Archives for category: I heart animals

This was not the most inspiring of Novembers. Rarely saw the bright, crisp days I love so much, or that special November light. But so what if the weather was crap? My health has returned after I spent nearly two years diminished. A new project was born this month and, with it, a partnership with someone dear and special. An acquaintance turned into a friend (thank you once again, Internet). Plenty of beauty in spite of the weather.

So it’s November 28th, and I got the picture today. I helped it along with a little photo editing app I love, which I’ll soon be talking about on my new app review site, Cowgirl App!.

I took lots of other photos this month. But this is the picture that captures my seventh November, which at first glance seemed drab and utterly lacking in promise, but turned out to be full of little miracles and big possibilities.

Click for a bigger version. Previous years’ photos below.

2011 | 2010 | 20092008 | 2007 | 2006

The weather in Paris has been depressing this spring. But it was the perfect backdrop for the depressing French presidential campaign, which was harsh and ugly, with the extreme right gaining ground and the Greens written off completely (less than 3% of the vote). Sigh.

So I have a suggestion for you. To lift your spirits, celebrate Mother’s Day, and give your kids the priceless, lasting gift of eco-consciousness and civic responsibility…

Why not take a trip to the Zoo La Boissière du Doré for a special event to raise awareness about orphaned orangutans? The zoo is right outside of Nantes. (OK, so it’s a four-hour drive from Paris, but I’m from California, so… road trip! It’s only about two hours to Nantes by train.)

Need a moment to think about it?

How about this moment? This is one of the orphans at the Nyaru Menteng reintroduction center. He didn’t want to go back to the center for his nap after “forest school.”

(Image copyright Orangutan Outreach! Click the picture to go to their Pinterest page and see a bigger version.)

Orangutan Outreach helps support the Nyaru Menteng center (managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation), where our little buddy above lives, and the Ketapang Rescue Center (managed by International Animal Rescue). If you’re still not convinced, watch the Orangutan Outreach mom and baby orangutan video that melted our hearts.

Missing Orangutan Mothers (MOM)

This year, on Mother’s Day (May 13th), the Zoo La Boissière du Doré is hosting the annual Orangutan Outreach MOM (Missing Orangutan Mothers) event, which raises awareness about the plight of orphaned orangutans:

Every year on Mothers Day, Orangutan Outreach celebrates orangutan mothers in zoos around the world. We take this special day to bring attention to the hundreds of orphaned orangutans being cared for in rescue centers in Borneo and Sumatra.

The orangutan keeper at the zoo, Dr. Marylise Pompignac Poisson, is a child psychiatrist, psychology educator, and specialist in early psychosocial development of primates — both human and non-human.

The program she has put together for the MOM event includes:

  • a talk about orangutans during which she will also discuss findings of her research on the importance of early interaction in the cognitive and emotional development of infant orangutans,
  • a fact sheet/quiz for visitors,
  • coloring pages for the little ones.

She will be available to chat with visitors and answer questions, her book Les Orangs-outangs de la Boissière nous livrent leurs secrets will be available to buy, and you’ll be able to make donations on the spot. All proceeds will go to the EAZA Southeast Asia campaign (see below).

By now you should be highly motivated to go to the MOM event at the zoo! (But if you can’t, scroll past the details for other ways to help.)

Event details

Date: May 13
Time: 13:00
Location: the orangutan enclosure, of course.
Hotels near the zoo

Map of the zoo (click for a downloadable PDF):

The orangutans desperately need our help

The MOM event is being co-sponsored by the nonprofit org Le Jardin d’Athéna, founded and run by Dr. Pompignac Poisson, and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria).

This year, EAZA is running a campaign to support endangered animals in Southeast Asia. Large animals in this region are in serious danger of being completely wiped out in the near future (the Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered, the Bornean orangutan is endangered). This is largely because their rainforest habitat is being razed to make room for palm oil plantations. It’s all about greed.

For professionals

If you or anyone you know are a pediatric, veterinary, or other professional interested in early primate development, Dr. Pompignac Poisson is offering a training program on the topic: Stage d’observation en primatologie.

Dr. Pompignac Poisson is also a member of the Société Française pour l’Etude du Comportement Animal, and will be presenting her research at their meeting May 9-11.

I grew up in San Diego with the beautiful San Diego Zoo. My favorite parts were the reptile house and the monkeys and apes. And the elephants. At the San Diego Zoo in the 70’s, you could buy bags of peanuts and the elephants would take them from your palm with their tickly trunks. But I don’t want to think about that right now. And they let kids ride on the giant tortoises, and reach into a kid-level incubator to hold newly hatched chicks. That was all over by the 80’s. Bad for the animals. I respect that. But I suspect it changed mostly because of liability issues.

