The Tampa snow festival that became an epic fiasco

The Tampa snow festival that became an epic fiasco

From the Tampa Bay Times: "When Beach Park's Howard Hilton was planning the Great Tampa Snow Show, he envisioned smiling kids, Santa Claus spreading good cheer, frolicking reindeer and lots of snow. A giant Christmas tree would hulk over the festivities, and there would be a massive, five-story ski slope. To create a festive atmosphere, the concept was to close five blocks of Franklin Street and cover it in ice and snow. Instead, Hilton's eight-day event turned into the most flawed spectacle in Tampa history. The event took place 45 years ago and was designed to promote downtown businesses during the Christmas season. Even though hundreds of thousands came to the show, it resulted in 47 lawsuits, three dead deer and several sunburned seals."

A convention where they want to return the Habsburg dynasty to the throne

From The Baffler: "Why did several hundred people in Texas pay good money to spend a beautiful Saturday inside, listening to three living members of the Habsburg family and a scattering of Carlists talk about what ails the world? It’s clear what the Habsburgs got out of it: the conference, held in Plano and organized by a Dallas realtor and right-wing Catholic, was in support of the family’s effort to win a sainthood for Emperor Karl I, perhaps the least successful and most tragic Habsburg monarch, who reigned for the last two years of World War I and then died penniless on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The family hoped to keep their memory alive—and maybe sell a few books. What everyone else might get out of it was unclear, at least at first."

He desposited a fake check for $95,000 as a joke and then his bank cashed it

From the Financial Times: "It was a cheque, made out in my name, for $95,093.35 and it came in a junk-mail letter from a get-rich-quick company. That’s exactly what made the thought of depositing it so irresistibly funny (Did I mention it had “non-negotiable” clearly written on it?) So, as a joke, I deposited the fake cheque into my bank’s ATM. What I expected to happen next was a short phone call from my bank. Or a letter informing me of what I already knew, that the cheque I deposited was not real. Then, five days later, I returned to withdraw some cash from the ATM, and noticed a much higher than usual bank balance. The bank had credited my account with the fake, false, stupid cheque!"

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A British girl who was born deaf can hear thanks to pioneering gene therapy

BBC News Opal playing at home

From the BBC: "Opal Sandy was treated shortly before her first birthday and six months on, can hear sounds as soft as a whisper and is starting to talk. Given as an infusion into the ear, the therapy replaces faulty DNA causing her type of inherited deafness. Opal is part of a trial recruiting patients in the UK, US and Spain. the therapy uses a modified, harmless virus to deliver a working copy of the Otof gene into these cells. Opal had the therapy in her right ear and a cochlear implant put into her left. Just a few weeks later, she could hear loud sounds, such as clapping, in her right ear. And after six months, doctors said her ear had almost normal hearing for soft sounds - even very quiet whispers."

Her mother chose assisted suicide even though there was nothing wrong with her

From New York: "In June, my sister and I had learned, almost by accident, that she was seeking an assisted suicide. I was on the phone with Mom, listening to her complain about an annoying bureaucrat at the New York County Clerk’s Office, when she mentioned it. Mom didn’t have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease or any of the illnesses that typically qualify you for assisted death. A cataract in her left eye had deteriorated, and though she had some foot pain and had gotten a pacemaker, all of which weighed on her, she was quite healthy for her age. She had completed a marathon just a few years before at 68. She would come down to Virginia to see my family, but she wouldn’t play with the kids and didn’t seem to enjoy the trips. In the last months of her life, the only thing that appeared to give her real joy was the hope that she would be ending it."

He was digging in her garden and found a rock with an ancient language

From The Guardian: "A geography teacher was tidying his overgrown garden at his home in Coventry when he stumbled across a rock with mysterious incisions. Intrigued, he sent photographs to a local archaeologist and was taken aback to learn that the markings were created more than 1,600 years ago and that the artefact was worthy of a museum. The rectangular sandstone rock that Graham Senior had discovered was inscribed in ogham, an alphabet used in the early medieval period primarily for writing in the Irish language. Rare examples of such stones offer an insight into the Irish language before the use of the Latin insular script."

The Greek festival where two churches shoot fireworks at each other

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipity engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me at mathew @ mathewingram dot com