Best Byes

Sendoffs, Farewells
& the Far Side of 2013

In many quarters of the globe, the departing year had its fair share of kooky dishes, strange brews and no small amounts of heart burn. Just like the number that hitched the millennium over 300 days ago. Much of it is forgettable, but some are worth revisiting.
In no particular order, and little if any sense, we’ve collected some of these gems for your consideration. You may come out nurturing the feeling that somehow you’ve missed a lot, but not to worry: just enjoy it like it’s your second and very last chance.
A mechanic’s invention to help safely suck babies into this world. A presidential party favor that the host, a former spymaster himself, graced his powerful guests. From brew to brick, to bricks made of blood, beer has certainly had a grip over the year.
From Bowie in space to cats on a subway track, 2013 was also a year of tearful animal goodbyes, and the two leading the bunch out of this world were unquestionably a special breed: a polar bear with a severe case of neurosis and a pig, with a weakness for booze.
But what on Earth, you may ask, have these far out events to do with anything or even each other? All we can invoke in defense of stringing together such insane chain of recollections is that each and every one of them was a rare gift, squeezed among the terrible headlines inflicted on us throughout the year.
After all, we’re sure that you’re being bombarded everywhere by that kind of recollection, and how we’ve reached yet another notch downwards, for all we’ve done to the planet and to each other, and for the lot we didn’t even consider doing to redeem ourselves.
End-of-the-year lists have this way of making us all feel so guilty and miserable that if one checks one, all the others get checked as well. Thus, as we struggle to find ways to wrap up the proceedings, we also humbly aim at bringing some vain comfort to our sore readers who’ve been through a lot.
So has The Remains, a band with a heartbreaking story that reunited last June after a 47-year hiatus. In 1966, they went into a 14-city tour, opening for a quartet from England. But while The Beatles’ last live performances are the stuff of legend, they wound up in Gowanus, Brooklyn, recollecting. Life’s definitely not fair.
Talking about the 1960s, another legend that will fold coming Dec. 31, is the Volkswagen bus, icon of summers of yore, and if we’re calling it Continue reading

Field of Dreams

Wanna Be an Oneironaut?
Now, There’s an App for That

The art of lucid dreaming resembles the booming business of death: more people are doing both than ever before. But while there’s hardly ever news coming from the Big Sleep, specially from those who went into it and despite faith arguments to the contrary, dreams are very much alive and vital and, chances are, you’ll have some new ones to talk about in just a few hours.
The other week we told you about a machine that, ideally, one day may be able to record and play back thoughts. It’s only logical to expect the same happening to those intriguing adventures most humans and animals find in the arms of Morpheus. Now, that the field of lucid dreaming no longer belongs exclusively to shamans and visionaries, you guessed it, there’s an app for that too.
Since ancient times, narratives describing mystical revelations have been recorded and transmitted through generations. Many of these fantastical tales are at the root of religions, faiths and cults, having been dreamed on by their founders. They have served as shared apprenticeship tools for conversion and initiation.
As ritualistic dogmas upon which would lay the foundations of a sect or group of ‘chosen ones,’ dreams have also always offered glimpses into deep recesses of our species’ psyche, as revealed mysteries endowing both individuals and the community at large of special powers and Continue reading

On the Brink

Meet an Amur Leopard,
the World’s Rarest Cat

There may be only fewer than 50 individuals of this beautiful feline left in the wild. It shouldn’t be so, since they sit at the top of the food chain. Guess who’s been mercilessly hunting them for centuries?
Now the World Wildlife Fund has set an area covering 650,000 acres in Russia for the Land of the Leopard National Park, a last-ditch effort to prevent these magnificent creatures from extinction.
That’s why we dedicate this Caturday to the Amur, the rarest among the rarest. Click on the picture to watch the video. There are also many other ways you can help, including adopting one of them.

