demystifying

i--probably--hate--you  asked:

I would also like to point out that not all AZA accredited zoos are good and live up to the AZA standards. The Memphis, TN zoo is one of them. They're very lacking in terms of space for their animals. The cats are often in small enclosures and pace around so much that the ground has ruts in it from their pacing. I know that repetitive behavior isn't always a bad thing, but to the point of having ruts in the ground? The elephants also look malnourished. They have very saggy skin.

So, yesterday we were talking about how as a guest it’s really hard to make judgement calls about the animals in a zoo because you don’t know anything about their history or how they’re being cared for, and that that’s why it’s really important to ask staff when you’ve got concerns? This ask is a pretty good example of that. 

I reached out to some Memphis staffers after receiving this ask, and was totally honest about why: I said we’d been discussing zoos on my blog and that someone had written in with a couple of specific concerns. Within a day or two, I’d been put in contact with the correct keepers to get answers to my questions.  

What you’re likely seeing as abnormal pacing in the big cats is anticipatory behavior, since that’s a very common thing their animals do when they can see or hear keepers near their exhibit. Trails do wear down naturally in exhibits if animals have preferred walking paths, more so in wet periods such as spring, and in older exhibits the routes most commonly taken by residents are fairly well developed. Since you didn’t specify what species of big cat you were referring to, I wasn’t able to get more specific information, except that there is one big cat who does display some abnormal pacing behavior due to some of her history and that the staff are aware of it and actively working on it. 

I couldn’t find any good photos of their cat exhibits to embed in this post as an example, but what I did see when searching google for images is that almost all of the photos of their cats are taken on perches in the exhibit, such as logs or rock outcroppings. It’s important to remember that for large cats, vertical space is just as important a factor as horizontal space - an exhibit that seems too small in square-footage may in fact have a large amount of usable space comprised of climbing structures, hammocks, and hidden perches. 

As to the elephants, they have saggy skin because they’re, well, elephants - and in one case, one of the oldest elephants in North America. AZA also recently did a large elephant welfare survey that’s being used to improve their elephant care standards, and according to the scale for that study the elephant at Memphis are in good body condition for their age and size. What’s more, they’re in phenomenal health: the Memphis Zoo staffers have been running a metabolic study on the three elephant ladies at their facility, so they’ve got the data to back up that claim. 

I would hazard a guess that if you’d taken the time to ask any Memphis staffers while on grounds, or to reach out to their social media team with questions after leaving, you’d have gotten the same information that I did. I know people really want to think they can make informed judgement calls about the welfare of animals in zoos, but unless you happen to have personal animal management experience with that specific species, it’s probable that you’re going to be completely off-base. Especially at AZA zoos, assume there’s information you don’t have and something you’re probably seeing, and ask a keeper for clarification. 

On why Shatner always spoke his lines as Jim Kirk in an ‘interesting’ manner aka “I speak and breathe in pentameter”:

SHATNER: I had worked in Shakespeare for several years. There’d be a speech in which the character expresses himself or what he plans to do or what was done to him. The speech would be meaningful in terms of the character and the plot, but it would take a hunk. I had learned to speak iambic pentameter, and try and do – I’ve forgotten how many lines – on a breath, so that you would say these words trippingly on the tongue and with a rhythm and then come to the operative word and pause a moment, so that there was a little drama there, and then continue on. That’s the way I approach these things.

Before Stonewall

The history of LGBT+ activism is a long and storied one, but many of those stories have been erased or forgotten. In honor of the month of Pride and all the courageous activists who came before us, here are some of them:

The Activism of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld, who was himself gay, led a movement to decriminalize and understand homosexuality in pre WWII Germany that was highly successful given the time in which it took place. In 1897 he founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee to study and demystify homosexuality, believing that through scientific examination hostility towards gay men and women could be reduced. In 1898 his committee presented 5000 signatures of prominent Germans to the Reichstag in favor of overturning discriminatory laws against homosexuality. The bill didn’t pass, but Hirschfeld was only beginning. In 1910 he coined the term ‘transvestite’, the very first term for what we now know as transgender people, and even - remarkably - suggested that gender might be a spectrum. In 1919 he opened his Institute for Sexual Research, a clinic created for studying and caring for sexual or gender minorities. The famous Lili Elbe (as in The Danish Girl) received treatment at his clinic.

The clinic was wildly ahead of its time. Hirschfeld not only pioneered gender confirmation surgery through the work of Dr. Ludwig Levy-Lenz but he convinced the police - the police! - to issue a special permit to trans women so that they could travel freely in their own clothing without being harassed or arrested.

As a gay Jewish man who fought for the rights of gay and trans people, it’s not a surprise that Hirschfeld was a favorite target of the Nazis. In 1933 his Institute was raided and his research burned, setting back queer liberation for god knows how long. He fled to France, where he lived out the rest of his life.


The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis

The Mattachine society, founded in 1950, was the first ‘homophile’ (gay rights) organization in the United States. Founded by Harry Hay in Los Angeles, the society had itself likely been inspired by knowledge of Hirschfeld’s work and proposed to improve the condition of the lives of gay men in America. The group adopted the cell style organization favored by Communist groups and soon there were chapters all around the country. When member Dale Jennings got arrested for ‘lewd behavior’ he decided to fight the charges with the support of the Society, who generated publicity and sympathy around the case. The jury deadlocked, the charges were dropped and the Mattachine society declared victory. 

The Daughters of Bilitis  (1955) was originally concieved as an alternative to the lesbian bar scene but quickly politicized. They provided support and education for lesbians who wanted to learn more about their orientation, as well as launching a magazine that was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication called The Ladder in 1956. In 1960 they even held a national convention.

The Activism of Frank Kameny

In 1957 Frank Kameny was caught up in the “lavender scare”, a purge of homosexuals from US Government departments, and lost his job. But Kameny was a fighter, and he didn’t take it lying down. He devoted himself to activism.

Refusing to be bullied or made ashamed of his orientation, Kameny not only founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine society but launched what was one of the earliest LGBT picket lines in history when he and ten other activists picketed the White House in 1965 carrying a sign that said “Gay is Good”, his favored slogan. In 1963 he launched the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in D.C. and personally drafted the bill that finally passed in 1993. 

The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot

The first transgender-led riot against the police took place not at Stonewall, but at Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderlion district of San Francisco.

Compton’s Cafeteria was a restaurant that had become a meeting place for transgender people, as they weren’t welcome in many gay bars at the time. In the early 1960′s, the staff at the Cafeteria began calling the police on their trans customers, leading to arrests and raids and harassment. Things came to a head when a police officer attempted to arrest one of the trans women who was patronizing the restaurant, and she threw her coffee in his face. Furniture was thrown, windows were smashed, and the fighting spilled out into the street. A police cruiser had all its windows smashed out and a newsstand was burned down.

The next night trans women and other LGBT supporters formed a picket line outside the Cafeteria to protest their treatment. During the demonstration the windows of the Cafeteria were once again shattered.  Many of the activists were members of Vanguard, an early organization for LGBT youth. 

WADTT has been covering more zoo / sanctuary / animal rights politics than usual lately, and I want to talk to you guys about why I think that’s so important. (I also realize that it does dominate the feed some days, and I’m working hard to make sure I’m still posting a good percentage of pet and general behavior blogging for those of you primarily here for that).

If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you probably know how much I adore good zoos - I’ve interned and volunteered in them, I write about them, and I will happily explain the inner workings of them to death if you ask. I’ve seen good zoos do amazing things for conservation. I’ve watched my colleagues achieve incredible training milestones with animals people had given up on. I’ve seen how much impact a zoo visit can have on both kids and adults. I wholeheartedly support the existence of zoos. I also think it is incredibly important that the public really understand how they work and what makes them tick. You love animals. You (maybe) visit zoos that care for them. As guests, you deserve to know what they do well, what they’re still not great at, and what politics are at play. It’s also really important to note that visitor feedback plays a big role in keeping zoos accountable for the continued improvement of their practices and be transparent.

I’ve been talking more about the politics surrounding the zoo field lately because I am really, genuinely terrified by what I see coming down the pipelines in terms of radical animal rights influence in the next couple years. I’ve been observing the patterns of behavior in the AR movement, I’ve been reading the history, I’ve been studying the driving philosophy. What’s scarier is that I’ve been watching my colleagues and my friends and my mentors in the field totally not notice that the rug is about to be pulled out from under their feet, and I’m seeing that the powerful people and the organizations with power are not stepping up to support their people or their facilities or their industry. I think there’s going to be a huge amount of upheaval in the next while and it is going to be brutal and ugly and full of rhetoric about abuse and people twisting the welfare of animals to fulfill their agendas. At the end of it, if nobody does anything, you legitimately might never be able to go see big cat or an elephant or a komodo dragon again. I am scared for the immediate future of the zoos and aquariums. 

I know not everyone who follows this blog believes in the industry as much as I do. I know some of my followers are iffy about certain aspects of the field and that some of you aren’t sure you trust them at all. And that is entirely okay, and I thank you for bearing with me. I’m not trying to convert you to my way of thinking - I want to teach you enough to help you to develop your own. That’s what I’ve always done in regard to zoos on this blog, and that’s what I want to do with zoo politics. 

I’m hoping to ask you guys, my readers, to trust me that the politics surrounding captive animal management are worth paying attention to. I don’t think the zoos and their trade organizations are going to start doing that sort of education (if they ever do) until it is way too late to reverse the damage AR propaganda is going to do. I want to give you guys enough knowledge that when shit hits the fan you are able to look at everything from an informed perspective and decide what you want to support and why. 

I love the zoological field. The best thing I can do to give it a fighting chance is teach you guys everything and anything about it and send you off as informed, empowered people who give a shit about animals and want the best for them - whatever you decide you think that is. 

Therapy is not defeat

It is, I suppose, an easy thing to see; humans revere thought and the mystery of sentience, and before they understood how the body worked, they saw that capacity for selfhood as being merely captured within it. But times have changed, and science has come to the fore. We now know that the brain is a lump of meat, that thoughts have physical configurations, that electrochemical signals can be vulnerable to the smallest of things - even microscopic bacteria.

Thought is not magical. The goo in your skull is not unique and has no significance by itself. What makes you special is the one-of-a-kind arrangement of all these atoms that compose you, and how they all harmonize to produce consistent traits that can be defined as “you”. So please, let us demystify the brain, the mind, or thought in general.

Let us acknowledge that the brain is a physical capsule and is a part of your body, that it can lose optimal functioning due to diet, activity levels, and medical conditions like disease. Let us acknowledge that it can atrophy from lack of use. Let us agree, nay, insist that it can become fixated upon certain habitual thoughts, comforts, stimulus. It can become addicted. The brain is a physical thing with physical rules.

You would not fill your own cavity, or examine your own eyes when they begin to fail. You would not screen yourself for cancer, or perform your own appendectomy. You cannot work on your own brain, the smallest reason being that you cannot use that brain to work objectively upon itself. That is simply stupid.

You can hire a contractor with training and experience, someone who can treat the trauma, the repetitive thoughts, the invasive feelings, at the same time as they treat your physical effects. They can help you see yourself from the outside, help you over those blocks you did not even know you had.

