Monsters

Back in May I stumbled upon an online culture journal, The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of Culture.  I don’t know much about either the publication or the IASC, other than they’re based out of the University of Virginia, so I can’t speak to their degree of implicit Leftist infiltration, but default position is that any organization in 2020 that isn’t explicitly conservative is probably Left-leaning.

It’s sad that I even have to make that disclaimer, because some part of me still clings to the old ideal of a broad, humanistic approach to knowledge—that we should examine ideas on their own merits, not on the politics of the entities espousing them.  I still believe that ideal is worth pursuing; I just also believe it is currently dead, or at least on life-support.

But I digress.  The then-current issue of The Hedgehog Review was dedicated entirely to the theme of “Monsters.”  It being the Halloween season, the time seemed ripe to revisit those pieces, and the idea of “monsters.”

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TBT: Tarantulas and the Hygge

The weather in the mountains this past weekend was delightfully chilly, and it seems the cold up on Mount Mitchell has blown down into South Carolina.  In short, the weather is perfect—warm afternoons, and crisp, autumnal mornings.  I’ve been taking a cup of half-caff coffee in the afternoons after getting home from work and watering the garden, and it’s been glorious sitting on the porch and enjoying the coolness of the evening.

That first nip in the air is a sign that the hygge—the Danish concept of contented, warm coziness—is near.  It’s a time for bundling up and staying warm in old quilts with good books—and good company!  Food tastes better, coffee seems more satisfying, and my mind feels more alert and alive this time of year.

There’s also college football, which is nice, too—and Halloween!

So it seemed like a good time to look back to a post from March of this year, during South Carolina’s unusually cool—and longspring.  This post, “Tarantulas and the Hygge,” explored what I called “the weird side of the Internet,” traveling “down one of those byways of oddity.”

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Baby Sea Turtle

I spent this past weekend at Fripp Island—one last hurrah before reality resumes (while teachers start back at my little school next Monday, with classes resuming on the 20th, I’ve been asked to come in to paint some classrooms, as one of our top Buildings & Grounds workers is in the hospital with meningitis).  It was an amazing weekend for many reasons:  family time, excellent seafood, good swimming, etc.

But something magical happened.  Around 7:45 PM EST on 1 August 2020, my girlfriend and I were taking a walk on the beach and saw this little guy:

Sea Turtle at Fripp Island (Video) - 1 August 2020

Yep.  That’s a baby sea turtle, freshly hatched, waddling his way into the ocean.

Readers who grew up, as I did, with constant sea turtle propaganda in schools and beachside signage will appreciate the majesty of this little turtle struggling to reach the mighty sea.  I never thought I would actually see a sea turtle hatchling in the wild.  It’s the real-world equivalent of seeing a unicorn.

Sure, I’d always supposed it was possible, but incredibly implausible.  My girlfriend—a chemist, not a biologist—positively shrieked with surprised joy.

We figured out the little guy had floated down on a current through a small tide pool, as we realized there weren’t others near him.  After he made it into the ocean, we walked up the beach another hundred feet or so and saw people watching another little guy straining seaward.  The lady picked the turtle up and placed him into the ocean, which (per my years of sea turtle propaganda) is a big no-no.  However, we soon realized it was a team of sea turtle conservationists (they had matching Sea Turtle shirts), so we figured they had the clearance to give Mother Nature a little push.

What a joyful happenstance.  Had we waited even a few moments longer to take our walk, we never would have known what we had missed.  God’s Creation is beautiful and wonderful; I am thankful He gave us the opportunity to see one tiny example of His ultimate Creativity.

Hungry Like the Wolf

I’m puppy-sitting today, watching my parents’ ten-week-old rat terrier while they’re working and attending various doctors’ appointments.  I pray that the day I go to the doctor and various specialists as frequently as my parents do is still decades away.

Dogs are interesting critters.  It’s kind of amazing that our ancient ancestors domesticated wolves and bred them to hunt on behalf of humans, instead of merely hunting humans.  It’s even more interesting how breeding for selective traits led to various breeds.  There’s a whole art and science to animal husbandry that is fascinating.

