Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Real-Life Velveteen Rabbit

If you clicked on the Animal Rescue Site button on the right of Lull today, you might have read Rusty’s story.

Abandoned in a Florida park, the red bunny was noticed by passersby because he sat calmly in the same place day after day, never moving from his spot. (You might ask, Why didn’t anyone help him?) One day a passerby saw the bunny with some soccer-playing boys—whose ball was none other than the little cottontail. Thankfully, that passerby intervened and changed the cottontail’s life.

The passerby contacted H.A.R.E. (Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education) and the organization got Rusty the medical attention he needed. Turns out Rusty has congenital hip dysplasia, making his hind legs splay out uselessly. What’s more, he once had a broken femur that had healed crookedly. The bunny had already been through so much that surgery didn’t seem a good option. So he was fitted with braces.

Braces? For a rabbit?

Yup. (Hey! If a goldfish can swim in a harness, a bunny can hop in braces.) And Rusty gained more than mobility: He became an ambassador at H.A.R.E., where he’s befriended and calmed rabbits of all types and personalities. He has friends!

Rusty is no longer seen as an object or a used-up pet. He’s deeply loved by humans and peers—a real bunny.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.”
—from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

[Illustration by William Nicholson.]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bunny Tutorial

At first glance I thought this child was reading to the furred crowd. Then I saw the pointing finger.

Do you think he’s giving the cottontails last-minute instructions about Easter?

[Artist unknown.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It’s Ba-aaaack: The Big Egg Hunt

Easter’s on its way and London is once again festooned with colossal, artful eggs. I wrote last year about the inaugural event sponsored by Fabergé; this year, chocolate giant Lindt is sponsoring the Big Egg Hunt.

If you’re anywhere near London, please take advantage of this playful outdoor art exhibit.

[Pictured is one side of Equinox by Barbie Harrison.]

BOOKreMARKS: Camels in Cars, Dogs in Zoos

You couldn’t turn to a media outlet this past week without hearing about the anniversary. The tenth anniversary, that is, of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Why did we do it? What did we accomplish? Was it worth it?

To mark this milestone, I have a book recommendation for you.

War is a topic I typically avoid when choosing books and films. But last month, a friend shoved a library book into my hands and said, “Here—I want you to read this. I loved it! Didn’t do anything for two days but read it.”

“Oh-kay…thanks,” was all I could muster. I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm. Yet I also didn’t a) want to be responsible for her library book; b) read about a war zone; and c) follow animals kept in a zoo. Reasons B and C promised gloom and doom.

I read it anyway, and I’m thankful I did.

Babylon’s Ark is a memoir of one man’s mission in the early days of the Iraq War to save the animals of the Baghdad Zoo. Lawrence Anthony left his home in South Africa, where he ran a wildlife preserve, armed only with knowledge about and compassion for large, wild animals—plus experience in negotiating on the fly.

This is not a sweet animal rescue tale. It’s full of adventure and darkness and provides some insights into the culture of Iraqis and their relationships with animals. Here are a handful of things I learned:
Until Lawrence Anthony created one, an agency overseeing animal welfare didn’t exist in Iraq. There was no ASPCA equivalent.
To much of the population, dogs were curiosities, hence their inclusion in zoos.
Black market trade in exotic animals thrives in Iraq.
Like royal families of millennia past, the Husseins had numerous private zoos on their palace grounds.
Improvisation is critical to rescue operations—which is how a camel ended up a passenger in an open-topped vehicle.

If I were the publisher of Babylon’s Ark, I’d also market it to a secondary audience: business professionals and leaders. It would be a great book to discuss in a corporate book club or leadership seminar because every step forward (and five steps backward) taken during the mission was the result of a negotiation or barter. Diplomacy, communication expertise, and psychological/cultural considerations were always in play. Nearly every obstacle recounted in Babylon’s Ark demanded careful communications and collaboration with someone whose goals and perspective were at odds with the animal rescuers. Even the animal rescuers were at times at odds with one another. Plenty of these scenarios could easily be applied to a business environment. Of course, the additional benefit of marketing to this audience is attracting new animal advocates and more people committed to becoming better stewards of our planet—which would have pleased the author no end.

Had he lived to see this tenth anniversary, I’m sure Lawrence Anthony would have plenty to say about it. I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo.