Mental health is not something with which a few broken people deal. Mental health IS physical health, and anyone with a body ought to be receiving help and guidance with it. There ought to be magazines devoted to obsessive thinking, just as there are for nutritional health, advice on how eating can improve cognition, what illnesses can change how the mind functions. Skepticism of your own thoughts should be as skillfully taught as is mathematics. Deciding how and when to tell your brain to shove off, ought to be the foundation of this culture.

It is not a failure to seek assistance with the maintenance of your meat-ball. It is actually perfectly rational, sensible, and utterly essential. Anyone who thinks otherwise is afraid of what they may find lurking within them, or simply does not grasp the concept. It is not defeat. People who attend therapy are not broken. Just because it is “a tiny problem” doesn’t mean you should not bother to address it. Time and chronology mean nothing to the memory, that holds all worlds as one and all moments as the present, and therefore, trauma is never really gone.

There is nothing, NOTHING at all dismal about therapy. In fact, you deserve an award for being good to yourself, for taking ALL of your health, in its entirety, seriously. You are not “half-assed”. You mean business.

That is the opposite of defeat.

Watch on just-4-thought.tumblr.com

Hey friends,

A few days ago, I posted that I was going to start being more open online about my illness. Today, someone sent me an article from npr that - when I read - I broke down and just started crying. One if the lead researchers at Stanford has an adult son who is affected by this illness, which is fueling his passion for answers They believe they are making headway (details in the article at the end), but the answers may be more than a decade away.

The article comes on the tails of this documentary Unrest (trailer above) and the momentum Jen Brea (the director and star of the documentary) is driving for this illness. She is an absolute bad ass by the way.

I’ve been in contact with Jen, and she seems excited to speak to me. I hope to have some resources directly from her to share with you all soon.

My best friend (who also happens to be someone I lived with for 4 years) sent me this video a day or two ago. It made him cry because he finally feels like there is hope and like I am not alone anymore. That’s how big of a deal this all is.

I’m having a pretty tough time right now physically. I’ve mentioned to some of you that it’s getting pretty bad, and I plan to make a more robust post with details about my experiences and resources (especially those that Jen gives me), but I wanted to share this video and the article because I am so excited. I feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. I am actually going to try to get into this program at standford where they are doing this testing. I understand there is a very long waiting list, but a decade is probably longer. And I’ve already lost a lot of my 20s to this. I might sound whiny, but I am so ready for this part of my life to be over. And I’m willing to do a lot to try to make it happen.

You can help. By watching this trailer and then the documentary, you add to the “awareness numbers.” The more awareness, the more pressure for funding (as we are seeing this year) and funding=research=help.
BONUS: help=less 💩 emojis from me.

Here’s the article:
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/31/540565526/scientists-edge-closer-to-elusive-lab-test-for-chronic-fatigue-syndrome#mainContent

Helping smaller zoos.

A bunch of asks have come in about what people can do to help non-AZA zoos in their area improve. There isn’t a good easy answer for you, but it’s something I’ve actually been discussing with people who work at and/or run smaller facilities because we think it’s a really important type of public engagement to encourage. There’s no clear plan, but here’s what I’ve determined so far from these dialogues: 

First, don’t assume that just because a zoo is AZA that it’s bad. AZA is the best general guarantee of quality for a zoo the public has, but absence of accreditation isn’t inherently a condemnation. There’s a lot more nuance to the running of a zoo than that, and also, if you approach a facility and indicate you think it needs to improve because it’s not AZA you’ll be immediately unwelcome. AZA really wants everyone to believe that their facilities are the only good ones and the only ones that should be allowed to exist, and has been dedicated to maligning and shutting down anyone not part of their organization since back before it incorporated, when it was known as the AAZPA. 

Second, approach the zoo with the mentality of learning everything you can about it. This is where talking to staff comes in. Got concerns? Find someone to talk to - in this case, definitely a keeper and not social media. Put aside your preconceptions and ask in good faith, then look at the answers you’re given and see if they line up with what you know about appropriate animal management. Talk to multiple people, ask the same questions, work to get multiple perspectives and a broad picture of the organization and how it runs. This isn’t going to be a super fast process - it takes a while to do the research and get a real understanding of a facility. You might even want to volunteer there to really understand how and why things are done, even if all their practices aren’t ideal. (Do NOT do this to ‘out’ the facility or with any intention of espionage. That’s shitty and immoral. If you really care about the animal welfare and not just promoting an agenda, you should be getting involved to improve things). 

If, after that, you think there’s something’s that could be improved, make an appointment to talk to the people who run the facility. At smaller zoos, that’s more likely to be an option than at a big AZA facility. At this point, you can - politely, and without accusation - bring up your concerns. Do not tell them what you think should be done, however. Let them know how much attention you’ve paid and what research you’ve done to reach that conclusion. You need to find out from this conversation what it is that the facility needs. Often, it’s not as simple as ‘throw money at it’ or ‘volunteer time’. There are often priorities for the use of money or for what needs to be improved in the infrastructure that the public will have literally no idea about. So if you really want to help, you have to ask them what they need. They might tell you. 

This is really where it’s hard to figure out what the public can do. A lot of smaller facilities - not all of them, but the ones that really do exist with a good ethos - really do want to improve. But they struggle a lot more with the day to day aspects of running a zoo than the big urban facilities do, which means progress above and beyond is also harder. They’re very defensive about being told they “need to improve” because they’re constantly being looked down on by the larger zoos in the industry rather than helped to do better by those same folk. And honestly, if they’ve got a big enough issue that the public is reasonably aware of it, the zoo staff already know and it’s probably pretty upsetting to them that they can’t prioritize it yet. 

