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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:00 am on February 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Berberov, , car accident, Chocolate, Declaration of Independence, Dog, , Lion, Lions, Megafauna, National symbols of Singapore, , Pit bull, Pitbull, , Roy Horn, , Siegfried & Roy, Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, , the Soviet times, ,   

    Perfectly Safe 

    My wife’s friend’s pet is a female Pitbull rescued from a dog shelter. Having a 4 year old daughter and two cats I do not approve of pet Pitbulls, or in fact any large dogs bred for attack/defense duty: Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc. There are other horse-sized dogs capable of grievous harm, but since they were bred for other purposes, like pulling sleds/rescuing people, they are somewhat safer.

    But any Pitbull owner will tell you that their dog is “perfectly safe”. No amount of statistics will persuade them that “shnookums” can rip off a toddler’s face or maul a person or kill a cat. I always tell them about “Chekhov’s gun“. The genetic memory of dogs bred for attacking might be dormant most of the time, but you never know what might activate it.

    Yet, there are always people out there who underestimate animals, like that woman who had a pet chimp and ended up on the front page of the Post. I’m sure that chimp used to be perfectly reasonable previously. Chimps are seemingly cuddlier than Pitbulls, aren’t they?

    Even professionals are sometimes underestimating animals. You probably heard about the tragic death of Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. He made a career out of teasing dangerous animals on camera and yelling “whoa, crikey” when they lunged at him. He was done in by a stingray, a docile and non-threatening creature.

    When you take an unorthodox position about safety of something, there’s alway a chance that your death will be tragically ironic.

    For instance, if you rail hard against seat belt laws and die in a car accident in which everyone wearing seat belts walked away from, people will talk. Or poor ol’ Dr. Atkins, promoting the high fat diet dies of heart attack (while weighting 258 pounds). To me, these cases, while ironic, are not absolutely moronic. A lot of people became healthier on the Atkins diet, and a small number of people were killed by properly worn seatbelts.

    But when it comes to dealing with wild animals, thinking that they are “perfectly safe if you know what you are doing” – there’s no such thing. If you hang out with wild animals long enough, chances are they’ll kill you. Or at least will try to.

    A prime example is Roy Horn, and his tiger accident. It’s not like The Simpsons writers did not predict it. While I was not surprised that a tiger could do harm to Roy (even if he was “carrying” Roy offstage to “save” him), I was very much surprised at what level of medical treatment millions of dollars and fame can get you. They performed a decompressive craniectomy, a procedure that involves removing a quarter of a skull top and storing it in an abdominal cavity(!) for a while to relieve pressure in the brain. I doubt that an HMO patient would last long enough after a tiger attack.

    The worst tiger story that comes to mind though is from the Soviet times. There was this guy by the name of Berberov, an architect. He kept a lot of animals in his apartment, but really achieved fame when he raised a lion cub. The lion, named King, lived in a city apartment with Berberov, his wife, kids and a host of other animals (including a wildcat). The lion starred in a number of Soviet films and they wrote a book titled “Don’t be afraid, it’s a lion.” The lion was shot by a policeman when it got away and tried to play with some kid’s dog.

    Things were about to get worse. Like the Simpsons, the Berberovs decided to raise an new cat. The Simpsons got Snowball II, the Berberovs – King II. Mr. Berberov died of a heart attack, but his wife insisted on keeping the lion in the apartment still. It ended up badly – the lion, provoked or otherwise, attacked the wife. Her son tried to restrain the lion, which in turn, with a swat of a paw killed him by breaking his neck and scalping. Once again, a policeman shot and killed the lion. The puma, which escaped in the melee was also shot and killed.

    What’s a worse idea than keeping a lion in a city apartment? Living with grizzly bears, of course. This lunatic tried to do just that and ended up mauled and half-eaten:

    “In the Werner Herzog-directed documentary, Treadwell is shown singing and reading poetry to grizzlies, calling them names like Mr. Chocolate, and even petting one on the nose.

    Experts say Treadwell was an example of how not to behave around these animals.”

    The right to risk ironic death and/or injury, is somewhere in the Declaration of Independence. It falls under liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Thank you for sticking with my rant. Here’s a song about Pitbull Teriers from one of my favorite movies – “Black Cat White Cat“:

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:02 am on May 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , enhanced using Adobe, , , , pretty incompetent painter, , single chair, , , the Soviet times, ,   

    Photoshop Disasters 

    Seetharaman Narayanan did more to alter reality than 99.99999999 percent of people in this world. It’s ridiculous how much the look of everything changed after Photoshop. All the ads, illustrations, all the graphics in the world look different than they did in the 70s and 80s.

