Book Review: How the Dog Became the Dog

How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best FriendsHow the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends by Mark Derr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Selective breeding.

Now that we got that out of the way: the chief message Derr was trying to send is that we shouldn’t think of primitive dogs like those shitty hyenas from the Lion King. They get a bad rap from the prevailing paleoanthropological perspective, painting them as skeevy little lurkers at the threshold, gnawing on the mammoth bones and indigestible gristle discarded by early sapiens.

Derr argues that, due to wolves’ capacity for strategic thinking and their hunting patterns that most likely looked just like ours (how we gonna know, though? We’re piecing that together by observation of modern hunter gatherers), it’s likely that dogs and humans co-domesticated one another, working in tandem for the common goal of overwhelming larger prey, minimizing pack casualties, and getting enough meat to go around.

I’m fervently pro-dog, and as much as I prefer to think of them as dignified, tactical li’l gargoyles rather than the unsavory “diaper cleaners” the fossil record’s translators tells us they are, it’s all conjecture. The bones tell us nothing, except for where the bones are buried.

I did like his rambling aside about neoteny, especially as concerns gargantuan, ineffective murder machines like mastiffs. Neoteny is the evolutionary tendency for some creatures (often the domesticated kind) to exhibit childlike characteristics increasingly late in life, often slowing their functional development. A water buffalo, who can walk a few minutes after birth, is not overly neotenous. A human being, who needs assistance to eat and move for the first two years of life, and might not get a productive job until their mid-thirties, is decidedly neotenous.

Dogs are neotenous wolves, which is why they’re dumber, and cuter, and usually smaller. A beefy breed like the mastiff and its many offshoots has become so neotenous that they can no longer function as wolves. If you release a labrador into the wild, it’s not going to thrive, but it has all the parts necessary to function as a D-tier wolf. It’s got the speed, stamina, and social acumen for predation. Mastiffs are so big and bulky that they are wholly incapable of bringing down prey. The capacity for hunting is gone.

Watching my cane corso mix try to chase a squirrel, it’s easy to see what they mean.

Big square-headed fellas like the English and Neapolitan mastiff were bred for short bursts of speed, and to overwhelm their targets with their lovable bulk. The instinct for the kill exists in there somewhere, but it’s buried under thousands of years of this bastardized “guarding” schema, a co-opted version of puppy dominance play.

These big guard dogs, bred to incapacitate and hold, are playing their quarry to death. Mauling is a wildly ineffective hunting strategy, wasteful and dangerous to dog and pack when a well-placed throat chomp could get the job done and dinner on the table right this second.

An interesting book, if wishful and inexpert in its execution.

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Reykjavik: The Dong Shrine

Saturday, September 21, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Mickey Avalon – My Dick

The last installment might have been a little high-handed and self-indulgent. The subtitle of this blog is “barbarian travelogue”, and in light of the D&D renaissance, one could expect that would involve less artistic Frasierly pontification and more crushing enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of the women.

I hear you, beautiful reader. And let me just say: I do what I want. Eat a dick.

Now, if you’re having difficulty locating a dick to eat, this episode might provide you a solution. Reykjavik proudly and prominently sports the “Phallological Museum”, a ghoulish collection of severed mammalian members set up like a self-effacing cross between a curiosities shop and a Spencer’s gifts.

The little blonde clerk at the front desk is perpetually giggling, as if she’s in on a joke that you’re not, and the joke is the whole building is full of wieners. She sits next to the Viagra Scorn pole.

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It wasn’t that scornful, though it was postmodern.

Beyond the Scorn Pole was a cabinet full of hand-carved penis-shaped accoutrements designed and painstakingly produced by the founder of the museum, Sigurður Hjartarson.

The plaque alongside Sigurður’s Freudian trophy cabinet explains the origin of his, if you’ll excuse the phrase, phallic fixation. When he was but a lad, he was a farmer out in the boonies of Iceland (Iceland is roughly 99% boonies by weight). They kept cattle, somehow, and young Sigurður was charged with driving them from field to field. To this purpose, he would use a dried, braided bull’s penis, fashioned into a whip, to scare the cows.

