Whither the panda

There’s been some discussion about whether or not pandas should go extinct. To those who have encountered and worked with pandas personally, pandas lead tedious, boring lives, don’t have much interest in sex and are a waste of money.

This is ironically the same money needed to preserve other animals like the functionally extinct Baiji dolphin, the Chinese Giant Salamander and the historically far more important Chinese alligator. The Baiji dolphin was recorded as early as 200 B.C.E. and the Chinese alligator is said to have inspired the Chinese dragon.

The Chinese alligator/dragon is also an animal that many emperors claimed to have descended from, said to manipulate weather and reside in rivers. Alligators breathe water vapour and live in rivers and lakes so it shouldn’t be so surprising, helped by the fact that China’s civilisation is built on rivers.

Due to rapid industrialisation and getting overlooked by the frankly useless panda, not too many people cared about them. It should be noted that even before the Baiji dolphin went extinct, people were cloning it and that Chinese alligators are being bred in captivity. There are even some people who want to preserve and save the Giant Salamander from being made into meat.

George Schaller, a panda biologist, said that pandas are perfectly symbolic animals. In person, they don’t do much and are so lethargic they don’t bother climbing. They spend their day eating and sleeping. They also appear to be bad parents.

In a better world, people would have taken river dolphins, Chinese alligators and giant salamanders priority over pandas as they might be more valuable, useful and even interesting in the long run.

Pandas are interesting to look at but in the long run they’re a waste of money and are boring.

Superheroes and Immaturity

As I said in another article, superhero media tends to attract a rather immature readership in the sense that they overreact to things most people don’t care about and outgrow anytime. The characters that they find relatable aren’t exactly the most mature or independent-minded.

They’re like Mary Sues, fulfilling the reader’s desires to be with the other character whilst not being his/her own person. That audience insert is not a true everyman but a child in an adult’s body with little to no real desires, priorities and responsibilities of his/her own.

Sometimes their immaturity is just acting really childish. Take Felicity for example. Her shtick is to say weird things, throw tantrums and start rambling in a bad mood. She’s like a child who doesn’t learn how to calm down, much less on her own.

Superhero stories also have a lot of immature heroes and villains. Their immaturity lies not only in being constantly overshadowed by a more prominent, if not likable, character but also regressing and acting dubiously. They’re not smart, mature people but perpetual kids with no real conscience.

There’s also little to no real character development. Barry Allen could’ve quit his job as a forensic scientist, finding it tedious and unexciting when compared to solving criminal cases in person. Not all scientists spend their time in the lab but forensic scientists probably do and Barry being one, he’s hardly seen in the lab.

When a character does mature, it tends to get interrupted by many things like not developing his/her own persona, getting overshadowed by another character, getting replaced by another iteration and stuff.

But the problems lies not so much in constant changes but a matter of the writers (not) knowing what to really do with them. What the writers going to do with Kitty Pryde if she doesn’t have a distinctive voice to call her own. Outside of comics, she’s a blank slate but even inside comics writers can’t make up their minds on her voice.

Similarly nobody really knows what to do with Superboy, Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, Bart Allen and the like. Whatever character development they have had gets interrupted by a replacement of another permutation and being constantly overshadowed by a more prominent, likable character.

In a sense that their voices never developed because they themselves never really grew up.

The fan who can’t and will never grow up

As I said before, I really don’t get the appeal of fan insert characters who are played out unironically due to their lack of depth, voice and character development. If they’re heavily identified by audiences, they’re effectively fanboy/fangirl sues because they’re idealised versions of the audiences.

Certain fans like those characters so power to them. But when it comes to fan characters who are supposed to be satirical or scathing, fans would loathe it real badly. Another case is one with actual character development. Superboy Prime didn’t start out as mean and murderous.

Very early on, he was a good example of a fan insert combined with what others would call a Mary Sue. No doubt that there are some readers who didn’t like what became of him in the later stories and one might wonder if parts of his initial description resurfaced in Conner Kent.

