Category Archives: Nature

Best-O-Ween 2011!

It’s not too late to throw out a wee post about some of Halloween’s best offerings this year, is it?

Nah…let’s go for it.

170. Best-O-Ween 2011

Here’s a compilation blog featuring some of the best Halloween-related stuff that I have seen this year.

If you read this blog regularly you know that I love me some Halloween.  I had complained a year or two ago that the UK simply didn’t do it up large like the Americans do.  But, I think that’s changing.  Maybe businesses finally see how easy it is to cash in on Halloween-related crap, theme nights at bars, fancy dress parties, etc…

I have to say, one of the best thing about Kraft Foods (an American company) taking over Cadbury’s has to be that we now have THESE fine foodstuffs:

Americans! Bringing you chocolate covered gore! Hooray!

Really, England, I don’t know what you were kicking up such a fuss about.  When the takeover happened everyone was all worried that the quality of the chocolate would suffer…traditions would crumble…we’d shit it all up with our tackiness.  Obviously you were wrong.  We just added some awesome.  You’re welcome, Britain.

Ok, so what else is worthy of our attention this year?  The doggy dress up competition in NYC is always worth a chuckle.  Here’s the link to some of the best:

Dogs in NYC

Nothing tops that bulldog, for me.

Well…maybe THIS Staffy does.  I lifted this from Pedestrian TV. (All credit due)

You won't like me when I'm growly.

 

In the human costume category, I have to give it up to my cousin, Emily Heinrich.  When I was a kid, I was spoilt by a mother who made costumes herself–amazing constructions.  With the help of patterns from JoAnn Fabrics, I was often the best-dressed kid on my street.  My Mom must’ve lost her nut the year I chose the ‘elephant’ pattern.  It was pretty complicated.  She did a great job with those ears and tusks and trunk though.  Love you, Mom.  Emily is carrying on that tradition…perhaps even a bit further…as her creations don’t look like you could even buy a pattern for them.  Check out how she dressed her boys this year:

Emily Heinrich is crafty

World War II Ace! Sopwith Camel!

 

The Loony Toons monster AND Snoopy’s Red Baron-chasing Sopwith Camel?  That’s just ace, Em.  Well done.

Speaking of crafty people, here’s a little gem that someone forwarded me…allow me to give it a proper introduction:

“Hey lady…looking to throw a kicking Halloween bash this year but CAN’T afford fancy store-bought decorations?  Well, look no further than your bathroom cupboard.  As long as you’re still menstruating, you’ll never be without the potential to terrorize folks!  Check out our new tampon ghost project!

 

Hee Hee--ewwwwww

Don’t like wearing tampons?  I’m pretty sure you could do something similar with this.  It has wings which could resemble ghostly arms!

Boo!

 

If you can’t get enough of making things out of tampons, you’re in luck.  Here’s a web-site devoted to the art.  Thanks internet!  tamponcrafts

Let’s close out this Halloween love fest with a modern classic, shall we?  Werewolf Barmitzvah, anyone?

See you in November!!!!

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Filed under Hobbies, Nature, People, Uncategorized, Vittles

The Circle Jerk of Life

As a person who is fond of animals–at one point in my life I even wanted to be a veterinarian–I have, in the past, made the common folly of underestimating them.  People who love animals will frequently assume that all animals do all the live-long day is lie around being all cute– rousing themselves occasionally to perform super-awesome acts of beastliness–like jumping high or running fast or swimming real good.  Humans are great at anthropomorphizing things.  We’ll put a human face/emotions/intentions on ANYTHING!  We’ll turn a choo-choo train into a beloved storybook character.  How much easier is it to do that if the object of our fantasy actually HAS a face and a heartbeat?  It’s understandable to think that animals are nothing but perfect, is all I’m saying.  We see how flawed WE can be and think that simpler life forms are more pure/good.  If you are an animal lover, you might think, for instance, that if you were to fall overboard in the ocean that there is a healthy chance that you would be saved by a friendly pod of dolphins– or that if you were stranded in the woods as an infant you might have been adopted and raised by a wolf pack–or that your pet snake is happy just eating those pre-dead mice you feed it and NOT hankering after your pet chihuahua.  What lovely fantasies we conjure.

Doesn't want to raise you...Only interested in you if you have snacks.

