December 25, 2008

The Cuteness: Christmas Edition

Warning: graphic images of a polar bear attack. Witnesses were powerless to intervene, but not, apparently, powerless to take pictures.

These photos are all from the blog ZooBorns, a cuteness timesink that will make holiday-softened minds even mushier.

Go, baby Speed Hippo, go! I am so GIMPshopping this photo.

Dear little Upala's mother wouldn't care for him, so he was transfered to the Wilhelma Kindergarten for young apes. Wouldn't care for him...?! Who wouldn't want to care for such a precious little baby? Good grief, moms these days...!

All these and a ton more at ZooBorns, where everyone is above average on the cuteness scale. [H/T: MAKE Magazine.]

Che gelida manina*

Colors I love: interior detail of an opera house you've seen once or twice.

It's raining and windy outside and warm and cozy inside, the tea is hot, the armchair is comfortable and all the dogs are asleep. Must play some Christmas music, or some opera.

Remember how Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera in Pretty Woman? He tells her, "People's reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul."

That is such pure, steaming bullshit. ["The first time they see it"? See it?!]

Opera is all about the music. Should be self-evident, right? But people who have never been insanely in love with music don't get this, so they say things like the above, or "We went to the opera in Moscow and saw Madame Butterfly and it was so hilarious, because we were in Russia listening to people singing in Italian and pretending to be Japanese, ha ha ha!"

Imagine watching a great sheepdog win a difficult trial and then hearing someone say, "But his ears don't match and his coat isn't full enough and his head is simply a disaster!" Same. exact. thing.

It's nice if an opera's director is cutting-edge and the production values are terrific, and it's even better when the singers are reasonably attractive and age-appropriate and can act; but what really matters is, can they sing? Can they sing so well, with such insight and with such intelligence that it breaks your heart? Are the orchestra and the conductor terrific? Is the music great? That's all that matters. It's the reason people who love opera can be oblivious to everything from non-traditional casting and weird set design to sixty-ish baritones pretending to be young Gold Rush-era miners singing, "Whisky per tutti!" [I love Fanciulla like the air I breathe.] The music is all that matters. Opera lovers know the score [and keep a copy on the bedside table].

Give a listen to Victoria de los Ángeles from Spain, one of the best singers ever, if you ask me. This recording of an old familiar is from 1958.

Now here's a a chance to test your aficionado skillz and shrug off the odd set, the costumes, the camera work, a ridiculous plot and the fact that a woman, a mezzo-soprano, always sings the part of the young man Octavian. The opera is Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss, first performed in 1911, and the music is beautiful beyond belief. Anne Sophie von Otter is Octavian; Barbara Bonney is Sophie.

Honestly, the things one finds on YouTube! Here's the last scene from Act I of La Bohème. La Scala, 1979... hey, that tenor looks kind of familiar:

Ileana Cotrubas was Mimì in that vid. And now I must bundle up and go feed the sheep. As a matter of fact, my truck does have a most excellent CD player. Off to the farm —

*"What a cold little hand." [Otherwise known as "Remember to check the water trough."] From Bohème, but you knew that.

Giotto: Nativity

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Frescoes at the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua, by Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 – January 8, 1337). Left: Joachim's Dream. From Wikipedia:

Giotto's masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, commonly called the Arena Chapel, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the commune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy [...]

Joachim's Dream [detail].

December 24, 2008

At last, a CEO you can believe in

He's on the move

Jingle is with me and he has activated the cooling system that sprays the reindeer team with cool water. They are doing well.... it's amazing how well they handle the dramatic temperature changes. The weather has been good so far...though the launch was a little rough as we had high winds. Overall, its a great start.

Anyway... I'll be keeping you posted on my route tonight. I have my laptop with me and am using the same satellite connection I use to stay in contact with Mrs. Claus to post updates to my blog. Keep checking in. And don't forget, NORAD is tracking me as well.

See you soon!
How cool is that - he's a techie.

December 23, 2008

Feel like shouting “Hallelujah!”

Read the whole story! And then buy a bunch of copies!

This is just... so... [screams "YES!!!"] the best Christmas present ever. Sports Illustrated steps up to the plate and hits a grand by God slam. The big year-end issue! Sweet Jasmine on the cover! A most excellent article by Jim Gorant inside! And photos...! Now with Mexican-American goodness, yay Hernandez family! (Quoth PETA: "We must consider that nice families rarely come to a shelter to adopt pit bulls; almost without exception, those who want pit bulls are attracted to the 'macho' image of the breed as a living weapon" yadda yadda. Spanked by two girls and a baby, you PETA bigots):

"Zip's posse (clockwise from left): Vanessa, Berenice, Jesse, Francisco, Eliana." All photos by Deanne Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated. Can't imagine why SI used "posse" instead of, I dunno, "family," or "adopters," but that's just me. Brown little me. Anyhow: best family photo ever.

