I recently picked up a copy of George Soloveytchik's biography of the eighteenth-century Russian statesman Grigory Potemkin at my local used bookstore (Maxwell's House of Books in La Mesa). Potemkin was fantastically rich, one-eyed, and the lover of Catherine the Great. (Wikipedia link). But he was also more eccentric than I ever realized. For instance, he sometimes received official visitors wearing an old dressing gown and no pants. This anecdote also caught my eye:
He could be vulgar and cynical beyond belief. One day he was passing through his dressing room with two important courtiers who stopped to admire his famous silver bath. "If you can excrete enough to fill it," said Potemkin to one of them, "I will give it to you." The courtier turned to his companion, who was notorious for his voracity, and said: "How about attempting this business on a fifty-fifty basis?"
If you live in Lake County, Colorado, the last thing you want to do is get hurt. Or have your house catch on fire. Why? Because the current Lake County sheriff, Ed Holte, is using the county's emergency services as a political tool. Even going so far as to instruct dispatchers to send sheriff's deputies to all emergency calls first, including medical and fire calls. The situation came to a head when the captain of the fire department, Dan Dailey, was handcuffed and placed in a cell while responding to an emergency medical call. Read the article for more.
Was Jesus Gay? Elton John seems to think so. He stated as much in a recent Parade magazine interview. Of course the mere idea struck terror into the hearts of all homophobic Christians and those who choose to interpret the bible as saying "discriminate openly" rather than "love thy fellow man".
And what about those silly gay people who want to serve in the military? Surprisingly, a recent CBS News poll asking about Obama's wish to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, finds that a majority of the public support allowing openly gay men and women to serve. But what's even more surprising is that the same poll doesn't want homosexuals to serve. I suppose the poll was worded badly. Or maybe the people who answered that poll still think gay means 'having or showing a merry, lively mood'. In that case, who wouldn't want a bunch of merry old souls in the military?
It’s an election year in the UK, and politicians there are suddenly more image conscious than ever. None more so than incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who - at his wife’s suggestion - has swapped his regular Kit-Kat munching habit for a diet of bananas in an effort to slim down a bit. While it’s nice to know that the British PM’s wife is perhaps a reader this blog, she’s obviously not a regular one, or she’d have known that portly politicos are more trusted. Now if only he’d show the common touch by going on a bacon binge (Orange News).
Mind you, Mr. Brown is not the only statesman trying to avert a bleak future this week, an unnamed Arab ambassador got the shock of his life when he finally lifted his new bride’s niqab, only to find she had cross-eyes and a beard. The groom immediately went to court to have the marriage annulled, claiming he had been tricked into the marriage and that the bride’s parents had used pictures of her attractive older sister to deceive him. The court found for the groom and dissolved the marriage, but turned down his demand for $150000 compensation (Daily Mail).
But perhaps he’s been a bit quick to judge by appearances. Two Chinese men certainly were when the found a hoard of 20 clay artefacts in an old tomb they discovered in a field near their home, only to later sell the whole lot to a collector for less than $2000. Unfortunately for the pair, theirs were rare finds from the Sui-Tang Dynasty, making the collection over 1000 years old. One item alone, a pottery figurine, recently reached $150,000 at auction (Daily Times).
More fortunate was Wendy Jones of Aberglasney in Wales, who took the old plate she’d had perched on her sideboard for years – except on those odd occasions it had fallen off it - to a TV antiques show, in a plastic carrier bag, only to be told it was part of a rare, Prussian royal service worth over £100000 (Telegraph).
President Obama’s recent fall in approval rating may have an unusual cause, he may possibly be too thin. In a recent study by Elizabeth Miller of the University of Missouri, voters prefer their male politicians to be portly, while women representatives should be more wasp-waisted. In an experiment involving 120 volunteers, people were asked to assess fictitious male and female candidates from a brief bio and a picture, crucially two pictures of each candidate were used, a natural one and one manipulated to portray the person as overweight. People shown the heavier male scored him an average 10% higher for reliability, honesty, dependability and inspiration than his thinner doppelganger, but this relationship was reversed in the woman candidate. In the journal Obesity, Miller puts this down to societal expectation and stereotyping (Telegraph).
Social pressure also crops up in explaining another finding this week, this one by Meridith Young of McMaster University in Ontario, that what single women eat depends a lot on whom they are eating with. After covertly monitoring the canteen behaviour of 470 undergraduates, Young found that women significantly lowered their calorie intake when sat with men compared with all women groups. Moreover, the more men a woman sat with, the less on average she consumed. In the journal Appetite, she puts the discrepancy down to women unconsciously advertising themselves to men, adding "the salad leaves are meant to say, I'm pretty, I'm attractive, I take care of myself" (Guardian).
Of course, we all know what men really like in a woman; that she not appear too powerful. Or so says a study by Brian Meier and Sarah Dionne of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. In the study, eighty 19 year-olds were asked to rate the attractiveness of a number of images presented in random order, some of which would be repeated. In fact the subjects saw each image twice, once near the top of the screen and once low down. The researchers found that men rated women 1.8% more attractive when observed near the bottom, and women found men 1.5% better looking when higher up. They suggest that their findings might explain why men are taller than their women partners more frequently than would be expected by chance (Times of India).
As to what women really like in men, perhaps not being British should be somewhere on the list. After champagne controversially lost out to an English wine earlier this week, French scientists have hit back at British research that concluded that the mythical “G-spot” did not exist. “Of course it exists,” say French gynaecologists, “you just can’t find it!” The original study by King’s College in London looked at over 900 pairs of identical or non-identical twins in the expectation that the identical siblings should both report having a G-spot more frequently than the others, they did not. The French however claim their cross-channel colleagues have got the wrong end of the speculum, “It is not a question of genetics but of use," said one (Telegraph).
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.