Four year-old Magnus from Melbourne seems destined to be a magnet magnate. How else to explain his overriding attraction to things magnetic?
“Go to the French cafe by the departure gate. It's got really good coffee, and sandwiches too.” Dressed like a character from a Jack Kerouac novel, a connoisseur of places subterranean, my friend knows his coffee, and the city he lives in does too. Forget paired and halved slices of bread, I have been in Melbourne three days, Australia’s second city and first city of art, culture and coffee—soon to be largest city by upwards trend of statistical metric—and sandwiched in an airport coffee lounge queue, post check-in and pre board-on, I am going to steam it, pour it, drink it one last time, order it extra strength in a double sized cup. I should have known better when I saw the queue. I should have called it quits then, turned around and walked away. I should have seen past hope and expectation for reality’s cold, half empty glass. Not the size of the queue but the position, the opposite side of the food cabinet, the opposite side of common sense. Till and people queuing to the right; food, barista and people waiting for coffee to the left—this café expected people to queue, order and pay for food that they could not see, and such little touches nay blindly splayed brush strokes on the canvas of life suggest a business run without a clue. What hope then a decent brew? “Hi, do you have any sandwiches that are vegetarian?” At the head of the queue, face to face with girl taking my order, I had to ask for a recital of the food cabinet contents that could not be sighted. I had left the carry-on bag to briefcase packed queue to inspect the uninspiring, un-kosher selection of ham and cheese condiments earlier, losing my place in doing so to a pair of airline pilots, accustomed on ground as in air to being in front of everybody else, but hope against hope, thought it worth asking if something, anything solid might be joining my liquid, caffeinated must. In life hope is a welcome, cheerful friend, but disappointment a more consistent companion. Preferred company unavailable, the girl behind the counter answered my question with a lack of understanding bordering confusion, and with no small effort, shifted sideways to double check what comprehension could not. Unwillingness, written on face in letters larger than the blackboard behind, remained firmly in place. “Um... no, they’ve all got meat in them.” And then silence. No other suggestions forthcoming, even half-consideration a cup drained bare. She shifted back, impatience joined us for company. “Then could I have a croissant?” Although chalked in white and capitals on the menu one row below “obvious”, this request may have been confusing too, because the girl, furrowed brow, tangled thinking as apparent as gaudy lipstick, queried that which common sense and opening question had already answered. “Did you want the ham croissant?” Something other than the croissant in this cafe appeared to be served plain. “No, plain, thank you.” I am well used to this sort of treatment. I have been swimming vegetarian in a stream of meat-eaters for fifteen years, and am not the kind of person who paints the entire world white just because it is the colour I’ve chosen to wear. Callousness and deliberate unwillingness though are harder to swallow. Perhaps the “croissant toasted with butter and jam” description of the menu was optional, perhaps for me only imaginary, for I was handed a “plain”, room-temperature croissant, sans condiments and toasting in a white paper bag. The only thing toasted about this croissant was my starting to burn at the edges temper. “I’ll have a mocha too” I added in measured, deliberate tone as total was added, note proffered, change returned, no recognition of my request shown other than correct price charged. Taking croissant in hand, taking bad with bad, I moved to the opposite side of queue and counter willingly, with relief, to the barista and coffee machine, where two shots of heart-palpitating happiness would be made. Things were looking up, my welcome, cheerful friend returned, hope a half full growing fuller coffee cup. About eighteen, about eighteen years away from mastering his trade, the barista emptied coffee grind from the previous shot with a rushed, hasty jolt, then returned handle to head without cleaning it. Live long enough, pay attention to memory and intuition close enough, practise meditation well enough, you get a foretaste, premonition of the outcome of every action before you act. I could taste the coffee being made as though already drinking it, and it tasted dirty, gritty, acidic, as though drinking from the bottom of a used, uncleaned mug. My cup grew fuller quickly with a dark, brooding, dirty brew, hope drained quickly away, cup half empty, now gone. On second thought, but thought too late, my well-meaning, well-discerning friend had said to go to the French cafe by the departure gate, and the only thing French about this café were the stale croissants, baked so long ago that they could have been shipped from Paris. The clock struck boarding time, the airport announcer chimed, I made my way past duty free stores and just free, just arrived passengers to Gate 24. With a queue for coffee almost as long as passengers boarding the plane, the café I should have gone to was literally next door.
Japanese Prime Minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama did the impossible last week, a landslide victory won for his Democratic Party of Japan, an unprecedented reversal of election fortune over the incumbent Liberal Democratic Party, who have ruled Japan for all but 11 months since 1955. Retired actress, author, lifestyle guru and wife of the Prime Minister, Miyuki Hatoyama, has also done the impossible, breaking through boundaries of reason and possibly sanity as well to go where no First Lady has gone before—completely out of this world. “I have been abducted by aliens” says Japan’s first lady of involuntary space travel. But maybe not from the same planet as the rest of us. In a book published a year ago, Very Strange Things I've Encountered, the interstellar Prime Minister’s wife confided that she was abducted by aliens while sleeping one night 20 years ago.
