Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Africa, Inc.," Oct. 10, 2009

Facebook folly, part 1

Rather than calling emergency services, two Australian children posted a cry for help on Facebook after getting stuck in a storm drain. The 10- and 12-year-old girls became stuck in a sewer they were exploring near their home in Adelaide in South Australia on Sept. 8. But rather than dial emergency services with their mobile phones, the girls went online and posted a status update on their Facebook pages. Luckily, a friend was monitoring the social networking website at the time and phoned emergency officials who dispatched rescue workers.

Facebook folly, part 2

The next time Jonathan G. Parker wants to burglarize a house, maybe he'll stick to his priorities. Police say the 19-year-old Fort Louden, Pa., teen burglarized a nearby Martinsburg, Pa., home, rifling through drawers and cabinets before making off with a pair of diamond rings on Aug. 28. But before leaving the home, police say Parker stopped to check his Facebook profile on his victim's home computer and neglected to log off. Police easily tracked down the teen and charged him with a felony burglary count.

Barking art

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By most contemporary measures, Tillamook Cheddar, or Tillie, is a successful artist: Her paintings sell for more than $1,000 each, and she recently had a solo show in Florida. She's also a dog-a 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier-who creates her masterpieces by scratching, biting, and clawing at vellum paper that is covered with paint. The results may look bizarre, but they sell well in today's art world. The dog's owner, Bowman Hastie, calls himself Tillie's assistant and says her work has been compared to that of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock. Sculptor and photographer Ward Yoshimoto told the AFP news service that Tillie's work easily passes for art: "I'd say you'd put them up anywhere and no one would ever say a thing, not in any museum in the world."

Monkey business

An Arizona man and his monkey mask could set the stage for a constitutional showdown over the proliferation and legality of using cameras to enforce traffic laws. Dave Vontesmar's daily routine of a 30-mile commute to Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport leads him through a series of photo-enforced speed traps along Phoenix-area highways. By September, Vontesmar had received 37 speeding tickets in the mail from the photo enforcement project of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But each of the photographs show not Vontesmar, but a man wearing a monkey mask-a tool the speeder says prevents law enforcement from making a positive identification. Vontesmar has decided to be difficult. He says he won't pay the tickets, instead relying on a presumption of innocence until DPS officials can prove it's him behind the monkey mask.

You sunk my plotline

No details yet on what the plotline could be, but Universal Studios has set July 1, 2011, as the preliminary debut of a big-budget motion picture based on the classic children's game, Battleship. Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg has commandeered the seemingly difficult task of turning a nearly mindless guessing game into a Hollywood summer blockbuster.

Knife fight

Boy Scouts in the United Kingdom are being told to leave their knives at home for campouts, but this time it's not the Nanny State that's emasculating Great Britain with ultra-safe advice. It's the UK's version of Scouting Magazine, the in-house publication of the Boy Scouts, that has advised boys to abandon their penknives. A spokesman for the Boy Scouts in the United Kingdom said, "We believe that young people need more places to go after school and at weekends, where they can experience adventure without the threat of violence or bullying and the need to carry weapons." But many dispute the classification of Swiss Army Knives as weapons, instead calling them tools.

Coming uncorked

Usually staccato pops and flying projectiles at an emergency scene would be cause for concern. But the rapid-fire sounds at a Sept. 3 accident scene on Interstate 80 in Wyoming weren't caused by gunfire, but instead by exploding wine bottles. Firefighters were confronted by flying corks when they responded to a fire in an overturned semitrailer with a payload of wine near Wamsutter, Wyo. Highway patrol spokesman Scott Keane said one of his patrolmen was struck in the arm by a flying cork and firefighters on the scene had to dodge exploding glass from the wine bottles: "The corks were popping out of the bottles like the old Jiffy Pop (popcorn) we grew up with."

Cord caught

Four would-be thieves were arrested Sept. 6 as they tried to steal the giant chili pepper from atop a Chili's Grill and Bar in Bennington, Vt. Cops arrived on the scene before dawn to discover 23-year-old Asher Woodworth and three others trying to remove the giant red chili with a hacksaw and power drill. The quartet of criminals drew attention when they triggered an alarm. But the 470-foot extension cord stretching to a nearby Home Depot to power the drill caused suspicion as well. If only there were a place where thieves could obtain a cordless drill.

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