Top 10 News Stories That Help Re-Introduce Levity
I’m sure you will agree, gentle Listversians, that we could all do with a moment or two of pure distraction—not only from reading endless articles about the pandemic, political tensions, the ever-present specter of war, dwindling natural resources, and increasingly frequent natural disasters.
In that spirit, here is a list of 10 wonderfully whacky news stories that may have passed you by as you got bombarded with way-too-much doom and a heavy heaping of gloom. From the creepy to the hilarious, these events will remind you of a simpler, weirder time—before everything got so damned serious.
10A Sh*tty Situation
Civic pride isn’t what it used to be in the Western Hemisphere. Gone are the days of diligent (nosy) neighborhood heroes (septuagenarian vigilantes) who kept their village greens tidy in small English hamlets or suburban Americans keeping all the lawns on their block at a perfect uniform length. Nowadays, local governments tend to take care of the cleanliness of an area, trimming hedges and picking up litter, usually a lot less frequently than the community used to. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a sort of apathetic malaise—”when we aren’t taking care of our area, why should we care?”
That’s until delivery drivers start sh*tting regularly on verges (the grassy area between the road and the sidewalk). Then, locals wake up and react.
Residents of the Hoo Peninsula, a beautiful tract of land that lies between the Rivers Thames and Medway in the Southern English county of Kent, have protested the persistent pooping by delivery drivers on a local grassy verge. They did this by installing an old toilet bowl and cistern on the verge (with a roll of toilet paper, but that was quickly stolen). This hilarious gesture had a serious side, too—residents out walking dogs had a good deal more trouble dodging human crap than dog mess. A local resident commented that:
“Since the [Amazon] warehouse opened, this is getting worse,” before adding “worse and worse…there’s shit everywhere.”
Although it’s hard to be on the same side as these turd-tipping truckers, Amazon themselves are at blame too. The truck drivers are forbidden from freely using the facilities after their long journeys, forced to pay to access the john inside the building. There’s a big “but” here—given the frequency of public toilets and motorway service stations in England, one wonders how so many of these delivery drivers seem to need to take a dump at the same place. Can they not hold it in for a mile or two?
9Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing…
Mr. Céline Dion! Wait, mister?
No, this isn’t a story about the Quebecois songstress changing gender; rather, it is about a drunken superfan changing his name.
The man—formerly named Thomas Dodd, from Staffordshire, England—was ringing in the new year by watching his favorite singer perform in a glitzy concert on TV while he drank a magnum of champagne. The combination of high-pitched warbling and alcohol must have scrambled Mr. Dodd’s brain because, unbeknownst to his future, hung-over self, Dodd changed his name online to “Céline Dion.” Legally.
He doesn’t regret this: “I have no desire to change it again—I’m 100% committed. That is until I next have a bit too much to drink.” To be fair, Céline, you still sound drunk. Both of you.
8What Is Scarier Than a Bear?
The answer is, of course, not a Japanese robotic wolf—real ones, not giant, piloted constructs designed to aid Godzilla in protecting Tokyo from invading kaiju. Instead, these “scare bears” are a joint venture between precision machinery firm Ohta Seiki, Tokyo University of Agriculture, and Hokkaido University. And it is on the island of Hokkaido that the robots have been most recently deployed; although Japan’s more southern island of Honshu has a population of Asiatic black bears, Hokkaido has brown bears, a relative of the grizzly.
Crop damage and livestock predation are one thing, but bear attacks on humans seem to be on the rise in Japan (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/23/plea-to-improve-habitat-after-spate-of-bear-attacks-in-japan), stoking fears rooted deep in the Japanese psyche. In 1915, an 8’8″ brown bear killed seven villagers in Hokkaido. Now, they have a robotic wolf that looks like an obsolete reject from the Coney Island ghost train to protect them. Ganbatte! Good luck, guys!
7Urine Trouble Now
Working from home, meeting family on Zoom, all your meals and groceries delivered right to your door—this is increasingly how we live our lives. We can even get those plastic bags full of urine we’ve been craving brought to us as we binge-watch our favorite series on Netflix. Wait, hang on a minute…
Online supermarket Ocado found themselves in hot (yellow) water when 42-year-old customer Michelle Leonard received 3 plastic bags full of piss along with her grocery order. Ocado said they were “investigating it as a matter of urgency.” Yes, one would hope so. The only thing more shocking than receiving three bags of stale wang drippings?
“This order was for my birthday,” Michelle told the press.
Surprise! *Party Noisemaker Sounds*
6A Fish by Any Other Name Would Taste as Free
Most cultures tend toward naming conventions that lead to multiple surnames and given names developing. Modern trends tend to add to this—naming kids after your favorite fantasy TV show’s main character or a series of letters and numbers (Elon, we’re looking at you). But modern trends can also have the opposite effect.
Taiwan’s government recently issued a plea to the citizenry to desist from legally changing their names, hoping to slow the surge in recent name-flips. What’s the problem? Shouldn’t people have the freedom to call themselves whatever they want?
The problem is that everyone is renaming themselves the same thing—”Salmon.” The Ministry of the Interior has reported that, as of the beginning of 2021, around 300 people had changed their name to be homophonic with “salmon” in Mandarin Chinese or used the word in some way as part of their new given name. The reason? Free sushi being offered by a restaurant chain. One student changed her name to “Salmon Donburi Guo” to claim her free meal.
