Category Archives: Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Since I am a regular reader and commenter on “Trail Baboon,” I have come to feel kinship with these noble creatures and have occasionally described myself as “a baboon” with what I thought was justified pride.

Then few weeks ago I saw a show titled “The Secret Life of Primates” on PBS, which inspired me to do even more research online.

After that I became somewhat identity-confused because there were several baboon traits that I liked, and then there were some others.

What I liked:

  • In several species of baboons, the alpha female rules. She gets the first and best food, water, sleeping spots.
  • The adults groom each other in a “significant social function” and ritual.
  • Young baboons are active and playful, especially while the adults groom each other.
  • The females tend to be the primary caretaker of the young, although several females will share the duties for all of their offspring.
  • Baboons are completely at ease in trees, thanks to their long arms and legs.

What I didn’t like:

  • The weakest female develops a real inferiority complex.
  • Among the males, there is a lot of infighting for lead position.
  • Baboons  eat EVERYTHING they can find – fruit, insects, small fish and animals, and seed pods embedded in anything including dried out dung piles of, say, a rhino.

That last part about picking seeds out of rhino dung completely put me off the feeling that I am in any way like a baboon.

And yet I still admire the tree-swinging and grooming and females-in-charge aspect. Is it wrong to accept kinship with only the admirable baboon traits, while distancing myself from the negatives?

With concern,
Barbara in Robbinsdale

I told BiR that her somewhat tentative baboon-affinity is no different than the difficult choice politicians face when they are asked to take a picture alongside some random stranger. One wants to be friendly and accepting, although if the price of putting your arm around someone (or following them on Twitter) means you endorse everything they have done or will ever do, it quickly becomes impossible to socialize. I suspect before long all our public associations will have to be accompanied by a detailed disclaimer statement – fine print that will clearly lay out what we like and don’t like about them.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Carnival Town

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

We are ALL Dr. Babooner
We are ALL Dr. Babooner

I suffer from a litte-known, not-well-understood condition called Atariphobia, which is an unsupported-by-facts but nonetheless pervasive fear of invaders from space.

Consequently, I find myself constantly scanning the sky for signs of flying saucers.

In addition, I am a practicing Orsonist. As followers of the late actor/director Orson Welles, we Orsonists assume that in every case the most dramatic explanation is automatically the one that’s most likely to be true.

Rosebud!

Welles is known for the classic 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast,  which convinced too many people that Earth was under attack.  As a result, smoldering craters of every kind give me the creeps. When our family went to visit Yellowstone National Park, I stayed in the hotel room the entire time, sobbing.

In spite of these debilitating conditions, I am usually able to lead a typical life. But there’s a blog I follow where the writer often talks about how beautiful our planet looks from space, and he sometimes posts things like this video:

When I look at this, I’m terrified.

Compared to the barren, dead worlds we see elsewhere in our solar system (Mars!) and others we’re discovering throughout the galaxy, our place has a distinct ‘open for business’ look that makes me extremely uneasy.

It’s a swirly, spinning, sparkly gem set against a black background, with inexplicably vivid highlights, like the intermittent green glow of those northern lights – a feature that simply begs to be investigated.

If you were a space alien searching for a fun place to land or a bright bauble to tear apart, ours appears to be the only game in town. Why wouldn’t you come here?

I’m usually not too political, but I called my Congressman to urge her to do something. I thought maybe she could offer legislation to wrap the world in a drab,frumpy bag, dressing it down in the same way a beautiful woman de-emphasizes her best features to discourage unwanted attention.

The congressional aide I spoke with told me the Republican leadership is already doing everything it can to uglify the world through climate change denial. He used the incessant western drought as an example.

“California,” he explained, “is already looking a lot like Uranus.”

But I could hear stifled laughter on the other end of the line. I don’t think they took me very seriously.

Dr. Babooner, people are so willing to mock those who are even a little bit unconventional. How can I get them to consider the real risk posed by our planet’s obvious invade-able-ness?

Trepidatiously,
I.M. Wary

I told I.M.W. there is not much one person can do to make the world seem uninviting to outsiders. And when it comes to putting a potential crisis on the popular agenda, one must wait one’s turn. As a people, we respond to risk when the danger is imminent and our possible responses are limited.  In other words, we will only act when it is too late to act.  But as an Orsonist, I’m sure you’re already well aware that the world will accept no whine before its time.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I was excited to hear there would be a solar eclipse to watch yesterday, until I discovered it wasn’t happening anywhere near me.

Not only that, by the time I worked out the location issue, the eclipse had already occurred, and other people were busy complaining that it was a letdown.

One person said on Twitter that he was “… mad at space.”

But that’s nothing compared to my disappointment, because I learned that all I could have to look forward to in terms of celestial events yesterday was a supermoon, and the vernal equinox, which is great but it’s like a band that comes to town every year – you kind of hope they’ll do something new.