But the truth of the matter is, like everything in the world, animals have the capacity to be dicks.  I’ve known this heart-breaking truth for a while, I suppose.  But I was just reminded of it when I was watching a documentary.  I’m pretty sure it was a David Attenborough one.  Life, I think (which, in The States–for some bizarre reason–was narrated by Oprah Winfrey instead of Attenborough).  It detailed a bunch of killer whales chasing down a humpback whale and its calf.  The killer whales chased them so long and so hard that they eventually wore the mighty humpbacks down and ate the baby whilst the mother could do nothing in defense.  They ate only the tongue of the humpback calf and let the rest of its giant body slump to the sea floor where it would decay–a feast for the sea parasites.

It was sort of terrible to witness.  But the point is–maybe animals are more like people than we thought!  They’re mean when they want to be, heartless, wasteful, and prone to gang violence.

They even play class warfare.  There are caste systems in nature!  Check out these snow monkeys acting like mega-douches…just awful:

Snow Monkeys Are Terrible People!

The thought of animals being immoral with each other doesn’t always have to be bleak and depressing, however.  Sometimes it can be hilarious!  That’s why I’ve chosen a terrific website as today’s great thing:

167. Animals Being Dicks (the website)

animalsbeingdicks.com  Go on…click it!!!!

The website is a collection of ‘gifs’ (compressed video files?  Tech nerds?  A little help?) which illustrate real life examples of animals acting like jerks.  Whether you’re in the market for a parrot pushing a turtle off a high ledge, a dog farting directly in another dog’s face, or a cat using a Roomba as a mobile attack vehicle, this is your one stop shop for animals being complete jagoffs.

What a great idea for a web page.  You just know there’s a treasure trove of these clips out there.  I check in just about every day and there’s always a new entry up if not two…I’m just surprised nobody thought of it sooner.  Animals have been dicks forever!

Check out these historic examples:

Shithead the dog...falsely announced fires.

A llama spit on me once. For real. What a d-bag. I wasn't even DOING anything.

OK...this guy actually might have it coming.

It just takes a leader…someone to organize this stuff for us really, doesn’t it.  So, thanks go out, in this case to one John Williams.  Here is his home page.  Johnlovesyou.com  Thanks for doing this, John!  Your country needed you and you stepped up to the plate.

Meanwhile, perhaps this should serve as a reminder to all of humanity that we are not alone in this world.  We are all connected with our fellow living creatures and even the elements.  For there is nothing under the sun that is NOT a dick.  Whether it be:

The Wind: I am STORM! MISTRESS OF THE ELEMENTS! AND I'M GOING TO EFF UP YOUR HAIRDO!

The Wind!:  I really do hate the wind sometimes.  Unless you’re flying a kite or need an airborne seed swept away somewhere, what is it good for?  It’s all in your face…making it harder to walk…blowing crap into your eyeballs and totally destroying that meticulous hairstyle you were trying to work.

The Sea: Hey, I built this city for yo--oh crap. Thanks a lot, Poseidon!

The Sea!:  The ocean has swallowed so many of our fine towns and eaten so many of our boats and sailors.  Yet that is never enough.  It continues to erode our shores and thanks to global warming we will probably all be under it one day soon.  I better learn how to use a fork as a comb, ala Little Mermaid.

And Beyond!: Look at this...even intelligent life from the outer stretches of the universe disappoints. Yeah, thanks for the wang graffiti. Buncha interstellar jerkoffs.

And Beyond!:  You think you can escape earth’s gravitational pull (gravity is also a jerk) and find some utopia where there are no bellends?  You are wrong.  Real aliens don’t want to come down here and make our old people happy like the ones in Cocoon.  No, they just want to do flybys and draw penises in our lawn.

It’s one of the great truths in this world.  Everyone/thing is a dick.  Or…at least has the capacity to BE a dick.  It’s learning the coping mechanisms that helps you get by in this life–schadenfreude is a great coping mechanism as animalsbeingdics.com proves…  And hat ownership…that helps too…when the wind blows…

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Michael Winslow, Eat Your Heart Out

When it comes to the abilities of animals which I am jealous of/covet, the list is super long.  They’ve got all kinds of sweet powers.  Mankind…big deal!  Besides our abilities to cast shadow puppets and our capacity to create sandwiches, being a human is rubbish–with our doughy flesh that goose-pimples in the slightest of breezes and our stumpy molars that can barely crack celery!  We’re not nearly as hard-core as we think we are.  There isn’t a race (besides maybe a motor one) that an animal couldn’t completely humiliate us in…running, swimming, slithering…hopping…eating offspring…beasts will best us 80% of the time all the time.   That’s why the superheroes of dynamic fiction are often inspired by nature–a man with spider abilities or that of a hawk, for instance.  I’d love to have a prehensile tail of a monkey, the razor-sharp teeth of a piranha, the outstanding night vision of an aye-aye, the flight of a swift, the camouflage of a chameleon, the healing horn of a unicorn,  and the ability to breathe under water of a fish.  Only one of those animals if fictional.  Can you believe it!  A horse with a magic horn seems far more likely to exist than a lizard that can change colors!  Isn’t the world weird?  It sure is.

