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image An email correspondent asked me if the following story could be true:
Paolina and Ake Viking were married in Sicily in the autumn of 1958, thanks to a far-traveling bottle. Two years earlier Ake, a bored young Swedish sailor on a ship far out at sea, had dropped a bottle overboard with a message asking any pretty girl who found it to write. Paolina's father, a Sicilian fisherman, picked it up and passed it to his daughter for a joke. Continuing the joke, Paolina sent off a note to the young sailor. The correspondence quickly grew warmer. Ake visited Sicily, and the marriage soon followed their first meeting.
Initially, I was skeptical, because of the large number of hoaxes involving messages-in-bottles (See here and here). But it turns out that the story of Ake and Paolina is true.

The tale was widely reported in the news back in the late 1950s. A 1959 article in The American Weekly titled "Love in a Bottle" told the story in more detail and actually included a few pictures of the happy couple, in one of which (shown above) they were posing at the spot where she found the bottle. Here's the text of the American Weekly article:
Ake, a Swedish sailor, relieved his tedium at sea one day in 1955 by writing a letter. "To Someone'Beautiful and Far Away," he poetically inscribed it. After giving his home address and a brief description of himself, he added, "Write to me, whoever you are," and signed his name. With that, he tucked the paper into an empty bottle of aqua vitae, replaced its cork and tossed it overboard. Two years went by. Then, on his return from another voyage, he found a letter, postmarked Syracuse, Sicily. The message was in Italian, which one of his shipmates obligingly translated. It was from a 17-year-old girl, who wrote: "Last Tuesday, I found a bottle on the shore. Inside was a piece of paper, bearing writing in a strange language. I took it to our priest, who is a great scholar. He said the language was Swedish and, with the help of a dictionary, he read me your charming letter. I am not beautiful, but it seems so miraculous that this little bottle should have traveled so far and long to reach me that I must send you an answer ..." Other letters, consigned to ordinary post, followed the first two. Photographs were exchanged and, finally, vows. Ake set sail for Syracuse and now, together, he and his pretty, if not beautiful, correspondent, who has just turned 18, are embarked on the sea of matrimony.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 18, 2007
Comments (10)
Christopher Crowe had pleaded guilty to domestic battery. When the judge asked his wife to stand up and state if she accepted the plea deal, 47-year-old Rebecca Crowe stood up and said she did. But Rebecca was actually his mother. (Let's hope she was just pretending to be his wife, and it wasn't anything weirder.) The court realized the deception when a prosecutor later saw a picture of Crowe's actual wife.

The article also notes: "Courtroom personnel later admitted they thought the woman looked too old." But that wouldn't have been a good basis for suspecting fraud because older woman/younger man matches are becoming much more common. The most frequently cited example are Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, who are 15 years apart in age, but I'm in this demographic too because my wife, Beverley, is ten years older than I am. Though she definitely would never be able to pass for my mother. I think I seem older than she does.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 15, 2007
Comments (1)
The New Zealand Press reports on a new sexual phenomenon: Vegansexuality. Here are some extracts from the article:
Vegansexuals are people who do not eat any meat or animal products, and who choose not to be sexually intimate with non-vegan partners whose bodies, they say, are made up of dead animals...

Many female respondents described being attracted to people who ate meat, but said they did not want to have sex with meat-eaters because their bodies were made up of animal carcasses...

Christchurch vegan Nichola Kriek has been married to her vegan husband, Hans, for nine years. She would not describe herself as vegansexual, but said it would definitely be a preference... "When you are vegan or vegetarian, you are very aware that when people eat a meaty diet, they are kind of a graveyard for animals," she said.
Wow. I never thought of myself as a graveyard for animals, but when you put it that way, I guess it is technically true.

I think what's going on here is what anthropologists call the law of sympathetic magic: Once in contact, always in contact. That is, if an offensive object touches a neutral object, the neutral object becomes permanently tainted (in the eyes of the observer) by the contact. It's a totally irrational impulse, but powerful nonetheless.