I have a special place in my heart for orangutans. One day I was at the zoo with my son when he was in his early teens, standing on the observation platform above the orangutan exhibit. Looked kind of like the one below (click for bigger), but with a wooden wall instead of a net wall. You could watch them from the platform, or you could go under the platform and look at them at eye level through very thick glass. They are notorious escape artists. Can’t blame them. They’re too smart to be enclosed. But I guess it’s better than being butchered and having your babies sold as pets, or being burned out of your home for palm oil plantations

That day, there was an adult orangutan chilling out on a rock below the platform, just staring up at the few people up there, about like this. I waved at her and said some stuff.

She was bored as hell, no doubt. She looked around her and grabbed a clod of dried dirt with dried grass sticking out of it. Then she looked up at me and gently, lackadaisically, tossed it up onto the platform, where it landed off to my right a little. I picked it up and tossed it back down to the ground beside her. She picked it up and threw it back to me. I was clapping and talking to her and laughing the whole time. We played catch for a few minutes. It was glorious. I don’t remember how or why it ended. She probably got tired of the game before I did, though.

That’s the whole story. Disappointed? You wouldn’t be if it had been you.

The other day I discovered Orangutan Outreach when Vincent saw a tweet about their Apps for Apes program. We watched one of their videos and pretty much decided on the spot we’d sell everything and go live in the jungle and hold baby orangutans for the rest of our lives. I’m crazy enough to do it. My body may not cooperate, though, unfortunately.

In any case, I’ve decided to devote most, if not all of my do-good energies to the plight of the orangutan. I think it will be good for my mental health if I focus.

You see, with social media, and all the information delivery platforms out there, I find myself overwhelmed. My bleeding heart is running out of blood. I’m losing hope and have compassion fatigue. Petition fatigue. War and disaster and hunger and racism and hate and corruption and cruelty and injustice fatigue. I constantly feel pulled in a million directions to do something. I know you know what I mean.

I’ve done only little things for Orangutan Outreach so far. Put a link to their site on my page, retweeted @redapes (their Twitter handle) tweets, read up on orangutans, connected with the OO founder on LinkedIn and gave some suggestions for promoting the organization, voted for their rescue boat. Working on figuring out some expenses we can cut in order to divert that money to OO. I even managed to get orangutans on Francophilia! I’ll do what I can with what I have.

I’m just getting started. But you have to start somewhere. You have to start. {:(|}

Long ago, during the very brief period (about a year) during which I was a desperate housewife, I took a Photoshop class. Since then, it’s been my favorite toy; when I’m bored, I fire it up and try to make art. My best work is rather… personal… so I won’t share. It would be indecorous. (I did have it on an anonymous erotica blog for a while, but I took the blog down because it was associated with one of my gmail addresses and I was afraid one day they’d announce to all my professional contacts through some new “service” that it was mine.)

I have a 12-year-old niece who just discovered Photoshop a couple of months ago, when she was still 11. This niece also happens to have a huge crush on her geeky, artistic, Apple fan (not quite fanboy) uncle Vincent. Nothing odd about that; I had uncle crushes too. One turned out to be schizophrenic and the other would feel right at home at a Tea Party… Oh well. But the schizo one looked like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman combined, and the other one had a fabulous nose (always had a thing for noses) and was much less uptight back in the 70s, when he drank a lot of beer.

Anyway. So as soon as my little niece got the hang of Photoshop, which appears to have taken something like two days, she started sending her uncle gifts. These are some of my favorites:

Now, let me add that my niece’s parents are both stage actors, and her dad’s a playwright too. Her mom is a total technophobe. Her dad is not, but he’s no geek. He just got an iPhone the other day, and my niece e-mailed her uncle Vincent to commiserate with him because she’d spent the entire day showing her dad how to use it (she is a wiz with her iPod touch).

Until now, this is the kind of art project my niece has traditionally done (probably since birth) with her outdoorsy, Earth Mother mother:

They do a lot of this kind of stuff. (She’s one of those mothers who always make you feel inadequate because you don’t spend all your free time with your kids making dolls out of flowers and gingerbread houses and shit.) But there’s something to be said for that kind of dedication. It undoubtedly contributed to my niece’s creativity and aesthetic sensibility.

Not only is she a budding geekette, but she’s also a budding Apple fangirl:

Now, this work is truly impressive, but what inspired it is even more interesting.

