Friday, November 16, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Fake Snake Heroics:
One of the many fakes on television are the various poisonous snake shows, of which perhaps the most famous was one put on by Steve "the Crocodile Hunter" Irwin in which he supposedly handled the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. And, believe it or not (a miracle!) all of the world's most poisonous snakes are Australian. How convenient for the producers! Only one problem with this little plot: It's all nonsense. Almost none of the snakes that Steve was mucking about with are very dangerous to humans. It seems "the most lethal" of the Australian snakes -- the Western Brown, the Fierce Snake, the various Tiger Snakes, the various Taipan, the Olive Whip Snake, various Sea Snakes, the Eastern Brown, the King Brown, the Death Adder -- are only rarely lethal to anything larger than a mouse. More people die in Australia from falling off a horse than from snake bites. In fact, Australia's deadliest animal is the same "most dangerous animal" we have over here: the Honey Bee! For more truth about fake nature on TV, see earlier posts on National Geographic's Phony "Wolf Man" Stunt and Man Versus Truth: More Fakery from the U.K.

Lundehunds Are a Six-toed Hunting Dog:
I have been meaning to write about the Lundehund, Norway's Puffin-hunting dog, but the smarties over at Damn Interesting beat me to it. Check it out.

Mother Maybelle Carter Will Be On the Harp:
Red Shipley, the unordained pastor of the "First Church of Field and Stream," which meets in my truck on Sunday morning ("Let Us Prey"), has gone to heaven. He was 70 years old, and he had just retired after 40 years of being the voice of bluegrass on WAMU radio. For the last 25 years, his show has been called "Stained Glass Bluegrass" and it was a smart mix of old and new Bluegrass and "country gospel" linked by Red's calm and familiar voice. I will miss Red a lot. Red's request was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the International Bluegrass Music Association. Yes sir: May the Circle Be Unbroken.

Stop Her Before She Writes Again!
Gina Spadafori has another blog: The Year of Living Greenly. Check it out. Gina puts the "pro" in prolific writer.

Canned Fox Hunting:
I have blasted canned hunting before, and asked where you draw the line (see "Hunting and Fishing Like Adults"). Now authorities in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and other states are asking the same question as they come down on canned fox chases/hunts where fur-farm fox are released into giant pens in order to train fox hounds to scent and chase. Or at least that's the theory. I have never been to such a facility, nor have I seen one, nor have I even met anyone (to the best of my knowledge) who has ever been to one, or seen one. A small question, however: How were the dogs trained before these stocked pen operations existed? Has the quality of the dogs fallen this low, or is it just the quality of the dog men? I would venture to say the latter, and not the former. Men fail dogs more often than dogs fail men.

The Nose Knows:
Dog noses are wonders of nature, as any DEA officer, man-tracker, bird hunter, or terrierman can tell you. Now, environmental scientists and conservationists are coming to realize dogs can sniff out quite a lot, from scat of rare, endangered, or hard-to-locate species to invasive species such as Zebra Mussels. And, of course, there's termites, mould, cancer, money and agricultural produce as well.

Just Doing Some Gardening, Officer:
Over at My Bit of Earth, there's a nice (and innocent) piece on collecting Morning Glory seeds. Morning Glory seeds are a wonderful flower, but so invasive that it's hard to explain to the law why you are collecting them to "share" with friends. The law? Well yes, you might end up explaining quite a lot to the law. Not that I ever have. But I have friends, and they say (allegedly) that Morning Glory seeds are one way to make LSD (use a reflux tower and about a quart of petroleum ether), and so collecting them from the wild to "share them with friends" may be looked upon with suspicion by some hippie-chasing authorities. Or so I am told. The suspicion may be a little more pronounced if your blue Morning Glories are trailing over a white picket fence fronted by a nice full border of red poppies with a large clump of white Datura flowers on either end. And yes, I am a very good gardener. Honest.

