Category Archives: Animals

Kotzwinkle, William: Doctor Rat (1976)

Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.

“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”

In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.

In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.

One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.

I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.

“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”

“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”

While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.

Excellent story. Most definitively recommended.


Reviews:

McGuire, Seanan: Midway Relics and Dying Breeds (2014)

“Thing was, the westward portage rope was attached to Billie’s harness, and Billie, for all her advantages as a draft animal, is about as smart as damp moss when it comes to things like “noticing external stimuli.” She’s a genework Indricothere (link by ed) that my Uncle Ren and I bought from a fly-by firm about six years back—a sort of precursor to the rhinoceros, and one of the largest land mammals ever to walk on the planet. When she put down her foot, the ground shook. There were no predators that could take her down and no threats that she recognized as worth giving a damn about, all of which combined to mean that there wasn’t much that could distract her from the essential task of eating her way through the foliage of the world. All nine tons of her continued plodding relentlessly forward, her massive teeth stripping branches as she walked. Her grazing license typed her as a firebreak, preventing fires by clearing out all the dead stuff before it could go up. It was more than halfway true, and it hadn’t caught us any trouble yet.”

Seanan McGuire

Midway Relics and Dying Breeds

McGuire, Seanan: Indexing page 1

“My day began with half a dozen bluebirds beating themselves to death against my window, leaving little bloody commas on the glass to mark their passing.”

(Picture by Lifllane)

Rae, Candy: Wolves and War (Planet Wolf I) (2012)

Wolves and War - Candy Rae
Cover art by Jennifer Johnson

At the outset I want to make you aware of the British English / Scottish English phrasing and spelling in Wolves and War. NOT American English!!! Because of the sometimes young phrasing, I feel Wolves and War is meant for young adults and up. While harsh at times the violence is not descriptive. There is some romance, but it is about as innocent as romance can get. What you do need to remember (sort of a warning) is that Wolves and War is about war and war is anything but nice.

On to the fun stuff.

I really enjoyed Wolves and War. At times I hurt because of the terrible changes to the lives of some of the women and children. War’s nature is gruesome. I have NEVER experienced it myself and am speaking solely as one who reads and listens and watches. What amazes me time and again is what people are willing to put up with if the alternative is death. Often I have wondered why people choose to live rather than kill themselves when their lives become so miserable. Some of the lives on the Southern Continent end up being what I would call gruesome. Yet, somehow life is chosen. Why?

Wolves and War does not answer my why. In fact, it leaves me there with my questions. Ms. Rae has done a brilliant thing in doing that because I do not really want another person to answer all my whys. I don’t even need there to be an answer to my whys.

Wolves and War is a space opera type of Science Fiction – character and world-building is more important than technology.

When the Argyll has to land on the Northern Continent the crew and settlers have to abandon ship before it sinks leaving them without most of their doodads (I know, an extremely technological term). Until war comes to the Northern Continent life is somewhat easier there than on the Southern Continent and the lack of metals is compensated by making tools with a metal-like hardwood. Necessity is the mother of invention even if that invention is a re-invention of old earth weapons. Their smith makes swords, shields, helmets, armour, crossbows and something he calls a contrap:

… was able to fire pre-loaded arrows a fair distance and thirty at a time. The arrows were loaded into a wooded frame he called a magazine that was placed on the main frame of the contraption itself. The firing mechanism was spring-loaded and the magazine was drawn back and then loosed. Distance and trajectory could be altered by the manipulation of wheels and cogs.

All of this preparation would have been impossible without the Aboriginals of the planet of wolves. The Lind are great hulking beasts about the size of a horse but with the look of a wolf about them. They are furry, snouty and have paws. Somehow both the Lind and the Larg of the Southern Continent have developed telepathic abilities along with the ability to form words. The word thing made me think that their snouts must be formed differently from a wolf’s.

What interested the Linds at first about the humans is how humans use their hands and the seeming connection some of the Lind have with some of the humans. Being able to communicate via mind and words is essential in making the humans believe that the Lind are sentient creatures.

Tara is the first human to meet a Lind. Kolyei is a Lind that feels a connection with Tara. Tara is not alone in this ability. On the Northern Continent Tara and Kolyei and Jim and Larya are the two vadeln pairs we get to know most. Tara is only 12 at the time she and Kolyei meet while Jim is in his 40’s. Their Lind bond-person is pretty well matched age wise and this is a good thing as these bonds seem to be for life and so deep that one part does not wish to live if the other party dies. A lot of animal-human bond stories seem to have this as the down-side of bonding. On the up-side is an understanding of the other race’s traits and language along with a deep sense of being loved unconditionally.

I enjoyed the way Ms. Rae tried to not sugar-coat anything for me as a reader. Granted, the fighting was not as gory as fighting really is, but it did not have to be for me to understand the costs of the war between the Southern and Northern Continents. She also did not try to hide the problems that would arise with 20,000 male prisoners escaping into an environment where females are on the run and only 300. When the leader of the prisoners is unscrupulous, well – things go as they pretty much have to go.

Being a colony vessel, the Argyll crew and passengers did not have the same dilemmas nor the same type of people to work with. Without a doubt, that is where I would have wanted to be. Both the North and the South end up with aliens and a landscape that fits with the humans landing there. Any other option would have seen the humans from the Argyll killed and possibly the Lind of the Northern Continent in pretty bad shape as well. As a reader I am glad Ms. Rae chose as she did.


