Bowerbirds — A moderated stream of conscious post.

Spirit animals–I’m not sure if this is actually a real thing…or one of those fake things that your friend who invented it insists is real while making you feel insignificant for not knowing what it was already. But, without doing any sort of research on the subject, let me posit it as a real thing: “you know, a spirit animal? Like what animal your spirit is.” Again, you’re welcome for using the words in the definition.

Now, let me be the first to say that, like most of America, I don’t believe in this sort of witchcraftery otherworldy shit, unless of course we’re talking about John Edward of Crossing Over fame, who clearly is blessed with the gift of being able to communicate with dead second cousins. But, I’ve always been interested in finding my spirit animal (as the quest gives me a well-deserved opportunity to think about myself for an extended period of time, harping in particular on the qualities that make me great). And last week, incapacitated by a series of television marathons (more on that in a minute), I think I finally found my spirit animal: the Vogelkop Bowerbird. Just watch the clip:

A skilled interior decorator, an excellent communicator versed in many languages, and a somewhat-complicated name with just the right air of pretention…As far as I can tell, this bird has got it all, and it screams Christopher Katsaros IV. Just look at that “nest” it’s built (nest doesn’t do it justice…it’s a masterpiece). I’ve actually had a very similar design in mind for my villa in Cabo, with the open floorplan and inviting veranda he’s crafted. While the integration of funghi is something I hadn’t thought of, you can bet I’ll certainly be considering it. The second Bower, on the other hand, seems to have made a poor choice with the deer dung and charcoal; while I’m traditionally a fan of earth tones, he has taken this a bit too far, though it might just be a cultural difference between he and I (for the time being, I’ll reserve my judgment). I’m particularly enamoured by the courtship between the males and the females (see here): when the female arrives at Mr. Vogelkop’s hacienda, he vacates the premises so that she can inspect it, like some sort of open house. Incidentally, that is exactly how I would like to structure my next few dates–a sort of Room Invaders, but without the slutty blacklights and semen stains.

Checking the receipts

Next on the stream-of-conscious train is the clip itself. When I first searched for this clip, I came across this version. Now, if you’re an Oprah Winfrey fan like myself, you would have thrown up your arms in protest after hearing that clip from Life. That’s because you’re presumably well aware of the fact that when Oprah got the text from Gayle that the makers of Planet Earth were filming a follow-up series, she instantly demanded that they let her narrate the whole series, squeezing out poor Sigourney Weaver, who had proven herself perfectly capable of navigating the complexities of bullfrog mating calls. But, as you just noticed, the narrator for that clip is anything but a portly African American hostess with the mostess. I played the clips side-by-side, and realized that while it was visually the same content, the narrations were completely different. The Oprah version seemed lighter on the facts and less bound to the truth. It even had a more playful bed of music beneath it. But, it didn’t seem unreasonable to dumb it down for an American audience. If I were the BBC, I would do exactly the same. Let’s remember, this series aired on a network that would probably sandwich it between classics like Toddlers & Tiaras and I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant (and, embarrassingly, you’re thinking right now–“I love those shows!” So do I, my friend…there’s just something really satisfying about a major dump that turns out to be a baby). We are, how you say, dumber. But as I continued to fact check, I discovered the most shocking thing: the two clips presented different facts (Oprah says the Bower took weeks to build his nest, David Attenborough says it took years).

Gasp. It’s like when a child finds out Santa doesn’t exist…and the cruel reality that his parents will no longer be showering him with gifts. Suddenly, images of a coked up Winfrey, sitting there in her recording booth, willy nilly making shit up as a venus fly trap engulfs an ant on screen. If I can’t take a BBC Documentary at face value anymore, what else in this cruel, cruel world have I been accepting as fact? I quickly took a mental scan of the countless elite European cocktail parties I’m known to frequent, zeroing in on the portions where I’d save the conversation with my brilliant recitals of facts from these documentaries. No doubt the Brits had been looking down on me all the while, sneering at this American with his Oprah Winfrey made-up-isms. I’ll talk the liberty of assuming that you’re not familiar with these upper-crust parties I speak of, so to offer an analogy–while you talk of street cred, we talk of salon cred (pronounced sah-lun). And let’s just say it’s safe to assume my salon cred went down.

Naturally, I did what anybody would do in this situation–I ignored it completely and quickly changed the channel. Did it take the Bowerbirds weeks or years to craft their nests? I don’t know, and just like Oprah Winfrey before me, I will present either as facts at the next opportunity, because luckily for me, TLC was just kicking off a marathon of Dog the Bounty Hunter, and I knew that would be my new focus for the rest of the day.

Nature is Terrifying: Humboldt Squid

Whether it’s giant sink holes unexpectedly deep-throating an entire city block or rogue waves attacking cruise ships, it’s become increasingly clear to me that nature is terrifying (or at least the media’s presentation of it). Every night I make it to bed, I breathe a sigh of relief and count myself a survivor of mother nature’s cruel fury. Hopefully, I can do my part to help you understand the sort of terror that surrounds us and the enormous risk we take with our lives as we step outside.

Armed with ample amounts of couch time and an underwhelming to-do list which was just asking to be put off until next weekend, I found myself in the dangerous underworld of Comcast OnDemand. “An entire season of Life? Don’t mind if I do.”

For those of you that don’t know, Life is the less-interesting follow-up series to Planet Earth (Yeah, it’s narrated by Oprah Winfrey, but I think the jury is still out on that decision—she gets a little too self-righteous: “come on Oprah…it’s a tree owl, not your Angel Network”). And for those of you that don’t know what Planet Earth is, get out of my house.

Some of my friends once commented on the joys of smoking pot and then watching an episode of Planet Earth. If you’ve ever seen the “Arctic Forrest” episode, you can only imagine the calming effect this combination must have (I wouldn’t know, though, as I take a hard-line stance against marijuana. Not because of the health effects; I just think it’s horrifically tacky). But throw on one of the more jarring episodes—like “Shallow Seas”–and you’ll suddenly find yourself in a paranoid panic attack clawing at the arm rests of your sofa. For that reason, I think these DVD box sets should come with some sort of warning: do not watch episode alone or dangerous mental injuries can occur.

I present to you “Creatures of the Deep,” Life’s version of “Shallow Seas.”

First of all, as far as I know, “creature” is not proper scientific nomenclature when it comes to taxonomic hierarchy. No, it’s the Discovery Channel’s cruel joke to present you with a buffet of disgusting and horrifying animals just waiting to meet you in a dark alley; mainly, it’s their way of introducing you to the terrifying Humboldt Squid.

Humboldt Squid. These disgusting “creatures” can grow as long as 6′ feet, all in their short two-year life span. They can swim at speeds of 25 mph. And they have these gross beaks that they use for attacking, and not just their prey, they eat each other, too. But that’s not even the worst of it. On top of all of that, their skin blinks:

When attacking their prey, Humboldt squid are able to make their skin pulsate red and white. WHAT?? How does skin blink?? And of all colors, you picked red? Terrifying. Needless to say, I’ll never approach a glittery strobe light at a gay club the same way again in my life. Scientists don’t know why they blink their skin; they think it confuses their prey. Which brings me to another point: why is it that we keep hearing scientists say they don’t know why something is happening–hello, what are we paying you for??

It used to be the Humboldt Squid were contained to the Sea of Cortez. But, to my chagrin, their numbers have been increasing dramatically lately, and their range now stretches up the west coast and as far north as Alaska. Comforting.

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