Superboy Prime became a sort of attack on the loud, whingeing comics book readers who can’t stand change and stuff. This accumulated in a series of murders, punching reality to reset things and what have you. The idea of an evil Superman doppelganger isn’t anything new.

You have Bizarro, Cyborg Superman, H’el and even some incarnations of Supergirl and Superboy came close. The evil Superman doppelganger being a comics fanboy is damning in that he became the character he liked so badly that he ends up changing for the worst.

While this is not always the case and it’s understandable to feel disappointed in something so it’s also inevitable that people will outgrow interests. However in The Incredibles and Infinite Crisis, the fan who actually outgrows his affections is portrayed as a villain.

To be fair, there’s always room for characters who outgrew their mentors and interests and turned out fine. For every Syndrome and Superboy Prime, there’s a Nightwing but to be fair I can’t think of any other superhero character who outgrew their mentors and interests consistently.

Even Nightwing posed as Batman for a while so having someone pose as Batman isn’t anything new at all if Azrael and James Gordon are any indication. So far in superhero media, these characters are either perpetually subordinate to a more prominent character or are painfully derivative no matter how different they get.

At this point, superhero media (including television and film) is increasingly consumed by fans who appear to have little else to do, can’t move onto something and can’t do anything else without relapsing and/or becoming a villain.

In fairness, even real people do get back to their former interests from time to time though it’s much more unpredictable than what you get in superhero stories. Superboy Prime did turn evil but one might wonder if he’s the reincarnation of someone else.

Either way, it seems to me that these characters really can’t have personalities and voices of their own so they evil or are made to carry on someone’s persona. Perhaps superhero fandom has gotten too insular for its own good, influencing the industry for the worse.

I don’t get the appeal

To be frank, I really don’t get the appeal of fan-insert characters even if I attempted doing so when I was younger but that’s when I was looking for a role model. Still I’m probably wrong and biased about myself.

I should say that I really don’t get the appeal of fan insert characters, especially they’re blatantly a lot like the audience unless if it’s done in a scathing or satirical manner. It doesn’t mean that they’re always into fan fiction but they don’t seem to be interested in anything else.

In real life, even if you have people who idolise their favourites do outgrow them and have other things to do. Their paths diverge over time. That might be something that superhero stories have attempted before but not much success at it.

In the logic of superhero stories, the fan character who becomes an heir is fated to not only imitate and inherit his/her predecessor but also parallel him/her which gets more obvious in later stories. Jay Garrick pre-empted Barry Allen, who not only idolised him but also shared similar abilities and scientific occupations.

Wally West would parallel him all the more by sharing similar fates, having families with speedster children, getting speedy sidekicks and having girlfriends who get assaulted by their doppelgangers.

Then you have the fan-insert character who isn’t an heir but remains subordinate and has so little room for anything else to do that s/he is an audience conduit for the worse. Cisco Ramon is like this, even if he’s not always this way in canon.

There is room for characters who do idolise but have paths, interests and occupations of their own but they’re increasingly rare. In superhero media, they’re almost always bound to be proteges who regress, interchangeable and disposable proteges and heirs and fan insert characters that never go anywhere else.

In real life, most people outgrow whatever they’re interested in and idolise. Maybe not exactly since some can go back and forth but when they get interested in something new to do and care about, they will outgrow their old hobbies and interests.

Even those who get to work with big name veterans will always have other things to do and care about as time goes on. There lies the problem with fan insert characters, heirs and proteges. They don’t really grow up, they’re painfully static in that they never actually become their own characters for long.

They never outgrew their obsessions and mentors like what real life people do. They have hobbies and interests but you hardly see them take up anything new. They also don’t do anything new either.

Which is why you don’t see Felicity Smoak actually hook up with someone else. The people who identify with her a lot wanted her to hook up with Oliver so badly that the quality and ratings declined.

Cisco Ramon could outgrow his association with Barry Allen. But it’s uncertain at this point. Ditto Agent Phil Coulson, who is best remembered for cheerleading Captain America.

Even those who have a chance to be with that celebrity don’t remain associated for long. Some people don’t remain friends for life and it happens fairly often in reality. They have other things to do simple as that.

I could call myself a fangirl and detest those characters is because they never speak for themselves. They don’t outgrow things. They remain childish and static. I don’t get the appeal and that’s my opinion.

Hair Colouring Techniques in Colour Comics

Prior to digital colourisation, much of comic book colouring and printing was done with a limited set of pigments and inks. This progressed and diversified over the years though one spot of discussion, if not contention, is how black hair and objects are often depicted with blue highlights.

According to one blogger, sometimes those characters in dark blue costumes are supposed to be clad in black but due to inking and colouring limitations it can’t entirely be pitch black. Spider-Man is supposed to dress in red and black. The blue colouring is an immediate but later development.

In the case with black-haired characters, at the time they couldn’t have grey highlights but they also couldn’t have brown highlights either or otherwise they’d have dark brown hair. So the colour blue was the next best thing.

This however led to certain interpretations and contention over whether the character actually has blue hair or not. It can be said that in countries where black hair is rare, dyed blue-black hair takes its place. Indigo is the go-for blue dye that can make hair a dark blue or purple.

Interestingly, blue hair is already possible in some animals like cats and dogs but it’s genetically a diluted black and the colour is a dull dark blue-grey. Sometimes it looks bluish and sometimes it looks like a dark brownish grey.

Then we get to how red hair is drawn. In comics and cartoons, blond hair is rendered yellow. White hair is either pure white, greyish or yellowish. Black hair is either black like it is in real life or bluish. Red hair is red but the way cartoonists interpret it is either a bright red or orange.

Since red-haired humans are rare, it wouldn’t be surprising that most people have a hard time pinning a good red hair colour down without making it bright red or orange. The best that they should do is to look to a rufous ape called the orangutan. Sometimes human red hair can be as red as that of an orangutan.

White hair is another matter as it’s sometimes shown to be either pure white, greyish, yellowish or bluish. Yellowish white hair is much more possible in real life as white hair looks blond when set against the whiteness of some objects. Greyish white hair would just be white mixed in with black or brown.

Some linguistic notes:

In some languages like Irish or Igbo, though depending on the dialect for the latter, there is an immense overlap between the colours blue and black. One of the Igbo words for blue is amaloji and the Igbo word for black is oji. In Irish, gorm is usually blue but can refer to what Anglophones would call black skin.

So far in Irish, Polish and Portuguese there is a separate word for red hair (or dull red things) and bright red. In Portuguese, it’s ruivo if male and ruiva if female. The word for bright red and scarlet is vermelho/vermelha. In Polish, rudy/rude is what you use to mean red hair while czerwony is red and scarlet.

Similarly in Irish, rua is what you use to mean red hair and dull red things while bright red objects are dearg. In that same language, glas is used to refer to the greyness of sheep and horses as well as the greenness of vegetation but focal green is uaine.

I don’t know everything

As I mentioned in a post before, I humbly admitted to not being that knowledgeable in other things and I could still be a newbie or beginner. I don’t know much about animals other than my own despite learning a lot to gain an insight on something but even that’s still pretty limited. I have yet to take time to learn a new language.

I could call myself an animal lover but still be pretty limited in my interests and experiences. So I can’t claim to know everything when I only care and experienced some, only a few that I know extensively. I could call myself a dog nerd but I’m restricted by what I know and care about personally especially when it comes to stray dogs and mongrels.

I’m smart but there’s a lot of other things to learn and care about and I’ll be limited or restricted in one way or another. I could change my mind but not in the meantime and I’m just admitting my shortcomings.

Dunning Kruger Effect, AKA Know It All Disease

Dunning Kruger Effect is a case where a person sometimes acts as if s/he knows everything despite being rather limited and even I myself have been through it. Dunning Kruger Effect tends to occur in people who over-inflate their rudimentary and moderate knowledge and skills in the things they should know better.