Jim Gorant's article is so good that I can't start using excerpts or I'll wind up posting all four [online] pages. And one of the best things of all: after recounting how PETA and HSUS wanted the Vick dogs killed [and PETA still wishes them dead], the article concludes with a footnote:
To support animal-care groups cited in this article, go to their respective websites:,, and
Because we cited PETA and HSUS, but they've made it pretty clear that they're so NOT animal-care groups. I heart SI. Repeat: I HEART Sports Illustrated!!

Huge congrats and a ton of thanks to all involved, with special, virtual hugs to the dog-lovin', dog-savin', hard-workin' souls at Bad Rap. You folks are awesome, awesome, awesome. There is a God -- and a doG -- and stereotypes are indeed so 1950s, and SI is this week's change we've been waiting for. Happy, Happy New Year.

December 21, 2008

Link Liberation

I added falling snow [for a few hours on Sunday] in honor of the Winter Solstice, to go with the sparkly red date effect, the night sky, the Christmas tree in the corner and the odd ornament. I am trying to be tasteful here [sound of hysterical laughter], so there will probably be no Santa's sleigh crossing the blog, etc. Probably not.

Topic. In recognition of the solstice and the gift-giving season, here are some links. First things first: to give credit where credit is due, Janeen of Smartdogs is responsible for that fine Winter Solstice post [with its Cahiers du cinéma-worthy video].

The revolutionary border collie poster shown above left is from Obey the Pure Breed. [You'll note that some breeds are more equal than others.]

These Creatures of Seattle came up with a slick new idea for a raised feeder. [H/T: GrassrootsModern.] Easy to clean underneath, and the designs rock.

Over at the green-design-is-good-design blog Inhabitat, Cooper the border collie/Lab mix checks out Ruff Wear's eco-sensitive gear for dogs, and Bridgette Steffen kindly translates Cooper's review into English.

Carol of [beautifully designed] Frogdogs provides a most excellent video of gifts to avoid giving. Though I agree that the gift at 1:57 would make me very, very happy.

Heather at Raised by Wolves recently posted one of the best working-dog vids ever, and I'm not just saying that because a certain border collie of my acquaintance would snap at any stranger foolish enough to interrupt her when she was working. [I snap at people who interrupt me when I'm working.]

Kat Urbigkit has a wonderful post on LGDs at Querencia, with super photos.

Sam will turn 20 — 20! — in March. Read Maureen's beautiful post about her old dog at Raven's Nest, and enjoy [sniffle] the beautiful photo of Sam with his dear kind face and grey muzzle.

Further afield: in celebration of 25 years publishing great reads, 4th Estate [a division of HarperCollins] commissioned an animated video from Apt Studio. It's called This is Where We Live, and it's wonderful — absolute book city.


Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, which gives me an excuse to bring up the concept of tzedakah — often mistranslated as "charity." Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater writes:
Torah calls on us to "appoint judges and magistrates in all our gates, the places that God gives to you, and you shall judge the people with righteous justice (mishpat tzedek)" (Deuteronomy 16:18).

What does "righteous justice" mean?

Commenting on this verse, the great 19th century master, Chatam Sofer, says it relates to a verse from the prophet Hosea [...], a line about God betrothing us with justice (tzedek), law (mishpat), kindness (chesed) and compassion (rachamim), which we say while putting on tefillin in the morning. According to a midrash, God provides the world with kindness and compassion, and we provide justice and law, thereby creating a balanced and holy alliance. It's a tangible and beautiful way of conceptualizing the covenant between divinity and humanity. Chatam Sofer goes on to say that "God gives us space to create homes, societies and communities, out of love and compassion, and it is up to us to create them with justice and righteousness, by creating laws that are fair and just for all members."

This is the true meaning of tzedakah: not charity, but justice.

There may be no blessing greater than the opportunity to help feed a hungry child, and Menu for Hope, brainchild of the most excellent foodie Pim of the famous web site, feeds thousands:
Last year's Menu for Hope raised over $90K. In case you're wondering about what happened to that money, here's a little report from the World Food Program.

It bought 388,000 meals in Lesotho schools, which fed over 19,000 poor hungry children with school meals for a whole month. The children received food in primary schools across the remote mountainous areas of Lesotho, which are the poorest and hungriest parts of the country.

Some of the money was used to buy food from local small scale farmers practicing sustainable farming methods in remote areas, providing them with guaranteed market for their products. In 2007, the WFP bought 8 tons of maize from local farmers. In 2008, with the funds from Menu for Hope 4, we bought 36 tons of maize from small scale farmers, four times as much as the year before.
You have until December 24 to buy raffle tickets for these great items, including cookbooks, cooking lessons, food, wines, coffees, food tours of Florence and Milan and Nice, a vacation in Napa Valley, terrific meals in restaurants from Europe to Australia, and much more. Everything is donated, which means all the money raised can be used to buy meals for hungry children. Don't think of it as charity. Think of it as justice.

And when they grow up, you can hear it for miles

Not many things cute as a beagle pup ;~)

[H/T: Sullivan.]

December 20, 2008

Thug Life

From an anonymous [surprise!] comment:
Good lord, the excuses of pit bull activists are obscene.

Pit bulls and those who want them should be banned.


