Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Summer of '68," Aug. 9, 2008

Up and away

Standing-room-only service on airplanes? Even if airlines are lukewarm to the idea, an informal survey indicates a number of passengers may be willing to stand for the duration of their flight if it means lower fares. Travelzoo.com asked 1,000 people how far they would go for cheaper fares. More than one quarter of the respondents said they would pay up to half price for a standing-room-only ticket. Two years ago, plane maker Airbus pitched a modified standing section on its fleet to Asian carriers. In the Airbus plan, standing passengers would be strapped against a padded wall. The French manufacturer found no takers.

Feet eaters

It may seem like something out of a nightmare, but customers at the Yvonne Hair and Nails salon in Alexandria, Va., like having fish nibble at their feet-and they're -willing to pay for the service. The salon uses tiny carp in foot pools as a way to remove dead skin from feet without using razors. The carp have no teeth, and thus no way to consume live skin, but they feast on dead flakes. The special pedicures cost $35 for 15 minutes and $50 for 30 minutes, and salon owner John Ho told the Associated Press that 5,000 customers have purchased the service. "This," he said, "is a good treatment for everyone who likes to have nice feet."

The world's a stage

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Of all the Jim Carrey movies to contribute to mental illness: A pair of doctors in New York have identified what they believe to be a new psychosis they have dubbed the "Truman Show Delusion" after the 1998 Carrey drama. The New York- and Quebec-based psychologist brothers Joel and Ian Gold came to the conclusion after treating a series of patients who believed like Truman Burbank, the fictional figure played by Carrey in the Oscar-nominated film, they were the prime actors in a 24/7 reality television drama broadcast around the world. "My family and everyone I knew were and are actors in a script, a charade whose entire purpose is to make me the focus of the world's attention," confided one patient. Both Golds say the disorder differs from other, more narrow, delusions in that the "Truman Show Delusion" involves the entire world, not just a government or persons.

'Homeless' with houses

Tourists in San Francisco might be a bit tighter now with their quarters as they pass panhandlers asking for loose change. According to a report released by the city on July 18, between half and three-quarters of street people in San Francisco actually aren't homeless at all; they live in city-funded housing but refuse to quit their panhandling day job.

Don't do it yourself

A labor arbitrator in Montreal ruled in July that shopkeepers who sweep rubbish off the sidewalk in front of their own businesses violate the law by taking work from union workers. Montreal city leaders, fearing the rising tide of litter in the French Canadian city, imposed an edict mandating shopkeepers do more to clean up outside their shops. Arbitrator Andre Rousseau said sidewalk cleaning is the exclusive purview of unionized streetcleaners. Any shopkeeper picking up a broom to do union work violates local labor law. Labor leaders say the city should hire more union workers. The city says it will appeal the decision to a higher court.

Map maker

Persistence paid off for Michael Cobb of Plymtree. A full 70 years after completing his bachelor's degree in mechanical sciences, Cobb completed post-graduate work that earned him a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in a ceremony July 19 at age 91. After completing his first degree in 1938, Cobb spent time in the British army fighting the Nazis in Africa. After leaving the army, Cobb worked in cartography, a field that captivated him enough to continue his own private research upon his retirement in 1971. But for the past 18 years, the former British colonel has been working on an atlas charting nearly every rail line built in Great Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries. "It is a definitive record," Richard Smith, head of Cambridge's geography department, told the BBC. "It is not just of interest to the enthusiast but a vital tool for anyone seriously interested in the economic geography and history of Great Britain. There is nothing like it." Said Cobb: "I don't know what all the fuss is about."

The right pitch

Advice to barkeepers looking for more profit: Pump it up. French scientists at Université de Bretagne-Sud observed the drinking habits of men ages 18 to 25 as they were exposed to both normal and loud music. The researchers' findings? The louder the music, the more alcohol the young men were likely to purchase. The study also found that playing French music helped nudge the patrons toward French wine.

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