Flat Earth

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Hospital howler

Stanley Kubrick, we have all been told, was a perfectionist, a man who obsessed over the accuracy of the tiniest details. He even made his actors on the costume drama Barry Lyndon wear 18th-century underwear for the sake of authenticity.

And yet it seems that on his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, just released in the United States, the late, great man made a bit of a howler.

Towards the end of the film, the character played by Tom Cruise is seen talking on a mobile phone in a hospital - a practice that is routinely banned because the signals interfere with medical machinery. Since Cruise plays a doctor, there is no way his character would not know that. Kubrick was the son of a doctor, but was infamous for never consulting medical professionals himself. He certainly never set foot in hospitals. Fair enough, but shouldn't somebody have whispered a little something in his ear?

Bare backlash

It is that time of the year when the beaches, wherever one goes, come alive with naked Germans performing head-stands in the sand. For those who do not find such a spectacle uplifting, there is mixed news from the land of Freikorperkultur. "Free body culture", as the Germans call the urge to strip off in front of total strangers, is really in this year. One out of four bathers currently soaking up the sun along the Baltic coast belongs to the nudist tendency.

Now, though, there are signs of a backlash. Fights have broken out as the more prudish element have tried to force the nudists to cover up. In one instance an under-dressed tourist was buried in sand as she tried to soak up the sun, wearing only a smile. Petitions have been launched urging the authorities to fine anyone offending against the view. There is no telling where this uprising may lead, but one side-effect might be to drive German nudists abroad in even greater numbers.

Lost in translation

"I feel like someone who got the mission of defusing a time bomb," the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, said last week. He wasn't talking about his election promise to revive peace talks with the Palestinians - he has had to wade in to save Bill Clinton from the Israeli media.

It all started when Clinton said he was "eager as a kid with a new toy" to meet Barak, who was visiting the White House. An Israeli reporter suggested this remark was patronising.

A flummoxed Clinton went to great pains to explain the idiom: "In English what that means is that you are very excited. It has no reference to the Prime Minister."