10TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE SPECIAL: Extra-extra-extra massive amount of random weirdness for the week of March 12, 2019


Quiz before reading the next sentence: What worst-case local police emergency explains the “hot” vehicle in this picture?

No it’s not a terrorist attack (although officials have expressed worries about them here) or an even-more-botched-than-we-thought desperate escape attempt by that infamous first-ever bank robber (although both happened at roughly the same time). Instead, it’s part of one of those large-scale emergency exercises that happened here from time to time, in which worst-case in this instance involved a passenger flight crashing on the airport runway. Since presumably officials didn’t actually demolish a plane and set it on fire, this flaming four-door is what the French news site Les Jours featured when writing about the exercise from last December. But intriguing as it is, there’s been a crushing amount of coverage lately about Svalbard’s emergency preparedness capabilities due to real-life incidents involving avalanches, boat wrecks, a fatal helicopter crash and more. So the line that really caught our attention in this article note that while all local officials are engaged for the moment in the faux disaster, “Longyearbyen police are increasingly confronted with cases of fights in bars, drug possession and consumption, driving in a state of drunkenness and domestic violence.” Now that’s an attention getter because the governor’s most-recently published annual report (from February of 2018, alas, with this year’s report not likely to come out until April) declares crime overall is maintaining its generally absurd low levels. But the assertion certainly matches what we’ve been seeing on local social media and such during the past year or two. Locals have sought out culprits stealing things such as parts from numerous snowmobiles, clusters of large fuel canisters outside buildings, bikes, ransacking storage shed, a wrapped gift from a coffee table and plastic crates containing little more than junk (full disclosure: and the keys to the car belonging to the evil overlord of this space). Maybe the most cringeworthy recently was two wedding rings stolen from a purse in a locker at Svalbardhallen. Plus we’ve had four drunks wandering around (or “swimming”) in the snow outside in life-threatening cold with little clothing during the past two weeks (including two this weekend) And yes, vehicle heists are part of that – which are shocking the same way the bank robbery was since where are you going to escape to – mostly involving hit-and-runs, vandalism and joyrides such as the moron(s) who badly scarred both sides of a “borrowed” van by driving it over a way-too-narrow pedestrian bridge with railings. So this week’s public service is conceding that yup, it’s time to follow the advice of the many who’ve said such things should be reported to the governor’s office – even though we’ve seen no point in the past since it’s not likely the crimes will be solved – since it’s probably good to know how much of our collective naiveté we should be losing…


Undercover spook: Since this guy proved he can walk a beat on Svalbard’s interplanetary twin, he’s getting assigned here to put drunks and international contract assassins in their place. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Luckily, if crime really does get bad (or, egad, any of that much-feared foreign espionage or terrorism happens here since, after all, Norway has long seen us as one of the most-vulnerable targets thanks to the 50+ nationalities living here), we’re got a super agent with local experience to call upon by the name of Jason Bourne, who visited not too long ago in pursuit of his latest mission with the block-ops program known as Treadstone. Naturally we can’t reveal anything about his mission, but for those who think they may have spotted him or try to in the future be warned: he’s undercover so he’s not going to resemble the pictures from all that Bondesque media coverage of his capers (and presumably he won’t stick out like a Martian). But we do have some possible dirt on his local contact, as Verdens Gang reported it “has been in touch with Jason Roberts, who runs the company Polar X [because, of course it’s named that –Ed] and has worked for many years with facilitating film and TV productions in Svalbard. He does not want to comment on the matter.” Last we were in touch with Jason he was helping out cops on the case of local crazed murderers infected with some supervirus unleashed by climate change so, while pretty much everyone involved in that died and last we heard an infected body was on its way to the mainland, at least there’s a chance the latest hostile threat is in experienced hands…


Barely bloodsucker bait: Sorry, but this fearless fossil is a bit fishy compared to some other vampires of Svalbard (whose stories are told in headlines such as “‘Vampire therapy’ could reverse ageing,” “Gene turns mosquito into vampire” and “Jeff Allen Vs. the Time Suck Vampire.” Photo by Jørgen Berge.

Speaking of severe Svalbard viruses plaguing the outside world, (for anyone not comprised of our two regular readers, we noted just last week those first two words are an absurdly common transition in these rants), it turns out some Mediterranean fisherman are having “major problems with a subwater scavenger” known as – wait for it – vampire lice. But while those vital force feeders are newly haunting the fisherfolks of the Aegan Sea, a UNIS professor told The Official Local Paper of Bloodsuckers the creatures are quite common in Svalbard. Unlike their Transylvanian cousins, the shapeshifters of the seas strike at all hours regardless of the full moon and fishermen are reporting their catch being scavenged within three to four hours of being caught in the nets. That “other” paper noted vampire lice are carrion eaters between 0.5 and three centimeters in size, and “they enter their victim through the mouth, the gills or the eyes and they are very efficient…”


His sh*t doesn’t stink – it sparkles: If you dare to disgree, feel free to tell its owner to his face and see his reaction. Photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo.

