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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality


In a week that saw the indictment of the former U.S. president for inciting a riot in 2021, not everything was a long time coming. Some things—QR-code menus, White Claw, and the ubiquity of Lyfts—still seem to pop up overnight. Take, for example, the city-wide improvisation of dining sheds outside every restaurant at the height of lockdown in New York City; now an institution that enlivens neighborhoods, fills the air with pleasing chatter, and, yes, forestalls the transmission of illness, outdoor dining may be here to stay—but on the proprietor’s dime. A new bill grants restaurants the right to maintain their food sheds, provided they make them a spring and summer feature only; the onus of deconstructing and storing the structures during winter falls squarely on the shoulders of each establishment, while removing a crucial precaution and enormous peace of mind from the sidewalks. If New York City is about one thing, it’s about adjacency and how proximity humanizes the individual and unites communities. Taking our beloved gazebo eateries from us is just another unwelcome yawn in the city that never sleeps.


Ursine of the Times

A zoo in Hangzhou has denied that one of its Malayan sun bears is actually just a guy walking around in a suit after a video showing the supposed carnivore standing on its hind legs went viral. “Some people think I stand like a person,” the bear responded on social media, “but it seems you don’t understand me very well.” Chinese zoos have previously been accused of dyeing dogs to look like wolves and painting donkeys to pass for zebras. This is a hell of a way to find out that we’ve run out of animals and grim tidings for a future when fuzzy costumes and badly fitted heads are all we have left of our existentially endangered wildlife.


Milk Content

A real estate agent in Canada has been fined about $15,000 for taking milk from a client’s refrigerator and drinking from the carton in full view of the house’s camera, which is as close as even the Great White North is to come to legislating not being disgusting. Let politeness dictate how we approach criminal hygiene. We don’t want a technocracy; we want a nice-archy. For the nice people! Take the eighty-seven-year-old Brunswick woman who fought off a teenage attacker and then fed him peanut and honey crackers until the police arrived. Creative use of crime-stemming delectables is proof that the best offense is a delightful senior citizen with a well-stocked pantry. 


All’s Well That Stairwell

An enterprising Londoner with the pulp-hero sobriquet of Simon Squibb recently won a disused stairwell for around $32,000 at auction and, though the four flights of stairs go nowhere, plans to turn it into a pop-up office, an ad hub, and possibly a bank to help people make investments in things like abandoned staircases. Elsewhere in England, two counties lost internet access for days after rodents chewed through the underground wires. This is, of course, a protest against the English censorship laws deeply restricting rats from self-expression on the internet, but now the vermin are in control of our broadcast, and news is no longer the exclusive purview of foxes.


Death Sold Separately

Barbiecore continues to be the fad that defines the Western world, causing record shortages of pink paint and increasingly far-fetched product tie-ins, which may have reached a nadir this week with hot pink “dream coffins” being hawked by funeral homes across Latin America so “you can rest like Barbie.” The best part is that future archeologists will conclude that you were one groovy pharaoh. Not content to cash in on our doll-themed blockbusters, the four horsemen of the apocalypse decamped to Florida, where one-fifth of the country’s cases of leprosy have made Orlando even more pestilential than usual. The CDC reports that the disease has become endemic to the area; some experts blame mangy armadillos. And a new arthropod has been found lurking beneath Los Angeles: blind, glassy, and possessing 486 legs. Please join us in welcoming the Los Angles Thread Millipede to the genome, your nightmares, and 2023, in which fear, contagion, and pastels continue to trend.