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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pose on arrival at the 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, 2012. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pose on arrival at the 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, 2012. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Social Studies

Cult of celebrity as charted by … obits? Add to ...

Our star-studded culture

“If you want to track the rise of our celebrity-obsessed culture, look no further than the obituaries,” says NBCNews.com. “Researchers found that during the 20th century, more and more obituaries of entertainers and athletes turned up in The New York Times’ ‘notable deaths’ section, mirroring a growing public fascination with celebrities. At the same time, interest in the deaths of scientists, inventors, industrialists and religious figures seemed to fade from 1900 to 2000.”

Dogs’ amazing trick

“Next time the family dog bounds out of the nearest body of water and shakes itself off right beside you, don’t get irritated: You’re witnessing a feat of evolution that engineers can only dream of recreating,” writes Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience. “Furry mammals can shake themselves 70 per cent dry in just a fraction of a second, according to new research. The study, which looked at the shaking speeds of 16 species of mammals, from mice to lions to bears, found that the smaller the animal, the faster it must shake to dry its fur.

‘We think this has been evolving over millions of years … to become so good,’ said study researcher David Hu, who studies biolocomotion at Georgia Tech. ‘Imagine if you could come out of the shower and, instead of using a towel, you could just press a button and in one-thirtieth of a second you’re 70 per cent dry.’”

Level playing field? Tough

“Football matches are more likely to turn aggressive and dirty when the teams are evenly matched, compared to contests between two unequal teams, a study has found,” The Independent reports. “The same is true of basketball matches and is probably a universal phenomenon in all competitive team sports where two opposing teams are of the same level of ability, scientists said. … [It] is also true of aggressive contests between individuals in the animal kingdom, whether it is rutting deer stags or quarrelsome Siamese fighting fish. Now scientists believe they have found evidence for the same trait in competing groups of sportsmen.” The study, by Gert Stulp and colleagues at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, is published in Biology Letters.

Waiting tables just got worse

Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi has introduced Naked Sushi, “which is pretty much what you think it is,” reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The restaurant inside the frisky South Beach hotel known as the Catalina … attracts a hot young crowd. So the meal, artfully arranged on strategically placed leaves, may not sit on a model that is actually naked. If you request a male model, he’ll have a thong on. ‘We didn’t want the leaves moving by themselves,’ says hotel owner Nathan Lieberman. … [Originally], they thought about hiring professional models, but Catalina staffers eagerly volunteered. Each is ‘professionally bathed,’ Mr. Lieberman said, and inspected by a manager before heading to the private dining room where the meal is served.”

Want an entry-level job?

“Looking for a job? You might be in luck if you’ve got a talent for just clowning around,” says the Chicago Tribune. “The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Clown College has announced plans for its first open auditions in Chicago in years. … Auditions, according to the circus, are open to any aspiring ‘funster’ interested in travelling and performing with the circus while ‘learning the ancient traditions of clowning …’ Among the traits the circus will be looking for: improvisational ability, sense of timing and ‘a sincere desire to be a clown.’ No previous experience is required.”

Only in America

“A North Carolina Tea Party is getting creative with a fundraiser slated for next month,” The Huffington Post reports. “On Sept. 29, the Asheville Tea Party is hosting a ‘Machine Gun Social’ at an indoor arms range in Brevard, N.C. According to the event’s flyer, attendees can give $25 for a 30-round magazine on a 9 mm submachine gun of their choice – an HK MP5, an Israeli Uzi or a Swedish I. Guests can spend $35 for 30 rounds on an AK47, while the most ambitious of Tea Party patriots can drop $50 for 30 rounds on an M16.” The money raised is going to Tea Party-endorsed political candidates.

Thought du jour

“What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like some secret vice!”

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001), American author and aviator

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