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Killing…in the name of what!?

I have a question for you, so I’ll just toss it out there: Is the act of killing ever justified?  I’m not just talking about killing people, but killing anything. Is trapping something, using it for your own needs, and explicitly erasing its existence after it has served its purpose, a justifiable act? Is that ever okay? I’m sure that most of you, and hopefully ALL of you, are shaking your heads. Perhaps you are even thinking: No, killing is never, an acceptable resolution.

Apparently, not everyone thinks this way. Meet Christopher Filardi. He does not agree with you. In fact, not only does he believe that killing is a-okay and completely justifiable in the right circumstances, he’ll go one even further and kill an endangered species if the poor creature should be unfortunate enough to cross his path.

I know what you’re thinking: Damned hunters. However, Filardi’s not a hunter with an unquenchable bloodlust. Instead, he’s actually the Director to Pacific Programs at the American Museum of Natural History. Yes, now here is the part where you scratch your head and wonder how a man, who should be protecting scientific breakthroughs, is instead killing them. Filardi is a scientist, and his most recent contribution to the planet was capturing an amazingly rare bird, taking samples of it, and then euthanizing it!

If you’re getting a bit hot under the collar, or you’re starting to curl your hands into fists, and your teeth are starting to grind as you think of his callous dispatching of a bird that had never even been photographed before this moment, then maybe his side of the story will soothe you (spoiler alert: it probably won’t).  I’m not the only one that has been upset about this turn of events, and I don’t mean just the public either. Filardi’s actions have apparently divided the scientific community as well.

According to Mr. Malarkey—I mean, Mr. Filardi—there are somewhere around 4,000 of these birds on the island they’re confined to. This rock solid number must be based on actual evidence, like sightings, droppings, shed feathers, individual song counts, and stuff like that, right? Nope. He’s pulling that number right out of his you know what, based on how many of these birds he thinks the habitat can sustain.

That’s like looking at an apartment building and guessing how many people are inside, assuming that every unit is occupied. But as we know in the real world, there are some buildings that are nearly empty. There are some buildings that are well past capacity. The point is, what an area can hold is by no means an indication of what is actually inside.

Not to mention, after spending 20 some years looking for one of these birds, you’d think if there were 4,000 of these little buggers flying around on an isolated island, he’d have run across a few long before now, right?

Well, to be clear, from his own follow-up article (which reeks of “methinks thou doth protest too much”) where he tries to explain why he killed the rare bird, here’s how he came up with that lofty figure…apparently during his expedition on the island, he “estimate[ed] three pairs and possible offspring” in the research area by how many calls the team heard. At one point, they “detected” three of these birds in a glen…presumably by their calls, since he would have said “observed” or “caught sight of” or something similar if they had been seen.

So. After searching the whole island, he didn’t manage to actually see any birds, but instead heard maybe a total of six.  And this is of course assuming his team could differentiate the varying calls (I bring this up, not to question their credentials, but rather because the bird’s calls are not well-known, so mistakes could easily be made I would think).  In fact, with the captured bird, Filardi made the first ever recording of a male Guadalcanal Moustached Kingfisher’s call.

Okay, so…from the 6 birds (detected from calls, not sight), Filardi then calculated a population of 4,000 birds based on his own assumptions regarding the total suitable habitat. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, this is not especially strong evidence on which to justify the killing of one of perhaps only six birds actually observed to exist.

He also takes the word of the locals on the island and attempts to use it as scientific evidence. The locals have told him that they’re “unremarkably common” to see. However, these people are not expert ornithologists. There have been plenty of times when I thought I saw a fox sparrow and it turned out to be a lark sparrow, or thought I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker and instead it was a red-bellied woodpecker. All I’m saying is that sometimes our eyes deceive us. Passing along an execution sentence based on unreliable eyewitness accounts does not fly inside the court of law, so why should it fly outside? And…AND…we run into the same problem as before…if the birds are so “unremarkably common,” why has it taken 20 some odd years for Filardi or any scientist to capture one?

Official records (you know, using actual data and such) state that there are only 250–1,000 of these birds in existence. I guess that should be adjusted to 249–999.

Well, Mr. Filardi, congratulations! Go you! You got your “unicorn” (the word he himself used to describe the bird he killed). Let’s just hope you don’t run into an actual unicorn or I’m sure its enchanted horn will be sawed off and sitting in a drawer in your museum’s basement not long after the two of you meet.

 

Illustration: J G Keulemans (1842 - 1912), Novitates Zoologicae

Illustration by:   J G Keulemans  (1842 – 1912);  Novitates Zoologicae

 

 

Party Favors

It’s not odd to see a piñata at a kid’s birthday party, right? I know, they’re all the rage. Well how about inviting over all the kids from the neighborhood so they can witness a death?  No? Well, apparently it’s a thing in certain circles.  I read a story about a doting father who put out food to bait a couple of brown bears just so his son could kill something prior to celebrating his 9th birthday with cake and presents. I mean it’s just not a party until the birthday boy kills something. In front of all of his young party-goers no less. Yay! Now it’s a party! Better than a lame old magician any day.  Hell, the birthday boy just made a bear disappear his own self. Happy birthday kid!

Wonder what was in the goody bags?

 

Ahhh...those were the days

Ahhh…those were the days

Under Lock and Key

I just learned there is an app called KeyMe that can make copies of keys using a photograph. The blogger who wrote this article took a photograph of his neighbor’s key in their apartment complex stairwell, had a copy made via the handy dandy KeyMe app, and then later broke into said neighbor’s apartment in a “hey, let’s prove how easy this is” maneuver with the self-made key. Luckily the neighbor was a friend or at least must be, given the blogger wasn’t arrested or shot. And I’m assuming they still are friends after this little exercise in security…or lack thereof.

I must give my heartfelt thanks to Andy Greenberg for bringing this out in the open. I only wish this issue was getting more notice than it is. Although maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the one who has had blinders on. I won’t go into all the details of what the hell would possess a company to create an app like this…Mr. Greenberg does that quite well in his own writing.

What I will bring up, because it’s not mentioned anywhere in the article, is the very important fact that not only is this scary to everyone with regards to being robbed, but for women, it’s frightening on a whole other level in that we now have to worry about keeping our keys under lock and key so as to prevent some creeper who may be suffering a hurt ego, after having his advances rejected, from coming back to our house at a later date and exacting his revenge.

Although credit cards, names, and the like are clearly exchanged in order to get the key made, as mentioned in the article, who would even begin to think that an app like this even exists to KNOW to check with them to find out if that’s how the perpetrator gained access??  I mean, really!? Were any of you aware of such a horribly thought out app?  Or was I the only one in the dark here?

Small Town Problems

So you may or may not have heard of the Village of Whitesboro, New York. But there’s been a heated controversy going on up there that rivals the skills of talented sitcom writers everywhere. Okay, maybe not everywhere. But definitely one specific set of sitcom writers.  I mean, the Parks and Rec crew couldn’t have come up with a better storyline if they tried.

It all centers around a town seal. No, not the horn blowing, smart as anything, cute as a button, yet can be a ferocious predator so stay away from them seals. But rather, a town seal. The kind towns put on their letterhead, their Town Hall, their police cars, their memorabilia, and everything else they widely share in order to let the world know just what kind of people live in their little town. Yeah. That kind of seal.

What could cause such controversy you ask? How could a (normally) boring town seal be such a problem? Well, this particular seal, because Whitesboro didn’t want some lame old seal no one would notice, depicts a white man strangling a Native American “friendly” wrestling match that the town founder, Hugh White, had with the Chief of the Oneida people way back in the day. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, but seriously, who is going to research all of this history when looking at the seal? First impressions, people.  First. Impressions.

And, believe it or not, this is not Pawnee, Indiana as one would expect from the sheer outrageousness of it all. With everything going on, it sure seems like an issue Leslie Knope would find herself valiantly battling, albeit most likely failing, in her small, less than enlightened, town. But unfortunately not. This is real, it’s happening, and it’s the truth of today. Unable to decide for themselves, or you know, do their jobs, the authorities of the town decided to put the decision, of either keeping or redesigning the seal, up to a vote among the citizens.  Who would have guessed that this is how it would end up?