You;re a threat to the health and safety of communities and are as or more dangerous than thugs armed with guns.
[modestly] I do what I can.

Gotta run — the border collies and I have a busy afternoon of drive-by pit-bullings ahead of us.

The threatening thugs of Bad Rap.

Middle-of-the-night blogging

Ruchira explains why women can't sleep.

[H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.]

"Sheru has made it. That was good news for all of us."

A Wounded Stray Inspires Hope in Anxious Mumbai:

On a leafy hospital campus in this still-scarred city, one of the victims of last month's terrorist attacks is making a recovery. He's a chubby, cream-colored pooch whom workers have named Sheru -- the Hindi word meaning Lion Heart.

Sheru was a stray dog hit by an errant bullet when two gunmen opened fire in a crowded railway station during the first night of the assault. The survival of the aging Sheru, despite a gunshot wound to his left shoulder, has become an uplifting and soothing symbol of Mumbai's recovery to many of the city's anxious and angry citizens. In a three-day siege beginning Nov. 26, 10 gunmen killed more than 170 people and wounded at least 230. They attacked two luxury hotels, a restaurant, a train station, a Jewish outreach center and other sites.

"Some may ask why a dog is being saved when so many human lives were lost," said J.C. Khanna, a retired lieutenant colonel and head veterinarian in the Indian army. "But saving all creatures big and small shows the love and affection for all life that [Mumbai] has shown again and again. Sheru's life stands for something, for all of us getting back on our feet."
Read the rest here, at WaPo. [H/T: HuffPost.]

December 19, 2008

Dammit, dammit, dammit

Wrong and wronger.

I could beat my head on rocks. Two dogs killed a man this afternoon in a dusty, unincorporated little 'burb off the 60 Freeway west of Riverside. A family lost their grandfather the week before Christmas. And the torch-and-pitchfork crowd of breed-banners will bring of the stupid, as they always do, and make me fear for my good dogs.

Like most fatal dog attacks, today's was "a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions — the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation." [That's Randall Lockwood's concise definition, from this article.]

The first hundred or so Google News results were all "SoCal grandfather mauled to death by pit bulls," and the story, with that headline, ran on news websites from Los Angeles to Houston, Jerusalem and Australia. Thanks so much, AP. Just before midnight the dependable Riverside Press-Enterprise ran their [vastly superior] report:
Rubidoux man mauled to death by own dogs

Two dogs mauled their 60-year-old owner to death Friday afternoon when he stepped into the backyard of his Rubidoux home to smoke, officials said.

Gerald Adelmund was declared dead at the cream-colored house in the 5700 block of Kenwood Place after deputies pulled him inside, said Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.

"This is an unfortunate, very tragic accident," Gutierrez said.

He said he did not know why the dogs attacked Adelmund or who dragged him into the house.

The dogs were described as a 4-year-old, 107-pound male, part pit bull and part mastiff, and a 52-pound female pit bull, about 6.

The dogs were euthanized Friday by the Riverside County Department of Animal Services, with the permission of Adelmund's relatives, and are being tested for rabies, said Animal Services spokesman John Welsh.

The family also authorized euthanizing the female's nine puppies, but it wasn't clear Friday if the puppies had been killed, Welsh said.
Other neighbors said they have been afraid of the dogs for months and described them as vicious.

Josie Peña, who lives in the house behind Adelmund's on 29th Street, said that two small pit bulls the family bought a few months ago fought each other, and would growl and snap at her family through the chain-link fence that divides their property.

She said Adelmund's large male, which he owned for years, was always playful but became more aggressive when the other dogs arrived.

"I haven't gone out in my backyard for three months because I can't stand the way they are," Peña said.
So we have a backyard breeder, several backyard dogs [unsocialized, untrained, iffy temperaments], nine puppies: the wrong dogs, "the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation." What a needless tragedy. And while there is never a "better" time for such misery — the week before Christmas. Damn.

December 14, 2008

Genuine Man-eating Siberian Bloodhounds

Eliza crossing the Ohio River, pursued by Genuine you-know-whats.

Fellow James Thurber-addict Carol [FrogDogz] has pointed out that for Thurber's generation — not to mention his parents' generation — the monster dog that tore people to shreds, that took hold with its fearsome jaws and never let go, was the bloodhound. Really: the friendly, slobbery bloodhound.

