Kill a lion; become the most hated man in the world

Meet Dr. Walter Palmer. He lives in Minnesota. He is a dentist. And I’m sure he has immaculately straight teeth.

And everybody wants to punch him in the face. Hard.

By now I’m sure this story has come across your Facebook news feed at some point today. Palmer, a trophy hunter, paid $50,000 to hunt a lion in a Zimbabwe. With the help of local hunters, he lured it out of its sanctuary using an animal carcass, wounded it with an arrow, and after tracking it for two days, killed it with a gun, beheaded and skinned it, and left the corpse to rot.

Palmer did not not know that the 13-year-old lion, named Cecil, was a beloved animal in Zimbabwe, well known for his jet black mane. Cecil had a tracking device on because he was part of an Oxford University Research program.

Cecil LionAnd now, he’s dead, because some asshole gets pure joy out of brutally slaughtering nature’s most majestic creatures.

Animal lovers can take solace in the fact that Palmer’s life is pretty much ruined from here on out. A newly made Facebook page has thousands of comments shaming him, he is being sought by Zimbabwean officials on poaching charges, and not only is his practice closed, but it’s been turned into a makeshift memorial for Cecil.

Not only is trophy hunting abhorrent to begin with, but you have to be a real savage to want to kill an animal so badly that you’d pay 50 grand for it, fly across the world to even get to it, and then track it for two whole days.

It’s a real shame the lions didn’t get to him before he got to them.

As I’ve said dozens of times on this blog, you will garner America’s utmost vitriol if you harm animals. This even applies when that animal is one of nature’s most predatory, carnivorous beasts that would eat alive any human being put in front of it if given the chance.

Still, how can you actually look at a lion, in all its regal shape and form, and not think: this is truly a miraculous creature?

Everyone cried when Mufasa died in Lion King. So the public reaction should come as no surprise. We love all animals. Including lions.

Except one dentist from Minneapolis sure didn’t feel that way. And now he’s getting death threats.

I don’t know what laws he actually broke. But he needs to answer for what he’s done. And then give him a jury full of 12 Simbas.

But so the circle of life. We’re born, we grow up, we experience love and joy, and then we get killed by sadistic trophy hunters.

Seriously, this guy could go to hell.

Well, escalators are back on the list of “scary things.”

I opined last week about how the increasing ridiculousness of today’s movies and television shows have conditioned us to fear new things that likely would never happen in real life. For example: zombie attacks and sharks raining from the sky.

But since we see it on TV, it becomes an actual visualization as opposed to an abstract idea. And if you can visualize it, you can fear it.

But we need to go back to the old things that we used to fear as children, and remember that they are still much more likely to pose an actual threat to us.

Like escalators. As a child, you used to become anxious when the step you were on neared the top. Don’t lie to me. You double checked that your shoelaces were tied, and you were always prepared to leap the final two steps towards stable ground.

China escalatorIt’s every child’s worst fear to be swallowed by an elevator. But then we grew up and realized that our worries were unfounded, and worst case scenario, maybe stepping off an escalator a second too late might scratch up our shoes, or something. Nothing to be afraid of, right?

THINK AGAIN. In China on Sunday, the worst happened. A mother, moments after stepping off the top step of an escalator inside a mall, found the floor panel beneath her collapsing. In a final act of heroism, she tossed her 2-year-old son to safety before she vanished into the abyss. And she died.

And it’s on video.

Honestly, it’s not that bad. Yes, you’re watching the final seconds of a woman’s life, which is eerie, but there’s no blood spraying everywhere like something you’d see in a Kill Bill movie.

And that was seriously some James Bond shit to save her kid. It’s sad that he no longer has a mother, but soon enough he will recognize that his mom basically sacrificed her life to save him. Kind of brings a tear to your eye.

Apparently, the victim’s family, as well as the general Chinese populace, wanted the video to go viral out of hope that public outrage would create a demand for greater accountability among the Chinese government. In case you didn’t know, the Chinese Communist Party controls the flow of information there, and keeps everything pretty hush-hush.

It’s pretty much why the average person knows virtually nothing about the world’s most populous country.