Speaking of parasites, the opening sentence of this article says it all without any wannabe wittiness from us: “An Ohio zoo has become the repository for the world’s largest collection of polar bear poop as researchers work to create a pregnancy test to aid the survival of this threatened species.” But wait, there’s more: “Some poop mailed to (the researchers) can be downright flashy. Zoos with multiple females sprinkle glitter and dye on the samples to help identify whose poop is whose.” Somewhat more straightforward, scientist Erin Curry says researchers are comparing compounds in fecal matter from females that are pregnant with those that aren’t in the hope of finding specific compounds that will help develop a pregnancy test. With all the various “vaults” out there getting mentions following the fame our very own (and very leaky) Doomsday Vault – including the recently opened data vault next door and one for mouse sperm in outer space – we’re just glad we’re not taking any more crap here than we already get. Not that the homeland of the poop preserve is short on all types of scat, including the comments section of the article where Best of the Public proclaims are spouting such wisdom as “in the wild polar bears are doing what nature designed animals to do. They are finding a way to pass on their genes. They are mateing with brown bears and having cubs that can survive in warmer climates.”


Spacey Invaders: Not to pile on to the “junk science” stockpile, but of all the alternative uses we’ve heard about the real use of the Doomsday Vault (zombie sanctuary city, mad-scientist global mind-control HQ, Space Force training center, etc.), the suggestion a bunker 130 meters inside a mountain its being used for astronomy by guy born in the 16th-century probably ranks somewhere in the lower tier of the credibility scale. Photo courtesy of PlayMakers Repertory Company.

More seed vault-related weirdness: for whatever reason it’s the inspiration for a modernized version of the 1938 play “Life of Galileo,” with the new version featuring “a strangely metaphorical yet surreal hi-tech bunker in which Galileo and company live and work.” The minds behind the modernization were motivated by such things as the federal government attempting to censor, misrepresent, and otherwise silence science more than 150 times between January and August of 2018, mostly on climate change topics, according to the beginning of a review of the production by Broadway World. Galileo faced official repression in his time that became the focus of the original play, hence the feeling it was fitting for modern theater. The review declares the new version now playing at Columbia University “one for the ages:” “The juxtaposition of the sterile, mod white environs and period-appropriate props like Galileo’s armillary sphere and ‘tube,’ tellingly work to contemporize (playright Bertolt) Brecht’s piece. In addition, (Set and Screen Designer Jim) Findlay’s ever-effective screen projections, sometimes ethereal, sometimes confrontational, and very Brechtian (referring to the surname of the artistic director), enhance Benesch’s Orwellian interpretation of the work.” Alas – like pretty much every study, campaign and whatnot – the play “doesn’t offer any definitive answers to the current problems facing champions of climate and environmental science, but rather leaves the audience with more troubling questions and perhaps a glimmer of hope that someday stupidity may be defeated, and reason will prevail.” Call it the ultimate climate denalism…

And to wrap things up (we know – those are the five best words written in this marathon of madness so far) we present the classical – if not exactly classic – composition “Svalbard, Op. 70, Nr. 1” performed by what we’ll call the Eight And A Half Note Chiptune Ensemble at the YouTube Symphonic Concert Hall. The “name” we’ve bestowed comes from the only “program” notes composer Teodor P. Peev choses to share of the video (“the last pitch is supposed to be an eight and a half note!”), which does at least show the score on the screen of his computer as that grand virtual conductor known as Sibelius conducts it. Our Enquiring Minds posted a comment asking very politely what the hell was in his mind/soul/stimulant when he composed this and the Bulgarian composer quite kindly posted a detailed response noting that, while he hasn’t been to Svalbard, “I always had a kind of fervor for the North.” Among his list of reasons: lack of blinding sunlight (um, four months of midnight sun are just weeks away), there aren’t lethal bugs (oops…”‘Superbug genes’ posing bigger threat than climate change and war found in Svalbard”) and the “culture of Russia interlacing with the North” (yeah, Norwegians have been just thrilled about that lately). He also mentions “the possibility to play the piano blatantly without the risk of getting diverse warnings from my neighbors regarding this within the North.” We’re not exactly sure what that means, but it seems like the moment to bring up the Best of the Public reviews of the performance in response to our invitations for submissions on a local “praise and info” Facebook page (always cheaper and quicker than hiring an actual stringer/staff). Among the opinions: “sounds bloody terrible,” “it does sound terrible,” “too annoying for my taste,” “maybe he was thinking of ‘The Hall of the Mountain King’ and “any music played by a computer sounds wrong” (we disagree). And to offer a surprise ending twist to this long-ever rant by our in-house dungeon trolls, our Evil Overlord with his 20 years as a professional dissenting music critic opined on the opus and…doesn’t hate it. There’s a definite dark structure that despite being highly discordant has the “piano” and “string” combo playing mostly over a consistently repeating vamp or two, so at least it’s not an attempted con job of random human/computer notes. In fact, it really isn’t all that “out there” – remove a few interludes of dense piles of pointless piano pounding and what it most reminds him of is the background music for the dungeon levels of the original Super Mario Brothers.