Genius moments: June 2008
Tuesday 23 December 2008
The real dragons' den
The British divers who went missing off the coast of Indonesia must have thought they had got through the worst. They negotiated 10 hours in shark-infested waters and finally made it to a deserted island – only to be confronted by a gang of carnivorous 10ft Komodo dragons. The next two days mainly consisted of beating the grisly lizards off with their hefty diving belts, until the coastguard finally found them, ensuring a happy ending for all. Except the Komodos, of course, presumably still in search of a square meal.
It was one of the stories of the summer: the news that Hans Rausing, an heir to the Tetra Pak fortune, had exited through his bedroom window when the police arrived to question him at home in London. Unfortunately, any enjoyment of this slapstick image waned as the facts emerged: Hans and Eva Rausing, longtime strugglers against addiction, had earlier in the year decided it might be a good idea to liven up an American Embassy party with a couple of lines of cocaine. That incident led to a caution and a promise to get treatment; two months later, when Hans was involved in a hit and run, which led to the police visit to their home, it became clear that the couple's wealth had done nothing to insulate them from the torments of addiction.
Hippies embrace hip hop
Beforehand, there was nothing but trepidation and acrimony. Noel Gallagher said it was wrong; disgruntled fans flooded the NME messageboards; and a week earlier some moron threw a banana skin at Lethal Bizzle at the Download festival, in what seemed like a worrying precursor of things to come. But as soon as Jay-Z stepped on stage at Glastonbury and struck up a rendition of the Oasis hit "Wonderwall", the audience went mental. And then he launched into "99 Problems" – and absolutely smashed it.
Sail of the 18th century
HMS Ontario was considered the holy grail of shipwreck hunters, and 228 years after she foundered in a storm on the Great Lakes of the American-Canadian border, news broke of her rediscovery. There are over 4,000 shipwrecks in the lakes, but none as well preserved as this British warship, which sank in a storm. The Ontario was a 22-gun, 80ft vessel and was discovered after three years of searching by two deep-sea divers; eerily, she's sitting upright, her main masts are still erect, in 500ft of water – but her exact location remains a secret.
Death shall have dominion
Poor Gheorghe Dobrescu. The election hopeful in the village of Voinesti, Romania, could not even beat a dead man to the office of mayor. His rival, Neculai Ivascu, who had led the village for more than 10 years, died from a liver disease shortly after the polls opened – too late for voting to be halted. And the dead man duly beat Dobrescu by 23 votes. "I know he died, but I don't want change," one arguably delusional villager told Romanian TV. Dobrescu was later handed victory but can hardly claim to have a strong mandate.
Sarko strikes again
A second entry for Gaul's most explosive statesman! Asked who was to blame for Ireland rejecting the EU treaty in June's referendum, Sarko replied: "Mandelson." The treaty must be ratified by all 27 member states to take effect, and Mr Sarkozy said that the European Commission's trade policies, as advanced by Commissioner Mandelson, had alarmed Irish farmers. But the row didn't stop there: a French newspaper reported Sarkozy calling Irish voters "bloody fools", adding that "they have been stuffing their faces at Europe's expense for years and now they dump us in the shit."
Spurred into auction
When Ian Usher said he was going to sell his life on eBay, he wasn't kidding. Usher, a 44-year-old Brit living in Australia and looking to move on from a difficult divorce, invited bids for his house, his car, his motorbike, his skydiving gear, his job – even his friends. In the end, Usher got £180,000 for the package, and struck out anew with nothing but his passport and wallet. How the winning bidder disposed of their own life is not recorded...
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