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Wisconsin State Journal Archives/AP

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," Sept. 26, 2009

Pretty in plastic

The official bird of Madison, Wis., is unlikely ever to become an endangered species. The city council of Madison, the state capital and the home of the University of Wisconsin, voted 15-4 on Sept. 1 to make the plastic pink flamingo the city's bird. The vote is meant to honor a prank from 30 years ago, when students at the university planted about a thousand pink flamingos outside the dean's office. The council's move, Alderman Marsha Rummel told the Wisconsin State Journal, will keep the prank "captured in our imaginations forever."

Money maker

Though they could probably learn from his techniques, Ken Johnson is doing no favors to the homeless who depend on handouts from strangers to pay for food and shelter. According to a report in Sydney's Daily Telegraph, the 52-year-old homeless man panhandles well over $300 every day from his location in the Australian city's central business district. The heavyset bearded man who neither smokes, drinks, nor takes drugs simply parks himself on a blue crate and holds a sign that he says seems to work: "Needing support for major family exp(enses) including just heaps for medicine. Paying up is a big grind. Please leave me alone, if you are the abusive nasty sort." Johnson, who the Australian paper estimates collects up to $42,000 yearly from begging, says he is saving a chunk of the cash he gets for a friend who needs a liver transplant.

Wedding cashers

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Money may not be able to buy you love, but in Japan it can buy you friends. Office Agents, a Japanese firm, rents out temps for $200 to fill out a wedding party or even fill up the room where the wedding is to take place. For about an extra $100, an actor will even make a toast. The company also rents companions for corporate functions, funerals, and other events, and says the concept is catching on. One groom reportedly rented an entire wedding party rather than ask his friends to show up to celebrate his second marriage. Hiroshi Mizutani, who heads Office Agents, told the Telegraph that his "fakers" must possess certain qualifications: "They are cheery and clean and look like they have regular jobs."

Show me the details

Lawmakers in Missouri may have won passage of a bill, but it appears they lost sight of the details. Instead of banning Styrofoam coolers from a number of Show Me State rivers, a law that took effect in August will ban Tupperware from Missouri waterways. It appears the law's authors simply got confused about plastics. The law bans polypropylene, the plastic used to make Tupperware, tic-tac lids, and light-weight ropes. Lawmakers were seeking to ban expanded polystyrene, the material used to create the ubiquitous white foam coolers that comprise so much river litter. So for now, beer drinkers can keep their coolers on the river, but they will risk a year in jail if they bring along leftovers in Tupperware on their float trip.

Buttered up

In the film, Yoda faded away. This Yoda may eventually just melt away. Two students at the Ontario College of Art and Design debuted a bigger-than-life butter sculpture of the Star Wars Jedi character at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The exhibition charged Olenka Kleban and Tim Manalo with creating butter sculptures based on an outer space theme during its nearly three week run. "It's similar [to clay], but it has its own qualities," Kleban told the Toronto Star. "The more you handle it, the more it melts, which can be a good thing and a bad thing," Manalo said. "When it's harder, it's tougher to work with."

Party disfavors

Activists in Atlanta discovered an easy, though cruel, way to disrupt a mayoral political campaign: Lure others into crashing the party. Someone created fake fliers advertising free food and beer at an Aug. 24 rally for candidate Lisa Borders and distributed the invitations at a homeless center in downtown Atlanta. Borders had planned a block party to thank volunteers for their work and was caught off guard by the ploy, which she blamed on a rival campaign. Without revealing just how many homeless showed up at her party demanding beer, the Borders campaign blasted the shenanigan on its website, saying, "By misusing our logo and handing out these flyers, [the saboteurs] misled men and women who have faced more than enough difficulty."

House of cards

Barbara Lambert's game of solitaire on Aug. 31 turned out to be anything but solitary. That's because Lambert is a Democratic state representative in Connecticut and her game of computer solitaire, caught on camera by an Associated Press photographer, was in the state House during a budget speech by House Republican leader Larry Cafero. The photo, which also shows Democratic Rep. Jack Hennessy playing solitaire and another colleague logged on to ESPN.com, went viral on the internet and became a topic of conversation on cable TV. Republicans in Lambert's hometown of Milford seized on the photo and are planning a "solitaire fundraiser" to benefit the local police department. Voters, said Milford Republican Town Committee chairman Tom Jagodzinski, "expect their elected officials to represent their interests, not be preoccupied with putting the red five on the black six."

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