Archive for November, 2008

Thoughts on the economy

It’s my favorite time of year. That’s right, it’s that time again: bring on the toy stampedes. Every year around this time, crazed and panic stricken shoppers turn violent as they scuffle over the last remaining electronic whatever-it-is-now. Just today, I am greeted with the inspirational news that some poor soul working at Wal-mart was trampled to death while trying to unlock the store doors at 5 am. Now, you heard that right. Yes, apparently two thousand people were gathered outside Wal-mart at five o’clock in the fucking morning! Just dying to get inside.

Who are these people, in the first place? Who the hell would want to wait outside Wal-mart at that hour? In the cold? You couldn’t get me near a Wal-mart with a fifty foot pole, at a normal hour of the day. And here all these stupid fuckers are, lined up overnight to get in, and for what? To trample some poor guy to death! To fight over useless crap, brandishing toys as weapons? And if you think about it, no wonder these people trample employees to death and punch each other out over the last cabbage patch kid. They’ve been standing outside Wal-mart for over 12 hours, spending the previous night awake and in line instead of sleeping, in the freezing cold, working themselves into a frenzy over the useless contents of some soulless big box store! If you ever want to feel more desperate and unenthusiastic about humanity, just think about that.

The sick part is, I’m sure all over Wall Street some assholes clapped their hands in glee that shopping related stampedes are still commonplace in these “trying economic times”. I’m just wondering. Has it occured to anyone else that maybe there is something inherently screwed up about our culture if we all need to be constantly purchasing useless crap to make our little world go round? The minute people stop racking up pointless debt to procure yet another flat screen TV, the world is crumbling to pieces?

I say, let it crumble. It’s time to build on a new foundation.

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I’m out on the Oregon coast today, conducting habitat assessments with a colleague who I quite admire. Besides being a prominent figure of conservation in the North Coast community, he is very knowledgeable about all sorts of things that I someday hope to be knowledgeable about. I hop in his truck this morning since he knows the area much better than me, and we begin to head towards our sites. As we are driving up Highway 101 on the coast, he suddenly veers to the shoulder, alongside a bloated roadkill deer. It just so happens to be lying right under the “Welcome to Seaside” sign.

“Oh, got to grab this deer”, he says. I look at him, surprised. “It’s for the land conservancy, ” he explains. Apparently, they put roadkill deer out in the pastures on this huge piece of property they own, for the eagles, cougar, and coyotes to eat. He explained that it was a huge waste otherwise because the state just throws them into the dump. This makes sense to me, but he further explains that he had permission from the Fish and Wildlife department, so what the heck- it now appears to be the most reasonable thing in the world. Also, this colleague is much older than me and very well respected, so I’m inclined to go with the flow here. But it’s raining outside, hard, and the deer is pretty gross, so I’m slightly skeptical. I look at him sidelong again. “You don’t need my help, do you?” I ask. “Oh no.” he reassures me, and hops out of the truck.

Through the side mirror I can see him wrestling with this huge bloated deer (it’s a buck) at the back of his truck bed and it is clear he is not going to get it in the truck bed himself. I try not to look too much and especially not to make any eye contact with him while he is wrestling it, with the fear that he will gesture me back there. Sooner or later though, he comes over to the passenger side and tells me he needs help, looking somewhat sheepish.

I get out of the truck and the deer is disgusting. It’s been dead for a few days and it freaking stinks. And, there is stuff coming out of it. I try not to stare too hard at the head trauma, from which fluids are currently bubbling. I feel slightly sick. I realize it is bad enough to notice a dead deer on the side of the road, but much much worse to actually stop and attempt to come into physical contact with one.

“Do you have any gloves?” I demand. “I’m not touching that without gloves.” I go on to announce. He isn’t sure, but he begins rummaging through his truck for gloves while I try not to look at the deer and take deep breaths for what I must do next. I am hoping he does not find any gloves, since at that point I will be home free. Much to my disappointment, he triumphantly finds some latex gloves. I don them and proceed to hoist the deer into the truck, holding my breath and trying not to feel the cold stiff body. Dead stuff doesn’t really bother me, I’m a pragmatic biologist after all, but it’s not necessarily something I enjoy. Add the roadkill parameter, and it’s a downright horrendous task.

The deer has rigamortis so it’s legs are sticking straight up out of the bed of the pickup truck. It looks kind of ridiculous, and it smells so bad that when we park at our next site, I dash into the woods at the first possible chance. We hike to our wetland, do our habitat assessment, and around thirty minutes later we return to the truck to find it surrounded by police.

There was three cop cars, and officers looking for us in the woods, ready to arrest us for poaching a deer. It takes us thirty minutes to explain the situation but they have already called the state police as well as Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and it appears to be a huge fiasco. They start running my ID and checking me for warrants and stuff. Hmmm, wouldn’t this be a bad time for that old marijuana charge from South Dakota to show up? Fortunately, it’s been many many years since those days, and I come through free and clear.