Don’t overthink it.

When his friends found out about his alarming serial killer origin story, they started bringing Sigurður severed penises from all kinds of animals, allegedly as a joke. Sigurður leaned hard into it and became “the penis guy”.

I stand now in a monument to this legacy.

When you stand facing the dolphin dong cabinet, the sperm whale wang looms behind you in its wet specimen tank like some kind of Lovecraftian monument.

On the other side of the room is the horse hog cabinet. I’m not going to say I felt threatened, but I was certainly given pause.

In addition to all the severed dicks, the walls were hung with inspirational poetry.

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Here’s a fun little Jeopardy fact for you: the Icelandic handball team won silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and in celebration sent silver replicas of all their Johns Thomas to the phallological museum. Thanks, fellas.

In the mythical creature room, they attributed some chode to a native Icelandic troll, found preserved in a block of ice and thawed out like that Paulie Shore movie.

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Iceland has a folklore creature called “hidden men”; they’re basically elves that can go invisible at will, and you’re not supposed to throw rocks in case you clock one of ’em.

Something terrible has happened to the Christmas Lad.

“Did you see how many people tried to donate their own junk to the museum?” Ladygirl asked, motioning toward all the signed waivers stating that, upon their death, Icelandic nobody randos would have their members added to Sigurdur’s collection. “What do you think that says about the male mind?”

“Nothing worth exploring,” I said. “At least not here in Priapus’s temple. Let’s get gone.”

On the way out, I said, “Have you ever seen The Cell? The horror movie from 2000 with J.Lo?”

Ladygirl looked at me blankly.

“Right, it’s a horror movie, so of course not. Well, the premise is somebody invents this Freddy Krueger-ass machine that lets you teleport into other people’s dreams. J.Lo is a psychologist who smokes mad weed, and she volunteers to be put into the nightmare subconscious of this comatose serial killer to try to extract the location of his victim, who’s being slowly drowned in this tank on a timer… it’s real contrived. Anyway, production brought in surrealist artists to design the dreamworld, and that’s the movie’s only redeeming quality. That’s what this place reminds me of.”

“Gross,” she said.

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No shortage of volunteers.

We slipped out into the street. It was raining again. It’s always raining in Iceland.

“So, onward. Where next?” I said. “Maybe get lunch or something? Eat more fuckin’ smashed fish.”

“You know, weirdly enough?” Ladygirl said, “I’m even less hungry now.”

“Did you see the one letter from the guy with the 13-inch dingaling, though?” I asked.

“Yeah. They kept asking him to donate a cast or something, and he kept turning them down, for the same reason he never made a porn. He wants to be accepted on his merits as a writer instead of on something he had no control over.”

“Now that’s what I call BDE.”

Love,

B.

Those Cheeky Devils

August 17, 2018. Bastard HQ.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled venomous travelogue to catch you up on recent events in Little Rock, Arkansas, where representatives of the Satanic Temple are presently boolin outta control.

Arkansas has been struggling with controversy surrounding the separation of church and state for a while now, if by “struggling with controversy surrounding” you mean “baffled by”. It came to a head in 2017 when they constructed a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Capitol Building in Little Rock. A gorgeous 6-foot marble dealie.

This didn’t sit too good with a dude named Michael Tate Reed, who drove his car into the monument that night.

That’s already funny enough, but it turns out Mikey wasn’t a radicalized atheist! You can tell because radicalized atheists do nothing but smoke pot and have lengthy debates in the comments on Chris Hitchens youtube videos. No, this is better; dude is a staunch Christian who believed that God called on him to destroy the monument.

The Little Rock gubmint decided this is the hill they’re gonna die on. Give up now and the devil wins, right? So they build another monument, another gorgeous 6-foot marble dealie. They’re getting criticism from all sides, but they remain strong in their conviction. This is rapidly become a crusade!