Combat Pets

Soldier Dogs With Same
Traumas as U.S. Troops

We breed them. We treat them as equals, as gods or slaves. We love and we fear them. And we’ve been eating them for ages.
Since we’ve been around, we’ve done with animals as we damn well pleased. Including being killed in our wars, often instead of us.
Elephants, horses and dogs. Dolphins, sea lions and pigeons. Primates and pigs. Even cats and bats have died in wars or in weapon labs.
Now, like the canary in the mine, dogs are sounding the alarm. Some of those deployed in combat are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
DAMAGED HOUNDS
It’s a disturbing, if predictable, consequence of their loyalty to the military. And more so than with the troops, these warriors may have been psychologically hurt for life.
Counseling therapy, of course, won’t work with them. In fact, in many cases, treatment is a guess work, at best, and to expect a full Continue reading

Before You Go-Go

Cat Drops Off, Picks
Up Friend at Station

Most people know that cats are highly selective when it comes to humans. Sometimes, even your own can makes you feel, let’s say, unimportant, specially when the corner deli is out of his favorite food, and you have to improvise.
Nothing of the sort happens with Graeme, an Australian feline, who’s very popular at the Hurtsbridge station as a trainspotter. Seen everyday by the side of the tracks he is, of course, always wide open to demonstrations of affection by commuters.
What it’s taken most locals some time to realize, though, was that Graeme had a reason to hang around twice a day at the station: he likes to drop off his friend Nicole, and to come back late afternoon, to walk her home.
Believe us, it’s all documented in the video someone shot at the two. Continue reading

Winged Fate

No, Really, It’s a Bird
& It’s Heading This Way

A funny thing has happened with our relationship with birds: we’re beginning to hate them.
Except when we love them. In any case, the whole thing became very complicated.
Since the beginning of times (and that’s the kind of intro many an epic has started; not in this case, though), humans have looked upon birds and dream.
As our imagination soared, hoping that one day we could ourselves fly and be as free as we thought they should be, our collective mood towards them kind of soured.
Fine, so we couldn’t fly like birds? No matter, we invented the several-tons heavy airliner to fly even higher and faster than them.
The birds counterattacked by letting themselves be swallowed whole by the plane’s turbines, and down we came crashing.
Oh, yeah? Let’s shoot them cold, specially near airports, and Continue reading

Shipmates Ahoy

Sea Cats &
Sailor Men

For anyone who’s ever tried to bathe a feline, the species seems to be peculiarly averted to water. But, as with many things about these creatures, this too couldn’t be farther than the truth.
Nothing beats the U.S. Naval Services to set the record straight. Its voluminous archives tell the story of their bravery and fearlessness through the years, in fiery deep blue sea battles.
But way before any modern navy came to be, records show that for thousands of years, cats have been part of human exploration of faraway lands.
Ancient Egyptian seafarers, for example, were known to carry felines in their ships, not just to get rid of vermin, but for companionship.
Of course, what may have made them appealing to early humans may have been, at least at first, that extraordinary hunting skill.
WHO LET THE CAT IN?
The earliest evidence of this human-cat partnership has been traced back to a burial site in Cyprus dating from 7,500 BCE, which means Continue reading

Kitty’s Last Laugh

It’s a Mice-Eats-Pig World (and
They’re not Calling in the Cats?)

Many a pig farmer in Adelaide, Australia, have caught sight of an unholy mess lately: hundreds of tiny mice viciously attacking and dining on their prized, expensive stock right in front of their eyes.
The situation seems to be getting the best out of some of them, who’ve resorted to desperate (and frankly, bizarre) measures to put a stop to this carnage.
For instance, a father of four (children, that is) and owner of several swines decided that the best thing to do would be to slather them (the pigs, for crying out loud) with engine oil.
The mice seem to be turned off by the taste, he said. Smart creatures. What apparently no one told him is that the oil may Continue reading

Accessorizing

Recycling Stray Hair
For the Truly Fashionista

Two designers came up with very creative ways to reuse hair, feline and human: working independently, they developed a full line of beauty products that strike anyone for their originality.
Taiwanese hair salon owner Tsai Shiou-ying had already created some unusual brooches, a life-size pineapple and a rat sculpture, all using hair left over from her daily work.
But nothing pleased her as much as the pair of high-heel shoes she’s recently completed. It took the hair of three people (not all, just the hair they had already decided to cut, we hope) and a Continue reading

