Friday, October 14, 2011

Dignity, compassion, and doing the right thing

This is a letter I received from a sanctuary I support, Save the Chimps. 
The news is unfortunately sad. It is about the passing of a beloved and inspiring Chimpanzee named Ron.

Ron spent his most of his life suffering one cruelty after another at the hands of sadistic humans. What I read below makes my blood boil. I  am raging with anger thinking about the horrors he  endured at the hands of human torturers. After you read it, you will be too.
Even a simple soft tissue injury in the lower back is excruciating. Ron must have suffered a living hell! Subjecting an innocent, intelligent creature to that kind of wicked cruelty and endless torment is just plain, sadistic evil. It sickens me. I really do not think the public is aware of the abuse these creatures suffer at the hands of evil humans. Or that the United States is the only prominent country that still tortures our great ape brothers and sisters against their will.

Sanctuaries such as these are completely dependent on the donations from the brave and the compassionate who want to help fight back against abusive humans and evil corporations.
Save the Chimps was able to give Ron a dignified and happy life his final seven years. I support this sanctuary as well as The Center for Great Apes and strongly urge that you do the same.  It is part of the Bull Mongoni philosophy. It is doing the right thing. The letter is as follows:

"On October 10, 2011, our beloved Ron passed away peacefully on his island of heart failure. Ron was familiar to many as one of the stars of the Nature documentary “Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History,” which in part documented Ron’s journey from a former laboratory in New Mexico to a new island home in Florida. He was also the star of our hearts, a huge chimp with an even bigger smile and gentle demeanor.. His charming personality and warm spirit are even more remarkable when considering the harm he suffered for so many years of his life.
Ron’s file estimates his date of birth is September 1, 1976, but since his origins are not recorded, that birth date is merely a guess. We do not know who Ron’s parents are, or where he was born. The first record of Ron’s existence is from June 24, 1987, when he received his first physical at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). A single notation in his file said that Ron arrived from “West Point.” Although we do not know if he was a pet, a performer, or a lab chimp prior to his arrival at LEMSIP, West Point was home to Merck, Sharp, and Dohme, which used chimps in biomedical research in the 1970s and 1980s. Ron was a full-grown chimp when he arrived at LEMSIP, weighing 143 lbs; he must have been at least 14 years old, so it is likely that Ron was actually born in 1973 or earlier.

During his 9 years at LEMSIP, Ron was anesthetized with ketamine at least 105 times. On multiple occasions, he was kept anesthetized for six hours or more, as blood was repeatedly drawn from him. He lived alone at LEMSIP, in a 5’ x 5’ x 7’ cage suspended off the ground. A veterinarian at LEMSIP noted that Ron was a very large chimp, and wrote in his file, “needs a much larger cage.” Sadly, there were no larger cages at LEMSIP. In the late 1990s, LEMSIP closed, and Ron was sent to The Coulston Foundation (TCF), a lab in Alamogordo, NM.
In 1997, Ron was observed to have an abnormal echocardiogram, but it was dismissed as being caused by the anesthetic. He was transported to the primate facility on Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) near Alamogordo, and assigned to a biomedical research study. He was anesthetized 16 times in a 5 week period. After the study ended, he was returned to TCF’s private facility in Alamogordo.

In 1998, Ron was again transported to HAFB and assigned to Study #981109, which came to be known as the Spinal Dynamics study. In this study, Ron had a healthy cervical disc removed from his neck and replaced with a prosthetic disc. The prosthetic remained in Ron’s spine for 6 months, and was then later surgically removed. According to Ron’s records, when the prosthesis was removed, he did not receive any pain medication until eight days after surgery. When he was finally prescribed pain medication, he was given 200 mg ibuprofen, the equivalent of one tablet, twice a day for three days. It is difficult to imagine the amount of pain he must have been in.

In 2002, Save the Chimps (STC), under the leadership of Dr. Carole Noon, took over TCF and rescued Ron. At the time he was living alone in Building 300, which was dubbed “The Dungeon” for its dreary conditions and scores of chimps who lived in isolation. In 2003, STC’s veterinarian, Dr. Jocelyn Bezner, observed clinical signs of heart disease in Ron. His first cardiac ultrasound did not reveal serious heart disease, but in 2004 Ron showed even more symptoms of heart disease, and another ultrasound was scheduled.

During the exam, tragedy struck: Ron stopped breathing and his pulse began to fade. Dr. Bezner began CPR and resuscitated Ron, but he crashed again. Again he was revived, and again he crashed. After the fourth time that Ron stopped breathing, the decision was made to let him pass away, surrounded by his loving caregivers. Then the miracle happened: Ron started breathing again on his own. He had decided that it was not his time. The ultrasound was completed, showing extremely severe heart disease. Remarkably, he was fully recovered within hours of his ordeal. A cardiologist recommended a treatment protocol to help Ron, but cautioned that due to the severity of Ron’s condition, that his prognosis was poor. Dr. Noon began to make plans to move Ron to Florida as soon as a newly constructed building was available for him.