“This was to be our stand. This was more than just a zoo in a war zone. It was about making an intrinsically ethical and moral statement, saying: Enough is enough. You just can’t say to hell with the consequences to the animal kingdom. It’s all very well getting rid of a monster like Saddam, but that doesn’t mean we can forget what we are doing to the rest of our planet. It doesn’t excuse a zoo getting trashed just because nobody had the foresight to put a basic survival plan in place for hundreds of animals utterly dependent on humans.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saving Nature with Art

While reading about octopuses yesterday (and yes, it’s octopuses and not octopi—something about avoiding a Latin-Greek mashup in the currently accepted scientific taxonomy), I came across the ice sculptures of Basia Irland.

Before your imagination starts conjuring winter festivals or cheesy centerpieces on cruiseline buffet tables, look closely at the photograph. It’s a BOOK and it is complete with CONTENT.

Irland embeds her works with the seeds of plants indigenous to the particular river region from which she launches each book. As her books decay, they disseminate content and restore watersheds.

Watch an Irland-narrated video about her work on the Orion magazine Web site. Or explore the artist’s other projects on her Web site. If you’re a book or nature enthusiast, you’ll appreciate her innovative ecoactivism.

“[I]n Wildness is the preservation of the World.”
—Henry David Thoreau

Apple Bites

Yesterday I called my phone service provider for help. The voicemail messages people were leaving for me were consistently truncated. No sooner did they say who they were and two words toward why they were calling than the system cut them off. It was a growing frustration for both parties. The callers were never aware of the insult for there was no indication at their end that anything was amiss. (My mother believed I was SELECTIVELY ignoring her). Clearly, it was time to resolve the problem.

During the course of my technical support call (which included getting disconnected from ATandT), the courteous rep shamed me into upgrading the operating system on my iPhone. I told her something bad always happened during upgrades, but she’d have none of it.

I’ve been an Apple advocate for more than 20 years, but my evangelism is fading. After installing the latest upgrade, I discovered that the videos on Lull disappeared when viewed on an iPhone or iPad. I can see them on my computer, I can see them on a Droid phone. But on an iPhone or iPad, there’s only white space now. Click on it and you get…white space.

If you know a workaround, please tell me! Until then, I’ll provide links to any videos I post in the future (and keep kicking myself for upgrading).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What Makes You Happy?

As you know, if you’ve been reading Lull for any time, much of my reading focuses on animals. Which means that much of my reading also focuses on a subset of the human species that exhibits uncompassionate, psychopathic, or capitalistic behaviors toward animals. It wears me down.

So imagine my delight to see news about a little goldfish whose guardian was determined to help her have a better life. The finned one was buoyancy-challenged—she couldn’t float properly in the water. Instead, Ada spent her days at the bottom of the tank, watching her friends do what she couldn’t. Until her guardian made a floating device for her!

In a world that assesses animals in terms of convenience and cost benefits, it’s refreshing to come across someone who deems the life of an animal companion—even a small, furless, other-abled creature—as inherently valuable.

This makes me happy. How about you?

[Art by Robert Amft.]

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Is Sprung!

According to the calendar, Spring “opens” today—whether the weather is cooperating where you live or not.

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.”
—Henry van Dyke

[Photo by Mark Hamblin.]

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s here again—that day when everyone lays claim to Irishness: the green, the Guinness, the general revelry.

We celebrated by attending a parade yesterday. It was a sharp contrast to the South Side Chicago parade we watched years ago, where no one had to pretend to be Irish—they were Irish! This Bluegrass version lacked the drama of the green-dyed river that frames the annual downtown City of Chicago parade (the year we elbowed our way into this event the temperature was nearly too cold to enjoy the pageantry; in fact, some of the participants dropped out).

Nevertheless, yesterday’s parade had much to offer: rescue groups of Great Danes and Greyhounds, a hula-hoop troupe and a band of Renaissance Fair performers, marching bands and motorcycle clubs (one member traveled with a dog on the back, another with a wheelchair), and the requisite bagpipers and step dancers PLUS (I can’t emphasize this enough!) it was a sunny 70 degrees outside! After the parade, a vacant lot downtown took on a state-fair atmosphere. Long lines formed to purchase a funnel cake or an ale, dancers and musicians performed for free at a bandstand, and the animals from the parade—dogs, horses, llamas (it was a treat to watch the woolly ones trot down Main Street)—mingled among the crowd. All-in-all, it was a grand way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Wherever you go and whatever you do,
May the luck of the Irish be there with you.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Drawing Conclusions

In reviewing my birthday greetings to Douglas Adams, I realize an explanation may be in order. I may have been unclear or, at least, I may have made some faulty assumptions about you, Dear Reader:
1. I assumed you already knew the comic and imaginative genius of Douglas Adams (creator of the radio series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which morphed into a series of novels, plays, comics, and a popular film; also the author of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which became a TV series).
2.You knew he cared deeply about conservation (hence his fundraising for Save the Rhino and his nonfiction contribution to the cause, Last Chance to See).
3. You know climate change has imperiled polar bears.*

The photo of the polar bear is, in my mind, tragic—and I believe Adams would concur. I didn’t intend any connection between the word laughter and the precarious position of the bear. I hope I didn’t mislead you. I hope I didn’t cause you to laugh at the stranded creature.

