Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Cat Blog - The Mysterious One

Fact Sheet: Quan Yin, AKA The Doodle

Age: approx 6

Size: Large in the middle, pointy at the ends

Appearance: Shiny black, gold eyes, small face, low-slung belly, delicate feets, meerkat tail

Background: Feral underground; the mean, mean streets of NYC

Most often addressed as: Oh, Doodle

Usually seen: Hauling ass to disappear somewhere

Likes: Solitude, silence, wet food, Maurice (when he isn't humping her too much), a good chin/neck rub, plastic - sweet, sweet, chewable plastic

Dislikes: Sudden moves, bright lights, loud noises, dirty litter, Maya, crowding, being held or otherwise confined

Distinguished by: Floor-sweeping belly, cute and/or panicked expression, super-stank pee and poo, rumbly purr, Tail of Coquettish Flirtation, Unearthly Howl of Suffering

Currently in: Quarantine away from the bedroom, due to Unlawful Urination Offenses

Claims to fame: Interviewed in Awakening to Animal Voices: A Teen Guide to Telepathic Communication with All Life, this blog

Quote: "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWW! (skitter, skitter, thunk! ... suspicious silence)"

Why we love her: Mysterious, semi-feral, sometimes pathetic and as roughly socialized as she is, she has one of the sweetest, gentlest personalities ever.

Long live The Doodle!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where Have You Been All My Life?

I mean YOU, exciting new Halloween candy! Like the Halloween Whoppers in black and orange...

MMmmm... malt-y goodness...

Peeps Spooky Cats...

They look like l'il kitties! O, joy!

and, oh my God, Tootsie Pops in spooky shapes!

Behold their chocolatey majesty.

Of course, none of these can appear on my annual classic Halloween candy list, being as they are, you know, new, and thus pretty much by definition not classic. Although, perhaps they can get notations. We’ll see.

Thanks everso to Matt at X-E for reviewing these and reprising his completely awesome annual Halloween Countdown. As Fall is my favourite season and Halloween my favourite holiday, I’m all a-twitter!

BTW, if any of you love me, you will buy and send me some these candy items. Also, you will leave me comments. I’m feeling a little down and whorish today.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We Don't Need No Steeking Topics

Work is not driving me crazy, work is not driving me crazy, work is not driving me crazy…

Okay, maybe just a little, but mostly because I’m just going with the flow of everyone else around here losing their minds.

It doesn’t help that I’m still not used to my new space. I miss the little things, like a private, clean bathroom less than 20 feet from my desk. In the spirit of adventure, I’ve been wandering near and far to try out other bathrooms in the building, ranking them by closeness (for times of necessity), privacy and comfort. This being a “major arts organization” incorporating a stage, the large building is maze-like, so while I’ve discovered that the closest administrative staff bathroom on my floor is acceptable, if dark, I was intrigued to find the second closest loo on the floor contains two lockers, a bench and a shower, which makes one wonder. I think that perhaps the set-paining studio might be near, thus rendering a post-work shower desirable, but I’m not sure. I had heard tales that one could easily live full-time in this building, but who knew? But seriously, besides atheletes and top-secret government project workers, who wants to shower at work?

I can tell you, however, that the star artists’ dressing room bathrooms? Not very fancy – even if it does give one an elicit shiver to pose on the piano-side, threadbare, upholstered chaise-longue, après-ablutions. The public restrooms, however, when it’s not a busy night, are nice, if large, but the last time I ventured to stage level to try one I’d forgot we were having an open house and was confronted with a snaking horde of the great unwashed glaring at me suspiciously as I exited the elevator. Oh, alright, they may not have cared a whit whether I was there or not, but being a shy, paranoid type I couldn’t help but chirp a frightened “eep!” and retreat to the nearest stairway – through the house management office, where the staff told me I was about the fifth person to have done so just that morning. Groundhogs, back to your cubicles!

In other news, Mrs. Nator is giving a big presentation to the board of her honourable NGO this evening, wherein she will be one of several people representing the staff in their wishes to remain in the townhouse their little, but important, organization has made history in for over 150 years. The board has a committee that is trying to convince them to sell the building and buy another or rent, but a retarded rhesus monkey (more on that later) hearing the sales figure offered – by an eeeevil developer, no less – for a large, historic townhouse in a desirable area in Manhattan should be able to figure out that it’s not fiscally sound to do this, even if it weren’t extremely demoralizing for the small and dedicated staff.