…and that’s as far as I’ve got. Every small facility I’ve talked to has told me about a list of things they really need help prioritizing that the public isn’t interested in supporting, even though those would free them up to prioritize the issues the public promotes. They’ve all told me that it boils down to ‘they’d have to come talk to us, really know what they’re talking about, not alienate us by presuming to know more about our zoo than we do, and help us with what we actually need help with even if it isn’t what they want changed immediately.’ And there’s always this sense of ‘????’ in the conversation, because since this type of interaction with the public never occurs - because the public never bothers to talk to them, just condemn them - they have no idea how they’d actually respond if someone tried. 

Notice the common thread? If you’re concerned about what happens at a zoo, talk to the people who work there and the people who run it. A healthy dialogue that’s free of assumption or condemnation is an absolute requirement for literally any sort of change. 

My Illness Demystified Part 1/?

If you are reading this, it means that I have finally gathered the courage to hit “post” and start sharing with you what has been one of the weirdest and hardest struggles of my life.

I was inspired to write this the other day when someone told me that I didn’t belong in a certain segment of the spoonie community. It was a little surprising to me because this was the last group I thought would reject me and people with my illness. As of now, I have officially been cast out by members who claim to represent all areas of society. It’s not about fitting in or belonging anywhere, but I realized it is about awareness. So, I think it is time that I come out publicly and talk about and start advocating for my disorder.

There is so much confusion and misunderstanding regarding my illness and it is extremely hard to come forward and talk openly about it. I mean, it still is unbelievable to me. I’ve been dealing with symptoms for over 9 years, and I still think that I may wake up tomorrow and find this has all just been some bad dream. “How could something like this happen to me?” Often runs through my head. So, these posts aren’t going to be easy for me.

I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my illness and I shouldn’t have to give one to be accepted and I can guarantee that coming forward with my illness will lose me friends and followers. I’ve been completely abandoned in real life except for a few. And the rumors have been nasty. The things said to my face, worse. I have been called “tard,” “cripple,” “crazy,” and, perhaps the hardest of all, “liar.”

So,  I am going to make a post that talks about my illness. I am going to come out as an advocate for it. Awareness = funding = research = help. And I am posting a preliminary announcement because I want to make sure this is accurate and that the emotions I feel don’t come spilling into the announcement. There are 20million suspected cases of this illness. So, I am not alone, but I often feel like it. If this story resonates with you, there is a chance we are talking about the same thing and I’d like your help with resources and experiences. If you are a spoonie and care about our representation, I encourage you to reach out to me and help me proofread and edit this draft. We should be working together, not competing with each other. (I am guessing it will take me some time to get the second part out)

Awareness = funding = research = help and I think it’s time that I realize that I am step 1.

One of the things that I love about Elementary is the way they demystify Sherlock’s deduction process. It’s like, most other Sherlock adaptations treat his detective skills as a purely inborn quality: a natural, inexplicable talent that’s completely unobtainable by anyone else. 

But Elementary goes “you know what? I bet Sherlock put a lot of work into developing and honing those skills, and that he could teach those skills to other people”. Sure, there’s definitely a measure of natural talent to it, but it’s also made clear that it’s just as much about training and learning and depending on others when your own knowledge and skills aren’t enough.

In the process, it’s also tacitly acknowledged that Sherlock couldn’t be what he is or do the things he does if he hadn’t been born so privileged. The only reason why he’s had the time and opportunity to train himself up, to gather such a deep and varied well of knowledge and to form such a vast network of experts he can contact for help, is because he’s rich (and white, naturally, since it ties into his generational wealth and the lenience Sherlock is afforded for his criminality).

Without his father’s money, he would have less time to devote to bettering himself as a detective: he would have to worry about earning a paycheck, about keeping himself fed and housed and keeping his living space clean and orderly without the help of a housekeeper. 

He would have to worry about the cost of his experiments and equipment and consulting fees and all sorts of other mundane things that would clutter up his mind. He would have to charge for his services, and accept boring cases just to pay the bills.

Without his father’s money, he wouldn’t have his extensive education. He wouldn’t have the Brownstone. He wouldn’t have met Watson.

And I think part of the reason why Sherlock doesn’t accept payment for his work (mostly, with a few notable exceptions made for entities he despises) is because he’s aware of the advantages he’s been afforded in life.

perfectlycrazydragon  asked:

The discussion around Billy made me think of something. Do you have any advice on ... well...I guess "How to tell the difference between Retained Stereotypical Behaviour from a Previous Enviroment and Current-Welfare-Related Sterotypical Behaviour"?

Oops, you forgot the third part of the trifecta: “Anticipatory Behavior That Looks like a Stereotypical Behavior.”

The only really good answer is: ask a staff member at the zoo. Seriously, they love those questions because it shows that you care and you’ve noticed. I’ve never once asked a staff member a question about their animals’ health or behavior (and you can guess that I probably ask some tough ones) and gotten a negative response or not gotten an honest answer. If you can find someone to ask about why an animal is performing something that looks like a stereotypie, I promise you they’ll be happy to tell you all about what is going on. I would also always ask someone you want to talk to what area they work and if they’re paid staff - volunteers are notorious for giving out well-intentioned but misinformed information on collection animals when they don’t realize they don’t know enough to answer, and it’s not always likely that reptile staffer will know the intricacies of a specific polar bear’s behavior. 

