Tag Archives: Featured

Bad Day for Gasbags

We’re dipping into the archive today to re-visit a Trail Baboon post from two years ago.  Did you realize that next month this online conversation will have been going on for five years?    That’s just an eye blink in the vast span of human history, but it represents a prodigious amount of tippy-tapping on various keyboards throughout Baboon-land.  

Today is the anniversary of two cataclysms, the Sack of Rome in 1527 and the explosion of the Hindenburg in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937. Both were sudden and somewhat unexpected, though there were hints of what was to come – Rome had been sacked before (in 410) and a string of other hydrogen-filled airships had already crashed and burned.

Still, one always hopes for the best and an optimistic soul is surprised when things turn out otherwise.

In our time, the Hindenburg is a better-known calamity, but only because there isn’t compelling footage of the Sack of Rome.

Historians say the Sack of Rome marked the end of Italy’s High Renaissance, and significantly pushed forward the protestant reformation. The Hindenburg disaster called an abrupt end to the development of rigid airships – most certainly those filled with hydrogen.

So it goes.

Although we try to prevent catastrophic events and want to have some positive influence over the great changes that sweep over our world, it often feels that we are stuck in the role of an interested, but powerless, observer. Perhaps this explains the popularity of parallel-world games like Minecraft, where one can start from scratch and construct an environment with just a few elements, an assortment of building blocks, and a blank canvas.

You could take advantage of this technology to try to build a make-believe world without Kings, Armies, Popes, Nazis and New Jersey. But you’d still probably need gravity, fire, hunger, ambition and hydrogen.

Things might turn out pretty much the same.

Is there such a thing as creative destruction?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I bet pretty much all my life savings on the three principal names I thought Britain’s Royal couple would give their new daughter. In my defense, it felt like I was really on to something when I entered the office pool with  “Mayweather Tesla Skywalker”.

A lot of people were trying to second-guess William and Catherine on this, analyzing their public statements and debating each other on Facebook to get some kind of a crucial advantage in knowing which way the couple leaned, baby name-wise.

But Wills and Kate are my favorite royals precisely because they’re so normal.  I figure they’re probably thinking about the same things I am most of the time, so I went with my gut, which was totally wrapped up in the big fight on Saturday night between Floyd and Manny.

I knew that everybody else knew that Mayweather was going to win, so why gamble on that when I could go All In on something that had a much higher chance of delivering a mammoth payoff?

Imagine my surprise when they came up with Charlotte Elizabeth Diana – a totally predictable and profoundly uninspiring choice.

For my money, “Princess Mayweather” is very British-sounding and would have become a much-beloved name.   Much more beloved than Princess Floyd, Princess Paquiao, or Princess Manny, which were some of my other choices.

Now all my money’s gone, but if that bet had come in, I’d be richer than everyone.  No exceptions!

Dr. Babooner, why can’t dreams come true?

Long Shot

I told “Long Shot” there’s a distinct difference between investing in a genuine dream and throwing away your life savings on some crazy idea you pulled out of a dark crevice.

A dream is inspirational, especially if it includes an element of self-betterment and rises out of a desire to improve the world. But guessing that the royals would decide to call their daughter ‘Mayweather Tesla Skywalker” is flat-out crazy.

But it’s better that you were parted from your cash in this picturesque way. At least you got a good story out of it, and you were going to lose that money anyhow. It was simply a matter of time.

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

Battery Flattery

Elon Musk’s announcement that Tesla will develop and sell solar energy storage for the home brings to my attention something that I did not know I needed.

A big honking battery in the house.

Musk said, “The obvious problem with solar power is the sun doesn’t shine at night. The issue with existing batteries is that they suck. They’re expensive, large, and unsightly. The 51-by-33.8-by-7-inch Powerwall, on the other hand, looks like a beautiful sculpture.

There’s another thing that has not been a high priority when going over the family budget.

Buying a big honking sculpture for the house.

But now that I know I could get art AND reliable solar energy all night long from the same purchase,  I’m re-thinking the possibilities.

And since these are all carrying loads of electricity, the sculptures could be outfitted with lights!  The imagination reels with possibilities.

What famous sculpture would you install in your home? 



Stand By Me

It’s sad to say goodbye to Ben E. King, who died Thursday at the age of 76.

King, whose name at birth was really Benjamin Earl Nelson, made the song Stand By Me famous.

