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What trash should we cash?

seussWhen an author pens some words

Then decides to abort ‘em

Is it right to dig them up

And publish them post mortem?

When an artist abandons or otherwise trashes a work in progress — be that artist a musician, painter or writer — it’s usually for good reasons

When an heir, agent or publisher digs up the discarded work of a dead or incapacitated artist it, and seeks to package it for public consumption, it’s usually for one:

Profit.

That — more than paying homage, more than fleshing out the historical record — is what’ I’d guess is behind the publication of “new” books by two of America’s most beloved authors.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman — essentially the trashed first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird — was released this summer, even though some say, given Ms. Lee’s mental state, she isn’t likely to have endorsed the project.

What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), hit bookstores today — 24 years after his death.

Fifty years after Seuss and Lee became part of popular culture, their respective publishing houses are saying, in effect — and like an infomercial — “But wait … There’s more.”

The new Seuss book is based materials found in the author’s San Diego home in 2013 by Geisel’s widow, Audrey.

According to Random House, when Audrey Geisel was remodeling her home after his death, she found a box filled with pages of text and sketches and set it aside with some of her husband’s other materials. Twenty-two years later, she and Seuss’s secretary revisited the box.

They found the full text and sketches for What Pet Should I Get? – a project that, seemingly, Seuss didn’t feel good enough about to pursue.

As reincarnated books go, Go Set a Watchman has proven far more contentious.

On top of questions over whether Lee wanted the work published, it’s first-version portrayal of Atticus Finch as a bigot is hard for some readers to take, especially those who read Mockingbird.

What Pet Should I Get? hasn’t entirely escaped controversy.

The story line is simple:  A brother and sister (the same ones featured in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) go to the pet store with permission from their parents to pick out a pet.

The can’t seem to agree. The brother wants a dog, the sister wants a cat, and some consideration is given to a “Yent that could live in a tent.”

Some reviews are saying the rhymes lack the pzazz and zaniness of Geisel’s better known works.

In addition, the book doesn’t stand up to the test of time. It was written in a day that buying a dog from a store was deemed acceptable — decades before the atrocities of puppy mills (where many such dogs came from) became known.

Among the book’s earliest critics — even before it came out — was PETA, whose president contacted Random House to point out it might send the wrong message to young readers. Apparently, Random House took the advice to heart. In an eight-page afterword, the publisher makes a point of explaining, among other things, that families should adopt rather than buying dogs and cats from stores.

What’s not addressed are the ethics of profiting off selling the unpublished works of the dead.

In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, let me conclude with a couple of modest thoughts. You can call them little point one and little point two.

Point one is a note to creative types. You might want to consider outlining in your will, in great detail, what may or may not happen to, and who should get any profits from, any unpublished works that you squirreled away in a drawer rather than burned or threw away.

Point two is that, in celebrating our beloved writers, particularly two who shaped the lives, hearts and brains of so many children and young adults, remembering their wishes should be paramount.

The publishing world is something of a zoo, and it’s not above shoveling out some stinky stuff wrapped in shiny new packages.

So be careful of that wily fox

He’s smarter than a lot of us

Watch out for tigers, snakes and bears

Beware the hippo-posthumous

 

Company recalls Tremenda Sticks pet chews

1tremendaThe Natural Dog Company is recalling 12-ounce bags of 12-inch Tremenda Sticks pet chews due to possible Salmonella contamination.

The product was sold in retail stores in North Carolina, Ohio, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Washington, according to the FDA.

The potential for contamination was noted after a Colorado Department of Agriculture inspection of the product revealed the presence of Salmonella, the FDA said in a press release.

Production of the bully sticks has been suspended while FDA and the company continue their investigation into the source of the problem.

While no illnesses have been reported so far, the company says the product can make dogs sick, as well as humans who touch it. Infected animals can be carriers and infect other animals or people.

Symptoms of salmonella in pets include lethargy, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

The Tremenda Sticks pet chews in question come in a 12-ounce bag with UPC number 851265004957 but with no lot number or expiration date. The company says products with new packaging, which includes both a lot number and expiration date but the same UPC, are not affected by this recall.

The Natural Dog Company, based in Windsor, Ohio, says unused treats may be returned for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-888-424-4602.

Dutch woman plans to marry her dog

1lesbirel

You can’t say Bible-quoting conservatives didn’t warn us.

Let members of the same sex get married, they said, and it will open the door to even unholier unions.