Looking at the particulars of the case over the last week or so, as Mrs. Nator and others have been eroding their stomach linings away over it, I just can’t see how the board could vote to sell given the information she’ll be presenting them with. However, I’ve never claimed, nor do I now, to understand rich people. It seems to me that it’s all the rage these days to sell every asset as quickly as possibly to make a fast buck while you can, with no serious thought to ten or twenty years in the future. This may be a smart way to handle real estate or stock if you’re a flip specialist, but it’s no way to run a venerable, unique non-profit organization. If things go the wrong way, I may be snapping on my brass bustier and hauling out my battleaxe, because homey don’t play that – especially when it comes to the feelings of Mrs. Nator.

With all that worrying going around, one has to distract oneself, and I think I found a new, engaging show that will both touch me and... well, make me worry about other things. It's a program on Animal Planet called The Little Zoo That Could, and it's about the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, a small facility that has been struggling to rebuild and go on after being hit by three major hurricanes. If that wasn't heartwrenching enough, the first episode centered around a little monkey named Trey, who had suffered brain damage after a fall. (See? I told you I'd get back to retarded rhesus monkeys. Although, in this case, it's a brain-damaged capuchin - but close enough.)

The strength and love for animals the people at the zoo exhibit is totally engaging, and even when it's upsetting, it's worth watching. Not only that, but it should prove personally important for me, as I can get a closer look at what zoo workers do before I make my decision on going back to school for an animal-related career. Naturally, things gave me more cause to worry - could I take the stress and the hard physical labour involved in such work? At the same time, however, I just love seeing the animals and how people can really make a career of devoting themselves to helping them. I'm setting my TiVo on Season Pass for this one. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Finally, within both the realm of entertainment and brain damage: To answer the question you’ve all been on tenterhooks about, Jackass Number Two was gross, shocking, and hellaciously, howl-out-loud funny. If you can’t stand the sight of bodily excretions or are prone to sympathy pains, buyer beware, but otherwise – holy crap. In fact, I may have to see it several times, since my synapses were so shorted out by some of the stunts involved that my memory couldn’t hold them. All I can recall are horrible, squirm-inducing glimpses, forcing me to shriek “NO!” and cackle simultaneously. On the upside, afterwards one can spend countless hours pondering just what psychologically motivates the stunts' participants: money? Curiosity? Bravery or stupidity? Finding the Eulenspiegel Society not radical enough? The world may never know.

Friday, September 22, 2006


The Lesbian Versions Are Yurts

I hadn't been over to read Faggoty-Ass Faggot in a little while, so I had fun finding out about this. Oh, to be a gay man. Who knew that bathhouses could be so... complex? And in Cleveland, no less!

That's Because The Lasers Shooting From My Eyes Are Invisible

I've had three or four people at work remark on how calm I seem this week, despite all the craziness going on. One the one hand, I am amused, because I am stressed out, but I usually don't freak out about it at work. I save it for later, when I can have insomnia and a nervous breakdown in private.

On the other, I am pleased, because I do feel I am getting much better at handling stress than I used to be. No panic attacks in quite some time now, despite coping with both my work situation and Mrs. Nator's angst over hers. Of course, it's always easier to be calm when you decide it wouldn't that upsetting if you did lose your job!

Brain Freeze

All that stress can numb one's funnybone, so I think that Mrs. Nator & I will be going to see the incredibly highbrow Jackass Number Two this weekend. I've never been big on slapstick or bodily excretion humour, but the infectious, sheer joyful stupidity of Jackass is one of the few things on TV or in theatres that can make me guffaw out loud. So, I'm a little ashamed of myself. Sometimes ya gotta do what feels good.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

Friday Cat Blog - Paws For Reflection

Now go check out this week's Carnival of Cats at House of Chaos for more kitty parts and antics.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just Look

by Alessandra Sanguinetti

I may be no Sebastião Salgado, but I’ve been enjoying playing with my camera, which has led me to surfing Flickr, which has brought back both my appreciation of photography as an art and journalistic form and the wide array of talent out there. I haven’t been semi-serious about taking photos or films since early in college, but I think my disappointment at realizing I didn’t have the drive, talent and boldness necessary to work seriously in the field (or in music, for that matter, although that was more due to a lack of self-confidence, I believe) caused me to shut it out of my daily life. A perfectionist since I can remember, studying the arts made me somewhat harshly critical - more toward my own work than others', but enough so that I still rarely go to movies or live music shows (I paid how much for this crap? And why am I not exhibiting/up on that stage?). It’s only in the last few years, as my angst-ridden creative past fades in memory and I learn how to enjoy some things just for what they are (dumb reality TV shows, for example), that I can allow myself to both dabble without demanding utter excellence from myself and truly be blown away by some artists’ work without undue resentment.