Still, why would the Taiwanese establishment care? It turns out that, given the chance of miscalculations and the intricacies of the legal system (you can only legally change your name three times in Taiwan), many citizens may find that their name has changed permanently. One wonders if anybody changed their name to “Tamago” (omelet) if they don’t like fish…
5A Very Patient Cephalopod
Another fishy tale occurred recently, this time a little more hair-raising than the prospect of getting stuck with a silly name. In this case, a holidaymaker had no idea how lucky she was to escape a painful death. Luckily for her, the incredibly poisonous wild animal she decided to use as a prop in one of her holiday snaps was having a good day and decided not to completely jack her up.
The young woman was enjoying a trip to Bali, posting her experiences on social media. While spending some time near the sea, she scooped up a pretty little creature she spied in the water and posed with it in her hands for a TikTok video.
It was a Blue Ringed Octopus, a creature with enough venom to kill 26 people—the venom is 1,000 times more potent than cyanide.
What was most worrying for the woman is that she could well have unwittingly posted her last video—the venom deployed by these creatures takes a while to take effect, often leaving envenomed victims unaware that they’ve been stung until it is too late.
The woman was not stung, proving once and for all that it isn’t that easy to win a Darwin Award. But she gave it a bloody good go. 
4The Door-Dashing Prosecutor
Times are hard. Luckily for us, emerging technologies and the boundless opportunities offered by the internet age seem to be our hedge against economic collapse. The rise of the so-called “gig economy” is a double-edged sword, however. As new ways of earning money emerge, it’s a little bit like the Wild West—no rules, total freedom but no protection and lots of exploitation.
Despite cases of companies withholding tips, data breaches, and questionable business practices, these companies do offer a chance for people to earn a little extra cash. Many drivers and riders work to earn a quick buck or two while they do some job searching or study for a degree. It isn’t usually the sort of side hustle taken up by people holding public office. In fact, people holding public office positions don’t usually or are forbidden to take up these sorts of jobs. Especially without disclosing it to their employer.
But that is exactly what an assistant district attorney in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was doing. While raking in $125,000 a year at his main job, Gregg Shore also delivered takeout for DoorDash. During his main job’s work hours.
He claimed that his motivations for taking on this second job were “personal circumstances.” Shore was promptly demoted and forced to pay some of his salary back using his unused vacation pay and some cash he’d earned handing people lukewarm pizzas.
3The Death of the Sausage King
Vladimir Marugov had cornered the meat market in Russia, owning several large factories and plants, earning him the nickname of the “Sausage King.” In late 2020, Marugov and his partner were enjoying a sauna session at his country estate just outside Moscow. Two masked men burst in on the couple and demanded money. Marugov’s partner managed to escape and call the police. By the time the authorities arrived, Marugov had been tortured and then killed with a crossbow. Was this an armed robbery gone wrong or a politically motivated assassination? Well, we’re not Putin the blame on anyone.
The murder of a Russian oligarch isn’t that shocking, all things considered; these cases are grist for the true crime/political intrigue mill. However, it is the fact that one can become an oligarch based on cornering the meat market that is most shocking here (plus, getting so powerful in that area to be murdered for it).
Oh, and one of the killers got caught, escaped, then got caught again using a facial recognition app. Yay, 10 points for totalitarianism!
2Horrible Bosses IRL
Leaving a job can be a tough thing to do. People will often accrue a sense of loyalty to the organization that pays them, rendering moving on to better-paid or more lifestyle-friendly jobs hard. This story is the opposite of this.
An autoworker in Georgia, USA, sought to leave his job, filing his two-week notice. Andreas Flaten noticed that his boss didn’t seem too pleased at losing him as an employee, but Flatten was determined to leave the “toxic environment” (either “cough-cough” toxic or “pulling my hair at all the assholery here” toxic—probably both). He waited for his final paycheck to arrive—a sum of $915—but was later informed that his boss was docking him the entire amount for “damages.” So Flaten went to the Georgia Department of Labor, prompting his old boss to play ball and pay up. In a way.
The “payment” was unceremoniously dumped in Flaten’s driveway one night, consisting of a 500-pound pile of oily pennies. Despite this disrespectful slight, Flaten had the last laugh—$915 worth of oily pennies is still $915. All he must do is clean the massive pile and take it to the bank.
Who’s laughing now? This remains unclear (save those of us who read the story, of course).
1Who Wants To Be an Italian Plumber?
Let’s finish with a happy story. Nintendo is perhaps the most ingenious company ever. No other corporation has created a multi-billion-dollar industry by convincing people to headbutt bricks and trample mushrooms while trying to avoid fireball-spitting lava lakes. Not even Steve Jobs was that convincing.
The world of Super Mario Bros has become so iconic that Universal Studios Japan has opened “Super Nintendo World,” an area of the park dedicated to all things Mario.
And. It. Looks. Awesome.
If Japan does one thing right, it’s theme parks. Despite only having two “rides,” one based on the popular racing game Mario Kart and the other featuring Yoshi, Mario’s pet dinosaur, the area could be considered one giant, immersive ride in and of itself. Visitors can use special wristbands to activate interactive games and animatronic structures. The whole place really does make the visitor feel as though they are in a Mario game.
If only the inventors of the robot wolf had seen all this first…