Random weirdness for the week of Oct. 16, 2018


Mathematical fact*: If there’s a photography contest there’s a 99.9 percent chance a photo of Svalbard will be submitted and a 99.6 percent chance it will be among the winners.

Setting aside the asterisk (which in this case means we did no research at all on the subject), it’s not exactly shocking Svalbard has not one, but two finalists in the fourth annual Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. One is a photo previously published here this spring of a polar bear looking through the viewfinder of a high-end camera, seemingly about to take a snapshot. The other at the top of the page is a photo of a polar bear crashing hard, so to speak, on an ice floe taken by Denise Dupras. “He was resting,” she told the Post Bulletin, a newspaper in her Minnesota hometown. “And it didn’t lay there that long, and I got two shots of him. And the next thing, he’s on the move.” One reason the bear might have been in a mellow mood: it turns out the photo was taken in 2001, way back in the comparatively prehistoric days when there were a lot fewer people and a lot more sea ice…


Pyramid scheme: In keeping with the surreal feel of Svalbard, the two immediate impressions of this are either an alien planet or a top-down view of a certain hooker from “Total Recall.” Photo by Marco Gaiotti.

Moving to a more modern imagery, this photo by Marco Gaiotti of Italy of icebergs stuck in frozen water in Svalbard won the landscape category in this year’s (corporate sponsor name deleted) World Photography Awards. If the color scheme seems otherworldly, it’s nothing compared to an overhead shot of a fair that looks like a computer circuit board and women that looks like anime. But for some reason the lead photo and most popular overall is a rather ordinary snapshot of couple of nuns taking a selfie. Anyhow, it’s interesting to note Gaiotti has more noteworthy photos of Svalbard – literally – including lots of shots of  “stranded polar bears surrounded by floating ice” that got a decent amount of media coverage. “I deeply wanted a polar bear photograph in its natural environment and the results is probably the strongest image I have ever taken,” he told the art website MyModernNet. “The polar bear stands on the ice floe as the horizon is inflamed by the sunset light, as he was wondering about the future of the entire Arctic…”


Deadly diversity: Much as having residents from more than 50 countries here rocks and we desperately need new infrastructure, we’re not sure this is a positive addition. Image courtesy of Red Road Entertainment LLC.

Speaking of otherworldly, ponder the possibility that future includes a Svalbard that has a Swedish flag, a capital building that looks remarkably like the one in the U.S. (not to mention the dollar is the official currency) and is “led by Supreme Ledare[sic] Erik Johansson.” If that sounds alarming, here’s the really bad news: it already exists as of Oct. 1. Luckily the 1,001 citizens have 100 percent faith in their government and the country hasn’t launched any nuclear weapons yet (or eaten – huh? – any). That may change very quickly as New Svalbard squares off with nearly 9,000 countries so far in the browser-based MMO Politics and War. For those wanting to compare the new Svalbard to the old, here’s the overview: “New Svalbard’s government is a Federal Republic with very moderate social policies. Economically, New Svalbard favors moderate policies. The official currency of New Svalbard is the Dollar. At 1 days old, New Svalbard is a brand new nation. New Svalbard has a population of 1,000 and a land area of 20.00 sq. miles. This gives it a national average population density of 50.01. Pollution in the nation is almost non-existent.” Of all the stats, it’s the land area that bothers us most – we’re hoping it’s not because of an apocalyptic rise in sea level from all the nukes hot-headed tyrants let loose…


Seed scoop?! Hey, it’s not like they’re letting people in to see the massive overhaul of the Doomsday Vault, so we can’t prove it doesn’t now look so totally insane as this. Photo courtesy of Blinkfilm AS.

Still, that version of Svalbard is vastly preferable to the one where “a shooting star falls down over the Arctic island of Svalbard. The Global Seed Vault gets an unexpected visit. Hunger knows no boundaries.” That’s the premise of “Voyager,” an eight-minute film being screened at events such as this year’s Philip K. Dick European Science Fiction Film Festival. The situation is no mere global disaster or conflict, it’s “the first intergalactic robbery of our planet” (actually, it seems like space aliens invading and killing/stealing happens a lot here, but whatever). But, um, seeds? History suggests fully grown humans and other life are far better nourishment…