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The Whippet #171: A delicate, narrow snout and a pleasant disposition

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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So last week my bedroom (which is to say, my entire flat) was used as a film shoot. This was, if I'm honest, mostly overwhelming and draining despite how little I actually had to be involved. (Imagine having a dozen of your co-workers in your space – which is probably not clean enough, right?? how could it be clean enough? – re-decorating it and filling it with equipment and doing busy, competent things and somehow you are always in the way, etc.)

On the other hand, I also had a big celebrity actor here and I gotta tell you, I was pretty starstruck:

This is Mr. Zippy, a rooster, who played the role of Sebastian, also a rooster.

man holding large, chill rooster
and also Executive Producer Chas Licciardello, since it seemed rude to cut his head off 

(I did not get to hold Mr. Zippy.)

Anyway, Australians, if you see WTFAQ when it comes out in September, please know that the scene with the rooster running loose in a bedroom is my bedroom, and that Mr. Zippy is NOT a chaos gremlin, he is VERY CALM in real life, that is called ACTING.

(If you would like to leave a comment, please tell me about any animal celebrities you have met. I'm accepting very tenuous definitions of 'celebrity'.)

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Carrie Mae Weems: The Kitchen Table Series

This is a series of 20 photos of a family's kitchen table, which together make up a life, by photographer Carrie Mae Weems.

They're sort of posed and stylised, like a domestic still life, but at the same time really warm and human and intimate.

I dunno, I love them, it'll take you 10 seconds to look through the whole series, and then you'll have Engaged With Art today, which always makes one feel accomplished.

The Kitchen Table Series


Forget my own head if it wasn't screwed on

The Times, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 7, 1899

cartoon of a man half being eaten by a crocodilian, reaching back out for his umbrella and saying "Heavens, there I am again! Nearly left my umbrella behind!"

via Yesterday's Print

On the topic of alligators/crocodiles (could be either – it's not high-walking and it's hard to make out how broad its snout is or whether its lower teeth protrude over the upper jaw), did you know alligators are only found in a little chunk of south-eastern US and 5 square kilometres in the Yangtze River Valley in China? Literally 5 square ks (~2 square miles) – there are only about 150 Yangtze Alligators left in the wild.

Crocodilian Habitat Map. Orange is alligators. Click through to the site for the other guys.

This shocked me because a non-trivial amount of my childhood education involved learning little mnemonics for how to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile. I grew up in Australia! The mnemonic should have been, "if you're seeing it, it's a crocodile".

You know what I'm more likely to see than an alligator? A caiman or gharial, the other two kind of crocodilians, which never get a look in.

Red = caimans, turquoise = gharials

How do you tell the difference between a crocodile and a gharial? I have no idea. We're practically neighbours, I ought to know! Alligators have too much cultural clout.

Anyway my final alligator fact is also only gonna be surprising to Australians, but: you know all those videos of Floridians, like, leaf-blowering an alligator to get it to leave a dollar-store carpark or whatever?

The reason for this is not suicidal stupidity, it's that alligators are timid. They're more like our red-bellied black snakes. Like, legitimately dangerous, don't tromp through long grass with bare feet or antagonise them for kicks, but they don't want a fight, will run away if they can, only attack when cornered.

Australian saltwater crocodiles are the most aggressive crocodilians in the world, so they formed my baseline view of what's normal for animals of that shape. They are just astonishingly hostile to anything existing in their territory. It is an actual evolutionary mystery why they are this mad all the time.

"Wildlife biologist Matthew Brien said aggression in saltwater crocodiles is 'hardwired from hatching' but there is no clear explanation why the species is so short-tempered." [Source]

The difference between a crocodile and a gharial is delightful, by the way.

"Other species of crocodile are social and comparatively gentle with each other, said Brien, going so far as to term the Indian gharial "a real sweetheart," with a delicate, narrow snout and pleasant disposition.
Indian Gharial basking with turtles. Glowing pink hearts superimposed on image.
Pictured: Indian gharial basking with turtles + a good use of my time

A 2010 hit pop song encoded a secret message to Colombian hostages

So FARC rebels [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia] had kidnapped a bunch of Colombian soldiers and were holding them hostage, and the army wanted to get a message to them, to tell them not to give up.

(FYI I don't know enough about the conflict to know whether I'd be generally for or against FARC's goals and actions, I'm not taking a position here.)

And, well, the headline. They knew the hostages were being allowed to listen to pop radio stations, so they hired a couple of ad execs to write a pop song and hide a morse code message in it.

The song is "Better Days" by Natalia Gutierrez y Angelo.

The morse code says: "19 people rescued. You're next. Don't lose hope."

The message had to be detectable but not obvious, and while the government could pretty much make radio stations play any song they liked, it had to plausibly be the kind of song that would be a hit, that could play on heavy rotation without seeming strange.

The chorus goes:

A new dawn singing this message
From my heart,
Although I’m tied up and alone I feel as if I’m by your side
Listen to this message brother

which seems a bit on the nose, but probably only if you're expecting pop songs to be hiding coded messages to you.

You can hear the morse code at the 1:30 mark –


I have been looking for a new rental and gradually lowering my standards as I accept the reality of the current market, so this poem speaks to me deeply.

Househunting on behalf of my cat

A poem by Tom Cox

I am househunting on behalf of my cat

But there doesn’t seem to be much on the market right now

It is not as if she is asking for the moon on a stick

Just a quiet place, away from main roads

With no moronic asshole dogs next-door

Comfort and light are both very important factors for her, too

Architecturally clean lines

A seamless flow between inside and outside

And plenty of nearby soil

We are additionally striving to avoid houses with gardens that back onto children’s playgrounds or major haulage depots

We have lived in both of those

She concluded neither one was for her

Also those roads that look quiet but where people drive really fast

And streets with parrots living on them (she hasn’t explained why)

If there’s an artificial lawn, fucking forget it

“SORRY, PETS NOT CONSIDERED” say a lot of the rental houses we look at

But it does not seem to have occurred to their landlords

That my cat wouldn’t want to be considered for their exorbitantly priced shiny grey shitty house

And abhors the giant pointless wall clock and trite inspirational slogans

That it substitutes for a personality

My cat has opted out of the cash-rich, time-poor life

It’s an uncompromising personal choice for her

And I for one respect that

But it means her budget is limited

Also it’s very competitive out there right now

There are probably more cats than there ever have been

And fewer houses for those cats to live in

But I am looking hard and I am hopeful

That I’ll find just the right place for my cat

Then when I’m triple sure I have

I’ll start to consider whether it’s right for me too

I recommend clicking through for a picture of the cat in question, and to subscribe to Tom Cox's newsletter, which is of the 'personal, digressive' genre, closer to something like Figs for Breakfast rather than the "Here's your Friday Five Fast Facts!" genre, no disrespect intended, being 2/3rds in that genre myself.

Unsolicited Advice

Giving first aid / CPR does a lot of good, even if you don't save their life

(CW for hypothetical death, obviously)

My partner's taking a first aid course and mentioned this talking point from the trainer. The context is that civilians giving first aid in an emergency don't have the background and emotional preparation that a paramedic does in coping with the fact that the person might still die. Not that it's easy for anyone, I'm sure.

I was like, "I mean of course, even it doesn't succeed, you still did the right thing by trying", but it's not just that. It does actual good.

Firstly, you massively increase the chances that the person's organs will be viable for donation, because even if their brain dies, their organs might be kept 'living' / oxygenated for long enough. (It's still bad that the person died, I'm not saying this makes it good, but "them not dying" was never a card you had in your hand. If the only difference you can make is saving additional lives via organ donation, that's a difference worth making.)

The other part is the good it does for the deceased's loved ones. McLean ["my partner" is getting clunky] didn't pass on what the trainer said here, but it seems instantly clear to me that it would do good. If your loved one died, I think you would care a lot that someone was with them, trying to save them, vs finding out that no one attempted to help.

Plus, you might have thoughts like "if only I'd been there, if only I'd gone to that party" or whatever. But if you knew that someone (esp. a first-aid-trained someone) had been there and had done everything in their power to save your loved one's life, and your loved one had died anyway, then it would be easier to believe that your presence/absence wasn't the deciding factor.

That's how it seems to me, anyway. If you take a first aid course, the trainer will probably do a better job of explaining it.

(This is the poignant part, there was also a part where they were really emphatic about how willing you need to be to break ribs. You gotta be UP FOR IT.)

<texts from McLean>

it is being stressed to me I do not want my mannequin to end up with nice ribs in a coffin. I want them to wake up with broken ribs in hospital. ok!!! yep!!

the trainer: "ohhh I don't want to break their ribs because they're a cute little baby!! NO 🙅‍♀️ it's EFFECTIVE."

the trainer makes a deal, if you end up saving someone's life you gotta get in touch with her and she'll buy you one box of chocolates for every rib you broke


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