There are a lot of odd characters at Burning Man, the annual Labor Day Weekend celebration in the western desert, but the last one folks usually expect to see there is Santa Claus. However, as it turned out in 2017, that’s exactly who one attendee met, and she struck up a penpal relationship with the character ever since.
The idea of penpals came from the 1970s with kids’ programs intended to help them learn more about the greater world and to make connections with similar kids in other countries. TV programs, schools, kids’ after-school care programs and similar all ran some kind of version of penpals. The benefits were multiple. Kids learned to read and write faster, they built relationships with other kids internationally, and they learned more about other communities just on the natural talking to their connections. So, while the idea of writing a paper letter today seems like a memory of yesteryear, the term of “penpal” is still alive and well, referring to long-distance connections that start out of the blue.
Back to the Burning Man, Rudie met Santa Claus, or a fellow dressed up like him in 2017 at the desert festival, complete in costume and carrying a large sack. Of course, Santa Claus wasn’t the only out of the norm character there; Burning Man is famous for all sorts of outlandish costumes, constructs, bike-related vehicles, and lots of partying. Santa was in full character mode, handing out gifts from a large bag he was carrying, while enjoying the crowd at the Jazz Café.
Rudie ended up chatting with Santa quite a bit, but never exchanged anything more in the way of contact information to followup. So she pretty much chalked up the experience to the festival and forgot about it. However, in 2018, Santa Claus was there again at the next Burning Man. And he recognized Rudie from the previous year. They chatted up a storm again, and this time the Man of the North Pole brought a saxophone and started in impromptu gig on the stage. It went well with the name of the café. And, at the end of it all, Rudie was able to get an email address in 2018. She didn’t send an email right away; Rudie waited until Christmas itself that year, and then sent a long email explaining how special the Santa Claus theme was to her and thanking him for spreading the cheer at the festival.
She wasn’t expecting a response, but “Santa” did write Rudie back on Christmas Day the same year. That started an international tradition, and the following 2019 Burning Man, Rudie, Santa and a few other characters participated in the whole Christmas gig at Burning Man, much to everyone’s amusement. Unfortunately, 2020 and 2021 were fouled up by COVID, but Rudie and Santa stayed connected online anyways.
Plans are on though for everyone to reconnect in person again at Burning Man 2022. And Rudie, currently living in Spain and with a full name of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a character, is looking forward to the desert party with the Old Man from the North all over again. No pandemic is going to keep them down for long!
Punk Kid Goes From Homeless to Opening A Quirky Barbershop
If you’ve ever seen the musical movie, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, then you could be forgiven for thinking twice before stepping into a barbershop for a straight-razor shave. However, many people have that reaction as well when stepping into Daryl Bidner’s Little Barbershop of Horrors in today’s Vancouver Island.
Bidner himself was never one for being mainstream. Growing up as a punk kid in his teen years, the barber today is a close-cropped fellow, arms blazoned with tattoos, and a late 1960s skinhead-style outfit décor via collared shirt, sleeveless sweater matched to his jeans and boots. However, when it comes to cutting hair, Bidner is all the professional and about business.
Starting off definitely wanting his barbershop to stand out and apart from the competition locally, Bidner modeled the entire theme of his haircutting venue around the movie, Little Shop of Horrors. He parlayed his interest in cutting hair for friends with mohawks into a bona fide skill, and now enjoys regular business as a barber for clientele young and old.
However, life wasn’t always peachy-keen for Bidner. He was a school drop-out, had been in and out of drug addiction, and reached his own personal bottom after being homeless for an extended period. Ironically, it was a tattoo that finally seemed to put the young man back on track. His first tattoo allowed Bidner to skip the usual downspin of wasting the night high on something, and he sobered up. A number of days later, he did it again, using tattoos to get clean. By the 40th inking, Bidner was fundamentally off his addictions and broke his need to use mindlessly.
The tattooing was cathartic for Bidner, and he finally began to think about tomorrow instead of the next binge today. That in turn got him into thinking what Bidner could do for a proper living. Obviously, the young man was not going to go and wear a corporate suit the following Monday. So, he looked around at what made sense. Being a tattoo artist was logical, but then haircutting and being a barber appealed even more.
Bidner knuckled down, figured out how to get himself into barbering school, and after three years of grinding to perfect his skill, he had a license and started his own business with a single barber chair. Since that major breakthrough, Bidner has been at it as a barber for over five years, and he’s been involved with community help drives and giving free haircuts to the homeless at local shelters as well. No surprise, Bidner credits his profession for saving his life and giving him direction, but it has also been a living lesson to others that no matter how bad it gets, people can pull themselves out and up again.