But back to escalators. We must respect these machines. Sure, they kindly escort us from one level to another, but as evidenced in China, they are death traps waiting to happen.

Honestly, I prefer the stairs. Not because I’m afraid, but when presented with the choice, I will always choose the option that offers the most exercise. We’ve become lazy.

Even when using a moving walkway inside an airport, I still walk. I love it because it makes me feel like I’m a superhero with lightning speed. Sometimes I go to airports just to walk on them, and then leave. It’s a gigantic waste of time.

There was one incident when I was in a Las Vegas hotel several years ago and tried to drunkenly run up a down-escalator, tripped, and smashed my kneecap into its grooved edges, but I won’t get into that. It still brings back painful memories.

Whether it’s out of fear, or the desire for more exercise, let’s make a concerted effort to avoid escalators so we can remind them that we made them, and by golly we can destroy them.

MAN OVER MACHINE.

What the folk? (part III)

This weekend I attended my third Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. I reviewed my previous two visits there, in 2012 and 2014, on this blog, and ended the latter post by expressing the hope that I return every year. So far, so good.

With just 10,000 people in attendance, Newport is one of the smallest festivals out there. It’s great because it doesn’t overcrowd, and it takes place in a state park surrounded by the Narraganset Bay. I don’t usually use words like “stunning” or “breathtaking” to describe scenery, because I’m too manly, but those words definitely apply here.

Newport2You won’t hear top 40 artists in Newport. Nor is it exclusively down-by-the-river-strumming-your-banjo folk. It also welcomes artists from related genres like alternative country, indie folk, folk punk and rock. For example, Jack White headlined one night last year. This year, Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, capped off one of the evenings.

This year’s festival also included some great contemporary artists like the Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Hozier, Brandi Carlile, Laura Marling, First Aid Kit, Lord Huron, the Lone Bellow, Courtney Barnett, Angel Olsen and Strand of Oaks.

And to top it off, a special “unannounced artist” turned out to be James Taylor.

I never quite had “see James Taylor” on my bucket list, but in retrospect, it should have been. Therefore, I checked off a bucket list item this weekend.

It’s my own bucket list, I have the right to modify it on the go. Haters, come at me.

My attendance this year almost didn’t happen. After booking a hotel room six months in advance, just as a safety net, I still didn’t have a friend to accompany me there as of four days prior to the festival. Or tickets. And it had already sold out.

James Taylor

James Taylor at Newport

While I have no problem attending concerts alone, I have never attended a multiple-day festival alone. I could probably keep myself entertained, but I imagine it would become quite lonely really fast. Not to mention depressing.

But as fate will have it, a friend who I reached out to on short notice, and who originally told me he couldn’t come, changed his mind and decided to go. It appears the heavens just want me to be at the Newport Folk Festival. Who am I to argue?

I’m a big advocate of finding time to enjoy life. It sounds simple, but I think it’s something that a lot of people forget to do.

And despite my time away, I managed to hear all about the Taylor Swift apology tweet to Nicki Minaj, ending their brief social media spat. So I didn’t lose touch with what really matters.

I think next year I’ll invite Taylor Swift with me to the Newport Folk Festival. She could use a drama-free weekend getaway.

She’ll probably say yes.

Who’s coming with me to America’s quietest town?

There’s so much negativity in the air. Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. Donald Trump and … everybody.

It’s very hard not to know who is mad at who, because it appears to be all anybody wants to talk about on social media anymore. In fact, it was on Twitter where Swift and Minaj even began their squabble. Oh, and Katy Perry chimed in too.

Things like this always make me wish I just could get away from social media. I don’t think social media generally harms people’s quality of life, but, for the most part, I definitely do not think it improves anyone’s life.

But rather than deactivating my Facebook account during times like this, I’ve got a better plan. A road trip to Green Banks, West Virginia.

Green BanksSituated in this small town is the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. Stretching 485 feet into the air and weighing 17 million pounds, the telescope, called the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, can hear radio waves from hundreds of millions of miles away. It attracts researchers from all over the world.

