Brit Odds and Sods

I’m sorry about not posting last weekend – my wife insisted on a long hotel break in Internet-less Wales, which prevented me from doing so. How we suffer for our spouses…


Anyway, here are some recent odds and ends inspired by the British press, of possible interest to VP readers.

A GRAPHIC accompanying a piece in the Observer (the Sunday edition of the left-wing Guardian), inspired by an upcoming animal sentience conference, informs us that “Fish are renowned for having a three second memory; however, evidence suggests they can be highly manipulative and cultured.”

Now I suppose I can imagine some kind of game theoretical experimental situation in which a fish cheated another one of a food pellet – I’m guess that’s possible. At least the idea of a “manipulative” trout is one that I’m capable of understanding, even if I remain somewhat sceptical by and large.

But what the hell is a “cultured” fish? What criteria must be met before a fish is considered “cutltured”? Answers in the comments, please.

OTHER strange goings-on on the animal rights front – a so-tiny-it’s-not-online Independent item reports that production of a particular type of candy – specifically gummy road kill, which is like gummy bears, but in the form of animals with tire tracks across their backs – had been stopped after protests from animal rights activists.

It’s nice to see that such organisations are able to spend the effort on matters like this, suggesting as it does that more serious cases of animal abuse are rather thin on the ground at the moment.


In a similar instance of well-prioritised expenditure focusing on the very worst cases – namely, advertisements making fun of ugly turkeys – Compassion in World Farming Trust, the organisation organising and promoting the conference alluded to above, took the trouble last Christmas to condemn:

“the National Farmer’s Union’s (NFU) latest turkey marketing campaign for making light of the rearing and slaughter of up to 23 million turkeys in Britain every year, many of which live and die in appalling conditions.

“The NFU Christmas turkey marketing campaign urges visitors to its website to “vote for the breed you think is ugliest”.

ONE LAST item on the animal front, this one concerning the always-interesting topic of duck sexuality.

As some readers may be unaware, male ducks appparently have a lamentable proclivity to commit rape (a fact which has resulted in at least one Observer writer refusing to eat duck:

“on moral grounds, because ducks share a deeply unpleasant propensity with certain humans … Ducks and humans are the two species with the greatest propensity to commit rape.”

(The whole matter of duck rape, BTW, raises the interesting question of just how one determines a particular act of duck congress to be consentual).

In any event, today’s Observer brings further news concerning duck deviance:


“Kees Moelinker, of Naturmuseum Rotterdam, … documented the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in mallard ducks.”

Ducks – who knew?

TODAY’S Independent magazine section carries a fittingly odd piece by someone named Jason Oddy, who seems to be a photographic artist (the article doesn’t mention his photography, but the supposition is supported by the fact that the rather arty photos here were uncredited, unlike photos elsewhere in the magazine).

If it is indeed the same guy – and I’m virtually certain that it is – Mr. Oddy doesn’t seem to think too much of Bush administration policy. As one gallery puts it:

“If his pictures of the Pentagon evoke the clumsy expression of brute power and his portrayals of the UN hint at an anticipated global order, then his single image of Guantanamo Bay rounds off the story. Here we see empire – both man’s over the world and the US’s over contemporary politics – at its last gasp. Overblown and overstretched it is reduced to an impoverished, shoddily constructed ‘throne’ watching over an empty sea.”

The first half of Mr. Oddy’s Independent article describes a (modern) copper ghost town in New Mexico, and explains that it’s been bought by a University as a location for simulating terror attacks of various types. The project is funded by the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of $30 million a year, and will be used to train law enforcement agents from all over the country, at all levels.


Pretty straightforward, I’d say – and I for one don’t find it at all unreasonable to simulate terror events and responses to them in such a location. In fact, it sounds like a pretty good idea to me. But that’s because I’ve been hyp-mo-tized by the evil Bush Administration.

You see, it turns out that the purchase of the town – an act representing but one head of the “many headed hydra” that the War on Terror (a “doom-laden bellicose mantra“) has “spun into” – in fact constitutes a striking example of “America’s taste for bewitching itself with make-believe.”

For Mr. Oddy, the simulation set that the ghost town will become is just another part of the administration’s efforts to keep the population panicked over “that evil genie ‘terror’“. In fact, “their real purpose will be to keep an already hypnotised public teetering on the edge of their seats.”

ETHICAL instruction seems to make at least one appearance every day in the pages of the Guardian and its Sunday sister publication, the Observer. Today’s example addresses those who are too lazy even to get off their butts to go to a protest march.

Despite being such lazy sods, “slacktivists” are nevertheless able to “challenge corporate dominated, global culture and monitor this prevailing culture increases global poverty and ecological strains.”


The Observer article encourages would-be slacktivists to participate in “International Buy Nothing Day” (which is sponsored by an organisation that “encourages us to break away from the corporate-controlled culture“). Other recommended activities are boycotting retail emporia, catching up on some human rights websites, and wearing “their message on their wrist in the form of a ‘Make Poverty History’ white wristband, also made by a Fair Trade Dhaka cooperative employing teenage women.”

THATS’ IT for this week – back next, God willing.

[I normally blog at The Daily Ablution.]


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