Brickbats

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Guns don't kill—soda machines do. Since 1981, 11 people have died after shaking the damnable machines in futile attempts to get either a can of soda or their change back. The 1,000-pound machines tipped over and crushed them. Military action may be the solution: Army officials have alerted troops to the dangers of kicking and shaking vending machines and are considering a proposal to anchor the machines to the floor. Perrier, anyone?

No nookie for druggie. That was the ruling of U.S. District Judge John Hannum, who ordered a 31-year-old convicted drug dealer and father of three children out of wedlock to abstain from sex for five years as part of his probation. Michael Youngblood of Philadelphia can go to jail if he engages in "fornication" or "bastardy." Only marriage can void the condition of his probation. No one is sure how the sentence will be enforced. Pennsylvania revoked its laws against fornication and bastardy in 1974, and no such federal laws affect private sex.

The cow is more sacred in meat-producing Iowa than in India. In a public service announcement on a local radio show, an Iowa State University nutritionist suggested that people could reduce their risks of getting cancer by eating more vegetables and less red meat. That widely accepted recommendation outraged cattle farmers, who flooded the university and the state capitol with calls. The school courageously yanked the ads. The senate proceeded to hold hearings on the matter, during which several lawmakers reminded Iowa State who pays for the research.

South Korean television actor Park Yong Shik literally flipped his wig when President Chun Doo Hwan recently left office. Government officials had forced Park to wear a hairpiece because he resembled the balding former president. At the beginning of Chun's reign, Park was prohibited from appearing on state-run television, though he wasn't told why until later. Finally he managed to win some bit acting roles when he donned a toupee and grew a beard. "I hope such a comic thing will never happen again," he said.

Keith Stewart, a vermin specialist with the Fresno County, California, health department, thought he was being helpful. On a TV newscast in which he was explaining signs of rat infestation, he said rat droppings resemble "unwrinkled raisins." Hardly a controversial statement, except that Fresno is the raisin capital of the world. Angry raisin growers called the TV station to protest this disparagement of their produce, and one even tried to get Stewart fired. Stewart has publicly apologized and promised in the future to use nonraisin terms.

A legislator in New Jersey has proposed a law that would make it illegal for anyone to "pretend to communicate with departed spirits" or use other "occult powers" for more than a "nominal" fee. The bill doesn't define nominal. Anyone who engages in palmistry, fortune-telling, or physiognomy (making predictions based on a person's physical characteristics) would be considered disorderly if his objective was "to promote the repeated use of his services for his own pecuniary gain." The bill also prohibits people from offering to place curses on others or communicate with the dead. Violators would face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. At least they haven't banned sticking pins in voodoo dolls.

Audrey and Hugh Manwaring-Spencer of Scotland truly appreciate royalty—they named their newborn daughter Princess Dulcima Rosetta. The proud parents can call their daughter Princess if they want, but the toddler cannot legally have that name. A 1910 regulation says that because the name Princess is "part of the royal prerogative," it can't appear on a birth certificate without permission. Buckingham Palace does not approve.

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