Well, the first photos of Roman Abramovich’s new yacht have surfaced. (Where were you when you heard?) Solaris is still under construction at a German shipyard, in a shed large enough to contain Buckingham Palace (or Solaris—not both), but it’s slightly disappointing to learn that, at just 460 feet, the vessel is smaller than the Russian businessman/Chelsea F.C. owner’s other super-yacht, the 533-foot Eclipse. Still, at least the $460 million price tag will give Abramovich, whose net worth exceeds $14 billion, a few amenities: eight decks, 48 cabins, and a helipad, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, gym, and sauna. Although the Solaris is nearing completion, don’t expect your invitation before summer.
This tiny community (population 350) in Normandy, chosen as a site for one of Elon Musk’s Starlink stations, has blocked the installation of antennae for the satellite Internet system, reports the Local France. “We’re not technophobes,” said a woman who lives close to the proposed station. “But these antennas are completely new, at least in France, and we want to know if they’re dangerous or not.” Besides, added the village’s deputy mayor, “when you hear that he wants to implant a chip in people’s brains”—she was alluding to Neuralink, another Musk project—“it’s frightening.” So, at least for now, Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron has said Pas si vite to Musk. (If Neuralink were a bit further along, they could have just thought it to him.)
To the relief of some Japanese citizens and the dismay of others, a detailed online map now pinpoints the locations—more than 6,000 of them—of noisy or inconsiderate neighbors. The Dorozoku (Road Tribe) Web site was created by an exasperated computer technician, who says he’s been receiving about 100 anonymous tips a day. Supporters have welcomed the Dorozoku map as useful information for those who value peace and quiet; detractors worry that it provides a platform for vengeful, unneighborly behavior, full of intolerance and complaining.
In other words, an exercise in Mapkvetching. Sure enough, among the postings gathered in the press: “[A baby] can be heard crying shortly after 7 in the morning,” “Several children are running around and playing in a group almost every day, making strange cries in loud voices,” “Children of lower kindergarten age are shouting on the street in the evening and on Saturdays and Sundays,” “Barbecue in a residential area. Smoke and bad smell over a wide area. Voices getting louder. Very annoying,” and, perhaps most alarming, “Mother and daughter and similar aunts in the neighborhood are screaming on the road with skateboarding and ball play.”
We detect the hand of Google Translate in that last one. Or, as Google Translate would put it, “I will take this medicine in one of Nishigo.” (No kidding—go ahead and plug it in.)
That desire for peace and quiet—especially quiet—has manifested itself in all sorts of ways. With the pandemic wreaking distinct havoc on young people’s dating and sex lives, “singletons appear to have taken matters into their own hands,” reported The Times of London. “Figures suggest a rise in sales of erotic fiction and high-end sex toys, particularly among women in their twenties.” And, notably, “sales of the quietest vibrator, the Whisper Rabbit, are up by 60 per cent compared with a year ago.”
The newspaper goes on to mention some familiar names who have detected a need and, sure, a business opportunity: the model and actress Cara Delevingne (“co-owner and creative adviser of Lora DiCarlo, whose products include a ‘premium robotic massager’” for $290), the actress Dakota Johnson (“investor and creative director in high-end sex-toy brand Maude, which sells sculpture-like toys and organic lubricants”), the singer Lily Allen (co-designer of a $99 stimulator), and Alexandra Dunhill (Sir Alfred Dunhill’s great-granddaughter, who is offering a $67 lubricant and $73 massage-oil range). Not surprising in a paragraph about high-end electronic sexual stimulants, there is a sentence including Goop—which has on offer its own $155 double-sided wand vibrator.
A thousand trees will give their lives to reconstruct Notre-Dame’s 315-foot spire, destroyed in the devastating fire of 2019. After flirting with the idea of a more contemporary replacement, President Emmanuel Macron announced in July that the original spire will be replicated, and now more specifics have been revealed. “This is expected to require up to 1,000 oaks aged between 150 and 200 years old,” reported The Guardian. “The trees must be straight, 50-90cm (20-36in) in diameter and between 8 and 14 metres [26–45 feet] tall. They must be chopped down by the end of March before the sap rises, otherwise the wood will be too humid. Before being cut into beams, the trunks will be allowed to dry for up to 18 months.”
Forestry professionals have put a positive spin on what could easily be seen as a controversial decision—“We will be using a little of France’s history to remake this historic wooden structure,” said one—and private-forest owners have offered up some of their own trees, according to the newspaper. Comments on Archinect, a Web site for architects, were less circumspect. “To destroy 1,000 ancient oak trees for Man’s ego is unsustainable,” said one reader. Another posted, “While this has stupidity and ego written all over it, the last time I checked, trees.... grow. That’s kind of what they do. And 1,000 oaks is NOTHING as a percentage of the oaks cut down worldwide every year.” Work commences in 2022.
The bodies of 120 French and Russian soldiers who perished in the ferocious Battle of Vyazma, west of Moscow, during Napoleon’s 1812 campaign were recently buried in that town at a snowy ceremony attended by descendants of military leaders from both sides. Interred along with the soldiers were three women (they’d provided food and aid) and three teenage boys (drummers). French and Russian archaeologists discovered the remains in a mass grave in 2019.
Finally, undelivered mail from the United States–bound British merchant ship S.S. Gairsoppa—sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast in 1941; its wreckage discovered in 2011—has been re-assembled, including a letter from an unidentified serviceman to “Iris,” some of which was quoted in The Guardian: “Look after yourself my darling, not only for your own sake … for mine also.… Let us hope that this bloody war will soon be over.” The letters, more than 700 of them, survived “because they had been sealed within the hold under tons of mailbags and sediments, protected from light, currents, heat and oxygen.” The Gairsoppa crew didn’t fare as well: all but one of the 86 aboard went down with the ship.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL