Tag: Cats

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

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Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 963: The Hounds Of Fealty

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Yes, I’m writing about dogs again. Last year saw the earthly departure of Rufus and Yoko, my two loyal – albeit halitosis-heavy – bulldog assistants, and I would be remiss (which is Latin for “an asshole”) if I did not honor their memory with a few feel-good tales of puckish pooches to warm the cockles (which is Latin for “the taint”) of the heart. Luckily, as chock-full as the internet may be with cat pictures, it is similarly packed with tales of loyal canines.

I make no apologies for the fact that I am a dog person. Dogs may not be smarter than cats – though they could be; I distinctly recall some Youtube video in which a dog retrieves a beer from the fridge – but they are more emotionally devoted to their human friends. I love that when I come home every day, my remaining bulldog assistants (Bessie & The Bean, so named for her legume-esque stature) are jubilant to the point of ridiculousness. In my limited experience, cats simply don’t offer that kind of overflow of positive energy.

And devotion. That’s a big one. The loyalty of my slobbery little friends has never truly been tested, but I’m sure it exists. The canine companions who grace today’s page have all demonstrated a form of loyalty that every super-villain dreams of extracting from but one of their grunting minions.

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Any pile of devoted-dog stories must contain a customary bow to Hachiko, the Akita owned by University of Tokyo professor Hidesaburo Ueno. Every afternoon, Hachiko would show up at Shibuya Station to await Ueno’s train. In May 1925, only about a year into their relationship, Ueno suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and never made it home. Hachiko showed up anyway, and proceeded to pop in to the station at the exact same time every day to await his master’s return. For almost ten more years. Read more…

Day 849: From Bark To Boom – The Unflinching Spirit Of Our Animal Military

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James Joyce once said that one’s writing should inevitably become the pool of one’s deepest confessions. Actually he didn’t, but that sounded like a plausible opening sentence and it conveniently nudges me into the first point I want to make, which is a confession. It’s true that, for a brief but notable time when I was young, I honestly believed that animals assisted in the performance of numerous household chores during the prehistoric era, just like on The Flintstones. I didn’t think they made sassy remarks – I was gullible, not an idiot – but I could picture an elephant helping out with the dishes.

In reality, animals have been used to help out with human tasks for most of our history. Oxen and donkeys would drag stuff around for us, horses could be posed in comical oversized sunglasses for our amusement, and dogs would sniff our butts and check for worms (that was a big trend during the Renaissance, I believe). These are all well-known practical benefits to having animals around, but animals have also been a huge part of mankind’s most oft-enjoyed task throughout our duration on this planet: blowing each other up.

I’ve already written about great dogs and cats in the military, so today I’m going to open up the proverbial barn doors and check out some of the lesser-known contributors to the war effort. This might be good news for you; if you’ve been having trouble filling the bunks in your compound with die-hard adherents to your militia’s agenda, maybe you can build an army from some of these noble creatures. We’ll start with the big guys.

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At some point in the millennium before year zero (actually, there may not have been a “year zero”, but that’s a discussion for another day), kingdoms in India began utilizing elephants as part of their armies. As Alexander the Great began working his way from Europe through Persia toward India’s doorstep, he encountered numerous foes with war elephants, both to carry heavy equipment and to charge at the enemy. Read more…

Day 637: Great White Way-Out Trivia

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As the lack of such topics on this site may indicate, I am not a raving fan of Broadway musicals. I’ve seen some that I quite liked and other that were Cats, but they just aren’t my thing. Naturally, I married someone who teaches musical theatre for a living. So in much the same way my wife now begrudgingly cares about Peyton Manning’s passer rating, I too can admit to having truly enjoyed a handful of the musicals that without her, I probably would have avoided.

So today I’m passing off the mic to that oh-so-fabulous inner voice of mine which has been moved to a whooping frenzy in the quivery afterglow of an outstanding Broadway show.