Well, you need the polarity for a good narrative conflict, especially on matters as grandiose as good versus evil. Enter the Satanic Temple, looking to be your heretic, yeaaaah.

These witchpunk son of a bitches load up their eight-and-a-half-foot Baphomet statue, ordinarily located in their cute little art gallery in Salem, Massachusetts, and cruise down to Little Rock to parade it around the Capitol and generally cause a fuss.

And what a fuss it has caused.

Here’s a couple tweets I stole:

twitter

boolin

Sure, there’s a legitimate realpolitik interplay at work here, but I’ve met the Satanic Temple. Two years ago, I took pictures at their podium (which was forbidden, but I figured if anyone would appreciate transgressing arbitrary demonstrative propriety rules, it would be the Satanic temple). I got pictures sitting on the Baphomet statue, which will show up one day in a #tbt post.

The political aspect is theater, because, in their devotion to discord, they see politics as  cheap theater. These kids are just out there having a good time.

baphomet

Baphy represents the dichotomous nature of everything. Animal and man, male and female, above and below, you get the picture. It’s almost too appropriate to wheel him out next to the 10 Commandments monument, especially since you know these obnoxious little neo-goths are telling the religious right counterprotesters, “our monolith is bigger than yours”.

The Satanic Temple gets a bad rap because of edgy teenagers in facepaint who kill sacrifice cats or whatever, but what you’re talking about there is a perversion of Christianity. See, acknowledging a “Mr. Satan” as a spiritual entity means you’re playing the God game. To have a real Satan means you have a real Sky Dad that he’s in rebellion against, and believing in one necessarily predicates believing in the other.

If your grandma believes in angels, she must also believe in demons, but it’s best not to mention that to her.

Satanists actually believe in a sequence of decidedly libertarian (or maybe libertine) anti-commandments called the Seven Tenets. They look a little something like this:

  1. “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”
  2. “The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
  3. “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
  4. “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.”
  5. “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”
  6. “People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and remediate any harm that may have been caused.”
  7. “Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”

Pretty close to Buddhism, but with spookier statuary.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s kind of nice to see headlines about a “religious conflict” in the news without a bunch of explosions and corpses. And if nothing else, you got to give them points for the aesthetic.

podium

forbidden. what’re they gonna do, hex me?

All right, kids. Vaya con Dios, or Hail Satan, or Hail Eris, or namaste, or whatever the hell it is you do. Juju is juju. However you handle it, keep your mana bar full.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

Cyborg Crab Robots

June 29, 2018. Bastard HQ.

I just read a colorful little article about researchers at the University of California planting cloned brain tissue from neanderthals in little crab-robots. The experiment is to compare their rate of motor learning and adaptation in these little clusters of ganglia to other crab robots with human brain tissue in it, and try to draw conclusions from that regarding the divergence in our species, somehow.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5900273/Neanderthal-brains-created-lab-one-day-crab-like-ROBOTS.html

That’s just grim and absurd enough to be my ideal, but I got a problem with this line:

“The lab-grown brains cannot achieve conscious thoughts or feelings – but can mimic the basic structure of a developed brain, and reveal key differences in how the nerve cells function.”

Fact of the matter is, we don’t know what allows us to achieve conscious thoughts. We have a vague understanding of feelings, but those change every 10 years with new breakthroughs in neuroscience, which is, itself, just the study of looking at brain scans and going, “This part has electricity in it right now! Huh.”

So we’re ripping this species back through extinction and planting clusters of brain tissue that might, in fact, be conscious, in horrible crab robots because we can.

That’s a 70’s sci-fi short story. That’s Harland fuckin Ellison, okay? Don’t insult our intelligence by pretending you don’t know what you’re doing here. I’m not here to tout the sanctity of life or whatever, but I am a diogenic proponent of the truth, so the least you can do, Doctor of Biology and Head Researcher, is have the balls to own the fact that what you’re doing is mad science.

Love,

The Bastard