Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lesson Learned

I came very close to posting about this a few days ago, but in the end I decided there wasn't enough of a story. For good or ill, that story has now expanded.

Flower made squirrel kill number six on Friday. I was in the process of closing the gate after backing out the car when she brought her fresh kill to drop at my feet. I was on my way out, only expecting to be gone an hour or so, so I just congratulated her on the kill and let her be. What harm could there be in letting her bask in her victory while I was gone, before I returned to put it in the trash?

Well, when I returned, the squirrel was nowhere to be found. I searched and searched, but could find no trace. Clearly, Flower had buried it for a rainy day. I didn't really think much of it, especially since there was nothing I could do about it anyway.

Fast-forward to today. I got home and let Flower out, as usual. I decided to open a beer and read my book in the beautiful, late afternoon sunshine. Not long after, I noticed a smell. Quite a smell. Yes, Flower had unearthed her nearly week-old kill and decided it was ripe enough to play with. She was having a ball! The corpse was her newest toy. She would nibble on it, thrash it about her head, throw it on the ground and then flop around with it in the grass. I thought to myself, "Why not? She earned it!" Hoo boy, was that a mistake.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the stench of a rotting carcass. Hopefully, not many. This may be the eau de toilette of choice for dogs, but for humans, it is quite retched. The only benefit for me was that I'm currently reading a novel about vampires, so it added to the ambiance (Note to self-- patent smell of rotting animal flesh for use in smell-o-rama zombie movies).

Flower enjoyed wallowing in the odor, and then trying to bring it in the house. Out in the backyard it didn't seem so bad, but the second I (foolishly) let her in the house, I knew my mistake. So, she got an impromptu bath, and I learned a valuable lesson: Always throw away dead things. No, let's see, never let a dog get away with murder. No, that's not it either. If you smell it, let it go? Hmm. Never trust a live dog with a dead squirrel? Okay, well, none of those seem very good. Let's just say whatever lesson I was supposed to learn, I learned it well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vampire Weekend

Last night I got to see a great little band, Vampire Weekend. It was a really fun show and we had a good time. I'm not going to do a full review, I just wanted to comment on a few things.

First, the audience. Karen made the comment that more than half the people there were half our age. I was in complete denial of that, of course, but it wasn't too far off the truth. The really sad part was that nearly everyone our age or older were there escorting their kids. For Karen, that makes her feel old and out of place. For me, it makes me feel young (I feel out of place no matter where I am). I'm not trying to be younger than I am, but I do like good music. The age of the musicians or the fans shouldn't make any difference. I hope to still be going to see young bands even when I'm the oldest geezer in the room.

I also had a revelation about opening bands. They are the bridesmaids of concerts, I've decided. They're nice, they're fine, but they can't be too good or they'll detract from the main event. Also, the more different from the main act, the better. We actually had two opening bands for Vampire Weekend. The first was The Very Best. They were quite good, but they were scaled down to just two of the band members. I enjoyed it, but knew it could have been much better. Beach House, on the other hand, was not interesting at all. I imagine they're droning mellow music might be nice to have in the background, or maybe over headphones, but live it was just plain boring. However, that did make VW shine all the more in comparison, so I guess mission accomplished.

Lastly, the douchebag in front of me. I really hate to use that word, but unfortunately it is perfectly suited to describing this guy. You can already picture him in your mind, I'm sure: late 20s, close-cropped hair, pumped-up torso under a tight white t-shirt, jeans with the weird designs on the pockets, and of course, the obligatory flip-flops. During the first three or four songs of the show (Vampire Weekend- he wasn't there for the opening acts), he and his buddy ignored the stage in favor of talking and playing with his phone. Seriously, for 15 solid minutes, they were staring and touching the screen, oblivious to the music around them. It continued sporadically throughout the show, but it was worst at the beginning.

Honestly, this didn't bother me as much as I'm making it sound. What bothered me was the nagging question, Why were they there? If the show was that unimportant to them, why did they come at all? Second-most irksome was, Why did they have to stand right in front of me? But truthfully, the thing that really got under my skin more than anything else-- Why was I letting it bother me at all? This is the point at which I really did feel old. Just let it go. Relax. Enjoy the show. But instead, my mind kept coming back to these dudes in front of me with their stupid phone. Sigh. Deep breath.

Anyway, it was a fun show.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Hate Zoos

Barbaric and cruel, zoos are a throwback to our less-enlightened and imperialistic past. I really don't understand why we still have them. What benefit is there to having these animals imprisoned?

A chance to study animals

False. Why does this have to be done on our terms? Aren't the real scientists out there in the jungle like Dian Fossey? It seems to me that any information learned would be either limited to basic physiology or tainted by the unnatural environment.


False. Again, why on our terms? Couldn't we preserve the animals on a giant reserve more suited to their natural habitat? Why do we have to put them on display for people to stare at them? It is shocking to me that the phrase "the first XXX born in captivity" is used as a positive achievement, rather than a mark of shame. We should not be proud that we can artificially recreate an environment well enough to fool the animals. (But then again, we seem pretty proud of our own artificial sweeteners and Coke Zero, so I guess that evens out.)


False. Is it really educational, or just a chance to gawk at the strange creatures, and maybe pet an emu? With modern technology, our ability to educate ourselves has improved drastically, and I'm not just talking about the internet. The fantastic BBC series Planet Earth shows us what life in nature is really like. We have pictures, video, sound recordings. None of these were available to the Romans. If they wanted to explain an hippopotamus, they had to bring one to Rome. I would rather promote the art of taxidermy. One stuffed animal in every natural science museum would be less harmful than all the tortured animals in zoos.

I confess that I have fond memories of the zoos I visited as a kid. I loved seeing the animals, especially the giraffes. But even then it seemed somewhat wrong. Back in my childhood, zoos were much more like cages than they are today. But no matter how "natural" it is set up, it is still a cage. I can't think of a good argument to justify zoos, except our own bloated egos. It sickens me.


On a similar note, SeaWorld is even worse. If you haven't seen the documentary The Cove, I highly recommend it. It is a very disturbing and depressing investigation into the dolphin slaughters that happen annually in Japan. However, I was angered by the misguided direction of the whole film.

Early on, the main protagonist Ric O'Barry (who trained dolphins for the TV show Flipper), says how much he regrets ever training the dolphins. He talks about his shame that there are SeaWorld amusement parks all over the world, basically because of him. The Japanese fishermen corral hundreds of dolphins to sell to the SeaWorld franchises for about $100,000 a piece. Any that don't sell are killed rather than released back into the wild.

The dolphin slaughter is a horrific tragedy, but here's where the movie went wrong. They spend the rest of the time trying to prove this was going on, and condemning Japan for allowing it. Like typical Americans, they attack the symptom and not the disease. These fishermen wouldn't be doing this if there weren't demand from SeaWorld. Why didn't the movie attack them? Why didn't they call for a boycott of dolphin shows? Is it easier to condemn a country than a corporation?

And when Dawn Brancheau was killed by a performing whale, the outcries were to release or kill the whale. SeaWorld did neither. They kept the whale in anticipation of resuming the shows when the furor has died down. How could people condemn the whale for behaving naturally, and not condemn the company for keeping it unnaturally? It all angers me so much.

If I'm lucky enough to have kids, they'll hate me for it. But I refuse to support the cruelty of zoos or SeaWorld.

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