SAN FRAN’S NO.1 PROBLEM
The ecology-conscious city (having recently encouraged routine composting of dinner leftovers) is now considering environment-friendly public urinals such as the PPlanter created by engineer Brent Bucknum. Users urinate into a ceramic basin and flush the waste with run-off hand-washing water into a bed of bamboo plants. Bucknum claims minimal maintenance and an odor-free experience, but on the other hand, only a user’s midsection area is blocked from public view–a concession necessitated by San Francisco’s sour experience with lockable public toilets, which shielded sex acts and crime. (A less-elaborate structure–the open-air, similarly privacy-challenging “pPod”–is currently being readied for deployment in the city’s Dolores Park.)
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
Branko Bogdanov, 58, his wife, Lela, 52, and daughter Julia, 34, were arrested in March and charged in a 10-year shoplifting enterprise run out of their upscale Northbrook, Ill., home, which they allegedly used as a base while prowling stores in states as far away as Florida, stealing high-end toys and jewelry, which they resold on eBay and to their fences. Police estimate the Bogdanovs swiped as much as $7 million worth on their forays–many items being stashed in Lela’s customized flowing skirts with hidden pockets.
LATEST FEMALE BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Cosmetic surgery is expensive, but beauty-conscious Japanese girls and women (especially those obsessed with a more “Western” look) have low-priced workarounds to choose from–as uncovered in January by the fashion blogger Liz Katz: (1) the $63 Face-Slimmer Exercise Mouthpiece (insert it for three minutes a day, make vowel sounds and watch a “saggy” mouth turn taut); (2) the Beauty Lift High Nose nostril clip, which emits electronic vibrations to raise the proboscis’s profile; (3) an altogether different but similarly painful-appearing Nose Straightener (insert for 20 minutes a day for added “perkiness”).
Pornography fans are split (according to a January report on Salon.com) on whether they want male actors to use condoms, but California’s Falcon Studios has the technology to serve both audiences. Falcon’s actors wear them, but in some movies those condoms might be digitally “removed” during post-production. The major downside, said one renowned director, is the prohibitive cost–about $100,000 to re-digitize the estimated 90,000 frames in a typical “low-budget” porno film. The Falcon president said he is trying an alternative–using clever lighting during filming to de-emphasize the condom’s presence.
EARWAX CAN SOLVE CRIMES?
Security and law enforcement agencies are looking beyond traditional biometric identification techniques (such as the accurate but obtrusive fingerprint and iris scans and unobtrusive yet questionably accurate facial-recognition) and, based on recent laboratory research, are now considering earwax and underarm odors. Work by Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center shows that ear secretions may reveal personal identity, ethnicity, health status and sexual orientation, among other information, and researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain) said their work demonstrates that recognizable patterns in body odor remain stable even through disease and diet change.
LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATORS
Farming continues to be a noble but grueling existence for rural residents of China, who work for the equivalent of only about $1,300 a year, but in one village (Jianshe, in southwest Sichuan province), farmers have established a co-operative capitalist model, and in January officials delivered residents their annual dividend in cold cash–the equivalent of about $2.1 million to split among 438 households. Authorities unloaded banknotes in stacks that constituted a seven-foot-high wall of money, requiring villagers to pull 24-hour shifts to guard it.
COSTS OF SPAIN’S ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
London’s Daily Mail reported in March that Spain might have as many as 2,900 recently abandoned “villages” (swaths of land with clusters of houses) deserted by owners forced into cities to find work during the current recession–and that speculators were buying entire villages at single-house prices and turning them into vacation retreats. And a formal association of sex workers in Barcelona has introduced a four-hour “introduction to prostitution” class for women transitioning from other occupations due to layoffs. Course topics include tax-return help (prostitution is not illegal in Spain) and marketing, as well as sex tricks.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
Christopher Fulton turned himself in in Midwest City, Okla., in March after seeing a surveillance photo of the robbery of an IBC Bank. He told police he indeed must be the robber, that he saw his body in the bank photo–although he insisted that his mind had no recollection of it. Police were about to arrest Fulton, anyway, because the robber’s holdup note was written on a blank check with the account holder’s name and address (Fulton’s mom’s) scratched out, except that police-lab technology easily read through the scratch-outs.