The rat terrier, for instance, is the result of various combinations of terriers (for hunting), greyhounds (for speed), and chihuahuas (for compactness—the rat terriers had to be small enough to get into rat holes).  According to my dad, who has become something of an authority on the breed since getting the puppy, rat terriers used to be very common in the United States—most farmers had one or two to help kill pests.  Theodore Roosevelt kept one named Scamp around the White House to kill mice (although Scamp may have been a different variation of terrier).

Of course, the question that interests me is thus:  if we domesticated dogs once, couldn’t we do it again from their cousins, wolves?  Naturally, there’s no need to do it again—it was surely a long process—but doing so would help us to understand how difficult domestication was, and why our ancient ancestors thought it was worth the effort.

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Progressivism and Playing God

God Bless the weirdos at Quora for asking the questions the rest of us are too afraid to ask.  Regular readers know that I relish Quora fodder, as questions range from the ridiculous to the thought-provoking, but usually fall into some kind of bizarre no-man’s land.

Such is the case with this question:  “Do humanzees (half-human, half-chimpanzee hybrids) exist, or have ones been recorded in the past?”  It’s the kind of question that’s both fascinating and lurid, like reading about a baby raised by wild animals.  Like allowing a human baby to be raised in the wild (what was once called “the forbidden experiment“), such a horrific, cross-species hybrid would be a disgusting mockery of Creation—so, like the terrible car wreck, we want to see more.

The top answer to the humanzee question is from Belinda Huntington, who explains how various species within the same genus can crossbreed, such as a horse and a zebra, or a lion and a tiger.  The more mundane example is the humble mule, the result of a male donkey and a female horse.

Huntington then goes on to detail the many differences between humans and chimpanzees physiologically, and how such differences would make any offspring, if possible, extremely vulnerable and fragile—differences in spinal structure, arm and leg length, cranial capacity, etc.

She doesn’t get into the more interesting metaphysical questions, much less the moral ones—should we interbreed humans and chimps (answer:  no)—but she does link to a piece about Soviet experiments to interbreed humans and chimps.

Leave it to a dangerously progressive, atheistic ideology to play God.

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Orangutan Keeps Swinging

Apes, monkeys, gorillas, chimps:  they’re fascinating creatures.  Part of their allure is their similarity to humans.  Indeed, I think part of what we like about higher-order animals is when they do anthropomorphic things.  Everyone loved Koko because she had a pet kitten and talked with a Speak-&-Spell.  Even more alien creatures with human abilities draw our attention.  I love octopuses because they’re beautiful, odd creatures, but also because they can open jars and possess memory.

There’s also the connection to primal energy:  a silver-back gorilla is as fat and hairy as I am, but it could rip my head off.  King Kong holds such a powerful presence in our cinematic minds because it’s the story of Beauty and the Beast—the love of the soft and feminine subduing an unbridled, masculine force.

So this story from The Epoch Times about a recovered orangutan really caught my attention.  A female orangutan was shot and separated from her baby in Indonesia.  A team from International Animal Rescue managed to save the poor creature, who was starving on the jungle floor, and release her a few weeks later into a primate sanctuary.

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The Tyranny of Experts

A couple of years ago, the bees were dying.  Readers may recall the alarmist news coverage:  soon, we were told, the mass extinction of our buzzy little pollinators would destroy agriculture globally, resulting in widespread famines.  We must save the bees!

Meanwhile, I can’t walk to my car without fat, furry bees hovering around, ensuring the giant Sasquatch before them is just getting into his sensible subcompact hatchback, and not coming for their precious hive.  My yard is a dream for bees (especially before I got the winter weeds mowed up)—they particularly love the azalea bushes—and they seem to be doing fine.

The point is, had you listened to the expert apiarists, you’d think that civilization itself rested on the gossamer wings of black-and-yellow insects.  Sure, there probably is a problem with bee populations declining due to exposure to advance insecticides.  But the intense focus of apiarists in their field blinded them to other considerations.  They saw bee populations declining, and nothing else.

