This week you may have read about Darwin, the rhesus monkey who became an brief Internet sensation when he suddenly appeared in a Toronto Ikea, shuffling around in a tiny coat. Little monkeys in tiny people clothes are adorable, but totally illegal, and potentially deadly. Darwin was taken by animal control services to a sanctuary where he currently resides. Everyone’s totally fine with this except Darwin’s self-proclaimed “mother,” Yasmin Nakhuda, who says he, the monkey, should have the right to choose. My advice to her is this: If you love him, let him go.
When I lived in New York my apartment had a mouse problem. I didn’t particularly care. Their ingenuity was impressive and I took to crafting increasingly complex trap arrangements. My roommate wasn’t nuts about mice though, so we started putting out glue traps. These work pretty well but they end up putting you in a difficult position down the road when you have to decide whether to let the trapped mouse starve in a goo pile or kill it outright. About the third time around I decided I’d had enough killing and that it was time to do the right thing. I painstakingly extracted our victim from the trap and named him Milford.
I bought him a cage and velvet sawdust, and fed him fine cheese. I supplied him with water, the occasional Cheerio, and conversation. But Milford was having none of it. Even after weeks he cowered in my presence, a furry hump poking out of the sawdust, visibly quivering. When I was out of the room I could still hear him jumping repeatedly against the top of his cage in an attempt to escape. Clack, clack clack. I believe repeated trauma to the head is what eventually killed him. He was buried in the woods outside the family estate in Pound Ridge, New York.
“Why, Milford,” I thought. “I was trying to help. I gave you food and shelter. I lifted you out of the gutter of the universe into a higher existence.” I was wrong. Like Darwin's owner, I was projecting human needs onto the animal that were never there. I thought I knew what he needed. I thought he would learn. But there’s a reason that dogs are the most common pet on the planet. We share a deep bond. Animals can learn indifference in their lifetime, but true acclimation and domestication is the subtle bending of instincts over generations. At the risk of making an obvious statement, a mouse is not a dog. Nor is a rhesus monkey. Disney was wrong. Very few animals are your friends. I have seen Outbreak. The best thing you can do for most animals is let them go. Fly, Willy. Fly.
(That scene has not aged well.)
Anyway, without further “stories-about-things-emotionally-balanced-people-don’t-do,” here’s your Weekend Reading!
Learn the story of Deadliest Catch producer Thom Beers, the man took over reality television one blue-collar profession at a time. Charles Homans, The New York Times.
"Beers and his crew found themselves stuck at sea for a week as the boat battled an uncommonly ferocious storm. Waves swelled to the height of a four-story building. Beers pitched in with the work on deck, only to fall victim to the fisherman’s ailment known as 'the claw,' the muscles and joints in his hands knotting up hopelessly. Still, he was aware of the elemental intensity of the footage: the crew lurching back and forth on the slick wood and steel in their orange and yellow rain gear, the prehistoric strangeness of the snow crabs, the terrifying void of the heaving sea. When he got back to California, he called Burns. 'Listen,' he said. 'There’s something big here.'"
During the Cold War, the military experimented on their own soldiers with a variety of undocumented psychotropic drugs. Military scientist James S. Ketchum believes he was doing the right thing. Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker.
"Ketchum, an unreconstructed advocate of chemical warfare, believes that people who fear gaseous weapons more than guns and mortars are irrational. He cites approvingly the Russian government’s decision, in 2002, to flood a theatre in Moscow with a potent incapacitating drug when Chechen guerrillas seized the building and took eight hundred theatregoers hostage. The gas debilitated the hostage takers, allowing special forces to sweep in and kill them. But many innocent people died, too. 'It’s been looked at by some skeptics as a kind of tragedy,' Ketchum has said. 'They say, 'Look, a hundred and thirty people died.' Well, I think that a hundred and thirty is better than eight hundred, and it’s also better, as a secondary consideration, not to have to blow up a beautiful theatre.'"
Welcome to Bamiyan, Afghanistan, the best unexplored ski-country in the world. Just watch out for avalanches, famine, and the occasional Taliban operation. Elliott D. Woods, Outside.
"Suffice it to say, there aren’t many hippies traipsing through Bamiyan these days. Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has known little peace. First came the Soviet invasion of 1979, and when the Soviets finally withdrew, in 1989, the various Afghan mujahideen factions turned on each other, igniting a vicious civil war that ended with the rise of the Taliban. American long-range bombers arrived in 2001, signaling the beginning of NATO’s lengthy war in Afghanistan. Thirty years of conflict has left Bamiyan’s tourism industry as dead as the Silk Road. But Foladi thinks the area’s adventure-sports potential could change that. As he told me, 'We saw that winter was a challenge for Bamiyan, so we tried to convert that into an opportunity. We believe Bamiyan can be a four-season tourism destination: spring through fall for trekking and winter for skiing.'"
Dr. Nakamatsu has over 3,300 patents to his name and might be the one of the greatest inventors of our age, but you’ve probably never heard of him. Franz Lindz, Smithsonian Magazine.
"The floppy is only a short subject in the nonstop invention film that’s running in Dr. NakaMats’ brain. Among his other creations (he will earnestly tell you) are the CD, the DVD, the fax machine, the taxi meter, the digital watch, the karaoke machine, CinemaScope, spring-loaded shoes, fuel-cell-powered boots, an invisible 'B-bust bra,' a water-powered engine, the world’s tiniest air conditioner, a self-defense wig that can be swung at an attacker, a pillow that prevents drivers from nodding off behind the wheel, an automated version of the popular Japanese game pachinko, a musical golf putter that pings when the ball is struck properly, a perpetual motion machine that runs on heat and cosmic energy and ... much, much more, much of which has never made it out of the multiplex of his mind."
How the unseen but close relationship between drug companies and individual researchers is affecting science and medicine as we know it. Charles Seife, Scientific American.
"In the past few years the pharmaceutical industry has come up with many ways to funnel large sums of money—enough sometimes to put a child through college—into the pockets of independent medical researchers who are doing work that bears, directly or indirectly, on the drugs these firms are making and marketing. The problem is not just with the drug companies and the researchers but with the whole system—the granting institutions, the research labs, the journals, the professional societies, and so forth. No one is providing the checks and balances necessary to avoid conflicts. Instead organizations seem to shift responsibility from one to the other, leaving gaps in enforcement that researchers and drug companies navigate with ease, and then shroud their deliberations in secrecy."