Friday, December 26, 2008

A Little Christmas Craziness

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Just chillin' at my brother's waiting to watch his kids for him while he goes to allegedly have lunch with his wife at work (needed a minute away from him honestly) so I thought I'd just let you know that I made out like a bandit for Christmas (divorced & remarried parents have their advantages...even at my age) and I'm having a great time in the city of Salt. Tomorrow's gonna be a bit of a party and I drank a 12-pack of Bud Light longnecks last night, so getting ready for Vegas. In the meantime, sparing you details and pictures until later dates, here's some Christmas craziness in the news...

Snowzilla - A giant snowman named Snowzilla has mysteriously appeared again this year — despite the city's cease-and-desist order. Someone again built the giant snowman in Billy Powers' front yard in an east Anchorage neighborhood. Snowzilla reappeared before dawn Tuesday. Powers is not taking credit. When questioned Tuesday afternoon, he insisted Snowzilla just somehow happened, again. For the last three years, Snowzilla — to the delight of some and the chagrin of others — has been a very large feature in Powers' yard. In 2005, Snowzilla rose 16 feet. He had a corncob pipe and a carrot nose and two eyes made out of beer bottles. This year, Snowzilla is estimated to be 25 feet tall. He's wearing a black stovepipe hat and scarf. "Have you seen him?" Powers asked when reached by telephone at his home, the sound of excited children in the background. "He's handsome." Snowzilla has consistently risen outside Powers' modest home. His children (father of seven) collected snow from neighbors' yards to make the snowman big enough. Each year, Snowzilla got a bit bigger. Not everybody in the neighborhood liked all the cars and visitors who came to see him. City officials this year deemed Snowzilla a public nuisance and safety hazard. A cease-and-desist order was issued. The city tacked a public notice on Powers' door. City officials said the structure increased traffic to the point of endangerment and that the snowman itself was unsafe. The mayor's office on Tuesday issued a statement defending its move against Snowzilla. "This property owner has repeatedly ignored city attempts to find ways to accommodate his desire to build a giant snowman without affecting the quiet, residential quality of the neighborhood," said the statement from Mayor Mark Begich's office. "This is a neighborhood of small homes on small lots connected by small streets. It can't support the volume of traffic and revelers that are interested in Snowzilla." The mayor's office says Powers appears to run a large junk and salvage operation from his home. He has violated land use codes for 13 years. He owes the city more than $100,000 in fines and other assessments. Powers said it is the city that has been difficult, not him. "I have tried to jump through every goofy hoop they have sent to me. I have never been confrontational and it goes on and on and on and it is so goofy. Some of it is unfounded, some is just outrageous." The city said it did not expect to take any further action until after Christmas…but until then, Snowzilla shall stand proudly in his yard. That's a big snowman, there's no doubt. Three stories high is amazing for one family…but then again…

China Ups the Ante - China's freezing northern city of Harbin is building what organizers say is the world's largest Santa Claus ice sculpture. The giant Father Christmas, 525 feet long and 80 feet high, centers on an enormous face of Father Christmas, complete with flowing beard and hat. Its huge size and unseasonably warm temperatures have made the job especially challenging, said Tang Guangjun, one of the sculptors. "It is even bigger and higher than last year's, and more difficult. The weather swings between warm and cold, so it becomes very wet and slippery on the ice. It is very dangerous for us." Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province on the edge of Siberia, is one of China's coldest places. Winter temperatures can drop to below minus 35 degrees Celsius (- 31 F). Every year the city plays host to a world-renowned ice festival...but the effects of global warming are taking a toll as the snow and ice now melt more rapidly than in the past. Organizers said they had to artificially make snow for the Santa Claus sculpture. Still, the sculpture has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the country who want to enjoy a white Christmas despite worries over the economic downturn. Many said such tourism could help to boost the economy. "It can stimulate the economy and consumption. When people feel happier, they will want to spend more, so it will lift the economy of the city and even the country," said Li Qingsheng, a tourist from Beijing. Officials in Harbin remained optimistic about the tourist outlook for the winter. An estimated 800,000 tourists, 90% of them Chinese, were expected to visit the ice festival, said Jia Yan, director of the local tourism bureau. The festival traditionally runs from mid-December to early February. See? See what can happen when we work together instead of throw out petty fines and notices? We could have a gigantic (and potentially dangerous) Santa in downtown Anchorage…but NO!!! We've gotta be all bah humbug about it…and the Chinese take our idea and make it work…and stimulate their economy. Lesson learned? Now let's start on this giant leprechaun made of dollar bills for St. Patty's Day in a few months…

Counterfeit Bon Bons? - The French customs service announced today that officers at the giant Rungis international market outside Paris seized TEN TONS (nearly 33,000 boxes) of gold-foil-wrapped morsels, on suspicion that they were counterfeit Ferrero Rochers, a popular Italian chocolate brand. Lab tests and an examination by Ferrero itself found that the seized candies were harmless...but low-quality copies. They arrived in France by refrigerated truck from Turkey and were seized in late November. Legal proceedings are under way between Ferrero and the chocolates' importer, said Sophie Hocquerelle, a spokeswoman for the French customs office. "It was the first time we had ever seized chocolates," Hocquerelle said -- and what a seizure: 10 tons of coconut-filled dark chocolates and milk chocolate balls worth an estimated $312,230 (street value?). The customs office said the fake Ferreros confirmed a trend seen in recent years of counterfeiters moving on from luxury goods like leather handbags and expensive perfumes to more day-to-day consumer goods like food, medicine and car parts. By last month French customs agents had seized 5.4 million counterfeit items this year, up from 4.6 million in all of 2007. As for those chocolates -- they're to be destroyed. That's a lot of Christmas pounds leading to New Year's Resolutions…that will go without this year. I'm glad to see that they're finally cracking down on these low-quality chocolates imported from Turkey. In related news, the Turkish Sex Slave Trade is in full swing while customs agents are slowly destroying these chocolates one nibble at a time. Don't look so surprised. This is the same country that tested bombs on Tahiti.

Stallone's Latest - Sylvester Stallone is after his old "Demolition Man" co-star Sandra Bullock to join him in his new action film "The Expendables" reports JoBlo. This movie sounds pretty badass…but what would you expect from Stallone? Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren (oh yeah, Ivan Drago & Rocky on the same team), Forest Whitaker and UFC Champion Randy Couture star in the story of a team of mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a South American dictator. Bullock would play a government agent (paired up with Whitaker) on the hunt for Stallone's crew of hired guns. Stallone co-stars and directs. I wonder if this will be the next installment of the Rambo series…just throwing in the Transporter, the One, the Punisher (look it up) and an MMA superstar…and they're being chased by Whitaker & Bullock. Oh yeah, I'd watch it. I hope that Antonio Banderas signs on as the South American dictator. Have you ever seen "Assassins"? Do it. Great action flick with Stallone & Banderas. Anyway, it'll probably be at least a year until the previews come out…so keep your fingers crossed…and your guns loaded.

Anyway, now that I'm all excited, I think my stepdad's almost here with the niece & nephew. I'll be posting pictures of them in a few days between my trip here and Vegas for New Year's. Just letting you all know that I made it safe...and the world's a crazy place full of counterfeit confections, giant men made entirely of snow & dreams...and Sylvester Stallone to balance it all out. Have a great weekend everybody!!!

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