I found it extremely interesting (cause I’m a nerd and do research and find odd things interesting) that what the town is so proud of that they had to go and put it on a seal to begin with is based on a cheat. From their OWN story, as told on their OWN website, it would appear their founder cheated his way to victory on that fateful wrestling day.

From the town’s website:

“He accepted the challenge, took hold of the Indian and by a fortunate trip, succeeded almost instantly in throwing him. As he saw him falling, in order to prevent another challenge, he fell upon the Indian for an instant and it was some moments before he could rise.”

A fortunate trip indeed.  And fearful of a challenge that he knew he would most likely lose, the founder did what any self-respecting politician would do. He took advantage of the situation for his own personal gain. IF this is even close to the truth. Reality may be even less kind to ol’ Hugh White. Nevertheless, good Hugh came out a hero, forever immortalized on a seal for the ages.

And he will be immortalized for the ages, because the town has decided to keep this seal.  When this news story first broke, I thought to myself, it’s okay, the town will surely turn out in droves and vote this ridiculous seal into oblivion. I mean, one would hope that the town could get their act together and vote for one of the many lovely, artistic options that were being offered up as an alternative. I mean, c’mon people. No one wants to see a real life Pawnee in the world. Right?  Right!?

But alas, I was wrong, as I am so often wrong in these matters.  Just 200 steadfast individuals out of the entire 3,000 Whitesboro citizenry bothered to show up on voting day. And their voices were heard loud and clear.

Changing the seal to something that would show their town in a positive light – something their town could be truly proud of – was apparently just not an option for them.

 

Whitesboro Seal

Dark Musings

On May 14, 1998, the Seinfeld show aired its last episode.

This was seventeen years ago, but the plot of the show was incredibly perceptive, both of the characters and society as a whole. And as it turns out – prophetic.

In this episode the four main characters of Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George are spending a few hours in a tiny town in Massachusetts. They witness a mugging from an opposite street corner. Instead of trying to stop it, they simply watch and make jokes because the victim is extremely overweight. In addition, Kramer starts to film the mugging with a camcorder. Then they simply turn and walk away from the scene, completely unconcerned with the fate of the victim.

I have to say that when I watched this episode, my feelings for the foursome changed drastically from like to dislike. I’ve never felt the same about the show since. I mean they were always self-absorbed, one and all, but good grief.

So in the finale (should I say spoiler alert for a show that aired 17 years ago??), the four of them are arrested for violating a “duty to rescue” law (which I don’t think actually exists because really, if it did, our jails would be overflowing even more than they are now) and the rest of the two-part show consists of clips from past episodes showing the utter lack of compassion and empathy that these four friends have shown to the people they’ve interacted with during the ten years of the Seinfeld series’ run. Spoiler alert (ha!). They were found guilty and the karma they had been racking up for the past nine seasons came back to bite them in the ass and they wound up in jail.

Fast forward to today.

There are people today who actually do this – witness a crime or a tragedy and not only do nothing about it but actually whip out their cellphones to record it! Or in the case of the recent fire in Dubai, take a selfie in front of said tragedy (before possibly being able to know if deaths are involved or not).

Go to YouTube and you’ll see thousands of videos like this. Someone getting beat up in a fast food restaurant or on a bus or something of that nature (usually in a big city) and instead of trying to stop it, a bystander films it and uploads it to YouTube. It would be one thing if they filmed it in order to help in the prosecution of the criminal involved, but I think their main reason to film it is to put it on YouTube or their Facebook account! Take this guy for example. He saw a car crash, and since helping is for suckers, he naturally just broke into the smashed up vehicle to record the two dying kids to post on his Facebook page instead and oh, hey, wait…maybe there’s some money to be made here… so according to police, he tried to peddle the recording to news stations.

Seinfeld had an uncanny knack for mirroring society right back at you through the t.v. screen, they just made it funny. In real life it’s not quite so amusing.

