Is it too soon for another rant?

Okay folks, I know it’s early for yet another rant but I can’t help myself.  This latest “shake my head moment” is brought to you courtesy of a news article that just crossed my desk.

Remember the entry I just posted about a zoo’s worth?  And the one prior to that about the fiasco at the Copenhagen Zoo?  Well, it just gets better and better.  Apparently a zoo in Switzerland recently euthanized a healthy brown bear cub to make a point that “nature is cruel.”   I’m including the article below (click on the photo). In addition to making a point, the zoo also claims that the mother has rejected the cub and the father mauled the cub’s sibling and since they were allowing nature to take its course, they decided to euthanize the cub because with all things equal, it would surely die in the wild.

Now, I may be wrong (I’m wrong a lot), but from what I remember of documentary shows on brown bears, the parents do not raise a cub together. In fact, the only time brown bears co-habitat (usually) is when a mother is with her cub or cubs. So if they’re so concerned about the natural order of things, why is the male in with the female and cubs in the first place? It should just be the mother and her cubs. The male’s absence would surely negate any worry over mauling, right? Not to mention the female is probably depressed and rejected the cub because 1) her other cub just died a horrible death and 2) she’s living in an unnatural habitat with an unnatural family unit.

Here’s the kicker.  This zoo, which is so determined to do things naturally, hand-raised the parents of this cub.  Hand-raised. Because that’s soooo natural.  Why couldn’t they do the same for the cub? Simply remove it from the family unit where it was at risk and hand-raise it. They obviously have the experience and capability (as proven by the cub’s parents). Well, that’s where the “let’s make a point that nature is cruel” philosophy comes in.

Yep. Makes sense to me.

Click for news article

Click for news article




Another Rant — or What is a Zoo’s Worth?

For someone who walks around with animal well-being on the brain all day it should come as no surprise that the concept of a zoo stirs up some strong emotions. Most of us have fond memories of going to the zoo on a school trip and seeing some of the most amazing animals the world has to offer. I know that I’ve always loved the zoo. Never did we consider the conditions the animals were being kept in, the possible struggle they feel being kept in a small pen when their DNA is screaming for acres of open land, or the lack of social stimulation they have by restricting their interactions with others of their species.

Through one prism a zoo is just like a prison. The only difference is that the animals didn’t do anything to be there. They’re not convicted felons, arsonists, thieves, and rapists. And yet I feel like they’re treated similarly to an extent. Many zoos around the world are poorly maintained and these innocent animals suffer for it.  A prime example of course is the Copenhagen Zoo. The brilliant officials running that place thought it was best to kill a giraffe simply because they had over-bred/inbred their giraffe family.  The giraffe’s genes were too similar to the other giraffes in the breeding program therefore it wouldn’t be wise to continue mashing those chromosomes together. This was not the giraffe’s fault. It did not ask to be the child of a small gene pool. Regardless, it was punished as if it did make the choice to be incompatible. A cruel and pointless death of a perfectly healthy creature.

Likewise, the very same zoo mismanaged their lion pride and killed four healthy lions (two older males and two cubs) to bring in one younger male who was apparently ready to knock up a lioness immediately and would’ve killed the cubs in no time. I’m guessing the idea to perhaps…oh I don’t know…separate the cubs and new male just didn’t cross the officials’ minds.  Or even better, leave their pride as it was, intact.  But it came down to money and the cubs’ lives simply were not profitable. Sadly, this zoo is not an exception to the rule.  Copenhagen is just one of the only ones to get caught.

elephants at Philly Zoo

elephants at Philly Zoo

Breeding aside, the everyday lives the animals endure are something of a concern as well. Giving a polar bear a pool of water big enough to fit maybe two of them is not the equivalent of being “free.”  It’s not even the illusion of freedom. Do you know how far a polar bear can swim? How far zebras and elephants can walk? It’s in their nature to roam and the zoo puts a tight lid on that. Nothing about the way they live is natural. Their food is handed to them. Their mates are introduced at specific times. They’re constantly surrounded by people pointing and yelling at them. And we wonder why they pace in circles all day long.

