Somebody just did a study of chickens by strapping tiny video cameras on them to watch them when they thought no one was looking. Non-dominant males were observed surreptitiously making gestures to hens, proffering choice bits of food, but without the accompanying squawk that might lead to the dominant cock noticing and handing out a chicken-style ass whooping. Eating them suddenly seems cannibalistic. Because, sure, chickens don't look much like us, and if their big cousins were still around they'd have no compunction about serving us up with a side of slaw. But they're sneaky. What's more human than that?
Monday, March 3, 2014
We think we're so cool, what with our ample free parking and choice of toppings. But look, really the only valid way to determine a species' dominance is to measure its biomass. How much would everyone weigh if we were mushed together and put on an extremely large bathroom scale? Sadly, we have to be content with informed estimates. Together, humans weigh in at about 350 million metric tons. Krill, termites, and cattle all have us beat. And cyanobacteria, those little dudes who triggered the greatest extinction event ever, outweigh us by a factor of three. We're not even contenders.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Several years ago I wrote the best 100 words I ever hope to write, about the enormous galvanized watering can of Utica, New York. Since then I have given that city very little thought. So let's revisit the Jewel of the Mohawk. Utica is named for, and essentially replaces, a city of the same name in Tunisia which no longer exists. In addition to the World's Largest Watering Can, Utica is also the birthplace of the Union Suit, the red butt-flap long johns worn to such great comic effect by bearded sidekicks in many Cowboy movies. Hats off to Utica!
Monday, February 17, 2014
Days, months, and years reflect immutable natural periodicities over which humans have no control. Weeks, on the other hand, are cultural artifacts and subject to change. So here's my idea: Eliminate Wednesdays. The resulting 6 day week would have many advantages. Obviously, you'd get a 4-day workweek, plus reduced unemployment to make up for those lost hours, plus every month could have exactly 5 weeks for a uniform 30 days. That's 360 days. Then the day after Mardi Gras, 5 Ash Wednesdays in a row The extra day every 4 years could be named Dave. Because I thought of it.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Because I like to think I write for the Ages (6 to 10), I usually avoid topical references in these little essays. But Holy Crap, did you see the Olympics opening show? If you missed it, I'll just mention that at one point, approximately 20,000 Young Pioneers danced the entire plot of War and Peace en pointe simply as an entre'acte between a couple of really big setpieces. You can only get that kind of precision from a mass of performers when they all know that a missed cue means your whole family will end up in a labor camp.
Monday, February 3, 2014
I'd like to believe in an afterlife. I'd like to, but I can't. It's like, where does a story go when they've burnt the book? Right. Memory. But it's a comfort to imagine our departed loved ones looking down at us at Costco and wondering what we think we're going to do with six LED flashlights. Nice to visualize Bukowski peeing over the railing. And I'd like to think that somewhere up there Pete Seeger, Yusef Lateef, and Phil Everly have quickly figured out they don't know any of the same songs and have decided to see what's on TV.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Zion, Illinois, was founded in 1901 by a faith healer named Dowie as a place for his followers to live. He ran the only church in town. After he died, a guy named Voliva took over as General Overseer. These guys taught that the Earth is flat, which if you think about it, it might as well be. Anyway, there's a bakery in Zion that makes delicious fig sandwich cookies, indistinguishable from the more well-known Newtons. And I thought maybe Newtons were so named to highlight how physics could prove the Earth was round. But that wasn't it at all.