Getting it Right on Immigration:
The smarties over at Blue Crab Boulevard have a nice piece on immigration that references a nice op-ed over at The Blue Crab Boulevard piece frames what I think is the best political response to immigration. Gaius Arbo suggests that the proper response is a "High fence, wide gate and a hearty welcome for those who play by the rules. It does not matter where you came from, if you play by the rules and want to be an American, you are welcome here. That simple, that powerful, that American. Make sure that people who are here legally have a path to upward mobility by ensuring that a flood of illegal immigrants are not cutting the props out from under the ones who play by the rules. They will vote for the party that ensures they have a way up. They will detest the party that is trying to keep them down." Bingo! And might I add that one of the rules is a simple one: there are limits. We cannot take all of the world's displeased and dispossesed. For those who wonder why I am talking about immigration (What's that got to do with hunting or conservation? ), read The Real Threat to Hunting in America and Drawing the Line at the Border for Wildlife's Sake.

Land of the Rising Sun(fish):
The Emperor of Japan says he's the person that brought the aggressive American sunfish to Japan more than 50 years ago -- a species introduction which is now pushing the Japanese rosy bitterling to critical numbers. Ah well, these things happen: The living God works in mysterious ways.



Tiger said...

For more truth about fake nature on TV, see earlier posts on National Geographic's Phony "Wolf Man" Stunt and Man Versus Truth: More Fakery from the U.K.

This is making me think of a recent documentary put forth by The Nature of Things [a CBC production—the title should give a hint about what it talks about].

On a recent episode, a biologist named Charlie Russell has, and this is my impression, set out to prove bears [grizzlies in this case] are "not dangerous unpredictable animals" the way "our stories tell us".

To prove this he spends a large amount of time in Kamchatka. With the bears. Including a couple of orphan cubs he's raised.

Could we be looking at another "Grizzly Man", except this time it's a "Grizzly Man" with a degree in science?

The show isn't on YouTube, but it could be on MySpace TV, and apparently there are BitTorrents of it if you really want to see it yourself but can't locate it via the usual video media sites.

[Personally? I think he [Charlie Russell] is setting a dangerous precedent here. All I could think of while watching it was "There's going to be at least one Darwin Awards candidate dumb enough to copy what he saw on TV because this biologist was able to walk amongst wild bears, said bears were 'misunderstood', are 'not unpredictable' and 'violent' the way we're told they are, so he decides to try it out himself—with the predictable outcome being a mauling and possible fatality".]

Anonymous said...

Just ask Timothy Treadwell or his girlfriend Amie Huguenard if brown bears are "not dangerous unpredictable animals. Oh... That's right. They're not saying much anymore.


PBurns said...


I will try to write something about "Nature Red in Tooth and Claw" later this week, but suffice it to say that Grizzlies are NOT as dangerous as they are made out to be by some, NOR are they danger-free as some well-meaning idiots maintain. Treadwell is a good example to support both statements.

Yes Treadwell was eaten by a brown bear, but only after spending 13 YEARS violating almost all the rules by approaching too close (even touching the bears), invading personal space, crossing property lines (bears and other animals have property lines same as you and I), flaunting wealth (food), playing with cubs, etc.

Treadwell was a heroin and cocaine addict who fled to Alaska to bounce his addiction. He knew little, ignored a lot, thought the rules did not apply to him, and eventually decided he was the smartest man in Alaska. In short, hubris killed him in Alaska, same as it was going to kill him (through addiction) in the lower-48.

To tell the truth, if Treadwell had been doing the same stuff he was doing in bear country in an urban neighborhood, I think he would have been dead a lot quicker. The bears were pretty damn tolerant.

I think the botton line with all top-end predators (and perhaps all large animals) is that there is no "one-size fits all" rule. Yes, *most* animals will seek to avoid man, but on those very rare occassions when they don't (for whatever reason), it can be a pretty bad scene. In risk analysis we call this a ZIP equation (Zero-Infinite-Potential): a nearly "Zero" chance of something bad happening, but "Infinite Potential" for harm if it does. Infinite Potential includes getting killed and eaten.