Random weirdness for the week of Nov. 3, 2015


It’s Humiliation Week for us in this space for a couple of reasons. First, it’s hardly weird for us to do something stupid, but it’s also not just any newspaper that goes out of their way to point it out twice. As we noted on both the front page (in keeping with one of our policies real newspapers consider insane) and page two of this week’s print edition, we made a major screwup in an article titled “Anchor alterations” in the Oct. 13 issue. The story stated citizenship is not allowed for foreigners living exclusively in Svalbard because residents are exempt from paying taxes related to Norway’s social welfare system. While the tax bit is true, the reason foreigners are ineligible is the Norwegian Immigration Act does not apply in the archipelago due to the ease of entry and residency mandated by the Svalbard Treaty…


Stepping in it: PayPal once again gives Svalbard residents the ass-end of things. Photo by Steve Booker.

Next, we utterly despise falling for corporate propaganda stunts, especially when they’re by a much-despised company, but we’re mentioning one anyhow as “lifestyle and travel blogger” Steve Booker has completed a two-week “Pole to Pole” journey that began in Longyearbyen without carrying “a single note, coin or card.” Instead, he accepted a challenge from the folks at PayPal to do it as a publicity stunt. His “global tour” was actually only eight stops on three continents, ending at Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost city (at a whopping 54 degrees south latitude). Not to suggest they’re hypocrites or anything, but we found out PayPal has massive restrictions for Svalbard residents when we tried to use them to set up a donation site. Not that we’d snark them here because we’re bitter about it…


You’re gonna see some serious shit: A dogpile of an entirely different kind (the search engine – duh) can help send you on your free time travel journey. Photo courtesy of MIT Technology Review.

Finally, sticking with unusual journeys here, we’re not saying everybody who paid 20,000 kroner a night for a hotel room during the total solar eclipse is dim-witted (OK, maybe a little), but now those unable to lighten their wallets to get left in the dark are getting a free chance to time travel. A free gadget from Google called Cardboard, along with cheap versions made of studier materials from several companies, are designed to offer a full “virtual reality” experience for those viewing interactive 360-degree videos through mobile phones. Among the noteworthy early videos, according to MIT Technology Review is a real-time capture of the March 20 total solar eclipse in Svalbard.