Reviews:


  • File Size: 575 KB
  • Print Length: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Candy Rae; 3 edition (April 8, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006DLRBH0

Introducing: Sidekicks

What a great idea. Any of you readers out there interested and able could have some fun doing this.

Help On Four Legs

Last week, I asked for your participation in a project that my friend Melanie and I are working on. As of that post, we had a broad vision of what we wanted to accomplish, no name, and the only progress we’d made was that we’d made a secret Pinterest Pinboard. That’s essential, I’m told.

Today, I’m happy to say that we have a name, a photoshoot under our belts and several more in the works, a web domain, and an elevator pitch, albeit shaky at the moment, and also subject to change. Apparently elevator pitches are also essential.

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Whipp, Deborah: The History of Santa’s Reindeer (2012)

Santas reindeer

I found this article by Deborah Whipp on Altogether Christmas Traditions:

The character of Santa Claus is largely based on St. Nicholas of Myra and Sinterklaas of Dutch lore. Both of those figures traveled via a noble, white steed. Yet in some Western cultures, particularly America, Santa Claus travels the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. 

In 1812, American author Washington Irving refers to St. Nicholas as “— riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children” in the revised version of A Complete History of New York written under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. Yet no mention is made of what propels the wagon. So where did the story of flying reindeer originate?

The first known written account of reindeer in association with the legend of Santa Claus occurred in 1821. That year, New York printer William Gilley published a sixteen page booklet titled A New Year’s Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve Number III : The Children’s Friend by an anonymous author. In the book, reindeer are introduced into the Santa Claus narrative:

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.
During an 1822 interview, New York’s Troy Sentinel editor Orville L. Holley questioned Mr. Gilley regarding the booklet’s author and the topic of reindeer. Though he did not identify the author, Mr. Gilley responded:

“Dear Sir, the idea of Santeclaus was not mine nor was the idea of a reindeer. The author of the tale but submitted the piece, with little added information. However, it should be noted that he did mention the reindeer in a subsequent correspondence. He stated that far in the north near the Arctic lands a series of animals exist, these hooven and antlered animals resemble the reindeer and are feared and honored by those around, as you see he claims to have heard they could fly from his mother. His mother being an Indian of the area.”

In 1823, the Troy Sentinel published the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, commonly known as The Night Before Christmas. The poem features eight flying reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh and, for the first time, they are identified by name:

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!”

Though originally called ‘Dunder and Blixem’ in the 1823 publication, Santa’s seventh and eighth reindeer are commonly known as ‘Donner and Blitzen’ today. Dunder and Blixem are Dutch words that translate to thunder and lightning. Some 19th and 20th century publications of the poem substituted the names ‘Donder and Blitzen’, which are German for thunderand lightning, and in other articles during the 20th century, ‘Donner’ replaced the name ‘Donder’. After Johnny Marks penned the song Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1949, based on the story by Robert L. May, the name ‘Donner’ became the most popular spelling for the seventh reindeer originally named ‘Dunder’ in the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas. May’s story and Marks’ song were both well received and Rudolph is without doubt the most famous addition to Santa’s team.

The above information helps determine the first written accounts of reindeer in conjunction with Santa, but how did reindeer come to be associated with Santa Claus in the first place? Many popular Christmas traditions related to Santa Claus were brought to America by Dutch and German immigrants. As the persona of Santa Claus and celebration of Christmas were being developed in the west, customs and myths from foreign lands, including those of Scandinavian and European countries, were incorporated.

As pagans converted to Christianity during the Middle Ages, winter festivals and traditions, as well as popular pagan beliefs, often mingled with Christian celebrations of Christmas. In Norse and Germanic mythology, Thor is the God of Thunder and soars through the sky in a chariot pulled by two magical goats. Thor was highly revered and was arguably the most popular of Norse gods in ancient times. Images and stories of Thor soaring the skies in his sleigh pulled by two large, horned goats may have influenced the creation of Santa’s sleigh and flying, antlered reindeer by those in the west familiar with Dutch or Germanic mythology.

Reindeer were once viewed as mysterious creatures linked to lands in the northern part of the world. Their population was widespread in Scandinavian and Eastern European countries where, during the 18th century, they were domesticated. They were often used in transportation, pulling sleds and sleighs, and are still an important aspect of some indigenous northern European cultures, particularly to the Sámi people (commonly known as Laplanders to non-Europeans).

Taking these bits of knowledge into account, one can see how reindeer might have come to be used in early writings as the wondrous, flying creatures propelling Santa’s sleigh.

© Deborah Whipp

Dolphins are victims of Australia’s most environmentally controversial project at Gladstone

Flipper is in trouble yet again. Will their rights be able to survive this time? Unlikely, when it is big corporations against environment. Once again it seems corruption is rearing its ugly head. I wonder if humans are genetically unable to plan for long-term consequences.

Craig Hill Training Services

Australia’s most environmentally controversial project, the $33 billion expansion of Gladstone port in Queensland, is under investigation after being accused of breaching strict federal government audit conditions on harbour dredging and dumping of spoils in a World Heritage area.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke confirmed a review was under way into whether the project had breached its conditions by failing to get an independent assessment of its work.

The Gladstone port expansion has been plagued by controversy since the discovery of widespread fish disease in the harbour in 2011, which has been blamed both on record floods and the impact of dredging.

Allegations of audit failure, raised by environmental group Australians for Animals, came as long-term monitoring of humpback dolphins in Gladstone Harbour showed a population reduction of 40 per cent since dredging began. Researcher Daniele Cagnazzi said he would undertake a new survey in April to establish whether…

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