Tuesday, November 15, 2011

DAM IT ALL: beavers kick polar bear ass!

(To celebrate July 1, I'm going to goof off and eat those cheese thingies and stuff like that. In other words, I don't want to work. But here's a nice piece, so old it's new, almost! Enjoy it, folks, and remember to respect your beaver friends, or they will gnaw down a tree that will pound you into the ground like a tent peg. Happy Canada Day!)

Oct 28, 2011 – 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Oct 28, 2011 12:55 PM ET

Polar bear should replace 'dentally defective rat' - the beaver - as Canada's national emblem: Senator

A Canadian senator has called for a national “emblem makeover” by replacing a vegetarian rodent that defends its territory with urine with the world’s largest walking carnivore that thrives in the cold.
Referring to the beaver as a “dentally defective rat,” Nicole Eaton called on Ottawa to replace the critter as the national emblem with the polar bear, an animal she hails as strong, majestic and brave.

“It is high time that the beaver step aside as a Canadian emblem or, at the least, share the honour with the stately polar bear,” Ms. Eaton said in the Senate Thursday.

“A country’s symbols are not constant and can change over time as long as they reflect the ethos of the people and the spirit of the nation.”

The Department of Canadian Heritage has the beaver as the only animal on its list of “national emblems,” a tally that includes the maple tree, the maple leaf and maple leaf tartan.

The beaver is certainly deeply entwined in Canada’s history.

The trade of beaver pelts during European colonization was so lucrative the venerable Hudson’s Bay Company put the beaver on its coat of arms in 1678, four of them, in fact. That same year, the governor of New France suggested the beaver as a suitable emblem for the colony.

When designing the first Canadian postage, they . . . awww, screw the rest!


Didja ever see a beaver makin' lodges in the lake
And the way he chews on tree bark
It can can make your tummy ache

For beavers are so busy,
busy, busy all the way

You can keep your goddamn polar bears
Coz beavers rule the day!

(Chorus) Beavers, beavers, beavers, beavers,
Beavers rule the day!

Now a beaver never ate someone
But bears eat kids all day

Their breath it stinks from all that fish
We know it's not OK

But beavers only eat the trees
And chop the maples down
And swamp the fields and wreck the roads
and flood the whole damn town!


Beavers, beavers, beavers. . . OK, you get the idea, eh?

Now the beaver once was very big
Just like a buffalo
And cave men kept him as their pets
They loved his flat tail so

So you shouldn't say he's boring
You shouldn't say he's small
Cuz when the earth began, he was
The meanest rat of all!


(Patriotic interlude)  Where would our country be without the beaver? Maybe people wouldn't make fun of us so much for having a rodent as our national emblem. But hey, he made good fur, didn't he? I mean for those, like, fur hats for Hudson's Bay or something?  He's busy all the time eating wood and chopping down the trees. Bears lie around and do squat all day, almost as bad as those eagles. Who needs trees anyway? There are way too many of them. But there can never be too many beavers. Eh?

Beavers! Beavers! Beavers!
We really think they're fine

We love him more than stinky bears
He's yours, he's ours, he's mine

He's part of our, like, history
He sacrificed his pelts

Let's hear it for the BEAVER:
We don't want no one eltse!


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

Gabrielle Giffords: a bizarre miracle

Last night I watched the much-anticipated Diane Sawyer interview with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the woman gunned down ten months ago by a maniac outside a grocery store where she was chatting with her constituents. Her head was literally blown apart, the top of her skull shattered in an injury so catastrophic that the press initially announced she was dead.

The culture loves success stories, and comeback stories are even more remarkable. I watched the interview in fascination, wondering if the radiantly-smiling, vibrant and confident Gifford we saw before the shooting had retrieved enough of herself that she could be considered completely recovered.

Much was made of her charismatic, determined personality as a public figure, and indeed she did seem appealing, a go-getting kind of woman who appeared to disregard every personal obstacle. Her astronaut husband spent much of his time away on missions, truly living the American dream.

All that was blown apart in an instant. There was an explosion: a bullet; a ruptured skull. Life itself was shattered and remained attached only by the thinnest of threads.

The scenes of her early recovery are gruesome: her eyes are open and glassily staring while she listlessly raises a hand or a finger in response to commands. Then comes the long and impossibly gruelling daily therapy to try to drag her back to her former self, or at least some semblance of it.

Watching this, I was reminded of Christopher Reeve, a man stricken down in his body more than his brain. He was the person whom I first heard say, "Anything can happen to anyone at any time."

He should know.

I had a strange, even uncomfortable feeling watching this program. Though Giffords smiles radiantly through most of it, and intelligence still flashes in her eyes, she can barely put a sentence together and gropes for words. Her husband, who comes across as a sort of emotionless personal trainer, prompts her and even finishes her thoughts.  In that stalwart, never-say-die American way, the way that brooks no obstacles nor even recognizes them, we hear him insist that she will attain nothing short of "100% recovery".

It's the astronaut's way, isn't it? Figures; percentages. There is no doubt this man cares about his wife, but I never once saw a hint of tears, vulnerability, or the kind of  traumatized shock that would be natural even in the most emotionally-reserved of spouses.

The thing that astonished me the most about this fascinating but deeply unsettling interview was the fact that Diane Sawyer wanted to know if she would go back to Congress next May. The spectre of a woman struggling with massive aphasia while trying to keep up a stressful political career was almost macabre. But it's the hallmark of that "100%" myth: we can't just recover part of the way. It must be total. We must go back to being the person we were, our "old self" again.

There is no "old self".

There is the self of today, which is fluid and which changes and fluctuates moment-by-moment and can be interrupted or even destroyed in a nanosecond. If we were fully aware of this, we probably wouldn't be able to go out the door. So we wrap invincibility around ourselves, a sense of special protection by supernatural forces (that is, if we believe in "God"). We see tangible outcomes and cling to them, throw them up like grappling hooks in hopes of being able to gain purchase and pull ourselves up.

I find it interesting, in cases of extreme brain damage, what it is that remains: in the program, Sawyer states that science has no idea which part of the brain is responsible for "personality" (whatever that is). In the case of Giffords, the smile remains - in fact, its dazzlement is a little eerie - along with a coached-looking gesture of a determined, waved fist. This is "the old Gabby" shining through. One wonders how much is locked up inside a badly-damaged structure, like a liver or pancreas severely compromised and barely able to perform its usual function.

And yet, wrapped inside what seems like a desolate truth, that flexibility of personal identity, that fluidity, offers the key to a different kind of recovery: a self not "whole" in a conventional sense - certainly not the "old self" - but someone radically new. What is retained is a kind of bare essence (and where in the brain does that reside? How much do we know about the mysterious structure that supposedly calls all the shots in human existence?). Gabrielle Giffords has become not so much a shadow-self as a sister-self, a kind of spiritual twin, someone who looks like her, gestures like her, but is (in the words of the great poet Yeats) "changed, changed utterly."

"A terrible beauty is born," the poet says. And because of this bizarre miracle, beauty has somehow emerged from the very worst kind of terror.