polar bear at Philly Zoo

polar bear at Philly Zoo

Zoo advocates can easily say that they may be getting the best, most nutritious food available. That the animals are never in danger of being hunted. That by taking them out of nature they are essentially given a life free of stress. But it’s a known fact that animals in captivity (especially larger animals) get depressed and while their lifespan may be longer I have reservations regarding it being more pleasant. In some instances the depression and/or lack of activity leads to chronic illness.  So while they live a long life, is a life in captivity a fair exchange for a few more years?  It’s hard to say.

leopard at Philly Zoo

leopard at Philly Zoo

On the other hand, some zoos have excellent programs focusing on saving endangered species. Other zoos take in wounded animals that would have died if left in the wild. For example, the San Francisco zoo houses two bald eagles, both of which were found near the brink of death (one is missing its right wing) but are now basking in the California sunshine rather than turning into compost. There is a zoo in Virginia that is strictly a rescue zoo taking in animals that have been injured and subsequently rehabilitated.  It’s a small zoo, but hey, the animals in their care would otherwise be dead because they certainly wouldn’t make it on their own in the wild.

Zoos also give children the chance to see exotic animals up close, hopefully creating a stronger bond (and therefore empathy) between human and animal that might carry over into a growing affinity for participating in conservation efforts….an extremely important cause. Plus, if not for a zoo, where else would most kids get the chance to see a hippo in real life?

In a perfect world we would have wild-life sanctuaries or nature preserves for all the endangered species but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen. Actually, in a perfect world, there would be no endangered species because we, as humans, wouldn’t have continually destroyed the habitat of so many fellow creatures (but that’s a rant for another day).  In lieu of wide-spread sanctuaries or nature preserves, if a zoo is truly well run, well maintained and well-managed maybe it’s a good thing.

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy going to the zoo. Certain ones anyway. Unfortunately there are too many zoos that aren’t kept up to the standards I think they should be held to. I feel they need to be strictly monitored but even so, even if the animals are ensured safety by living in this fake habitat; is that worth the cost of their freedom? Ask yourself this: If you could check into a hotel for the rest of your life, all food is paid for, no charge, but you could never leave (hmm…that reminds me of a song), would that be a fair deal? Oh, and people can look in your windows whenever they want. Sound good? No? So then what’s the cost of your freedom? It’s a difficult question.  I certainly don’t have the answer to it.

penguins at Philly Zoo

penguins at Philly Zoo

The 9th Circle of Hell — More Commonly Known as the Women’s Room

Allow me to lift the veil (or better yet skirt in this case) on one of the most prolific and powerful myths that has been perpetuated for eons. I hate to say it, ladies, but sometimes you disgust me. On the street we (at least most of us) look very polished, very nice. Every strand of hair in place, every brush of makeup well measured. One may believe that the clean, orderly way we portray ourselves is also reflected in the environment we use to get to this level of admiration. That is the myth. In reality, the women’s restroom is a disaster zone. Men’s rooms, from what I’ve heard, are no day at the spa either, but at least that’s expected. Men are gross. They burp and scratch themselves in public. They have hair growing haphazardly out of their necks, ears and knuckles. No one expects a men’s room to smell like peaches. Well, the same goes for the women’s room.  While our own private bathrooms might be a neat and clean oasis, the public bathrooms we share are disorderly mud pits.

Whenever I have to enter a public toilet there’s a full, rigorous checklist of safety precautions I have to stick to so I don’t touch anything that might make me ill (figuratively as well as literally). I have to tentatively clean the seat in a way where I don’t actually touch the bowl. This would be necessary because the seat tends to be covered in…shall we say “spray.” After that, I have to be extremely careful about where I place my feet because the floor is always, always covered in puddles of God only knows what. I try to keep my pants from touching any part of the porcelain (because who wants whatever that is dripping off the side to rub off on their pants!) and if the situation is really bad, I just hover over the toilet so that no part of me or my clothing makes any real contact with the soiled contraption at all. Of course when all is said and done, I flush with my foot because there’s absolutely no way I’m grabbing onto something another woman may have after touching her nether regions…or worse.

