5 Surreal News Stories You Might've Missed
It was a hell of a year, and we mean that in the biblical sense. It's understandable if you haven't really noticed anything going on in the world that doesn't concern its very survival, politically or literally, but that doesn't mean stuff hasn't gone down that would be front-page news at any other time. Stuff like ...
They Still Don't Know What Caused The Sonic Attacks In Cuba
Remember when a bunch of people at the U.S. embassy in Cuba came down with an intense, unexplainable neurological illness? No? That's okay -- it happened in 2016, which was 47 years ago. Basically, dozens of diplomats experienced an incredibly specific of symptoms that have since been named "Havana syndrome," starting with hearing weird buzzing noises followed by confusion, memory loss, dizziness, nausea, and in at least one case, permanent hearing damage. Possible rational explanations included exposure to a certain pesticide or even crickets. Then it happened to U.S. diplomats in China. Then Canadian diplomats in Cuba.
Those would have to be some prolific crickets.
It's the kind of thing that's ripe for conspiracy theory, specifically about some kind of supersonic weapon being used against North America by ... well, nobody was gonna say Cuba, but definitely Cuba. Congress ordered the CDC to figure it out, and they ... didn't. It's not like they didn't try, but at that point, it had been years since the phenomenon began. It took so long for many Havana syndrome sufferers to undergo any kind of testing that the results were next to meaningless. So the CDC just kind of sat on that information until the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine hopped on board the "supersonic weapon" train in December 2020, leaving freaking Buzzfeed News to track down the report only to find out it said nothing. So that's where we're at. It's safe to say things are tense with Cuba, but it's not like they haven't been worse.
Elizabeth Smart Was On The Masked Dancer
It can be really hard to have once been famous for something. There's a reason so many forgotten, famous folks end up on reality shows: Their name is the only way they can support themselves. Even if someone was willing to paint that particular target on their back by hiring them, fame can mess you up too much to live a normal life. That goes double if you're famous because something terrible happened to you. True crime is an entertainment genre in and of itself these days, but most of its victims don't live to not only try to cope with their trauma but do it knowing that everyone knows about it. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
Elizabeth Smart seemed to be doing okay for herself in that regard, all things considered. She wrote some books, did some activisms, got married, children at socially acceptable intervals, and generally seemed to be living an almost boring life for someone who was once kidnapped from her bedroom and subjected to daily torture for nine months of a fierce media manhunt. That's one reason why it was so jarring to find out she'd been shaking her well-disguised groove thing on The Masked Dancer for three episodes of its first season.
Not only did it seem like a weird move for Smart, but a weird move for everyone else involved. How exactly are they selecting contestants for this show, and how heavily does it rely on the "Random Article" button on Wikipedia? Do they ever stop to consider, "Hey, maybe this person who never asked for such terrible fame would be offended by our invitation to dress up as one of Dumbo's hallucinations and dance for us, you monkey?"
Smart's reasons for agreeing to the appearance are actually kind of heartwarming, though. She did initially turn them down (it's not clear how swearily), but at the funeral of her recently deceased and apparently quite boisterous grandma, "I thought, I live a pretty serious life [and] this has already been a hard year, so why not do something that's fun?" That's really as good a reason as any to play a game of aerobic Guess Who? with Paula Abdul. Far be it from any of us to judge Elizabeth Smart or her process, and she was right about one thing: It barely registered between the political violence and deadly plague and whatnot.
The Secret Service Were Forced To Use Obama's Bathroom Because Jared and Ivanka Wouldn't Let Them
She's never been investigated for conspiring with Russia, so Ivanka's been able to lie relatively low as far as Trump children go -- at least on the national stage. Quite a different scenario has been playing out in her and her husband's upscale Washington, D.C. neighborhood, where their neighbors have been cursing their names ever since their Secret Service detail started patrolling their residence. The reason? The couple reportedly won't allow them to use their bathroom.
It's not clear exactly whose decision it was to force the Secret Service to go full Bridesmaids all over D.C. Some sources close to the situation insist it was Trump and Kushner who refused to allot any of the six bathrooms in their stately manor for the bodily waste of the people who protect them, but government officials, including the Secret Service itself, have maintained that it was their detail's choice to go begging like diarrhetic orphans rather than interfere with the home lives of their charges. One of them pointed to separate buildings on the properties of former presidents and chiefs of staff as evidence of the Secret Service's commitment to remaining unseen, which does seem like it would be an effective solution. Surely there was room on Ivanka's sprawling slice of D.C. for a guest house, yes?
