News of the Weird (December 25, 2016)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M507, December 25, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

The rebellion against the absurdities of "Black Friday" this year by the organization Cards Against Humanity came in the form of raising money to dig a pointless hole in the ground. During the last week of November, people "contributed" $100,573, sending Cards digging initially for 5.5 seconds per donated dollar. In 2015, according to an NPR report, Cards raised $71,145 by promising to "do absolutely nothing" with it, and the year before, $180,000 by selling bits of bull feces. (Asked why Cards doesn't just give the money to charity, a spokesperson asked why donors themselves don't give it to charity. "It's [their] money.") [NPR via KUOW Radio (Turnwater, Wash.), 11-27-2016]

Government in Action

New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation has completed its two-year project of assigning ID numbers (with arboreal characteristics) to every one of the 685,781 trees in the city's five boroughs. More than 2,300 volunteers walked the streets, then posted each tree's location, measurements, Google Street View image, and ecological benefits for the surrounding neighborhoods (rainwater retained, air pollution reduced). (Privacy activists hope the National Security Agency is not inspired by this.) [Architecture Daily, 11-28-2016]

The Continuing Crisis

A note in the New York Times in October mentioned a website that comprehensively covers everything worth knowing and wondering--about shoelaces. Ian's Shoelace Site shows and discusses (and rates) lacing methods, how to mix lace colors, how to tie (comparing methods, variations, and, again, ratings), lengths of laces (how to calculate, which formulas to use, what to do with excess lengths), "granny knots," aglet repair, and much more--neatly laid out in dozens of foolproof drawings for the shoelace-challenged (because no one wants to be caught in a shoelace faux pas). [Ian's Shoelace Site]

Though the Presidential election of 2016 was certainly more volatile than usual, one reaction to the outcome was the apparent ease with which some in America's next generation of college-trained leaders were sidelined by self-described emotional pain. The Wall Street Journal reported that special attention was given by administrators at Tufts University, the University of Kansas, and Ivy League Cornell, among other places, where their young adults could "grieve" over the election and seek emotional support, such as use of Kansas's "therapy dogs" and, at University of Michigan, the availability of Play-Doh and coloring books for distraction. [Wall Street Journal, 11-9-2016]


(1) The County Executive in Cleveland, Ohio, complained in November of lack of funds (because the county's credit is "maxed out") for necessary renovations to its well-known sports and concert venue, the Quicken Loans Arena. (2) In November, after a companion asked Victoria Vanatter, 19, what blood-sucking was like, she let him slice her arm with a razor to give him a taste, but the two then argued, and Vanatter allegedly grabbed a knife and slashed him for real. Police in Springfield, Mo., arrested her after both people were stitched up at a hospital. [Cleveland Sceue, 11-30-2016] [Springfield News Leader, 11-18-2016]

Recurring: The most recent city to schedule a civic-minded conference with community leaders to discuss options for affordable, accessible housing--in a meeting place that was highly unfriendly to the non-ambulatory--was Toronto, in November. The first proposed site required a seven-step walk-up, but following complaints, officials re-located it--to a building whose only rest room was in the elevator-free basement. [Toronto Star, 12-7-2016]

Questionable Judgments

The Space World theme park in Kitakyushu, Japan, opened a popular (with visitors) ice-skating rink in November but was forced to close it two weeks later for being hugely unpopular (with social media critics). The park had placed 5,000 fish and other sea animals in the ice deck of Its "Freezing Port" rink so that skaters could look down as they glided along, gazing at marvels of nature (all dead in advance, of course, purchased from a fish market). Nonetheless, the park manager apologized for grossing out so many people and closed the exhibit (melting the ice and conducting an "appropriate religious service" for the fishes' souls). [CNN, 11-28-2016]

The government-run TV Channel 2M in Morocco apologized for a segment of its daily program "Sabahiyat" that featured a makeup artist demonstrating techniques for obscuring blemishes on women subjected to domestic violence. The model being worked on had been made up with swollen face and faked bruises. Said the host, "We hope these beauty tips will help [victims] carry on with your daily life." (Bonus: The program aired November 23rd--two days before International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.) [The Guardian (London), 11-27-2016]

