Inhuman Swill : Animals

Just resting

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Dead squirrel lies prone,
Chin resting on its two paws.
Looks like it's sleeping.

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Cheeta! Cheeta!

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UPDATE! 11:44 a.m.  I was right to be suspicious of this story. Turns out that R.D. Rosen in the Washington Post debunked Cheeta's supposed longevity back in 2008. The news media has done an abominable job of fact-checking today. NPR itself acknowledged in a sidebar to a Cheeta story in 2009 that the chimp identity was not what it claimed to be. This clearly isn't as big a fuck-up as the reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War, but it's a difference of degree, not kind.
NPR News is reporting in its headlines this morning that (to paraphrase) Cheeta, the chimpanzee who played Tarzan's ape sidekick in the movies, has died at the age of 80. This makes it sound like Cheeta was the only chimp to play Cheeta, which he wasn't, and that his age was well-established, which it wasn't.

There were something like fifteen or sixteen different apes (including at least one orangutan and one human) who played Cheeta in the films and TV shows, often with more than one in the same production. And while the Cheeta who just died is alleged to have been born in 1931, this has never been established as fact, nor has the claim that this chimp was acquired from the estate of Johnny Weissmuller in 1957—nor, really, the claim that this chimp was one of the original actors from the Weissmuller-era movies.

Chimps in captivity have been known to live into their 60s, but 80? It's possible, of course, but the chain of custody on this chimp is based on hearsay. I don't believe it myself. But whether it's true of not, the story being reported in the NPR news blips leaves a lot to be desired, implies facts that aren't facts, and reports hearsay as straight fact.

I swear, it's like NPR based this news report on an email forward from my mother.

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Rabbit transit

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Rabbits, I would like to sit you down and have a very serious discussion with you. I understand that the way you zigzag as you flee is an effective way to evade most predators, and has served you well for millions of years. But when your zigzag pattern is no wider than the car following you, it only causes problems in both sides.

So in the future, rabbits, when confronted by a car, please consider bending your course in a direction perpendicular to your original course of travel. Either that or next time I may just do my best to hasten the evolution of your species. And I'll feel badly about it.

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Of spiders and flies

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Laura and I were talking over some of the difficulties I've been having this week with my revisions of The Accidental Terrorist when she gave me the absolute perfect image for the central conflict in the book. The main character, in her view, is a fly trapped in a spiderweb, struggling to free itself with only the vaguest notion of the nature of its predicament.

(See, I'm the fly, and the LDS Church is... Yeah.)

This image is so spot-on, so apt to something I was struggling to articulate to myself, that I wish I could somehow work it into the book. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, since I don't want to be too heavy-handed about it), I'm pretty much constrained by the reality of my experiences during the six months of my life that the book covers, and those six months did not include any spiders.

No, the spider didn't become a factor in my mission until five or six months after the events of the book. I was serving in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, by then. My companion and I lived rent-free in a small house in the middle of a wheatfield owned by some local Mormons. We were a little bored in that town, and one thing my companion did to pass the time was adopt a little spider that lived in a web in the window frame of one of the empty back rooms. He would go around the house catching flies and dropping them into the web, then watch the spider kill them. This was the best-fed spider in northern Idaho. It grew so quickly that after about a month its web (which it unstrung and re-spun every day) was so strong that you could strum it like a guitar and it wouldn't break. The spider itself was as big as the first joint of my thumb.

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Omens

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Hanging Squirrel 6
It's a good thing I don't believe in omens or I'd probably think that 2011 is fucked. One of the first sights I saw on New Year's Day, when I was out walking the dog in the morning, was a dead squirrel hanging from power lines where they attached to the second story of house in our neighborhood.

The squirrel looked perfectly intact. It was hard to tell how it died. Maybe it had a heart attack. Maybe it froze to death. Maybe it touched a bare spot on one of the wires and fried. Whatever happened, I found the sight of it fascinating and compelling. After I took Ella home, I went back with our good camera and took as many pictures of it as I could.

Over the following days I kept checking on the poor creature. It appeared to be gripping one of the higher wires with its back paws, while it's body was draped over a lower wire. I thought it would likely fall off soon, or that someone would remove it, but as days turned into weeks the squirrel just kept hanging there. At first I found this encouraging. As January turned to February, though, I found it more and more disturbing.

Laura and I considered leaving a note on the front door of the house, reasoning that perhaps the residents had never looked up and seen the dead squirrel decorating their home, but we never did. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we were walking Ella together past the house. A compact SUV was parked at the curb, and three young children were carrying things from the house to the vehicle while a parent loaded the back.

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Almost fall

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Squirrels chasing each
Other up and around trees
Like on Benny Hill

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Cuttlefish camouflage

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Speaking of animals, there's a cool article in today's New York Times about camouflage in cephalopods.

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Introducing Clymonistra

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[info]
The elephants are coming! The elephants are coming!

I went with eleanor and a couple of other friends, wow, maybe three years ago to see the elephants emerge from the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and it was a sight worth waiting around in the midnight cold for. It's a sight that must be seen one last time.

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Recent wildlife sightings

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Hearing a friend's story last night about spotting a coyote crossing Santa Monica Boulevard reminded me that Laura and I have had some wildlife sightings recently.

August 24th, pulling into our hotel parking lot in Anaheim after having been to Disneyland, we spotted a huge raccoon lumbering across the asphalt.

August 27th, waiting to board our flight at LAX, we spotted James Brown being pushed in a wheelchair.

September 9th, outside a friend's birthday party at Dempsey's on Second Avenue in the East Village, we spotted Drea de Matteo sitting at a table outside the restaurant next door.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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