Ever take a few days off from the internet news media and then realize upon your return that the world really is as weird as you imagine it is?
Item 1: Sony has pulled the plug on Aibo the Robot Dog, to the dismay of robot-dog owners throughout the land.
“Aibo is so symbolic of Sony quality I’m starting to lose faith in Sony’s audiovisual products,” said Hashimoto, a longtime fan of the company whose every home appliance practically is a Sony.
“The robot is like a real dog. It responds when I call it,” he says. “It’s so cute. It sulks. And it looks sad when things don’t go right.”
Paul Wallingford, the owner of a Los Angeles-based Internet business, owns four Aibos. Lately, he’s been keeping them turned off often so they’re less likely to have problems.
“I think you do develop an attachment to them,” he said by telephone.
An “attachment,” eh? Is that what you call this?
Owners have created fan clubs around the world, and some even dress up their canine robots like babies.
Now, the death of a robot affects me every bit as much as it does anyone with a heart who grew up in the age of Short Circuit (Number 5 is alive!). But what with the dressing-up-robot-dogs-like-babies stuff, I think perhaps Sony is performing an important public service in this case.
Item 2: According to science, bat brains are inversely proportional in size to bat testicles.
The study offers evidence that males—at least in some species—make an evolutionary trade-off between intelligence and sexual prowess, said David Hoskens, a biologist at the Center for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter in England and a leading authority on bats’ mating behavior.
“Bats invest an enormous amount in testis, and the investment has to come from somewhere. There are no free lunches,” said Hoskens, who did not participate in the study.
I feel it would be too simple to make some quip about the allegorical richness of this finding at the expense of male beefcakes, so I’ll satisfy myself with pointing out that there is no scientific evidence linking the size of female bat brains to the size of their hooters. The female of the species has apparently better honed the economy of intellectual and sexual energies.
Item 3: Drug dealers used cute little puppies as heroin mules!
Oh no they didn’t, you say. But yes, they did:
Colombian smugglers turned puppies into drug mules by surgically implanting them with packets of liquid heroin, authorities said.
Investigators believe the ring used the dogs, as well as people who swallowed the drugs, to conceal millions of dollars of heroin on commercial flights into New York for distribution on the East Coast.
The authorities are understandably outraged … about the puppies:
It was unclear how many dogs might have been used in the smuggling scheme, [John P.] Gilbride [head of the DEA’s New York office] said.
“I think it’s outrageous and heinous that they’d use small, innocent puppies in this way,” he said.
That guy Orlando Tobon who has devoted the last 15 years or so to raising money for decent burials for human drug mules should take note. Everyone knows puppies are more lovable than poor people.
Item 4: And finally, once again, citizens of the most powerful nation in the world wait with bated breath for a giant rodent to predict the future.
This morning at Gobbler’s Knob (actual name, I swear) Punxsutawney Phil (pictured here—the one without the hat) communicated with that remarkable eloquence unique to the groundhog species that we’re in for a long winter. Inevitably, Phil was aggressively appropriated to a number of political causes as various factions “latched on to the Phil frenzy for a publicity boost—for just about anything, from global warming to the lottery”:
The National Environmental Trust said it’s [sic] groundhog-suit-wearing human “will ignore his shadow and will instead rely on global warming evidence to forecast an early spring.”
The American Physiological Society was offering experts to discuss “What Punxsutawney Phil can teach us about surviving massive blood loss, preventing muscle atrophy, and more.”
The Pennsylvania Lottery even has Gus, “the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania,” who implores lottery players to “keep on scratchin’.”
None of those things are really what Groundhog Day is about, said Mike Johnston, a member of the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle. Punxsutawney Phil is nonpolitical and can’t speak anyway, Johnston said.
Thank god we have the Groundhog Club to call us back to earth. As I always say—where there be grown men in top hats who form a fan club for a giant rodent, there be the voice of reason in America today.