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Don’t Bother With Baboons

Barbara was kind enough to share this video Docu-Baboonery yesterday.
Baboons vs. Lion Cubs. No Contest.

If you haven’t got the time or technology to watch the video, it’s a pretty simple story.
Young lions will try to eat anything. Baboons are tempting targets, but they are much better climbers than lions, and holding the higher ground gives warriors of all kinds a distinct advantage, whether your weapon is bombs, sticks or urine.

What interests me as much as the cross-species showdown is the editing and storytelling techniques on display. I don’t doubt that one day a lion chased a baboon up a tree and someone recorded it on video, but the entire incident may have taken only as long as it took you to read this needlessly elongated sentence. In the piece above there are only three shots (taking less than three seconds, total) in the two minute and forty five second video where you can see both a lion and a baboon in the same frame.

The story being told with close ups of isolated animal parts is more involved. We join an adolescent group of reckless carnivores on a mission to have a baboon for brunch. We are embedded with the group, the other lions are our wingmen. We fall into a spirited, shaky-camera chase. We’re out of breath. Our quarry has gone up a tree! We try to climb up there, struggling mightily, out of our element but determined. The rascal insults us with his casual, superior attitude, then with projectiles, and finally the ultimate indignity – tinkle time – followed by retreat.

A dramatized version of real events? Certainly. Is there anything wrong with that?
Nature shows have been doing it since … Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

In the first three minutes of this program, we see Elephant Seals, an Elephant and an Alligator chasing and thrashing about, trying to kill and/or eat Marlin and Jim and another guy named Dirk Ackerman. But that’s MoA’s Wild Kingdom. Some wild creature was always trying to murder Jim as Marlin casually narrated his near demise. I’m guessing the cutaway footage of the guys backing up their Jeep and getting off a few shots at the charging elephant were filmed at another time, and not when the beast was actually bearing down on them.

If animals could make videos about their encounters with us, I’m sure the stories would be equally dramatic. As in this example from Mutual of Honeycomb’s “Large Meadow”, episode 109 – “Nest Attack”.

“I knew if I could get my stinger into a soft, fleshy, exposed part of the huge, lumbering creature, it might turn and leave our community alone. Delivering the sting would be a great but necessary sacrifice, which I was preparing myself to make when Jim suggested a better strategy – fly at the beast’s head and face to unsettle it and make it run away. Sometimes the mere thought of a sting is enough for these unintelligent and overly sensitive creatures to lose courage, but we had to be careful. The behemoths are known for suddenly producing canisters of deadly toxic spray – instantly lethal if the cloud of gas merely touches you!
What’s that in its hand? Fly, Jim, fly!”

Ever have a dramatic encounter with a wild creature?

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Two current news trends at once – leaked documents and felons voting!

Memo to: All Candidates
From: Strategy Team
Re: The Felon Vote

The assertion that convicted felons were a crucial swing group in the 2008 contest has taken us by surprise! People who are voting illegally should be caught. But if they can’t be caught, we should at least try to capture their loyalty. After all, candidates, our job is to win!

Some think this group sides with one party, but felonious voters are as diverse as the general populace with little in common except face time on America’s Most Wanted. Don’t assume that felons vote as a (cell) block. If we want them, we have to offer candidates and ideas they like.

Let’s look at strategies to attract some important sub-groups.

Arson Moms
They are big-gesture optimists who always imagine positive outcomes from their crazy, roll-the-dice actions.
To get their vote – position yourself as a hip-shooting chance taker and disparage Big Insurance whenever possible. Careful and judicious use of arson-resonant terms like “accelerant”, “blaze” and “inferno” can send a subtle message to Arson Moms that you are a candidate who can ignite their considerable passion.

Serial Killers
Capturing the serial killer vote is not as hard or as risky as it sounds.
To get their vote – Go after them! SK’s love being pursued! And remember, they despise themselves for their twisted compulsions, so promise change, and lots of it! No punishment is too severe. The only sin you could commit would be to stop paying attention.

NAIFS (Numbers And Information Felons)
This white-collar crowd of felons includes embezzlers, inside traders, forgers, financial fraudsters and tax evaders. The votes of this group may appear to be the easiest to secure, but competition for their political loyalty has always been tough.
To get their vote – tax breaks and less regulation.

AGGRAVOTERS (Aggressive Guys and Gals, Reprobates And Violent Offenders Too Extreme to Reach Safely)
Keep your distance. AGGRAVOTERS don’t support anyone. They attack!
To get their vote – vilify your opponent whenever possible, and if you can make your opposition seem helpless as well, this despicable class of felon will become intensely interested. The voting booth can be as good as a dark alley, but it’s up to you to dim the lights.

Rounding up the felon vote is a difficult task that calls for focus, discipline and a certain kind of cynical recklessness that can’t be taught. Are you up to the job? If so, get ready to call yourself Governor, Congressman, or Senator. When the votes are counted, 2010 is looking to be the Year of the Felon!

