Evolution

Order a beer at Kayabukiya Tavern, in Japan’s Tochigi prefecture, and it will be brought to you by one of five monkeys. Owner Kaoru Otsuka started his business nearly 30 years ago, but business really took off when he brought his pet macaque to the premises and got it to hand a wet oshibori towel to a customer. Now the monkeys hand out oshibori and beer and perform on a makeshift stage.

Under animal welfare laws the monkeys work only two hours a day, and customers give them boiled soya beans as tips for their service. Now they’ve begun donning human masks and wigs — perhaps they’ll soon be opening a restaurant of their own:

Edifice Wrecks

giarre, sicily

Between the 1950s and the 2000s, the Sicilian town of Giarre started a series of ambitious building projects as its politicians competed to create jobs and secure funds from the regional government. Unfortunately, there was no need for the buildings — Giarre’s population is only 27,000 — and today the seaside town hosts 25 half-built and abandoned constructions, including an amphitheater, a sports stadium, a polo ground, and a swimming pool.

“Giarre offers the extreme form of a condition found in most cities, making it a parable of urban planning,” writes social geographer Alastair Bonnett in Off the Map. “It is the epicentre not of merely an Italian but a global phenomenon of accreted unfinished visions.”

“Several companies started the projects without the intention of finishing them,” architect Salvo Patane told the BBC. “These were projects started so as not to lose funds that were available from the regional government. More than waste, this was bad politics.”

Community activist Claudia D’Aita wants to reconceive the abandoned constructions as a park — “a kind of open-air museum” — exhibiting a cautionary new architectural subgenre. They would call it the Archaeological Park of Sicilian Incompletion.

Far From Home

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/26/john-daniel-gorilla-drank-tea-school-uley-gloucestershire?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Email

The English village of Uley had a remarkable citizen in 1917: a lowland gorilla, captured in Gabon by the French soldiers who had shot his parents. Uley resident Rupert Penny spotted him for sale in a London department store, paid £300, and named him John Daniel, and his sister Alyce raised him like a human boy.

“Until recently, we had people that remembered him walking around the village with the children,” said Margaret Groom, an archivist at the Uley Society, who unearthed a collection of old photographs. “He used to go into gardens and eat the roses. The children used to push him around in a wheelbarrow. He knew which house was good for cider, and would often go to that house to draw a mug of cider. He was also fascinated by the village cobbler, and would watch him repairing shoes. He had his own bedroom, he could use the light switch and toilet, he made his own bed and helped with the washing up.”

She had to sell him when he reached full size, and he passed into the hands of a circus. Eventually Alyce received an urgent message reading “John Daniel pining and grieving for you. Can you not come at once? Needless to say we will deem it a privilege to pay all your expense. Answer at once.”

She set out immediately, but he died of pneumonia before she arrived. His body was given to the American Museum of Natural History for preservation and remains on display there today.

(Thanks, Steve.)

Elevated Taste

Belgian novelty restaurant Dinner in the Sky is aptly named: A crane hoists the guests, their table, and the wait staff 180 feet into the air for a 90-minute meal aloft. Founded in 2007 by a marketer and a bungee-jumping impresario, the company has expanded into 47 countries. Most of the food is prepared on the ground, where up to 44 guests sign liability waivers before being strapped into seats around two tables for the duration of the meal; guests are encouraged to use the restroom first, and the foods are chosen to avoid choking hazards.

Ithaa (below) is the world’s first undersea restaurant, an acrylic bubble located 5 meters under the Arabian Sea in the Maldives. Guests enter via a spiral staircase; the 5-by-9-meter main dining room seats 14 and offers a 270-degree view of the surrounding sea (including some of the same seafood that’s on the menu). Lunch for two costs around $120; that’s cheaper than dinner, and the view is best when the sun is shining.

Inspiration

Many German beer brands combine a place name with the word Hell, which means “pale” and indicates a pale lager:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rennsteig_Hell_Vollbier,_VEB_GK_Rennsteig-Meiningen_Werk_Meiningen_Etikett_(DDR).jpg

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 2010 German businessman Florian Krause recalled that he’d grown up near an Austrian village called Fucking:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fucking,_Austria,_street_sign_cropped.jpg

So he brewed a pale lager and named it for the town:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fucking-hell-original.png

The European Union trademark office initially balked at registering the name, but Krause explained his thinking and they accepted it. “The word combination claimed contains no semantic indication that could refer to a certain person or group of persons,” the office noted. “Nor does it incite a particular act.”

“It cannot even be understood as an instruction that the reader should go to hell.”

Monte Kaolino

When Hirschau, Bavaria starting mining kaolinite a century ago, it faced a problem — one of the byproducts of kaolinite is quartz sand, which began piling up in enormous quantities. Fortunately sand itself has multiple uses — in the early 1950s an enterprising skier tried slaloming down the mountain, and soon the dune had its own ski club.

Today the 35-million-tonne “Monte Kaolino” even hosts the Sandboarding World Championships. And, unlike other ski resorts, it’s open in summer.

Tommy

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pet-Squirrel-Grid-LIFE-1944.jpg

During World War II one of the most surprising advocates of war bonds was Tommy Tucker, an Eastern gray squirrel who toured the nation in a humiliating wardrobe of 30 dainty costumes. (“THOUGH TOMMY IS A MALE SQUIRREL HE HAS TO WEAR FEMININE CLOTHES BECAUSE TAIL INTERFERES WITH HIS WEARING PANTS,” Life reported defensively.)

Tommy had been adopted in 1942 by the Bullis family of Washington D.C., who took him on the road in their Packard automobile, where he performed for schoolchildren, visited hospitals, and gave uninspiring radio interviews. Between appearances Zaidee Bullis would bathe him and place him in a specially made bed. At the height of his fame his fan club numbered 30,000 members.

Tommy retired after the war but gamely endured further travels with the family. When he died in 1949 he was stuffed and mounted “with his arms out so you could pull the clothes over him,” and his nightmarish fate pursued him even into the grave. He stands today in a display case in a Maryland law office — in a pink satin dress and pearls.