But no guest house materialized. Instead, Secret Service agents worked out a deal with Obama's detail, who patrolled his nearby home to use their toilet in the former president's garage. That already sounds metaphorically resonant until you find out that Ivanka's guys were kicked out by Obama's after they left behind an "unpleasant mess," and then it's just on the nose. They set up a Porta-Potty for a while, but then the neighbors complained, so they either drove a mile to the actual vice president's home, put on their best chagrined smiles for local restaurants, or just started knocking on random doors.
Finally, they found out about a basement suite in the home or a neighbor who was kind enough to rent it to the team at the price of $3,000 a month. In total, by September 2021, the federal government will have spent $144,000 on a toilet for the Secret Service because their professional code says shitting at the vice president's house is fine, but the president's daughter is a physical no-go. But they couldn't give you $2,000.
Due to America's Crappy Vaccine Distribution Plan, 500 People Descended On A Site Based On Social Media Hubbub, Also Disneyland Is A Vaccination Site
It's become pretty clear that thanks to, ahem, certain governments' complete bed-shittery, we're not getting out of the COVID-19 crisis without widespread vaccination, so people are understandably impatient to get a move on that. Those zoo animals aren't going to coo at themselves, folks. That's why, on January 14, 2021, hundreds descended upon the Brooklyn Army Terminal vaccination site following the spread of messages from friends, family, and social media that the clinic had extra doses that were about to expire and anyone could come get some, no appointment or special risk factor necessary.
You can predict how that ended if you've been paying, like, any attention to anything: with police and city workers shooing the hordes away, explaining that the whole thing was a hoax, and the mayor's spokesperson announcing that "There is NOT available vaccine for people without appointments. This was misinformation, and the notification did not come from the NYC gov."
Plot twist: There were extra doses about to expire. Some of the randos who showed up at the Brooklyn Army Terminal even got them ... but they weren't supposed to. The plan was for clinic staff to distribute some of the extra doses to other hospitals and just ... "get rid of" the rest. It seems that someone on the team didn't like that plan and went rogue, resulting in a stampede that was exactly what the clinic was trying to avoid.
This is actually something that happens pretty regularly because the whole vaccine distribution effort has been as much of a cock-up as everything else involving the virus, but for precisely that same reason, clinics have no protocol in place to ensure that extra doses get into the arms of the needy without causing pandemonium. It's not just about the immediate threat to public safety: How many of those people, who thought they were about to get vaccinated and probably don't have advanced knowledge of immunology, do you think were wearing masks?
The whole thing is such a mess that the best place Orange County, California, could find to vaccinate hundreds of people in a hurry was Disneyland. It makes a sick sort of sense: If there's anywhere in California built to handle thousands of people walking in and out at a time ... aaaaand it's closed.
It's Looking Increasingly Like The Trumps Don't Really Have Anywhere They Can Live After This
For those who like a bit of schadenfreude in their surreal, particularly the neighbors of the Kushner-Trumps, here's a ray of sunshine in the bleak landscape that was the last year or four or time immemorial: Everyone with the last name Trump is fleeing Washington and even their native New York City like it's threatening to tar and feather them, which it might as well be. Having been shunned from polite society, with no help from that Porta-Potty, Ivanka and Jared have recently secured a plot of land in that last bastion for the socially outcast: Florida. Her brother, Donald, Jr., wasn't far behind.
Neither was her father, but he might run into considerably more trouble. Word on the street is that he's been spiffing up his apartment at Mar-a-Lago, and Melania is researching local schools for their 14-year-old son, where his life will almost certainly be just hell no matter where he goes, but she had better start looking elsewhere anyway because they will probably not be allowed to live at Mar-a-Lago. Yeah, his own club. Trump signed an agreement with the city of Palm Beach in 1993 that he wouldn't live on the property for more than three weeks per year, and while they might have been more willing to negotiate in earlier years, the city is pretty unhappy about all the traffic and noise that being the favorite playground of the president has brought for the last four years.
It's a real shame because he probably can't afford to live anywhere he doesn't already own. The Trump brand has taken a deep hit due to, you know, everything, and everyone from the City of New York all the way down to the people who handle his leases have severed their partnerships with him and his companies. His hotels are closing down, he's drowning in legal fees and unpaid loans, and now that the IRS is keeping an eye on him close enough to tickle him with their eyelashes, he can't even creatively account his problems away. The situation is so dire that his people are actually suggesting that he become a professional rallier, charging five bucks to the presumably dwindling number of people who show up to hear him speak, but even that probably wouldn't even keep him afloat. The walls are closing in, and you love to see it.
Top image: Fox Alternative Entertainment, Pixabay