Dispatches > Quick Takes
Ayutthaya Elephant Camp/AFP/Newscom

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "New faces of New Orleans," Aug. 15, 2009

Painted popular

Figuring perhaps the whole routine of blowing water out of the proboscis had gotten old, elephants at the Chiang Mai zoo in Bangkok, Thailand, have a new method of attracting peanut-toting patrons. Painted in black-and-white watercolor, the five local elephants now resemble the more famous residents at the Bangkok zoo. Ever since a new baby giant panda was born at the zoo, the panda family has received all the attention. The zoo even committed more than $500,000 to build a new snow palace for the new panda family.

Hitching a getaway

It appears that one Michigan parolee probably should have spent more time hatching his post-prison plans. As it stands, a few bad moves by Mark E. White will probably see him back to the slammer for the foreseeable future. Police allege that White, 50, held up a Saginaw, Mich., bank on July 8-not a month after his parole. To make matters worse, a few minutes after holding up the Citizens Bank, White attempted to hitch a ride with a plainclothes officer driving an unmarked vehicle for his getaway attempt. Now, heaped onto charges of bank robbery, police have charged White with carjacking and a host of other offenses.

Sea change

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The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has offered to save a California state park slated for closure in the state's budget crunch if and only if the state agrees to change the park name from Pescadero State Park to the PETA-chosen name, Sea Kitten State Beach. The name may be confusing, but it's part of PETA's new effort to re-brand fish as sea kittens. "Who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?" PETA asks on its website. The website claims that fish communication is "about the cutest thing ever." Meanwhile, real kittens report fish (or sea kittens) to be tasty and delicious.

Dreams of genie

A Saudi man may need to spend one of his three wishes in order to force a genie into court. According to local media in Saudi Arabia, the man has filed a lawsuit against a genie he says is leaving threatening voicemails, stealing his family's cell phones, and, worst of all, hurling rocks at him and his family. Genies appear not only throughout Arabic literature but also in the Quran, which is one reason at least that the local Shariah court is looking into the matter. "What makes this case and complaint more interesting is that it wasn't filed by just one person," head of the court Sheikh Amr Al Salmi said. "Every member of the family is part of this case."

Slow motion

When it comes to picking getaway vehicles, a quartet of British thieves may want to rethink their decision. Quiet, yes, but slow? The group boarded 16 boats under cover of darkness on July 3 in a boatyard outside of Cambridge, where they plundered expensive electronic gizmos like flat-screen televisions, generators, and a DVD player. During their getaway down the River Ouse in a slow-moving flat-bottomed boat, local police spotted the raiders with night-vision cameras. Due to the boat's 3 mph top speed, the police quickly closed in and captured the thieves. Police report the quartet was caught not only with the electronics, but also with a quantity of booze and a captain's hat. It's good to know someone was in charge.

Bunker mentality

Looking for a home with a view? And one that might be helpful in preventing a maritime invasion? Developer Liz Strutton has taken an old World War II underground bunker in extreme southwest United Kingdom and transformed it into a four-bedroom home. Originally, the seaside sentinel had been a cog in Great Britain's defense against a potential German invasion, providing a 360-degree view of the Land's End area from its earthen roof. The price tag? About $575,000. "It's just like an ordinary four-bedroom bungalow, it's not dark or anything," Strutton says of the property, aptly named The Bunker. "But it's very secure. There could be a zombie attack and nothing would get in."

Message for losers

There're not many ways to blow an election in which you are running unopposed, but Ken Meyercord of Reston, Va., found a way. Meyercord's name was the only one that appeared on the ballot for the July 14 election in Reston to elect an at-large member of its citizens association's volunteer board. Yet when the votes were tallied, the 65-year-old Meyercord won only 23 votes-less than 2 percent of the more than 1,000 cast. How did he attain such electoral futility? Local activists mounted a last-minute write-in candidacy when Meyercord's Holocaust denying (or Holocaust revisionist as he terms it) views came to light, proving Social Security isn't the only third rail in American politics.


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