Video: Animal antics

August 31, 2023 • 1:00 pm

Fare thee well, readers: tomorrow I’m off for Israel for three weeks. My farewell post (#27,916!) is this ten-minute video showing animals doing humorous things.  My favorites include the attacking raptor (0:24), the horizontal sloth (1:20), the rotating d*g circle (2:00), Jesus cat (4:03), donkeys following a ride-on mower (5:26), young sheep practicing head-butting (6:34), the galloping goat (6:48), irritated octopus (7:15), gamboling sheep (8:05), and the dancing Indian deer (8:46).

Hasta la proxima!

ZeFrank’s True Facts Animal Awards

March 27, 2023 • 1:00 pm

There will be no more braining today, as once again I got about two hours of sleep. But believe me, these ZeFrank Animal awards (an 11-minute episode) are better than anything I could produce. As always, I do my best.

The winners (I’ve added some links if you want to read more about the behaviors):

Springtails (good jumpers)
Brachycephalus toads (can’t jump very well)
Leiopelma frogs (can’t jump well, either)
Marmot (?): best “clown shoes” call
Meerkat (gravid)
Greater Sage-Grouse (can’t get a mate)
Leaf beetles and tortoise beetle (keep their own feces and past molts to use as shields)
Leaf beetles in the genus Neoclamisus that are great fecal mimics
Skipper caterpillars that flip their poop far away from their bodies
Glass-winged sharpshooters (leafhoppers) that pee at high speeds with an anal stylus
Asiatic honeybees that repel invading hornets by plastering feces around their nest entrances.

As you see, ZeFrank has a thing for animal excretion.

Readers’ wildlife photos: Humorous titles of science papers

January 30, 2023 • 8:15 am

Well, there aren’t any photos today (I have about a week’s worth, but am conserving them), but we do have science—in the form of weird titles of scientific papers. Athayde Tonhasca Júnior sent this collection with a brief intro:

Perhaps your readers would be amused by scientists being witty or mischievous (sometimes unintentionally), with varied degrees of success.

Any notes are mine. Click titles to enlarge them.

Oy, the citation!

More citation humor:

I presume this acronym was deliberate:


Nick Cohen on the AP’s language recommendation

January 27, 2023 • 12:30 pm

It’s been a while since I posted about anything by Nick Cohen, whom I used to read (and admire) all the time. I guess he’s writing more often on his Substack site.  Checking that out, I found this on his Wikipedia bio:

Nicholas Cohen (born 1961) is a British journalist, author and political commentator. He was a columnist for The Observer and a blogger for The Spectator. Following accusations of sexual harassment, he left The Observer in 2022 and began publishing on the Substack platform.

The footnote for the accusations goes to a Guardian article. in which a woman accused Cohen of sexual assault via groping.  I was shocked, and the fact that Cohen left the Observer after an investigation is disturbing.  I found that out after I already drafted a post with this post from Cohen’s Facebook page. I thought the AP’s “retraction” (an Cohen’s remark) was hilarious, but it loses some humor in light of the above.

I put that first tweet by the AP in the Hili Dialogues the other day, but I guess it’s gone now. At least somebody saved it, and oy did it get pushback!

Video: Alternative math takes over

January 18, 2023 • 12:45 pm

This video, “Alternative Math,” has been around for six years, and has won 15 awards for short features and funny videos. The sad thing is that while it’s funny, it’s also true: truer now than it was when it was made. It documents the “2 + 2 = 5” alternative-truth mentality that is represented by “other ways of knowing.” But it also has a funny ending, so be sure to watch the whole thing (it’s nine minutes long).

The IMDb summary (which also has info about the film and the cast) is this: “A well meaning math teacher finds herself trumped by a post-fact America.”


Maher on Halloween costumes

October 30, 2022 • 1:30 pm

Reader Divy sent me this nine-minute clip from Bill Maher’s latest “Real Time” show. The YouTube notes say this:

Halloween is supposed to be outrageous, yet every year there’s a new list of offensive things we shouldn’t do.

Maher takes on the “offensive costume lists” that proliferate at this time of year, including Jeffrey Dahmer costumes, Queen Elizabeth costumes, Elvis costumes (he was accused of pedophilia), no Handmaid’s Tale costumes (too timely), no zombie costumes of dead celebrities, no hobos (homeless people), no cross-dressing as the other sex, no Putin costumes, no Trump costumes, no costumes related to covid or vaccines. There goes all the fun!

