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Archive for September, 2010

It is no secret that Yours Truly has long harbored a deep interest in art and the brain.  Having a nose that is extremely powerful and frequently reveals layers to the visible world that are undreamt of by man has obviously helped push me in this direction.

One figure that I’ve had my eye on for some time is the renowned neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (he is probably best known for his work with “ghost limbs” etc.).  So it was with some delight that I discovered and pass on to you this link to a video he did for University of California on Aesthetic Universals and the Neurology of Art.

I wonder what Jackson would think?  I also wonder if the frequently undervalued olfactory senses will somehow develop their own aesthetic in the years to come…  It will take a pioneering dog and Yours Truly is not quite ready to his advance his name for risk of an all too thorough cranial examination.

September 16th, 2010
8:13 pm

Thankfully on days when creativity is absent, there are the tabloids…  Record breakers from the dog with the longest tongue (pictured above) and the fastest time to pop 100 balloons by a dog.  Here’s the start of the story:

By Daily Mail Reporter

From the sublime to the ridiculous, they’re all record breakers.

These are just some of the new entries in the Guinness Book Of World Records 2011, including Swallow the smallest cow - who stands at just 33.5 inches tall - and a man who can fit 400 drinking straws in his mouth and keep them there for ten seconds.

One of the oddest has to be Stephen Parkes, a media technician from Nottingham, 44, who has the Largest Collection Of Smurf Memorabilia at 1,061 figures.

Amarilis Espinoza, of Guinness World Records, said: ‘It is very difficult to get into the book and about 80 per cent of entries get rejected.’

CONTINUED HERE

September 15th, 2010
10:58 pm

Oh my.  This one I’m afraid speaks for itself.  Another dog deciding it’s safe to show humans just how bright she (or he) is.

September 13th, 2010
12:02 am
Randolph


Yours Truly doesn’t usually write about films or books that he hasn’t read or seen but just today I came across a review in The New York Times about what looks to be a very special animated movie based on a particularly good book by J.R. Ackerley.  The movie and the book concern the love between Ackerley and his dog Tulip.  The cast includes Christopher Plummer, the late Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini (who we have frequently seen in the park, a renowned lover of all animals).  Here is the film’s official website and some interesting excerpts from the Times review that I think you might enjoy:

“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”

When Ackerley was “quite over 50,” and Tulip was 18 months old, he acquired her from a family that had kept her imprisoned indoors. The slender volume is a classic of animal literature for the refinement of its prose, its dry wit, and its close, unblinking attention to the subtleties of human-animal interaction.

Consider this observation, by the discreetly misanthropic Ackerley as he marvels at his new pet’s exuberance: “It seemed to me both touching and strange that she should find the world so wonderful.”

In a final printed statement scrolled across the screen, Ackerley contemplates a dog’s frustration at trying to understand the human mind. As his imagination soars, he wonders if thousands of years ago, humans came under the protection of dogs, which tried to tame them and failed.

September 10th, 2010
3:35 am

This one hits a bit too close too home for Yours Truly who is always reluctant to show his humans the full range of his intelligence.  The dog in the above video has no such reservations.  For a human it will be quite incredible to watch (I’m assuming that it is for real, though am a little bit suspicious about the laugh track).  Enjoy.

September 9th, 2010
4:05 am
Randolph

Apologies for missing my Monday post.  Apparently, this site was down for several hours.  Fortunately someone fixed the problem otherwise Yours Truly, who is not good at technical things, would have been permanently offline.  Here’s the latest news (to be filed under “Humans Continue To Plumb Our Brains”).

BORDER COLLIES TOP LIST OF SMARTEST POOCHES,

AFGHANS DUMBEST

2010-09-07 16:50:00

The list of top ten smartest pooches has border collies at number one, while Afghans are listed as the dumbest.

The list compiled by Sunshine Coast-based vet Mark Perissinotto, showed that border collies are the most intelligent dogs known to man, followed by the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Shetland sheepdog, Labrador, Papillon, Rottweiler and Australian cattle dog.

The Gap’s Lisa Williamson, who has owned border collies for more than two decades, said they were undoubtedly dogs with enormous potential.

“You can teach them to pretty much do anything. Mine can answer the phone, open cupboards and bring anything back from anywhere. If I drop a set of car keys in the park, I can actually send my dog to find them,” the Courier Mail quoted Williamson as saying.

Afghan breeder Chris McGreevy of Bracken Ridge admitted her dogs could do none of those things but said that was no indication they lacked intelligence.

“They just operate in a different way. If you told them to go fetch, they’d say ‘Get it yourself’. The Afghan is a highly intelligent dog. It’s a very independent dog,” McGreevy who has owned and bred afghan hounds since 1975, said.

Those that were classed as “no-brainers” were the shih tzu, basset hound, mastiff, Pekingese, Irish setter, Borzoi, cavalier King Charles spaniel, bulldog, basenji and afore-mentioned Afghan hound.