The problem is that a guest standpoint, no, there’s basically nothing you can do because you don’t know the animal or it’s history or it’s routine or it’s exhibit setup and there’s a ton of variables that go into that sort of behavior. The most you can do without more information is try to figure out if it’s an anticipatory behavior - watch the speed of the animal, where it is doing the behavior, and where it’s attention is focused. Look at the setup of the exhibit and try to figure out what is behind that fence or next door, look to see if something unique is happening outside of the exhibit, look up the schedule for the zoo day and try to figure out if something like enrichment demos or shifting in for the night is coming up.  Generally, fast motion with attentive behavior - even if repetitive - is anticipatory. What people think of as stereotyped behavior - the really detrimental stuff - tends to be slow, endless, unaltered, and often involves repetition to the point of being injurious - and really isn’t very common anymore. Almost everything I’ve ever seen in a zoo that looks like a stereotypie is actually just anticipatory behavior, and the few instances where something wasn’t and did look like a welfare issue, it was something the staff knew about and were actively managing. 

So I show up in a beat up Nissan sedan.
It’s not exactly a horse and carriage, but
at least it rides smoother.
Together,
we take on fourteen hours of
all american south,
which turns out to be a lot of grass
and flooded swampland, but
you’re singing along to Brand New
from the passengers seat and
I’ve heard the song before, but
damn,
this time I’m really listening.
—  DEMYSTIFYING THE DAYDREAM by Ashe Vernon

flika10  asked:

How can AZA have such a strict "each zoo is the expert on its animals and must have final say over them" rule while also dropping the Pittsburgh Zoo for not agreeing to protected contact with elephants, even though PZ decided free contact was best with their animals?

Because the AZA is not perfect. They started as a professional organization that has become partially a trade group and partially an accrediting body and with that comes a lot of weird history and inconsistencies. The only simple thing you can say about AZA is that for the general public, they’re the best indicator of general quality of care and welfare at a zoo that exists for people not aware enough of the field to make their own judgement calls. When it comes to how they function internally and how they work with the facilities they accredit, it’s a lot more complicated. 

For the specific circumstances you’re talking about, those rules were created for different reasons and they both made a lot of sense at the time (IMHO they still do). I don’t know when the ultimate control rule was added to AZA’s standards, but it comes from a place of requiring their facilities to be experts, because if they’re supposed to be the best there should be no reason that the people running the facility should not be trusted to be the most knowledgeable about the welfare needs of their animals. The problem was, I think that rule was likely made before the slightly more public animal rights movement stuff started and before people realized they could petition city councils or become judge and jury themselves - it’s a rule really geared at internal politics more than public stuff. 

The elephant rule came about because people kept dying and AZA needed to figure out how to stop it in their facilities. That whole period of animal management was one of the muddier ones. Positive reinforcement as a technique wasn’t super well known or thought well of in the professional field (that doesn’t mean nobody used it, but it was just ‘yeah I give the cat a treat for stuff’ and not a whole scientific theory of training). The switch to protected contact was also a shift towards more positive reinforcement usage with elephants, which is not something I think gets said enough - it wasn’t just ‘now there is a fence’ but an attempt to overhaul an entire management practice. It’s still highly controversial and, I think, for good reasons. Elephants are highly sentient and self aware, we know that, and there’s not an easy one-size-fits all solution for animals that live that long that are so intelligent. This is why facilities that had long-term free contact elephants got grandfathered in: LA Zoo used to walk their old ladies around the zoo before it opened in the morning, and Audubon still does. When those elephants pass, the practice will be ended. 

As to why both rules can exist simultaneously with such conflicting ideals, it’s a combination of politics and good intentions. AZA standards try to be representative of the best practices in the field. That gets a little sticky depending on whether it’s science or people with hands-on experience making the call about what is best practices, but the good intention is there. In that frame of mind, it’s entirely reasonable to require staff to be the experts and be viewed as such while also holding people to certain requirements about how they manage their animals based on best practices. 

However. AZA is also full of politics. They’re kind of the elite group of the zoo world - and god knows, they’ve been acting like it as they look down on “roadside zoos” publicly and loudly and encourage infighting in the field rather than getting involved to support and improve smaller places - and so breaking with AZA practice so publicly is a very big deal. Pulling accreditation is now a pretty big threat due to how much federal legislation and grant funding is written specifically to exempt AZA and how many internal program require facilities to be accredited. So when Pittsburgh said they weren’t going to switch and they’d be willing to leave over it (and I need to point out that it was the management who made that choice, not the keepers - a lot of animal staff at that facility were not happy with how it went down and it sounds like they didn’t get a vote about what happened) it was a Big Deal, to the point that AZA really had to drop them. If they’re supposed to be this big, best regulatory body they really can’t have a precedent set where facilities go ‘nah, we don’t want to follow your rules because we know better’ if they want to keep their credibility in the eyes of the government and AR and the public. 

Zoo politics are a trip. They’re also incredibly frustrating and complicated and don’t make a lot of sense to the public who just really want to know that animals are happy and well cared for and that they’re part of some bigger conservation effort. 

Delusions and Delusional Disorder - Demystifying the DSM-V

First off, what exactly is a delusion?

Basically, it’s a belief your character holds that is untrue, and could even be bizarre or completely impossible.  This belief is not one that is culturally accepted, and CANNOT be shaken even if presented with proof to the contrary.  Note - it’s not a delusion if it’s actually true.

So what kind of delusional beliefs could your character hold?  

