"It is terrible that something so frightening should be given the name of something so pure and beautiful," says Luz Marlene Sierra Mayorga, a Bogotá engineer, referring to "miraculous fishing"--which is what?
Send your answer by 5 p.m. ET Sunday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday's Question (No. 252)--"Euphemism?":
"We want to be able to land in grandma's backyard at night, in thick fog, without hitting the clothesline," says Jack Allison, an engineer on the project. What project?
(This question courtesy of Jill Pope.)
"Eww. Just eww."--Floyd Elliot
"An improved smart bomb, now with added bleach and a touch of lemon!"--William Considine
"Getting grandpa back home after the Shriners' parade."--Ellen Macleay (Liz Mason had a similar answer.)
"A very ambitious 'meals-on-wings' program."--Herb Terns
"Is this another one of those commercials to convince women they can drive sport utility vehicles? 'Cause, like, I want a Miata."--Alison Rogers
Click for more answers.
Based on News Quiz responses, here's what we know about the world: NATO is dangerously inept, as is Amtrack, as is American Airlines, as are the elderly when attempting to sustain an erotic life. And incompetence is funny. Something falls on someone's head. The hose doesn't work, then it does, then it squirts somebody in the face. Someone tries to build something, and it collapses in a heap of rubble. It's the myth of Sisyphus played for laughs: When the rock rolls back down the hill, it crushes that poor bastard's toes. Of course it all depends on whose toe we're talking about. As Mel Brooks observed, if you break your back, that's comedy; if I break a nail, that's tragedy; if Henry Kissinger breaks his back, that's justice. I paraphrase, of course, and no doubt incompetently.
It's that flying car Popular Science has been putting on the cover every year since 1939, only this time it's really, really about to happen, says the BBC.
"Earlier flying cars were simply conventional vehicles with wings bolted on top, which had to be dismantled before they could run on roads. But Paul Moller's Skycar M400 operates with four pairs of engines with power fans that simply lift the car into the air.
"Moller, a former engineering professor at the University of California at Davis, has been working on the technology for a flying car since 1963. His company, Moller International, has spent $100m developing the flying car, which he calls a volantor.
"The car would have to take off from what Moller calls a vertiport. Noise levels and safety risks make it impractical to take off in the middle of the street, but he believes that in the future vertiports could be as common as corner shops.
"The M400 will not be cheap. The first models will cost up to a $1m, but Moller believes that a mass-produced model could cost as little as $60,000. And the flying car is not easy on petrol either. It does only 8km per liter."
Next up: superintelligent dogs that farm the ocean floor ... on Neptune!
When I need shampoo or a stereo or a piece of heavy industrial equipment, I can read up or ask a professional, but what I really wonder is: What sort of earthmover do celebrities recommend?
That's the idea behind endorsement.com, a Web site that would list the product preferences of every celebrity in America. Click Jenna Elfman (kooky star of television's Dharma and Greg), scroll through her categories--health and beauty aids, home electronics, medical and dental, non-ferrous metals--click heavy equipment, click earth moving machinery, click backhoe, and discover that Jenna is nuts about Caterpillar. In seconds, I've got some pretty savvy advice. And Jenna? For each person who seeks her advice she's paid a modest fee, let's say $3. Not much, is it? But with millions of people getting Jenna's tips on billions of purchases, she's going to become one wealthy celebrity endorser.
Why should a corporation gamble millions on a Michael Jordan endorsement deal when they can't be sure how influential he really is, particularly in retirement? What if he goes nuts one day and slaps the hell out an orphan, or even better, Trent Lott? Just goes after him with a 2-by-4. That might discourage people from seeking his advice on refreshing noncarbontated beverages or inexpensive long-distance services. But with endorsement.com, Mike gets paid only when someone seeks his advice. It's risk-free.
And everyone is a potential celebrity. Many people go to my Aunt Rose for medical advice. (Hint: She loves those new gel caps, so easy to swallow!) If she were always available online instead of just in the social room after Shabbat services, she could help more people and, at $3 an endorsement, help herself.
Interested investors can contact me through this magazine.
This I Do for Me, Tim Carvell, Extra
Participants are still welcome to offer a sentence from an actual publication that best conveys ludicrously conspicuous consumption in 1999. Submissions due by noon ET, Monday, June 7.
Midlife hits Lincoln Center
Hamptons feud and fret
and playing with pain
walk in clients' shoes
New York Times, June 1, 1999
--Lois C. Ambash