A record and a cause

Three days after his 70th birthday, American George Brunstad became the oldest person to swim the English Channel, finishing the rough, 21-mile course in 15 hours and 59 minutes on Aug. 28. But Mr. Brunstad was going for more than just a record: The swim raised $11,000 for medical and educational facilities and an orphanage in the Haitain city of Hinche, a cause that he says kept him from even thinking about quitting. "Too many people were depending on me," said Mr. Brunstad, the uncle of actor Matt Damon. "Too many people were praying for me."

Bread alone

It took 900 gallons of water to boil it, a crane to lift it into a special 8-foot by 4-foot cooking kettle, and 10 hours to bake it, but Bruegger's Bagels finally produced an 868-pound bagel at the New York State Fair on Aug. 27. The company hopes to have the bagel, which includes 660 pounds of flour, 53 pounds of malt, and 12.5 pounds of salt, certified by Guinness World Records as the biggest ever.

Self-inflicted wound

Many plastic surgeons perform liposuction surgery, but Robert Ersek of Austin, Texas, may be the first to perform the fat-reduction procedure on himself. Using a local anesthetic, Dr. Ersek on Aug. 26 stuck a metal wand into his left abdomen and removed 1.5 pounds of fat as television and newspaper cameras filmed him. Dr. Ersek said the stunt had a serious purpose-drawing attention to the medical potential of adult stem cells, which can be derived from liposuctioned fat-and perhaps a not-so-serious purpose: "Somebody said we're doing our part to keep Austin weird."

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