Anyway, today’s great thing is an animal that is truly remarkable and has a super useful talent…which is probably why it is on the Australian dime.  Take that, Franklin D. Roosevelt!

160. The Lyrebird

…of which there are two types, The Superb Lyrebird and Albert’s Lyrebird.  Both are equally awesome as far as I can tell.  The main difference is that the Superb Lyrebird is bigger, whilst the Albert’s Lyrebird has an interesting piercing.

I'm a fancy MF.

Like so many weird and fascinating creatures who have seemingly taken a divergent path from straight-forward evolution…the kangaroo, the duck-billed platypus, Kylie Minogue…the lyrebird is from Australia

The birds don’t fly very well…they scratch at the ground with their feet to kick up leaves where they find worms, bugs, and seeds to eat.  Don’t be hating, I’m sure it’s delicious.  They are runners more than flyers, lovers rather than fighters, band geeks more than football jocks.  The special thing about the lyrebird is that their courtship displays are crazy amazing.  They put sooooo much effort into it.  It’s half karaoke and half choreography…but their vocal impressions are absolutely mind-blowing.  Have a look-see:

What a stunning display, yes?  How can one animal make all those different noises when I can’t even do a half decent British accent after living here for five years?  Gor Blimey!  It all comes down to the syrinx, which is a bird’s vocal instrument.    The word comes from the Greek for pan pipes.  Of all the Passerines (songbirds) in the world, the lyrebird has the most complex.  Still, what’s a syrinx and how does it work?  How does the lyrebird make its magic?  It’s a good question…in this case posed by an inquisitive beatboxer…and answered by a kindly scholar:  Answers

Yeah, that's a pretty good DeNiro. But EVERYONE does a DeNiro.

 

The thing is, they’re not just one-trick ponies, so to speak.  Beyond the mimicry, the birds are also accomplished hoofers.  Their courtship displays can be quite the marathon of tail-fanning and hot-stepping. (The tail feathers, by the way, take seven full years to develop.)  They’re also sort of slutty.  Well, man-hos at least.  The male of the species will impregnate as many females as they possibly can.  (This should be relatively easy as I don’t know how anyone could resist all the feather-swishing and chainsaw noises.)  The females are always left as the sole parent of the single egg.  All this behavior, the singing, dancing, preening, sleeping around and then taking off when things get heavy, pretty much makes the lyrebird the rockstar of the animal kingdom.  I think Albert’s Lyrebird should be renamed Brett Michael’s Lyrebird.

A group of lyrebirds is called a ‘musket’.  I can only figure that this is because they are as exciting as a bunch of guns going off.  They are beaked dynamite!

There is an interesting anecdote about human interaction with lyrebirds that I found on a few different websites and feel compelled to share.    This text is lifted from Avian Web, which in turn is sourced from: The Lore of the Lyrebird, by Ambrose Pratt, the Endeavour Press, 1933.  It involves food offerings, dirt mounds, and a hydraulic ram…

During the early 1930s, a male lyrebird, called “James”, formed a close bond of friendship with a human being, Mrs. Wilkinson, after she had been offering food to him over a period of time. James would perform his courtship dance for her on one of his mounds which he had constructed in her backyard — and he would also put on his display for a wider audience, but only when Mrs. Wilkinson was one of those present. On one such occasion, James’ performance lasted for forty-three minutes, and included steps to a courtship dance accompanied by his own tune — and also included imitating perfectly the calls of an Australian Magpie, and a young magpie being fed by a parent-bird, a Eastern Whipbird, a Bellbird, a complete laughing-song of a Kookaburra, two Kookaburras laughing in unison, a Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, a Gang-gang Cockatoo, an Eastern Rosella, a Pied Butcherbird, a Wattle-bird, a Grey Shrike-thrush, a Thornbill, a White-browed Scrubwren, a Striated Pardalote, a Starling, a Yellow Robin, a Golden Whistler, a flock of parrots whistling in flight, the Crimson Rosella, several other birds whose notes his audience were not able to identify, and the song of honey-eaters (tiny birds with tiny voices), that gather in numbers and “cheep” and twitter in a multitudinous sweet whispering. In order to mimic the honeyeaters’ singing faithfully, James was obliged to subdue his powerful voice to the faintest pianissimo, but he contrived, nevertheless, to make each individual note of the soft chorus audibly distinct. Also included in James’ performance was his perfect mimicry of the sounds made by a rock-crusher at work, a hydraulic ram, and the tooting of motor-horns.