by Alessandra Sanguinetti

It’s with this in mind that I hope to get to a photography exhibit by Alessandra Sanguinetti and a local gallery. I just found out about her in the New Yorker, and I am profoundly moved by and taken with her pictures, particularly those in her show The Sixth Day. Her portraits are occasionally contrived, but highly skillful, and my skepticism is washed away by much of this series. The horror and beauty of human and animal life and death on a farm make me feel both crushed and full of wonder at the intricacy of the design of living bodies. On the sixth day, it is said, God created animals and man, and Sanguinetti conveys the beauty and harshness of that creation as it appears in everyday life in her work.

by Alessandra Sanguinetti

For more of her photos, go here and here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend In Brooklyn

Saturday: Do dishes. Eat. Go back to sleep. Take in laundry. Go to Red Hook for excellent Latin American food and soccer.

Take artsy-ass photos.

Grocery shop. Read. Clean kitty litter. Eat delicious chocolate cake Mrs. Nator made. Collapse.

Sunday: Wake up. Do about 10 minutes of web stuff for work. Make first ever batch of doughnuts!

Consume. Take a nice nap with the cats. Wake up.

Quality time with Mrs. Nator.

Consume scrumptious Kettle Chips Beer & Cheddar flavour, diet Coke with Lime, Mrs. Nator's quesadillas and sugar-free lemonade while watching football. Curse the gods for having mis-set TiVo so the unbelievable OT win by the Giants was missed.

Roll eyes when the Jets lose.

More quality time with Mrs. Nator, more cake, et voila! Refreshed for Monday.

Here's wishing a good week to all...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Waking Life

I've been on Ambien. It did some weird things to me. Sometimes in the night I couldn't tell if I was awake or asleep. I saw things. My memory got jumbled. I would fall asleep in the middle of the day. I would forget what I was doing.

I switched to something else pretty quickly, and started to hear the reports, and then the jokes, about people on Ambien. How they'd sleepwalk in the middle of the night and eat the entire contents of their refrigerators. How they'd be driving their cars with their eyes open, but mentally asleep.

"How crazy is it," I thought to myself, and not for the first time, "that drug companies put out and doctors prescribe substances without having a clear idea of just what they do or how they do it, much less the long-term side effects?"

I didn't know the half of it.

It turns out that, when taken by some people in persistent vegetative states, Ambien actually wakes them up. People who were staring, sightless, unable to walk, talk or feed themselves, begin to laugh and communicate. It's incredible - like Awakenings all over again.

The power of drugs: truly both miraculous and frightening. The cause of one person's car accident is the ticket to one person's consciousness. How little we know and understand.

Friday Cat Blog: Détente

This may not look like much, but it's equivalent to Hassan Nasrallah French kissing Ehud Olmert, trust me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How I Spent My Birthday Vacation

Before we begin, remember one thing: click-y pic-y make-y big-y. Now, onward...

Greenport, NY is a charming seaside town on the North Fork of Long Island. Increasingly billed as "the Hamptons of the North Fork," it still retains a more low-rent feel, although the ratio of natives to city folk and bleach-blonde face-lift victims is decreasing.

Some typical residents of Greenport, NY:

Because it was raining much of the time, we didn't go to the beach, but we did get to eat, drink, and attempt to take artsy-ass photographs.

Atlantis Marine World is an aquarium affiliated with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation and located in Riverhead, Long Island. After waiting for them to open in the morning (and simultaneously watching the sea lions get fed) we proceeded to the tank where we would "Snorkel with the Stingrays!"

We did not wear gear like this.

We did, however, see many aquatic creatures, including those below (accompanied by the occasional loud and whacky sound effects from the adjacent arcade).

Hello, I am a fish. I have beautiful, wing-like fins that I will only extend when your camera is not ready. Ha Blub Ha.

