News of the Weird: Jungle gyms in movie theaters and pretentious food items
Perhaps there are parents who (according to the Cinepolis movie chain) long to watch movies in theaters while their children (aged 3 and up) frolic in front in a “jungle-gym” playground inside the same auditorium. If so, the company’s two “junior” movie houses (opening this very week in San Diego and Los Angeles) may bring a new dimension to “family entertainment.” Another view, though, is that the noise (often “screaming”), plus the overhead lighting required for parents to monitor their tykes’ equipment-usage, plus the planned $3-per-ticket surcharge, will soon create (according to the Guardian critic) a movie going “apocalypse.”
Can’t Possibly Be True
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in January granted IBM’s 2010 application for a patent on “out-of-office” email message software (even though such messages have, of course, been ubiquitous for two decades) after the company finally convinced examiners that its patent had enough software tweaks on it to qualify. (Critics, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, laughed at the uselessness of the tweaks.)
News of the Pretentious
1. Why live with a cat if one cannot take it out for some wine together? The Apollo Peak in Denver and the Pet Winery in Fort Myers, Florida, serve a variety of the real grape to humans and nonalcoholic proprietary drinks for the kitties to enjoy table-side (or underneath). “Pinot Meow” ($12) in Denver and “Meow and Chandon” ($15) in Fort Myers, are specialties — basically watered catnip, according to a February New York Times report (so the felines can also get buzzed). The wine outing is the human’s preference, of course, with a loftier cachet than the “happy hour” most cats might prefer (say, a “sardine bar”).
2. “I tried the $5,000 hamburger, and it was absolutely worth it,” wrote the apparently straight-faced CNBC reviewer Robert Frank in February, describing his meal at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay restaurant Fleur. (The burger included Waygu beef, foie gras and truffles, and was served with a similarly inexplicably priced wine.) Other recent consumer challenges: an $18 cup of coffee at Brooklyn’s Extraction Lab; a $100 bottle of Norwegian iceberg water (Svalbardi.com); a $2,000 pizza at New York City’s Industry Kitchen (caviar, truffles, gold flakes); and a $25,000 taco at the Grand Velas Los Cabos resort in Mexico (caviar, brie, Kobe beef, langoustine lobster, rare tequila — and once again with the gold flakes).
Anglers fighting to preserve choice spots on the fishing pier on Sebastian Inlet, north of Vero Beach, Florida, have taken to tossing lead weights and other items at “competitors,” especially those who approach the pier to fish directly from their boats. Such territory marking by the “piersters” includes, according to a February report in Florida Today, perhaps a version of classic mammal behavior, like strategic urination and hurling their feces at the waterborne invaders.
Government in Action
1. Illinois has problems: a $130 billion unfunded pension crisis, 19 months without a budget, the lowest credit rating and highest property taxes in the country, and the murder rate in Chicago. However, at least the state house of representatives is not standing by idly. In February, it moved to designate October 2017 as Zombie Preparedness Month (basically, adding “zombie invasion” to the list of mobilizations for any natural disaster and urging residents to stockpile food and supplies for up to 72 hours).
2. Lawyers for former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. have convinced federal officials that his bipolar disorder was “caused” by the stress of being a congressman and thus that he is entitled to “total disability” worker compensation for an “on-the-job” injury — and thus to about $100,000 a year, tax-free, according to a February Chicago Tribune report. (Jackson, 51, also receives Social Security disability payments.) Lawyers said his disorder (often attributed to genetic factors) surfaced during an investigation into Jackson’s looting of his campaign treasury for luxury goods and vacations (charges eventually settled with a guilty plea). Jackson dated his onset to June 2012, meaning that his last 72 House votes came while “totally” disabled.
1. A councilman in Overtornea, Sweden, introduced a bill (a “motion”) that workers be given paid “sex breaks” during the business day in order to improve well-being and, thus, job performance. The primary beneficiaries would be married, fertile couples, but all workers would receive the benefit. And employers, said Councillor Per-Erik Muskos, would have to “trust” their employees because some surely would “cheat” (by not having sex!).
2. Not Clever Enough: Daniel Crowninshield, 54, pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento in 2016 to illegally manufacturing assault weapons that had no serial numbers — despite efforts to circumvent the law by claiming that his customers actually “made” their own weapons using his equipment. Crowninshield (known as “Dr-Death” online), an expert machinist, would take a “blank” metal casting and, using special equipment and computer programs, create the firing mechanism for a numberless AR-15 — provided the customer presses a button to start the process. “Pressing the button,” Crowninshield figured, made the customer the creator, not a buyer or transferee of the gun, and thus exempt from federal law. In February, Judge Troy Nunley, unimpressed, sentenced Crowninshield to three years and five months in prison.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
“Life’s full of peaks and valleys, man,” Californian Georgiy Karpekin told a reporter, but Jan. 18 seemed all valley. Karpekin has both a pickup truck and a car, and as he was leaving Sacramento City College that day during violent storms, a falling tree crushed the truck. When he got home, he learned that the same storm had taken down another tree — on top of his car. (Karpekin, insured and uninjured, called himself “the luckiest guy.”)
Miami defense lawyer Stephen Gutierrez caused quite a spectacle on March 8 when, representing a man accused of arson, he rose to address jurors, and his pants appeared to catch fire. He insisted afterward that a malfunctioning e-cigarette caused smoke to billow from his pocket, but observers had a field day with metaphors and “stunt” theories.
2. Despite an exaggerated, widely read headline in London’s Daily Mail, the recent death of a 50-year-old man in Japan was indeed pornography-related. The man was a hoarder of porn magazines, living alone with an unimaginably large collection, and when he suffered a fatal heart attack sometime early this year, he collapsed atop the piles, where his body was found in February. (The Daily Mail headline had him “crushed” to death under a six-ton stack, but the Mail conceded below the headline that he might have just fallen.)
A News of the Weird Classic (June 2013)
Chengdu, China, barber Liu Deyuan, 53, still provides traditional “eye-shaving,” in which he holds the lid open and runs a razor across its inner surface. Then, using a thin metal rod with a round tip, he gently massages the inside of each lid. Liu told Chengdu Business Daily in April (2013) that he had never had an accident (though the reporter balked at volunteering for him), and a highly satisfied customer reported afterward that his eyes felt “moist” (surely the easiest part of the story to accept) and his vision “clearer.”
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