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The Whippet #13: You are Mario!

McKinley Valentine — 8 min read

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You are Mario! It's up to you to save the Mushroom People from the black magic of the Koopa!

I used to be a huge gamer, and I'm not anymore, but I still read a lot of video game news and reviews for some reason. I don't know if the games have got worse (probably not) or my ability to be enthralled has just waned. I used to get up at 5 am to try and beat my brother to the Nintendo > Super Nintendo > Playstation in order to get an hour or two of full, uninterrupted play. I can't imagine being that excited, that compelled, now. Maybe twice a year, I come across a book that's good enough to create that feeling, but not much else does. (The perpetual "Is that depression or is that just adulthood?" question, right?)

The best part was going into the city with my family, buying a game (well, my mum buying it), and reading the manual on the way home. Old-school manuals used to be really fat and have lists of all the towns you might visit, magical items you might acquire, stats you could level up in, character art, backstories... So much PROMISE. I think I felt genuinely high, like drug-high, reading those.

Manual for the NES game Faxanadu, pulled directly from my childhood and somehow on the internet:

And then they started dying off, and the manual, instead of being a whole booklet, became just a flimsy pamphlet with a warning about not sitting too close the screen. I'm not sure exactly why that happened - maybe the expense of printing, maybe the improvements in technology that meant designers could translate their vision into the game itself (compare the illustrations of items with the in-game versions in the image above).

When I play games now, I often lose interest and stop for no particular reason. But video game REVIEWS - especially of quirky, conceptual games - they still excite me. They give me back a little bit of that anticipation and sense of promise - this, THIS could be amazing. Even - probably because - I don't actually play the games themselves.

The bearded vulture's diet is bones, just bones

You'll notice they don't have bald heads, the way other vultures do. That's because they're not sticking their heads into messy carcasses; they wait till they're picked clean. They can swallow whole or bite through bones up to the size of a lamb's femur, where their hyperacidic stomach dissolves the bones and lets them digest the marrow. (Wikipedia page)

If the bone is too big, they fly around 100 metres up and drop it onto rocks, cracking it into manageable pieces. (Their other names are 'lammergeier', meaning lamb-vulture, or 'ossifrage', bone-breaker.)

They're also HUGE, with a wingspan of nearly 3 metres. When they can't get bones, they surprise ibex and goats on cliff-edges and batter them till they fall off. Then eat them AND their bones.

Incidentally, their necks aren't actually orange. They're white. But they find patches of iron oxide-rich dust to groom into their feathers. This doesn't have any direct benefits, but it tells other bearded vultures you have the time and resources to spare to find a real good patch of iron-oxide dust to groom with, so people find it very impressive.

Lastly, please enjoy this commentary by Thomas Littleton Powys, the 4th Baron Lilford:
We have two fine bearded vultures, or lammergeiers, one of which (with a companion that has died very lately) enjoyed complete liberty since its arrival here as a nestling till a few days ago, when I was obliged to have it caught up and confined, on account of very conspicuous breaches of decency about the roof of the house and our flower garden.

Jack Druce's newsletter is 👌

If pressed, I would describe it as 'lo-fi comedy and introspection'.

"Last year I went to an education conference in Canberra. My Mum organised the conference and I was going to help out with recording the speeches. At the dinner afterwards I was seated at a table of people I didn’t know and I was terrified, a lot of vague business chat, a lot of big laughs happening at weird places. I wanted to do my best, ask questions and not do my usual thing which is stare into the distance or at a candle.

The moment I realised I was out of touch with what was happening was when dessert came out. Now, this was a particularly melon-heavy dessert. As it arrives at the table one woman gets everyones attention like she is about to make a HUGE announcement, she confidently says ‘Guys… this is true, you might not believe me, but… I don’t like any melons.’

I’d never heard such a build up to such a nothing statement. I expected what will happen is everyone would feel slightly embarrassed for her and the conversation would move on to something else, I was wrong, what actually happened is the table stops what they are doing in disbelief, as if this is the most shocking thing they’ve ever heard, she would have gotten the same reaction if she’d said, ‘Guys… are ISIS really THAT bad?’

The table quickly descended into everyone yelling different types of melons at this woman. Determined to put some holes in her outrageous statement, but she was steadfast.



Rock Melon?

Absolutely not.


Cantaloupe can fuck right off! (Paraphrasing)

This aggressive listing of melons went on for minutes. We went through so many melons that someone said ‘Passionfruit’…. PASSION FRUIT?! What are we even doing!

After 5 to 10 minutes of this melon trial, I felt like saying ‘Guys, are we sure this better than silence.’

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Pele's hair and Pele's tears

Named after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, Pele's hair and Pele's tears - that's the actual terms used by volcanologists - are types of volcanic glass. When droplets of fountaining lava are caught by the wind, they are sometimes stretched out into long, incredibly thin glass fibres. "Pele's hair has a golden yellow color and looks like human hair or dry straw. In sunlight, it has a shimmering gold color. Pele's hair is extremely light, so the wind often carries the fibers high into the air and to places several kilometers away from the vent. It is common to find fibers of Pele's hair on high places like top of trees, radio antennas, and electric poles."

Like fibreglass, which it literally is, it's not safe to touch with your bare hands, because the tiny brittle fibres can splinter and catch in your skin.

"Pele’s tears are small pieces of solidified lava drops formed when airborne particles of molten material fuse into tearlike drops of volcanic glass. Pele’s tears are jet black in color and are often found on one end of a strand of Pele's hair." More info

(You will notice that I only put tweets in The Whippet that don't have thousands of RTs. So if you go RT it yourself, you'll be providing fresh delightful content to your peers. This is what I do for you. Also, this is a 100% achievable idea! If you know some painters/illustrators, get organising.)

Solicited Advice

"What do you think about greying men dying their hair?"

"Personally I feel too young to be as grey as I am, but I mostly don't care that much and dyeing hair is a bit of a hassle/expense. I'm in a band, and have some big gigs coming up soon, which brought it up in my mind again. Is that the sort of thing that should matter? Is it the sort of thing that does matter?"

1. The first answer is men should feel completely free to dye their hair, and completely free to let it grey, and it's no one's place to judge either way. But you asked me because you know people DO judge, and there's a lot of social bullshit around men and grooming, and everyone and ageing, so the following answers bear in mind some of that bullshit.

2. You're right that dyeing your hair is a hassle. In particular, it's a hassle to do it in such a way that people are not aware you're dyeing it (roots come through fast, and are tell-tale). There may be 'salt and peppery' comb-through ways of dying men's hair that solves this, but you'd have to google it.

3. Men are judged for (being caught) covering their grays. In particular, I think you being in a band is important because 'ageing' men who also play guitar, unless they're filling stadiums, can be stereotyped in a lot of ways around mid-life crisis, trying to hold onto their youth in 'desperate' ways, etc.

4. Just as an aside, there's no 'too young' to go grey. People can go grey at any age, just like very young men can go bald, and white men go grey faster than other genders and ethnicities. Sorry. I know that doesn't undo all the cultural baggage around it, or those ads where the greying guy dyes his hair and then gets the promotion because his boss thinks he's got fresh ideas.

5. Blablabla salt and pepper, blablabla silver fox, blablabla George Clooney. You know all that.

6. Short/clipped grey hair will tend to look less 'old' than longer hair (because greys are also wiry). I think cutting hair short could probably be tough for men who use longer hair as a way to soften their look from being too masculine, too corporate, etc. If that's you, maybe paying for a really skilled barber is the way to go here, one who understands about the link between hair and identity. Grey hair also needs more moisturising conditioner and possibly hair oils (not applied so they look greasy, just enough to get them back to 'normal' levels. Grey haircare is also googleable).

7. I think the fear is probably more about looking older than you are, than grey hair specifically? It seems to me that two things have a much bigger effect on your perceived age than hair. One is posture. And the other is general sort of vitality, energy, openness to new things, etc. I think I would recommend focusing on those over dyeing.

8. To reiterate, it's totally fine to dye your hair if you want to. But you're right that it's a hassle and an expense.

9. You mentioned in your question (I edited it) being aware of the different (generally worse) problems women have around this sort of stuff. There's a subreddit called r/MensLib, which is basically like 'What if MRAs actually cared about men's rights". To give you an idea, the top post is currently on helping gay men get out of Chechnya. And they've founded their own space to talk about men's issues, and to actually help men, instead of only bringing them up when feminists are talking. So that could be a really good place to start a discussion on the gendered aspects of how hair and ageing affects you as a man. That stuff is real, and you deserve to be able to speak about it.

10. I've always liked the saying "All cats are grey in the dark", if that helps.

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