I am a bamboo shark. They say that I am both attractive and completely safe to snorkelers. See how non-threatening I am? Why don't your bring your delicate, fleshy fingers a little closer, and you can see just how safe I am...

Aloha. I am a Humuhumunu...nuku..pu-pu.. oh, screw it, I'm a Hawaiian Triggerfish.

Wanna Manta? Don'tcha wanna, wanna Manta?*

I'm, Too Sexy For My Mask...

Once we finished the snorkeling, which was delightful for me, although Mrs. Nator nearly froze to death (I choose to believe it was due to an ill-fitting wetsuit rather than, say, having 95% less body fat than I do), we proceeded to check out some of the other exhibits. This was when we realized this place is seriously strange.

Fairly compact in size, Atlantis makes up for it by blitzing all comers with incongruous animals, bizarrely sculpted exhibits and constantly blaring some of the cheesiest music ever played. (This is not an exaggeration. All the music was recorded specifically for the aquarium, resulting in such instant classics as a "We Are The World"-style anthem about how "sea turtles rule" and a disco ditty about shoreline conservation. I am not making this up.) I give you some examples:

Why are there iguanas and an emu in a marine aquarium?

And, for that matter, parrots, who... OH MY GOD HE'S TRYING TO KILL ME!

Mrs. Nator models beside one of the ubiquitous sculptures in the ancient-ruins-of-Poseidon's-temple vein...

But one ancient culture is not enough! So, here we see some Egyptian... penguin... stelae?

Complete with faux heiroglyphics including drawings of penguins, I shit you not...

But why stop there? Let's invent an ancient civilization that... well, we've got snow monkeys, so let's say they worshipped snow monkeys, mmkay?

Dr. Zaius, is that you? I mean, seriously, WTF?!!

All in all, it was a bit congested with squalling humanlings and entertainment, rather than education, oriented for our tastes. However, we did enjoy the snorkeling, and, if I weren't already planning to return for our behind-the-scenes tour of the marine life rehabilitation facility, I might do so anyway, just to do the shark dive.

After that, there was nothing left but to schelp home, where our cats and turtles vociferously protested our forgetting to bring even one little souvenir fish back.

I hope you enjoyed our little tour. If that was not enough for you, you can see more extremely-professional-and-probably-worth-money photos** here.

Glub, glub!

*Okay, so it's not a manta, it's a stingray. But you try getting the Fanta jingle out your head once it's stuck there.

**Fine, so some of them are blurry. But do you really want to miss out on the incredibly disturbing MEXICAN CAVEFISH WITH NO FREAKING EYES? I thought not.

Overheard On The Subway

Last night on my return home, a seated, balding guy suddenly held forth with the conviction of a street preacher*:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the announcers keep saying ‘if you see something, say something.’ This is complete garbage. Do not do it. It is not a bomb, it’s trash. Leave it for the cleaning crew in Coney Island. In all my 47 years of riding the subway, never once has it been a bomb – it’s always garbage. If you see a box or bag under the chairs, leave it for the cleaning crew in Coney Island. Do not call upstairs and have them tie things up by sending in a squad to look at it. It’s garbage.”

Then, after a brief silence, wherein most of the rest of us were trying to stifle giggles:

“Also, the street above us? Do not call it the Avenue of the Americas. It’s Sixth Avenue. It always has been, and it always will be. Even Mayor LaGuardia, a great man - he renamed it, later said ‘when I make a mistake, it’s a beaut.'”

After brief pauses, he continued to inform us that we shouldn’t call train lines by their colours (“It’s not the green line, it’s the 4, 5 6 – Lexington Avenue,”) and which line was built when under what president (“the line we are now on, the D, was opened in 1940; FDR was president”). Although I’m not sure what psychological impulse drove him to speechify this way (Asperger’s? Native New Yorker brio-cum-frustration?), I actually wished I was seated closer to him, as the increasing number of passengers drowned him out. Honestly, sometimes the crazies can make one’s day as much as disturb it.

*These quotes aren’t verbatim. Do I seem like a person with a photographic memory or who knows shorthand?


From AP:

NEW YORK - Thousands of sick ground zero workers need nearly $2 billion in long-term treatment for ongoing health woes, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday in the U.S. Senate as she offered legislation creating a long-term medical program.