Now comes word from Metro that a woman in the Nederlands plans to marry her dog.

Dominique Lesbirel, 41, says she might not do it immediately, because she wants to be sure that she’s not acting out of grief.

You see, her husband, Doerack, just died. He had kidney failure.

Oh, and he was a cat.

Lesbirel married Doerack eight years ago, conducting the ceremony herself, based on the authority she thinks she holds from getting ordained online.

She says she regularly officiates weddings between people with their pets — but not before doing some research and making sure they truly love, respect and are committed to each other. Also, she says, she wouldn’t marry anyone to a lion or tiger.

A Metro online poll shows only 8 percent of us would marry our pet.

Lesbirel, whose services are explained on her website, says some people have accused her of animal cruelty and promoting bestialty, which is “certainly not the case.”

“I would never condone such terrible acts of cruelty to animals. My site is all about making a commitment to pets to show your dedication to them and promise that you will always look after them.”

“We’d be lost without those happy little faces at our windows, so I’ll do anything I can to remind people to treat animals with love, kindness and respect.”

That, she says, is why she will someday soon tie the knot with her dog, Travis.

“He has given me so much happiness and unconditional love. I just want to celebrate that bond.”

(Photo:PA Real Life, via Metro)

Trying to save his dog, man in wheelchair is killed by train in California

    A man in a wheelchair who witnesses say was trying to save his dog was struck by a train and killed Friday.

    Jim Boswell, an amputee who lived at a mobile home park in Wheatland, Calif., was said to be a quiet man in his 60’s, and a good friend to his dog, who was also killed.

    Boswell had left his prosthetic leg at home and taken his wheelchair to a store down the road, his dog at his side.

    “He had just come in,” said Rachel Sewell, an employee at Big Al’s Market. “We had literally just helped him less than five minutes before it happened.”

    After he left the store, around 7:45 p.m., she and others in the neighborhood heard the squeal of train brakes.

    While no one witnessed the accident, CBS 13 in Sacramento reported that they think the dog got away from Boswell who then tried to catch him before the train roared through.

    Neighbors say Boswell and a female relative who acted as his caretaker had been living in the mobile home park a few months.

The robot dog: An idea whose time never came and (we hope) never will

wowweerobotics

Can we go ahead and bury the robot dog, once and for all?

It was an inane idea from the get go — thinking that Americans or people from any other reasonable country would want a pet with batteries.

The robot dog is the antithesis of dog — a soul-less collection of moving metal parts that, while it may obey your every command; while it may not pee, poop, drool or shed; while it might even make you laugh; isn’t ever going to lead to any sort of real bond.

cybieIf someone truly loves their robot dog, well, they most likely have become a robot, too, having let technology, and all the ease and superficiality it offers, write a new script for their lives.

I suspect the same is true as well of those who came up with and developed the idea.

A robot dog is to dog what a light bulb is to the sun.

Turn it on, turn it off. You might be seeing a harsh and glaring light, but you are not seeing “the” light. Only dogs can provide that.

It’s not surprising that robot dogs are burning out.

It is surprising that an Australian researcher recently suggested that robotic dogs could begin replacing real dogs as pets in the world’s largest cities in as little as 35 years.

Jean-Loup Rault, writing in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, says burgeoning populations in big cities won’t leave much room for man’s best friend in the future — and he predicts that living, breathing dogs will disappear as digital technologies “revolutionize” the human-animal relationship.

Rault is wrong, and here’s why.

Dog robotTrue, robots are on the rise. We will increasingly rely on them, or something close, to wash our dishes, vacuum our floors and do all those other tasks that take up time we could spend online, or, better yet, actually living life.

But we will never really connect with them — not even sex robots.

Anyone who does, probably should see a psychiatrist or, if they only want to pretend someone is listening to them, a robot psychiatrist.

Even in a world increasingly falling in love with material things, and increasingly falling in love with technology, and increasingly finding its social life on the Internet, the rise and fall of the robot dog shows us that — even when we can predict and control something’s every move, and put it in the closet when we tire of it — a mechanical canine just can’t compete with the real thing.

Dogs — though technology has messed with them (always with bad results) — are the antidote, I think, to technological overload. They are the cure. They keep life real. They lead to real bonds, real emotions, happiness and pain.

Overall, they soothe us, while technology often does the opposite.

