Sunday, October 08, 2006

Short Bits

I don't have a long post in me today, but here are some snippets of recent readings.

Great Moments in Preemptive Ripostes to Stupid Film Reviews: Kieran Healy responds to "the likes of Melanie Phillips, Christopher Hitchens and Victor Davis Hanson" reviewing the forthcoming (March 2007) film version of Frank Miller's 300, a graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae: "It’s all about juggling the analogy to make sure that you get to be one of the lonely 300, and not the vast invading foreign army."

Great Moments in Preemptive Parody: Mr. Quibble previews Frank Miller's forthcoming comic Holy Terror, Batman (and apparently that's really going to be the title). (Via)

Perhaps the Definitive Take on the Rationale for Being a Gay Republican. "Certainly there's no contradiction between being gay and supporting small government or a strong defense... [But] there's a significant contradiction between being a Republican and supporting those things." -- Robert Farley

Two-Word Take-Down of American Beliefs About Iraq: From an email from a Marine in Iraq published by Time Magazine (via) "an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied 'Yes, you.'" The emailer identifies the farmer as "the most profound man in Iraq".

Another Excerpt From that Same Email: Somehow this manages to simultaneously be funny and encapsulate one of the profoundly fucked-up aspects of the ongoing Iraq occupation:
Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. We had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.
(Again, this is the source.)

Whereas This Is Simultaneously Fascinating and Deeply, Deeply Sad. From today's NY Times Magazine article by Charles Siebert. I can't resist a lengthy excerpt:
Where for centuries humans and elephants lived in relative peaceful coexistence, there is now hostility and violence.... [I]n “Elephant Breakdown,” a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, [Gay] Bradshaw and several colleagues argued that today’s elephant populations are suffering from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture....
Elephants, when left to their own devices, are profoundly social creatures.... When an elephant dies, its family members engage in intense mourning and burial rituals, conducting weeklong vigils over the body, carefully covering it with earth and brush, revisiting the bones for years afterward, caressing the bones with their trunks, often taking turns rubbing their trunks along the teeth of a skull’s lower jaw, the way living elephants do in greeting. If harm comes to a member of an elephant group, all the other elephants are aware of it. This sense of cohesion is further enforced by the elaborate communication system that elephants use. In close proximity they employ a range of vocalizations, from low-frequency rumbles to higher-pitched screams and trumpets, along with a variety of visual signals, from the waving of their trunks to subtle anglings of the head, body, feet and tail...
This fabric of elephant society, Bradshaw and her colleagues concluded, had effectively been frayed by years of habitat loss and poaching, along with systematic culling by government agencies to control elephant numbers and translocations of herds to different habitats...
The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans who’ve watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperaggression.
I've long thought that elephants were beautiful, wonderful animals. The damage we as a species have done to them as a species makes me profoundly sad. Read the rest.

A Really Good Essay I Won't Excerpt From: Just go read it: it's Christopher Hayes's essay from a month or so ago about the 1990's WW2 nostalgia boom as ideological preparation for the war on terror. I've been thinking I wanted to blog about it since I read it, but since I don't know when or if I will, I'll just link. Good reading.

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