Clinton, D-N.Y., brought an amendment to a ports security bill seeking to create a five-year, $1.9 billion treatment program for those still suffering the after-effects of the toxic dust, debris and fumes they endured at ground zero after the 2001 terror attacks.

"If we don't take care of these people now and start putting up a system that we can have in place for the next several years, we are going to betray a fundamental responsibility to those who we salute whenever it is convenient, whenever it is political," said Clinton, speaking on the Senate floor two days after the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Enough with that. They don't want our speeches. They don't want our flowery rhetoric. They want our help," said Clinton.

Hilary annoys me frequently, but she’s got it right on this one.

Thanks to FN for the tip.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good Things

1. Like Mother, Like Daughter

W00T, W00T! My mom's heart is okay! Turns out the stress test she took - well, stressed her out, which is why her blood pressure spiked. It also seems that anxiety, mostly work-related, has been causing her symptoms, but she's otherwise very healthy.

We suspected this might be the case, but I was still afraid. Thank goodness! Of course, I'd rather she not be having mini panic attacks, but I hope that now that she knows, she can figure out some ways to reduce the stress in her life and take better care of herself.

My mother has had anxiety problems a couple times in her life, but not for many years. By nurture or nature I've developed a few similar traits as her, and it was a little over six years ago that I had my first panic attack - the one where my friends thought I was having a heart attack, forced aspirin down my throat and called an ambulance to take me to the hospital. Like my mother's depression after her second pregnancy, mine became somewhat debilitating, and it took me about a year of meds and therapy before I had mostly left the panic attacks behind.

The good news is, we both know what the symptoms are now, what to do about them, and that we have each other to talk with when we feel bad. I have every confidence that my mother will be able to move beyond this quickly. And hey, if she doesn't use any of that emergency Xanax perscription, as she plans, maybe she can bring it to me when she visits in a few weeks. Ahhhh...

2. Tea Time

On a less important, but still cheering note, autumn is coming! It's my favourite season, and already the cooler air has resulted in the treasured cats/comforter/lesbians jumble of snugglization in our bed. I've already started researching possibly taking a leaf-peeping cruise up the Hudson at the end of next month, but this morning it was cool enough that I experienced my first twinge of another fall tradition: the yearning for tea.

Fortunately, I had my little Ziplock full of Constant Comment and Cocoa Spice in a nearby drawer, along with sweetner and milk in the cafeteria, and I've been sipping in warm, relaxing bliss ever since. To me, there's nothing quite like a nice cuppa on a chilly day. To top it off, I got two major work projects done yesterday, so I can luxuriate a little as I drink it. It may not be Xanax, but I feel a whole lot mellower, nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years Later: NYC Unveils 9/11 Memorial Hole

From the Onion:

NEW YORK—Days before the fifth anniversary of the destruction of New York's World Trade Center by terrorists, city officials gathered on the site where the Twin Towers once stood to dedicate the newly completed 9/11 Memorial Hole.

"From the wreckage and ashes of the World Trade Center, we have created a recess in the ground befitting the American spirit," said New York Governor George Pataki from a cinderblock-and-plastic-bucket-supported plywood platform near the Hole's precipice. "This vast chasm, dug at the very spot where the gleaming Twin Towers once rose to the sky, is a symbol of what we can accomplish if we work together."

Oh, lordy. I laugh and it hurts and I laugh some more. Leave it up to the snarky devils at the Onion to get it just right.

Go read the rest of it, and thank God it's September 12th.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I'd rather ignore today, sleep all day in bed. By the time I leave for work I already have an intense headache, even though I've purposefully kept the TV and radio off.

Riding the subway over the Manhattan Bridge in the brilliant September sunlight, I take in the blue sky over downtown. The moon is starkly visible just to the left of the black-shrouded Deutsche Bank building. Right there, right? That's where they would have been. I barely remember anymore.

The subway car is quiet, seemingly moreso than the normal morning commute sleepiness might explain. Am I imagining the pinched look in people's eyes? Are they thinking what I'm thinking? About this time, five years ago; about how the sparkling sky seems ominous now; about whether we are safe here, now, on this D train, on this fragile steel structure 135 feet above the water? How could they not?

It's going to be a long day. I have so much work to do, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate. A buzz of bile fizzes in my stomach, up my throat. I swear I'll ignore it all, but find myself pouring over the NY Times. My headache persists.