I just want to say…whilst in absolutely NO way condoning bestiality…I sort of hope that James the lyrebird got at least to second base after that.

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Amazon Women of Manchester

OK, so…if you’ve read the last couple of posts, you’ll know that I had the recent pleasure of taking a holiday in Ecuador.  I was  looking forward to it in a major way.  By UK standards, I feel that I’m not very well-travelled.  My Facebook ‘Places I’ve Been’ map (as sponsored by Tripadvisor) includes trips across The States, journeys around England and Scotland, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, and France.  That’s it.  Not bad by suburban girl from Pennsylvania standards but  pretty poor, when you consider that I’ve got all of Europe within three hours flight time now.  The average Brit has been twice as many places as I have, it seems…even if their travels often involve just going to the British style pubs and clubs in hotter and sandier locations.  (Apparently Tenerife is like a boiling hot version of  Liverpool nowadays.)  So, I was stoked to be going somewhere so exotic.  Nobody goes to Ecuador!  I have to say, it started out beautifully.  The prospect of going to Quito frightened my partner Karey a bit.  She had nightmarish visions of a third world country…the type where nuns get murdered and dictators get overthrown on a weekly basis.  Coincidentally, our journey was timed for three weeks after a coup attempt.  That didn’t help.  But, Karey’s nerves were quickly assuaged when we landed in the world-class city that Quito really is.  Ecuador may not be the wealthiest country, but Quito has all the amenities you need and more culture than you can shake a maraca at.  At any rate, we were only there for a day of rest before we started an amazing jungle adventure.  We were booked in at an eco-lodge in the Amazon rainforest for 4 days and 3 nights.  And that’s what I’m going to yammer on about for today’s great thing.

154. Yachana Lodge

To get to the lodge, which is secreted away where the Napo river meets the Amazon, we first took a quick cab ride from our hotel to the VIP departure lounge at Quito’s airport…VIP was the private airline that flew us to Coca…  It was a small plane…but not crazy scary small.  It sat about 20 people, I’d say.  Coca, we learned once we got there, is a rather small and slightly impoverished city.  But, it was the nearest port of call to where we could meet our guide.  At the VIP lounge, we met our liaison who helped with our original booking.  She checked in with us and passed us a copy of this New York Times article about the center and its founders.  It excited us about our journey even more:  NYT

Yachana has many missions…rainforest preservation, eco-tourism, and education of the locals (they have their own school located in the nearest village which teaches students the basics of languages, sciences and math but also tradesmen type stuff like tourism and responsible farming).  Pretty angelic when you consider my missions for the day:  Refresh my Facebook page for the 70th time, watch today’s episode of The Apprenctice on BBC, and finish that bar of chocolate that I started yesterday.

It turned out, Juan Kunchikuy, the native of Ecuador mentioned in the article was going to be our guide.  A super cool guy…growing up hunting with blow darts and living a life that I’ve only read about in adventure stories.

Blowin' darts and kickin' ass.

Juan is the real deal.  Check out this BBC article about his time spent in East Yorkshire meeting with school children:  Juan Karey and I, amazingly, came at a time when it was just going to be the two of us in his group.  Through a great stroke of booking, guests left when we arrived and arrived when we left.  They must have been warned, somehow…Maybe a Tripadvisor alert…avoid travel to Yachana on these days if you don’t like chatty lesbians…  Paradise was ours and ours alone for 3 days!  Juan, handy with both a machete and a Swarovski telescope (for bird watching), knew just about everything there is to know about jungle life.  He pointed out critters that I would have never seen even if I’d been staring at the tree that they were perched in for hours.  He’d find the smallest frog, pick it up and show us, and then find its younger, smaller, offspring 20 feet away and show that to us as well.  Mad skills!

