Friday, November 6, 2009

Wildlife Vet joining

Greetings to members.

Rowena Cherry invited me to join as I too am an animal guy.

I have been blogging for just over a year and write about 90% of my blogs on conservation, many of them about issues in Africa. I was born in Kenya, moved to Canada and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1975 and have been back to Africa many times. I have written two books about things, mainly wildlife things, on that continent and you can pick up info on them from my web page here where there are extracts, whole chapters, photos and interviews. If you want to dip into the Glasgow Vet in Africa blog you can do so here or through the actual site.

Here are a couple of pics from those works.

I am starting on a new book about work in Canada. The title is Of Moose and Men and here is a short extract from one of the chapters. The scene takes place in Alberta when I had been asked to examine a pet moose that had recently delivered a calf and was not well. The moose (Petruska) had complete trust in her owner but when I approached to about 50 metres in my attempt to examine her...

Petruska let out a loud snort as she set off at a full charge and then I could hear her breath as she crashed through the underbrush, her hooves pounding on the hard ground. It became a sort of Mexican stand-off. Petruska looked at me between the fortunately thick branches of the spruce and tried to get at me, first by stamping her feet, much as she would in killing a predator, and second by trying to move around the tree to get a clearer run. Of course there was nothing I could do about the stamping except be glad that it was occurring twenty-odd feet from me, but I could and did move around the tree to make sure that we remained at exactly opposite sides. Not that she came round all the way. That would have put me between her and her calf, which would been quite unnatural as she presumably viewed me as some sort of predator that was going to get the most precious thing in her world.

Ring-around-the-roses is now a children’s game derived from the grim days of the black death. Ring-around-the-spruce-tree played by me and an irate mother moose intent on reducing me to a thin layer of pulverized flesh on the ground is quite another. While she was determined to protect her new calf, I was keen to protect myself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baseball and Claude Levi-Strauss

For the most part, these two things wouldn't be mentioned in the same breath, but today, it is inevitable. Because it's the World Series (game 6, Yankees vs. Phillies, or as the kid of one of my coworkers refers to the team, the Philistines!) tonight, and famed anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss died only a few weeks shy of his 101st birthday.

Social science majors, and anthropology majors in particular, will tell you that few classes pass by without a mention of Levi-Strauss' works. Cultural anthro wasn't my focus, but I read his work nonetheless (because honestly, you can't take an anthro class without reading Levi-Strauss), and it's only in retrospect that you can truly understand how broad the man's scope was in looking at human society and culture. (I could swear I remember some comment he made about baseball, but could I find it? Of course not.)

From the piece from The New York Times:
"His legacy is imposing. Mythologiques, his four-volume work about the structure of native mythology in the Americas, attempts nothing less than an interpretation of the world of culture and custom, shaped by analysis of several hundred myths of little-known tribes and traditions. The volumes — The Raw and the Cooked, From Honey to Ashes, The Origin of Table Manners and The Naked Man, published from 1964 to 1971 — challenge the reader with their complex interweaving of theme and detail.

"In his analysis of myth and culture, Levi-Strauss might contrast imagery of monkeys and jaguars; consider the differences in meaning of roasted and boiled food (cannibals, he suggested, tended to boil their friends and roast their enemies); and establish connections between weird mythological tales and ornate laws of marriage and kinship."

I always found the differentiation between why one cannibal boils and why one roasts to be illuminating and inspiring. It makes you see the world differently, doesn't it?

That's why it's good to be an anthro major, kids, especially if you want to be a writer: You get to explore the world in a whole new way.

Eilis Flynn
ECHOES OF PASSION, on sale now