In some ways, a performance in a musical can be the absolute pinnacle of showing off one’s thespian chops. I’ll always be more of a movie guy than a theatre guy, but ultimately I’m an arts guy. I’ll applaud anyone who blows brains to the back of their skulls (metaphorically of course) through their art. So in that spirit, here’s a smattering of facts that even my non-theatre-loving friends might enjoy.

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Rent, based on Puccini’s La bohème (though more rockish and less opera-y, to put it in industry terms), was set to debut off-Broadway on January 25, 1996. Jonathan Larson, the writer who had poured his impassioned soul and frothy guts into the musical, died suddenly that morning of an aortic dissection, the tragic result of an undiagnosed genetic disorder. He was literally hours away from seeing his vision open up in front of a New York crowd, one that would wind up praising the hell out of the show. Read more…

Day 540: Be A Hip Cat, Be A Ship’s Cat, Somewhere, Anywhere

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I try not to pay close attention to how many sets of eyes look at my site every day. Sure, WordPress keeps track of that, and sometimes it’s interesting when a particular article causes a spike of interest, but for the most part I choose my topics based on what interests me.

Still, there are ways of attracting web traffic without sacrificing my desire for a good story. First off, there’s porn. I could write a good history of pornography, pepper it with photos of dinks and butts and boobs akimbo, but I have kids who read this site. I don’t want to trash my PG-13 rating, at least not until I hit day 950 or so. Then shit might get real.

The other sure-fire internet draw is cats. Cats are all over the damn web, like snot on a kindergarten class door handle. As a life-long dog person, I have learned to accept this. Besides, some cats are deserving of their fame. Like the great ship’s cats of history.

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Cats have been keeping humans company for the better part of 9500 years, and from the time the first ships dipped their curious wooden hulls into the waiting brine of nautical exploration, a feline presence was perpetually seen as a welcome thing. They kept the rats at bay, caught birds along the shore, and even spread themselves around the globe, populating newly discovered ports and just generally rubbing up against stuff. Read more…

Day 526: Spitting In The Face Of June’s Holidaylessness

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We are almost a third of the way through the month of June, and it occurred to me that I have neglected to provide us with our monthly observances, our reasons to celebrate something… anything. Two days ago I wrote a piece on National Doughnut Day, but that won’t be enough to get me through June. This is one of those cruel months without a calendar holiday (in North America, anyway) to grant us respite from work. So we’ve got to raise our glasses to something.

Luckily, June does not disappoint. If any of these commemorations are near and dear to your heart, call in sick and stick it to the she-bitch of June. Let yourself have a day of rest, a day to enjoy your life. And if I missed your favorite because I’m nine days late and was more focused on writing about a super-spy on June 1, then you have my apologies. The following group of semi-holidays are all still on the horizon.

Take at least one of them as a holiday. I won’t tell.

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Here’s one you won’t want to miss. Go skateboarding on Go Skateboarding Day, June 21st. This day was organized in 2004 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies. The IASC is a trade organization that wants to remind you that those kids your mother is afraid of walking near in the grocery store parking lot are not indicative of the entire world of skateboarding. Millions of skaters around the world participate in organized events, showing off their skills and rubbing it in the faces of those lame-ass inline skaters who have yet to secure a Congressionally-approved national holiday. Read more…

Day 312: Sennett Kops To Komedy

There once was a time when this was the pinnacle of cinematic comedy:

That’s the delightful 30-second family romp known as Cats Boxing, directed by Thomas Edison back in 1894, exactly a hundred years before our culture decided that the height of comedy was captured in Dumb And Dumber and The Flintstones Movie. Not sure if we really leapt forward here, especially since the biggest punchline on the Internet is that cats do stuff.

My point is that eventually, someone had to come up with a way to tell a comedic story in a way that went beyond goofy images. No one had figured out how to make motion pictures talk yet, but they had come a long way in stretching the length of a reel from a few seconds to around 8-12 minutes. They had learned about proper lighting, and how to stage a story for a camera, as opposed to a live audience.

It was really only a matter of time before somebody unlocked the magical secret to comedic brilliance on film: that people falling down is funny. And the guy who figured it out – if not first, then best – was this guy:

Read more…