Vroooom...glub glub glub

Anyway, back to the first day.  2.5 hours down the river from Coca, we finally reached our destination, Yachana Lodge (pronounced Yuh-Chaw-Nuh).  We climbed the plain and utilitarian-looking stairs up the river bank but once we were up the trail towards the housing, we were surrounded by gorgeous gardens filled with flora that I’d never seen before.  It was like entering the Avatar planet.  Naturally, I immediately started clear-cutting and mining for unobtainium.  The noise of the surrounding jungle was also immediately evident.  Bird and bugs can make quite a din when they want to.  There was one bird that made the weirdest little sci-fi noise.  I’ve spent ages scouring the net for a clip (a difficult task when you can’t remember the name of the bird) and I FINALLY found one…it’s the second bird featured in this Attenborough show…the Screaming Piha, it’s called.

We took one night-time hike and two daytime hikes (on separate days).  Juan pointed out where the primary forest differed from the secondary forest.  Primary is the stuff where the trees are bigger because it’s never been levelled or clear-cut.  The secondary forest is land they’ve reclaimed from farms and that is basically growing back in.  To be fair,  when walking through the secondary forest…I thought that was pretty bushy/green/and that the trees were aplenty.  But, when you step into the primary, the canopy just gets that much thicker and taller.  Over the two hikes, we did tons of birdwatching.  Juan found woodpeckers, toucans, parrots, kites, buzzards, kingfishers, rainforest orioles amongst others for us to gaze at.  One of the absolute best sightings was of these prehistoric era weirdos.  The Hoatzin are also known as ‘stinky turkeys’:

What the what?

Juan showed us how they use tree sap for candles and incense, we saw some sleeping bats, army ants, scads of spiders, loads of toads and frogs, and one coatimuntdi.
On another trek, about two hours in, we’d been inundated with frog, bug, spider, and bat sightings, when I heard Juan say “Oh look…jungle crap.”  I thought, in a very slangy-American way, that he just meant ‘more cool stuff to see’.  Ooh, what other jungle crap do you have for us, I said?  “No…jungle CRAB, explained Juan–looking mildly insulted.  Look at this little lady, come up from the stream to do some huntin’.

Keep the crabby patty recipe safe!

As one final photographic example of the cool animal stuff we saw…oh…I just can’t choose.  Let’s do three things!  Here are the A.) Best Spider I saw, B.) Best Frog I saw, and C.) Best Monkey I saw.

A:

Flippin' Heck! And Holy Skull Island! Check out this Tail-less Whip Scorpion (or Whip Spider). This guy was big but harmless.

B.

This was hella-big for a tree frog, I thought. Those must be powerful little suckers on its feet. Plus, maybe the best name for an animal...Rocket Frog. That's gotta be a web domain already, right? Some sort of home delivery service or file sharing site?

C.

When it comes to monkeys, the rule is pretty much: smaller = cuter. This pygmy marmoset is proof positive.

The treks were more than just animal spotting…Juan also pointed out tons of the flora and explained what they were good for.  We tasted raw cocoa (tastes of pixie sticks), Juan made us each a thin bracelet out of palm tree leaf fibres on the spot, and I got to swing across a pit on a vine!  This picture of me swinging on a vine does not credit how far the vine actually was off the ground.  I was about ten feet up..so, what I’m saying is I’m a hero.  A big brave one.  Maybe the greatest one the world has ever known.

I took a few rides. Because I had to pretend to be Indiana Jones first...then Tarzan...and finally Spidey.

Ok, now stumbling onwards from the excitement and discovery of the jungle treks and onto a new topic.  I wouldn’t say that I’m food obsessed, but I do love eating delicious things and I find that whenever I’m on vacation,  I have to document my food with photographs of the stuff that’s especially nice/interesting/tasty/or weird.  Here’s just a few of the cool things I ate whilst at camp:

This ginormous grapefruit with honey drizzled on it. I made Karey hold it up to her head so that you have perspective. Karey may not be a very big lady, but she's still got a big Scottish noggin

This traditional breakfast of mashed plantain, egg, and peanut sauce. It was a delicious mess

This heart of palm ceviche...so relieved that it wasn't seafood. Because...you know...frickin' gross.

Not pictured here is a cup of Ecuadorian coffee.  If you like coffee…man oh man, this stuff was beautiful…thick in the cup even with a little bit of natural sweetness.  They also served liquid chocolate in the mornings as a dip for the bananas and homemade bread that were always on the breakfast table.

On the third day, we were treated to a cooking lesson, the camp chef showed us how to cook in banana leaves…and had a nasty surprise for me.  Please excuse my disheveled appearance.  I had just been in the jungle.