The DSM-V lists the following examples:

  • Erotomanic - the character believes someone (typically but not always someone famous) is in love with them.
  • Grandiose - also known as ‘delusions of grandeur’, this particular delusion can be expressed in a number of different ways:
    • The character believes that they have some incredible, unrecognized talent, special knowledge, or have made an amazing discovery.
    • The character believes that they are famous, powerful, rich, or even omnipotent.
    • The character believes that they have a special relationship to divinity, or even are divine themselves.
  • Jealous - the character believes that their spouse or loved one is being unfaithful.
  • Persecutory - the character believes that they’re being stalked, followed, drugged, harassed, or otherwise being targed by another.  These are the most common kinds of delusions when we’re talking about schizophrenia.
  • Somatic - the character believes there is some abnormality in their own body

These are the only ones mentioned directly in the DSM-V for Delusional disorder, but there are a couple of other kinds of delusions you could write your character as having.  Note - some of these are much more commonly seen with brain damage or mania, but I’ve included them because I find them interesting / they make for a good writing inspiration.

Miscellaneous Delusions:

  • Control - the character believes some external person, group, or force, is controlling their thoughts, feelings or behavior.
  • Cotard - the character believes they don’t exist, or are dead.
  • Immortality - the character believes they can’t be hurt, and will live forever.
  • Reference - insignificant events hold a special, unique, personal meaning to the character.  For example, the character could believe that they will have a good day because a television anchor they saw on TV was wearing yellow.
  • Thought Broadcasting - the character believes that other people can hear their thoughts
    Thought Insertion - the character believes their thoughts are not their own, but have been placed there by another

Delusions of Misidentification:

  • Capgras - the character believes that people have been replaced by identical-looking duplicates or impostors.
  • Fregoli - the character believes that different people they encounter are actually the same person in disguise.
  • Intermetamorphosis - the character believes that people swap identities with each other while keeping the same appearance.
  • Mirrored-self misidentification - the character doesn’t believe their reflection in a mirror belongs to them.
  • Reduplicative paramnesia - a familiar place or object has been duplicated
  • Somatoparaphrenia - the character believes that one of their body parts don’t belong to them.  The body part most frequently identified in this delusion is the left arm.
  • Subjective Doubles - the character believes that they have a doppelganger who is acting independently of them.

There’s something important you have to note when writing a character with delusions.  Is the delusion bizarre?  Meaning, is what they believe is not just untrue, but completely and utterly impossible?

For instance, a character who believes they are being followed by the FBI is having a non-bizarre delusion - while unlikely, it is something that could possibly happen.  If they believed that someone has taken out and replaced all of their internal organs without leaving a scar, that’s a bizarre delusion.

Delusions can also combine - for instance, a character may believe that they’ve made an important discovery (grandiose), and that they’re being stalked by someone trying to steal their invention (persecutory).


Delusional Disorder

For a diagnosis of delusional disorder, a character has to have experienced at least one delusion for at least one month.

But apart from holding this delusion, your character…functions fine.  They appear relatively normal, and don’t necessarily behave oddly or out of the norm.

There are a couple of things that disqualify your character from being diagnosed with Delusional Disorder.

First, the character can’t also be hallucinating.  If they are, you have to start looking at the other psychotic disorders / schizophrenia spectrum.  There is a slight exception to this if the hallucinations are not very noticible, and related to the delusion (like the character feeling their skin crawling when they believe there are insects under their skin).

Second, the character can’t have had a manic or depressive episode (or they’ve been really, really brief compared with the delusions).

Third, it can’t be better explained by another mental disorder, like body dysmorphic or OCD.

Design Analysis: The Alien Films

Giger’s original alien design is fairly well recognized as the pinnacle of the art, so sequel decay was inevitable. Once you have something perfect, anything you add to that perfection will alter it and by definition make it imperfect. The further the Alien films diverge from the design above, the worse the designs get, sometimes by fractions, sometimes by great leaps. This is not a comprehensive list of all changes made to the design over the years, but a look at the directions other artists took. Essentially, a brief Fall of the Roman Empire for alien design.

Giger’s only “hands-on” involvement with the series to make the final cut was on the first film. His most impressive creation for that movie is, in my opinion, the Space Jockey, the truest fusion of flesh and machine, literally grown into the ship despite what unbelievably horrible ideas future movies would try to retcon into the series. But the alien itself is the most enduring work. The elongated head, the inner toothed tongue, the mechanical components within the meat of the creature, its ribs, its inexplicable back-pipes, it all manifests as a symphony of disturbing elements that, when combined into a humanoid figure, speak of pain, wounds, death, cruelty and danger. This is widely known.

What fewer people (including future creature designers) realize is that one of the most critical features of the alien is that it is aesthetically displeasing. It is not sleek. It is not cool. It is ugly. It doesn’t fit together right. It is not streamlined not conventional in color or form. Where Giger designed the Space Jockey to be oddly beautiful, he went for something in the alien itself that makes it hard to look at. Some consider this “cheap” or “incomplete.” I’d argue that it was not only intentional but one of the most critical features of the design.

The original alien was never meant to appeal to us. It was made to scare and disgust us. The original film is the only time it did so successfully. Commentaries on the series suggest that the repetition of the design in further movies made it less impressive, that it was done to death. This is not true because the original design only appeared in one film. Though that design too is demystified by now, the films did not need to suffer from any inevitable decrease in horror. That decrease is intentional.

James Cameron didn’t want to make a horror film, he wanted to make an action thriller with some horror elements. His alteration of Giger’s designs helps elucidate this. The design of the aliens from Aliens is close to Giger’s with three critical embellishments: The arms now have bony protrusions at the elbows, the dome has been removed revealing the ridged head, and the design has been normalized and streamlined. The alien is no longer grotesque, it is awesome.

The original alien looks dirty and ragged by comparison. This was not a mistake by any means. Aliens is not about hurting the audience like its predecessor, it’s an action movie and the turn from horror to action was extremely successful.

