The Animal Anal Alarm™

So, I have cats. Like dogs, cats sometimes like to lick you. This can be pleasant and invigorating. But when Fido jumps up on you when you return from work and plants a big wet kiss on your cheek or hand, somewhere in the back of your mind you're thinking: 'I wonder how long it's been since Fido gave a tongue-bath to his anus.' In fact, your dog may have just eagerly gulped down a family-sized portion of some other dog's -- or even his own -- fecal matter.

Why can't technology provide a solution to this problem? If you can wear something on your wrist that knows whether you're sleeping or how many steps you climbed, you should be able to invent some sort of accelerometer-GPS-quantum-gizmo that can tell when your pet last french-kissed the old bunghole. So as Fido closes in for the greeting, you sneak a peek at the digital collar display. If it reads '210 minutes', you're probably OK. If it reads '6 seconds', EVASIVE ACTION.

Who wants to help me kickstarter this and become a millionaire?


Stuffing Pregnant Women with Marmot Meat

Marmot-edit1.jpg

A while ago I visited Zürich and bought this book, Vom Essen und Trinken im alten Zürich ('On Eating and Drinking in Old Zürich'). I saw it at a flea market and just liked the quality -- thick, glossy paper, lots of interesting and well-integrated illustrations, solid and durable binding. A fine example of the bookmaker's art. (You know, real bookmakers).

I've been dipping into it a bit lately, and it turns out to be full of Fun Facts.© As was pretty normal for medieval Europe, people needed protein and ate anything that moved, from eels to finches to sparrows to hawks to frogs to hedgehogs. Smaller birds would just be roasted on a spit and eaten whole, their tiny bones providing the sought-after crunch factor. To conceal the fact that some of these meats are pretty revolting, they would be slathered in fat and whatever spices came to hand. Things got a lot easier after 1500, when trade brought eastern spices, sugar, coffee, tea, and other delicacies first to the rich, then to everyone except the poorest people.

We also learn that medieval and early-modern Germans avoided eating malodorous cheese, giving it the nickname Schreck-den-Gast (scare the guest). During times of scarcity, the Zürich authorities would create exhaustive, precise rationing lists, most of which survive (Remember, they're Swiss). According to one such list, pregnant women were to receive extra rations, including extra portions of marmot (groundhog) meat. 

That'll teach those strumpets!


Am deutschen Wesen, or German Smoothiemakers Show Us the Way

One day, we will look back on the spasms of social-media shaming that are currently in vogue and wonder: what were we thinking?!? I try to make it a habit to think 'what were we thinking?'while we still are thinking it. So I have always thought that the proper response to being called out by tiresome scolds is not the groveling apology your PR firm wants you to give, but either complete obliviousness or a satisfied smirk.

And a group of German smoothie-makers is showing us the way. True Fruits recently started a couple of new advertising campaigns that twisted the knickers of German SJWs. One of their bottles is emblazoned with the logo: 'Get you sausage-like fingers away from this bottle!' According to Indyvegan, a German language website trying to raise a shitstorm (g) over True Fruits, this is fat-shaming, or in German, fatshaming. (Yes, English is the international language of PC scolding. Depressing, isn't it?)

But that was just the beginning. One of their white fruit juices wasn't selling well, so they decided to put it in a black bottle labeled 'Blind Taste Test' and provide the following analogy (my translation):

Ever set up an ugly girlfriend who's awfully sweet with a date? That's what we felt like with our white smoothie, our tastiest smoothie. Because of its pale and unfruity appearance, it wasn't getting near enough chances for a spicy rendezvous with you. So we had no choice but to click off the light so that you could concentrate solely on its inner values. #swallowinthedark

 As Indyvegan then put it, 'Customers felt that this text was lookist (lookistisch, believe it or not), since it suggested you should prefer dark places to get to know people who don't conform to the commonly-held ideals of beauty.' There's more in this vein, practically writes itself.

And then True Fruits did something inspiring. On its public websites, it responded to similar complaints like this. (If you're anything like me, you may want to put on some swelling string music and have tissues ready):

"We took a look at your comments and decided they were totally crackbrained bullshit (the German word is of course Bullshit) from wanna-be moral apostles. After we finished laughing, we decided that even the slightest hint of a serious answer would be a total waste of our lives. So a short piece of advice to all the whiners: if you don't like it, go. Spare us your whimpering, 'cause we like our sense of humor."