Admittedly, Karey isn’t the best cinematographer.  And to be fair, I shouldn’t call the surprise ‘nasty’.  The grubs are a delicacy in the area and though they just tasted like fatty water when eaten live, they are bacon-y and very nice after being cooked over a smoky fire.

After eating my fill of grubs (that’ll be two then…one live one cooked), we were taken to see the local medicine man. This is where the fun and games slowed down a bit and the reality of the cultural differences between middle class society and jungle living were made crystal clear.  The medicine man lives a true village-style life, away from the lodge.  He must’ve been about 50 and although he was spry, he looked his age.  Weathered and wizened, he had a slightly younger looking wife who must have been exhausted.  She was a mother of 11..  11.  That’s right 11.  Probably only because they didn’t have a TV and therefore had never seen 8 is Enough.  Their home was a one room house on stilts.  I suppose they didn’t spend much time IN the house…they had small gardens to tend and some chickens were fluttering about the yard.  The first thing I noticed about the medicine man was how rough his feet were.  I’d imagine he only had one pair of shoes, if that, and he obviously didn’t wear them much.  Tiny ants were swarming all over his feet but he took no notice.  Though he had an appointment with a sick villager, he spent about a half an hour with us.  He gave us a blessing, which involved him brushing herbs about our heads and faces and singing a song.

We also learned how to throw spears and shoot blow-darts at the medicine man’s house.  Karey turned out to be the best shot with the spear and I was slightly better with the blowdarts.  Interestingly, Juan admitted that tribes usually were more skilled with one over the other.  He came from people who were better with the blowdart.  Mad blowdart skills.  Juan also confessed that his tribe, generations ago, had been a war-faring one.  His Grandfather had the shrunken heads of slain enemies as trophies.  Frickin’ shrunken heads, dude!  Anyway…here’s me trying out the blowdart gun.

You can see the medicine man in the shot (wearing a yellow shirt and having a giggle when the second blowdart that was loaded in for me got stuck.)  Again, nice camera work there, Karey.

Here she is faring better with a spear.

Have some of that!

After the spiritual session–followed by our meagre attempts to blowdart and spear the shit out of a wooden toucan –we took to the river.  About 2.5 miles upstream from camp, I reckon, the swim was pretty easy as the current pushed us back.  I flapped about with a breaststroke and Karey braved it in an inner tube.

The days were busy and flew by in what seemed like moments.  On the canoe ride back up the river to Coca, I was definitely ready to check back into a hotel where there were bathrobes in the closet, but I still wonder happily at the things we got to see and do in the jungle.

Even though the trip to South America ended with me getting the wheelchair treatment through our flight connections back to the UK, (I had contracted some sort of stomach bug and was barf-tacular by the end of our vacation…Karey had it to…but she got it first and was on the mend by the time we left),  I’m so glad we went to Ecuador.  Mostly, because our time spent in the Amazon rainforest, at Yachana Lodge, was absolutely…wait for it…AMAZON-ING!

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It’s Better Than Cats!

Stupid September with its lousy thirty days!  I like to try and get four blog posts in per month.  Unfortunately, due to the powerful combination of hectic workdays tempered with unabating laziness I’m skating pretty close to my deadline on this one.  Luckily, there’s always something to write about.  Mother London, a London (duh) based ad agency came up with this wonderful Ikea ad.  I’m loving it so much that it’s today’s great thing.  (They are also behind the fab Wicked Witch of the West commercial that I covered a few months ago.)

149.  “Happy Inside” Ikea Advert

It’s a fantastic spot.  Enjoy:

Even if you’re not a cat-person, per se, I think the ad does a great job of conveying the comfort of home. Happy cats just have those contented expressions that are so easy to relate to.  In fact, in easy to see most human emotions in cats.  You can always when they’re either comfortable, peeved, antsy, or high on the nip.  Cue the success of LOLcats and much Internet adoration.

Happy!

Pissed off!

Totally high!

The music choice is also solid.  It’s Mara Carlyle’s “Pianni”.  By the way, in addition to playing the piano, Carlyle also plays the saw.  So, that’s cool.

Here’s a bit of behind the scenes footage. from the commercial shoot:

Ikea has some particularly memorable ads.  I remember an especially nerve-striking commercial from a few years ago.  Spike Jonze directed this little spot.

That commercial really gets me…thanks to Toy Story.  That movie agitates my pre-existing tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects.  You know what I mean…I feel bad if a stuffed animal falls off the bed.  I have to give it a little pat to make it feel better.  I’m thankful to Spike Jonze for pointing out what a twit I am.