Some dog breeders and dog owners get pissed over loud activists who are obsessed with dog health and breeding practises. Some breeders are already correcting this problem and dog owners do similarly. A lot of dog owners own mongrels and mixed breeds. No doubt that there are questionable breeding practises but some owners and breeders know and do better than what the accusations suggest.

Some of these activists act as if they’re authorities on dogs and sometimes wildlife. They do know a lot more about dogs and wildlife than most people do but they’re not really dog experts. Sometimes they have far less interest in animals than what they and their followers like to believe in.

Sometimes other than their own but you get the point. They really don’t have any real extensive experience with and interest in animals beyond what they know. I would do anything to hang out at foreign language websites to want to learn more about dogs and dog-related problems over there though I’d have to brush up my foreign language skills to get the full experience if machine translations don’t suffice.

I’m interested in dogs, have experiences with and witnesses them but I don’t have much experience with any dog other than my own. I have an interest in wildlife but I don’t have much extensive experience with either. I’m being very humble and I don’t want to come off as a wildlife or dog expert because I’m really not.

But then again there is going to be the know-it-all dog owner who thinks s/he knows a lot of dogs but is often restricted to a few things and have so little extensive experience in any other dog and dog breeder. S/he can be narrow-minded, despite knowing more than John L Random does.

As what Ruffly Speaking pointed out, these people meant well but can’t tolerate dissenting opinions and surprisingly can’t tolerate other dogs. Again this is a breeder with a mind of his/her own so it’s inevitable that s/he is not only asserting her opinion but her experiences and sentiments as well.

Perhaps we need more people to weed out the know-it-alls because they genuinely want to learn more and better. The know-it-alls will crow the loudest but the more sensible, learnt ones will always be in search of something better.

Dogs, wolves and God

While it’s not a disturbing trend, some wolf advocates and supporters aren’t just really secular but also atheistic in the sense of openly doubting God’s existence. I too have my problems with organised religion but regardless if it’s Catholicism or Sunni Islam, people will still flock to churches and temples for whatever reason and sentiment.

Take Sweden for instance, it’s a very secular country that’s home to a growing Muslim population. Someone pointed out that Sweden isn’t entirely secular and some people reverted to heathen or rather shamanic traditions in the 19th century. In fact s/he said that many Swedes are deist instead of atheist.

Sweden isn’t that wolf friendly but like its German and Dutch speaking counterparts, it’s not above its own problems regarding dog poisoning every now and then. Getting back on topic, there is no doubt that the wolf was villainised but similar things can be said of dogs before.

The three most persistent religions in the world are monotheistic and based in the Middle East. They historically don’t like dogs though often soften up if the dogs are useful. In the Bible, dogs are often depicted in a lowly manner and in some lore, dogs are surprisingly associated with treachery.

But when observing and studying stray dogs, that might have a basis in fact. You’d have dogs that wander and behave independently of humans to the detriment of one’s neighbours. Then you have dogs fraternising with wolves, jackals and stray dogs. This still happens today in many countries.

At some point in Rome’s history, invaders attacked the city but the dogs were asleep so they used geese instead. Then the Romans punished the dogs for not doing their job because they’re not as loyal as geese. There are still places, especially in some parts of Brazil and China where they use geese to patrol and guard premises.

The Bible also associated dogs with the enemies of Israel which shouldn’t come as a surprise when it comes to canine predation on both livestock (especially the sheep where people and ancient Israelis were often compared to) and wildlife. Even if modern Israel has softened up to dogs, there are reports about stray dogs attacking other animals and getting shot and poisoned.

It should be noted that wherever dogs go in mythology and folklore, they’re almost always associated with ominous, suspicious or macabre characters. In some cases, they were associated with underworld deities which easily lent itself to an association with fairies and The Devil during Chrisitianisation.