Remember when a girl could be ruined by a book? Back in the 1800s a dog could be ruined by the theater. The bloodhound's reputation tanked after the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin: a book I have never actually read skimmed today that contains a scene, or so I thought, where a runaway slave, her child in her arms, tries to cross the frozen Ohio River with a pack of vicious bloodhounds in hot pursuit. I know about this scene because my parents had in their library an amazing picture book of American history, with an image of a theater poster for Jay Rial's Ideal Uncle Tom's Cabin. Actually, the poster reads Jay Rial's Genuine Trained Bloodhounds. And in smaller letters, below the illustration: With Jay Rial's Ideal Uncle Tom's Cabin. The artist was Matt Morgan. From Bandwagon:
Matt Morgan, a leading lithographic artist of the period, joined the firm [Strobridge, "synonymous with circus posters"] in 1878, after spending five years with Leslie's Weekly as a cartoonist. Morgan's arrival brought the creation of the first Strobridge multiple-sheet poster, in the form of a 16 sheet [outdoor poster]. The subject was "Eliza Crossing the Ice."
I can find no reproduction of this poster online, and will have to scan it the next time I'm downtown. The book's reproduction of the poster is in black and white. The dogs are big, entirely lifelike and and vividly believable, with close-cropped ears and the slick coats of a pit bull or an American bulldog. They look absolutely ferocious, even if you are not an impressionable eight year old. The caption: Eliza's race across the Ohio River, shown in an Uncle Tom's Cabin theater poster, was often duplicated in real life. One Negro woman who was caught on the Ohio side cut her baby's throat as they were carried back to slavery. [Author Harriet Beecher Stowe exaggerates the separation of slave children from their families, complained a critic: Louisiana law clearly states that “Every person is expressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers the children who shall not have attained the full age of ten years."]

In the book, as it turns out, there are no dogs chasing Eliza across the frozen river. Stowe never mentions bloodhounds in Uncle Tom's Cabin [thank you, Project Gutenberg and Control+F], and she refers to Simon Legree's slave-chasing animals as bull-dogs, a familiar type. But theater impresarios of the 1800s guessed correctly that nothing would sell tickets like man-eating bloodhounds, with the possible exception of Genuine Man-eating Siberian Bloodhounds, so the dogs became central to stage productions of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the breed became famous for viciousness and unpredictable savagery.

All images in this post are from the web site Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive.

Absolutely, positively.

Another scene not found in the book. Are those Mexican bandits up on the cliff? Because that would be awesome.

One is left speechless.

From the NY Times, May 29, 1883:

You had to be there:

[File under Disbelief: Willing Suspension of.]

Mouse has mad skillz

No, not Danger Mouse — this is Brain Storm, the famous Agility Mouse.

Check out the trainer's web site: Mouse Agility - The Official Site.

[H/T: 3quarksdaily.]

December 13, 2008

Timesink alert: NYPL Digital Gallery

The End of a Perfect Day.  Digital ID: 1134452. New York Public Library
OMG, this totally is Bounce. Click on images for links to the NYPL and bigger views.

The Digital Gallery of the New York Public Library
provides free and open access to over 640,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more.
With all that digital goodness available, where to begin? I started with - wait for it - dogs, and a search for dog images will turn up bazillions. Here are a couple old commercial posters:

Arrow collars. Cluett shirts. Digital ID: 1541673. New York Public Library

Arrow collars & shirts. Saturd... Digital ID: 1541677. New York Public Library

A trio of Staffies:

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier... Digital ID: 1520573. New York Public Library

Look at the Bedlington! Look at the gorgeous GSD! Look at the corgi...! Clearly they had not yet been perfected by the fancy.

Bedlington. Digital ID: 1118080. New York Public Library

’Ride-a-cock horse.’ Digital ID: 1183782. New York Public Library

Pembrokeshire Welsh Corgie.  Digital ID: 1520159. New York Public Library

Seriously, this is one helluva timesink. You've been warned.

[H/T: Design*Sponge.]

December 12, 2008

Tonantzín, called Guadalupe

Shrine in Tamaulipas, Mexico, by Ilhuicamina on Flickr.

This year marks the 477th anniversary of the appearances of Nuestra Dulce Señora Santa María de Guadalupe del Tepeyac, Reina de México y Emperatriz de las Américas. December 12, her feast day, is also the day I was born. Actual birthday conversation from many years ago:

Student: "Hey, today's my mom's birthday, too."

Teacher: "And it's one of the most important religious holidays in Latin America."

Student: "Wow, I didn't know they even knew my mom!"

No trip north for me this year. I'm staying close to home and keeping a special eye on my oldest dog. Rain and snow expected this weekend and the week to come, yay.

Two more photos of La Morenita:

Catedral de Autlan de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico. Photograph by M@beLita, on Flickr.

Photographer Infinitas Gracias writes: "I took this picture in Patzcuaro, Mexico a few years ago. The great Virgin of Guadalupe is watching this dozy dog like she watches all her children." Another Flickr photo.

December 10, 2008

Shepherd's dog, 1490

Detail from The Nativity, by Ghirlandaio [Benedetto Bigordi].

1490. This painting was made before there was a New World, before Shakespeare, before Quixote, before Cortés. Boabdil was still living in the Alhambra. Outside Al-Andalus, most Europeans were illiterate -- and most, I read somewhere, lived and died without ever traveling more than a few miles from the place they were born.