It’s a circus act, really. I have to rely on keen eyesight, balance, coordination, and spatial orientation just so I don’t accidentally end up with some other women’s mess splotched on my clothing. And that’s just in the stall! Leaving the bathroom is like becoming a doctor about to enter a sterile surgery. After I scrub down my hands, I hold them up in front of my chest, bent at the elbows, so I can use one of the elbows to push on the door handle to exit this God forsaken hell hole.

Men always wonder why women go to the bathroom in pairs. They think it’s so we can talk about how the date is going or chat about that woman at the other table or maybe some other random gossip while gussying ourselves up again. No! We go because venturing into a public bathroom requires help. It’s a tandem act of Cirque de Soleil proportions…that is, if you want to make it out feeling at least somewhat confident that you’re not any dirtier than when you went in.

Don’t let our style, poise and polished exterior fool you guys. Women are disgusting creatures.

My mother is driving me crazy

I know it’s been a few days since my last post — my sincere apologies for anyone who may have been waiting with bated breath to see what I’ll come up with next.  My mother, my best friend, had a stroke this past week and it has had me somewhat distracted. With many heartfelt thanks to whatever gods may be, she is going to be okay.

But at least she learned one thing from all of this — you cannot call someone, tell them you’ve had a stroke, and then break down on the phone unable to speak coherently as you hand the phone off to Dad. I mean, you had a stroke.  And now you can’t talk.   That’s the sort of thing that prompts an all out car race to see just how fast one can get to your hospital bed (regardless of having been told it’s not necessary to make an appearance).  But….we all live and learn. Thankfully.


Yes, Online Friends Are Real Friends

I don’t think that being in the same room with someone automatically makes them closer to me. Closer physically, sure, but they don’t have more access to my emotions or my vulnerabilities because they can step on my foot. So when someone says that there’s a difference between “real” friends and “online” friends, I call baloney. Is geography really the main determining factor between whether someone can technically be a friend? In my opinion, and I believe the opinion of many others who are getting more and more comfortable with applications such as Skype, absolutely not.

Both of my kids have friends in other states and countries that they’ve never shaken hands with, but they talk on Skype, share their lives with each other, and have forged close bonds because of this. The fact that they haven’t been able to high-five over a completed level of Halo hasn’t diminished anything. Because they’ve only conversed via video chat doesn’t make them less of friends.

I, myself, have made some strong friendships with people I’ve met online. They care about me and I care about them, even though we’ve never been in the same room. If they were to ask me for help I would give it to them as strongly as if it were a similar friend from around the block. They would do the same for me.

Isn’t that the real meaning of friendship? Not that we share a zip code, but that we care for each other. That we look out for one another. That we offer each other support. Online friend or not, I believe that once you give and receive kindness that’s it—friendship has been achieved.


Wedded Bliss

It’s unfortunate that this is a not-very-odd conversation these days:

Friend 1: Did you hear? Sue and Jeff are getting divorced?

Friend 2: Wow, how long have they been married?

Friend 1: Five years!

Friend 2: Well, at least they gave it all they had.

Yes, friends, sadly people these days hold on to cars and computers longer than they do marriage licenses. In the days when so-called role models treat “commitment” with less respect than a pinky swear (Britney Spears’ marriage, 55 hours. Kim Kardashian’s second marriage, 72 days) what couple can be expected to last long enough to see if the seven-year itch actually exists?

