Alibi V.27 No.51 • Dec 20-26, 2018 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: Russia

A human-like “robot” featured at a technology forum turned out to be a man wearing a robot costume. According to The New York Times, a robot named “Boris” was called “one of the most advanced robots” by the Russian state-sponsored Rossiya-24 news channel. Boris was a featured act at the Proyektoria technology forum, an event aimed at exposing children to the potentials in technology-based careers. During the gathering, the “robot” took to the stage to speak to the crowd in a pre-recorded voice and dance to a popular song. Reporters applauded the “robot,” saying it might have inspired some children to pursue a career in robotics. Some Russian bloggers were suspicious of Boris, however, and began asking questions about its lack of sensors and human-like size and shape. “Why does it look like as though he was made to fit a human being inside?” one journalist asked. More questions were raised as curious viewers attempted to look for information about the robot online and found nothing. Finally, a representative of a costume company called Show Robots came forward and told reporters they recognized the company's “Alyosha the Robot” costume. The plastic costume costs 250,000 rubles, or about $3,765, to rent. Journalists and bloggers all over Russia attacked Rossiya-24 for its report. The news organization responded, saying it never claimed Boris was a real robot. Rossiya-24 journalist Yevgeny Nipod defended the station, saying it was only guilty of using the wrong choice of words.

Dateline: Spain

A court found the owners of a catering company not guilty of fraud after they faked their own deaths to avoid catering a wedding and kept the couple's money. El País reports the owner of the catering company sent an email to the bride-to-be just hours before her wedding claiming to be someone else and informing her that the company would be unable to perform its duties as he and his son had been killed in a workplace accident. The woman was assured that the money she had already paid the company—about 75 percent of the total bill—would be refunded to her. The couple were unable to contact anyone at the company the day of the ceremony, but spoke to someone claiming to be the owner's brother the next day. He allegedly told them that the man and his son were being buried at that moment. Subsequent attempts to contact the company failed, and the couple never received a refund. While conducting their own investigation, the couple discovered six Facebook pages created by other couples who had been involved in similar situations with the same caterers. The couple pressed charges against the company, and last week a Madrid court ruled in favor of the defendants, saying that although the owners admitted that they lied about being dead, it wasn't clear that they had planned to renege at the time the verbal agreement was made. The night before the wedding, the owner's son had installed a marquee at the venue where the wedding was being held at cost to themselves, and the judges ruled that it constituted a partial fulfillment of the contract and implied an intent to finish the job. The owner of the company reportedly told the judges that he decided not to serve the couple because he didn't “get a very good impression” of them. The ruling can be appealed.

Dateline: United Kingdom

Organizers at a holiday event apologized last week after a fire alarm caused an employee dressed as Santa Claus to panic and yell profanities at children. According to CNN, a number of parents were appalled by the man's behavior when a fire alarm at an unrelated event in the same building caused Santa to leave his “grotto” at the St. Ives Festival and shout, “Get the fuck out!” at nearby children, according to witnesses, who say parents were already in the act of evacuating. “He came [charging] in, ripped his hat and beard off in front of 50 odd kids and started shouting and swearing at people to leave,” claimed one witness in a Facebook post. In a public apology, event organizers wrote that Santa “immediately assisted in the evacuation of the building” and apologized “for any offense or distress caused to parents and children by the attempts to ensure all visitors and staff had exited the building and were safe.”

Dateline: United Kingdom

A parent says their child was traumatized when encountering a faux “elf” murder scene staged by a primary teacher at school. The Manchester Evening News reports Flowery Field Primary School in England decorated a classroom with police tape, a chalk outline and blood splatters as part of a writing exercise which asked a group of Year 4 children to participate in a murder mystery. The students were told they were witnessing the murder scene of one elf who was killed by another and were prompted to solve the case. One parent protested the exercise, however, saying her child suffered from nightmares after the incident. She claimed a number of other parents had reported that their children were “unsettled” by the exercise. The school's head teacher Ian Fell defended it, saying it engaged children with learning disabilities and may have inspired some to pursue a career in law enforcement. He called the exercise both “appropriate” and “exciting.”

Compiled by Joshua Lee. Email your weird news to josh@alibi.com.