Experts know their fields so well, at times they can’t see the hive for the bees.  The dire prophecies of global bee deaths and the resulting famines never came, and we didn’t declare a national emergency over the decline in bee populations because there are a million other priorities.  We didn’t shut down industrial-scale agriculture to save the bees from insecticide, because to do so would result in millions of lost human lives.  The bees would have to figure it out on their own (indeed, as bee populations fell, beekeepers turned a tidy profit renting their hives to farmers, and that incentive encouraged the cultivation of more bees).

You can see where I’m going with this extended bee metaphor.  In the current coronavirus pandemic, we’ve leaned so heavily on the advice of medical professionals, we’re not considering the broader trade-offs.  The old expression “the cure is worse than the disease” is particularly apt here:  while social distancing and government-sanctioned “shelter-in-place” orders will surely slow the spread of infection and save lives, they will also result in massive economic destruction.

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Lazy Sunday LV: Animals

Coronavirus dominates the news, which makes the news both frightening and boring.  Reporting on The Virus is all over the map.  The media can’t even cut President Trump some slack during a national emergency, such as their egregious misreporting on the efficacy of hydroxichloroquine.

Yes, yes, we know that there haven’t been clinical trials, but hydroxichloroquine is a safe, well-established drugs.  It also bears remembering that most medical doctors are, essentially, high-functioning autists:  they can’t help but sacrifice the good to the perfect.  Thus, their reasoning is, “Yes, it seems to be working very well, but we can’t know for sure scientifically without years of testing.”  Meanwhile, people are suffering, but the anti-malaria drug has proven—anecdotally—to be hugely successful.

We’re Americans:  if it works, it works, even if it’s not the theoretically ideal solution.  That seems to be the divide between our elites, who exist in a world of abstractions (because they can afford to indulge in those abstractions) and the rest of us, who live in the earthiness of Reality.

But I digress.  With the persistent incantations of “social distancing” and “flattening the curve,” I’ve been casting about for some interesting blogging material.  This last week I kept going to animals, for some reason, so why not do the truly lazy thing and just feature the posts about them?

I am no great lover of animals, but I don’t dislike them, as long as they aren’t in my house.  I’ve grown more fond of cats and dogs as I’ve gotten older, though, and I’ve always liked fish, lizards, frogs, and the like.  I even wrote an entire digital EP about unicorns.  I even commissioned one of my former students—a true lover of animals—to do the artwork (I think I paid her $20—too little for the quality) for each song (here, here, here, and here), and my “tour” in 2019 I dubbed “The Year of the Panther.”

All that said, here are some primal posts for your enjoyment:

  • New Mustang is a Sign of the Times” – This post isn’t about animals, per se, but the name of this iconic American vehicle is animalistic.  I’m stretching here, so just roll with it.  The occasion for this post (and last week’s TBT) was Ford’s disastrous plans to make a muscle car into an electric hatchback.  I love hatchbacks and fuel efficiency, but let’s stop taking one thing and making them into another.  It’s like when they make James Bond into a black demiqueer woman.  I don’t care if creators make some interesting new character with those racial and gender qualities, but don’t take James Bond—who I think is supposed to be Scottish—and make him something he isn’t.  Imagine if we made Othello into a white woman.  Come now.
  • Albino Giraffes Poached” – This story is truly sad, as it involves the cold-blooded murder (presumably; maybe some tribal had to eat to survive) of two albino giraffes.  I make some wild accusations against the Chinese, so it’s got everything—beautiful creatures, poaching, and casting broad aspersions against an entire group of people.
  • Tarantulas and the Hygge” – My general philosophy towards spiders is live and let live, with the caveat—“you live as long as you stay away from me.”  I don’t mind a little spider hanging out in some dusty corner of my house, eating up whatever lower-order insects shouldn’t be around.  I don’t mind them hanging around outside (that’s even better!), gobbling up all the nasty things.  But when I look at spiders, I have to imagine they are a form of extraterrestrial life—few of God’s creatures appears and acts more alien than do arachnids.

