Dispatches > Quick Takes
Maya Van Wagenen
Maya Van Wagenen

Quick Takes


Issue: "American bounty," Nov. 30, 2013

Grandma style

Last year, eighth-grader Maya Van Wagenen wasn’t very popular. To fix the problem, the Statesboro, Ga., teen thumbed through the pages of a dusty copy of the 1958 book Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens, which promised the secrets to greater popularity. Vowing to follow all the advice within its pages, Maya endeavored to change her image. She also decided to keep a journal of her peculiar experiment. After a year of following the book’s directives on girdles and strands of pearls, it seems the gambit has paid off. Earlier this year, Penguin Books offered her six figures to turn her journal into a memoir. And in October, DreamWorks bought film rights to the memoir. She’s now rich, but did the book help her to become popular? Of course. Maya says the best advice from the etiquette guide was simply to treat others kindly.

Fight of his life

Bears? Cliffs? No matter. Yusuf Alchagirov isn’t one to back away from a fight. In late October, the 80-year-old Russian shepherd survived a bear attack—and a nasty spill off a cliff. Picking raspberries in a field near the Russian border with Georgia, Alchagirov was confronted by a large bear. Alchagirov began pummeling—and head-butting—the animal. After having its fill of the spritely 80-year-old, the bear tossed Alchagirov off a nearby cliff. But the fall was about as effective in sidelining the shepherd as the bear was. Alchagirov survived both with some cuts, bruises, and a few broken ribs.

Bacon burglar

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A recent complaint from a woman in Bismarck, N.D., has local police scratching their heads. The unidentified woman phoned authorities on Oct. 21 to complain that someone had broken into her home through a bedroom window. According to police, the bandit raided the fridge and little else. The woman said the intruder had apparently taken some bacon, fried it, and departed with three Bud Lights. The bandit did not clean up his mess.

Cash return

After dropping off a fare on Oct. 27, German taxi driver Thomas Gunter noticed something in his backseat. The elderly couple he had dropped off at their Wurzburg, Germany, home had accidentally left a large envelope. Peeking inside the package, Gunter saw 250,000 euros (more than $335,000) in 500-euro notes. Rather than keep the money, Gunter went back to the home so he could return the package to the then-distraught couple. After all, keeping the money “would probably be the downfall of the old couple,” he told The Local. And though he was offered a reward for returning the lost nest egg, the cab driver turned that down too.

Casting Lotts

If Xavier Lott ever gets pulled over again, he may think twice about using a fake name. On Oct. 26, Oklahoma City police pulled Lott over because he had a broken tag light. When the officer asked Lott for his name, the Oklahoma man feared he might have a warrant for his arrest. So he provided the officer with his brother’s name. What he didn’t know was that his brother also had a warrant for his arrest. Police eventually sorted the confusion and charged Lott with one count of false personation.

The cat’s meow

Wine for cats? In Japan, where the human population is falling, feline luxury is apparently rising. Pet supplement manufacturer B&H Lifes began rolling out nonalcoholic cat wine on Oct. 15 for Japanese pet owners. According to the company, the cabernet-tasting beverage contains no alcohol but plenty of catnip. B&H suggests owners use it to celebrate holidays or birthdays with their feline companions.

Musical weapon

In the ongoing war against pirates off the Horn of Africa, British merchant navy captains have a new secret weapon: Britney Spears. Loudspeakers blasting hits like “Oops! I Did It Again” and “Baby One More Time” have successfully warded off Somali pirates attempting to board cargo vessels traversing the Indian Ocean. Second Officer Rachel Owens told the Mirror that the Western pop culture oozing from Spears’ singles is often enough to repulse the marauding pirates: “Her songs have been chosen by the security team accompanying our tankers because they thought the pirates would hate them most.”

Candy caper

It’s not only a question of who, but why? Police in Orkelljunga, Sweden, are on the lookout for a thief with an old-school sweet tooth after a recent licorice heist. The culprit made off with 165 pounds of licorice candy from the back of a truck in late October as the driver took a nap. The identity of the thief, who pilfered half a pallet worth of the much-maligned sweet, remains a mystery to police.


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