In order to maintain its efficiency, people who live in the town must abide by severe restrictions. Meaning no radio transmission. Meaning no wireless.

Meaning no cell phones.

Millennials may not even grasp this concept, but up until about 20 years ago, most people did not have cell phones. I’m not talking about smart phones, I mean straight-up cell phones. And it was absolutely fine.

Green Bank is in the National Radio Quiet Zone, which are heavily controlled by the U.S. to facilitate scientific research and military intelligence.

And next time I want to take a vacation to get away from it all, I’m going there.

Some 140 people live there, as of the 2010 census. As far as I am concerned, this is the new Amish country. Except they don’t live like it’s colonial times, but like it’s 1991. And 1991 was a pretty damn good time. I was 4 and didn’t know anything about the world.

I would love to be off the grid for a while. Who knows, maybe I would eventually come to miss my cell phone, and maybe — maybe — even Facebook. I mean, it is the only place on Earth where I can scroll past a serious political post, an emoji, a birth announcement and somebody taking a selfie in front of Stonehenge all at the same time.

With no cell phones, people in Green Banks most likely take the time to actually converse with one another. And the only difference between their day and my day today is that they don’t know about the Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj Twitter feud.

Who’s day sounds better?

… I’m on #TeamTaylor, by the way.

EVERYBODY DROP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND SAVE THE WOMBATS

Remember when people were (and still are) dying in Africa of Ebola, and nobody in the United States cared, except for that two-week period when we thought the disease may have come here?

Well, now there’s something going on in a different continent that will certainly grab your attention. I know this, because I’m referring to an epidemic that is plaguing animals.

Humans just don’t empathize for other humans that they don’t know. It’s sad but it’s true. Show the average person a video of a complete stranger being punched in the face, and they’ll probably have very little reaction. They might even laugh.

Show the same person a video of a dog being kicked, and they’ll become irate.

We have a weak spot for the defenseless. Mess with animals, and you will be one of the most hated people in America. Just ask Michael Vick.

And that’s why you should immediately start caring about wombats. Like, right now. Drop whatever you’re holding. Even if you’re holding a newborn baby. Do it.

Wombats, which are really just the most adorable, cuddly animals in existence, are currently suffering from an outbreak of a fatal skin disease called mange. Which sounds like a mix between a mango and an orange.

But it’s not. Although somebody should invent that. Mange is a painful skin disease that causes scarring, infection and hair loss, and often leads to mortality. And this is not OK.

Wombats are native to Australia. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to help them. If anything, it means we should help them more. Because if we don’t, then this infection could spread to other lovable animals indigenous to the land down under. Like wallabies, or kangaroos, or, god help us, koalas.

We just can’t let this happen.

Fortunately, a team of researchers led by a medical student named Alynn Martin is trying to fight the disease by placing treatment on adjustable flaps that lead in and out of wombat burrows. Think of it like a cat flap. The wombats leave their home, push through the door, and ointment spills onto them. It’s genius.

This woman should win the Nobel Prize, the Purple Heart, a Grammy and the glowing piece of the radical rock given to winners on the Nickeloden show Guts.

We missed our window to care about Ebola. And our shameless lack of consideration for Africans can be salvaged, only if we start doing whatever it is we have to do to save the wombats.

Use the hashtag, #SaveTheWombats.

Because if we don’t, and these little furballs die out, then the term “wombat” will only refer to the English indie rock band The Wombats. Which is actually a pretty awesome band that you should all be listening to.

You may have never donated a cent to charity in your life. But that’s all right. All sins are forgiven if you contribute to wombat research.

It’s your civic duty.

When journalism goes too far

We live in an increasingly politically correct world, and yet, the bounds of journalism seem to be extending in the opposite direction.

That’s because journalism is no longer being conducted solely by journalists. Editors and reporters are still out there, but they’re being usurped by bloggers and anybody who owns an iPhone.

Why read a full-length article on the New York Times when you could scroll over a headline on Facebook, read someone’s post about it on Reddit, view it in picture form on Buzzfeed, or read about it in a more casual, informal way on Gawker?

