Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Fixing Islam," June 16, 2007

Artistic license, part I

The artist best known for preserving a shark in formaldehyde is back with a new, even more bizarre piece. British artist Damien Hirst debuted his newest piece in a London gallery on June 3. This time, Hirst took an 18th-century human skull, made a platinum cast, and encrusted it with 8,601 diamonds. The object cost nearly $28 million to produce, and Hirst is apparently asking $119 million for the piece-even though he admits he's not really certain it's art. "I've stopped worrying about what art is. If it's in an art gallery on the wall or the floor, it's probably art."

Artistic license, part II

A British performance artist appeared to make an ironic choice in his protest against animal cruelty. He ate a dog. Protesting against the royal family's fox hunting habits, performance artist Mark McGowan retaliated by dining on a dish of meatballs made from a corgi-a favorite breed of the queen. McGowan was quick to point out the corgi had died of natural causes. For his next work, McGowan plans on "being buried in a box-David Blaine type thing-in Dublin underneath a meter of mashed potato," he told Sky News. McGowan offered no explanation about what point that would serve other than creating a hot, starchy mess.

A pet's life

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Concerned that your pet may have too much stress in its life? A Japanese company may be able to help. Medical Life Care Giken has reportedly developed a device to measure stress levels in dogs and cats. The small patch changes color based on the amount of sweat on the animal's paw. The company has a similar patch for humans.

Six-figure help

There's a new shortage in Manhattan that perhaps only Mr. Belvedere can solve. In what may inevitably become known as the great butler shortage of aught-seven, Charles MacPherson, vice chairman of the International Guild of Professional Butlers, says the group is placing professional stewards as quickly as butler schools can mint them. According to MacPherson, butlers are especially in demand for nouveau riche Wall Street millionaires. But dignity doesn't come without a price. MacPherson told the New York Post that good butlers now often fetch around $200,000 yearly for running their master's estate: "British butlers in New York can easily make an extra $10,000 to $20,000, based just purely on their accent."

High chairs

A careful reading of a disability law in the United Kingdom could wind up costing millions to fix Britons' park benches-said to be too low for the elderly and infirm. A local council's interpretation of a 2005 disability law meant that a crematorium was forced to spend big to replace its benches with seats at 14.75 inches high in favor of ones at least three inches taller. Together with the required lighting, resolving the code violations could cost close to $500,000.

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