In England, the wolf had been all but extinct for more than 500 years.
Our shepherdes dogge is not huge, vaste, and bigge, but of an indifferent stature and growth, because it hath not to deale with the bloudthyrsty wolf, sythence there be none in England, which happy and fortunate benefite is to be ascribed to the puisaunt Prince Edgar, who to thintent ye the whole countrey myght be evacuated and quite clered from wolfes, charged & commaunded the welshemë (who were pestered with these butcherly beastes above measure) to paye him yearely tribute which was (note the wisedome of the King) three hundred Wolfes. Some there be which write that Ludwall Prince of Wales paide yeerly to King Edgar three hundred wolves in the name of an exaction (as we have sayd before.) And that by the meanes hereof, within the compasse and tearme of foure yeares none of those noysome, and pestilent Beastes were left in the coastes of England and Wales.
The dog in The Nativity is not of indifferent stature. I imagine that if you were transported back to that time and that hillside, the dog would attack you. Downhill, in the stable, the burro and the ox are more attentive than most of the angels, and there is a frog: symbol of resurrection.

[Artwork from the most excellent Exposition Mantegna at the Louvre - H/T Le Divan Fumoir Bohémien.]

December 7, 2008

Super-De-Duper-Cute Overload

OMG...! [dies from the cuteness]

I have no words. Except: very impressive shiba! Not to mention the all-time cutest little kid in the history of the universe. Photo by Akihiro Furuta, otherwise known as the cute little kid's talented portrait-photographer dad. See more of his awesome family portraits here, at Flickr. [H/T BOOOOOOOM!]

Truth on trial

Banned Aid needs help, right now, this week, this minute. It's horrifying that some people, some judges, for God's sake, could look at urban legend on one side and peer-reviewed articles by AVMA and CDC experts on the other, and conclude that the truth about dogs must be, you know, somewhere in the middle. But there you are.

Please read. Please donate.

Breed specific legislation doesn't prevent dog bites and it doesn't prevent dog bite fatalities. It never has, and it never will. As a local Australian Government Minister complained back in 2006, "If I keep expanding the restricted breed list, we will have no dogs left in New South Wales."

And here's the issue: whenever the media, the courts and the city councils buy into the "safe breed"/"dangerous breed" fallacy, the general public is the biggest loser.

Instead of being informed and reminded about the importance of socialization and training and proper care and supervision of all dogs, parents are encouraged to think their families will be magically inoculated against dog bites if they simply buy a "safe breed."

I wish with all my heart that politicians and the media could be held liable for lulling parents into this false sense of security. Whenever a child winds up in an emergency room with an injury caused by a "safe breed" — and this happens tens of thousands of times each month in North America — proponents of BSL are complicit and should be held accountable.

As it happens, such a concept may be beginning to dawn on members of the press. When a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death last week by eager shoppers, David Carr of the NY Times held a mirror to the media:
The willingness of people to walk over another human being to get at the right price tag raises the question of how they got that way in the first place. But in the search for the usual suspects and parceling of blame, the news media should include themselves.

Just a few days ago, the same newspaper writers and television anchors who are now wearily shaking their heads at the collective bankruptcy of our mass consumer culture were cheering all of it on.
Gawker thinks the NYT is blowing smoke:
Of course, it was just Wednesday that the Times was mythologizing gluttonous consumerism, and not long ago that it literally serenaded the frenzied crowds chomping at the bit for their iPhones. And the holiday edition of high-end-consumption porn rag T Magazine is due in the next week or two, right? It's true that Black Friday is a stupid, fake idea, but media cheerleading of crazed consumerism is here to stay. If an unfolding economic depression wasn't enough to stop rabid consumers from breaking down doors to buy LCD television sets, a single death isn't going to reform desperate newspapers.
No surprise there: 60,000 hospitalizations from dog bites each year still haven't transformed hysterical calls for BSL into editorials demanding that people take the time to socialize and train their new puppies. This doesn't mean the day won't come: just that we shouldn't stand idly by while the truth about dogs is, well, trampled underfoot. Please: donate.

In related news, the blogging world was saddened to learn of the tragically early death of Doris Dungey, an expert economist who wrote under the name Tanta. She died in November at the age of 47, of cancer.
Tanta used her extensive knowledge of the loan industry to comment, castigate and above all instruct. Her fans ranged from the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times who cited her in his blog, to analysts at the Federal Reserve, who cited her in a paper on “Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit.”
You may be wondering what this sad news has to do with dogs, pit bulls or breed specific legislation. This:
Tanta liked to chew on the follies of regulators, the idiocies of lenders and — a particular favorite — clueless reporters, which according to her was just about all of them. She did not approve, she once wrote, of “parading one’s ignorance about mortgages in an article full of high-minded tut-tutting over ignorance about mortgages.”
Consider that the average business reporter knows quite a bit more about mortgages than the typical reporter knows about dogs, and you'll get an idea of the frustration some of us feel whenever a journalist is sent [or stays home] to write about dogs, let alone a controversial type of dog like the pit bull.

But also consider this: during her lifetime Tanta's blog came to be recognized as a "crucial source of prescient analysis," according to the New York Times. A hopeful sign, perhaps, that someday the press may grant a dog blogger [or two or twenty] a bit more recognition. Yes, I'm a dreamer.

I [heart] penguins

Young penguins in love. [Photo from the Daily Mail.]