We wonder why some people, especially young people, have no empathy or why situations such as rape or bullying might get videotaped but not reported (or god forbid, stopped) as its taking place. I mean, it’s no exaggeration to say the first thought of the majority of the crowd is not, “let’s stop this,” but rather, “hey, did you get that!?” or “whoa, are you getting this!?”  Of course meaning on one’s phone.

I think it’s because our society has created – and is constantly creating – voyeurs and people who are just completely immune to or simply don’t care about tragedy or violence, even when it’s right in front of them. There seems to be little respect for, well…anything anymore. People are taking playful selfies at Auschwitz these days for goodness sake. I hear it’s a “thing.”

I don’t know what the solution is. Stronger laws and more repercussions for heinous acts such as, oh, I don’t know, squeezing into a mangled car to film dying children up-close just to make a buck, would be a good start. It’s easy to say better parenting is the key, but is that it? Is that all it will take? Life is never that simple. As a society shouldn’t we do something? But really, are we even capable of pulling together as a group to create change? Or should we all just resign ourselves to the fact that the world is destined for that long trip waayy south in a hand basket when all is said and done?

Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

Many Western women today don’t realize how easy they’ve got it. Think about it. Up until the 1960s, women were expected to get married, have children, and cater to their husbands, and that was pretty much it. That was their lot in life. Some may have worked “suitable” jobs, but once they got married of course they would quit and devote their lives to their family…which wouldn’t be a bad deal if it was a choice instead of a forced expectation. Women were looked down upon if they wore certain clothes, if they smoked, or if they swore. They were forcibly held back when they tried to achieve more with their lives.

Today, women wear all sorts of clothing, and they smoke and drink if they want to (gasp!). They also have satisfying careers in addition to having families, or instead of. Don’t even get me started on swearing.

But…of course barriers remain. I could talk about the “glass ceiling” at work, and how male supervisors who tell their employees what to do are obeyed as a matter of course, whereas women who do this are viewed as “bossy” (even by other women, by the way). Or how girls endure ridiculous dress codes at school thereby reinforcing the idea that a boy’s education is more important than their own. But that’s a rant for another time! I want to discuss something else.

I just saw this on Facebook, and it has me shaking my head. It’s an ad for a weight loss drink. Maybe it works. Probably doesn’t. I don’t really care. My eye only caught the headline.

weight loss drink ad

My husband said, “Do something about this or I can’t stay.”

The “this” being the woman’s excess weight.

And just what is this ad implying? That if your husband – who probably has his own beer belly which he thinks nothing of – doesn’t want you to be overweight, then by God and by Golly, you’d better lose weight!

Does this sort of “threat” advertising really work? Well, it must…otherwise “they” wouldn’t do it. It’s what advertising folks do, after all, it’s their job, it’s what they get paid the big bucks to do – work to create doubt and even fear in people so that they’ll buy the weight loss products, or the makeup, or this, or that…

Honestly, my first reaction when seeing this ad was WTF?

I mean really, do women still put up with this from their husbands or boyfriends in this day and age?  I’d tell mine to go to hell!  Well…maybe that’s why I’m not still married.  Could explain a lot.

Now, my issue isn’t with the pros and cons of weight loss – I’m most definitely not into fat shaming and I believe everyone should have the peace to live their own life without others judging them. Be healthy, be happy, be yourself.  It’s not up to me – or anyone else, least of all an advertising company – to tell you how to live your life.

The thing is, if you are going to try to sell a weight loss product, is this ad the best way to do it? I just want to know what the stats are on this particular marketing technique.

Personally, even if this stuff actually worked like a charm, which I highly doubt, I’d be more apt to tell any woman reading this ad that if that’s what her husband thinks, she should tell him off instead of ordering this godsend of a diet drink!

I was glad to see I wasn’t alone in my reaction, by the way.  Most of the comments under the advertisement were of the same mind as me.  It was nice to have company as I sat there rubbing my temples and muttering under my breath.

