Chuck Shepherd

New York City officially began licensing professional fire eaters earlier this year, and classes have sprung up to teach the art so that the city's Fire Department Explosives Unit can test for competence (if not judgment) and issue the "E29" certificates. In the "bad old [license-less] days," a veteran fire eater told the New York Times in October, a "bunch of us" performed regularly for $50 a throw, largely oblivious of the dangers (though some admit that almost everyone eventually gets "badly burned"). For authenticity, the Times writer, a fire eater who dubbed herself Lady Aye, completed the licensing process herself ("as sexy as applying for a mortgage"), but declined to say whether she is awaiting bookings.

Finally greenlighted

A major streetlight in the town of Pebmarsh Close, England, went out of service when a truck hit it a year ago, and despite pleas to fix it from townspeople — and Essex County Councilor Dave Harris — no action has been taken. In October, Harris staged a "birthday party" on the site, formally inviting numerous guests — and furnishing a birthday cake — to "celebrate" the "age" of the broken streetlight. The shamed county highway office quickly promised action.

Fight club for 'best and brightest'

New York's prestigious Bronx High School of Science enrolls some of the "best and brightest" students in the city — some of whom for the last two years have held unauthorized, consensual fistfights in a field near the school, according to an October New York Daily News report. Students at the school, which has produced eight Nobel Prize winners and eight National Medal of Science honorees, then bombarded the Daily News reporter by phone and Facebook with acrimonious, vulgar messages for placing the school in a bad light.

Too quickly promoted

Nathan Lawwill, 32, of Lansing, Mich., was arrested in Tunisia in October after emigrating as a recent Muslim convert, speaking little Arabic — which did not restrain the onetime Christian from being the Islamic Messiah, the "gift to Muslims," "Mahdi to Muslims and Messiah to the Jews." "I am going to be the center of the world very quickly," he wrote on Facebook. He and his brother, Patrick, were found by police on Oct. 25 "unwashed," and were detained on suspicion of terrorism.

Free-flowing wine and beer

• The world's first constantly flowing (and free!) "wine fountain" opened in Abruzzo, Italy, in October, to help draw tourists and pilgrims who make the trek south from the Vatican to view the cathedral where remains of the disciple Thomas are kept. Operators said they hope the fountain will not become a home to "drunkards."

• In September, the world's first legal beer pipeline opened, pumping 12,000 bottles' worth an hour from the Halve Maan brewery in Bruges, Belgium, to its bottling plant two miles away — thus sparing visitors to the historic city the sight of tanker trucks cluttering the cobblestone streets. The pipeline was partly funded by private citizens offered "free beer for life" for their donations.

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