When I read that Stand By Me was a concept King had tucked away, almost forgotten until King was casually questioned by Leiber and Stoller at the end of a writing session about any other song ideas he might have, it’s a reminder of the lasting importance of small moments and that  “hits” often (always?) happen  for reasons that are beyond our control.

The story goes that Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler harbored a grudge against Stand By Me because hiring the orchestra turned out to be overly expensive.

Odd thought, given the enduring success of that original recording. We too often obsess over the momentary cost without considering the possible long-term payoff. Although it is weird to see King lip synching it here in a room that contains many more dancing-challenged white teenagers than orchestral string players.

The New York Times obituary included this King quote: “I still think my whole career was accidental. I didn’t pursue it. I feel like I’m cheating sometimes.”

But there’s no doubt King had true talent and a legitimate, lasting effect. Back in 2008 this tremendously impressive global rendition of Stand By Me was pieced together by the organization Playing for Change.

All of this came about because a guy with the unusual name of Lover Patterson was persistent about finding talent  in Harlem and kept returning to the luncheonette run by Ben E. King’s father, asking if there were any young guys around who could sing.

Turns out there was at least one.

Can you sing? 


Sleepless Seated Sightseeing

Today’s guest post comes from Edith.

Recently I took a long trip, and was very lucky to have window seats the entire 3 days and 3 nights.

I boarded Amtrak late at night in Kansas City, MO, “slept” through most of Kansas, and woke up to a red sun rising over the prairie behind us.

NM_train9 (1)

During the first day the train went through New Mexico. I never had been to that area before, so was fascinated by the scenery: shrubby trees, hills, some mountains. Lots of browns, but other colors, too.

When I woke the next morning we were running about 1 ½ hours late, but somehow, by 8:30, we had made up 1 ¼ hours of that. The train arrived almost on time in Los Angeles. A good thing for me since there were only 2 hours between our scheduled arrival and the departure of my next train.
Wow, the train depot at L.A. was something else! Huge! Busy! Full of people hustling and bustling around, and all of them knew where they were going; I was the only one who wandered around in circles before I figured out the gate where I was to board my next next train, the once-daily Coast Starlight.

Then I went to the waiting area – to wait, of course. But I got restless. When I noticed people coming in some side doors. I got up to investigate and found a charming courtyard. Trees. Birds singing. Benches. A fountain. Tile work. Grass. Blue Skies. Very refreshing.

The Coast Starlight was pretty full, so I had a seatmate. She spent a lot of time in the observation car. No need for me to do that – not only did I have a window seat, it was on the ocean side.

But we sat in the same spot for a long time while the train was stopped because of a gas leak somewhere near the tracks up ahead. I had a great view of a parking lot and some empty tennis courts.


After 4 hours, we were able to move on.

Lucky me! The train goes very close to the ocean, in spots, so I had great view after great view.
Very cool!

The problem with the train being late was we no longer had any stops where we could get out and stretch.

Uffda, my legs ached from sitting. Even after we left the coast, the scenery in northern California and Oregon was lovely, but i had trouble appreciating it.

My trip_CA17

Finally, after what seemed like an endless time of trying, never very successfully, to sleep in a train seat and wanting to do anything but sit still another hour, I arrived in Portland.

I wanted only to take a shower, sleep in a real bed, and look forward to a day with fellow baboon Steve. Still, despite all the discomfort I had endured, I felt lucky that I was able to see so many beautiful sights from the train window.

How long can you stand to sit?

Control Issues

In today’s hyperactive social media environment, it does not take long for good reputations to get ruined by a bit of breathless over-reaction to common problems.

A quick tweet, a tossed-off Facebook post, a carelessly shared You Tube video, or a thoughtless headline might be all it takes to permanently shame a good citizen.

Or a starlet.

Or a spacecraft.

Yesterday’s New York Times headline, “Russian Space Station Cargo Ship Is Said to Be Out of Control“, smacks of the same type of discriminatory treatment given to a string of young, boisterous female celebrities, all of whom were declared, at one time, officially O.O.C.

Trail Baboon Sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler insisted that I give him a moment to come to the defense of the poor, maligned Progress 59 capsule with a few lines of soon-to-be-forgotten verse.


