Koo Stark, the actress turned photographer who dated Prince Andrew in the early 80s, has lost her legal battle with a subsequent former lover, the American financier Warren “Robbie” Walker, over the $70,000-a-year she said he’d promised her for “household expenses.” When the couple split in the late 90s, they had a daughter, and, The Times of London reported, “[Stark] claimed that he had made the promise in return for her giving up plans to write what he regarded as a ‘distasteful’ newspaper column entitled Diary of a Single Mother,” and that “Lady Justice Asplin dismissed the claim … [as] ‘totally without merit.’” Walker’s lawyers cast Stark as “a gold digger,” and the judge’s opinion was that she had been living “beyond her means for years”—a state of affairs not likely to improve given that she’s now responsible for her ex’s legal fees as well, the total bill estimated at north of a half-million dollars.
Venice’s seemingly intractable problem—malignant tourism—could be solved by simply creating another “Venice” right next door, says the Swiss economist Bruno Frey in a new book. “It could even be better than the original, specially designed for tourists,” he told Der Spiegel. “I think the hunt for selfies in canonical places is legitimate. If people enjoy it, let them do it. But in Venice it’s almost impossible to take a halfway decent selfie in the crowds.… We should prepare our favourite places for this globalised demand.” Nothing like Vegas or Disney World, notes The Times of London. Rather, Frey “proposes … ‘new originals’ filled with new technologies and holograms, which would make the copies the first choice of many people wanting to visit.”
Because tourism is likely to return with a vengeance post-coronavirus, Frey suggested there could be even more ersatz destinations: a “Salzburg,” a “Stratford-upon-Avon,” a “Cambridge,” an “Oxford.” And, speaking of intractable problems, what about those Elgin Marbles? Frey argued that they “could be perfectly recreated and the Greeks could decide whether to take back the damaged original or the better copy,” reported The Times.
If Frey lost you with his magnanimity toward selfie-inflicters, maybe try thinking of his proposal this way: these destinations, shrewdly deployed to attract swarms of tourists, could have value as—essentially—enormous, nonlethal bug zappers.
More traditional bugs: A pair of oak capricorn beetles in the collection of the Natural History Museum—where they’d been since the 1970s when a farmer in East Anglia found them in a piece of wood in a peat bog—recently underwent carbon dating, and, what do you know, it turns out they’re older than they look. Roughly 3,785 years old, in fact: late Bronze Age. And, because they preferred a warmer climate, they’ve been extinct in England for thousands of years. “These beetles are older than the Tudors, older than the Roman occupation of Britain, even older than the Roman Empire,” said the museum’s curator of beetles, Max Barclay. “These beetles were alive and chewing the inside of that piece of wood when the pharaohs were building the pyramids in Egypt. It is tremendously exciting.”
You—if you’re a beetle—can really work up a thirst chewing on Bronze Age wood in the hot Egyptian sun, so it’s been reassuring to also learn this week that archaeologists have discovered an ancient brewery on the site of the city of Abydos, to the south of Cairo. The 5,000-year-old operation was divided into eight sections measuring roughly 65 feet by 8 feet, with 40 clay pots apiece, and was capable of producing nearly 6,000 gallons of beer per batch, according to researchers. The Web site of the North Abydos Expedition reports that the brewery was “an important component of a new system of royal expression” possibly connected to “the sacrificial burial of courtiers and retainers, and in one case the burial of an entire fleet of boats.” Whew. Still undiscovered at press time: a First Dynasty–period beer helmet.
Face it—baking is so early pandemic. Now it’s time to reach (carefully!) for those files and chisels. “[Homebase’s] sales of wood clamps have risen by almost 68 per cent this year compared with a year ago, and sales of chisels, files and planers have jumped by 50 per cent,” reported The Times of London, adding that one hardware retailer “has recorded a rise of more than 300 per cent in sales of chisels over the same period.” More? “Applications to the London School of Furniture Making’s core skills course rose by 30 per cent between June and Christmas.” Meanwhile, on both sides of the Atlantic, neophyte woodworkers are picking up tips (again, carefully!) from all manner of YouTube experts.
So, it’s a movement. And, inevitably, a carpentry competition, hosted by Mel Giedroyc—you may remember her from an earlier incarnation of The Great British Bake Off—is imminent: Good with Wood will air on Britain’s Channel 4 sometime this spring.
If watching low-production-value woodworking instruction on YouTube constitutes more excitement than you can stand, then switch channels and sample some gongbang. It means “study broadcast,” and the videos are as advertised: people livestream themselves studying, for hours on end. Gongbang videos on YouTube have captivated hardworking students in South Korea, where one popular channel, “The Man Sitting Next to Me,” stars an aspiring tax accountant. (In it, he sits at his desk, studying; 53,000 subscribers.) Fans of gongbang have embraced it as an online support system, especially during these solitary lockdown days—we’re all in this together, too—and the livestreams are starting to establish a quiet, studious presence in India, Britain, Japan, and the United States as well. Check them out. And then, just to be on the safe side, check to see if you have a pulse.
Admiral Horatio Nelson was a pro-vaxxer. In an 1801 letter to his mistress, Emma Hamilton, he mentioned a recent scientific breakthrough—the smallpox vaccine—and seemingly suggested it for their baby daughter, Horatia. Nelson “was about to depart England on another dangerous mission to France, but avoided any mention of this in his letter,” reported The Guardian, instead “extol[ling] the virtues of the new vaccine: ‘Yesterday, the subject turned on the cow-pox. A gentleman declared that his child was inoculated with the cow-pox; and afterwards remained in a house where a child has the small-pox the natural way, and did not catch it.’” The newspaper noted that in Nelson’s day “vaccinations were extremely dangerous and rarely successful,” but that Nelson “appears relaxed and convinced by the merits” of the new vaccine. The letter was found last week in an archive at the National Maritime Museum, whose senior curator, Rob Blyth, said of Nelson, “He can see the benefits of further technological and scientific advancement, because as a sailor he has benefited from a century of those developments.” If only Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had gone to sea.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL