At first, I thought Derrick Jackson of The Boston Globe was trying to win the prize for most extreme case of gushing about the "The One" (easily swamping my own piece about the specialness of the occasion) when I read this:

IF YOU felt a tremor, it might have been more than just the multitudes chanting O-BA-MA. It just might have been the rumble of roots, tree trunks swaying like hips, and branches stretching outward to praise the heavens. If you heard a song, it might not just have been the crowd when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said to Obama, ''Congratulations, Mr. President.'' It might have been the birds serenading as if let out of a cage, soaring to perches to applaud with their wings.<
   If you heard a roar, it was every stone lion coming to life in front of museums, libraries, colleges, and other ornate buildings around the nation. If you were on the Mall and felt something on top of your feet, it might not have been other people stepping on them. It might have been millions of ants and other insects who marched from their undergrounds to wave leaf particles and blades of grass like American flags.<
   For it was not just a human message when President Obama said in his inaugural speech that we can no longer ''consume the world's resources without regard to effect.'' The greatest effect is, of course, on untold species mowed down for our consumption.

… but then I saw he didn't mean to describe the moment in religious terms — at least, not in a conventionally religious way, as in writing the Revelation According to St. Obama — but he did mean to invoke one of our growing secular religions, in this case the anthropomorphizing of animals to the extent of imbuing them with rights akin to those of humans.

But Mr. Jackson was the soul of restraint compared to this piece that moved on our opinion wire this morning:

By Paula Moore
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
    Feel-good stories about centenarians are nothing new, but a recent harrowing tale with a happy ending about one long-lived fellow named George may have taken some readers by surprise. George was abducted from his home in Newfoundland, Canada, taken to New York City, where he was imprisoned in a small enclosure for 10 days, and then, after his captors had a change of heart, released in Maine. George was last seen swimming to freedom. <
       Did I mention that George is a 20-pound, 140-year-old lobster…

No, you didn't, but somehow I knew something like that was coming.

Sorry I can't link to the latter piece (apparently, no one has actually picked up and run the piece yet), but you can read more on the subject at, where among other things you can order "Being Boiled Hurts" stickers — as many as you need. You can also read where Mary Tyler Moore says, ""If we had to drop live pigs or chickens into scalding water, chances are that few of us would eat them. Why should it be any different for lobsters?"

To which I'm tempted to say, "because they're like, big BUGS?"

I'm really not as mean or insensitive to critters as I sometimes seem to be. It's just that, when somebody seeks to portray a crustacean as being just like people — going BEYOND saying don't eat them, to "don't even confine them," it sort of sets me off. I guess I'm just in a mood today. All sorts of things I'm incidentally running across in looking for copy for tomorrow's op-ed page is setting me off.

Speaking of critters, I even got slightly grumpy reading this piece, which frets about the Asian market for turtle meat depleting wild species in the U.S.:

    As global wealth rises, so does global consumption of meat, which includes wild meat. Turtle meat used to be a rare delicacy in the Asian diet, but no longer. China, along with Hong Kong and Taiwan, has vacuumed the wild turtles out of most of Southeast Asia. Now, according to a recent report in The Los Angeles Times, they are consuming common soft-shell turtles from the American Southeast, especially Florida, at an alarming rate.
    Some scientists estimate that two-thirds of the tortoise and freshwater turtle species on the planet are seriously threatened. Some of that is secondhand damage — loss of habitat, water pollution, climate change. But far too many turtles are being lost to the fork and the spoon.

And the thing is, I actually agree that we need to protect endangered species. But having been goaded into an insensitive mood by the first two pieces, I couldn't help thinking that I was less concerned about what the Asian appetite for turtles was doing to wildlife than I am, say, in the African market for the body parts of actual human beings who happen to be albinos:

According to the Tanzania Albino Society, at least 35 albinos were murdered in Tanzania last year to supply witch doctors with limbs, organs and hair for their potions. The violence of the attacks and the prejudices they reinforce, both about albinos and Africa, have prompted Tanzania’s government to act. It has appointed an albino woman as a member of parliament to champion the interests of some 200,000 albinos in the country. The albinos, for their part, have applauded the intervention as well as other measures, such as attempts to stamp out the use of the Swahili word “zeru” (meaning “ghost”) for albinos. Nonetheless, they say that efforts to convict albino-killers have been thwarted by a rotten judicial system, with witch doctors using bribery or threats of spells to escape trial.

