Cat Tails, Bees Drinking Turtle
Tears & a Mass Murderer in Class
In a world gone insane, as the late Don LaFontaine would thunder it with gusto, even a little sip of a mad hatter’s tea may taste refreshing. So for those sore minds, tired of swallowing bad news, here comes another zany post about the wonders of alien universes all around us.
Take bugs, for instance. Think you’re familiar with their frightening beauty? Wait till you hear what butterflies do after a particularly ghastly day. Know your furs? Learn what heads and tails entail. Believe us: it’s all way healthier than a monster going to college.
It’s been five years and a month since that famous voice left us in the dark of movie theaters, but few would know it given so many impersonations. LaFontaine, who’d have turned 73 August 26, became arguably the world’s most famous voiceover artist, and his catchy phrase has just been used to name a whole (not too good) picture.
He’s one of the two humans to grace this post, and by the end of it, you may think that he didn’t deserve to be paired with the other one, whose name will be mentioned only once, by force of clarity, and whose survival may explain in part why our world is so twisted, we can’t even make sense of most of what happens around us.
Thus, it’s not quite magical or mysterious why creatures of the non-speaking kind are the ones that seem to carry on with grace and purpose, our creeping fears and disgust notwithstanding, while we loudly drag and splatter our sorry parade of brutality and grief all around, as if this spinning rock were our sole spoil to rape and ransack.
But we can make it better, some say, and we do have the good luck, if not the good sense, of waking up to another day every 24 hours or so. And heaven forbid if we don’t pay our dues to fellow humans whose lives have made ours so much easier. We do know who they are but we’re not about to talk about them here, though.
Now that we weighted down what was supposed to be a light-hearted conversation about the zany side of the news, we may have seriously compromised our ability to lift back this post so to remain airborne at least until its final sentence. We’ll try it but after that, dear reader, with all honesty, feel free to shoot it down.
THE TALE OF THE CAT TAIL
Down, by the way, is considered a warning message given away by your cat’s tail, a sign of deep disappointment about you. You know you probably deserve it, so if the tail is also abruptly swinging from side to side and your friend, or rather, foe at this juncture, is crounching his body, watch out! Out of the way or you’re going to get it.
Non-verbal language, of course, can be as eloquent and direct as a neck-breaking hit, as those who’ve faced a raging wild animal would be eager to tell you, had they survived the attack that did they in. But cats are superbly endowed on the subtle arts of gentle persuasion, so it’s enough to have met one to understand that you’ve been warned.
Most times, however, they’re the enhancement that anyone could add to their lives, and a tail standing straight up is their statement of how pleased they are with your cat-keeping skills and, haven’t you noticed? you’ve been granted a privileged view of their backsides too, and don’t you dare complaining about it. Or the tail will come down. Hard.
Dogs wag their tails too, of course, but apart from that effusive display of approval of you as such a great human being, there’s not much nuance on the movements. Not cats, though. Besides scents, body fluids and skin glands, found in the communication palette of most animals, they also can tell a tail, if you pardon the poor pun.
No need to go on about their brains. The new iPhone has just come out and a cat’s already managed to break through its fingerprint sensor. Enough said. Still, they hardly catch the same quality attention from humans as their wild relatives, despite dominating the Internet. No wonder; for a potential prey, a miscalculation can be fatal.
It needs to read correctly whether that walking bundle of muscle, fangs and paws is up for dinner or just passing by. And the tail is as good a flag as any to signal danger. At home, though, there hasn’t been many reports of death by nasty scratch. Severe bleeding, perhaps. But it’s not that the intent is any different either.
WHEN THE TURTLES CRY
You may never do it. Bees do it, we now know, but birds are still not known for doing it. Amazonian butterflies, though, they really enjoy it. As it turns out, they do love to dip their long proboscis into the eyelids of turtles and suck the salty liquid. And there’s an explanation for it: the whole region is short of sodium.
Being too far from the Atlantic Ocean, and shielded by mountains and trees, butterflies and bees, and possible other herbivore insects crave salt, and apart from a choice pool of animal urine here and there, and a few other sources, turtles exude the vital mineral. It also may help the fact that they are passive animals, taking their sweet time to pace around.
The phenomenon, that of butterflies kissing turtles in the eyes, has only recently being documented, and startled, scientists. It all makes sense, of course, including preliminary insights into turtles’ apparently preference for butterflies over buzzing bees. Need us to explain it any further?
All together, it’s a miraculous sight, a yellow-spotted river turtle covered in colorful butterflies, and an eventful discovery too, one potentially full of implications and, well, bad puns. We’ll spare you the latter, but if you wonder why, it’s all due to the turtles’ carnivorous diet, rich in salt.
Everything about this story seems astonishing, including the fact that the world’s biggest rainforest is sodium-depleted, and how some creatures found unexpected ways to compensate for that. Really a lot to take it in, if you think about it. There’s just one question that doesn’t seem to have been acknowledged in this whole, trippy tale.
For now we know about the bees, and the butterflies, and why they seem to hang with turtles, deep in the jungle of South America. But no one has quite articulated what’s in a lot of people’s mind, almost like, well, a fat monkey hanging high up on a breakable branch: what on earth makes the turtles cry?
THE ASSASSIN’S HOMEWORK
We routinely call animals beasts, and stupid people, animals. Full disclosure, we’re flawed that way. We insult each other telling them to go and commit impossible sexual acts, and then we curse their mothers and progeny, as if we had rights on the sole account of owning a rational brain, and some manageable vocal chords.
Then we go and get a machine gun and kill as many innocents as our sick minds can conceive. That’s what Andres Breivik did anyway, on July 22, 2011, just in case you forgot. Armed to the teeth, he went on a rampage and executed 77 people in Oslo, Norway, achieving the dubious honor of being a rare non-American mass-murderer shooter.
He was convicted to a minimum of 21 years, and most experts believe that prison is where he’ll end his unbelievably evil life. But just when we all thought that his conviction was the last that we’d hear about him, and good riddance for that too, some quite startling news was reported last week.
From prison, he applied and was accepted at the University of Oslo’s political science program, and will be allowed to take courses, even if not fully graduate from it. That he chose the program, which includes plenty of democracy and justice-related disciplines, would have made many wonder how could he, and we, possibly benefit from it.
But this being Norway, which had already granted him a taste of its exemplary legal institutions, and a chance of defense that he’d denied to his victims, the whole episode has been a profoundly instructive opportunity to witness a civilized and human rights-oriented society going about the business of handling the very worst in its midst.
KNOCK ON NORWEGIAN WOOD
‘Why should we not trust our system when it comes to access to education?’ wrote Ole Petter Ottersen, the university’s rector, in probably one of the hardest statement in defense of the rule of law ever issued by an educational institution. Accepting his application, continues Ottersen, shows ‘that our values are fundamentally different from his.’
It’s a courageous and idealistic view of our state of enlightenment, circa 2013, which contrasts with the undeclared wars already raging, and the threats of even more carnage to be rained down as the only possible solution to be considered, and with places like Guantanamo Bay, full of yet to be judged and tried on the court of law prisoners.
To be sure, it’s a far cry from the unassumed generosity of turtles or the straightforwardness of a cat, warning us to stay clear or he’ll hiss us to death. But the Norwegian statement’s unwavering faith that a set of fair rules can be effective as a natural act beats any chapter of biblical revenge any time of the day.
It’s also often the only possible approach to deal both with the methodical monster and the unjustly accused. As flawed as a justice system may be, and as naive as a lenient sentence may appear, they will never be as cruel as oblivion and as fatal as a gunshot.
* It Bugs Them
* Amazon News
* Suddenly, Last Caturday