Bored at the G-8? Here Are Some Cocktail Topics!

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The G-8 summit opened Friday in Okinawa. And after reading the newspaper headline, "G-77 frustrated with G-8 inaction on debt relief," it became readily apparent that you won't exactly impress friends or chat up that attractive account executive at the weekend barbecue recounting the drama of the summit, no matter how many hundreds of millions of dollars the Japanese government is spending on this annual ritual. Instead, I offer the following tidbits that should be immediately inserted into conversation as soon as there is even the slightest hint of any summit talk:

  • In London, the Worshipful Company of Grocers rode camels (a reference to their spice-trading origins) past a smiling Queen Mother at a pageant to help celebrate her upcoming birthday with the kind of eccentricity that makes England one of the world's oddest nations. But unlike the G-8, at least the Queen Mum had something to celebrate. She turns 100 in a few days. Bring on the camels!

  • Any summer barbecue needs a shark story, and boy do I have one for you. This week, two great white sharks were filmed systematically hunting down an unlucky surfer in South Africa. In the film, courtesy of a watching tourist, one of the sharks is actually seen riding a wave as he moves in to take a huge chomp of the guy's surfboard. But what really confounded the scientists was the other great white seen zeroing in for the kill from the other side. Unbelievably, the surfer survived to tell the story. Apparently great whites do not like the taste of surfboards.

  • Want something closer to Okinawa? How about swimming with deadly, poisonous sea snakes? I bet the Japanese have not told Bill (Clinton), Tony (Blair) and Jacques (Chirac) about the incredibly poisonous snakes that swim about the islands of Okinawa. Even more dangerous — Bill, pay particular attention to this — these snakes have a tendency to come onto the beach late at night. So anyone planning some tomfoolery on the beach may want to reconsider.

  • Where is Lucie Blackman? For that matter, who is Lucie Blackman? Lucie is a pretty blond Englishwoman who disappeared one night from a Tokyo nightclub. British prime minister Tony Blair is among those concerned about the fate of the former British Airways flight attendant; on his way to Okinawa, Blair actually met with Lucie's dad, Tim, who is trying to put pressure on the Japanese government to step up efforts to find his 21-year-old daughter. This is a particularly embarrassing case because it involves one of the shadier sides of Tokyo life — the booming business in trafficking attractive Western women to Japanese businessmen willing to pay top dollar for the chance to sit next to and fondle blondes.

  • Finally, three cheers for my favorite car, the Volvo, known as one of the world's safest cars. This time, the brilliant engineers from Sweden foiled the suicide attempt of a 37-year-old Belgian social worker. The woman threw herself 27 floors from one of the tallest buildings in Brussels in a determined effort to meet her maker — only to be foiled by the roof of a Volvo. The car somehow cushioned the blow and the woman survived with barely a scratch. The owner of the Volvo now has a real dilemma: The car was only five days old and he can't decide whether to try and get some reimbursement for the car. "I wouldn't want to burden this woman, but it was my car and she wasn't insured." Only in Belgium.

    Enjoy the weekend.