Hell, MI, Appoints Wonky Feet Big-Eyed Cat as Mayor
Don’t let the name fool you, because Hell, a town in Michigan, is nothing like the name might suggest. Most recently, the town went as far as to install its most unlikely mayor, a cat! Keep reading for all the details.
A small Michigan town will very soon have as its mayor, a cat with big eyes and crooked feet. And it’s not just any city either. Hell, which is approximately 20 miles to the north of Ann Arbor, will be under the control of this tiny black cat.
Just about anyone can elect the mayor of Hell for one day. Part of the town’s marketing strategy. Pets, on the other hand, are a very different story. This is going to be an unprecedented move to have a cat intervene to keep Hell from erupting on April 24.
They’ve been together since Jinx’s rescue by her owner, Mia, three years ago. Jinx follows Mia anywhere she goes. Mia is always in Jinx’s vicinity.
California is where they reside. Because of Jinx’s large number of followers on social media, Mia, a.k.a. MiaJinx, refused to have her surname included in this tale. We’re talking about 735,000 TikTok followers as well as 400,000 Instagram followers here.
“I didn’t even hunt for a cat when I saved Jinx in 2018,” Mia told MLive. “I returned home from a football event early one day. I was meant to get home a long time later. I found her after hearing her meow in the backyard. She was only 3 weeks old at the time.”
As Jinx developed, Mia claims she began to notice something odd about her new kitten.
“She had large eyes that didn’t shrink in size as she grew larger, and I also noted she had large feet. The vet says she’s healthy and hasn’t found anything wrong with her. She’d just been born with these abnormalities. She’s also a touch sluggish and awkward compared to other cats. This is her first year of landing on her feet.”
From afar, Jinx will control Hell for the day. At approximately 4 p.m. ET which is 1:00 p.m. on the Pacific coast, Mia intends to make a huge declaration through Livestream on Jinx’s Twitch page.
On the day before the cat’s impeachment by the Reverend, Mia plots to jokingly produce graphs demonstrating how Jinx was elected mayor by a landslide, as well as what her proclamation states for the day.
According to Hell’s Reverend Vonn, who will swear in Jinx as mayor over the phone, “We adore our in-person and faraway mayors.” When it comes to individuals who are difficult to buy for or already have everything, the Mayor of the Day bundle is the ideal solution. They get to spend one Helluva wonderful day and then get the dreaded telephone call that they’re about to be impeached.”
How did a viral cat’s owner in California come across the small town of Hell and realize that she could appoint her beloved kitty mayor for the day?
“I made a joke about Jinx running for president on Twitter. After seeing animal mayors earlier, I asked on Twitter how to make Jinx mayor, and somebody mentioned Michigan as well as the possibility of paying to be the mayor of Hell for a day.
For both animals and humans alike, it costs $100 to reign Hell for a day. It comes with a certificate of impeachment, a cup from Hell, a shirt from Hell, along with a certificate of mayor proclamation. In Hell, the mayor will have the property of his or her own as well. One square millimeter of space.
Interested in becoming mayor of Hell? Fill out a form or contact them at 734-878-2233 to find out when the position is available.
A Creative Father Solves the Dog Stick Problem
For a human, a dog may be a great companion. However, when a good throwing stick is flying through the air, a human might as well be a pile of old deer poop. That’s because dogs love good sticks. Once they figure out there are three good aspects to a stick being thrown: something moving fast, a hunting feature, and if it gets returned the stick gets thrown again, the dog is all over it. Lots of folks today settle for a tennis ball or similar. However, let’s think about it; if you were a dog, which one would you want in your mouth, a jaw-stretching tennis ball or an easy to chew stick? There’s dog logic at work here.
Andrew Taylor, age 59, had always been a dog lover. And he never failed to take a moment to get a good toy for his dogs when they needed some exercise and to hone their hunting instincts a bit. That sort of thinking triggered a need to solve a problem when Taylor was visiting a local park one day. He realized that there wasn’t much in the way of toys for dogs. So, Taylor decided to start making some.
Finding a number of branches that made suitable material, Taylor went to work at dog-stick manufacturing. Soon enough, Taylor installed a handmade stick box complete with a dogstick library, including instructions that the stick were free to use but folks were responsible for returning them for the next user and pup to enjoy. The addition was a hit. And, just to make sure everybody locally understood what the stick library was for, Taylor and family had a little neighborhood party to inaugurate the stick library, including an attendance of 50 local dogs and a whole lot of fetching going on.
The most common question about the event was, naturally, why nobody thought of the idea sooner. The stick library was a big success, and everybody enjoyed being able to give their dogs something to chase as well as the tools being easily available and free to use. The dogs, of course, were all in for the party as well. Not only did they get to run their legs off a bit, the canines also got to frolic with a large number of the same, which was not a frequent event in the dog world, usually.
