More Strange Statues, Nine Non-Santas, And More AI Chatbot Fun


I don’t have anything really long or insightful to share this week, so I’m going to jump quickly to the Week in Review in a moment and go more in depth there. But a quick thing I just learned is that the picture below isn’t a picture of nine people dressed up as Santa Claus, even though the photo was just taken a few days ago. 

Red and white outfits that are perfect for the season? Yep. But no Santa hats or fake beards (or real beards, for that matter). That’s because this has nothing to do with Santa or Christmas. The nine people pictured above are members of the Supreme Court of Canada, and this is their first formal photograph since the newest member joined the bench. The Court’s official Twitter account shared this photo on Monday, following up with an explanation: “Judges at the SCC have two sets of robes. They wear black robes to court when they hear cases. Red robes are worn for more formal occasions, like welcome ceremonies for new judges and the Speech from the Throne.”

So, nothing Santa-related. The red and white scheme matches the national colors of Canada but the timing of the photo caught me off-guard. 

But, again, nothing insightful. Let’s go to that Week in Review!

The Now I Know Week in Review

Last Friday:An AI Wrote this Newsletter For Me (Kind of): I used ChatGPT to tell you what ChatGPT is. A lot of you gave the AI chatbot a try and shared your conversations with it as well; thanks so much! Some were hysterical, some insightful, some were broken — showing there’s a lot of work to go in the AI space.

Monday: Mr. Peeler: Meet the man who made a living selling vegetable peelers on the streets of New York City. There’s a great video of his sales routine in this email; be sure to click through and watch the whole thing, it’s fantastic. 

TuesdayCelebrating Christmas at 36,000 Feet: The story of a father spending Christmas traveling away from home, but for only the best of reasons.

WednesdayThe Mystery of the “p” in “pH”: The “p” in “pH” doesn’t stand for anything. Probably.

ThursdayThe Town in Alabama That Has Huge, Random Sculptures: This email prompted a few of you to tell me about other weird sculptures. Reader Shana T. shared this story about the Boll Weevil Monument, a statue to honor a pest that destroys cotton crops — click through to learn why. Reader Barbara B. shared this story about a statue of a donkey wearing pink casts on its legs; you can click through to read that explanation as well.  

Also, good news for giant statue fans: reader Lisa H. informs me that the Lady of the Bay is back in the bay, having seen it herself last month. 

And some other things you should check out:

Some longreads for the weekend:

1) “Could an AI Chatbot Rewrite My Novel?” (New Yorker, 11 minutes, December 2022). This is a good follow-up to my newsletter from Friday. Thank you to reader Mark S. for sharing!

2) “Secrets of the Christmas Tree Trade” (Curbed, 26 minutes, December 2022). The subhead: “Turf wars. Protection money. Scientology. And my boss, a man who’s half-convinced he really is Santa..” This quote really helps give that subhead context:

Christmas trees are big business in New York. A lot of people see the quaint plywood shacks that appear on sidewalks just before Thanksgiving, each with its own tiny forest of evergreens, and they imagine that every one is independently owned, maybe by jolly families of lumberjacks looking to make a few holiday bucks. That’s what I thought, anyway. In reality, a few eccentric, obsessed, sometimes ruthless tycoons control the sale of almost every single tree in the city. They call themselves “tree men,” and they spend 11 months a year preparing for Christmastime — which, to them, is a blistering 30-day sprint to grab as much cash as they can.

3) “After being dumped, can a $4,000 breakup boot camp help you heal?” (Los Angeles Times, 10 minutes, November 2022). Breakups can be hard, and getting over your ex can take forever. But what if there was a way to speed through the healing process? This story takes you through a four-day, $4k experience designed to do just that. The story doesn’t investigate if the experience works — I’d love to read a follow-up with people who went through it say, a year or two ago — so don’t expect an actual answer to the question posed by the headline. (By the way, if you get an alert saying that you’re coming to this story from reddit, that’s intentional on my part; it will give you free access to this story if you register with the Times.) 

Have a great weekend!