And besides, the Supermoon is invisible right now, so it doesn’t even count.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the seasons and the circle of life and all that stuff. But if there’s going to be an amazing solar eclipse, why can’t I be one of those people who flies on a private jet to see it from a luxuriously appointed yurt set up specifically for that purpose on a remote, cloudless hillside in the Faroe Islands?

Not only would it be fantastic to witness such a thing, I could use social media to brag to people that I had done it in the most expensive and extravagant way possible, which would make them feel the kind of intense envy that Facebook was invented to promote.

I know I’m special but I feel like my life is slipping by and I am only allowed to have ordinary experiences!

What’s with that?

Sincerely,
Bummed

I told Bummed that he is indeed special, but so is everyone else, which ultimately makes him ordinary.  He could go out of his way to collect extraordinary experiences, but it would have the odd effect of making exotic and unusual things quite common in his life. People who use their wealth to do this eventually come around to the feeling that they are missing out by not having mundane lives. So enjoy your dull opportunities! More zealous and financially able adventurers have to spend a lot of money to wind up in the very same place!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I was not at all surprised to learn yesterday that researchers have found evidence to support what we already know to be true about over-indulgent parents – that they turn their children into selfish, sniveling little narcissists by showering them with false praise.

My child is an adult now, but when she was in elementary school I was appalled at the way the other parents hovered over their young, pumping them up with unearned compliments for work that was mediocre at best.

For example, I was volunteering as a classroom helper in the third grade when my little Emily produced a vivid colored-pencil portrait of her art teacher. Because I firmly believed then, (as I do now), that we spoil our children by exaggerating their accomplishments, I simply told her it was “… the best thing I’d seen produced in the room that afternoon.”

That was an undeniably true statement. Of course it was MUCH better than that – she could produce college level work in terms of perspective, composition and shading – but by measuring it only against the art created by her classmates I was purposely downplaying Emily’s talent as a way to get her to try harder the next time.

Mere moments later, the other parent in the room held up her son Jimmy’s chaotic rendering of a bowl of fruit and declared in front of the entire room that it was a work of pure genius – worthy of the great European colored-pencil masters of the renaissance. We all nodded in support of this ludicrous claim so as not to embarrass this helicopter mommy and her incompetent, blotch-scrawling offspring, but really! Next to Emily’s splendid teacher-portrait, Jimmy’s fruit bowl was a ghastly mess.

I could see that Emily was confused, and for that matter so was Jimmy. To have his meager attempt at art praised over her superb accomplishment was confounding to everyone who could recognize the raw touch of a genuine master.

In other words, it baffled everyone.

Years later, Jimmy has become exactly the kind of self-indulgent adult I expected to see – a flamboyant do-gooder who is always drawing attention to his accomplishments by mentoring youngsters, caring for stray animals, raising money for social causes, and working as a paramedic and first-responder to save the lives of people who invariably turn around and praise him in exactly the same extravagant way his mother did all those years ago.

I would tell you how much better off Emily is, but she has instructed me to stop discussing her with other people, especially strangers. Which just shows you how modest and grounded she has become!

Dr. Babooner, why aren’t more people as good a parent as I am?

Sincerely,
Darn Impressive Parent of a Perfect Youth

I told D.I.P.P.Y. she has no real reason to gloat. Every parent believes he or she is doing it right and everybody else is wrong. And while I won’t say her techniques are completely sub-par, I do think she might benefit by staying focused on her own work rather than judging others.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

A Dust Up Over Dust

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I get all my information about the world through YouTube.

Yesterday, I watched with great interest as a video explained how dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa nourishes the rain forest in South America.

These NASA researchers are doing wonderful things to demonstrate to a selfish and xenophobic public how our small world is truly interconnected. And it got me thinking how unfortunate it is that our culture does not respect the immense value of dust, which is something people love to complain about when they find it in their homes, or when they dress up like cowboys and go out for an evening’s entertainment.

Thanks to these two videos, I had a revelation!

Dust isn’t a problem – it’s a great boon! Phosphorus is only one part of the Gift Of Dust (G.O.D.) bestows on the world. Dust is what we eventually become, so some of the dust blowing across the ocean (and even collecting on my coffee table) is connected directly to my ancestors.

This is something that should humble us and make us grateful!

For this reason, I just told my wife I will no longer try to remove dust from our home, but rather, I will worship it from here on out and leave it untouched.

But instead of honoring my spiritual epiphany, she handed me a rag and some Lemon Pledge, and told me to get to work.

Dr. Babooner, please say I am right so I can show your answer to my wife and prove that she is in the wrong.