Cameron then took Giger’s aesthetic, more or less, and designed his own super-alien, the Queen. Little attempt at horror remains, if any. This is an epic beast made to appeal to the eye with smooth curved structures and spines that follow the form naturally and elegantly. It has less of a mechanical influence, and no sign at all of Giger’s ugliness. Its use in the film is similarly unhorrifying, it’s an intense escape followed by one of the greatest fight scenes in movie history. Cameron diverged from Giger and Scott, but what he made was a new expansion of the universe that was all his own, and in typical fashion for the director, it amazed audiences and proved highly influential ever after.

Giger was invited back to design a new iteration of the alien for the third film. He set out to perfect his original design, and did so artistically but not cinematically. His new design introduced an even more horrifying tongue that would enter the victim’s throat, and with shark-tooth-like barbs, come back out bringing their guts with it. It had a visible, moving brain under its dome, and it lost the back tubes in favor of a more animal-like structure. It also had new artsy elements that brought it further into Giger’s developing aesthetic. The filmmakers elected not to use it.

Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis took over. Students of Stan Winston who had implemented Cameron’s concepts, they redesigned the alien into a near-fully organic beast. The only remainder of its mechanical elements are the repeated flutes on the side of the head. The rest is all animal, with inhuman legs and feet. Its cheeks are no longer messes of visible mechanisms, but rumpled skin. And it is sleek. It’s streamlined. It is, in essence, what the alien would look like had it been originally designed by someone other than Giger.

Alien 3 attempted to bring the series back to horror. That might have been a mistake but we can give the creators the benefit of the doubt and instead of criticizing the aspects of the film that have already been criticized ad nauseam, focus only on the design. Basically, it’s meatier and meaner and although it has lost Giger’s surface, it does retain his basic concepts and yields an appropriate movie monster for a very dark film. It would be brilliant had it not followed such vastly superior works.

Gillis and Woodruff returned for the fourth film and further organicized the creature. They took the Alien 3 design and regained the tubes, and made the back of the head a little less round. While the alien from 3 was alternately red or black depending on the lighting, the Resurrection beasts were generally greenish-brown or grey depending on whether they were computer generated.

But look at its cheeks and neck. The region on the sides behind its mouth. The clumpy skin of the third alien is now a total ugly mess, and not ugly in Giger’s way. Just a mess of blotchy crud. Its arm has little trace of the underlying tubes and mechanics, it’s just a bumpy human arm. Alien 3 took the creature into animalistic design, but 4 began to turn it into a mess.

The newborn has no mechanical elements whatsoever, or even any trace of them. It bears only the slightest resemblance to Giger’s design and that’s okay. It had a new purpose- To be gross. Not grotesque, necessarily, but icky. There it succeeded. Its face was also more expressive, at times almost human. Its sunken eyes, its bat-nose, the bloated filigree on the sides of its head, all contribute to something appropriate to the film this creature was designed for.

Notably, the creature was designed with genitals, which were censored from the film for being too much, the director said, “even for a Frenchman.” The Newborn represents the end of the series. The alien has gone everywhere it can go, and retains nothing of what made the original what it was. Evolution is inevitable but I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had the ADI team that handled the latter two films honored Giger’s new designs, or kept his originals, or designed new works of their own along his guidelines instead of simply making the aliens closer and closer to blobby animals.

Prometheus provides another succinct view of what happened- Giger’s original derelict ship was a misshapen bony surrealist sculpture. It had no visible means of flight, it had nothing to even compare to any vehicle ever designed. It made no sense. It hurt the brain to think of as a spaceship. Prometheus featured a similar ship- But made it work. It was streamlined and curved naturally instead of bent and ugly, it was a mechanical ship and not something that might have been grown. That’s what happened to the alien over the years. It was cleaned up, made sense of, and turned into something normal. But the final insult was yet to come.

That’s the finale of Prometheus. Look at it.

Now look at the original:

Now back to deacon:

How did anyone, especially Ridley freaking Scott, think this was acceptable? It’s a god damn cartoon. I mean literally! It’s what Gary Larson spoofed the aliens into!

It has no surface detail, just some bumps like what a child might push into a lump of clay. Its pointy head is a joke. And its inner jaw is based on the goblin shark’s:

The goblin shark is notable in two ways- One, its jaws are horrifying. Good. Reason two- It looks like Jerry Lewis.

It’s goofy! It’s silly! The prominent upper maxilla looks absurd and funny despite its sharp spiny teeth. The goblin shark is certainly bizarre and bizarre is often good, but in this case it turned the iconic alien, the greatest design in the history of creature effects, into an absolute total JOKE.

Never mind the squid. Never mind the plain white tentacled blob that replaced the chestburster. Never mind the idea that the brilliant concept of a pilot grown into its ship was made into a white guy in a suit. Never mind the dull serpents or the atrocious uncreative bumpy makeup on Fifield. Ignore all the problems with Prometheus because this is about the design of the adult form alien. Look what they did to it.

Resurrection ended the alien’s tenure as the greatest monster. But it did not make it into a joke. The deacon is a poorly sculpted, plainly painted, uncreatively applied, horribly conceived, silly, pathetic, absolute low point of creature design in cinema. That’s where the alien ended up.

This is one of the greatest plummets in art. From the pinnacle to the nadir. So what comes next? Alien: Covenant, appears from its trailer, to be even more of a remake of the original than Prometheus. The same plot, slightly different specifics. Of its true story and creatures, only time will tell. But I have the lowest expectations. I expect the worst, for the alien to go from joke to insult. Or further insult, all things considered.