Though Adams and his works are immensely quotable, I chose yesterday’s particular quotation because I’ve been awed by ignorance lately—flabbergasted at what people choose to believe about animals, Nature, corporate responsibility, natural resources, poverty, and climate change. I’m waiting for the scales to tip—waiting to be more frequently awed by insightfulness and compassion and intelligence that I may revere and emulate. Of course, it’s occurred to me that I could be waiting several lifetimes for this to happen, so I’ve been researching how best to cultivate understanding—specifically regarding animals—and how I may play my part in the cultivation. This means steeping myself in the mythologies, religions, and cultural practices that threaten understanding.

If you’re already on the front lines of this cause, please tell the rest of us how we may help.

“We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.”
―Douglas Adams, in Last Chance to See

* With this on my mind at the library yesterday, I checked out Zac Unger’s Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows. Unger set up residence in Churchill, Manitoba—“The Polar Bear Capital of the World”—to investigate the nature of the bears and the validity of the media reports about their demise. I’ll let you know what he discovers in a future post.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mr. Adams!

Thank you for giving us perspective and laughter.

“I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”
—from The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

[Photographer unknown.]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What’s Blooming Near You?

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
—Rachel Carson

[Photo by N. J. Jackson.]

Friday, March 8, 2013

Life with Pie

A Northern friend of mine recently visited Nashville, where she tried to absorb the entire Southern experience. Like me, she has a fondness for pie and requested a slice of the “Pie of the Day” at a local restaurant.

The place went quiet. Obviously, my friend had committed a grave gaffe.

The waiter broke the silence: “Ma’am, we don’t serve pie now. When it’s the season, we serve peach and blackberry. Now I suppose some people might use frozen fruit at this time of year, but I don’t know why anybody would want to do that.”

Well for goodness’ sake! Have Nashvillians (Nashvillains in this case?) never heard of CREAM pies? Have they never delighted their palates with pecan, coconut cream, chocolate, pumpkin, or custard pie? At first I was angry on behalf of my friend, but the more I thought about it, I felt sorry for the deprived folks of Nashville.

“If I ran this place, pie charts would be made of actual pie.”
—Author unknown

[Photographer of pie-eating contest unknown.]

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are You Following Your Dreams?

Sorry posts have been so lean lately. Here’s a little something for you, whether your glass is half full…

“Follow your dreams. They know the way.”
—Kobi Yamada

or half empty…

“I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask them where they’re going and hook up with them later.”
—Mitch Hedberg

[Art by Odilon Redon.]

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Conclave of Cardinals

Birdsong near our building has grown more complex of late—meaning that birds are beginning to return to the area. We had a couple of prolific songsters the other day who I was never able to spot. I wish I’d had the good sense to record them so I could share their music with you.

My next-door neighbor’s backyard bush is Union Station to the avian population here and served me quite a treat this week: Eight Cardinals, a mix of young males and females, have been perching quietly there. EIGHT!

“I hope you love birds, too. It is economical. It saves going to Heaven.”
—Emily Dickinson

[Photo by Ken Thomas.]

Friday, March 1, 2013

“That’ll Do, Pig. That’ll Do…”

It’s a holiday today. (Isn’t every day?) To be specific, it’s National Pig Day.

There’s no official ruling on how one is supposed to honor this day. Like National Chicken Month, some folks promote consumption of the animals while others try to raise awareness about their intelligence and individuality.

As you may have guessed, I reside in the latter camp and prefer to pay tribute to the porcine clan through a blog post.

If you want to explore the subject, please start by reading The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, Sy Montgomery’s memoir about the rescue and life of her personable pig. (He’s the black-and-white real animal pictured here.) It’s good reading no matter which camp you’re in.

If you’re artistically inclined, you may want to create your own little piggy à la the felted wool (from Amber Rose Creations) and folded paper (by Román) varieties pictured here.

If you’re a carnivore, you could give pigs a break today and celebrate by NOT eating pork (or, for that matter, any of the pigs’ friends on the farm). Or you could veg out a different way by watching Babe.

However you choose to celebrate, Happy National Pig Day.

We Get By with a Little Help from Our Friends

“We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.”
—from Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

[Sorry. I don’t know who the photographer is. Do you?]

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