I have loved penguins [and especially Adélie penguins like the ones above] ever since Mr. Popper. So I'm having a good time following biologist John Carlson's latest trip to the Antarctic, where he is probably counting penguins even as I blog. John usually writes the terrific Prairie Ice posts from his regular stomping grounds in Montana, but he's presently somewhere near Cuverville Island, which is... somewhere south of Tierra del Fuego.

Prairie Ice has great photos, too, and addictive links: I got hooked reading Arctic Auks, for example, and now I want to visit the Far North. How beautiful! No, wait — there are polar bears in the Arctic [and I'm not so sure about that "bear-proofing" thing]. Maybe the Antarctic would be better. What — no showers for how long...? Noah Stryker can tell you. Check out his Scott tent after a storm.

"Scott tent" — how reassuring is that. I think I'll stay here by the 'puter in SoCal and gear up for tomorrow's chilling 64 degrees F.

What a terrible crime! We must execute the victims at once.

And they did. The ironically named Humane Society of Houston, Texas took in 187 dogs after undercover agents and other investigators broke up "what officials described as one of the largest dogfighting rings in the country," and killed all 187. No experts were consulted and no temperament tests were administered ["[a]lthough some were not aggressive toward people"] — almost as if the Houston Humane Society were living in a parallel universe where the Michael Vick story got no airplay. Unbelievable.

So, to review: pit bulls bred to fight are among the most human-friendly dogs on earth. Many pit bulls bred to fight don't want to fight. Pit bulls that don't get along with other dogs can, with basic management, be great companions even in a multi-pet household.

Check out the poor dog in the photo: starving, ill, submissive and friendly, wagging his whole rear end at the photographer. [Photo from Texas Department of Public Safety via the NYT.] This dog isn't a monster. He isn't a separate species. He's on the small side: in good health he'd probably weigh under 40 lb, like most gamebred pit bulls. He's a friendly dog in desperate need of some good care. There are excellent foster homes in Texas and around the country that would have been glad to help this dog. Houston Humane killed him.

Ah, but they've chosen to devote their time and resources to "nice, adoptable" dogs. Isn't that best?

Sure. Let's kill all senior dogs, all shy dogs, all dogs over 20 lb, and all dogs that would be kicked off Cute Overload. Better yet, let's kill all stray cats and dogs and give the money we spend on animal shelters to homeless people. While we're at it, we can give all we own to the poor and eliminate funding for other scientific research until a cure is found for cancer. See how this argument spins on and on? So I adopted a pit bull instead of a "nice, worthy" dog — I didn't mail a check to Oxfam this month, either. Anything else you'd like to lecture me about?

Seriously, Houston Humane people — when you have knowledgeable rescue groups and experienced foster homes volunteering to help take dogs off your hands, and you tell those groups to take a hike, give us a break with the "death was more pleasant than what they had to exist for" excuses. You know better.

As for the dogfighters themselves — according to the NY Times article, they're hardly the upstanding citizens you read about in the Stratton books. But then, they never were.
In between screaming obscenities at the animals locked in combat, Sergeant Manning said, the participants smoked marijuana, popped pills, made side deals about things like selling cocaine and fencing stolen property, and, always, talked about dogs.
The fight usually ended when a dog refused to cross a line in the center of the ring to confront the opponent, known as “standing the line.” Such dogs were usually drowned or bludgeoned to death the next day, officials said.

“These guys take it very personally,” Sergeant Manning said. “It’s a reflection on them.”

Most of the dogs seized were kept outside in muddy yards, chained to axles sunk in the ground, with only six feet of tether and no shelter, beyond, in some cases, a toppled plastic 40-gallon barrel. All suffered from multiple parasites, veterinarians said.
And Houston Humane couldn't find it in their heart of hearts to let even one of those 187 dogs live. You've raised that "blame the victim" bar to a whole new level, Houston "Humane."

Stubby poses with his medals

Good little man, Stubby. [Click for bigger.]

The bulldog [as he would have been called back then] Stubby has been celebrated in Stubby: Terrier Hero of Georgetown by the most excellent Terrierman, and here, as part of Animal Farm Foundation's A Popular History of the Pit Bull in America.

This photo of Sergeant Stubby is from the Nationaal Archief in The Hague, via Flickr.

December 5, 2008

"Did you feel it?"

As a matter of fact, I did.

Mild shaking here. Quite a shallow quake — rupture started just 3.7 miles down. Shakemap:

Was on the phone with my sister at the time. Coincidence...? I shall notify CalTech, volunteer sister and self for further study.

November 30, 2008


New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt. Click for bigger.

OMG I love this. [Good eye, you out there! Yes, Mr. Blitt is the same illustrator who gave us the controversial fist-bump cover.] From MediaBistro, via HuffPost.

November 29, 2008

"I, too, am a Mumbaikar today."

Terrorist attack in Mumbai. Photo by Arun Shanbhag.

I wish I could reach out and for just one moment hold the hands of the woman in this AP photograph. Maybe shed some tears on her shoulder. But I do not know what I would say to her. I do not think she would want me to say much. The expression on her face matches the feeling I have at the pit of my stomach and in the depth of my heart. I think - I hope - that she would understand how I feel. I can only imagine what she is going through.