There is a wealth of ominous dog ghosts, dogs as malicious spirits in disguise and vampire dogs. In Ireland, there was a report about vampire dogs though these could easily be stray dogs but the association of vampires with wolves and dogs makes sense.

Wolves and dogs are more likely to bite people than bats and Dracula himself turned into a wolf. Then you have weird superstitions surrounding black dogs, which only compounds their real life ordeal in shelters. That’s something both dog and wolf experts should take note of.

Dog is God in reverse at least in English but it’s a blasphemous one at that. In other languages, God is God and dog remains a hound. The dog and wolf-hating Biblical religions have either minimised, assimilated or displaced the shamanic heath dog and wolf worshiping religions. The former continues to persist to this day.

Shock and Awe

I’m very sure that when it comes to discussions about questionable breeding practises, there’s always the breeder with an opinion of his/her own. To me, that’s more interesting to watch than a breeder who agrees with these people.

At least they know better, working with other breeders and having worked with so many other breeds before. Likewise I can bring myself into the discussion with a rather different experience mostly with stray dogs and mongrels. They’re the norm here but not always for the better.

Thankfully this is not always the case outside of these discussions in other languages even if such problems persist to an extent. In other countries, there are many other problems to deal with in addition to that. France, Italy, Poland, Israel, Russia and Greece have to deal with stray dog predation on both livestock and wildlife.

In The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Germany there’s the issue with dog poisoning which hits news reports very often and one might wonder if they’re dog unfriendly. Not to mention that a number of German and Dutch language articles also bring up medieval dog culls, which is onto something in hindsight.

What the breeders told me

For every sycophant for dog issues, there’s always be a dissenting voice. In this case it’s dog breeding and for your dog breed activists, there’s going to be a breeder who agrees with them then you have dog owners and dog breeders who don’t.

Not even the rest of the world will agree with their worldview because their experiences are different. For instance, several French farmers who use Pyrenees patou dogs to guard livestock can’t stand stray dogs that will do anything to attack them. Some Israelis, Italians, Poles and Frenchpeople think that stray dogs are much worse than bears and wolves.

Mind you there is a problem among some dogs in shelters called Black Dog Syndrome where they’re almost always ignored and culled for various reasons and factors like looking inconspicuous and odd superstitions associating them with malignant spirits.

You’ll still have breeders who fight back against such problems every now and then. Some of them actually adopt dogs from shelters. Other breeders also don’t want their dogs to be sick and will do anything to lessen it.

Then you’ll have dog owners who’ll always take care of sick, ugly dogs. It’s the same reason and sentiment that most of these activists don’t get because as what others pointed out, they have fairly limited experiences with dogs and don’t do the research extensively.

Not all breeders and dog owners are this careless. Some of them aren’t that stupid to know what they’re doing. Also if dogs were allowed to breed freely with one another, it could lead to another problem. In places where you have stray dogs, there’s the fear of getting bitten by one.

Then there’s the fear of them stealing food, killing other animals and spreading diseases as well as attempts to cull them. This has happened before in Medieval Europe in addition to weird canine superstitions and folklore. Even dog breeders and dog owners would have to keep an eye on their dog killing other animals.

I have a dog that killed frogs and skinks in the frontyard so we keep him in the back with wires. My father was worried about the latter going extinct so keeping him in the back is the way to do it. I won’t be surprised if there are dog owners and dog breeders who have dogs that can hunt on their own.

In fairness, the activists meant well but don’t have much extensive experiences with dogs other than their own and much less shown any real interest beyond poor inbred dogs and dogs in their own country. I might be in a better position because I live in a country where you have lots of mongrels and stray dogs.

Sometimes not for the better when you live in fear of diseases and getting attacked by one. Germany and the Netherlands aren’t much better either but that’s because dog poisoning is commonly reported. So you’d have to deal with that kind of animal cruelty because it’s unpredictable and commonplace.

Inevitably it’s a matter of learning anything else before jumping to conclusions and stuff.