“While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus. It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green.”Not content with watching reruns of The Last Samurai or Top Gun, the 62-year-old explorer of greener pastures also claims to have known Tom Cruise in a previous life, when she says he was also Japanese, and looks forward to sharing billing with him on a Hollywood blockbuster. “I believe he’d get it if I said to him, ‘Long time no see’, when we meet,” she confided about the diminutive leading man in a recent interview. An author of a book on cooking, Hatoyama recently revealed on daytime TV an unusual breakfast snack—“I also eat the sun” every morning. “Yum, yum, yum” she said as she closed her eyes and demonstrated the act of consuming tasty solar treats from the sky, adding, “I get energy from it. My husband also does this.” Perhaps she acquired a taste for yellow main sequence stars during a nighttime fly past to Venus? Men may be from Mars, but Prime Minister’s wives are now from Venus. Source: The Independent
Bob Munden is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest man with a gun who has ever lived, and we're not talking about a 4x100 metre relay with gun in hand. Of the eighteen world records you can hold in fast draw shooting—the sport of drawing and shooting a gun in the manner of wild west lore—Bob has held all eighteen since 1960, and he holds them still in his ultra steady hand. This fastest gunslinger than the rest has won 3,500 trophies and 800 major championships, and while his picture might be on the back of cereal boxes, his sheriff's badge didn't come out of one. Is Bob the fastest man with a gun alive? Yes, but that’s barely grazing the surface of his intergalactic prowess. Friends, humans and countrymen, Bob Munden is the fastest human being alive. Fire away Bob, tell us just how fast you are...
“Fast draw is the fastest thing a human being does...”Bob Munden is a straight shooter. Being interviewed, he drawls but never hesitates before taking aim, and if certainty was a target, he would hit the bulls-eye every time. Being interviewed, Bob Munden doesn't just tell the television reporter how fast he is—he verbally shoots his questioner directly between the eyes, for so fast is this dead-eye gunslinger, he can answer questions even before they are asked.
“Nobody does anything faster than what I do with guns...”Which was a statement, not answer or explanation. Like Newton or Einstein, Sheriff Bob is laying down the law—of physics and of time. Slightly slower than Bob Munden on the universal scale of speed, a barely perceptible flicker of doubt fires across the television interviewer’s mind. Suspicious, the reporter takes aim, queries: “Can you give it a comparison to something that would come close?”
“The speed of light...” drawls big shot Bob, laconically, and uncharacteristically slowly. “There is nothing next to it.”Is this man fast with the truth as well? Is he on a supersonic flight of fancy that only reality can rein in? Bob Munden may talk fast and loose, but his gun is quicker than even his tongue. Already believers, a crowd of Western movie extras gather, stand and applaud his every move at a shooting demonstration, stiffly. In less than two one hundredths of one second, Bob will blow all of their minds.
“It's a number we’re not familiar with...”Two hundredths of one second is the time it takes Bob to fire and hit a target; draw, cock, level, fire, shoot and hit almost at the speed of light. One day we may build space ships fast enough to go where only Bob has gone before. Bob Munden, star of shooting may go supernova one day, explode into empty space with the sound of his gun his only reminder, like speeding light from a long dead star. Bob Munden lives in moments unexplored by humanity—he shoots his gun faster than you or I can think. Bob may just be consciousness itself—the acme of sense and thought, the sea upon which the human mind floats. Does Bob fire the gun, or is Bob the gun itself; trigger, bullet and mind at one? “He shot two and it sounded like it was one shot,” the reporter exclaims upon viewing Bob burst two balloons mounted meters apart, faster than you or I could shoot one. Faster than you or I could shoot none would be a more mathematically correct description of the scene. “Here's one going into the gun.” Bob Munden may fire with bullets, but he talks with poetry. At the shooing demonstration, but not entirely on the same planet, the reporter again declares that “two shots are going to sound like one.” Is this a moment of Zen, a moment of universal oneness, or a song by U2 from 1983? Stuck with the rest of us in the everyday dimensions of time and space, the television reporter is clearly unable to comprehend the singularity of Bob Munden’s genius. What is the sound of one gun firing? Silence in the infinite forest of Bob Munden’s Buddha-mind.
Muppets. Beloved children’s television puppets of the late 70’s, and slang for a grown up person who resembles one. Both definitions are true in Germany, where police have had the fur pulled over their eyes and their speed cameras—literally. Traffic police in Bayreuth, Bavaria have been made to look like muppets by the driver of a British registered Audi TT who, repeatedly caught speeding, has driven through a blind-spot in the Teutonic traffic control master plan—German speed cameras are calibrated for left-hand driving, and thus unable to capture his face. Precision engineered German technology has instead photographed a life-size muppet sitting in the passenger seat—out of control drummer Animal of The Muppet Show’s Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem band. A German police source said:
“The number plate is not enough. We need clear evidence of who is driving the vehicle too. “But because this is a British vehicle we can never get a decent picture. The driver has obviously worked this out because he has placed a large puppet in the passenger seat. “This may be an example of the famous British sense of humour but it is still dangerous driving. The driver has been caught on camera on several occasions and the puppet is on the passenger seat every time. We suspect he positions the toy deliberately before accelerating past the camera.”One suspects German police may well catch their suspect before they catch on to the British sense of humour.