"We're good-looking, arrogant chauvinists who don't catch your drift."

"Go cry your eyes out somewhere, you weenie*."

"We're not perfect ourselves and once in a while we encounter statements of jokes that we might feel directly or indirectly target us. And you know what we do or don't do then? We'll tell you: We don't soil ourselves and whine like a toddler who didn't get his second pudding after dinner. You can do that, if your synapses leave you no other option. But please don't blubber all over us."

When Indyvegan the website asked for an interview, the firm took one look at the questions and declined, saying there was obviously no point in further discussion. If you don't like our advertising strategy, True Fruits continued, "we recommend that you and your readers simply avoid our products and our websites in the future." The email response was signed by Fee (Fairy!) Surges, the speaker. They also broadcast a video (g, on Facebook) with a sarcastic fake apology on April 1.

I've drunk some True Fruits before, they're tasty. I hereby announce that in the future, I will be drinking as much True Fruits as my budget allows. 

Continue reading "Am deutschen Wesen, or German Smoothiemakers Show Us the Way" »


Bleg: Help me Catch a Cannibal Murderer!

WARNING: A confessed murderer and cannibal is on the prowl in Japan! Here's an interview with him:

Everyone knows who he is, actually. In fact, he's a minor celebrity. So I really want you to help me catch an article about a cannibal murderer. 

The cannibal murderer is Issei Sagawa, a soi-disant Japanese intellectual who killed and ate a woman in Paris in 1981. This is what happened to him afterward, according to you-know-who:

Sagawa's wealthy father provided a lawyer for his defense, and after being held for two years without trial Sagawa was found legally insane and unfit to stand trial by the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who ordered him held indefinitely in a mental institution. After a visit by the author Inuhiko Yomota, Sagawa's account of the murder was published in Japan under the title In the Fog. Sagawa's subsequent publicity and macabre celebrity likely contributed to the French authorities' decision to deport him to Japan, where he was immediately committed to Matsuzawa hospital. Examining psychologists there all declared him sane and found sexual perversion was his sole motivation for the murder. Because charges in France had been dropped, the French court documents were sealed and were not released to Japanese authorities. Consequently Sagawa could not legally be detained in Japan. He checked himself out of the hospital on August 12, 1986, and has remained free. Sagawa's continued freedom has been widely criticized.

So, on the surface we have not only a miscarriage of justice, but also quite possibly an example of two different legal cultures defining legal sanity in different and interesting ways. Just the sort of thing that really rings my bell.

Which brings me to the next mystery: an online law journal that seems to have published only a few issues, then vanished! Here is a citation to an article about Sagawa:

  1.  Morris, Steven (September 20, 2007)."Issei Sagawa: Celebrity Cannibal"New Criminologist, the On-line Journal of Criminology (New Criminologist). Archived from the original on June 14, 2011.[dead link]

As you can see, the link is very dead indeed. To add to the mystery, the New Criminologist started a Twitter account (under the logo Vitam Impenderi Vero) which then mysteriously died after only 4 tweets. The journal's online presence seems not just to have gone dormant, but been deliberately erased. Shoved down the memory hole, if you will!

Can anyone find this article for me? As a bonus, can anyone explain what happened to New Criminologist? 


Japanese Revere, Eat Insects

You might notice I've been on a Japan kick recently, so here's a pice from Aeon in which Andrea Appleton describes Japanese insect love

Insects have been celebrated in Japanese culture for centuries. ‘The Lady Who Loved Insects’ is a classic story of a caterpillar-collecting lady of the 12th century court; the Tamamushi, or ‘Jewel Beetle’ Shrine, is a seventh century miniature temple, once shingled with 9,000 iridescent beetle forewings.

Insects continue to rear their antennae in modern Japan. Consider ‘Mothra’, the giant caterpillar-moth monster who is second only to Godzilla in film appearances; the many bug-inspired characters of ‘Pokémon’, and any number of manga (including an insect-themed detective series named after Fabre). Travel agencies advertise firefly-watching tours, there are televised beetle-wrestling competitions and beetle petting zoos. Department stores and even vending machines sell live insects.

Nor do the Japanese merely admire insects: they eat them too. In the Chūbu region, in central Japan, villagers rear wasps at home for food, and forage for giant hornets that are eaten at all life stages, while fried grasshoppers or inago are a luxury foodstuff. Entomophagy once had a place in Western culture too: the ancient Greeks ate cicadas, the Romans ate grubs. But while modern Westerners blithely eat aquatic arthropods – lobster, shrimp, crab, crayfish – we’ve lost our taste for the terrestrial kind.


