According to astronaut Alan "Buzz" Aldrin, someday someone may own a chain of hotels that might be called Mars Motels, or Asteroid Inns. Purdue University says that Aldrin -- the second man to have ever walked on the surface of the moon -- is working with that school's engineers on a new class of spacecraft that could serve as "orbiting motels." The units would be in a huge elliptical orbit circling Earth and Mars. The craft would be used as a kind of ferry service, shuttling people and materiel between the two celestial locations. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Texas are also involved in the forward-thinking project. One of the major problems facing designers is how to figure out the best way to orbit the two objects in space. The earth maintains a fairly round orbit as it circles the sun. On the other hand, the orbit of Mars is highly elliptical. Come to think of it, it's actually the Red Roof chain that should jump on the bandwagon. At least they'd have the color right.
OLIVER STONE TO DO CUBAN DOCUMENTARY
Producer-director Oliver Stone is reportedly on the island nation of Cuba to check out locations for a documentary about the country. According to published reports, at least one of the project's producers says that Stone will stay for about a week, but gave few other details. The 55-year-old Oscar-winner, controversial moviemaker ("Platoon," "Born on the Fourth of July") apparently first met Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a visit to his island in 1987. Stone had gone to Cuba for a screening of one of his earlier films, "Salvador." For years there has been speculation as to what the relations between this country and Cuba will be when Castro "steps down." In recent years, Castro has relaxed some of the strict rules on his island. The country no longer bans the practice of religion.
FARRAKHAN RAPS RAUNCHY RAP
The leader of the Nation of Islam, the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, is calling on rap artists to can their sexist, vulgar, violent lyrics. The controversial black leader spoke in Los Angeles Thursday, appearing with Russell Simmons and other hip-hop biggies. At one point, according to published reports, he told the audience that kids "can't read Dick and Jane." They can, he quipped, "recite your raps." He weighed in on many rappers, saying that they were taking millions in money from minority communities ... it was about time they gave back something positive. While striking a blow for common sense in the music world he used the opportunity to again blast this country's war on terrorism.
SEAT BELT DESIGNER SUES NASCAR
NBC says that all seat belt designer Bill Simpson wanted from NASCAR was an apology. Simpson's company had been blasted by the car-racing circuit after the death of racing icon Dale Earnhardt, who sustained massive head injuries when his belt may have failed during a crash with a track wall. Meanwhile, NASCAR issued an official statement calling Simpson's suit "totally without merit." The people at Simpson's company, Simpson Performance Products, say they worked closely with the racing franchise and independent investigators in the wake of Earnhardt's death -- on the last lap of last year's Daytona 500 race. By the way, Simpson was a long-time friend of the dead racer and claims that he repeatedly warned him that his belts would not work properly if they were not installed correctly.
POLISH THESPIANS END RUN IN INDY
For years it was illegal in Poland to stage a play called "Ferdydurke" because the novel on which it was based had been banned by censors in the 1930s. Now, according to the Indianapolis Star, "Ferdydurke" -- which loosely translates as "Fiddle Faddle" -- is alive and well and ending a very successful American run there. Even though the play only has four actors, two different Polish theater companies joined forces to mount what has been described as a highly energetic, tumultuous, very physical performance. The play first came to U.S. attention after an American theater arts teacher saw it performed in Poland. He then got the rights to translate the play into English. Its plot concerns a repressed 30-year-old novelist who is forced to relive his childhood, facing school yard taunts and embarrassments along the way.
AUSSIE CHAMBERS BECOMING COUNTRY STAR
In a year where Australians and New Zealanders are major Oscar contenders, it's a natural that an Australian country singer would be a nearly overnight success in the States. The news provider country.com says that Kasey Chambers is not only becoming a meteor in country music, she's likely to become more popular with the publication of a new book about her. The 25-year-old is the subject of a biography written by her former manager. It's not just about the singer, but also about her very interesting family. Chambers spent the first ten years of her career, starting at the tender age of 15, traveling as a "wandering minstrel" in Australia's rugged Outback region. Her parents hunted foxes and took part in the fur trade. (Sounds like America 200 years ago.) Interestingly, even though the family often lacked for food and modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing, it was never short on audio cassettes of American country stars.
UPI SURVEY QUESTION NO. 270
Last night while driving around here in Las Vegas I tuned in KCBS in San Francisco and heard a story about a woman who was charged with abusing animals. She was caring for more than a dozen German Shepherds. At the request of a humane organization police entered the home with a search warrant. They found dead, diseased and dying animals and a home with wall-to-wall feces. The outcome of the trial was what some called "a slap on the wrist" ... a fine, probation, but no order that she be prevented from keeping animals again. So, here's the question: "How do you feel about animal care and animal rights?" Put HUMANE in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 265 (GBA)
Last week, after receiving a piece of e-mail addressed to "GBA," I began wondering if people actually thought those were my initials. After all, I do sign each column that way. So, I asked what others thought. The response was so huge there's only room for a few replies on this busy Friday. First of all, the majority of you put two and two together and realized that "GBA" does stand for "God Bless America." And most noted that they first started noticing the notation just after the 9/11 attacks. Yes, it was my own little patriotic statement, made with no prior announcement and no fanfare. But, I might mention that it's surprising the number of people who thought that it meant "Good Bye, All." I was stunned that so many respondents thought in the same vein. Is "GBA," meaning "Good Bye, All" famous somewhere else? Hmmm! Others thought it meant: "Good Bye, America." Elizabeth sent in a litany of guesses, not all of which I can print. Here are a few: "Get Bad Announcer," "Golden Beach Airwaves" and "Gruesome Barking Android." SJ thought it might mean "Goofy Bingo Addict" or "Great Being American." Additionally, several said they always thought that I was a female, until I noted that my first name is Dennis. Two said that my column tended to be sensitive and restrained and written from a feminine perspective. Well, I guess going to a high school that was too poor to have a football team and being forced to cheerlead for the semi-worst high school basketball team in the history of Indiana will do funny things to you. (I just got my old cheerleading sweater from the closet and, NO, it doesn't fit anymore.) My initials are DMD, by the way. Thanks again. This was fun. NEXT WEEK: A look at the way you view the future of the British monarchy and your feelings about people who use so much cologne it comes off them in waves, like steam from a hot asphalt. GBA.