So, yeah.  Maybe someone needs do these Ad Guys a favor and let them know we’re not chattel anymore. That would be good.

Free to Good Home

While I understand the importance of Mom & Pop stores and relish the experience of finding a hidden gem in the aisles of an old, cramped market with squeaky wooden floors, I must admit that I am often very grateful that shopping can be so easy thanks to the Internet. It’s such a vast and comprehensive shopping resource these days that it’s possible to find just about anything you can think up. Gold-plated staplers. A singing salmon in the likeness of Sammy Davis, Jr. A box of 10,000 fish oil pills. Just type in whatever your mind can think up and sure enough somebody, somewhere out there has got one to sell to you.

When I say “whatever,” I used to put in automatic caveats. There’s certain things you simply can’t browse for online. No, I’m not talking about illegal stuff like drugs and guns. I have heard about the so-called “Dark Web” and although I have no clue how to find it (nor do I even want to) I am not naïve enough to think that dangerous goods can’t also be found with just a few easy clicks of the mouse.

I used to think that people, aka human beings, were one of those resources that the Internet would stay away from out of some sort of moral stance. Then online dating began. Then Russian Brides became a thing. Then Asian Brides Online. Then Oksana Love. The list of buy-a-bride sites goes on and on and covers virtually every country.

OK, I thought, so you can purchase a spouse online. Surely that’s as far as even the Internet dares to go. Children have to be off-limits. Oh, how wrong I was. Check out this link.

Yes, this is a real Facebook group where pictures of children up for adoption are posted (often with the word AVAILABLE in all caps at the start of the post). These are not just children up for a “regular” adoption mind you. These are children who have been adopted and their current parents want to re-home them because they are no longer wanted for whatever reason. Yes. You read that right.  Re-homing children.

Have we really turned into such a disposable society? It’s bad enough that animals are euthanized by the millions in shelters, but now we have kids being plastered up on Facebook walls like products that are on sale at your local Best Buy.  Or more like Craigslist. The really sad part is that this group is NOT an uncommon thing.  It’s just one of many public forums that act the same as shelter sites advertising dogs and cats. The only difference is that instead of checking out a 9 month old beagle/poodle mix that was saved from a drug den, you’re perusing pictures of a human child up for sale to see if he or she piques your interest.

You may think I’m exaggerating if you don’t go to the site and look for yourself. I assure you, I’m not. The wording in these ads is strikingly familiar to those you’d find on a dog rescue site, and hit just as close to home for anyone with a caring heart. Loves to play, gets along well with others, no behavioral problems, affectionate, listens. And the implied, or outright declared, reasons excuses for re-homing were no better.  I know I sure got a sense of déjà vu from the excuses running rampant throughout the site.

One boy’s ad states: “We would especially hope that the new family will have one stay at home parent to help him get bonded to your family, although this is not required. His current adoptive parents both work.” This child has apparently been with his family for over a year. He’s four. FOUR. I can only imagine parenting took more of their time than they expected.

Another claims a ten-year old child who has been in his home for over five years “needs more one-on-one attention than is available in his home. He loves sports however his family is not a sports-type family, and his parents are a bit older. So it is believed that a younger, more active home would work better.”  Right.

It breaks my heart that this is the new normal. This is the way our society works if it wants to move a product. Toaster? Car? Six year old girl from a broken home? Put ’em up online. Someone will bite.

Kids certainly are hard work. Trust me, I’ve had two! But that’s why mental health specialists, doctors, and therapists exist if there are behavioral problems.  Which might not even be the case with the kids on this one particular Facebook page…they all seem GREAT given their descriptions…maybe the parents just got overwhelmed with parenting and decided it simply wasn’t for them. Who knows? But to me posting an ad up on freakin’ Facebook to re-home your goddamned kid is a failure on the part of the parent no matter how you look at it, not the child.

I wonder if these kids know they’re being offered up on social media the same way a puppy is. Do they have to go thru visits with prospective families and show off their wares and hope that the next one “sticks?”  A part of me hopes they’re in “ignorance is bliss” camp because otherwise, how utterly devastating for a child this must be.