    That said, this post looked at the piece “Tarantulas: Masters of the Art of Hygge,” from the website Tarantula Heaven.  I’ve learned a lot about tarantulas over the past couple of weeks, and they are truly remarkable creatures.  I’m not going to get one, to be sure, but I have a greater appreciation for them and their various arachnid cousins than I once did.

That’s it for this Lazy Sunday.  Be sure to have your pets spayed and neutered—and don’t let your tarantula out of its tank.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: New Mustang is a Sign of the Times

From giraffes to tarantulas, the unofficial theme this week has been weird animals.  Other than my “Christmas Eve” blog post in 2019, I haven’t written much about animals, so this week has been a surprising turn even for me.  Politics has gotten stale again now that the Democratic primaries are on hold or delayed, and being cooped up inside has got me diving into some odd topics, apparently.

So, in keeping with the animalistic theme, I went to the closest post I could find to shoehorn into it:  my November 2019 piece on the new eco-friendly Ford Mustang.

Talk about some perspective.  Life was so good and plague-free just four months ago, I could gripe unironically about Ford ruining a classic car, as if that were a major problem.

Still, Ford should know better than to make a classic muscle car-for-the-masses into an electric hatchback.  That’s fruitier than Pete Buttigieg reading to children at a public library.

Hopefully we’ll soon be feeling the wind whip through our hair again as we rocket down the Interstate in our virtue-signalling e’Stang.  In the meantime, here’s 2019’s “New Mustang is a Sign of the Times“:

Before diving into today’s post, I’d like to give a YUGE “thank you” to Nebraska Energy Observer for reblogging yesterday’s post.  His commentary on my post and Leslie Alexander’s moving personal essay adds greatly to the discussion of modern alienation, and gives me some encouragement in these dark days.

Everything awesome goes to crap.  That’s the thought I had yesterday when reading fridrix’s brief post lamenting the new electronic Ford Mustang, the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Electric cars are fine, although environuts shouldn’t delude themselves that driving these battery-powered vehicles are saving the environment (it’s pedantic to point out, but batteries require a great deal of mining to get the metals necessary to build them, and the electricity to charge them comes from coal-, oil-, and nuclear-power, so it’s not like you’re truly making an end-run around fossil fuels).  But a Ford Mustang shouldn’t be an  electric car; at least, it shouldn’t be one that looks like this iteration.

Ford has taken an iconic muscle car and turned it into a limp-wristed hatchback.  Look, I drive a thirteen-and-a-half-year old Dodge Caravan with dents and collapsing headliner, but I don’t pretend its four-cylinder engine and stocky frame make it a sports car (the 2006 Dodge Caravan actually has a fairly sleek design compared to modern minivans).  I like hatchbacks just fine; they seem practical and utilitarian—the exact opposite of what a Ford Mustang should be!

This mania for political correctness and efficiency is infecting every aspect of our society and our lives.  Yet another legendary brand has fallen to the fleeting faddism of our present age.  A car like a Ford Mustang—much like the Dodge Charger—should be a gloriously wasteful (in terms of fuel efficiency) affair, a blasphemous testament to the bravado of the engineers and the driver.

That’s what makes these cars cool.  They’re powerful, they’re in-your-face, and they’re all American—like Chuck Norris or the Die Hard movies.

Now, just like everything else masculine and dangerous, we’ve neutered this vehicle into a yuppie dad car.  Journalists are celebrating the fact that the vehicle wasn’t worse than what it is.  I can only imagine the whipped husband picking up groceries for his overbearing wife, escaping the oppression of his personal and professional life in fleeting moments of ecstasy while listening to classic rock in his… electric hatchback.

If—when?—I go through my midlife crisis, I want a car that gets 15 miles-per-gallon or less, with some kind of awesome and/or mythical animal on the hood—which covers a thunderous, gas-guzzling V8 engine—and that will wake up the neighbors when I drive in from late-night photo shoots for Hot Rod Magazine.

Well, nothing lasts forever, even cold November Mustangs.