Nevermind that the deer clearly looks like roadkill and we clearly don’t look like hunters, the cops are downright convinced that we poached a deer. I point out how stiff it is, and I show him my business card that says “biologist”. Then I try to offer another point of view: why would anybody poaching a deer drive around in broad daylight with the legs sticking straight up like that? He replies that people around these parts are “incredibly stupid”. My colleague, for all his knowledge about the universe and for all his beaming intellect, somewhere along the lines missed the life lesson where you learn how to act around cops. He became so flustered with the whole initial cop thing, that he was acting really nervous and stammering and getting all shifty eyed, and we totally looked guilty. So I’m left to try and handle it, poor me who would’ve never chosen to become that intimate with such a large piece of roadkill… ever.

When the state police and wildlife guys finally show up, they knew my colleague and are familiar with the land conservancy, and everyone has a good laugh and off we go, deer legs sticking up and all. It was an interesting day. I hope those cougars, bobcats, coyotes, or eagles enjoy our efforts and have a really kick ass meal tonight.

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Sarah Palin Pinata

I dislike Sarah Palin. That said, I should preface this entry by the fact that I, unlike most Americans, have been familiar with Mrs. Palin for quite some time, having worked in the state of Alaska every summer for the previous four years. I have witnessed her brutal environmental policies and magnificent ability to bend over backwards for the oil companies- although not much more so then many other Alaskan politicians.

I was astounded when she blew onto the national scene. Astounded and horrified, but also giddy. I’m sure other Americans that were familiar with this woman beforehand shared those emotions:

Astounded: Holy shit! They picked her?!?!

Horrified: Oh my god, what if she actually wins? What if people actually vote for her? What if the only issue people still vote on is abortion? Oh noooooo here come the evangelicals!!!

Giddy: The Republican party has really gone off the deep end now, if they think this woman is going to survive on that scene. She’ll never make it! We’re gonna win! Stock up on the champagne!

My point here is not to relive every moment of the roller coaster that was the last two months, although I do admit it was amazingly fun to watch Sarah Palin, aka the “Caribou Barbie” crash and burn. Perhaps I enjoyed it a little too much- I hunted the online news sites daily for more news of stupid things she said, exposes of her screwed up family, and ridiculous gestures. And she didn’t disappoint- almost every day I could find something she had screwed up to read about with glee, even though she surrounded herself only with supporters and granted only two interviews. But I’m not going to get into it. If you really want to know why I detest her so much, it’s been said before, particularly well here: http://margaretandhelen.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/bitch-there-i-said-it/#comments

What I’m here to tell you about is my Sarah Palin pinata.

I’m not sure where I got the idea to make a Sarah Palin pinata, it just came to me. After it occured to me, I thought- hmmmm, maybe I can just purchase a Salin Palin pinata online? I mean, this has to be something others have thought of. A quick Google search revealed that while several other people around the world had also constructed Sarah Palin pinatas and decided to blog about them, there were no Sarah Palin pinatas available for purchase, yet anyways.

I set about to make the pinata for an Election night party a friend was having. I decided to make it out of paper mache, even though I couldn’t possibly recall the last time I had actually made something out of paper mache. I discovered that paper mache is a lot like riding a bike, and it magically came back to me from the moment I began cutting out long strips of paper and affixing them to Sarah’s balloon head with the flour/water mixture.

Below, cat eats paper mache while Sarah dries.


I then painted Sarah’s head an awful flesh tone color, mixed with rejected bits of housepaint in my shed. Sarah recieved a brown beehive and glasses constructed of cardboard. I then painted Sarah’s face on, and I was dissapointed that I couldn’t quite achieve the same vacant look that exists in the real Sarah Palin’s eyes. I also couldn’t get her smile quite so ridiculous and meaningless as the real Sarah Palin’s.

Below, an eerie Sarah Palin dries with flesh colored paint.


When Sarah was complete, a hole was cut in the back of her beehive and she was stuffed with candy, little bottles of liquor, and political cartoons (that made fun of Sarah Palin of course). I brought Sarah to the party and she was hung on the wall, where she watched Barack Obama declared President Elect on CNN, and then again on Fox News, as it was especially hilarious to watch them with their long faces and inability to put any last remaining spin on the fact that he was now President Elect Obama. In the house in North Portland, we screamed and cheered and cried and began swigging champagne directly from the bottle.

Below, the Sarah Palin pinata watches us celebrate while Barack Obama gives his victory speech.


And then we took the Sarah Palin pinata outside to take her down. I’m glad the pinata ended up being a metaphor for Sarah Palin’s national political career.

Below: delirious with joy over the outcome of the election, partygoers pose with Sarah before it’s time to take her outside for destruction.


Below, one last kiss for Sarah before the pinata is destroyed.


Stay tuned for the next installment of the story: “The Sarah Palin pinata bites back”

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