If you stretch for that brass ring, you might fall off your horse.
Ever reach too far?

A Bump in the Night

Ever put a playing card in the spokes of your bike tire, or hear a noise in the engine compartment of your car that sounded like something was hitting something it wasn’t supposed to be hitting? Or maybe you’ve heard a regularly spaced bumping or scratching against the house on a windy night and your mind filled with images of zombies trying to get in, only to find in the morning that it was a tree branch rubbing against the roof of the house!

That’s the sort of thing that’s happening over Saturn, where one of the planet’s many moons, the caplet-shaped Prometheus, continues to bump into the rings, leaving a pattern behind. My favorite mechanical space explorer, the Cassini orbiter, took this picture in early June. It was posted on the Cassini website yesterday.

I say this “isn’t supposed” to be happening, but who knows what is and isn’t in the grand plan? Or if there even is a grand plan? Based on your personal beliefs, you could claim the beauty of this pattern is proof that there is a God. You could say it is proof that God is more like us because He can’t get the thingy to stop hitting the whatchamacallit. Or you could point to it as a clear signal that things are randomly arranged.

Here you can watch a video of Prometheus touching the “F” ring of Saturn, pulling a wisp of material out of it and leaving a dark channel behind. Look underneath the photo for a movie choice of Quicktime or MPEG. There is what appears to be a blackout near the end of the 13 second sequence when the scene passes through the planet’s shadow.

Because the video image is oriented with the surface of Saturn below the bottom of the frame and the F ring arched across the top, one can easily imagine from its upward motion that the elongated moon is some sea creature, just breaking the surface of the ocean and causing a ripple to run towards shore.

Ever go whale watching?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Recently I fired an employee because others had been spreading lies about her – lies that I quickly believed because to do so was easier than uncovering the truth. Not a lot easier, though. If I had only talked to her first, I would have seen that something was wrong. Later, when I found out that the stories about this woman were exactly backwards, I had to go crawling on my knees to ask the employee to come back to work.

She refused.

Ordinarily I would never have dismissed this person, but I was worried about what people would say when they heard the lies and I thought quick, decisive action might protect me from criticism. And yet now I am being severely criticized.

Even the people who spread the lies are saying I over-reacted. These liars are also suggesting that my boss was behind the whole thing and that now I am lying to cover up for him. To be called a liar by liars – what misery! And the more I say about it, the worse it gets. Plus, the weather the past few days has been very, very hot and uncomfortable.

My antagonists made a terrible mistake, and instead of using it against them, I amplified it and made it my own. I feel like somewhere along the way I agreed to play a nasty, silly game with them, and now I can’t quit playing it even though I want to!

Dr. Babooner, how can I make this madness stop?

Secretary of Blunders

I told S.O.B. that it isn’t unusual to get drawn into a contest so deeply that you forget there is a larger world that operates under different rules than the fake ones that only govern the weird game you are playing. That’s why athletes wear uniforms. Football players know when they’ve got on their big shoulders, their tall socks and the lightning bolts or birds of prey or funny animal horns on their hats that they’re in an environment where it’s OK to knock people down. Soccer players know when they’re wearing shiny shorts they’re not allowed to use their hands. Costumes can be useful that way. Perhaps people in media and politics should wear extravagant uniforms too, especially when they’re pointing fingers at each other. That way maybe we’ll all remember this isn’t real, it is simply a game they can’t stop playing.

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

Smart Outfit!

Next month Wal-Mart is going to start putting radio frequency ID tags (RFID) on some of the jeans and underwear sold in thousands of U.S. stores as a way to closely track what is on the shelves and to streamline the inventory procedures. In theory, an employee with a special gizmo will be able to wave a wand over a pile of Levi’s for men and tell you if there’s a pair in there with a 36 inch waist. It’s a shopping timesaver, if only you can find an employee to help you.

Privacy watchdogs are nervous about this development, especially if the tags become standard on consumer items of every kind. One scenario described in the Wall Street Journal had mysterious third parties driving down the alley, scanning your trash for discarded RFID tags in order to collect information about the kinds of things you buy. That’s assuming your online credit card receipts haven’t already spilled the beans. Scary? Perhaps. But as an unemployed person my first question was “Garbage Scanner … I wonder what that pays?”

Really, once you let go of any sense of privacy a whole new world opens up. RFID doesn’t have to be on a tag – it could be embedded in the clothing. Imagine a scanner that could tell you where every shirt in the house is located. On those frantic Monday mornings when you’re trying to find enough matching stuff to wear, this feature could come in handy. And what about the scientific advances? The scanner might be able to follow lost socks to a second and even a third dimension!

Add GPS to the equation and when you donate your tagged clothing to charity, you could use satellite technology to watch it disperse around the globe. “Look, honey! My old Def Leppard t-shirt just landed in Ghana!”