At the end, Maher puts on his own choice of costume: the “uber-Woke, overly anxious, perpetually offended twenty-something” outfit.  It’s a good one, but watch for yourself.

Here’s one of the lists that Maher mocks, from BuzzFeed (click to see which costumes are verboten):

Here’s one you shouldn’t wear. WHY NOT?

And another. Why can’t you be a cop? Because, of course, ACAB!

True facts about sea cucumbers (and their butts)

October 20, 2022 • 2:00 pm

Here’s one of ZeFrank’s (pronounced “zay-Frank’s”) biologically informed videos, this time about sea cucumbers—echinoderms in the class Holothuroidea.

Note the new caveat at the beginning: “True Facts is not appropriate for children nor for adults who don’t act like children.”  These would be great to show to an introductory class on biological diversity, but ZeFrank’s humor might harm people! On the other hand, as ZeFrank turns out more videos, they get better and better, with more—yes—true facts leavened with humor and accompanied by terrific videos.

Watch it! Unless you’re an invertebrate biologist or fond of authentic Chinese food, which incorporates holorthuroideans in some dishes (I can’t stomach them), you won’t know much about this group. In this video, ZeFrank’s 6-year-old side is evinced by his obsession with the butts of these creatures. (Don’t miss the bit at 11:10.)

It is a fascinating group! Does anybody know who ZeFrank is?

Comedy wildlife photos

October 20, 2022 • 8:00 am

It’s too onerous for me to even put together a readers’ wildlife feature today, so, thanks to reader Jez, I’ll steer you to the Guardian’s article on the finalists of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. I’ll put up a few of my favorites, but you can see the full gallery of finalists here.  If titles and descriptions are given, the photo comes from the Guardian, it not, it’s from the competition’s site. The winner will be announced on December 8.  To readers who sent photos: don’t worry—I have them all and they will eventually appear.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

The first one, of course, is my favorite:

Hello Everyone. A raccoon on a Florida beach being fed shrimps Photograph: Miroslav Srb/

It’s all kicking off! Wallabies play-fighting on the beach in Cape Hillsborough, Queensland, Australia.  Photograph: Michael Eastway/

Photo by Alex Pansier:

From Kevin Lohman:

From Paolo Mignosa:

From Paul Eijkemans:

Mehitabel the cat writes into Science

August 5, 2022 • 1:15 pm

Reader Miriam brought my attention to an editorial in Science that, for once, is not offensively woke. In fact, it’s hilarious, using the trope of the famous books/cartoons of Archy and Mehitabel, created by writer and humorist Don Marquis. Appearing in newspapers and then in books from 1916 to 1937, when Marquis died, the lucubrations of the two animals was wildly popular. When I was very young, our neighbors had a cat named Mehitabel, and investigating that name brought me to the books, which I devoured. Read at least one!

Someone at Science has a great sense of humor, for I found from 2007 an “editorial” by the pair on cat domestication, addressing an article in the same issue. Mehitabel the cat ordered Archy to the typewriter to object to a scientific piece on cat domestication.  I hope Science doesn’t mind if I reproduce the editorial—written in perfect Archy-an prose—in its entirety. The introduction explains the absence of caps and punctuation.

Click to read:

Science’s intro, with a link to the 2007 paper under discussion (it shows from genetic analysis that cats were domesticated in the Near East, and all domestic cats originate from at least five “founder” cats in this region):

Readers old enough to remember Don Marquis’ syndicated New York Sun columns may recall that at night, a cockroach named Archy took over his typewriter to write short pieces about him and his friend, a cat named Mehitabel. Because he typed by diving on the keys, he had difficulty with upper case and punctuation, yielding a rather free-form text. In the following message forwarded to us, Mehitabel is apparently responding to recent findings on the genetic background and history of cat “domestication” (Science, 27 July 2007, p. 519).

