29 March 2007

The Hyrax is not a Cookie

The hyrax (pictured, left) is only tangentially related to this article in today's New York Times -- but it gives me an excuse to put in a little blurb about one of my favorite animals in the entire world. Why is it one of my favorites? I dunno.

The article offers a fascinating look at the speed with which mammals diverged when they were given relatively free reign (once the dinosaurs bit the big one). Apparently, this mammalian "explosion" started later and took longer than previously thought.

27 March 2007

The Healing Powers of Cats

I'm sick. Thanks to my significant other (Influenza Matt) I caught the flu bug he had over the weekend. So, for the first time in more than a decade, I have the flu (or a reasonable facsimile). And, for the first time in nearly 1.5 years, I had to call in sick to work.

So, after a rather unpleasant evening of vomiting (always fun) Monday, and a completely sleepless night, I spent the entire day in bed today -- and right there by my side for most of the day was our little kitty Eero (illustrated).

Eero is not the first cat I have had who has done this. Our lovely cat Eames stayed on my bed two entire days when I had a urinary tract infection (also pleasant).

Why do cats do this?

It is that they have some special empathetic bond with humans, where Eero knows I am sick and wants to provide me sympathy and comfort?

Is it that, because of my fever, my body is much warmer; and, therefore, more inviting?

Or is it something more sinister? Knowing I am ill, and death may be approaching, she wants to stick by me to get those choice meaty bits once
my heart stops beating -- something like a repeat of the Marie Prevost story?

[Illustration of our lovely cat Eero, by Influenza Matt.]

23 March 2007

UPDATE: Pet Food Recall

This is really tragic. It seems the pet food was tainted by rat poison. Is it even remotely possible something like this could have happened by accident?

22 March 2007

Everything New is Really Old

There is a push on by advertisers to integrate advertising right into television programs. As I understand it, images would first appear on a prop being used in the show (like a television set) then grow larger and fill the screen -- presumably while the plot of the show continues to unfold.

This is obscene.

The greatest invention of the 20th century was TiVo. Enabling me to speed through the vast wasteland of commercials is the greatest gift given to humankind -- greater even, I assert, than fire.

And then it gets weird.

You know I love vintage radio drama and comedy -- radio shows from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s (with a smattering of 1960s and later thrown in).

Back in the early days of radio, sketches (and, sometimes, entire scripts) were written around products being hocked by the company that sponsored the show. There are bits about a character having trouble with her linoleum being told of the advantages of a certain floor wax ("Fibber McGee and Molly"), smokers being told that they should switch to a smoother cigarette (later episodes of "The Jack Benny Show"), cast members extolling the virtue of a certain toothpaste ("The Bob Hope Show").

This was not the exception, this was the rule.

And it gets even weirder: I love some of those old commercials. Why is that?

The difference between those old radio commercials and commercializing today's television programs is that the TV ads are so damned boring. Yawn, yawn, yawn. On radio, those ads were often funnier than the rest of the show. Jack Benny and his writers made an art of insulting the product, making fun of it, so much so that sales for Jell-o (the show's first major sponsor) jumped virtually overnight. The commercials were funny and, therefore, memorable, enjoyable and half the fun of listening.

If today's advertising agencies could come up with a way of making these television product placements funny, I might change my mind.


19 March 2007

Wabbit Season

Why do I always get choked up when I read stories like this about a desperate, last-ditch effort to save a nearly extinct species of rabbit?

Why? I wish I knew.

Could you please send along your good thoughts to the people involved in this project? The last thing we need on this planet is the loss of yet another species.

More about the pygmy rabbit (pictured) will be found

18 March 2007

Pet Food Recall

A very important recall of cat and dog food is reported here.

More on "Planet Earth"

Two million dollars an episode?

I guess the BBC / Discovery Channel mini-series "Planet Earth" is going to be even cooler than I first imagined.

A really fascinating look behind the scenes will be found in
this New York Times article.

16 March 2007

Now, It's Just "CR"

More people who have heart attacks survive longer when life savers leave out the "P" in "CPR."

A new Japanese study confirms that it is more effective to do chest compressions alone -- without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation -- because a person's blood is oxygenated enough to last for several minutes.

This is good news for those people who may fear infectious disease -- and, thus, not want to volunteer to do CPR.

The article will be found

14 March 2007

Planet, um, Earth?