Tell you what — let's work on putting a stop to that, then worry about the turtles, and then, if we have any energy left, talk about the lobsters, OK?

6 thoughts on “Critters

  1. Brad Warthen

    Don’t mind me, folks; I’m just on an ornery streak. I attribute this to the fact that I’ve been listening to John Lennon’s “Imagine” album in my truck (my big Christmas present was a USB turntable, and I’m slowly transferring my vinyl collection to digital form). You know, when I bought the album I though John was cool (I had bought and enjoyed “Ram,” but I got a hoot out of the photo of John, included with the “Imagine” album, mocking that with a pig — I actually framed it), but listening to what he said about his ex-friend Paul after all these years persuades me of just how socially dysfunctional he was:
        Those freaks was right when they said you was dead…
        The only thing you done was yesterday…
        The sound you make is muzak to my ears
        You must have learned something in all those years

    Ow. Way brutal. And this from Mr. Can’t We All Be Peaceful and Get Along. Sheesh. No wonder I’m in a cranky mood. I mean, I really have had enough “of hearing things from uptight-short sighted-narrow minded hypocritics…” And so forth.

    Paul was a way nicer guy. Of course, his niceness extended to the point that he would agree with the PETA folks I was picking on above. So maybe there’s such a thing as too nice.

  2. p.m.

    Nice guy, McCartney?
    Well, yeah, probably moreso than Lennon, but he went tit-for-tat with this personal message for Yoko Ono from his “Ram” album:
    Too Many People
    Too many people going underground,
    Too many reaching for a piece of cake.
    Too many people pulled and pushed around,
    Too many waiting for that lucky break.
    That was your first mistake,
    You took your lucky break and broke it in two.
    Now what can be done for you?
    You broke it in two.
    Too many people sharing party lines,
    Too many people ever sleeping late.
    Too many people paying parking fines,
    Too many hundred people losing weight.
    That was your first mistake,
    You took your lucky break and broke it in two.
    Now what can be done for you?
    You broke it in two.
    Too many people preaching practices,
    Don’t let ’em tell you what you wanna be.
    Too many people holding back, this is
    Crazy, and baby, it’s not like me.
    That was your last mistake,
    I find my love awake and waiting to be.
    Now what can be done for you?
    She’s waiting for me

  3. Brad Warthen

    I remember that song well — catchy tune. “Ram” is in the stack of albums I hope to transfer to digital soon, although it wasn’t as high on my list as “Imagine.” (The very first thing I recorded was a Spencer Davis Group LP that I had never heard because my son gave it to me recently when I didn’t have ANY kind of working turntable.)
    It never occurred to me that it was about Yoko. And I’m not sure that I can tell that it is, although I see on Wikipedia that such has been speculated.
    If Paul was jabbing at Yoko, there’s no question that John’s counterpunch was WAY harder. Certainly, clearer.

  4. p.m.

    Gee, Brad, I don’t want to be argumentative, but of course Lennon’s counterpunch was clearer. McCartney’s song was an inside joke; Lennon’s was tactlessly overt, like most of his public life in New York as an Ono. “Imagine” was the pearl in that oyster, and probably the best album either one of them did post-Beatles.
    McCartney eventually found out Yoko wrote some of the lyrics to “How Do You Sleep?” and never has forgiven her.

  5. Brad Warthen

    “Imagine” is musically beautiful — but philosophically off-putting. Unfortunately, many people embrace it for what they see as its deep meaning. But to me, it is nihilistic. He offers the standard, over-worked reasons to dream of having no countries or no religion — “nothing to kill or die for.” Which also suggests, when taken to the extreme that the song seems to invoke, nothing to live for. Philosophically, it’s a negation of believing in anything — anything other than, as he said on another album, “Yoko and me.” And I gotta tell you, I believe in a whole lot more than Yoko and him.

    I mean, even if he didn’t believe in God, or in, say, liberal democracy, at the very least you’d think he could have believed in Beatles. But no, not our John… No, he had to deny and renounce and turn his countenance away from everything.

  6. p.m.

    I’m with you, Brad. I remember the awkward experience of hearing “Imagine” played at an Advent Christian church at the wedding of an atheist.
    Awkward, that. Like carrying pictures of Chairman Mao.
    I’m thinking Lennon finally found his mother, unfortunately, in Yoko (mother, you had me, but I never had you), only to run afoul of his own lyrics (or McCartney’s):
    He’s ar real nowhere man
    Sitting in his nowhere land
    Making all his nowhere plans
    For nobody.

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