Holy Cat

Monastery is Sanctuary
for Snake-Hunting Felines

For 2,000 years, Cyprus cats have had a sacred haven in the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas. It was built in 327 ACE by Kalokeros, the island’s first Byzantine governor, at a time when a terrible drought somehow caused Cyprus to be overrun by poisonous snakes.
To prevent people from leaving the island for good, no less than Saint Helena, mother of Alexander the Great, came up with the brilliant idea of having a thousand cats brought Continue reading

If You Can Make it There…

Cat May Be the First Calico
to Swim Across the Harbor

She came in after the rain, wet, salty and covered in seaweed. She appeared on the shore of Governor’s Island and immediately set up the island abuzz. Would it be possible that this seemingly harmless little calico managed to swim all the way from New Jersey, perhaps after being swept up by last week’s torrential rains, to wind up a whole mile away from home?
Whatever happened, she’s not telling a soul, of course. But Continue reading

Purring Me Loudly

Smoke Gets
In Your Ears

She’s a 12-year old, she’s kinda small, and the picture of her round tabby face is making the rounds for all to see. That’s because when she purrs, she thunders. It actually sounds as loud as a 737 coming at you from a mile away. Seriously, people measure these things.
Now Smokey may purr all the way to the Guinness Book of Records. To give you an idea of how loud she sounds, most cats purr in the 25 decibels range, while she clocks at up to 90 decibels easy, regardless whether she’s eating, dreaming or just Continue reading

More Than Nine Lives

World’s Oldest Cat
Is Not Slowing Down

You may remember a lot of what happened in 1972. While Abba played on, 100,000 people took the U.S. streets to protest the Vietnam war. It was the year of the infamous Sunday Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland, and the birth of Bangladesh and Shaquille O’Neal. It was also the last time a man walked on the moon.
1972 is when Lucy was born too. The 39-year old from Wales is believed to be the world’s oldest cat. Despite being deaf, she’s still fit and sharp as a whip, according to her family who has researched her past and concluded that she was born on Thomas Street, Lianelli, all those years ago.
For those who give currency to that sort of thing, 39 years in the life of a cat correspond to some 172 human years. We don’t usually do too well when reaching old age, though, and most if not all of us, never even considered including rodents in our diet. But cats do.
She’s oblivious to all the fuss, which is just fine since some buzzkill from the Guinness Book of Records made a point of saying that it has no entry for oldest cat. Whether they create one just for Lucy is besides the point: mice and small creatures still won’t be seen around for as long as she keeps a daily patrol of her domains.

Got Milk?

How Many Laws It Takes to Explain
a Cat’s Gulp? Let Us Count the PhDs

With due respect to Barbra Streisand, the real zen master is the feline, as research upon research piles up to prove it. This time, it took two MIT scientists, plus one from Princeton and another from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, to show the world what it already knew: when cats drink, they’re actually solving fundamental hydrodynamic problems you didn’t even know existed.
For starters, they lap their drinks four times a second, way too fast for your inferior human eyes to see anything but a blur. And Continue reading

Caturday Fever

Scientists Finally Prove What Cat
Lovers Already Knew: They Do Rule

Ok, so we got carried away with this headline. Then again, haters need not to apply. The fact is, we’ve got impressive news to report and won’t let a small detail, such as who cares? get in the way.
Breaking: Cat lovers are being controlled by a parasite that ‘manipulates’ their personality. That’s why we’re so weary of rats. Just in case, the Chinese have an imprint of a cat hidden on their money.
It’s all true, honest to heaven. Or, as a dog lover would say, that figures. No wonder these people go berserk at the sight of kittens playing on the Internet. There’s got be a name for that. Oh, yes, it’s called insanity.
Yes, cat people do believe they’re the ones who’re owned, not the other way around. That’s why they run when the masters call, but can’t make a single command work to their advantage.
Hopefully these three examples will settle once and for all this matter. Of course, you’ll hear loud barks against it in weeks ahead, but not to Continue reading