Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Your right to vote," July 31, 2010

Going nowhere, slowly

A drunk driver in Madrid, Iowa, had twice the legal blood-alcohol level but he wasn't even going half as fast as the posted speed limit. That's because he was driving a six-speed Bolens lawn tractor with a top speed of 5 mph. Boone County authorities, who arrested the unidentified man July 7 on Highway 17 at 1 a.m., said Iowa law prohibits driving any type of motor vehicle while drunk.

Food fight

Online retailer ThinkGeek says it's feeling a bit underappreciated after recently receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the National Pork Board for using the board's trademark, "The Other White Meat." Since April Fool's Day, the online novelty store has sold "Unicorn Meat" under the marketing tagline, "The New White Meat." The website said the prank item is an "excellent source of sparkles" and that the unicorns are fed a diet of candy corn before slaughter. Officials with the National Pork Board weren't laughing. "Yes, it's funny. But if you don't respond, you are opening your trademark up to challenges," said Cici Snyder, a National Pork Board vice president. In response, ThinkGeek CEO Scott Kauffman said, "Where we feel victimized, is I don't know of another organization that does more to promote pork products than our site." ThinkGeek sells a number of bacon-themed items including bacon soap, bacon mints, and bacon-themed plush toys. "To be attacked in this manner, given all we do for pork, the irony is not lost on us."

Rough on riders

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Oliver and Gillian Schonrock of the London suburb of Dulwich found themselves in trouble recently with local school officials, who threatened to report them to the English equivalent of child protective services. Their crime: They allow their 8- and 5-year-old children to ride bicycles to school. The Schonrocks say they are trying to allow their children to learn a measure of independence with the daily one-mile ride, but school officials objected. The case became so well-known that the mayor of London in early July took note of it-and called the Schonrocks heroes.

Going bananas

A Japanese firm was busy installing its first vending machine in late June, but don't expect to press A-1 for a bag of Cheetos. A Japanese subsidiary of the international food distributor Dole debuted the nation's first banana vending machine in an underground mall in Shibuya. The vending machine is equipped with a refrigerator able to keep the bananas at a cool 55 degrees. The machine sells single bananas for about $1.50 and a bunch for about $4.50.

Around the bend

On July 8 citizens of Bend, Ore., held a memorial service to mourn 109 victims of euthanasia. These victims weren't human, though. They were geese. City officials in Bend decided to euthanize the geese with gas in order to keep them from overrunning city parks. The decision was and remains controversial in a state that since 1997 has allowed the physician-assisted suicide of humans. "I think a memorial like this will help people console each other," Bend resident Foster Fell told the Bend Bulletin. "I, myself, in the last few days have been nursing a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat."

Arrested development

Paul Baldwin of Portsmouth, N.H., should be thankful that a recent comment didn't lead to contempt-of-court charges. Although for Baldwin, facing charges would be nothing new: It was his 154th lifetime arrest, Baldwin told the judge he didn't need a lawyer to represent him because, "I've been in this court more than you have." This time Baldwin was taken into custody for stealing two 18-packs and one 12-pack of beer from a convenience store. Twelve days before his most recent arrest, the 49-year-old had finished up a one-year stint in prison for stealing a $1.99 beer.

When in Rome...

Perhaps trying to give the United Kingdom a run for status of nanniest nation, Italy is pressing forward with scores of "public security" laws meant to protect Italians from themselves. Most recently, a town near Milan instituted $200 fines for anyone who would be so presumptuous as to sit on the steps of one of the town's monuments. But Milan isn't alone. All told, about 150 decorum laws have been passed in Italy since Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took office and encouraged local councils to outlaw things like building sandcastles on the beaches in a town near Venice, kissing in a moving vehicle in a town near Naples, or feeding stray cats in Cesena.

Bad hair day

Every dog has his day. And perhaps every dog of a hairstyle too. Pittsburgh residents bold enough to sport mullets were rewarded for their questionable fashion sense when on July 5 the Pittsburgh Zoo gave out discounts for mulleted patrons. Known by pejorative nicknames like "The Kentucky Waterslide," "Business in the front, party in the back," and "Hockey Hair" in Canada, the mullet is a hairstyle requiring a male (and more rarely a female) to keep bangs short, the sides high and tight while letting the hair on the rear of the head grow long. The zoo awarded a behind-the-scenes tour to the "best mullet" at the event. Some runners-up were offered free haircuts.

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