Wild in the City

New Backyard Attractions:
El Jefe & the Lion King of L.A.

Behind the string of wild animal sightings roaming major urban centers is our destructive appetite for the land and resources of their natural habitats. Thus when a mountain lion takes residency in a public park, or a jaguar is caught on tape close to a highway, it’s urgent to study them before they disappear.
Seeing bears, coyotes, alligators, tigers, and many others is becoming common in American and world cities. But there’s something new about P-22, a puma who lives in L.A., and El Jefe, of Tucson and possibly the only jaguar living in the U.S.: the much we’ve already learned about their incredibly rich individual sagas.

No offense to the remarkable little tiger that roams your living room, but these magnificent cats’ ability to adapt and survive offers invaluable insights into our efforts to slow down the extinction their species and of so many others face. Even if, as it goes, their close proximity also shames us to no end.
The ongoing massive man-made extermination of wildlife, which took evolution millions of years to perfect, is not just a tragedy on a planetary scale; it may also turn out to be the gateway to our own quick demise. Good riddance, some of them would say if they could or were born for that sort of thing.
For too long, developed nations have blamed poor (our apologies, Africa) continents for being lax about natural resources and their native animals. But what the fate of P-22 and El Jefe brings home is the hypocrisy of such an attitude, as it exposes our own lack of commitment for protecting the planet.

CEO OF THE UNDOCUMENTED
The footage of El Jefe, whose name was chosen by students at a Tucson school, was is a highlight in a decades-long program to restore a clear path for jaguars between North and South America. So there was due credit given when a remote camera captured glances of the elusive cat for the first time.
But it also happens during a particular hard time for U.S. immigrants. As a misguided administration engages in mass deportations, it also plans to build a wall at the border with Mexico, which would be disastrous to that recover strategy. That is sad but fitting, though, as El Jefe is believed to be a Mexican by birth too.
How it’ll play out may determine whether current efforts to prevent the extinction of species is headed to success or failure. That’s because any effective preservation strategy has to allocate, and protect, large swaths of land, where they can thrive without human direct interference. And that’s tough.
By the way, tough is also the jaguar bite: 2000 pounds per square inch, which relative to its weight is the stronger than all other cats, and also bears, gorilas and hippos. It can crush a turtle shell and it’s no wonder the Amerindian word Yaguar means ‘he who kills with one leap.’

THE BOSS OF HOLLYWOOD
The case of P-22 is similar in what the cat’s endurance is also the result of a carefully laid out plan to drive up the numbers of a genetically diverse population in the U.S. That’s another component of a successful recovery strategy, as it increases their odds to survival.
Centuries of hunting, inbreeding, and the perils of navigating diminishing wilderness patches squeezed by miles and miles (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Farewell to a King
* Pachyderm Skills
* Sleep With the Fishes

Continue reading

Farewell to a King



Cecil, the Lion, Who Wore
His Mane & GPS With Pride

He couldn’t have cared less how he’d live or die; just did it both the best way he could. The slaughter of Cecil the Lion, an iconic Zimbabwean big cat who’d been studied for most of his 13 short years, continues to generate waves of grief and anger throughout the Web.
His death, however, is more of a despicable routine than a surprising casualty. His killer, a dentist who’s now candidate to world’s worst person according to a dubious online consensus, spent a small fortune for the right to maim first, and then execute, the majestic feline.
Cecil left behind his brother Jericho and the extended pride they both commanded, along with a bloodline which will most likely be exterminated too. He also leaves years of research for the Oxford University team that outfitted him with a GPS collar to track his whereabouts.
It was a brutal death after an equally brutal life, but of the two, the first one could’ve been avoided. Cecil spent his last agonizing 40 hours with an arrow wound, before being found by his heartless hunter and his over-equipped posse, who then proceeded to shoot, skin, and behead him.
But for as much as this was a senseless act, that tears to shreds the arguable view of humans as innately inclined to compassion, as it stands, it’s far from being unique, final, or even solely attributable to the low member of the species who perpetrated it.

MOVABLE BLOODBATH FEASTS
After all, our ambiguity towards animal killing is not about to be dissipated by the martyrdom of one lion in the jungles of Africa. Neither a spike in collective adherence to Veganism is about to trend on Twitter; we’ll keep on eating burgers as if they have nothing to do with anything.
In a way, it was also a devilish twist on the David vs Goliath legend: the only way a hunter can win is by deception and Continue reading

The Standards

Songs That Make You Long For
What You’ve Hardly Experienced

For the generation that grew up during the cultural turmoil of the 1960s, a lot of what it was determined to break free from was the placidity, conformity, and political conservatism of the U.S. in the 1950s. The rock’n’roll explosion only made that rupture more visible.
But there was a world that preceded it, marked by two wars, where ideological conflict, social hardship, and technological impact, helped shape a musical tradition that proved itself as one of the greatest cultural achievements of our era: the American Standards.
2015 may turn out to be a landmark year, as milestone anniversaries are bound to shed light on such a rich tradition and its main protagonists. Billie Holiday, Billy Strayhorn, and Frank Sinatra, are just but three of such luminaries who would’ve been 100 this year.
And so would Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Les Paul, all giants on their own, whose association with early country, blues, and jazz insert them, permanently, into the mainstream of American music. But it was the deceptively lowly popular song format what helped usher the Standards into an art form.
To many, the addition of Eastern European Jewish melodies, the Klezmer and other Gipsy traditions, to rhythms and syncopations of African tribal beats, converging for two centuries to the U.S., was what created the two main streams of American music, Blues and Jazz. The Great American Songbook is a worthy heir to those two.
It was also a rare combination of a few generations of extremely talented composers and musicians, with race and immigrant blood running in their veins, that took advantage of a nascent record industry, and offered the perfect antidote to the bleakness and economic despair of the early 1900s in the just industrialized world.

