“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).
Perhaps there are parents who (according to the Cinepolis movie chain) long to watch movies in theaters while their children (aged 3 and older) frolic in front in a “jungle-gym” playground inside the same auditorium. If so, the company’s two “junior” movie houses in San Diego and Los Angeles may bring a new dimension to “family entertainment.” Another view, though, is that the noise and the overhead lighting required for parents to monitor their tykes’ equipment-usage, plus the planned $3-per-ticket surcharge, will soon create (according to a Guardian critic) a movie-going “apocalypse.”
Can’t Possibly Be True
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 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.
Anglers fighting to preserve choice spots on the fishing pier on Sebastian Inlet, north of Vero Beach, Fla., 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 feces at invaders.
Government In Action
— 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).
— 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 — $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.
— Daniel Crowninshield, 54, pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento in 2016 to illegally manufacturing assault weapons that had no serial numbers. 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 made him 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 pick-up truck and a car. 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.
— Despite an exaggerated 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” and his vision “clearer.”
Despite California’s 2015 law aimed at improving the fairness of its red-light cameras, the city of Fremont (pop. 214,000, just north of San Jose) reported earning an additional $190,000 more each month by shortening the yellow light by two-thirds of a second at just two intersections. Tickets went up 445 percent at one and 883 percent at the other. (In November, 2016, for “undisclosed reasons,” the city raised the speed limit on the street slightly, “allowing” it to reinstate the old 0.7-second-longer yellow light.)
Why live with a cat if one cannot take it out for some wine? The Apollo Peak in Denver and the Pet Winery in Fort Myers, Fla., serve a variety of the real grape to humans and non-alcoholic proprietary drinks for the kitties to enjoy tableside (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”).
Although discouraging the marriage of children in developing nations has been U.S. foreign policy for years, a data-collecting watchdog group in the U.S. disclosed in February that 27 U.S. states have no minimum marriage ages, and estimates that an average of almost 25,000 children 15 and younger are permitted to marry every year. Child marriage is often allowed in the U.S. if parents approve. No such policy is approved in foreign policy, as policy-makers wish to curb developing nations’ “family honor” marriages, which often wreck girls’ futures.
— Glenn Schloeffel, vice president of the Central Bucks school board in a Philadelphia suburb, recommended that science books be viewed skeptically when they address climate change because, he said, “teenage depression” rates have been increasing. Surely, he said, one factor depressing students is reading all the alarming climate-change data.
— Seattle’s Real Estate Services rental agency has informed the family of the late Dennis Hanel that it will not return Hanel’s security deposit following his January death because Hanel had not given the required notice that he was giving up his apartment. He had cancer, but died of a heart attack. Washington state law requires only that the landlord provide an explanation as to why he is keeping the deposit.
— Researchers, including Rice University biochemist John Olson, revealed in a February journal article that one reason a man avoided anemia even though he had a gene mutation that weakened his hemoglobin was that he had been a tobacco smoker; the carbon monoxide from the smoke had been therapeutic. His daughter, with the same gene mutation, did develop anemia since she never smoked. Olson did suggest ways other than smoking to strengthen hemoglobin, such as taking massive amounts of vitamin C.
— Several death-penalty states continue to be frustrated by whether their lethal-injection cocktails make death so painful as to be unconstitutionally cruel. Arizona’s latest “solution,” announced as a Department of Corrections protocol, is for the condemned to supply their own drugs. There was immediate objection by those who noted that such drugs might only be available by black market and questioned whether the government can legally force someone to kill himself.
People With Underdeveloped Consciences
— Just before Christmas, Tammy Strickland, 38, was arrested in Polk County, Fla., and charged with stealing 100 toys from a Toys for Tots collection box.
— In February, thieves unbolted and stole a PlayStation from the children’s cancer ward at Wellington Hospital in New Zealand.
— Judith Permar, 56, was found dead, stuck in a clothing donation drop-off box in Mount Carmel, Pa., in February. Permar, who was trying to steal items, had driven to the box in her Hummer.
Recent Alarming Headlines
“America’s Top Fortune Cookie Writer Is Quitting Because of Writer’s Block” (Time magazine, 2-3-2017). “Dresden Protest Against Anti-Islam Pegida Group Banned Over Snowball Fight Fears” (The Independent (London), 1-24-2017). Previously in Dresden, Germany, religious freedom demonstrators chose “tossing snowballs” as an appropriate way to ridicule Pegida.