The Other World Series
In October another premier world sports event reached its climax, with one team left standing, rewarded for months of grueling practices, to the cheers of adoring, frenzied fans. The “world series” of professional team computer games was settled on a stage in a packed, 40,000-seat stadium in Seoul before three gigantic TV screens and an Internet audience of millions. The powerhouse Samsung White team out-moused and -keyboarded the Chinese champions at “League of Legends” (which 27 million gamers worldwide play every day), using its fantasy characters to destroy opponents’ bases. The winning team took home $1 million of corporate money, but future earnings should escalate when idolized world-class players unionize and swing merchandising endorsement deals.
Can’t Possibly Be True
—Carnell Alexander at one point owed about $60,000 in child support for a kid he did not father (according to a DNA test) and knew nothing about, but despite “successfully” challenging the claim 20 years ago, he still owes about $30,000. The mother who accused him long ago admitted lying (in that naming a “father” was necessary to get welfare benefits), and while a judge thus wiped out Alexander’s debt to her, the state of Michigan nonetheless still demands that Alexander repay benefits it had paid to the mother.
—America’s largest pornography website, PornHub.com, decided recently to erect a public billboard prominently encouraging the use of its service, first selecting as its location the New York City neighborhood formerly the smut epicenter of the city, Times Square. However, that area is now respectably tourist-friendly, and the billboard had to be relocated — to Los Angeles’ West Hollywood, near the headquarters of PornHub’s parent, MindGeek. The sign features a person’s two thumbs and fingers forming a rough version of a heart, beside the message (inspired by a Beatles song), “All You Need Is Hand.”
Brits Behaving Britishly Bad
(1) Literature professor Thomas Docherty was back at work in October following his nine-month suspension from the University of Warwick for “inappropriate sighing” during meetings with a senior colleague, along with “making ironic comments” and “negative body language.” (2) In October, Andrew Davies, 51, was ordered by magistrates in High Wycombe, England, not to lie down in public places anymore (unless genuinely stricken by emergency). Previously, he had a habit of making bogus “999” (911) calls to get attention, and when police confiscated his phone, he began compensating by lying in roads until compassionate passersby called for ambulances.
The New Math
More than 6 million students have downloaded the new iPhone app PhotoMath to solve Algebra I and Algebra II problems by pointing the phone’s camera at a printed equation. The answer, and the explanation, quickly appear on a screen, as a teaching tool — or for the students to show “their” work if PhotoMath is used on exam questions. The Croatia-based developer told the Quartz website in October that it is working on upgrades for higher-level math equations (though no relief is in sight for those chronically pesky “word problems”). Meanwhile, the debate has been triggered over whether PhotoMath is a dynamic technological advance in education — or a cheating-enabler.
—Neighbors in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, complained to the city recently about a resident who scattered hundreds of mothballs — over 400 now, at least — around her front yard, even driving over them in her car to crush them open and extend their noxious odor. The National Pesticide Information Center warned that the mothballs were hazards to plants, wildlife, water and air, but the female resident (unnamed in a report by First Coast News) said she was forced into the tactic in order to prevent neighborhood dogs from defecating in her yard.
—Celebrity Musicals: In September in Hamburg, Germany, “Charles Manson: Summer of Hate—The Musical,” opened at the Thalia Theater, covering the influences and failed musical career of the man convicted in the notorious 1969 Sharon Tate murders. And “I Am Stephon Marbury,” a musical featuring the former star NBA basketball player, ran for 11 nights in September in Beijing, where the popular Marbury has led the Beijing Ducks to national basketball championships the last two seasons. Marbury has a role onstage in what is described as a parable about pursuing one’s dreams.
—The most challenging toys this holiday season might be the series of furry human innards from the U.S. firm I Heart Guts—not just the soft and cuddly pancreas, brain and prostate, but especially the rectum. Each part is packaged with a cheekily written educational description explaining its importance (the rectum being “the butt of many jokes” yet with “a serious role” in waste disposal as the “fecal loading dock”), and each sells for about $20.
(1) Richard Shear, 28, was arrested in Muskegon County, Michigan, in October after an apparent violent episode with his mother and girlfriend. Shear had allegedly threatened the two, slashed an SUV tire, and tried to burn down their home with gasoline and a lit candle—but when it was time to flee the premises, hopped on his moped, ensuring his flight from police would be a short one. (2) A woman (described only as “robust”) in Darmstadt, Germany, fled with the equivalent of about $125 from a pharmacy in October and is still at large. According to the police report, she swiped money from two cash registers by twice lifting her shirt and squirting breast milk at a clerk as a diversion.
The District of Calamity
The Washington, D.C., school system last year declared Avery Gagliano, 13, a habitual truant whose parents somehow require special training to ensure her attendance. The eighth-grader was a straight-A student at Alice Deal Middle School, but also a piano prodigy selected for prestigious world exhibitions—which caused her to exceed the maximum 10 “unexcused” absences that trigger the assignment of a truancy officer and a series of relentless threats against the parents (which ultimately provoked them to withdraw Avery and this season to home-school her). (In October, following a Washington Post account, D.C.’s governing council honored Avery in a public ceremony, and the D.C. schools chancellor overnight began begging the Gaglianos to bring Avery and her suddenly “excused” absences back to school.)
(1) Sean Johnson, 19, was arrested in Brooksville, Florida, in October at the Wal-Mart after he was spotted at about 3 p.m. taking a toy stuffed horse into the bedding department and masturbating with it. (2) Paul Mountain, 38, pleaded guilty to burglary in Darwen, England, in October—accused by a homeowner whose shed was vandalized. Among the damaged items was a teddy bear streaked with semen. Mountain told officers that he was coming down off of an amphetamine high and felt an “overwhelming need for sexual relief.”