Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Animals of American History: Nebraska

"Febold Feboldson, the Paul Bunyan of the Great Plains, is said to be responsible for the perfectly straight southern boundary line with Kansas. According to legend, he bred bees with eagles for 15 years until he had an eagle-sized bee. He then hitched the critter to a plow and made a beeline between the two states."
-from the 2007 Mobile Travel Guide to the Great Plains

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reflections from the Calypso

"The question of taking sea lions captive has been on my mind for some time. I have asked myself to what extent man's urge to accustom animals to his own way of living is actually an unnatural, or rather an anti-nature, attitude. It seems to me that it is basically symptomatic of man's desire for approval by animals."

-from Diving Companions, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Hard Truths

President-elect Barack Obama met with some Chicago schoolchildren today, along with Joe Biden and handsome new education secretary Arne Duncan. They talked decimals, they talked Iraq, and they talked business. Dog business. From the AP:

The president-elect talked about how his daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, will get a dog when they make the move to the White House next month.

"They've been asking for a dog for years now," he said.

Obama said the girls would need to take care of their pet. And that didn't just mean feeding and walking the dog.

"You know, if they do their business, if they've got some poop — you got to make sure that you're not just leaving it there," Obama said.

This is absolutely true, and it takes a brave leader to say it. You cannot just leave it there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Katie Finds a Job

This is Katie, as you may have figured. She spends entire days basking in a spoiled, sybaritic reverie, as cats do. Katie appears to live a retiring sort of existence, but she recently had an interesting adventure that she might need resting up from.

I awoke last night to the sound of a loud metallic crash and found her jumping around the kitchen like a maniac, as cats also often do. I looked a little closer and noticed a thin little tail hanging from her mouth. Katie had caught a mouse, which she then proceeded to un-catch. She set it down, gave it a brief chance to escape, and then pounced again. The mouse goes back in her mouth, Katie trots some distance to the other side of the kitchen, then repeats the cruel charade.

M. and I, being stupid people with a deep ambivalence regarding nature red in tooth and claw, decide that we must save the mouse from the cat. We try to distract Katie with treats, to no avail. Finally, when she releases the mouse again, we snatch Katie up and hold her until the mouse escapes. Under my desk.

As I said, we feel ambivalent about this household carnage. On the one hand, it's gross. We feel bad. On the other, it’s nice to see Katie challenged intellectually and physically. She clearly enjoys her savage game. We also, apparently, are facing a mouse invasion, and it’s Katie’s legal obligation to eliminate the problem in whatever way she sees fit, however brutal. When it was up to us alone, in the pre-cat days, we put down various horrible traps and then felt queasy at the sounds of piteous squeaking when they worked.

So at the thought of a mouse, possibly injured and bleeding, making its little home under the desk where I work, I reconsidered the intervention. “Hey Katie, wouldn’t you like to try again?” We see now that the mouse has escaped to the alcove, where it cowers in plain site. “Hey Katie, why don’t you look over there?” The cat ignores us now. She is either on strike, or her hunting skills are of very poor quality. I consider picking her up and placing her in front of the mouse, but this strikes me as perverse. We go to bed bedeviled by our moral cowardice, and unhappy that the mice have returned.

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My dream made manifest; consequently revised

I've often imagined how nice it would be to have a massive cat here as a pet. Not in the manner of Antoine Yates, not a giant tiger whose vast quantities of wild tiger urine will leak down into the apartment below mine, but something more medium-sized, with brown stripes and spots.

Yesterday, a friend directed me toward these people who seem to be living the dream. But by the end of the photo-essay, I realized that my dream is kind of gross.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blue Whales Never Disappoint

As I was trying to get to sleep last night, I found myself pondering the immensity of the blue whale. Of course my consciousness of this immensity comes chiefly from the not-entirely-lifelike model hanging from the Hall of Ocean Life at the Museum of Natural History. Still, the exhibit is evocative enough to make a person pause and say: Jesus, that is one effed up animal.

If I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that I'm usually disappointed by the size of dinosaurs. You think of the age of giants, and you imagine life taking place on a scale far removed from the modern world. Then you see a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, and it's roughly the size of a golden retriever standing on her hind legs. Even the brontosaurus is pretty much all neck and tail.

But the size of the blue whale blankens the mind. It's the largest animal that ever lived, and it lives right now, in the same oceans that a regular little person can go swimming in. How vast, then, must those oceans be, and how lonesome it is to think about a creature that exists on a scale that is absolutely singular among living things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cats With Jobs

Tama, the hardworking stationmaster of Wakayama Prefecture in Japan, has brought an estimated 1.1 billion yen to the local economy in the last year. Tama's professionalism and expert stationmastery even saved the Wakayama Electric Railway Co.'s Kishigawa Line from bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Katie has contributed absolutely nothing to her local economy.

Seriously, isn't it time you got a job? Wouldn't you like to make something of your life?