We are so lucky, those of us who survived, those of us who knew no one who died. I never even got out of my apartment door that day - I was running late when I saw the news. My love was at work, but safe - she would have to walk all day to get home, but she was able to reach me by phone near the beginning and the end, and I knew she would make it. I watched the collapses from my fire escape, until the obscene snow began to fall over my neighbourhood - the snow of ash.

I don't know what to do. I am tired of the pomp, the patriotic plattitudes, the opportunistic corporations and politicans, the flags and fearmongering and crocodile tears while there is still a hole in my city, my heart; the survivors can't get decent healthcare and the sons and daughters of our country fight in a war that has nothing to do with this anniversary, except that it is used as a pathetic excuse. I am tired and I am mourning and I am angry. But I sit here at my work desk and try to act normal, telling myself it will be better, with ibuprofen, by tomorrow, in time.

Will it? When?

Saturday, September 09, 2006


1. Yes, I know my images are broken. My oh-so-helpful hosts over at ipowerweb claim that somehow all my image files, no matter where I got them from and when or how I uploaded them to their server, were somehow corrupted at once, through no fault of theirs. Allegedly, they were going to do a restore and fix this within the hour of my call yesterday (after being on hold for 25 minutes, on the phone with them for 20 and agreeing to pay $50). This has not been done. Not the first time they've screwed up, either. I've thought about moving somewhere else before, but they're cheap and I didn't have the energy. Any suggestions for other hosts?

2. In the worse-news category, my mom just had a bad incident during a heart stress test. My mother, who has been a health nut since before I was born and tried to raise me on wheat germ, home-made yogurt and yoga, has always been in enviable shape and youthful for her years. However, over the past year or so, at 65-66, she has started having more aches, pains and illnesses. It's frustrating for her, since she hates going to the doctor and tries to take good care of herself, and she's used to going years with nary a cold. I have a feeling that her major job stress of the last couple years has been an ingredient in this decline, but who knows?

Well, it turns out a week or two ago she started having a sensation of pressure in her chest, along with gas. It came and went and didn't seem to occur during particular exertion, but it bothered her enough that my mother, the doctor-phobe, went and got a stress test. During which her blood pressure suddenly spiked to a level that everyone in the room started looking around for the nitroglycerin. Yeah, not good.

They told her afterwards that a lot of things can cause such a spike (I'm sure even being there, not to mention getting shot up twice with radioactive solution, was enough to stress her the fuck out). She says she feels okay and is not too worried, but she also feels scared that she is being betrayed by her body, a feeling I know all too well. So, now we're all worried, and won't find out the test results until sometime this coming week.

I know life isn't fair, but it will be just mindboggling if my active, vibrant mother has some kind of heart condition. Being a real mama's girl, I just can't stand the thought at all. And then there's the selfish part of me, that thinks "oh, shit - if she's having problems, what's going on inside of me, the fat, ex-smoker who already knows she's got genetically-ordained degenerative discs?" Okay, I'm maybe a little bit less worried about that (and, by proxy, how Mrs. Nator will put me on an all-kale diet/all-day exercise regimen if she gets wind that my family might be carrying high blood pressure genes) than I am at the thought of my beloved mother's life being in danger, but it does give one pause.

I don't like it. Make it stop.

3. Work is fucking crazy right now. Seriously, if I get through the relaunch of the website and the launch of the plasma screen program? I may just ask for a raise.

4. And finally, some good news: at Zoo Atlanta, Lun Lun the panda had a baby this past week! Having an inside contact at the zoo, I know they've been frustrated by her not getting pregnant for several years now, both because pandas are so endangered and because they've been having financial problems that a baby panda could help alleviate by boosting visitor numbers. Most of all, however, baby pandas are super cute (especially when their hair comes in)!

Take a look-see on the Panda Cam, and keep pulling for the little one, who will not be out of danger, health-wise, for some time. Good going, Lun Lun, and all the Zoo staff!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Foto-Fu: Pretty Proboscis Edition

This is a little critter (not sure if it's technically a moth or butterfly) that was pollinating the flowers in front of our hotel in Greenport. It's my first ever macro bug shot, so I hope you likey.