Anyone who thinks a robot dog is going to lower their blood pressure, as dogs do, provide eye contact that stirs the soul, or be comforting to play with or pet is caught up in self-delusion.

What is hoped for by companies that make such devices, or provide us with Internet-based fantasies, or come up with ideas like pet rocks and the Tamagotchie, is that we all find self-delusion a happier place to be, and stay there, and spend our money there.

aibo_robot_dogSo I’m glad the obituary has been written for Sony’s “Aibo,” the best known robot dog.

Production ended eight years ago, and the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year.

Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, and by 2006 had only sold 150,000 “units.” according to the New York Times.

Given it was not providing much profit, the company decided to put Aibo down.

Despite that, and the failure of many of the robotic/digital pets that preceded and followed it, Jean-Loup Rault, on the faculty at the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne, suspects they have a future.

“Pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population. Digital technologies have quickly revolutionized human communication and social relationships,” he says.

“We are possibly witnessing the dawn of a new era, the digital revolution with likely effects on pet ownership, similar to the industrial revolution which replaced animal power for petrol and electrical engines.”

He points to the popularity, or at least former popularity, of devices like the Tamagotchie, and Paro, a robotic baby seal used by medical professionals, and Aibo, which never really became popular at all. He points to games and apps that allow people to keep fake farm animals. He points to the movie, “Her,” in which a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system.

“Robots can without doubt trigger human emotions,” he concludes, perhaps a little too quickly.

phonedogAnd robotic pets, he says, are just so much easier — especially in “situations where live pets are undesirable (e.g., old or allergic people).”

“The pace of artificial pet development, and underlying research, remains in its infancy with much to be discovered,” he notes. “At present, artificial pets can be described as mediocre substitutes for live counterparts. Yet, quick technological progress is to be expected …”

He concludes with a quote from Nikola Tesla: “Let the future tell the truth.”

I, for one, am not willing to do that. I don’t trust the future one bit, or those who are trying to take us there too quickly — and at the expense of what is pure and real and true.

Much more than the future, I put my trust, and faith, in dog. Real dog.

Nylabone recalls lot of Puppy Starter Kits

nylaboneThe New Jersey company that makes Nylabones is recalling one lot of its “Puppy Starter Kit” dog chews due to concerns about salmonella contamination.

The product comes in a 1.69 oz. package marked with Lot #21935, UPC 0-18214-81291-3. The lot number can be found on the back of the package. The lot in question has an expiration date of 3/22/18.

The recall was announced after Salmonella was found during routine testing by the company, TFH Publications, Inc./Nylabone Products, of Neptune, N.J.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the problem, the FDA said in a press release.

The recalled Puppy Starter Kits in question were distributed nationwide, to Canada, and through one domestic online mail order facility.

Salmonella can affect animals ingesting the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, the FDA advises you contact your veterinarian.

Symptoms in humans can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Consumers who have purchased packages from the lot should should discontinue use of the product and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-877-273-7527.

Five-year-old Vietnamese girl finds her dog, roasted, at roadside meat market

vietgirl

A photo of a five-year-old Vietnamese girl who reportedly found her missing pet dog at a roadside market — roasted and on display in a flat woven basket — has gone viral, leading to new-found furor over the age-old tradition of eating dog in some Asian countries.

The story behind the photo is only loosely documented. The Daily Mail reports, without attribution, that the girl lives in the countryside of north Vietnam, and that she had raised the dog, named Flower, for three years.

vietnam2A few days after Flower went missing, the girl was walking by a street market and saw what she thought was Flower, roasted and with her paws removed.

“That’s Flower,” the girl reportedly cried as she rushed over to the dog.

The photo has gone viral, leading to renewed calls for ending the practice — among some in Korea, China and Vietnam — of eating dog meat.

While most of the meat comes from farm-raised dogs, runaways and stray dogs often end up at the roadside markets.

The photo was posted on a social media website initially, and has since been widely shared and picked up by the news media (though few media outlets seem to have done any actual reporting).

Interestingly, some media outlets are shielding their readers from seeing the image in full. The Daily Mail, for example, showed the entire photo, but, for some reason, saw fit to blur out the dog’s face. Others warn readers of graphic images ahead, or make you click a few more times before viewing the full image. Few seem to have done any actual reporting

That strikes me as hypocritical, and as a bit of a tease, and as contrary to the mission of the news media, which is not to shield us from going on, but to show us what’s going on — with un-blurred photos and un-blurred facts.

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