November is tax-publicizing season in Finland, where, starkly unlike America, the government releases all individuals’ tax records to help build public support for the country’s vast welfare state. Thus, reported Foreign Policy magazine, Finnish society gets a “yearly dose of schadenfreude” … “opening the door for a media frenzy of gossip, boasting and fingerpointing” about “fair share” and who’s more worthy. A few, however, proudly pay high Finnish taxes as a “badge of patriotism,” rejecting common tax shelters. “We’ve received a lot of help from society,” said one homegrown (and wealthy) entrepreneur, “and now it is our turn to pay back.”
TIPTOEING IN AMERICA
Steve Soifer, CEO of an international support group for people with “shy bladders,” excoriated DirecTV in November for its series of commercials featuring Rob Lowe, whose “awkward” character in one ad stands at a urinal and says, “Fact: I can’t go with other people in the room.” Soifer says the ad ridicules a serious problem–and compared it to “making fun” of a man missing an arm or leg.
THE POWER OF ONE SENSITIVE SOUL
Lt. Col. Sherwood Baker was turned away from Adams High School in Rochester, Michigan, in September by a guard who said a school official sent word that Baker was not allowed in to discuss his daughter’s class schedule until he changed to civilian clothes–because “a student” might be offended by his military uniform. (The Rochester school superintendent later apologized.) And the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., apologized twice in August, first a tongue-in-cheek “apology” for England’s War of 1812 attack on the White House and then for making that “apology” in the first place–because of a backlash on Twitter from Americans complaining the jokey “apology” was “offensive.”
MORE PUBIC RECORDS
David Van Vleet asked for certain supposedly public records in Tacoma, Washington, and was forced into federal court when the city turned him down. Van Vleet wanted data from the city licenses of strip club employees (dancers’ stage and real names, date of birth, etc.) so that he could pray for them individually, by name, to make his appeals more effective. In October, Judge Ronald Leighton denied Van Vleet a temporary restraining order against the city.
HIGH CLASS ICE
The Washington, D.C., restaurant Second State recently added an accessory to its bar menu–”hand-cut rock,” i.e., “artisanal” ice, for $1 extra (but free in premium drinks). The local supplier Favourite Ice assures that its frozen water contains no calcium to cloud it and, with a heavy-duty band-saw blade, “hand-cuts” 200-to-300-pound blocks into the cubes that ultimately wind up in the glass. A Favourite Ice founder said his frozen water resists drink-weakening longer than ordinary cubes do.
Daniela Liverani, 24, of Edinburgh, Scotland, and British singer Katie Melua recently survived inadvertent, grotesque ordeals hosting, respectively, a three-inch leech and a spider. The leech had found its way into Liverani’s nose during an Asian backpacking trip and had poked part-way out several times (though Liverani had assumed it was a nosebleed clot and “sniffed [it] back up”). When she finally saw a doctor in October, she said, the leech played peek-a-boo for a half-hour until the doctor grabbed it with tweezers. Melua’s tiny spider apparently lived in her ear for a week, creating a constant “rustling” noise until her doctor vacuumed it out. She guessed that it came in through old earbud headphones on an airline flight. Her spokesperson said the singer had no hard feelings and released the spider into her garden.
The law finally caught up, partially, to squatter Darrell Beatty in September, as he was charged with grand larceny for forging a deed to a home owned by Jennifer Merin, 70, in Laurelton, New York. However, he bailed out of jail on Oct. 22 and immediately returned to the house. In fact, Beatty’s two sons had remained “at home” even while Beatty was locked up. The home has been in Merin’s family since 1930. “Mind-boggling,” she said.
THE LAW WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS
The Gothamist news site reported in October that bicyclist John Roemer, who was rear-ended by a driver in Brooklyn in May (and whose intensive-care bill was paid by the driver’s insurance company), is now being sued by the driver in small claims court for $2,000 damage to her car. And in November, a civil court in Lindau, Germany, ordered Rory Gray to pay Dr. Daniel Ubani for calling Ubani “an animal” (for having injected Gray’s father with 10 times a drug’s safe dose in 2008, which led to his death). The court found the epithet unwarranted and ordered Gray to help pay Ubani’s legal expenses.
WELL, OF COURSE!
The owner of the world’s largest corn maze (63 acres), at Cool Patch Pumpkins in Dixon, California, told Sacramento’s KOVR-TV in October that “several” times this season, visitors have called 911 to come get them out of the maze. Said owner Matt Cooley, “When it’s dark, all you see is corn.” Also, two months earlier, an emergency crew in Braintree, England, was forced to use special equipment to find and rescue an elderly woman who had fallen while inside the 10-acre Blake House Craft Centre maze.