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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Hostel Takeover

As the city of lights prepares to welcome sports fans to the 2024 Paris Olympics, bed bugs are having a little circus of their own, infecting the Metro, Charles de Gaulle Airport, the lycées, the Arc de Coco Chanel, Jacques Cousteau’s submarine, and France’s national monument, a statue of Gérard Depardieu made of creme brûlée. The scourge is panicking locals and politicians, with Mayor Anne Hidalgo remarking, “Sacrebleu! Where are all my baguettes? Look, there goes Jerry Lewis, someone call the gendarmerie!” For the infested nation, je t’aime is running out, and the country has been placed on its highest state of emergency, Marcel Marceau Marceauist. Meanwhile, the Taliban is living it up in Kabul’s premier luxury hotel, the subject of a lengthy profile in the Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Founded in 1969, Afghanistan’s Intercontinental Hotel is a swank experiment in ultra-rich cosmopolitan outreach in a war-torn nation where adulterers are whipped and women are prohibited from appearing in public. But nevermind that: savor gourmet lamb dishes from the five-star kitchen and revel in the hotel’s lavish tennis courts; also, hotel bills are paid with cash out of paper bags, music is strictly forbidden, and the marriages hosted in its ballroom are human rights violations. It’s enough to make the enterprising tourist long for an off-highway Econo Lodge, where there’s nothing to fear but the delights of the free world, like the three-legged cat outside the check-in office, the dead body in the complimentary pool, the human foot under the mattress, and the bones in the chimney.


Bob Rules

Japan has unleashed a cadre of robot wolves to protect the elderly from bears in Hokkaido because that island nation is fucking cool and no stranger to finding the weirdest possible solutions to the most absurd problems. We’re talking about a country that discourages creepy peeping predators by making it possible to order chicken flavored like the feet of young girls. We’re talking about a country with an all-girl cryptocurrency pop group that dresses like blockchain logos and sings about virtual lucre. The United States is not nearly so nutzoid in the face of outrage, as Moneyball author Michael Lewis has written a weirdly fawning biography of disgraced crypto conman Sam Bankman-Fried, telling 60 Minutes that there is “a Sam-Bankman-Fried-shaped hole in the world.” You mean like Wile E. Coyote when he falls off a cliff after ordering a faulty product from a sketchy vendor? And AI image-generators continue to go off the rails: Bing’s image generation software is flooding the internet with pictures of SpongeBob Squarepants doing 9/11. Which is a horrifying corruption of a children’s cartoon show that feeds into a tasteless set of conspiracies; we all know Pinky and the Brain did that shit.


Pew Pew Peepaw

In a very American kind of fable, a man with a handgun was arrested in Wisconsin while looking for Governor Tony Evers, posted bail, and returned with an assault rifle (to truly qualify for the rule of three, next time he needs to come back with a Death Star). In Nebraska, a county commissioner fired off a gun while officiating a wedding and shot his grandson, a non-life-threatening injury that the trigger-happy pop pop summarized by saying, “God wasn’t surprised by what happened that day,” and if God is one of us, it’s true, he’s also probably used to it at this point and figures the flood can’t come quick enough so we can start again with a fresh slate. Instead of man and manslaughter, this time let’s start with something nice like motor scooters and Sour Patch Kids on day one.


Giraffeter is the Best Medicine

A Minnesota airport seized a box of giraffe poop from a tourist returning from Kenya who says she was planning to make a necklace out of the offending turds, just weeks after a reticulated giraffe was born without its telltale spots in Tennessee, sparking a nationwide hunt for the missing spots that has so far collected testimony from the zebra, the rhinoceros, wise uncle spider, and the magical monkey who lives atop the hill and serenades the serpent maiden with calabash shells. Because we can’t have anything nice, Indianapolis police captured an escaped primate named Momo, an emotional support alligator was denied entrance to a Phillies game, and nine pigs were killed by riot police at an Italian sanctuary, supposedly out of caution for the spread of African Swine Fever. This is no way to treat nature’s most amusing mascots—they were here first, after all—and if we keep it up, it won’t be long until the animals revolt and we are the ones being locked out of sporting events and having our poop stolen by jewelers. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, and it is criminal to pilfer her feculence.