My parents, that’s who. This past Sunday played double duty in my family – it was Father’s Day but it was also my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary.  That’s right.  54 years.  If you’ve never read the “The Lockhorns” comic strip before, do yourself a huge favor and Google it (or click on the picture below). You’ll quickly get the premise:  an old married couple that does nothing but complain about each other, but in their insults is a special kind of love (you have to look deep, but it’s there, I swear). My parents, they’re my live action version of The Lockhorns; the sort of couple that practices the Old School style of marriage. The kind where they may bicker and nag and nit-pick and groan through each and every day, but when one of them holds out their hand, the other is still there to grab it. They’re like those cute salt and pepper shaker sets that fit together. My Dad makes my Mom’s daily coffee.  My Mom makes my Dad’s fishing trip lunches. They just go together. Not to mention they’ve developed a sort of non-verbal, thought-reading kind of communication that is amazing to witness.

Over half a century with one person is definitely something to admire but it’s made even more so given the throwaway society we seem to live in. Whatever their secret, be it love or simply tolerance or a smooth balance of both, my parents are an inspiration. Happy 54th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Zombie School

I think it’s safe to say that for the past few years America has been falling in love with zombies all over again. As the age of consumerism continues to spiral out of control and more of us are plastered to our phone screens regardless of if we’re walking, driving, on the bus, in a meeting, waiting for someone to come out of the bathroom, having a cigarette, can’t fast forward our DVR, (the list goes on, you get the point) it’s no wonder that The Walking Dead is such a hit. Every day we get a touch more zombified while simultaneously hypnotized by our ability to send and receive information from across the globe at faster rates. The metaphor is very strong right now.

World War Z was more of a financial success than anyone thought given the disastrous coverage it received while filming. And Max Brooks’ career has been wildly successful with his string of novels (both mainstream and graphic) detailing what the hell we need to do should the dead decide they weren’t all that tired anymore.

So it should come as no surprise what I’ve recently seen…in the news. Apparently it is newsworthy to report on new businesses that offer zombie survival seminars. Yes, for just a few hundred dollars you can attend a one-night or weekend long session that teaches you the hands-on skills you need to outwit and defeat the undead. How is this news exactly? If they reported on unicorn riding lessons or magic carpet driving schools would we still think of our local news as a legitimate source of reporting?

Then again…maybe they know something we don’t and that’s why they’re pushing the class (a rumor that the CDC has been re-animating mouse cells?). Since there are apparently at least a few classes available from different pretty clever (or shrewd?) entrepreneurs, it must be something that people are seriously considering. Now I’m wondering if there’s something I don’t know. Did I not get the memo? I will be seriously embarrassed if I’m sitting at home one day eating some Captain Crunch and reading a book when the zombies come and I’m the only fool to get killed because everyone else had a heads up and were already halfway to the desert.

I guess if some authority, say the Secretary of Defense were to come on TV and announce, “Hey everyone, zombies are on the way. You have two weeks til the shit hits the fan” I’d be willing to take a class. Or maybe, as my daughter suggests, we should take the class “just in case.”  As with so many things in life …you just never know.

But if we’re thinking about this realistically then what good can this class actually do? Have we ever once in our existence encountered a real zombie? Sure there have been a ton of movies, shows, stories, and debates about them, but as of today they’re about as real as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus (sorry kids).

That being said, how do these schools know what actually kills zombies? The “shoot ‘em in the head thing” was made up (by a director) because it makes a good visual, but in actuality it makes zero sense. All I’m saying is that all we know about dealing with zombies are taken from B movies, cult classics, and popular TV shows. Not exactly what I’d call experts in the field (because there is no field to begin with). So if the bullet to the brain doesn’t work then what? And what if the zombies run faster in real life than they do in the movies? That would put a serious kink in my plan (which has always involved just walking away at a brisk pace).

The classes that were advertised…um…I mean reported on…seem to concentrate on the “old school” zombies—the lumbering, stupid, brain-munching ones that move about 1-mph.  Well, what if none of the techniques they teach in class work?  I’m sure it’d be the farthest thing from my mind if I did take the class then one unholy day find out that they were way off base, but still…if I survived the apocalypse, I better be getting a refund.