    If you wish, Adobe website will give you a number of useful lessons on how to use Adobe trademarks, such as:

    “CORRECT: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.
    INCORRECT: The image was photoshopped.”

    and

    “CORRECT: The image was enhanced with Adobe® Photoshop® Elements software.
    INCORRECT: The image was photoshopped.
    INCORRECT: The image was Photoshopped.
    INCORRECT: The image was Adobe® Photoshopped. ”

    Meanwhile everything I see around me in printed form has been photoshopped to death. These days when a professional digital camera is cheaper than a copy of Adobe® Photoshop® software and the streets of major cities are full of starving young models, the photoshopers out there would rather spend hours doing unnatural things with expensive stock photos.

    I could understand this if the companies who would be doing this were short on money. But you know, when the same crappy stock photo is used in an ad for Vagisil and an O’Reilly book cover? That’s ridiculous.

    There’s this blog that I’ve been reading lately called “Office Snapshots”. Recently they showed pictures of the offices of Vertrue. The seem to have spent more on a single chair than on the design of their “about us” page. Take a look: the title of the graphic boldly states “WHO WE ARE”. Judging by the graphic the answer is: “We are some smiling office drones from a crummy stock photo.”

    Another fun blog that I’ve been reading is Photoshop Disasters. They mock crummy designers. After reading it I started paying a bit more attention to the small details of various ads. It’s crazy how many disturbing details there are. For instance, just now, I picked up a copy of some magazine that my wife was reading. Literally the first ad that I saw had a 6-fingered model:

    Alteration of reality in photographs is not a new phenomenon, of course. There’s a great book called “The Commissar Vanishes” about the way photographs were altered in the Soviet times, especially to disappear repressed individuals. Besides sequences of photos of Stalin together with “disappearing” commissars, there’s a portrait of Stalin done by a pretty incompetent painter. Stalin, upon seeing the picture, crossed out the ear and wrote the following:

    “This ear says that the artist is not well schooled in anatomy. J.Stalin.”

    “The ear screams and shouts against anatomy. J.S.”

    I don’t have a scan of that page, but believe you me, that ear was almost as disturbing much of the photoshopped models in today’s ads.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:43 am on February 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Festivals, , Human geography, May Day, New Year celebrations, New Year's Eve, , New York Giants, Parades, St. Patrick's Day in the United States, , the Soviet times, , , , Time Square, Urban geography, Walking   

    The Anatomy of a NYC Parade 

    New York City is well known for two types of public celebrations: New Year’s Eve in Time Square and Ticker-Tape parades.

    New York City streets are like a 300 pound person in McDonalds: it seems that his or her arteries are so clogged with cholesterol that it’s impossible to clog them any more. Watching NYC streets during a celebration it’s like watching Homer Simpson eat 100 ribwiches. But New York City’s Finest and Strongest have crowd control down to a science, and people and garbage clots get dislodged very fast.

    There are three major groups in an NYC public celebration: tourists, local shmoes, pros, and those who work there. Four major groups.

    Let’s take a look at the following picture that I took out of my new workplace during the ticker tape parade thrown for the New York Giants.

    Arrow with the letter A points to the actual parade: a float with football players going down the Canyon of Heroes. Number 1 denotes the group that came prepared and staked out spots right along the parade path. These are the pros: the showed up long before NYPD blocked the exits and stuck it out for the next several hours. Group number 2 is the clueless parade goers who showed up late, had to walk for a dozen of blocks that were blocked by police looking for a way to get closer to the parade, finally giving up and standing shoulder to shoulder in a humongous mass of people. They can’t see anything interesting.

    During New Year’s eve this group is held in place by mounted policemen who, believe it or not pack the crowd in by backing their horses in sideways.

    Group number 3 is all the people looking for a path to get into group 2 and those who are late for work and are trying to see a break in the police barricade.

    Arrow B points to a more civilized way to enjoy the parade, but it required employment in one of the building next to a celebration.

    NYC celebrations remind me of the Soviet times and the May Day parades. The trick was to leave from about 3/4 from the end of the parade, otherwise you reached a fenced in area and could not leave for hours having to listen to communist functionaries giving speech  after speech.

    I have some advice for those who want to enjoy a ticker tape parade or an NYE celebration in Manhattan:

    • Reconsider: you will be crowded by people on all ends and freezing cold for hours. Definitely reconsider if you are claustrophobic, germophobic, have a weak bladder, or don’t like to come into contact with police horse’s ass.
    • Show up before the cops block the street. This means at least 3 hours before the start. The best way to do so is to find a restaurant and spend your time there: remember – it will likely be cold.
    • If you are a bit late, your best bet is getting out of a subway station right on the parade’s path: these get blocked off pretty late.
    • Have a meal somewhere nearby and show up when most of the people left and the cleanup crews have arrived: this is usually more fun than the main event: you can take all the pictures and watch tons of confetti and garbage cleaned up in a matter of minutes.
    • Do not reach out with your hand and scratch police horse’s ass. Just believe me on this one.
     
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