Websites like Gawker especially seem to push the limits of journalism. It’s shown that they will pretty much post whatever Gawkerthey have to in order to get attention. Mixing gossip and entertainment with occasional hard news, Gawker prides itself in its “independent journalism” and fearlessness.

And it appears that recklessness may have finally caught up with them.

Last week, the company posted an article about the married CEO of rival media company Conde Nast, David Geithner, who tried to pay $2,500 for a night with a male escort.

But if you read the article, you’ll see that the story isn’t necessarily about just that. The escort, who is never named, essentially blackmailed Geithner into helping him with a legal matter once he learned who he was. Geithner did not, and the escort turned to Gawker.

It’s a pretty screwed up situation, and Gawker posted about it, with text message and photo evidence, in great detail. But after the website faced severe criticism for the article, which really offered zero entertainment or informational value — and really only served to screw up the life of (and publicly out) a rival executive — its managing partnership voted to remove it, a rarity for the website.

There’s so much going on in the world … and yet, this is something that Gawker felt compelled to report on.

And today, the last shoe fell, as Gawker’s editor and editor-in-chief resigned.

I say good riddance. Websites like Gawker claim they have the utmost editorial integrity, when in reality, I think it’s quite the opposite. Editorial integrity is learning about something juicy, and having the ability to understand what value there is in exposing it to the public. Sometimes not reporting anything is true integrity.

Furthermore, I’m glad there is a precedent set to show that there is indeed a line that can be crossed. Journalism in general needed one.

Gawker is a glorified gossip blog. The New York Times, Washington Post and BBC News, meanwhile, still know how to tell important stories with dignity, even if their websites aren’t as appealing or as colorful. But I really hope that today’s generation of kids still seek them out when they really want to know what’s important in the world.

Or, god help them … they could come here.

Let’s not forget how terrifying shark attacks are

With summer officially in full swing, I decided to actually take advantage of the gorgeous weather the last few days by doing a bunch of outdoor activities and mini road trips, which has hindered my ability to blog. So if you’ve missed me over that time, then go outside, you loser.

Now that I’ve patronized my small contingent of loyal readers, let’s move on.

Rather then recapping everything I missed — which, unfortunately, was headlined by tragic shootings at two military facilities in Tennessee, followed by Donald Trump (predictably) saying stupid things, and Bill Cosby getting “pwned” by the New York Times — let’s just focus on one single thing that happened this weekend.

A surfer was attacked by a shark live on television. In other words, his death was almost broadcast live to the world.

Mick FanningMiraculously, he escaped the incident with nary a scratch, though he was clearly emotionally shaken afterwards and will probably have a ton of anxiety in regards to reentering the water anytime soon.

Mick Fanning, an Australian professional surfer, was waiting for his turn in a South African competition when the unmistakable fin of a shark appeared next to him. Moments later, he disappeared into the blue, and naturally, everybody feared the worst. Even one of the announcers voiced his shock live on TV by exclaiming “Holy shit.”

But he reappeared seconds later and swam — with his board — to a rescue boat, and lived to tell the tale. That is one bad-ass mofo. Or one weak-ass shark.

Some time ago, weren’t shark attacks viewed as one of the scariest things that could ever happen to a human? The prospect of being face-to-face with one of nature’s most predatory beasts, in its home territory, used to strike fear into the souls of us all.

But I think movies have conditioned us to fear other things that don’t actually pose a threat to us in reality. Like zombie attacks. Weather-inducing worldwide apocalypses. Marvel super villains and scientifically engineered dinosaurs.

Jaws tapped into that age-old fear 40 years ago, but now, even contemporary movies clearly think that the basic premise of an ocean-based shark attack is not enough to carry a film. Instead, in movies like Sharknado — which, unbelievably, has another sequel coming out on Wednesday — sharks rain down from the sky to attack people.

But we forget that being stalked by a single shark is enough. Just look at the reaction of Mick Fanning when he’s being interviewed after his dance with death. That’s pure fear. You can’t fake that in a movie.

Let’s regain our respect for nature’s greatest predators.

And no, I’m not referring to Bill Cosby.