Saturday, June 23, 2007

Seattle Sojourn Saturday (Part Two): At The Zoo

I realise that the issue of keeping animals in captivity is a contentious and emotional one. Once, at an election time meeting of Vancouverite lefties, the Vancouver Aquarium t-shirt I was wearing made a woman cry.

Now, I'm not entirely insensitive, but some people need to get a grip and realise that not everyone is always going to agree with them. Especially radical lefties who favour the overthrow of everything just for the Hell of it. You know who you are.

Are zoos ideal? No. But there's only so much a person can learn from
National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. At some point it helps to get face time with an actual animal. I can credit the time I spent at zoos as a child with my current interest in ecology and habitat preservation.

At least at a zoo the animals aren't being chased across the savannah by a Range Rover full of tourists, and until the mindset that allows poaching to continue can be overcome, all the habitat in the world isn't going to save some species from extinction.

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With that in mind, I found the Woodland Park Zoo's enclosures rather humane, especially given what they were like just thirty years ago. Compared with some of the apartments I've lived in, they're downright palatial. They're large enough, in fact, that if the animals aren't feeling particularly social they can go off and hide.

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Such was the case with the gorillas, most of whom stayed out of view. This female, however, was up for a bit of tree climbing followed by a light snack. For an encore she turned her back to the humans watching her, pinched a loaf, picked it out of her ass, and made a tidy little present on a nearby log. All the children watching (and I) found this hilarious in the extreme.

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Leaving the gorilla enclosure it was onto the ever-popular penguins, who are as entertaining as any animals I've ever seen.

This particular group were all clustered at one end of their pool, looking like they were about to dive in. When an audible murmur arose amongst the gathered crowd they withdrew, and waddled over to the other side of their pool. The crowd dutifully followed, and again they poised themselves to dive, the faint sound of whoo arose from the humans...

And again the penguins balked!

For all I know, they could have done that all afternoon. I swear I saw a couple of them laughing, except that would be anthropomorphism, and that's wrong. Unless, that is, it's in a movie or a book or... Well, any pop culture really. In which case it's often hilariously right.

A n y w a y ...

For some reason, not a few of the animals were being shy. It may be that, like me, they prefer to snooze in the middle of the afternoon. It may have been the chilly wind blowing, or it could have been the scores of ill-behaved and shrieking children running about not being parented by the stroller jockeys they came with. Who can say?

All this means, for my purposes, is that those animals who chose to make an appearance today get to be stars, while the rest get to keep going on auditions and waiting to hear from their agents.

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This zebra, for instance, posed beautifully for me, unlike the pen full of antelope who scampered around her as though spooked by the sight of each other's scampering.

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Entering one of the bird enclosures, I found this beauty sitting on a branch not an arm's length from me, utterly unafraid despite the nearby flitting of weaver-birds who, contrary to their name, were not weaving but pecking at each other and swatting anything that moved with their wings.

Nothing they did, however, frightened off my little friend.

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Rounding another corner Mr. Gagne and I came upon the most ferocious of the African mega-fauna - the hippopotamus. Three of them, in fact, just a laying there, acting like it was an inconvenience to flutter their ears at flies. I guess nobody thought to tell the ducks floating past them what danger they were in.

I'm ashamed to admit, I was rooting for one of the hippos to yawn and swallow a duck, if for no other reason than it would have given me a blog post.

Cruel, maybe. Selfish, obviously. Hilarious, definitely.

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I warned Mr. Gagne that, once we made it to the giraffes, the rest of the afternoon was going to be all downhill. While not entirely true, they are my favourite animal after Colin Farrell, and just a few minutes in the presence of one brought the day's excitement to a gentle close.

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In addition to providing a home for numerous foreign species, the Woodland Park Zoo is also home to many crows and other birds and what can only be described as a bevy of squirrels. Under normal circumstances, I understand a squirrel does not belong in a post about zoo animals, especially when said squirrels are utterly tame and inured to living off human leavings.

This one, in particular, went in and out of garbage cans like he was on some kind of pub crawl.

Besides which, I will take any opportunity to publish a picture of a squirrel. So there.

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So that was the Woodland Park Zoo. An amiable and leafy place to spend an afternoon to be sure, but I looked at it as a training ground. Tomorrow I will be encountering animals more fierce than any I saw today...

Tomorrow it's Gay Pride Day. Yikes!
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Fatwa II: The Reckoning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSir Salman Rushdie, recently knighted by the Queen, is once again in hot water.

A group of Muslim "scholars" in Pakistan have offered an 11.5 million bounty on his head. Not only that, his Wikipedia account has once again been locked, due to vandalism.

I cannot condemn this dismaying turn of events in strong enough words, for all the good it'll do. It's not like these imams will rescind their offer because it's met with the disapproval of the Pop Culture Institute.

Murder is still murder, and I doubt it's condoned by any holy book anywhere.

[S O U R C E]
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Seattle Sojourn Saturday (Part One)

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At last I have my very own photo of the Seattle skyline! Hopefully this soon-to-be iconic image will be adorning a great many of my posts, because I do love Seattle. Oh, I love it alot. I love it so much I may, in fact, start singing.

The day began late, due to a particularly virulent summer cold I seem to have picked up from someone (cough, cough, Doug, cough) but that was okay. After all, this is supposed to be a vacation. It simply won't do to be dashing about like I do at home. Yeah, right... The only time I ever dash in Vancouver it's to avoid being squashed by some coked-up Yuppie in a Range Rover.

Nevertheless, despite the late start it was a full day indeed. In fact, the only reason such a late start was even possible was because of the knowledge and efficiency of my guide, Mr. Gagne, whose name my readers will recognise from his numerous useful and insightful comments.

After a tasty and nutritious brunch, we set out. The day's sight-seeing started at the Admiral Way lookout, for a western vista of the city.

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This will now serve as my Seattle banner, as it covers the entire area from the Space Needle on the left to the Smith Tower on the right. It has everything great about Seattle in it except Mount Rainier and Kathi Goertzen1.

We continued on to the charming neighbourhood of Alki, which resembles a fishing village built by hippies which is rapidly gentrifying. I decided that Alki is my favourite neighbourhood in the city. It's also famously the Birthplace of Seattle, as proclaimed on the monument at Alki Beach.

I was probably most fascinated by this monument because embedded in it is a piece of Plymouth Rock. I got to touch it and everything. For a history buff such as myself, this was almost erotic. Either that or I really need to get laid.

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After Alki, my guide and I made our way back through downtown and then to Queen Anne Hill, where the top photo was taken. This neighbourhood has long fascinated me, and not just for its name. The hillside is chock-a-block with gorgeous houses of every style - French, Italianate, West Coast. I decided that Queen Anne is my favourite neighbourhood in the city.

By this time it'd been nearly sixteen hours since I'd spent any money, so I was beginning to get a little antsy. Mr. Gagne pointed the trusty Iseabail2 down the hill to the north of Queen Anne in the direction of Fremont.

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By the time we arrived in Fremont my head was ready to explode. As charming as Alki and as posh as Queen Anne are, I decided that Fremont is my favourite neighbourhood in the city, since it is all this and more.

Here we stopped for a little light lunch, at a lovely Thai place called Tawan Thai. Mr. Gagne had a chicken satay with Pad Thai and I had my usual green curry chicken with a coconut smoothie, which was so good, I've already made plans to be buried in the stuff.

After lunch I bought North River, the new novel by Pete Hamill, and finally found a copy of Midnight's Children by Sir Salman Rushdie. My consumerism having been temporarily sated the rest of the day was like a walk in the park.

Which, in fact, it was. As amazing as the day had been thus far, it turns out the day's piece de resistance was yet to come, a stroll through the Woodland Park Zoo...

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1. Local TV personality, widely reputed to be an angel in human form.
2. Pronounced "ISH-bell".
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Seattle Sojourn: It Begins

Now that I've taken the train, I will be hard pressed to ever squeeze myself into another bus.

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Having rectified the problems it once had in the 90s (namely, keeping its trains on the tracks) Amtrak is once-again poised to become the only way to travel. In fact, I may become a regular visitor to Seattle. That's how convenient, affordable, and glamourous my trip was.

Plus, the train was chock-a-block full of Vancouver homos, and not one of them threw anything at me. Progress!
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