YouTube actually has a whole treasure trove of fantastic but banned Ikea ads.  Mostly, it’s their spots that are a bit racier that people get tied in to knots about.  We can’t have nice things.

Now, I’m off to Ikea to buy some byurgs and flirgens, and a billion tea lights.  See you in October!

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Furry Vengeance

Much hullabaloo has been made of the cat bin lady.  If the kerfuffle has not made its way to wherever you’re reading this blog post from, let me summarise the turn of events for you:

Here in England, Coventry to be precise, a woman was captured on CCTV, first petting a friendly neighborhood cat that had approached her and then suddenly and swiftly decided that it would be ‘funny’ to open up a nearby trash bin and chuck it in.  The woman then merrily walks on.  Luckily, the cat was discovered by its owners 15 hours later when, having grown worried about its whereabouts,  they investigated the CCTV footage from near their house.

Here, in all its glory, is the little bit of animal abuse heard round the world:

It’s strange to watch this clip because the first thing that comes to mind, besides a bit of fretting for the cat, is that the woman must be a little ‘off’.  All turned out to be OK in the end.  The cat was happily rescued from the garbage can.  But, because the owners had put the footage up on-line, the cat-chucker had become instantly notorious.  Her identity was easy to discern through the footage (Mary Bale is her name) and the RSPCA is deciding whether or not to pursue any legal action.

Bale, who I think we can all agree has poor impulse control, used the excuse that she thought it would be funny.  I don’t think she ever considered for a moment that she’d have an audience of millions.

Quotes from The Daily Mail (sorry for the tabloid-rag of a source):

‘I cannot explain why I did this, it is completely out of character and I certainly did not intend to cause any distress to Lola or her owners.
‘It was a split second of misjudgment that has got completely out of control.

But she claimed the outcry had been blown out of all proportion: ‘I don’t know what the fuss is about. It’s just a cat.’

Miss Bale said she was just walking home on Saturday when she saw the cat and decided to play with it. But she told the Sun that she ‘suddenly thought it would be funny’ to put it in the bin.

‘I did it as a joke because I thought it would be funny. I never thought it would be trapped, I expected it to wriggle out,’ she said.

What sucks for this lady though, is that what she thought was a bit of mischief has resulted in death treats and world-wide disdain. (Though she’s not ingratiating herself to cat lovers anywhere by saying she doesn’t understand the fuss, anyone with half a brain should realize that she’s perhaps not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.)  Those who wish to do her harm should note, violence against people technically qualifies as animal abuse as well…

Inevitably, an ‘I hate Mary Bale’ Facebook has already sprung up and is ‘liked’ by over nine thousand users.  Of course, it only took minutes for some genius to call her ‘worse than Hitler’. Ugh…sometimes I hate the Internet soooo much.

The Internet’s worse than Hitler.

(See Godwin’s Law:  Godwin\’s Law)

Meanwhile, Lola’s owners, kind and reasonable, have implored people to refrain from going all angry villagers with pitchforks on her ass.  Thank God, some people have sense.

Would just like to put this all behind her...

Naturally, as with any internet meme, this event has been parodied to the hilt.  But, the person who I think has nailed it the best it whoever is the genius behind this twitter account, which finally brings us to our great thing of the day:

145.  CatBinLady’s Twitter Account

This twitter page is the perfect satire of the events.  It reads the situation perfectly without calling for the murder of a woman who acted like a bit of a plantpot.

I have no idea who is behind it.  Truly an unsung hero.  The bio just reads:

  • Bio I have momentary aberrations. We all do.

Also, CatBinLady is following Kanye West on Twitter.  Makes a sort of sense, unlike the woman herself.

Read the entries and enjoy for yourself how CatBinLady’s impulses repeatedly get her into trouble.  Do yourself a favor and start from her first tweet:  CatBinLady

***Update***The Author of CatBinLady comes forward!  Enjoy more comedy writing from him if you will!

Who is that masked man?

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Alphabetically Last, But Stylistically First

So, having a scroll through the most recent entries on this here blog, I notice that it’s been a while since I’ve done any nature-lovin’.  I like to keep things shuffling along here through my blog categories.  So, I had a think about which weird, unusual, or exciting beastie or natural phenomenon I could celebrate today.  I’ve settled on zebras.