One cannot be a star today without a robust hide.
And for anyone who reaches high, expect a rocky ride.
But as long as I’ve got pitch and yaw, a cargo, and a goal.
It’s unfair to try to shame me with that trope – “out of control.”

While it’s true I’m not mature, (this is the first time I have flown)
I’m more stable and more focused than that wingnut, Lindsay Lohan.
I admit our mission so far hasn’t made the throngs admire us,
But I’m not as O.O.C. as that sad train wreck, Miley Cyrus.

I may tumble out of orbit very soon, it now appears.
But I won’t completely self-destruct like gaudy Britney Spears.
So I don’t feel like a failure, though I’m sinking by degrees.
I will simply resupply a patch of Earth that lacks debris.

What’s the worst thing that’s been said about you?

Behind The Headlines

Header Image by Shriram Rajagopalan – Gelada Baboon in Bronx Park South, NYC

From the Baboons in the News department – a recent article about baboon mating got some play on multiple news outlets.  Basically the story is that male baboons were found to be more discerning than expected when it comes to selecting their female partners.

Humans had assumed that the size and color of a female baboon’s backside would be the determining factor.

That turned out to be untrue, and Homo sapiens headline writers had something of a field day with it.

Admittedly, baboon sexuality is not a common topic of intense discussion among ordinary people.  But we can easily assign a certain shallowness to baboon habits, and so it doesn’t take long to come up with a theory of how the laws of baboon attraction might work.

But when that theory is suddenly turned bass-ackwards, there is a surprising amount uniformity in the creative response.

Hmm.  Somebody sounds disappointed.  Are our confounded expectations really The Story here?  Who’s the shallow one now?

Instead of discovering baboons mating in an orgy of butt-centric fascination, researchers found male baboons are drawn to females who take a longer time to start ovulating again after giving birth.  Why?  Perhaps the guys think their offspring have a better chance of survival when mom is unencumbered by additional suitors.

Granted, the co-parenting skills of male baboons are not put in a flattering light by this preference. He basically wants the girl who’s going to be tied to the youngsters for the longest stretch of uninterrupted time.

That, it seems to me, is the real story.  Yet I didn’t see this headline anywhere:

For Male Baboons, It’s All About When The Rearing Ends.

But seriously, would it kill you to take them for an afternoon so I can catch up on my sleep?

What attracts?

Frictional Fictional Fretting

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde

For thirty years or more a novel has irritated me; I would say angered, but that makes me seem petty.

The first book is Jon Hassler’s Staggerford.


That was supposed to be my book to write: the tale of a man teaching English in a small northern Minnesota town at the high school he attended. Even worse he wrote it so well. Curse him. I could have not described a faculty meeting and a faculty party as well as he did. Darn him. He fictionalized Park Rapids, while I would have done so to Two Harbors. I would have thought of as clever a town name as Staggerford—if given the time. Hmmph to Hassler. It so disgusts me that I have been forced to read it several times now.


Now, in my grumpy old age along has come another equally irritating novel. Last week while waiting for my wife to select another half dozen interchangeable romances, I spotted on our library’s tiny New Fiction section the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

I am about three-fourths of the way through writing my second book, a book which takes my main character from my first novel into old age with a cat. Go ahead guess. Yep, you’re correct: A Man Called Ove is my plot, set in Sweden, no less. About a man dealing with solitude and forced retirement and a cat.

Well-written too. Funny, too. Human, too.

Backman’s cat is a wild cat like Opus’s friend Bill the cat, all ratty and hairballed. My cat is a superior cat, coming by way of a vet, named after a woman author.

Backman’s first chapter upset me the most. I have been in a running battle with the techies from our local cable provider, (was local, but sold off to a mega-corp) who cannot make my TV and Internet connection reliable. Our discussions are frustration on both ends.

In Backman’s first Chapter grumpy old Ove is frustrated by the sales clerks whom he frustrates because he cannot understand how the “Opad” is not a computer. Where is the keyboard, anyway? Backman not only stole my plot, he also made me look foolish to me.

This book I think I may just have to purchase in paper form. Not digital because 1’s and 0’s don’t burn well.

I would tell you the plot, but that would be telling MY PLOT. I strongly urge you not to read it. Wait for my book to come out.


What novel or fictional character is too similar to your life or you?