ALT-PORTRAIT OF A WORLD AT WAR
Armed conflicts helped spread that sense of urgency – French songbird Édith Piaf would also be 100 this year – with vaudeville, music hall, variety theater, and a general cultural miscegenation of sorts, all fit snugly into 3-minute songs that encapsulated a badly needed sense of hope for the era.
Even though such gems were not exclusively American, it was in the U.S. that the genre thrived and produced some of the most memorable and enduring melodies and lyrics ever written in English. Then, they were supposed to be about escapism and romance. Now, they can be enjoyed for their distilled wisdom and artistry.
Which is odd, since those Tin Pan Alley composers were working overtime to meet an inflated demand for hits. But what their produced then, under pressure, now betrays none of the rush with which they were writing them at that time; the craftsmanship of some of these songs still has few peers compared with much of those that came after.
The songwriters created an alternative universe, where longing, redemption, and the allure of romance is always within reach, even when they refuse to concede the singer the grace of happiness and fulfillment. At times, the world these songs promise or allude to was the only world worth living for, even if only for a few minutes.

AN ENTIRE NOVEL IN A FEW VERSES
Lovers who wished to be reunited with their dears, warriors whose losses made them cry silently for the first time, common people who saw their world coming apart right in front of their eyes, found comfort in these lyrics that invite them to dance, to dream, and to remain hopeful for another shot at life.
Thankfully, the great majority of American Standards stayed clear of any exacerbated patriotism or xenophobic Continue reading

Tracking Momoland

The Forgotten Fun
of Brazil’s Old Revelry

Carnival, the world’s biggest party is on, even though it’s hardly the pagan, all-inclusive fun it once was. Whether in its biggest setting in Rio, or in New Orleans, across the Caribbean nations or even in Venice, it grew in form as its substance’s dwindled.
Costumes are flashier, the music got louder, party-goers are bolder (as costs skyrocketed) but somehow there’s also more longing for the lost innocence of yesteryear. We don’t meant to be nostalgic, though; just the typical Ash Wednesday-born party poopers.

But never mind the bullocks. If you’re ready for some fun, by all means, this is the time. Join the samba in Brazil, follow a jazz parade in Louisiana, or waltz to the Italian Bal Masqué; they’re all worthy soundtracks to your sense of abandonment and debauchery.
And check these pics out, from when Brazil’s carnival was measured by how much enjoyment you could pack without spending a penny. See the homemade cross-dressing, the cheap face mascaras, the pedestrian expressions of pure delight. Grandpa knew best.
It’s our humble homage to those lives that went before, and how we can still relate to them partying or having a ball. Bring the kids, call your neighbors, and fall in love. As some used to say in, have the most now, and forget all about the morning after Fat Tuesday.

Blue Men

The Appalachian Fugates &
Early Humans’ Interbreeding

This a short tale about a Kentucky family, their rare recessive genes and the correlation of their condition to what happened thousands of years ago. Somewhere between then and the 1800s, when a Frenchman Martin Fugate married a local girl, scientists learned about blue methylene and the perils of interbreeding.
Recent findings about human ancestry showed that we already were, as it turns out, a pretty promiscuous species, even in our early times on Earth. DNA sequencing of Neanderthal bones and of another Asia-based population of hominins, all genetically distinct from our own makeup, showed that both groups interbred with our ancestors.
In the case of pre-humans, the reason for such interbreeding may have been survival of the species, or at least, part of its genetic code. For despite having gone the way of the dinosaurs, give or take a few dozen million years, both groups remain alive inside the Homo sapiens’s genomic mixture, through a process known as hybridization.
As for families living in isolated areas in the early 1900s and before, interbreeding was pretty much the only game in town. As you’d come to age to form your own family, your cousin was pretty much the only other single you’d ever known, give or take a few other people living in Continue reading

The Seven Billionth

Scarier Than A Ghoul Is
Another Mouth To Feed

A truly frightening thing will happen during Halloween this year: The United Nations says that the earth will welcome its seven billionth soul.
Even if the date is as fictitious as any zombie you may come across between now and next Monday, the weight of its numerical value is real and spine tingling.
Even if there will be no camera documenting the historical birth, and in fact, it may have already happened, this mathematical projection is as accurate as most hurricanes can now be predicted.
In the same token, it may be easier to find a ghost and take it to Fox News to be interviewed on October 31th, than to catch the precise Continue reading

Horned & Endangered

Attacking Hippos, Upside Down
Rhinos & One Depressed Elephant

And you thought vegetarians were not aggressive. Tell that to a charging 6.000 pounds angry herbivore. It happens all the time.
In other news, there’s a novel way to relocate rhinos. Hint: it’s off the ground. Is that why elephants get depressed?
What’s about hippopotamuses, rhinoceros and elephants that makes us see them as kindred spirits? Their weight, size and diet? Social organization? Or just our plain ignorance?
Despite all we now know about these three species, they each preserve a certain mysterious quality and intelligence, evident in the ways they interact with each other and with us.
They still fight viciously among themselves in the wild, of course. Still, somehow gentleness is a word generally associated with, at Continue reading