And so, in prayer and in solidarity, I stand today with Mumbaikars everywhere. In shock at what has happened. In fear of what might happen yet. In anger at those who would be so calculated in their inhuman massacre. In sympathy with those whose pain so hurts my own heart but whose tears I cannot touch, whose wounds I cannot heal, and whose grief I cannot relieve.
From the post I am a Mumbaikar: In Prayer and in Solidarity, by Adil Najam of All Things Pakistan. Read the whole thing at the link.

Citizen journalism at its most immediate: photos and updates from Arun Shanbhag, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who lives in Boston but was staying with family in Mumbai at the time of the attacks. As always, Flickr has more.

And Freddie deBoer [who is young enough to be my great-grandson, and possibly even younger than that] shows why he's in the sidebar with this post. Excerpt:
So there's about 1 billion Muslims in the world. A billion. A billion is a lot. What would a billion man plot look like, exactly? How would they communicate? Coordinate? I mean if you could really get a billion people together to attack Mumbai, you might as well try to take over a whole country. Ah, but maybe by "are behind" he [Rod Dreher] means "support". That kind of contention is thrown out there all the time, of course, and it has the virtue of requiring no form of proof whatsoever. Just like the contention "The average Palestinian would murder every Jew if he could," this kind of statement has no referent, invites no verification, requires nothing but the author's say-so and the guts to think you can leave it out there, orphaned and unsupported. This is non-falsifiable nonsense. I'm sure, say, the thousands of impoverished Thai Muslims living along the coast with no television or newspapers would be surprised to learn that they support a terrorist attack they've never heard of. Dreher has left himself an out, here, but he's done it in about the weakest form possible: possibly most Muslims weren't behind these attacks. Mmmm.

Once again quoting the post by Adil Najam:

But, today, I have no words of analysis. What words can make sense of the patently senseless? I do not know who did this. Nor can I imagine any cause that would justify this. But this I know: No matter who did this, no matter why, the terror that has been wrought in Mumbai is vile and inhuman and unjustifiable. And, for the sake of our own humanness, we must speak out against it.

And, so, to any Mumbaikar who might be listening, I say: “I stand with you today. In prayer and in solidarity.”

Baruch Dayan Emet
: Blessed is the true judge.

"Taking the Lambs to Market"

Butcher shop in Pinole, California. "Clarence Faria's Uncle Manuel, owner, on the right."

Fragments of Maxine Kumin's Taking the Lambs to Market have appeared in a number of links recently: here, for instance, in a fine essay on sheep, local slaughterhouses, USDA inspections and small-farm economics by Bill Fosher.

So I thought I'd post the whole thing. From the collection Looking for Luck:

Taking the Lambs to Market

All due respect to the blood on his bandsaw,
table, hands and smock, Amos is an artist.

We bring him something living, breathed, furred
and meet it next in a bloodless sagittal section.

No matter how we may deplore his profession
all of us are eating, even Keats

who said, If a Sparrow come before my Window
I take part in its existence and pick
about the Gravel
, but dined on mutton.

Amos, who custom cuts and double wraps
in white butcher paper whatever we named,
fed, scratched behind the ear, deserves our praise:

a decent man who blurs the line of sight
between our conscience and our appetite.

And one I've posted before and will no doubt post again: Meat, by Thom Gunn.
My brother saw a pig root in a field,
And saw too its whole lovely body yield
To this desire which deepened out of need
So that in wriggling through the mud and weed
To eat and dig were one athletic joy.
When we who are the overlords destroy
Our ranging vassals, we can therefore taste
The muscle of delighted interest
We make into ourselves, as formerly
Hurons digested human bravery.

Not much like this degraded meat — this meal
Of something, was it chicken, pork, or veal?
It tasted of the half-life that we raise
In high bright tombs which, days, and nights like days,
Murmur with nervous sound from cubicles
Where fed on treated slop the living cells
Expand within each creature forced to sit
Cramped with its boredom and its pile of shit
Till it is standard weight for roast or bacon
And terminated, and its place is taken.

To make this worth a meal you have to add
The succulent liberties it never had
Of leek, and pepper fruiting in its climb,
The redolent adventures dried in thyme
Whose branches creep and stiffen where they please,
Or rosemary that shakes in the world's breeze.

November 28, 2008

Good eats and good reads: on raising - and killing - lamb for dinner

Louise Erdrich looked at the northern tallgrass prairie and wrote:
I would be converted to a religion of grass. Sleep the winter away and rise headlong each spring. Sink deep roots. Conserve water. Respect and nourish your neighbors and never let trees gain the upper hand. Such are the tenets and dogmas. As for the practice — grow lush in order to be devoured or caressed, stiffen in sweet elegance, invent startling seeds — those also make sense. Bow beneath the arm of fire. Connect underground. Provide. Provide. Be lovely and do no harm.
Provide. Here is California farmer Andy Griffin, author of The Ladybug Letter, writing about "the karma of meat":
[C]ooking meat is the way nature allows us to eat grass. By profession I’m a vegetable farmer, but as a hobby I keep a flock of goats and sheep along with a tiny herd of Dexter cattle and I think of them collectively as my “meat garden.” My animals eat cull vegetables, like over-ripe tomatoes, under-ripe winter squash and deformed beets, but mostly they eat grass from the hillsides around my home that are too steep and dry for me to farm. Remember the Dust Bowl? One of the most profound and long-lasting catastrophes of the “dirty thirties” was that speculation in grain caused vast tracts of arid, marginal land in the western Great Plains to be ploughed down for wheat. When the drought came there was no turf to hold the soil down and it blew away. That land should have never been taken away from the Buffalo and the beef cattle.

