Killing Two Birds With One Stone, And Then Some
The founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, began a campaign in 1958 to exterminate sparrows in an attempt to protect the country’s grain harvest. People would beat drums and bang pots and pans to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to keep flying until they fell, exhausted, to their deaths. Nests and eggs were destroyed, and nestlings killed. Sparrows were shot down from the sky. Schools and work units were rewarded based on the number they were able to kill. By the end, China’s sparrow population was near-extinct.
In a case of cosmic irony/karmic retribution, it turned out that the sparrows actually performed a useful service: eating large amounts of the insects, that were now dangerously high in number. The campaign to help protect harvests ended up blighting rice yields.
You Had ONE Job, Masakazu Kongo
The Kongo Gumi Co, a Japanese construction company, was once the world’s oldest independent company, having operated continuously for 1,400 years. From 578 CE onwards, it was passed from parent to child, across 40 generations, and was instrumental in the construction of numerous famous buildings, including the 16th century Osaka Castle.
Then it was inherited by Masakazu Kongo in 2006, and everything fell apart. The company has since been purchased by the Takamatsu Construction Group, thereby ending a millennia-long legacy.
Now we’re not saying this was Masakazu’s fault, persay (after all, business is complicated, and the cracks in the edifice probably appeared well in advance), but you got to admit that it sucks to be him.
If A Tree Falls In A Forest Where No One Is Around To Hear It, Blame The Drunk Guy
The L’Arbre du Tenere, or “Tree of Tenere,” was once considered the most isolated tree on earth. The acacia was the only tree in the area for over 400 kilometers. It stood alone for decades, and sparked many an imagination.
Then some random truck driver managed to hit the one tree for miles, knocking it down forever.
Another Hapless Tree
A graduate student by the name of Donald Currey was hunting for bristlecone pines—the oldest trees on earth—at Nevada’s Wheeler Park. One specimen was so thick and tough that it broke the borer he had been using to collect samples, so he gained permission to cut the tree down.
And then he realized that the tree he’d felled was “Prometheus,” the oldest living thing on earth, at more than 5,000 years old.
Well, was the oldest living thing on earth.
Don’t Tick Off The Guy Who Can Put You Out Of Business
We all know that Blockbuster was put out of business by the rise of companies such as Netflix, but did you know that Netflix was born directly out of Blockbuster’s faulty business model? The founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, had accrued a $40 late free for a copy of Apollo 13 he’d rented from his local Blockbuster, and while he was worrying over it and what to tell his wife, he came up with the idea for a flat-rate rental service with unlimited due dates and no late fees. I.e. Netflix.
As if that wasn’t damning enough, Hastings tried to sell Netflix to Blockbuster a year later for $50 million, but they didn’t take.
Bet they wish that movie had ended differently.