The weirdest news stories of 2017

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Curating the Quartz Daily Brief can mean sifting through some pretty grim stories, from North Korea’s nuclear tests to Maroon 5 becoming the most popular American band of the 21st century.

As a reprieve, the Brief also includes “Surprising Discoveries”—a section that focuses on delightful, strange, and remarkable news events from around the world. This year, we combed the entirety of our 2017 newsletter cache to relive the weirdest headlines.

Here are some of our favorites:

Europe

There was the German man who swam to work because he was tired of congested roads, and a Frenchman who set a new cycling record at 105 years old. A 25-year-old Hitler lookalike was arrested in Austria in February, and a German court refused to certify documents submitted by a couple to name their child Lucifer.

As Brexit roiled the EU, one woman continued to rise above the chaos: 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth II attended to an impressive cocktail schedule, consuming no less than four stiff drinks a day (none of which contain tequila, which may be the healthiest alcohol out there). Outside of Buckingham, a British cheesemaker looked for his 88-lb prize-winning cheese, which was stolen from the nearby village of Cheddar. But more concerning is the status of its creamy cousin, Camembert, which happens to be “going extinct.” On a final food note, a Swiss chocolatier discovered how to make chocolate pink in September, dubbing it “Ruby” for its hue and berry flavor.

Asia

In China, there’s a zoo full of inflatable animals, save for one large and lonely tortoise; and a Beijing company is recycling panda poop into tissue. Meanwhile, breathing New Delhi’s air is like smoking 45 cigarettes a day.

North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jong-un remained relevant in 2017 (nuclear arsenals will do that), but his friend and former NBA player Dennis Rodman calls the trigger-happy dictator a regular guy who likes regular guy things, like table tennis and ’80s music.

Did you know that you can rent a dad—and even a groom—in Japan? You can also major in ninja studies at Mie University, hire a SoftBank robot as a funeral priest, and even visit a drive-thru funeral home. Speaking of death, a group of monkeys mourned a BBC robot that plunged to its death, and the funeral of a Taiwanese official featured 50 pole dancers on Jeeps.

But while we’re alive, take heart: You too can soak in a ramen-scented bubble bath.

The Americas Antarctica

As for bubbles, how about bitcoin? The crypto-craze is so wild, there’s a New York kindergarten accepting tuition in cryptocurrency, and a financial Dominatrix named Theodora who makes up to $10,000 a month from clients that mine it for her. Although who needs bitcoin when you have nearly $1 million worth of gold bars, as Prince did when he died.

The environment took some lumps this year. American bumblebees became too fat to mate, and a trillion-ton iceberg the size of two Luxemborgs broke free of Antarctica. Other bummers: We learned about the hidden history of racism behind Disney’s Bambi, and found out that square dancing has deep roots in white supremacy. With all the cute critters on the internet, it’s also easy to forget how many animals murder each other after sex.

Still, some stories were delightful. This was the year we learned about the Brazilian grandmother who prayed to a figurine of Saint Anthony for years, only to discover it was a statue of the elf lord Elrond from Lord of the Rings. Just last month, a baby was born from an embryo that was frozen in 1992, and a grad student revealed that rat New Yorkers are just like human ones. 2017 was the year mushroom furniture became a thing, and Harvard scientists are getting really close to resurrecting the woolly mammoth.

Keep 2018 weird

As the year winds down, it’s important to remember that right now, someone somewhere is playing the World of Warcraft for Jane Austen fans, and there’s a Finnish bear named Juuso painting with his paws. There’s already a lot in store for 2018: We kick off with a series of lunar phenomenons, followed by watching global powers cheer for curling at the 2018 Winter Games. A live-action version of A Wrinkle In Time starring Oprah, drops in March; Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry in May, and we’re crossing our fingers for space tourism by 2019.