Her uncle’s Apple love and her desire to please him certainly come into play. But more than that, it’s the products themselves.

They’re purty. Delicate. Sleek. Shiny. (These images say a lot about how this little girl perceives the products.) There’s a refinement to Apple products that jumps the gender gap (and creates a healthy aftermarket for butch iPhone cases for those who aren’t real comfy with their feminine side, or “How to make your Apple product look more like a Hummer”).

Getting the girls on board is no small feat for tech companies (laptop bag manufacturers haven’t figured it out yet). What GameBoy would have given to have girls go for GameGirls the way they have for Apple stuff!

In couples, women make most of the purchasing decisions. And for a long time now, single girls have been buying their own diamonds, if you get my drift. Apple, with its aesthetically delectible toys, has managed to achieve the Woman Acceptance Factor, starting very young, without alienating the boys.

Maybe the reason they haven’t come out with the red (or maybe pink, depending on my mood) iPhone I want yet is because they don’t want to scare the boys away… Or maybe it’s just a classiness thing. I guess wanting a pink iPhone makes me less classy, but I’m OK with that.

In past generations, we’d look at kids and think “they’re the future,” and buy them hula hoops to keep them occupied till they grew up and became a factor. But this generation is decidedly the present as well as the future. So watch closely. It’s fascinating.

In any case, Steve, I think you should look at my niece’s work. It might give you some ideas for your next ad campaign. Just e-mail me and I’ll tell you where to send the check.

You have to walk them, even in the winter. At least it’s winter in Paris

(Click for bigger. See the gulls on the quay?)


Audible sigh.

When Vincent and I were discussing* getting a dog, we hit a major culture bump. Evidently dog owners here in France are overwhelmingly members of the conservative and well-to-do bourgeoisie, something that an ascetic bohemian political lefty like Vincent finds abhorrent. As I understand it, if you have a dog here, you’re basically perceived as flipping off everybody who’s not rich.

normanrockwelldog.jpgI had to explain to him that dog ownership didn’t have that kind of baggage where I come from, that it’s as American as apple pie, Norman Rockwell, and so on. I can’t help it, I’m the product of my culture. I never cried harder than when I finished Where the Red Fern Grows. I found out at one point (completely by accident) that 44% of Americans own dogs. See Vincent? It’s normal!

Now how did I miss that red flag? I should have listened to myself! Since when do I point to America as a model of proper behavior? I was not being logical. I was carried away by my save-the-little-doggy crusade. One of these days, like many other American habits, the pet habit is going to have to go…

But the deed is done. Wiley is alive and eating 150 grams of kibble a day (I have no idea what that is in dollars). I throw several plastic bags of poo in the trash every day. Wiley is destroying the planet and he doesn’t even know it, poor thing.


In this New Scientist article, you can read all about Fido’s carbon footprint and weep. It’s a good article; eye opening. I question some of the stats, however. My assumption has always been that pet food is mostly made of by-products of the meat produced for humans, which means there’s overlap. So if 50% of a cow goes to you and 50% goes to Fido, you can’t count that cow’s carbon footprint twice… At least not till it branches off into pet food production. Anyway, when humans get a clue, or – much more likely – are forced by global food shortages to stop eating meat and grow soybeans, I imagine the pet problem will take care of itself, like all the rest. (Added November 22: The article linked to above is bullshit. Thanks David Horton!! Wiley loves you! Me too. I immediately gave him a treat and told him it was from Uncle David.)

pinupgirl.jpgBut since I don’t own a car, clothes dryer, dishwasher, or even a garbage disposal… Since I haven’t eaten red meat in nearly 28 years, I’ll let Wiley walk in my footprint for the short time he’s here. And at least he’s a shelter mutt and I didn’t contribute to the purebred dog racket.

But Wiley will be my last dog.

Then I’ll have to feed my fix by adding to my collection of vintage ceramic poodle tchotchkes (Wouldn’t that be a great name for a poodle?). I already have a planter, a pepper shaker, a knife rest, and an egg cup, all from the 40s and 50s. I bought the first one 23 years ago and the last one two weeks ago (I’m picky). And maybe I’ll put up vintage posters to remind me of the good old days, when I was a girl and girls could be girls and they could have dogs.

Wiley has a Twitter account. If your dogs (or cats; Wiley’s open minded) are the Internet types, send them over to join the conversation: ducks, peacocks, spaghetti, duels… He has two dog friends at this point, Lily (a Westie) and Dooley (a Corgi mutt). He also follows a famous cat who has not deigned to follow him back.

Yes, I know it’s absurd. But so is everything.

*P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.
P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.
P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.
P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.