The trend in cinema (among other things) right now is to take whatever was good once and ram it into the ground as hard as possible. I don’t know what more they can do to the alien after the pointy headed atrocity above, but I have a feeling we’ll find out.

But I also have hope. Worst expectations but a glimmer of hope that we’ll see the redemption of this creature. Giger is dead, and the world is poorer for it. I hope Scott has found someone new, an unknown artist as Giger was in the 70s to come to fame as the next great surrealist. I hope we’ll see the birth of a new form of horror cinema. I hope a great many things every time an alien movie comes out.

My mother was pregnant with me when she saw Alien. I drew it over and over as a child. I studied it above all other films and designs as an adult. I grew up with the alien on every level. I don’t know what will come next, and I will go in with an open mind.

But I can’t help but feel that the iconic monster has hit rock bottom, and it’s about to crash through the stones down into hell.

Where She Went

[PART TWO]

pairing: daveed diggs x reader

summary: daveed and reader were high school sweethearts who had a bad breakup before they both left oakland. four years have passed and fate (and a well-timed cello concert) bring them face-to-face.

warnings: swearing. that’s really it.

word count: 2,504

a/n: day three of @hamwriters write-a-thon is lit day :-) based on the novel “where she went” by gayle forman which is actually a sequel to “if i stay” but i do what i want. this is in Daveed’s POV because the original book is in the guy’s POV, and i’m planning on posting a second part on POV day so be on the lookout for that. okay love u happy reading


“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying with us today and enjoy your time in the Big Apple.”

Daveed unclips his seatbelt as the other passengers begin to file off the plane, standing to grab his carry-on from the overhead compartment. It’s the only bag he packed, because he’s only in the city for 24 hours. Tour starts in two days, and his manager had all but physically forced him onto the plane to NYC.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

this might be weird but as a maths nerd it makes me really happy to see someone else getting excited about maths and demystifying it

it’s really important to let people know that math knowledge isn’t an innate thing, you work at it, and when you have good materials, it’s easier to get better at it! if youre bad at math, you’re not bad at math because you’re stupid, 

you’re likely bad at math because you: 

1) don’t have good materials 

2) dont have a good teacher 

3) dont have enough practice

it really is as simple as that, people who are good at math work really hard to be good at it, and many of them simply have access to learning materials you’ve never heard of, it’s not because they’re better than you, it’s not because they’re smarter than you, it’s just because they have different life experiences and put their time into a different subject than you did. 

the mystification of math fucks so many people over, because it has us thinking if we don’t get it now, we will never get it.

“Said” is FINE! :)

There are several charts and lists making the rounds lately with alternatives to using “said.” Guys–I cannot stress this enough: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH USING “SAID!” :) If you feel like you’re overusing “said,” it’s because you’re over tagging. That’s it. End of story.Which is not to say you should never use replacements for “said.” It’s just that you should use them sparingly and only when appropriate. Here are some things to keep in mind when using alternatives to “said”:

1) Beware of Non-Synonymous Words.

In other words, beware of words that aren’t synonyms of “said” or other speaking words.

Body Language Words:

Words like laughed, shrugged, frowned, trembled, and their synonyms are not words that have to do with speech. You can’t frown something. You can say something WHILE frowning. You can’t tremble something. You can say something WHILE trembling. You wouldn’t say: Ted stood in front of the class and trembled the alphabet. So, you shouldn’t say, “I’ll go in front of the class and recite the alphabet,” Ted trembled.

Speech hindering actions:

Words like smiled, gaped, bubbled, breathed, panted, sneezed–try saying a few sentences while doing any of these things. Bear in mind that “gape” means “open wide.” It’s pretty difficult, right? Not to mention it probably looks/sounds pretty silly.

Non-Speaking words:

Words like accepted, approved, brainstormed, puzzled, cross-examined, publicized, justified, beckoned, invited–are words that go hand-in-hand with talking, but they’re not words that relate to actually saying things. “We could go with a red one, a blue one, or one made of metal, or maybe wood?” Ted brainstormed. Or, “We’re remodeling our house,” Ted publicized. It just sounds weird.

2) Beware of Over-Complicated Words.

While it’s certainly fine to be ornate now and then, most of the time, simple and concise is much better. Words like asseverated, remonstrated, vociferated, equivocated, acknowledged, communicated, etc. are long and over-complicated. “We’re remodeling our house,” said Ted is a lot more concise than “We’re remodeling our house,” Ted vociferated. It’s fine once in a while, when the word choice really matters, but don’t get into the habit of it.

3) Beware of the “Instead of Said” Tennis Match

The only thing worse than: 

“We should go to the beach,” Denise said.

“I would love to,” said Laura.

“There’s a great beach in the next town,” Melissa said.

“I think I know the one you mean,” Denise said.

Is…

“We should go to the beach,” Denise announced.

“I would love to,” agreed Laura.

“There’s a great beach in the next town,” Melissa offered.

“I think I know the one you mean,” Denise stated.

4) Beware of Over Tagging

The problem with the examples in #3 isn’t the overuse of “said” or of alternatives to “said.” The problem is over tagging. When you’re writing dialogue, it isn’t necessary to put “he said” after every line that is spoken. Try using action instead:

Denise gazed out the window at the beautiful sunny day. “We should go to the beach.”

“I would love to,” Laura said, joining her at the window

Melissa picked up the travel guide from the dresser. “There’s a great beach in the next town.”

“I think I know the one you mean,” said Denise.


I hope that demystifies tagging a little bit for those of you who feel like you’re overusing “said” too much. :)

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Have a writing question? I’d love to hear from you! Please be sure to read my ask rules and master list first or your question will not be answered. :)