A Rogue Otter Mascot Named Chiitan Is Terrorizing Tourists and Wreaking Havoc in Japan

Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves
Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves

Japan has so many mascots—serving as ambassadors of everything from specific prefectures to city police departments—that it can be hard to keep track of them. But after upsetting citizens with his unconventional style, one unofficial mascot in the Japanese city of Susaki has stirred enough outrage to get the attention of city officials, The New York Times reports.

The controversy started last year when Susaki named a real-life celebrity otter to be its honorary tourism ambassador. Soon after, Chiitan—a costumed mascot inspired by the real otter—began appearing in public and in videos shared on social media. The twist? Susaki already had an official costumed mascot—Shinjo-kun, a character based on the now-extinct Japanese river otter. But the differences between the two otter mascots quickly became apparent.

Viral videos show Chiitan taking part in dangerous and occasionally creepy stunts. The character has been filmed flipping a car, biking on a half-pipe, and skateboarding on a treadmill. In one video captioned "Chiitan going to visit your house," the devilish mascot can be seen pulling a baseball bat from a locker, tucking it into its costume, and walking out of the room.

Even though Chiitan hasn't been officially endorsed by Susaki, he already has 906,000 followers on Twitter—nearly twice that of the actual otter the character is based on.

For all his fans, Chiitan has also attracted plenty of critics, with the city of Susaki receiving more than 100 complaints about the rogue character's inappropriate behavior. The city has no power to get rid of Chiitan, but it did elect not to renew the real otter's honorary tourism ambassador status as a way of voicing their disapproval of the unsanctioned mascot it inspired.

Mascots have become popular public relations tools in Japan, but usually they're much more family-friendly. In 2017, the Japanese government named Pikachu an official ambassador in an effort to promote Osaka as a host city candidate for the World Expo 2025.

[h/t The New York Times]

Autumnal Dessert Spices and Cubed Meat Collide: Pumpkin Spice SPAM Now Exists

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

Does sipping on a pumpkin spice latte ever make you think: “Man, I wish this were cubed meat”? Soon, it will be. According to NBC News, Hormel will start selling Pumpkin Spice SPAM on September 23.

It all started back in October of 2017, when Hormel announced via its Facebook page that pumpkin spice SPAM was coming—as a joke. The post clearly stated that it wasn’t real, but that didn’t stop scores of people from making comments about how it would probably taste delicious and asking where they could purchase a can.

Now, a Hormel publicist has confirmed to NBC News that the limited-edition, fall-themed flavor will soon be available to order online from Walmart or Spam.com.

"True to the brand’s roots, SPAM Pumpkin Spice combines deliciousness with creativity, allowing the latest variety to be incorporated into a number of dishes, from on-trend brunch recipes to an easy, pick-me-up snack,” Hormel told NBC News.

While Pumpkin Spice SPAM might not yet be accepted into pumpkin spice canon alongside lattes and muffins, it’s far from the strangest product that has been imbued with the mysterious, cinnamon-y spice blend to date; we’ll leave automotive exhaust spray and light bulbs to duke it out for that designation. And the Facebook commenters might have actually been onto something when they dared to suggest that Pumpkin Spice SPAM had palatal potential. After all, ham recipes often include sweet ingredients like maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey. And, according to TIME, the word spam was invented as a portmanteau of spiced ham.

Wondering what other SPAM innovations you might be missing out on? Check out these recipes from around the world.

[h/t NBC News]

A Security Researcher’s Attempt to Prank the DMV Backfired in a Spectacularly Expensive Way

tommaso79/iStock via Getty Images
tommaso79/iStock via Getty Images

A security researcher known as Droogie took to the DEF CON hacking and security conference stage last weekend to regale the audience with his story of getting bested by the very bureaucratic system he was trying to exploit.

As Gizmodo reports, it all started when Droogie decided to register his car with a vanity license plate that read “NULL,” a word that computer programs use to designate something that has no value. He thought that the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) systems might misinterpret his license plate as an entry with no value and fail to catalog his car’s data.

ALPR systems are built into surveillance cameras on police vehicles, streetlights, highway overpasses, and elsewhere, collecting license plate numbers along with the time, date, and location. The cameras don’t just catalog your car’s data if you’re speeding or doing something otherwise suspicious—they'll capture license plate data whenever it comes into view. It’s not exactly clear when and why the systems keep track of your whereabouts, let alone who’s watching and how they’re using the information, so Droogie’s scheme was more about protecting personal privacy, rather than trying to dodge tickets.

His hypothesis proved partially correct: The systems didn’t properly process his “NULL” license plate, but the outcome was basically the opposite of what he was hoping for. First, upon trying to renew his tags, the DMV website informed him that his license number was invalid. Then he was hit with a barrage of parking tickets that totaled more than $12,000, because a processing center had used “NULL” for all parking misdemeanors committed by unidentified vehicles, and the system mistakenly attributed them all to Droogie’s car. According to Mashable, he told his DEF CON audience, “I was like … 'I’m gonna be invisible.' Instead, I got all the tickets.”

After Droogie contacted the DMV and the Los Angeles Police Department, they helped erase the fines from his account and advised him to change his plates so it doesn’t happen again, since there are no plans to alter the processing system that was assigning him the tickets in the first place. He refused, insisting he "didn’t do anything wrong." As of his DEF CON presentation, Droogie has received another $6000 in misattributed tickets.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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