Why zebras, why now?  Well, to be honest, I think it’s because I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption.  For those of you that don’t game, RDR is sort of like Grand Theft Auto but in the old west.  You play a bounty hunter looking to right some wrongs and you get to explore quite a large sandbox-type area.  There’s  the big mission of stopping your old gang-leader, a real bad guy, once and for all.  But, there’s all sorts of side missions you can set out on as well.  You can play poker, collect bounties on wanted-criminals, rescue kittens from trees, all sorts.  But, one of the best aspects of the game is that you get to form a sort of bond with your horse.  And you have to make sure you respect and treat it well, feed it apples if it gets tired, protect it from gunfire and theft…etc…I like my video game horse.  A lot!  Her name is Cookie.

Horses are cool.  You know what else was/is cool?  The 1980s.  And optical illusions.  You know what animal can comfortably fit in all three categories?  That’s right, today’s great thing:

143.  Zebras

Yes, the stripey equid whose visage is used so easily in both optical illusions AND early 80’s minimalist decor.  I’m sure you’re already sold on zebras without me elaborating.  You’re no dummy!   But, since I have to pad out this blog entry a little bit, let me explain further.

First of all, zebras have one up on horses because of their hairstyle.  They have a mohawk style mane that sticks straight up.  They are the punk rock to the horse family’s emo.  The Clash vs My Chemical Romance.

Each stripey design is unique.  Though I’m not sure how we can be soooo certain that no two zebras are alike.  I mean, can anyone claim to having seen all the world’s zebras ever?  It’s like in Napolean Dynamite when Napolean states that the video they’re watching (Uncle Rico’s greatest football passes) is the world’s worst ever.  Kit astutely counters:  “Napolean, like anyone could even know that.”

Whilst I’m not immediately buying into every zebras stripe pattern being wholly original, I will recognize the science behind the fact that they are split into three main zebra species.  I mean, I’m not a climate-change denier or anything.  I believe stuff that’s provable.  The three are:  Grevy’s, Mountain, and Plains zebras.  There are some subspecies under each species heading, but I don’t have all day, so let’s just look at the main three, shall we?

Here are pics of each one.  Threebras.  Can you tell the difference?

Grevy's

Mountain Zebra

Plains Zebra

Yeah, I can’t really either.  And, no matter how hard I stare, I can only see the vase.  I can’t see the two faces.  But, from what I can glean, there are a few ways to spot the differences.  Grevy’s zebras are the biggest.  This only works as an indicator if you have all three zebras lined up in a row, I suppose.  They also have the thinnest stripes, which are very flattering and slimming.  They usually have a thicker stripe on their back that goes all the way to their tail.    Mountain zebras have a dewlap (a sort of turkey-neck flap).   Plains (or Burchell’s) zebras frequently have lighter colored stripes in between the darker ones.  These are called ‘shadow strips’.  So, now you know how to tell one zebra from the next.  Just like a professional zebra guy.

If not ravaged by a lion, shot by poachers, or starved due to drought, a zebra can live for up to forty years.  They are fairly social (they will slow their pace to accommodate sick herd members and will seek out lost any zebra that gets lost) and most species keep to family groups of about 5-20 but that family group can be part of a herd of up to 1000 zebras.  It’s making my eyes hurt to think about it.

The name ‘zebra’ actually comes from the Portuguese word ‘zevra’ which refers to a wild ass.  (The donkey sort, not Ted Nugent.)  Why the Portuguese got to name them, we may never know.  But, Scrabble-players everywhere are grateful for their selection.

Though they are reportedly near impossible to train, they were occasionally used in ancient Roman times to pull two-wheeled carts for Circus Maximus exhibitions.   Apparently, Lord Rothschild had one too.  But that guy was mega rich.  I mean, he had a private zoo before Michael Jackson had one. They are also sometimes captured and used for Merry-Go-Rounds.

Stripes not providing camouflage so much...

I’d run straight for the zebra on the carousel when I was kid.  (Who picks the benches?  What are those even for?).  But, even I have to admit that if I saw either of these two options, I’d be tempted:

Landshark!

Flippin' seahorse!!

Sadly, there are two other major species of zebra that have either been already hunted to extinction or are very near that tragic precipice.  The first is the Quagga.  The quagga was mercilessly poached for its hide and meat and they have vanished from the face of the earth.  They are currently trying to re-breed it back into existence.  Boo humans…Yay science!

I was real once.

The other subspecies facing extinction, is popular chewing gum spokeszebra–Yipes.

Seen here, snowboarding, Yipes the Zebra needs our help.  The deliciously tangy and fruity gumsticks  that he shills are a real rarity nowadays.  So, if you see some, please make sure and buy a pack.  Every little helps.

I'm an ungulate. To the extreme!!!

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