Offbeat: E-kisses and flying kiwis

A round-up of the craziest, oddest stories from across the globe.

May 15, 2011
Offbeat: E-kisses and flying kiwis

Cashing in on bin Laden’s death

Looks like Osama bin Laden is worth more dead than alive. That is, at least, in the make-a-buck marketing world of souvenirs, collectibles and tchotchkes.

Within hours of bin Laden’s death, a wide swath of marketers had already latched onto the leader’s sudden demise at the hands of the US Special Forces. Most see it as a chance to cash in with T-shirts, pins, coffee mugs and even risqué thongs that — for $10 (Rs848.85) to $25 (Rs 2,122.13) — memorialise or even celebrate the May 1 death of the man who was widely regarded as the world’s most-wanted terroerist.

Between midnight of May 1 and the afternoon of May 2, thousands of consumer-created souvenirs had popped up for sale on the websites and, where royalty-seekers go with original ideas for souvenir-like products that are ultimately produced by the companies. Executives at Zazzle, agree. “We haven’t had a moment like this in some time,” says Michael Karns, director of marketing at Zazzle. “It wasn’t this big when Saddam Hussein was captured.”

The tone of most items, Joe Schmidt, senior vice president of retail at CafePress says, generally falls in one of four categories: patriotism, military support, celebration and a category that he calls “justice is served.” But isn’t the merchandising of bin Laden’s death in poor taste? “We’ve always viewed ourselves as being a mirror to the culture,” Schmidt responds. “What’s more important than personal expression?”

Among the items for sale are t-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs, caps, bumper stickers, neckties, iPhone cases etc.


Introducing the ‘e-kiss’

Your sweetheart is on the other side of the world and you can’t touch her. But thanks to the Kajimoto Laboratory in Japan, you can now pseudo-French kiss over the internet.

A straw-like component transmits tongue motion to a second device, and you can even record it for more kisses later. A celebrity could even use the device to ‘kiss’ fans. Students at Japan’s Kajimoto Laboratory at the University of Electro-Communications have created a small device that uses motor rotations with the aim of simulating the feeling of a kiss over the Internet. Graduate student Nobuhiro Takahashi — who may have too much time on his hands — has proudly demonstrated his ‘kiss transmissions device’ in a YouTube video released by Tokyo’s Kajimoto Laboratory.

He says it could be the beginning of a full person-to-person web experience, and may even raise the tantalising possibility of celebrities like Justin Bieber being able to record a kiss for fans to experience.

The device resembles a breathalyser, with a moveable plastic straw attached to a motorised box.


The miracle baby

A baby girl who was said to be ‘clinically dead’ by doctors has amazed her family by recovering from meningitis.

Medics had told Lillie-Mai Jackson’s devastated parents that it would be best if her life-support machine was switched off. But remarkably, they gave her a second chance after her father Rupert Jackson, 31, noticed she reacted slightly every time someone closed the door and it banged.

Belinda Little, 22, and her partner Jackson refused to give up on their child who had been struck down by meningococcal septicaemia.

Lillie-Mai, now six-months, was 14-weeks old when she contracted the deadly virus and has lost both her legs and an arm to the disease. Despite doctors giving her just two hours to live, the child is now growing stronger with her mother and father at their home in Maryport, Cumbria, UK.

Lillie still has a lot of treatment to undergo and her parents are currently raising money so that Lillie may one day be fitted with prosthetic legs. Anyone wishing to donate should visit the Lillie-Mai Trust Facebook page.


Kiwi Aik Parinda Hai!

A kiwi has been found in a Russian port more than 16,000 kilometres from home — with authorities saying they have no idea how it got there.

Russian media is reporting the flightless native New Zealand bird was found living in the port town of Sochi, in the Krasnodar Krai region on the Black sea.  Experts believed the Kiwi may have arrived on a cruise ship, but Sochi’s port authorities denied that could happen. They say all cruise ships are subject to very strict controls. “This is such a strange story, I’m shocked!” Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park senior officer, Paul Kavanagh said. “It baffles me because kiwis are nocturnal and very shy... I’ve never heard of a black market involving kiwis.” The birds could be aggressive, have a strong kick and have been known to kill possums, Kavanagh said. “If you don’t know how to handle one, they can be very aggressive.” Zoologists fear that the bird, not being used to the local climate, may die. They are now busy figuring out how to save it.


Reaching for the moon

Space tourism has already reached low-Earth orbit, and now the industry is shooting for the moon.

After helping to send seven private citizens on eight trips to the International Space Station — starting with Dennis Tito, who became the world’s first space tourist on April 28, 2001 — the Virginia-based company Space Adventures is mapping out a tourist trip around the moon.

Despite a nine-figure ticket price of $150 million (Rs12.7 billion), the firm has already signed up a passenger for a maiden moon journey. And if it inks a second customer soon, the mission could launch within three to five years, company officials say. “We need that second contract for the mission to go ahead,” said Space Adventures president Tom Shelley. “But we’re confident that we’ll be able to make an announcement about that mission later this year.”

Customers will travel aboard a three-seat Russian Soyuz spacecraft around the far side of the moon and back — a journey of seven or eight days, Shelley said. The spacecraft won’t land on the lunar surface, but passengers will still get an experience that has been limited so far to a few dozen astronauts.

“You’re going to get to reach within 100 kilometres of the moon’s surface, so you’re going to get a really close-up view of the moon and that incredible Earthrise as well,” Shelley said. “There are only 24 people who have seen that.”


iGotcha: high tech victim turns tables

Thieves chose the wrong target when they stole a laptop from a New Plymouth, New Zealand computer shop.

Proformac Computers owner, Suman Modgill used his iPhone to turn on his stolen laptop and took pictures of the crooks using Skype. He then handed the photos to police who recognised the thieves and arrested them.

Springing into action just hours after the robbery, Modgill used remote access software to track the stolen computer’s IP address and turned on the computer’s Skype function.”I got in (the computer) and turned on Skype and recorded the images on my iPhone,” Modgill said. “I gave the police the images and they recognised them.”

Modgill, whose presence of mind got him his laptop back, said with the right software people can remotely turn on their computer, use applications or lock out access. “There is software and websites now that you can use to track exactly where your computer is if it is missing. If people want to pinch laptops they are going to have a hard time because you can definitely track them down quite easily.”


Dressed to impress?

A 12-year-old boy has gone to school dressed in a skirt to protest against ‘discriminatory’ rules which ban boys from wearing shorts.

Chris Whitehead wore a girls’ knee-length skirt to classes at Impington Village College, near Cambridge, UK. Chris is protesting against a school uniform policy, which bans boys from wearing shorts during the summer.

He also addressed 1,368 pupils at morning assembly wearing the black skirt, which boys are permitted to wear due to a loophole in the policy. Chris believes that forcing boys to wear long trousers during the summer affects concentration and their ability to learn.

Chris’s mother Liz Whitehead, 50, has praised her son for standing up for “what he believes in”.


Sounds fishy

A red dragon fish, costing almost as much as a BMW, is available at a shop in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. The fish, which comes from Indonesia, is 55-centimetres long and weighs 1.5 kilograms. Its scales and fins are pepper red, which is rare, as most dragon fish are usually yellow or silver.

If any fish fans are interested, the price is 360,000 Yuan (Rs4.7 million). The rare fish also requires high maintenance, costing more than 300 Yuan (Rs3,917.73) per month.


Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2011.


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