Archive for June, 2012

The Dark Side of Nature

June 28, 2012

A couple days ago, visitors to the Los Angeles Zoo had what must have been a terrible experience. A three-month-old baby chimpanzee, who was gradually being introduced to the rest of the troop, was attacked and killed by an adult male chimp, in full view of visitors. Nothing could be done to stop the attack because it is dangerous for humans to enter the chimps’ habitat.
The unnamed baby chimp’s mother, Gracie, was allowed to keep her dead daughter’s body overnight to help her grieve.
Apparently it is not at all uncommon for male chimps to kill infants in the wild. But nobody expected it to happen in the zoo setting, and certainly not in front of a crowd.
It must have been very upsetting for the people who witnessed the incident. When you take your kids to the zoo, it’s awkward enough explaining to them just why that zebra has climbed on top of the other zebra. How do you explain to a child why a chimp has just killed a baby, seemingly without provocation?
As unpleasant as this incident is, I think that in some ways it’s a good thing that the public witnessed it. Too often we forget that chimps and the other primates are in fact wild animals. Because they are so intelligent and can be taught to do all kinds of interesting and adorable things, even to communicate with sign language, they seem to us like Disney characters come to life, or like humans covered with fur. I think it’s a disservice to animals to deny or ignore their very animalness. They should be appreciated for what they are, not the fantasy we might want them to be. Chimpanzees are quite smart, and definitely display unique persoonalities, but as we see here, and as we saw a few years ago when a “civilized” chimp nearly killed a woman in Connecticut, leaving her blinded and catastrophically disfigured, they are also several times stronger than humans and often they possess a rotten temper and are capable of frightening outbursts of rage.
We sometimes forget that nature is not necessarily merciful or kind. Runt offspring are routinely killed outright or abandoned; sick or injured members of a group are left behind for the safety of the others. It may seem cruel or heartless to us, but we need to remember that it is simply nature’s way, and animals cannot be judged by human standards.

Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

June 21, 2012

Seattle pool allows topless breast cancer survivor Seattle pool allows topless breast cancer survivor The Associated Press SEATTLE . SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department has reversed a decision by its aquatics manager and decided to allow a woman who had a double mastectomy to swim topless.

Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams says there’s nothing to alarm the public so the department decided to make an exception to its dress policy for public pools.

KOMO-TV reports (http://is.gd/Uzz7Mv ) Jodi Jaecks (Jayks) wanted to swim at the city’s Medgar Evers Pool to help recover her strength after she had chemotherapy for breast cancer and had both breasts surgically removed.

She couldn’t find a swimsuit with a comfortable top and asked to swim topless. Managers told her no until her story was published in The Stranger weekly newspaper.

Jaecks says cancer patients shouldn’t be made to feel self-conscious by asking special permission.

Oh, but it’s a-okay to feel special because you’re the only woman at the pool who’s swimming without her top, right? It’s a whole nother story when you get your own way, isn’t it?
And is she going to feel less self-conscious not only being the only topless female at the pool but also sporting her double-mastectomy scars than she would feel about maybe wearing an undershirt in the water? Lots of people do that, you know, to keep from getting sunburned.

Methinks Ms. Jaecks has gotten over her cancer and has acquired a new and much more insidious malady. It’s called “I’m So Specialitis.”

Stand By Your Man, French Style

June 18, 2012

The time was March 16, 1914. The place was Paris. Madame Henriette Caillaux was on a mission. Her beloved husband, Joseph Caillaux, the finance minister of France, was under attack.
In those days, newspapers openly took sides in political matters, much more openly than they do now, and often things got ugly. Gaston Calmette, the editor of the Le Figaro newspaper, had taken sides against Monsieur Caillaux, and things had gotten very ugly indeed. Calmette had received a letter which implied that M. Caillaux was working behind the scenes to obstruct passage of a bill he was publicly supporting.
Even at that time, journalistic ethics, such as they were, advised against publishing such a letter without the editor doing some more research as to its authenticity. But Calmette smelled blood and he published it. M. Caillaux’s reputation was badly damaged and there was a good deal of upheaval in the French political administration, as Calmette had intended there should be.
Mme. Caillaux was distraught. Her first impulse was to encourage her husband to challenge Calmette to a duel, the traditional method by which gentlemen settled such matters of honor. But a duel might well result in Joseph’s death or injury, and if it didn’t, he faced almost certain prosecution. Either way, he would be ruined.
So Mme. C. took matters into her own hands. She paid a call on Calmette at his office, and after a brief conversation she shot him dead, then waited calmly for the gendarmes to arrive and arrest her. She never denied or made excuses for her actions. In her mind, her husband was avenged.
Mme. Caillaux’s trial was a media sensation, just as it would be if it happened today. Even the president of France gave a deposition, something almost unheard-of for a world leader.
Mme. Caillaux’s attorney took advantage of the normal sexism of the time and argued that his client had acted impulsively, without premeditation, in a burst of feminine emotions. And it worked. Henriette Caillaux was acquitted, with the widespread support of the French public. She lived nearly another thirty years, a free woman.

Three Cheers, But That’s All You Get

June 6, 2012

How well I remember high school graduation. I arrived at the one-room schoolhouse in a buggy pulled by our faithful horse Old Tim…
No, wait, strike that. I’m confused. That was my first day of kindergarten. My Bad.
Anyway, at graduation, all the parents and other audience members were asked to keep their applause subdued so that all the names of graduates could be heard and the already-slow process of reading off the names wasn’t held up even worse. So far as I recall, everybody obeyed this rule.
A family near Cincinnati didn’t, however. And it’s come right back around and bitten them. Football star Anthony Cornist has legally graduated, but he will not receive his diploma until he or his family complete 20 hours of community service. The school claims that Anthony’s family cheered him excessively in defiance of the rules for the ceremony.
Anthony’s mother says their cheering was no louder than anybody else’s. Of course she says that. Not having heard the cheering for myself, I can’t say one way or the other if it was too loud or long. But I think it’s safe to say that if the school is taking any action at all, it must have been pretty damn obnoxious.
I don’t think Anthony should be the one to pay for his family’s bad manners, though. He was not the one making the noise, and presumably he did not instruct them to disrupt the proceedings. (Even if he did, they’re adults and should know better.) The incident is over and done with, whatever it may have been. Give him his diploma, and let it go. If he has a younger brother or sister who will graduate from that school in the future, hope that the family has learned a lesson and will tone it down when that sibling’s name is called.