A coronavirus rom-com?

A 30-year-old woman was stranded on a blind date for at least four days when this Chinese city recently went into sudden lockdown. Her date had invited her to his apartment for dinner—he was proud of his cooking—but as the meal ended, the enforced quarantine began. The woman, identified only by the surname Wang, took to social media to describe the “not ideal” situation. “She also posted short videos documenting her daily life in lockdown,” reported The Guardian, videos that show her date “cooking meals for her, doing household chores, and working on his laptop while she sleeps, according to clips published by local Chinese media.”

It’s not clear how long Wang remained at the man’s apartment—or, indeed, whether she’s still there. While “he’s as mute as a wooden mannequin, everything else [about him] is pretty good,” Wang told a Shanghai news outlet last week. “Despite his food being mediocre, he’s still willing to cook, which I think is great.”

Another houseguest who appears to have settled in for the duration turns out to be a former spy, much to the surprise of his Airbnb hosts. Felipe Turover booked a room at the home of Maria Lloyd and her husband, Eladio, more than a year ago. “He seemed a charming, cultured man,” Lloyd told The Times of London. With a little subsequent online research, the couple learned about Turover’s “alleged past as a KGB agent who played a key role in the downfall of Russia’s President Yeltsin and the rise to power of Vladimir Putin,” who nevertheless at some point supposedly threatened Turover with “liquidation.”

Yet he remained—in the bedroom next to the couple’s—“a welcome and considerate paying guest until September of last year,” reported The Times. “When his Airbnb booking ended Lloyd said Turover asked to extend his stay. They came to a verbal agreement and he paid every ten days ‘religiously’.” But now Lloyd claims he refuses to leave, taking advantage of laws that make the removal of squatters difficult and expensive. “It’s a total nightmare that I’m living with this,” she told the newspaper. “This is my house, yet he has more rights than we do.”

René Magritte’s L’Empire des Lumières, the Surrealist masterpiece that has, in poster form, adorned the walls of countless college-dorm rooms over the decades, is on the market for the first time. The Belgian artist created the oil painting in 1961 for Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet, the daughter of one of his patrons. “Magritte first met Crowet in the 1950s when she was 16,” said The Times of London, and “recognised her as ‘the embodiment of the muse that already inhabited his imagination’. Her face appeared in many of his subsequent artworks while, also in 1961, he gifted her La poitrine and La voix du sang, which remain in the Crowet family collection.”

As does L’Empire des Lumières, though probably only until March, when Sotheby’s London expects it to sell for $60 million.

Let them eat … cheap bread?

The prospect of cut-price baguettes isn’t cutting it with French bakers. Inflation has raised the cost of the staple to about a dollar, and now the Leclerc supermarket chain has announced it will offer customers baguettes for less than a third of that. This did not go over well with bakers, farmers, and millers.

“Just when the government and all our professions are working to pay farmers fairly, Leclerc launches this campaign that destroys values,” the industry’s organizations said in a statement, according to The Guardian. They accused Leclerc of “demagogy,” noted that “traditional baguette-making is in the running for Unesco cultural heritage recognition,” and wondered, Gallically, “Who can live with dignity from these prices?”

We knew the planet’s fauna were in a bad way. So are the flora. “Almost half of all plant species depend on animals to spread their seeds, but scientists fear these plants may be at risk of extinction when animals are driven to migrate to cooler areas, as plants cannot easily follow,” reported The Guardian. In a paper published in the journal Science, researchers said that disruption in seed-dispersal networks—that is, birds and mammals—leads to a decline in global biodiversity and “puts our climate resilience at risk—the global resilience for forests and other plant communities to deal with climate change,” in the words of the paper’s lead author.

“The report also offered solutions,” the newspaper added, not a minute too soon, “including that more space should be given to habitats that are useful for plants and biodiversity, in order to restore the plant community.”

The late-arriving Christmas card bore a potentially problematic address, but the unflappable Royal Mail delivered it just the same. “It was from someone I know and when they asked my address, I said ‘just send it to the Bishop of Worcester and his sexy wife’,” Dr. John Inge—the bishop of Worcester—told The Times of London. “I wasn’t expecting the instructions to be followed.” Helen Colston-Inge—the sexy wife—told the newspaper that the address made her laugh but that “she now had ‘a lot to live up to.’”

Elvis Presley at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, 1969.

Elvis Presley, who played more than 600 concerts in this city while he was alive, and even more after his death, may finally be leaving town: the last Elvis-tribute show in Vegas, All Shook Up, which had run at the V Theater since 2014, just closed. And while it was set to reopen this week at a smaller, 120-seat venue at the Alexis Park Hotel, the writing might well be on the wall. Still, the jumpsuited, karate-chopping Vegas iteration of the King had a good run, especially posthumously. “Presley has been consistently depicted on the Strip in a ticketed production show since at least 1978, a year after his death,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted.

Elvis, what happened? “Producers and impersonators blamed a combination of the pandemic, mismanagement from show executives and changing tastes,” reported The Times of London. But Steve Connolly, an Elvis performer, told the newspaper that producers are “failing to feed the paying public’s hunger for Elvis, claiming if they found the right impersonator fans would fill arenas in their thousands.” As Connolly put it, “They’re not going big enough.”

George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for Air Mail