Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Space: Dawn of Discovery," Aug. 13, 2005

Shady character

Folks in Ventura County, Calif., have a renegade Johnny Appleseed on their hands. According to park authorities, a mysterious arborist planted two more trees in Medea Creek Park at the end of July. That makes 20 trees for the Mystery Tree Planter, as the culprit is known. Most believe the Mystery Tree Planter started his arbor spree in January 2004 when 15 valley, coastal live, and holly oaks suddenly appeared in an open space in the park. It was quite a job, park officials say, and would have required a few shovels, rakes, and buckets to plant the 15-gallon root structure. County groundskeeper Mike Enge said the Mystery Tree Planter doesn't need to plant in stealth. "We want to talk to him and give him some recognition," Mr. Enge said. "We're not looking at punishment. We all want more trees."

Not a reality show

What at first appeared to be a drunken street brawl ended up as an embarrassing situation for Danish police. Two plainclothes officers stormed so quickly into a street to break up the fight, they apparently didn't even see the film cameras. Instead of breaking up a fight, the cops injected themselves into a live movie shoot.

Stained reputation

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It could have been such a sweet tradition. But when appliance maker Maytag pulled out from its sponsorship, residents of Fairfield, Calif., were forced to cancel what would have been known as the state's first Great Tomato Toss. Residents would have spent 15 minutes pelting one another with tomatoes during the town's annual Tomato Festival. Company officials for Maytag, which planned to film the mayhem for a washing-machine commercial, didn't say why they pulled out. But town leaders aren't fretting. They hope to lure Maytag next year. And it's not as though other area tomato festivals will steal their idea.

Picked off

Baseball may be growing internationally, but try telling that (in English, preferably) to one Massachusetts Little League umpire. An umpire in Methuen, Mass., stopped a state tournament game between 14-year-olds to tell one team to stop speaking Spanish. The row began when a Methuen coach, Domingo Infante, spoke in Spanish, telling the pitcher to attempt a pick-off move. While fluent in Spanish, both the pitcher and catcher struggled with English. But the umpire stopped the game, demanding that Mr. Infante speak to players only in English. The ruckus confused and demoralized the boys, their coaches said, and eventually helped their opponents come from behind to beat Methuen.

No taste, less filling

Dan McKay's arresting prose won him an award, but he won't be taking home a Pulitzer. Rather, the North Dakota man will pocket $250 for winning a bad-writing contest held by San Jose State University. His submission read: "As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire." The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest was inspired by the 19th-century novelist who began his novel with, "It was a dark and stormy night." San Jose State English professor and contest judge Scott Rice made clear what makes a Bulwer-Lytton winner: "We want writers with a little talent, but no taste."

PUI: Pushing under the influence

Authorities in Indiana have determined that a car's engine need not be running for a driver to be charged with drunken driving. Police in Portage, Ind., pulled over two women who were taking turns steering their broken-down vehicle while the other pushed it into a motel parking lot. Police say both women were drunk-with blood alcohol levels at twice the legal limit-but that they were discovered only after they drifted into a parked car. Apparently unsafe at any speed, the women were booked on drunken driving charges.

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