Aurochs With and Without Questionable Ideology

A translator opines on the difficulty of rendering Aurochs into English:

Walser was prophetic about 100% Germanness. A good decade after his 1917 story, German scientists—Heinz Heck in Munich and his brother, Lutz Heck, in Berlin—started a program to breed back the massive primordial beasts, extinct since 1627. The result was Heck cattle, misleadingly announced to the world by the publicity-savvy brothers as “back-bred aurochs.”

Although the research started in the 1920s, and the first bull said to resemble an aurochs was born in 1932, the whole effort has been remembered, not entirely unjustly, as a project of “Nazi science,” madly breeding a genetically pure super-race. Lutz joined the Party early. Time magazine says “the Nazi government funded an attempt to breed them back as part of its propaganda effort.” But one English journalist, Simon de Bruxelles, seems to have cornered the market on magnificent aurochs headlines, from “A shaggy cow story: how a Nazi experiment brought extinct aurochs to Devon”—

Through the misty early morning sunlight dappling a Devon field a vision from the primeval past lumbers into view. The beast with its shaggy, russet-tinged coat, powerful shoulders and lyre-shaped horns could have stepped straight from a prehistoric cave painting. The vision is … Bos primigenius, the aurochs, fearsome wild ancestor of all today’s domestic cattle, immortalised tens of thousands of years ago in ochre and charcoal in the Great Hall of the Bulls at Lascaux in southwest France…

—to, just last month, the nearly incomparable “Peace in our time after slaughter of Nazi super-cows:”

Britain’s only herd of “Nazi” cattle has been turned into sausages because they were so dangerous that no one could go near them…. The cattle, which have long horns as sharp as stilettos, were an attempt by Nazi scientists to re-create the prehistoric aurochs, a breed of giant wild cattle regarded with awe by Julius Caesar….

Atavistic Northern European grandiosity about aurochs lives on. There’s a new effort to resurrect the ancient breed, the Tauros Project, led by Dutchman Henri Kerkdijk, and an even newer offshoot from 2013: the Uruz Project, complete with a TED event. They want to help “rewild” Holland by “de-extincting” the animals that inhabited earlier ecosystems. It all sounds pretty plausible: as this useful summary explains, scientists sequence aurochs DNA from old bones found in Britain, then go looking for breeds of cattle alive today with segments of aurochs DNA still intact. (“Tauros,” initially called “TaurOs” ≈ Taurus + Os, “Bull + Bone.”) With the sequencing of the complete aurochs genome, celebrated on the Breeding-Back Blog last year, the double-helix dictionary of the aurochs is complete. A few more generations of selective breeding and there we’ll have it.

The aurochs are not being “recreated,” as an online commenter puts it: “They are just being ‘rejoined.’ The genes are still there, spread through the population of cows.” They are being spelled.

Here's a picture I took of an modern quasi-Aurochs recently in the Neandertal Ice-Age Animal Reserve (g), where they are no longer being bred for their chthonic-Aryan qualities. Presumably.

Aurochs with Medium Length Horns


Cognitive Biases and Anti-Vaxxers

Since an 18-month old unvaccinated child in Berlin just died of measles, this new SciShow clip seems timely. The point is that parents who don't get their kids pricked aren't necessarily 'stupid', they're just letting their thinking be guided by cognitive biases, the eternal insidious enemies of rational thought. Here, the culprits are negativity bias, confirmation bias, and omission bias, all of which are crisply and engagingly defined in the video:


They Saved Hitler's Brain

Dr. Scheißwixxer: Well, Mr. Hackler, I suppose you would like me to explain why I created the Cyber Death Ray before I order my nanoslaves to consume you from the inside out, causing agonizing pain.

Jack Hackler: Sure, why not?

Dr. Scheißwixxer: It's simple. I am pure evil, and my only desire is to watch humanity suffer.

Jack Hackler (exasperated): What? Is that all you've got? What is this, 1987? Supervillians today should be able to make at least 2 or 3 superficially-plausible, thought-provoking arguments for what they're doing. You know, psychotic resentment caused by a life of oppression, or corrupt venal humanity had its chance and blew it, or I'm going to actually usher in a golden new age. You've really disappointed me.

[Dr. Scheßwixxer removes pistol from pocket, shoots Hackler in the head.]