I write about an experiment in Elephants on Acid in which an experimenter briefly dipped a dried, sterilized cockroach into a glass of apple juice and then asked people if they would be willing to drink the juice. Most people didn't want to, even though the juice was in no way contaminated. It's the same principle as vegansexuality. If something really grosses us out, that sense of disgust will spread to anything touched by the offensive object.
Categories: Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 14, 2007
Comments (18)
image Imagine this scenario. It's your wedding day. You've been planning for it for months. It's cost you thousands of dollars, but finally the big day has arrived and the entire wedding party is gathered in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park -- the guests, the caterers, the photographer... and the zombies?

Balboa Park is an extremely popular spot for weddings. In fact, it's where Beverley and I got married five years ago, but it's also completely open to the public. Usually this is no problem. But it became an issue last month when Balboa Park served as the location for San Diego's first-ever zombie walk.

Hundreds of people dressed up as blood-spattered zombies lurched and staggered through the park. It was supposed to be a wacky, flash-mob type event. But the people having weddings there didn't think it was funny. Witness this angry letter-to-the-editor that Glenda Wiederkehr wrote in to the San Diego Union-Tribune:
The zombie enthusiasts who invaded Balboa Park last month need to have their “unheads” examined. The soulless walkers dragged themselves through our friend's wedding reception. Not a “meandering” pass by, but a deliberate, harassing parade over and over through the gathered guests. The bridesmaids and others were left to police them, direct them and loudly encourage them to disperse. A San Diego police detective needs to know they were not “just people having fun.” The zombie makeup artist who stated, “It seems to me that everyone in the world right now is so stressed” and that “we grow up so fast” has made her point. And, believe me, it is not well taken.
However, Jennifer Griffith, the organizer of the zombie walk, has denied that any zombies dragged themselves through the wedding. She writes:
Glenda Wiederkehr is sadly mistaken. There was police presence at that walk and they were stationed very near the wedding reception in question. We passed by the reception: ONCE on the absolute opposite side of El Prado (on our way to the west end) and ONCE on our way back to the east end. I PERSONALLY directed zombies AWAY from the reception; towards the center and opposite side of El Prado... I can guarantee that the official walk NEVER passed through the wedding reception. If a few wayward zombies passed through on the way back to their vehicles, then I personally apologize for their actions, but do not slander our entire group for a few potential bad apples (though I REALLY doubt even that happened).
Personally, I would have loved it if zombies had shown up at my wedding, but then, not everyone shares my appreciation for the odd. I can understand that many people would not include zombies in their idea of a dream wedding.
Categories: Paranormal, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 11, 2007
Comments (16)
I've heard of renting wedding dresses, but I'd never heard of renting the wedding cake. But apparently renting fake wedding cakes is becoming increasingly popular. Here's how it works:
The idea is to have an elegant, multitiered pretend cake for show while serving guests slices from a real, tasty and inexpensive sheet cake. The inside of a faux wedding cake crafted by Fun Cakes in Grandville contains mostly plastic foam, with a secret spot reserved for a slice of real cake to be shared by the bride and groom. Everything is covered by gum paste and fondant, a frosting-like confection made from sugar and water often used in cakes and pastries. After a bride and groom take the traditional first slice of their real wedding cake, it's often wheeled away from guests, out of their sight, to be cut up and served on plates. Do the same thing using a fake cake and a sheet cake, and guests will be none the wiser.
It seems like a sensible idea to me. Though, of course, another option would be simply not to have such an expensive wedding if you can't afford it. I'm constantly amazed at the obscene amounts of money some people spend on their weddings. My wife and I had a very simple, low-key wedding, though we did splurge on an Elvis-shaped groom's cake (real, not fake).
Categories: Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 13, 2007
Comments (9)
The latest trend among teenage girls is, apparently, to have a "prom baby." The idea is that girls try to get pregnant on prom night. This sneaky tactic allows them to avoid the pressure of going to college. Instead they substitute the pressure of raising a child.