I'll have more photos and descriptions of the trip, soon. I want to get my underwater photos done, and they're on film, so it may take a couple days.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Crocodile Hunter and Brother Ray

"My number one rule is to keep that camera rolling. Even if it's shaky or slightly out of focus, I don't give a rip. Even if a big old alligator is chewing me up I want to go down and go, 'Crikey!' just before I die. That would be the ultimate for me."
- Steve Irwin
Well, it looks like Steve Irwin got his wish, albeit from an unlikely quarter. It wasn’t one of his many handlings of poisonous snakes or wrestling matches with crocodiles that killed him – it was an extremely unusual stab to the heart from a stingray – an animal that rarely stings unless thoroughly provoked.

I’m not sure what to think about this. Of course, it’s terribly sad when a young man with a family is killed, even if he routinely courts danger. It is also true that Irwin raised awareness about lots of kinds of animals, and worked to establish protection in several areas. However, I can’t say I wasn’t one of the people who had been unsure about his methods for some time. Besides his annoying, in-your-face self promotion and veritable chokehold on several seasons of Animal Planet, Irwin seemed to have the idea that the best way to interact with and educate about animals was to grab and incite them to action. On the one hand, it worked on raising the public’s interest in dangerous creatures. On the other, did it provide a good example? Moreover, besides being unsafe for both Irwin and those around him (most famously his baby), it seemed rather cruel to the animals, who generally tend to want to be left alone. A violent reaction from an animal can be a result of several kinds of stimulation, but the method of provoking them to display such behaviours for an audience is almost always going to be a very stressful one for the creature, and thus not good for its health.

Thus, on the one side, you have John Stainton, a close friend of Steve Irwin's and producer of his film company who witnessed his death, saying of the “Crocodile Hunter”:

"He touched everything, he always had a philosophy that for every animal he touched, he touched someone's heart... he felt that rather than show an animal on a camera lens on a long angle that he could touch that animal and hold it that he would have people's empathy for the animal... "
Yet on the other, you have a few voices chiming in that Irwin’s animal handling was “akin to bear-baiting” and that “[w]hat Irwin never seemed to understand was that animals need space.” It was even noted in his NY Times obit that Irwin was once cited for harassing animals in Antarctica. True, those voices are mostly being shouted down, and the loudest voice was that of the irascible Germaine Greer (who, due to being a 70s feminist, must be used to being told to shut up, anyhow, independent of whether she deserves it or not at the time). Still, is it right to canonize Irwin, however brave, passionate, opinionated, personable, successful and of good intentions he may have been, if his understanding of environmental conservation was questionable(“Cows have been on our land for so long that Australia has evolved to handle those big animals”) and his handling of animals may have been reckless (he was said to have been less than a meter from the ray who fatally stung him, so close that its tail may have punctured his heart) and perhaps unkind?

I don’t know the answer, except to say that clearly Irwin did a lot of good, particularly in purchasing land for wildlife conservation, and moved a lot of people, but also obviously played the daredevil enough that it was not surprising he died due to an animal encounter gone wrong. Maybe it was a freak accident that it happened with a generally gentle creature in the particular way it did, but maybe that’s also why he didn’t keep enough distance. Wherever you stand on this issue, it’s clear he died as he wanted to. It’s too bad his family has to live with the memory early, unnecessary death.

As for me, my encounter with stingrays on Monday was far more typical. Mrs. Nator and I snorkeled in a tank with them, along with some small sharks and numerous tropical fish, at Atlantis Marine World. The rays in this tank were both used to humans and de-barbed, meaning that even on the infinitesimal chance we got stung, the results would be minor. The smaller rays, in fact, would swim right at us, letting us run our palms down their backs as they slipped by. Little did we know that at the same time Mrs. Nator’s mother was hearing about Irwin’s death and becoming very worried about our little trip. We didn’t know what happened until we got home, and even then, my dreams last night were with the rays, imagining them free of their tanks and grabby humans, soaring gracefully through the oceans' tides.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Cat Blog - Bad Kitty Edition

First of all, in case you didn't know: cats and paint don't mix.

Also, cats who have a neurosis which leads them to obsessively pee in a corner of the hallway and reflooring said hallway? Not such a great combination, either. Mrs. Nator learned both of these lessons the hard way, and now has some convoluted faux-baby-gate system comprise of binder clips and a tatami mat walling off the entrance to our apartment. One can only hope a better solution will be reached in the fullness of time.

Secondly, to those of you who thought my comments about having a cat on my head were just cute turns of phrase? I give you the sordid evidence:

I'm pretty sure this is illegal in 40 states.