Ron responded well to treatment and moved to Florida in May 2005 with his buddy Thoto. He was accompanied on the journey by Dr. Bezner, and his story was documented in the Nature program “Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History.” When Ron was released, he opted not to go onto the island, sticking to the familiar concrete of the patio.

Over time, however, Ron grew to love the wide open spaces of his island. He could be seen striding magnificently over the hills, or enjoying the view from a platform. He and Thoto began to have conflict, but Ron made a new chimpanzee friend in April, a former pet who had been rescued by STC in 2003. His health was closely monitored, and his medications adjusted as needed. But there is no doubt that his caregivers were all holding their breath, waiting for the worst to happen.

Ron, however, had different plans. He defied all predictions and expectations, and lived a happy life for seven more years, enjoying the peace of his island. He became an adoptive father to young Melody, who was born at STC as a result of a failed vasectomy and whose mother lacked the skills to raise her.  Together with April, he became her protector and guiding hand. He also made new friends and saw his chimpanzee family grow to include many other chimps, such as fellow LEMSIP veteran David, former pet chimps Connor and Kramer, and lady companions Pele and Gail. Ron was a miracle and an inspiration. He endured isolation, torment, and a life-threatening illness; yet somehow Ron found the courage and determination to not only survive, but to embrace life and enjoy every moment to the fullest."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In the shadows

David Goodis has a reputation as one of the bleakest of Noir and it is quite evident in "The Wounded and the Slain", an expertly crafted psychological foray into the fractured psyche of an emotionally and sexually scarred man who may be beyond redemption. There is also a fascinating attempt to dig deep into the hidden lust and pent up desires of a repressed 1950's era wife who has to put up with her husband's deep descent into a drunken paranoia and despair.

With workman-like prose, Goodis does a fantastic job of creating a detailed atmosphere, both physically (the potrayal of a 1950's Jamaican resort and the seedy side of town on the outskirts is vividly portrayed) and psychologically (we get to inside the minds of these characters, especially Bevan and Cora). To many this will be a very slow book. There is suspense, although not plot or action driven. I found myself fascinated by this pessimistic, emotional journey into the dark side of noir.

Be warned of a few things:
This is a novel that takes bleakness to a new level. There is no such thing as a truly sympathetic character. This book is dated to be sure. But that is the point. To get a feel for the time and place (especially the harsh impenetrable lines between race and class) and to get a taste of the pessimistic noir literature that was popular at the time.

A great entry into the Hard Case series, with yet another cool retro cover by Glen Orbit

Sunday, October 2, 2011

10,000 years in the making

The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution

 by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending

I have a long held interest in evolution and anthropology. Beyond an interest actually. More like an endless fascination. Some would even say obsession. I am a the the Tea Party/GOP's worst nightmare. I cannot be bullied into falling into the current line of thinking that the earth is 6000 years old. I know better.

Enough about fables and delusions and on to science and The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.

As soon as I opened up this book and started to read, I could not stop. I devoured it. Then I read it again. It is utterly fascinating. The book is about exactly what the title says, how the last 10,000 years human evolution is rapidly accelerating due to the adaptions of civilization. We change phyically to adapt to changes from geography, climate, diet, but these are not slow mutations that occur over millions or even hundreds of thousands of years as they have been throughout most of the planet's evolutionary history. These are now rapid changes at the genetic level involving alterations at the chromosomal level called alleles. They can occur in as little as several generations, and the rate of change is increasing dramtically.

The authors go back beyond 10,000 years ago to indentify the time when this explosion of acceleration first began 30,000 years ago. They indentify the exact event. For me this was best part of the book because it something that I always believed and the authors make a strong case to back up their somewhat irrevereant theory. I will not give it away here. It would be akin to giving a away a major spoiler to a novel. But anyone with an interest in anthropology or evolution of human history will find it facinating.

My only problem I had with this book is the use of of the term "ape-like". It is a pet peeve of mine and scientists should know better. Humans ARE great apes so referring to a non-human behavior as "ape-like" is a contradiction.

In many ways The 10,000 Year Explosion reads like the anthropolgy equivilant to a Michio Kaku physics book. That makes perfect sense since one of the authors is a physicist. Overall, this book is a pop science masterwork with some terrific insights and revoltionary theories. Together with Guns, Germs, and Steel, it makes for the perfect new wave evolution double feature.