Take it in the opposite direction and there’s a business opportunity there to create and sell (for cash only) non-RFID tagged garments under the name “Clandestine Clothing”. No one knows you have it except the people who see you wearing it! Is it worth paying extra for that?

How “smart” do you want your clothes to be?

The Ballad of Dinkler J. Blevins

Yesterday, Clyde told us this story about a photograph he’d seen in a book.

My extensive research* into the man in the song we know as Ol’ Blevins, is I am glad to relate, an actual historical figure, as I suspected. The tone of the song led my correctly to place him in the West, during that time when the Ol’ West was gone but a few cragged cowboys still hung around bars to tell their tales and panhandle for a few drinks, probably between 1890 and 920. And thus I found him and can tell you his full name. In 1917 in Oregon a man named Dinkler J. Blevins published and copyrighted a photograph claiming to show a miraculous appearance of the Madonna in the sky over a western landscape. Anyone who has spent an hour or two in the darkroom recognizes how it was done as a double exposure with the enlarger. Where he picked up the darkroom skills is anyone’s guess, but roving photographers were common and studios had sprung up everywhere by then. It is a rather cheesy and easy darkroom trick. No doubt he then traveled from bar to bar hawking these prints for drinks until he developed the slurred pattern of speech represented in the song.

* While waiting for my wife at the mall entrance to Barnes and Noble last night I picked up a book called “Ghost Photos” in the last chance 50% off last price rack.

Is there anything to this? Not yet. A real legend? Could be. But a ballad would help.

Of the characters who traveled o’er the dusty western plain
There was one who seemed unlikely as a candidate for fame.
With an understated wildness too submerged to ever tame.
A bespectacled sharpshooter. Dinkler Blevins was his name.

He was focused. He was deadly. With an artists’ careful eye.
He had come from out of Oregon and if you asked him why,
He’d say “Looking to record phenomena up in the sky.”
If you questioned Dinkler Blevins any further, you might die.

Every morning before sunrise he would head up out of town.
With a horse and wagon toting all that photo gear around.
He would go into the mountains where the spirit folk are found.
Dinkler Blevins would take pictures. Dinkler Blevins would come down.

You would find him in a tavern every evening without fail.
Sitting quietly encrusted in the grime from off the trail
Staring upwards towards the ceiling. Holding close his mug of ale.
You could see that Dinkler Blevins turned a whiter shade of pale.

He’d encountered things up there that no man living can describe
Had he found the holy grail, the missing link or the lost tribe?
Cowboys tried to loosen up his tongue with liquor as a bribe.
Dinkler Blevins sat as silent as the Sphinx as he’d imbibe.

Then a saucy barmaid, Rhonda, took a fancy to this gent.
She would mock his blank façade and question how his holster bent.
She would bounce and flounce and flirt but never seemed to make a dent.
Though next morning Dinkler Blevins took her with him when he went.

They were up there for a week or more behind the mountain’s shroud.
People gathered just to gossip. What a chatty, catty crowd.
When the couple came back down they were aglow and he was proud.
Dinkler Blevins said he’d seen the blessed virgin in a cloud.

When the photograph was published, it was to a trumpet’s blare.
People rushed to see and touch and buy and talk and point and stare.
Though she looked a lot like Rhonda people didn’t seem to care.
Dinkler Blevins’ apparition – The Madonna of the Air.

This needs to be refined and could use another verse to put Dinkler J. Blevins on his barstool, talking. If you have any changes, additions or alternate versions, feel free.
In the meantime, who is your favorite western hero?

Summer House Guests

Here’s a text message from the woods!

Hey, Bart here.

Not much time to text today. I’ve got family visiting from out east.

Yeah, bears go to see their relatives! And all bears are related, so I never know who’s coming. Seems like every bear that ever there was showed up last week, and with this group – it’s always “picnic time”! They like to gaily gadabout, play and shout and never have any care. Morning, noon, night, you name it – Picnic time. If you go down in the woods today you might see us, but you better not go alone!

Three of ‘em are talking about staying. This couple and their kid came from New Jersey where the crime is terrible, they say. Their place got broken into. Some girl wandered in because she was hungry. Ate their porridge and sat in their chairs and slept in their beds. They found evidence of the break in and signs that she messed with their stuff … and when they discovered she was still there she jumped out the window and ran away! What nerve.

So now they’re hinting that they can’t go home. Something about a mob of people with guns coming after them. In New Jersey? I had no idea.

I like my relatives and I sure feel bad for them but times are tough all over and I don’t want to have guests still hanging around when I’m getting ready for hibernation. How can get the message across that it’s time to hit the road?

Bart

I told Bart he should remind his visitors that “people with guns” also go looking for bears in Minnesota, starting September first according to this chart. I think most creatures would flee a new threat to get back to something equally dangerous but more familiar. Although things might be different in New Jersey.

How long should houseguests stay?