Cousin Dan Keeps It Simple

Today’s guest post comes from tim.

i may have mentioned cousin dan before here on the trail.

this time of year i have to call him and thank him one more time for making me aware of the special circle we live in.

dan comes from fargo, i come from fargo. i got out, dan didnt.

when cousin tim would come up from the cities it was a special time. the cities were like the emerald city in fargo in 1960-70. i would come in in my twin city finery with peace sign pendants and floppy hats from the mod psychedelic stores in the heart of minneapolis.

dan was a wild man and did things i would never dream of doing. reckless drug trials, trouble that anyone would know better than to try but in fargo you knew where to draw the line, when you could get away with it,  and when you were pushing your luck.

dan went off to study fine art painting with figure studies and landscapes as his focus. i love his work. his hay bales in the field and his rolling fields with the focus being the rows of corn stubble and large cloud skies took my brain away on trips to the places i visited when i had time to look and enjoy

about 4 or 5 years ago he had an aneurism and today reminds me of chauncey gardner in jerzy kosinskis being there which peter sellers brought to life. its fitting. he has traded in his wild youth for the most laid back passive existence on the planet where he paints and watches people on the sidewalk scenes in his world and enjoys the simple things.

the paintings he did and does are of the landscape and the gentle surroundings we miss if we are not paying attention.

for the next 3 or 4 weeks the greens are magic. the developments in the world of leaves make the world a kaleidoscope of greens. today i saw willow leaves sprouting almost dandelion yellow the celery green and moss and white hued buds popping as the leaves do their butterfly form the cocoon imitation and sprout from those tree branches like aliens form a sigourney weaver movie.

so thanks to dan for making me appreciate green in april and may.

what do you do to simplify your life?

The “You” in Menu

Header Image: “Culex sp larvae” by (Image: James Gathany, CDC)  Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Today’s post comes from marketing maven Spin Williams, who is always in residence at The Meeting That Never Ends.

One of the top restaurant marketing trends of 2015 is locally sourced, organic foods.

If it’s local, people are fascinated. Why? Because a lot of them have no idea food can be grown nearby. That all connects to the concept of going “out” for dinner, which the baby boomers learned to think of as an exotic treat when they were growing up in the hardscrabble 1940’s and ’50’s.

“Out” was always a better place to get a meal than at boring old “in”, where mom was likely to serve up the same gray meatloaf or chicken hotdish again tonight.

“Out” might bring you an exotic choice like chicken wings, or at least the chance to have a milk shake with your meal.  The chances of that went way up if dad ordered a beer.

The message to impressionable youngsters of that era – the farther “out” you went, the better the meal.

But yesterday as we were going over the latest science stories at The Meeting That Never Ends we saw this bit of research about how mosquitoes choose who they’ll bite.  The clear indication is that the little pointy-nosed critters are lured by something genetic that is shared among families!

The assumption here is that it’s a fundamental element of body odor.   Identical twins were found to be equally attractive to the tiny bloodsuckers of summer.

A couple of great marketing ideas quickly came out of this.

My favorite – identify particularly scrumptious bloodlines and present them as “decoy guests” for hire at high-buck summertime parties. If we know mosquitoes love those Johnsons, or just can’t get enough of the Herrera sisters, hire them to draw the swarms away from the more important invitees.

The downside?

Having to segregate the bait people from the rest, and possible lawsuits over West Nile Virus.

But then we realized something else – if we completely disregard the scientific method and turn this research on its head, it could be an early indication that the reverse is true and people also have genetic predispositions to like certain foods!

For restaurateurs, that means there is this tantalizing future scenario – when guests arrive they check in at the hostess stand and are given a quick DNA test to determine their pre-ordained dining tendencies.

That person then receives a menu tailored to their genetic food preference profile! Imagine – a restaurant that could hand you a menu where you’ll like absolutely EVERYTHING!

Would you go there?

Of course you would, as long as your family doesn’t also have an inherent fussiness over things like genetic privacy.

Our bet is that most people will be perfectly fine with it, and the establishment could also work some side agreements with marketing firms to get a secondary income on the data!

Yes, we realize that people get particularly overwrought about misuse of personal information. But for the most part, when our data is harvested we don’t even know about it, so the pain is nearly invisible.

The only obvious downside we see for consumers in this would be a tendency for restaurants with outdoor seating to put especially tasty people in a separate area, to draw away the attention of any needle-nosed intruders!

Yours in Marketing,

Do you come from an especially flavorful family?