Sincerely,
Dusty Hubby

I told Dusty Hubby that Dr. Babooner does not like to be used to settle domestic arguments although she realizes this is sometimes the unavoidable fallout that comes with living in the world. In the very same way, dust is unavoidable fallout that apparently does some good in the rainforest, but that does not mean it’s equally useful when it collects on your coffee table. Even if it contains a tiny bit of great grandpa, worshipping the dust in your house is just another way to say you’re devoted to leisure, and your G.O.D. is actually the Lay Z Boy.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

In A Tale Spin

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m a professional storyteller with an unusual specialty for a tale-spinner. I built a career on the notion that every word I speak is absolutely true.

As a result I became very popular and trusted.

But then a funny thing happened – I discovered that a bit of exaggeration can turn a merely good story a really great one!

Like the yarn I used to tell about standing in the open door of a military helicopter while it was preparing to land. As the aircraft neared the ground, the wind grabbed my hat and blew it off my head. The hat was mercilessly chopped up by the helicopter’s rotors.

I was surprised and saddened by this because I loved that hat! But when I told this story at parties, people yawned. I realized that they did not find the fate of my hat very compelling.

So then I started to tell the story a little differently, saying that the wind picked up and I was blown out the door of the helicopter – all of me, not just my hat. Fortunately, we were only about 30 feet above the ground and I fell in a haystack and was unhurt. But for a little added color, I threw in the detail that my hat blew off and was chopped up by the rotors on the way down.

At least that part was still true.

People liked this version of the story a lot better! It was so much better, they actually stopped talking to each other and listened while I told it!

Dr. Babooner, you can understand why I used this version of the story at parties and gatherings of all sorts, right up to the day I told it at a county fair and a haberdasher and a farmer challenged me on it. The hat maker said any wind strong enough to blow a man out the door of a helicopter would have separated him from his headgear long before he took flight.

And the farmer simply pointed out that hay isn’t as soft as it looks.

Overnight my fortunes changed. Although I had been one of the most trusted people in the world the day before, I suddenly became just another liar.

Critics said I betrayed the people’s trust. But the way I look at it, “trust” is what you have when you believe someone in spite of evidence to the contrary. How could people “trust” me one day and not the next? It seems to me their “trust” doesn’t mean much if it can be totally reversed in so short a time. I may have enhanced the truth a tad to make it a better story, but does that make me worse than a fickle truster?  I don’t think so.

My lawyer advised me not to say any of this out loud or it would just make things worse. He’s a jerk and I don’t any faith in him, but my family says I should do as he says because he always wins.

But I think hay is pretty cushy no matter what some dumb farmer says. I’m betting everything I have on getting a soft landing now! Should I?

Sincerely,
Hatless in Manhattan

I told H.I.M. to put more faith in his family and his lawyer, and less in his questionable memory. Challenging the people who used to trust you but don’t any longer because you were caught in a lie is not a strategy to regain their confidence, it’s confirmation that they were wrong about you all along. The best course is to ask for forgiveness and devote yourself to fiction from this day forward, because people will never accept the truth from you now unless it is carefully hidden inside a lie.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m an ordinary non-scientific American who doesn’t quite agree with what the brainiacs in lab coats have to say about science-y things evolution, climate change and Frankenfoods.

The harder they argue that their research contradicts what I feel is true, the less likely I am to accept it.

The media talking heads think this disconnect provides clear evidence that I’m a great big dummy, but actually I’m a normal sized person. And I’m just like a lot of other very normal people in one key area – I get stubborn and resentful when another person tells me they know what’s going on and I don’t.

I find it exasperating that scientists, who seem to be so intelligent in other areas, don’t get this basic human truth – nobody likes a smarty pants. And here’s the tricky part – I actually respect science and I want to believe what they’re saying, but I feel like they won’t let me because of the way they deliver information.

So I’m sure you’re wondering why somebody as defensive as me would ask you for advice. The fact is, I’m only doing it because you’re an animal, Dr. Babooner.

A lot of people like me feel more comfortable talking to hairy beasts than we do to other humans. For instance I’ve noticed that the only authority figure in a lab coat who doesn’t make me instantly angry is Mr. Peabody, and he’s a dog.

So, given that they desperately need better PR, why do scientists insist on issuing their learned proclamations from ivory towers rather than explaining important issues like global warming and GMO’s in a more palatable way. Like maybe through the lips of cartoon animals?

Quizzically,
John Q. Public

Dear Mr. Public,

I’m flattered that you think I’m somehow more approachable than a scientist because I am hairy. But I have to point out that the only reason my hair looks the way it does – is science. A wild baboon would never have the time or the chemicals to make it do this.

Scientists issuing their major reports through the lips of cartoon animals might indeed make the information more palatable for resentful Americans like yourself, but you’re forgetting that intelligent people do like to receive credit for their knowledge, even if they are, technically, a “smarty pants.”

Maybe your uninformed stubbornness would be easier to take if you denounced careful scientific research through the furry lips of a very cute big-eyed kitten.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?