This trend was reported by a "Worried Dad" who recently wrote in to Dear Abby. He writes:
I first heard about it while driving my teenage daughter to a lacrosse meet with several of her girlfriends. One girl in the car, "Carrie," said she hoped this year she could have a prom baby. The girls were discussing two former classmates from last year's lacrosse team who had been unable to begin college because they had both become mothers at 17. Both had deliberately planned to get pregnant on prom night -- hence the term, "prom baby." Abby, both of the girls were studious and hard-working with bright futures ahead of them. One had been accepted to several Ivy League schools. Needless to say, their parents were devastated, and many adjustments had to be made for the new babies.
I'm thinking that either the letter writer was deliberately trying to start a new urban legend, or his daughter's friends were pulling his leg. I have a hard time believing anyone would be stupid enough to think that raising a kid is easier than going to college.

And as one blogger points out, "If they really wanted to sabotage their own chances of going to college, wouldn't they just submit a poor application?"

I think "prom babies" should be classified as an urban legend of the "shocking sexual behavior of teenage girls" variety, along with other legends such as Jelly Bracelet Sex Codes and Rainbow Parties.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue May 08, 2007
Comments (23)
A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill couple, Ryan Burke and Mindy Moorman, have admitted that their Valentine’s Day break-up was nothing more than a prank.

The story went that the couple had been dating for four months when Burke discovered Moorman had been cheating on him.
He invited people via facebook.com to watch the confrontation, which featured a group of singers performing the Dixie Chicks song “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice” before he broke up with Moorman, to which she responded with expletives. Hundreds of people turned up to the event, and it was quickly posted on youtube.com, where the video has been seen by thousands of people worldwide.

However, twelve days after the break-up, Burke admitted that the entire story was a prank. He and Moorman had never even dated, and they had set up the spectacle to show ”the power of Internet communities and the amount of money that companies make from them.”
Categories: Pranks, Sex/Romance
Posted by Flora on Mon Mar 26, 2007
Comments (5)

Fake Cyber Romance Leads to Death
22-year-old Brian Barrett was shot to death by his 47-year-old co-worker, Thomas Montgomery, who was jealous of his internet relationship with the young woman that Montgomery had been having a cyber fling with. What neither of them knew was that the woman involved was not 18, as she said, but a 40-something mother who was using her daughter’s identity.

CNN Debunks Obama Report
CNN have refuted Insight magazine’s claims that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama was raised in a radical Muslim school.

Protesters for Hire
For around €150 per person, a group of young Germans are offering themselves as demonstrators for whatever protest you happen to be running.

(Thanks, Firefly and Charybdis.)
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Miscellaneous, Politics, Sex/Romance
Posted by Flora on Wed Jan 24, 2007
Comments (15)

Toilet doubles as goldfish aquarium
Link submitted by Big Gary (the deputy curator in charge of fish) who notes, "Yet another way to torture goldfish ..."

Man cooks eggs on floor
"experts are investigating but have still not discovered why the floor of his home is so hot." Just a thought, but they might want to check if everything is okay in the apartment below him.

Banana tree predicts Lotto numbers
"They rub a mixture of powder and water on the tree's trunk, then wait to see what number the solution resembles as it dries." Probably works as well as any method of picking numbers.

Giant banana to fly over Texas
"A Montreal artist is planning to float a gigantic yellow banana in geostationary orbit above Texas next year." All hail the Flying Banana Monster.

Bride's joke ends wedding ceremony
"a bride in Austria jokingly answered "no" instead of "yes"... the official performing the civil wedding promptly broke off the ceremony." I guess wedding ceremonies are like going through security at the airport -- no joking allowed.
Categories: Animals, Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 12, 2007
Comments (12)

The Apostles of O'Neill
A group of college kids living in a Washington DC house were informed that they were violating zoning laws that allowed only six people to live in one house. But they did some homework and discovered that 15 people are allowed per house, if it's a residence for a "religious community." Therefore, they've filed paperwork incorporating themselves as a nonprofit religious organization. They call themselves the Apostles of O'Neill.