Cunning Strategies: (1) Shogo Takeda, 24, said he desperately needed a job at the elevator maintenance company in Yokohama at which he was interviewing (with the president) on November 10th, but somehow could not resist taking the man's wallet from a bag when the president briefly left the room. (Takeda had dropped off his resume beforehand and thus was quickly apprehended.) (2) Mark Revill, 49, pleaded guilty in November to stalking the actor Keira Knightley. He said he had become frustrated that his flood of love letters was being ignored and so approached the front door of Knightley's London home and "meowed" through the letterbox. [Japan Times, 11-21-2016] [London Evening Standard, 11-21-2016]

Wait--You Mean This Is Illegal?

(1) A substitute teacher at Sandhills Middle School in Gaston, S.C., was charged with cruelty to children in December after she, exasperated, taped two kids to their desk chairs for misbehaving. (2) A second-grade teacher at Landis Elementary in Houston, Tex., was charged with felony cruelty after video showed her punching a serial troublemaker in the head as he fought her while she walked him to the principal's office. (3) A high-school teacher in Glasgow, Scotland, got in trouble in November for proposing in a journal that teachers be allowed to cuss back at students who cuss them. He wrote that limiting teachers to "Don't call me that" sends the wrong message. [The State (Columbia, S.C.), 12-3-2016] [KTRK-TV (Houston), 11-2-2016] [The Scottish Sun (Glasgow), 11-19-2016]

Recurring Themes

(1) Add goat horns to the "religious covering" items permitted to be worn in government identification cards. It took Mr. Phelan MoonSong of Millinocket, Maine, two trips to the DMV, but his ID, after his name change, was finally approved in December, based on his "Paganism" religion. (2) In December, a 21-year-old man became the most recent to fall to his death during a roadside "pit stop." Four passengers alighted from a car on the side of Interstate 15 near Escondido, Calif.; two urinators returned without incident, and a third also fell about 40 feet but survived. [WGME-TV (Portland), 12-6-2016] [San Diego Union-Tribune, 12-7-2016]

The Passing Parade

(1) In November, an arranged custody swap of a child, from one grandmother to another in a Walmart parking lot near Dallas, Tex., ended when both ladies pulled guns and started firing. One granny was hit in the neck and the other arrested after she also fired at an off-duty officer trying to calm things down. (2) A 22-year-old man pedaling a vending cart through downtown Victoria, British Columbia, in November with large-lettered "420 delivery" on the carrier was stopped by police and found with a stash of marijuana. (Selling recreational cannabis is illegal, even though the man had conscientiously printed, underneath "delivery," "NO MINORS.") [KDFW-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), 11-30-2016] [Victoria Police Department release, 11-10-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (February 2013)

Officials at Seaford, England's, 12th-century St. Peter's Church, which is renowned for its eerie quietness, created a 30-minute CD [in 2013] of "total silence," first as a small-scale fund-raising project but later for general sales (since word-of-mouth had attracted orders from the noise-annoyed as far away as Ghana). Those who have heard it said they could make out only the occasional squeaking of footsteps on the wooden floor and the very distant hum of a passing car. Said one admiring parishioner, "People sometimes like to sit down and just have a bit of peace and quiet." [Daily Mail (London), 1-27-2013]

Thanks This Week to Mark Hiester, Jay Sokolow, Damon Diehl, Mel Birge, and Randy Baker, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
     Posted By: Chuck - Sun Dec 25, 2016

Continuing Crisis: Bubble blowing was also considered therapeutic for electoral dysfunction. Following a wave of Internet ridicule, the University of Michigan’s law school cancelled their “Post-Election Self-Care With Food and Play" event. It was intended to help students work out their election-driven anxiety with “stress-busting self-care activities” including coloring, blowing bubbles, sculpting with Play-Doh and “positive card making.”
Posted by Virtual on 12/26/16 at 01:58 AM
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