For Taylor and his daughter, the idea was simple but powerful. More importantly, it brought local dog owners together as well.
A Marriage Made at Subway, Hold the Onions
When people talk about where they met for the first time and realized it mean something serious, not many will say it was at a fast food restaurant, much less admit it. However, for Julie and Zack Williams, that’s exactly what they are proud of the most. In fact, it mean so much to them, the couple decided to also get married at the same Subway sandwich shop as well.
Both of the couple were running around on a cold December 8 back in 2017 just trying to get things done and grab lunch. As it turned out, the Julie and Zack both independently decided a Subway sandwich was just the thing for the lunchtime hunger pangs. So, Zack decided to drive out of his normal local dining spots and ended up at a Subway out of the normal locale. Getting there, he ended up getting in line ahead of Julie and her mother, also at the same Subway at the same time.
Julie remembers at the time thinking that the guy in front of them was a bit cute. Julie’s mother, on t he other hand, had other ideas. The maternal figure started haranguing Julie to do something about it and make a connection. Julie on the other hand, was suddenly very shy. As her mother kept insisting she give the guy her phone number, Julie trying to eat her sandwich at the table finally put her foot down and told her mother to do it. As Zack got up to leave, Julie’s mother might have likely put Olympian 100 yard champions to shame with how fast she moved. Julie’s mom was able to catch Zack in the parking lot, transferred the note, and Zack called Julie about 30 minutes later.
The two got to talking and soon enough the sparks start to fly that set off catalyst for a first date. From there, Julie and Zack’s relationship became history started at a Subway’s sandwich shop of all places.
Of course, things take time to get serious. The couple dated and kept their relationship going for about four years before deciding to make the big leap into getting married. While there was a Subway visit here and there in different locations, nothing was quite the same as that first diner the couple met in on their fateful day of happiness. And, while making things official in Plymouth, MI, Julie and Zack also made a point of going back to the very same Subway to have their wedding photos taken.
However, no turkey avocado footlongs or BMT sandwiches were ordered. This time the visit was all about memorializing Julie and Zack’s special day, courtesy of Subway then and the day of their wedding. The pepperocinis were extra.
Geese Showing Off By Flying Upside Down
Amateur photographers love to get great shots, especially given that sometimes they seem random, and the trick to reaching professional status is to produce great shots consistently versus every once in a while. So, for photographers in Holland watching geese fly near Arnhem, the opportunity to catch a goose flying upside down was a bit out of the norm and eye-catching. As it turned out, the goose was showing off.
Geese in the region have regularly been seen flying upside down, which might seem somewhat odd to the bystander seeing the behavior for the first time. Locally referred to as “whiffling,” upside-down geese flying occurs on a regular basis when the bird manages to twist its belly up in the air and keep flying while the head is also twisted right side up. No one is quite sure why geese do this, but some guesses are it helps distract would-be predator birds from attacking when something looks odd, or it slows the goose’s flight to the ground. Geese are not the only birds to perform whiffling either; lapwings and godwits have been seen doing the same in flight.
Vincent Cornelissen was the lucky photographer who was able to snap a wonderfully clear shot of a goose near Arnhem, and it was his image that ended up triggering the latest online debate and interest in geese whiffling. Cornelissen had posted the image to his Facebook page to show off the photograph, and it ended up expanding his audience to some 10,000 different followers as a result. One particular fellow in Turkey turned out to be an aerodynamics professor at Istanbul University and used Cornelissen’s image as an example for students studying flight capabilities.
The upside-down goose was not Cornelissen’s first bird shot either. The photographer has been watching and catching images of birds since childhood, and his library of photographs over the years has grown expansive. However, the odd goose flight could arguably be Cornelissen’s most famous photograph by far. It was pure accident that he even got the shot, simply noticing that one of the birds was flying weirdly at the time. The odd flight approach wasn’t fully noticed until Cornelissen was working on post-processing of his images when he realized what the bird was doing.
At first, Cornelissen thought his audience would accuse the amateur of photoshopping the image, the practice of making a fake image with Adobe Photoshop, a highly powerful post-processing image editing program. However, Cornelissen was soon buffered by those in other countries who confirmed the behavior as being real and accurate.
As it turns out, when young geese become accomplished in flight, they do dumb stuff, most notably, flying upside down to apparently “show off.” It works great until the goose runs into trouble and then has to adjust for a potential flight mishap and crash on the ground. The whiffling has been confirmed by other photographers after Cornelissen’s image was produced, but his image remains the greatest clarity so far of the goose’s flight behavior.
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