Nessie could not have been a plesiosaur
Leslie Noe of the Sedgwick Museum has figured out that Nessie cannot be a plesiosaur. Why? Because plesiosaurs couldn't hold their necks above water: "Calculating the articulation of the neck bones, he concluded the neck was flexible and could move easily when pointing down. He explained how the neck was like a feeding tube, to collect soft-bodied prey: The small skulls of plesiosaurs couldn't cope with hard-shelled prey. However, the osteology of the neck makes it absolutely certain that the plesiosaur could not lift its head out of the water - as most alleged pictures of Nessie show."

Fake John Paul II Cloth Relics
The relic trade is alive and well. Souvenir shops near the Vatican are selling "medallions enclosing a tiny shred of cloth and labelled 'relics of John Paul II.'" No word on if they cure any ailments.

"There's a tick on you" as pick-up line
Here's the latest desperate pick-up strategy some guy has dreamed up. He tells women there's a tick on them and then starts pulling their clothes off. The strategy doesn't seem to be working.

Another Message in a Bottle found
Thirty years ago Marie Myatt threw a message in a bottle into the ocean. Recently it was found, just a few kilometres away from where she threw it. Sounds plausible enough. I'm inclined to think this isn't a hoax. (Thanks, Robert)
Categories: Cryptozoology, Exploration/Travel, Religion, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 13, 2006
Comments (17)

Chris De Burgh, Miracle Healer
Pop singer Chris De Burgh supposedly cures a woman's paralyzed arm by laying on his "healing hands." I had no idea who he even was when I first saw this. But I googled him and found out he's the guy who sings "Lady In Red." There's already a Church of Tom Jones. So why not a Church of Chris De Burgh?

Doll Experience Rooms
Apparently these are the hot new thing at Korean brothels. "A 'doll experience room' is a place punters rent for some W25,000(US$1=W958) an hour, a fee that includes a bed, a computer, and an inflatable sex doll."

$60 Champagne gets relabeled and sold for $300
Hoping to address a need in the hip-hop market for "bling" champagne, Cattier puts $60 "Antique Gold" in a flashier bottle and sells it for $300 as "Armand de Brignac" with the help of rapper Jay-Z. (Thanks, Joe)

Pelican Swallows Pigeon
Not a hoax. Just odd. What happened: "the bird got up and strolled along until it reached one of the pigeons, which it just grabbed in its beak. There was a bit of a struggle for about 20 minutes, with all these people watching. The pelican only opened its mouth a couple of times. Then it managed to get the pigeon to go head first down its throat. It was kicking and flapping the whole way down." This news story inspired blogger Faye Williams to create a list of the Top 10 I’ve Got Eyes Bigger Than My Belly stories.

RIP: Pink Flamingo, 1957-2006
Union Products of Leominster, Massachusetts, is scheduled to close its doors on November 1. It's apparently the only maker of pink flamingoes in America. It's being forced to close due to "increases in costs of electricity and plastic resin." Does this mean pink flamingoes will never again congregate on the front lawn of UW-Madison?
Categories: Animals, Paranormal, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 26, 2006
Comments (10)
imageHenrietta the Four Legged Chicken
Henrietta had been living peacefully among 36,000 other chickens for 18 months when her owners noticed that she had four legs.

Separation Agency Takes the Stress Out of Breaking Up
A German agency will break up with your partner for you, if you are too scared to do it yourself. The client gives the agency three reasons why they want to break up, which are then passed on to the dumpee. The service costs 20 Euros by phone, or 50 Euros in person.

Dog Starts Car
After George the dog swallowed the immobiliser chip out of his owner's electronic key fob, the only way to get the car started (until the chip was... passed) was to put the dog in the front seat.
Categories: Animals, Sex/Romance, Technology
Posted by Flora on Wed Sep 27, 2006
Comments (3)
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