"Cooking meat is the way nature allows us to eat grass."
Andy Griffin

And when Andy says "beef cattle" he isn't talking about the "karmically-challenged modern beef steer" fattened on corn in a feedlot. People, there's a reason Isaiah says in the Bible, "All flesh is grass." [A reason that has nothing to do with meat for dinner, but still.]

Everything dies. If we are conscientious, the stock we raise will die with as little stress as possible after a comfortable life. And this beats being chased down and torn apart while still alive, or wasting away from injury and infection, or dying of some hideous parasite-borne condition on the African savannah, if you ask me. [Full disclosure: when an earnest vegan says, "I am someone who cares about preventing cruelty to animals," I want to say, "Dude -- like Battle at Kruger?"] As the man wrote, "No wild animal dies of old age."

All of this is by way of introducing some links to excellent posts on raising sheep [and other stock] for slaughter, and dinner.

First, from the always terrific Bill Fosher [owner/moderator of the Sheep Production Forum]: Honor thy meat.

I loved this:
Q: “How do you eat meat from animals you knew?”
A: “I don’t like to eat meat from an animal I didn’t know!"
True, true — the only lamb I used to eat, before free-range and grass-fed became trendy, was barbecued on a friend's ranch not long after being slaughtered. The person sitting across from me at the table could tell me everything about that individual lamb, from its grazing habits to the name of its great-grandma. I knew where that lamb came from and what care it received. Who do you ask about the shrink-wrapped ground beef at Whole Foods?

Ardi Gasna has been in my blog list forever, and back in April, California chef, sheep dairy owner and artisanal cheesemaker Rebecca King wrote about slaughtering lambs she'd raised:
I know some may find it morbid (although they themselves eat meat that someone else kills!), but I've discovered I actually enjoy slaughtering and butchering my own animals. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I was responsible for this animal from its birth until its death. I am also fascinated in the process by which a living thing becomes food that we eat. The lamb has been really delicious as well, some of the best I've ever had.
As it happens, Andy Griffin of Mariquita Farm and The Ladybug Letter has crossed paths with Rebecca and her sheep. Small blogosphere.

Farmer and Honest Meat blogger Rebecca Thistlewaite also has some words on lamb, specifically: "So the California raised grassfed lamb tasted better, but why does it cost so much more?" Read the rest in her post The Real Dirt on Lamb.

And what about the actual, you know, slaughter? How much easier it is for the animals when they are killed quickly at their own farm or ranch, without the stress caused by transport to a distant slaughterhouse! So why aren't there more MPUs?

That truck on the left is a mobile slaughterhouse, or MPU - Mobile Processing Unit. From The WSJ's Have Knife, Will Travel:
Scott Meyers of Sweet Grass Farm Beef [on Lopez Island, Washington] started raising Japanese Wagyu cattle on his grass pasture once the mobile unit was up and running. "It gave me access to the marketplace," he says. "Without that, I wouldn't have even considered" raising beef.

Mr. Meyers says the mobile unit offers his animals a "sublime" death because they avoid the stress of traveling long distances. Such care makes his beef taste better, he says, as he introduces part of his herd: "This one's Violet, here's Splits and Buttercup."
The Ethicurean has more on the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative here.

But that's Washington State. Are there any mobile rigs in California?

Sort of. Marissa Guggiana explains in Leading Lambs to Slaughter — In search of a kinder, gentler abbatoir:
Right now there are seven operating MPUs in the U.S., but none of them are in California. California’s lone MPU sits gathering dust in Monterey County. The MPU is operated by George Work, of Work Family Ranch. Work’s enthusiasm for the practicality of the MPU got it built, but it hasn’t been enough to overcome state and county bureaucracy, and a federal regulatory system that seems reluctant to change.
The general response from other meat processors, government workers, and members of the sustainability community to the MPU is a list of reasons why it does not work, has not worked, and will not work. Most of these focus on county regulations. For instance, in Washington, where [Bruce] Dunlop operates, he’s able to compost the non-edible remainders and return them to the pasture as fertilizer. In California this wouldn’t be tolerated. While each county has its legal peculiarities, there seems to be an overarching resistance rooted in a fear of decentralization, a fear that if we move outside the model of faster, cheaper, and more, we lose.
We'll see what happens once the new administration takes over, though I suspect MPUs are not high on the list of concerns at the moment.

Related posts from this blog, with much link goodness.

Hey, that'd be a good title for a book!

And finally, from one of the links above:
Keep in mind one of the oldest ways to get "free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat": by hunting it yourself.