In Wall Street Journal, Wrinkles Wanted

Those attractive, hand-drawn mug shots that decorate stories in the Wall Street Journal are done by overlaying photographs with translucent paper and then painstakingly reproducing the image with lines and dots. Wrinkles are desirable because they’re easier to draw than smooth skin. The paper employs eight illustrators who prefer to see the story their work accompanies, because it enables them to make subtle changes matching the mood. All this comes from a story in American Way by Chris Warren, who says that each drawing takes about five hours to complete.

Delinquent Diplomats

Unpaid traffic tickets by diplomats in the past five years now total 150,000 in New York and city officials are angry about it. “The UN needs a good smack in the face,” according to one councilor quoted by the Economist. A study made by economists at Columbia University and UC Berkeley reveals that the number of unpaid tickets matches the degree of corruption in various countries with, for example, Chad’s diplomats having racked up 124 and Canada and the UK none.

What Brown Does for You

Customers owning Toshiba laptops that were still under warranty could drop them off at any UPS store, which would ship them to the computer company to fix. Now, to save time, UPS operates its own repair shop (certified by Toshiba) at its Louisville hub and can often ship the repaired laptop back the next day.

Magnetic Power

Does magnet therapy work? A pair of Drexel University researchers were amazed to find that a Google search of the subject yielded 459,000 web pages adding up to a billion-dollar international industry. And all this despite the lack of evidence that attaching magnets to yourself cures anything or improves health in any way. “The message seems quite clear,” writes Bruce Flamm sarcastically in the Skeptical Observer. ”Why bother with doctors and medicines when magnets are safe and effective?” Ridiculing the claims for magnet magic as “absurd” – some actually promise to cure cancer – the British Medical Journal calls it “useless magnet therapy.” There’s even a $12 magnet pet collar that claims to “keep your cat or dog in excellent health and vitality.”

The Buzz on Bees

Spelling bees, which originated in the early 1800s, were once the domain of brainy – usually unpopular – kids, says Rose Madeline Mula, but the contests have become so popular that ESPN annually televises the “Super Bowl of bees,” the Scripps finals. There have even been hit shows and movies about them. “It is ironic,” she writes in the Saturday Evening Post, “that spelling bees have become so popular in an age when misspellings are not only tolerated, they proliferate, i.e. phat pharm, ho, C U later, gansta.”

The Taxiderm-artist

British artist Damien Hirst – said to be worth $170 million – realized he was on to a good thing when the 1991 shark he preserved with formaldehyde sold for $10 million. With the assistance of 20 assistants he’s now selling more sharks, as well as three sheep, skinned and split open.

The Wilcock Web

Traditional brass pots that leech minute, but harmless traces of copper act as a disinfectant, say researchers at Northumbria University, and thus water kept in them has proved to be uncontaminated, unlike water stored in modern plastic or ceramic ones…. Britain’s roads are so congested that Highway authorities will allow motorists to drive on the hard shoulder when sensors detect traffic jams are building up…. Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström forecasts that telephone calls will eventually cost nothing. “You don’t pay for each e-mail or each web page you unload; it’s the same with phone calls,” he says. “That’s where it’s going. It will be free”…. “In Search of Elvis,” by Charlie Connelly and due in February, is being promoted as “the first travel book to examine the global appeal” of the King of rock ’n’ roll…. The solitary license for what’s termed a ”super casino” in England is supposed to be up for tender, but the Daily Mail charges that the fix is in and that it will be granted to U.S. billionaire Philip Anschutz…. Virtue does not come from money, but from virtue comes money and all other good things, declared Socrates, 469-399 BC…. “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” – Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55).

John Wilcock’s column and weekly travel show can be accessed at