The letter:

boss, i sent archy to the keyboard to say how upset I am about the terrible treatment of cats in the papers it’s because of a report in science telling all about how we cats got started pretty interesting but some of the papers are saying that’s how we got domesticated domesticated hell domesticated is for dogs not us boss action needs to be taken against this slander these scientist guys did a good thing they found that the first real house cat was not that pampered egyptian pussy instead they showed our relationship with people was much older thank god for that then they looked at genes of us cats and compared them with the five small wildcats and decided we all came from the one in the middle east maybe an arab cat their idea is that the first farmers ten thousand years ago started storing grain that brought in rats and mice so then this arab cat helped out some papers call that domestication that nonsense has gotta be stopped this was a gift not some ownership deal why do they think today we occasionally bring a bloody present into the house and lay it on the bed or the best rug it’s because we want to remind everyone that we are volunteers not repressed conscripts like the damn rovers and fidos just look at how they act wagging their tails and begging for food talk about deal they got one okay but they lost their independence not me and my kind no sir heres the thing about us cats we think it’s fine in the house but we’re just as happy in the alley or out hunting when we do that they call us feral ever hear anyone call a dog feral by the way hell the feral dog is a coyote not some lost rover get it our gig is about independence pet us a little thats okay even pimp us up for the cat show but make one of those ownership moves and sayonara we’re gone we think the scientists got it right about what went down back then in the fertile crescent after the mice got after the einkorn wheat or whatever pretty soon our ancestors were chomping em up well you might ask did they see any dog fossils in there what was old rover doing not much it appears maybe practicing pointing rats or rolling over for the farmers well when the going gets tough only the tough get going us cats are okay with the publicity but when the science story got out into the mainstream media what was said was downright disrespectful domestication indeed we don’t like to be dissed boss so get off your editorial ass and do something about this nonsense

your colleague mehitabel

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 27, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today we drive off the road a bit, as reader Athayde Tonhasca Júnior has a collection of Scottish signs he photographed (this is one of two parts, the second coming later). His notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

They all leapfrog, with surprisingly few injuries reported (Redgorton, Scotland).

I reckon you are expected to sneeze and cough explosively before leaving the van (Perth, Scotland).

A joiner from Perth who knows his Classics. Cesar wrote the famous words after crushing the forces of Pharnaces II, king of Pontus, in 47 BC. Veni, vidi, vici exemplifies the concision and precision of Latin – although the saying loses some of its gravitas when pronounced because it requires going full Elmer Fudd: “weenee, weedee, weekee”. Cicero, the cunning orator, could also get to the point quickly and elegantly. When he needed to announce to the Senate the execution – ordered by him – of some conspirators, he avoided awkward and incriminating words like “execution”, “death”, “strangulation”, etc. by declaring, vixerunt (“they have lived,” which implies “they are now dead”). Nuff said.

Wise advice at Perth College library.

These pets belonged to members of the Raj and apparently were brought back from India for burial in holy Christian ground. Dead servants probably were discarded locally (Hopetoun Estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh).

My petition to have a sign like this for summons to my home office was rejected by higher domestic authority. My motion to be addressed as His Lordship didn’t pass either (Hopetoun Estate).

This culinary atrocity amuses and attracts tourists visiting Scotland. True natives stick to a traditional fare: greasy, starchy & overcooked food (Stonehaven, Scotland). [JAC: I ate a deep fried Mars bar, battered of course, when I lived in Edinburgh. I just wanted to try it,  and it was surprisingly good!]

Home cooked. Really, honest to god (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Why do quotation marks “baffle” so many? (Stonehaven).

Tea room in Thornton, Scotland. “Serendipity” was coined in 1754 by English writer, art historian and politician Horace (born Horatio) Walpole (1717-1797). He was inspired by Michele Tramezzino’s 1557 tale Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo (The pilgrimage of the three young sons of Serendip’s king). In the story, the princes of Serendip (a Persian name for Sri Lanka) went about making accidental discoveries of good and pleasant things. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Walpole introduced over 200 words into the English language, including beefy, malaria, nuance, sombre, and souvenir. Some of them didn’t quite catch on, like balloonomania or robberaceously. But “serendipity” was voted the UK’s favourite word in 2000.

An unassuming wall sign in Falkland (Scotland) praising James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, thus the first king of Great Britain. James’ greatest legacy was the commission of a translation of the Bible into English. A group of sages laboured for seven years to translate from Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin. The resulting text is considered a monumental literary achievement, which Christopher Hitchens labelled “a giant step in the maturing of English literature”, and which prompted Richard Dawkins to say “a native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian” (I can’t comment because I never read it). The good king was also into demons and black magic, writing a whole book about the subject. William Shakespeare may have been inspired by it to create the Weird Sisters, which to me are the best part of Macbeth. James upheld a delicate religious harmony, but it all went pear-shaped: his weak and incompetent son (Charles I) managed to get his head lopped off.