Dr Perissinotto from VetShopAustralia.com said he compiled the list based on his 23 years of experience, the advice of dog behavioural experts and dog owners. (ANI)

September 7th, 2010
9:08 pm

Yours Truly is of two minds about this story which involves a puppy purportedly saving a young boy from multiple bee stings.

On the one hand, I’m reluctant to discount acts of canine heroism and my kind’s ability to help hapless human kind in any number of ways.

On the other hand, in our ultra-hyped media age what serves as reporting is often nothing more than asking too few of the right questions and drawing all the wrong conclusions for the sake of constructing a narrative that pleases (NOTE: cynical Randolph is saying that most news these days is nothing more than an entertaining fiction that plays to confirmation bias (read Wikipedia’s nifty summation of that ubiquitous gremlin here)).

When watching this video or reading the story about this incident below notice the things that the reporter(s) doesn’t seem to consider: 1) Pinky is a puppy and puppies (I know I did!) love to chase things that they probably shouldn’t; 2) Pinky might have been playing with the bees not trying to save her owner from them (a happy, but unintended, consequence of this joy of chasing things); 3) the boy’s medical conditions and how they impacted or could have impacted the outcome are murky at best.  Was he really ever in danger? After all, we know how anthropocentric these humans are.  If the boy’s medical outlook was in question would the mother really “waste” time saving what, alas in our world as it is currently arranged, is a disposable creature while her son was on death’s door?  Of course not.  First stop, emergency room not the vet.

Maybe it is the approach of Hurricane Earl that has cast an especially critical cloud over Yours Truly’s mind.  I would certainly like a feel good story, but I like mine real.  I would certainly like a hero (and perhaps Pinky was), but there seem to be too many heroes around these days and too few with credentials you can trust.  At least, the duo are fine even if the story is not.

Here’s the story as reported (or should I say retransmitted from CNN) by Huffington Post:

(Courtesy Huffington Post) - 9-year-old Richie Bragg was playing in his yard when he noticed the swarm of bees. After a few stung his foot, he ran for the house, but avoided any more stings thanks to an unlikely hero.

Only 18 weeks old, Richie’s puppy, Pinky, jumped in and distracted the bees upon seeing the boy in distress. The bees then focused on Pinky, stinging her more than 40 times, while Richie made it safely into the house. Pinky may not have survived if she had arrived at the veterinarian any later, and Richie — who has a condition that prevents his blood from quickly clotting — may have been in a much worse situation were it not for Pinky’s intervention.

Both Pinky and Richie are recovering and doing well.

September 3rd, 2010
5:38 pm

Thanks to Associated Press for this story (all we have in New York is the occasional illegally opened fire hydrant):

By: Matt Sedensky, The Associated Press

MIAMI - The little yellow school bus makes its rounds, picking up one eager passenger after another en route to day camp. Small legs quickly climb the stairs, heads pop out of bus windows and excitement reigns as they near their destination.

Never has a school bus been so drenched in drool: each of these day campers has four legs and a wagging tail. It’s just another day on “The Doggie Bus” as it takes its canine cargo to the Totally Dog camp, miles from Miami’s bustle.

“I wanted a place where owners that are busy could have the peace of mind that their dogs are getting exercise and getting cared for during the day,” said Elena Sweet, a dog trainer and paramedic who opened Totally Dog in 1999.

Sweet, now 40, said she saw a need for a place where dogs could run free and be themselves far from the stress of urban life. She found that place on a piece of land just under a hectare in size in southwest Miami, near Homestead.

The bus is the start of the camp experience.

Dogs board excitedly and there is some barking out the windows as owners wave goodbye. Most of the trip passes sedately, the dogs mesmerized by passing sights and the rumble of the bus, until they get within a few kilometres of their destination.

“That’s where camp starts,” said Sweet. “They love the wind, the air in their face.”

Sweet’s 35-year-old paramedic husband, Jeremy Sweet, is at the wheel.

The dogs grow more animated as camp draws into view.

“They start picking up the smells out the windows and realize they’re just about to get to camp,” he said.

The dogs bound off the bus just after pulling up.

For most, the first stop is a giant bone-shaped pool. Dogs run in and out, jump from the side or idle by a pipe that’s gushing water. They then scurry to get bones, chase one another, swim, shake water off vigorously, and repeat.

Jill Finkelstein says her Yorkiepoo, Pebbles, certainly gets a lot of exercise.

She “gets rid of a lot of energy and just has fun,” Finkelstein said. “It gives the dog a break and it gives me a break.”

Owners pay about $45 a day for camp.

The Sweets screen prospective dogs, turning away aggressive pets and putting new campers through a four-day training period. The result is an idyllic canine retreat where all the campers, big and small, seem to get along.

As the day wears on, some dogs show signs they’re wearing down, napping in the shade.

Kenny Reich sends three mixed-breed mutts — Sophie, Riley and Sadie — to camp.

“They love it,” Reich said, adding that his pets’ exhaustion at the end of the day tells him they had a doggone good time.

“They get off the bus, they get in the car, they go home and they go right to sleep. And they don’t wake up again till the next morning,” he said.

September 1st, 2010
10:06 pm