It's not like the good people at the Discovery Channel need anything like help from me to publicize their 800-part mini-series "Planet Earth." They've got commercials here, print ads there, and a dvd in our most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly -- as well as every single thing you see whenever you look anywhere around you. Yes, that's all it: Planet Earth.

I don't know that I will watch all 623 installments of this gargantuan series, but I do want to see the episode featuring the Guanaco (pictured).

More about the 278-part miniseries will be found

Set your Tivos because it all starts Sunday, 25 March.

13 March 2007

Will and Grace

Say what you will about Leni Riefenstahl -- and plenty of people have -- she is truly deserving of her place in cinematic history for her seminal documentaries including, but in no way limited to "Olympia" (pictured) and "Triumph of the Will."

Was she a Nazi sympathizer? Who knows? And, frankly, who cares? A lot of people thought the Nazis had the right idea, just like a lot of people thought Communists had the right idea, or any number of other political fancies that enjoyed their moment in the sun. That history has shown us otherwise is no reason to dismiss her talent.

A very interesting article in today's New York Times details two new biographies, the woman, the controversies, and the art.

While the radio work of Edward R. Murrow is what made me want to be a broadcast journalist, "Triumph of the Will" is what made me want to create documentaries. Disagree with the politics all you want, you cannot disagree with its power.

The books are: Leni Riefenstahl: A Life and Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl.

10 March 2007

To Be Humane is To Be Human

The Arizona Humane Society is celebrating 50 years of caring for animals this year. Between us, Matt and I have been contributors to the society for about 20 of those years -- and adopters, having acquired our recent cat, Eero, from them in October.

Last year, we had to euthanize our fantastic cat Eames, who was the star of our children's book,
Mama Cat. It was a sad time for us.

We decided to make a special donation to the Arizona Humane Society to remember our cat, and his role in our book. We sponsored two trees on the main campus in south Phoenix (pictured). We got to pick our trees, and had special plaques made. There are many other ways to remember special animals or people, shown

I hope you love animals as much as we do, and will consider donating to your local humane society -- or the
national organization.

09 March 2007

We Don't Need No Stinking Daylight Savings Time!

Ever wonder why Arizona does not "Spring forward" or "Fall back"? Of course you do. Here is a pretty good look at what happened in the 1960s when we tried it. I am old enough (just barely) to remember this experiment -- and it was a nightmare.

So, yes, we don't go on Daylight Savings Time, 'cause we have plenty o' daylight to spare.

05 March 2007

Long Live Beauty -- and ONLY Beauty!

It is pretty sad when the value of something is determined solely by how "beautiful" it is: If a person is ugly, s/he has no value. If a building is ugly, tear it down. If an animal is ugly then let it go extinct.

This kind of thinking makes me sick to my stomach and embarrassed to be a human being. There are plenty of things that might not fit someone's definition of "beauty" that serve a great purpose.

No matter which side you are on regarding the "god" issue, there is no reason for any animal to be allowed to go extinct.

If you believe in "god," then you are bad-mouthing a creature created by him/her -- and who are you?

If you do not believe, then you understand that animals have evolved to fit into a certain cycle in nature, and any animal removed from the cycle will damage the entire cycle. Either way, no animal should be allowed to go extinct.

I certainly hope the writer at Slate magazine who wrote
this little piece was trying to make fun of people who call the aye-aye (pictured) ugly and want it to go extinct -- and not advocating it himself.

[Thanks to Matt for this tip.]

03 March 2007

UPDATE: Wild Animals

An update to my web log entry of 01 March 2007 courtesy of an Associated Press article published today:

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health has pulled its report on an incident at Sea World last year. The report suggested it was only a matter of time before someone at Sea World got killed by one of its whales.

The article can be read

01 March 2007

Wild Animals Are Not Pets

I don't want to sound harsh, but wild animals are not pets. I love animals of all kinds, and have a very healthy respect for those animals that might injure or kill me just by doing what comes naturally for them.

article in today's Los Angeles Times talks about a recent incident at San Diego's Sea World -- and the fact that this kind of thing will happen again. [The article includes a clip of the actual attack.]

Earlier this week, a zoo employee was attacked and killed, as explained in this

I think it is wrong to "train" elephants to "perform," to "train" bears to ride on balls, to have people sticking their heads in the mouths of captive alligators. I even go so far as to think it is wrong to have most animals in a zoo.

While it is true zoos perform a very important function when it comes to helping endangered animals, there is really no reason to have most animals in captivity. I totally understand that captive animals help humans understand them, their needs, the damage being done to their environment, etc. But it is wrong to cage wild animals.