Bird Bone Whistles

There is a bird that can now mimmick the sound of a chainsaw.

The sound of a camera shutter.

A car alarm.

The lyre bird has mastered all the other sounds of the forest and now it has learned the ones we produce, the noisy clatter of man invading its forest home.

What a beautiful tragedy.

The bird doesn’t distinguish between the melodies of other birds and the destruction of its environment.

Or maybe it does, and it’s telling an intricate story through birdsong.

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The other day I saw a dog running along the shoulder of the freeway with a chewed-up ear and that stupid look that dogs get on their faces when they’re running and their tongue is hanging out and they look like they’re smiling but it’s more likely hyperventilation.

The sight of that poor, doomed creature put pins in my heart that stung deep in my crying soul and I felt compelled to do something. I figured rescuing this suffering animal might be the one act of benevolence that tips the Wheels of Karma back in the universe’s favor. Perhaps this one gesture of mercy could reverse the downward spiral of hate and violence that is the world today? So much power rested in my hands, so much megalomania. It was up to me to save the dog, to save the world.

But then I remembered there was a law against picking up hitchhikers in this county and I kept driving.

The dog, slowing down and hobbling now, diminished in the smallness of my rear view mirror until it faded from my mind altogether.

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We’re nothing but the Ants in the Ant Empire
The Shadows of the Ants dancin’ round the Fire
The Maggots in the Flesh feeding on the Liars
God’s in the Clouds smoking Funeral Pyres

— Nanoo Nanuck 2009

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In Brazilian folklore there is a character named Saci, prounounced with a soft ‘C’. (Sa-si’)

A mischievous scamp, sorta like a leprechaun, Saci has one leg, smokes a pipe, and causes minor snafus wherever he travels. He has holes in the palms of his hands, too, which he uses to juggle charcoal.

Story goes if you snag his magic cap he’ll be under your control, or if you can trap him in a bottle he’ll grant you a wish, but for a one-legged elf he’s pretty nimble so good luck.

An incorrigible prankster, Saci will not cause major harm, but there is no little harm that he won’t do. He will hide children’s toys, set farm animals loose, tease dogs, and curse chicken eggs preventing them from hatching. In a kitchen, the Saci would spill all salt, sour the milk, burn bean stew, and drop flies into the soup. If a popcorn kernel fails to pop, it is because the Saci cursed it. Given half a chance, he will dull the seamstress’s needles, hide her thimbles, and tangle her sewing threads. If he sees a nail lying on the ground, he will turn it with the point up. In short, anything that goes wrong — in the house, or outside it — may be confidently blamed on the Saci.

In other words, the Saci is a little punk.

Moving across the globe now.

There’s a great Norwegian word that’s applicable for all sorts of situations, depending on the inflection, kinda like the difference between “no, shit?” and “no shit!”

Uffda.

That’s one of those quirky things I picked up from my Minnesotan roots.

“Uff da” is often used in the Upper Midwest as a term for sensory overload. It can be used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, and sometimes dismay. The term can also be used when one is relieved, after a difficult or exhausting task. The term has been heard among men when a particularly attractive woman enters a room. Conversely, many Roto-rooter and septic system repair trucks have “Uff da” proudly painted on the back.

It’s an amazingly versatile word.

Stub your toe on the couch. “UFF-da!”
A beautiful sunset on the porch. “Uffda.”
Jessica Alba in a wetsuit. “Oooof-duh.”

While we’re at it, did you also know that “hey” was picked up from the Norwegian word “hei”?

You learn something new everyday.

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I’ve noticed, through my quixotic romantic adventures, and now the steady haul of marriage, that women can not wait to eat once they realize they’re hungry. They are quite incapable of concentrating on anything but their stomach once it begins to rumble. It becomes priority number #1. I’ve known some men like this too, but for the most part we’re able to carry on without breaking down over a little hunger pain.

Shit, when I’m home, lost in my writing, I’ll miss breakfast and lunch and not even really notice, sometimes I won’t eat till nine o’clock, ten o’clock, just when Lost is starting.

I’ve never thought too much about it, though I assumed there was a cultural explanation, not a biological one — a ‘men don’t cry’ type of thing. It’s not like the difference between a man being able to hold their piss and a woman needing to stop every hundred miles on a road trip to empty her bladder. There’s an anatomical explanantion for that.

Then I came across an interesting article about the history of supper.

It made me think about mealtimes through the ages.

The men spending the day hunting, farming, or trading.

The women at home preparing the meals.

It dawned on me. Women had constant access to the food supply. If a small hunger announced itself to them they could cheat and have a bite here or there. The men were away from the home and were likely not nibbling throughout the day.

By 1800 the dinner hour had been moved to six or seven. For early risers this meant a very long wait until dinner. Even those who arose at ten a.m. or noon had a wait of anywhere from six to nine hours. Ladies, tired of the wait, had established luncheon as a regular meal, not an occasional one, by about 1810. It was a light meal, of dainty sandwiches and cakes, held at noon or one or even later, but always between breakfast and dinner. And it was definitely a ladies’ meal; when the Prince of Wales established a habit of lunching with ladies, he was ridiculed for his effeminate ways, as well as his large appetite. Real men didn’t do lunch, at least not until the Victorian era.

It’s quite possible, then, that our eating habits evolved differently over time: men able to sustain longer periods without feeding; women in need of smaller, more consistent snacking throughout the day.

Thus lunch.

And thus the Luna Bar.

Just a theory.

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Some people look for love by blowing into bird bone whistles; by setting the jungle on fire; by calling on dead saints.

Some people can speak the mysterious language of the soul through paintings and music.

Some people swim with the stars; dance to the earth’s ancient melody; sing along to heaven’s harps.

Others: best they can do is belch on cue.

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I wonder if Jesus ever made jokes. And if he cracked a zinger and it truly stunk — I mean, a joke that just sat in the air, (say, a cheesy knock-knock joke) something embarrassingly lame — did the apostles razz him playfully, or did they politely chuckle for his divine benefit?

Perhaps he never told a joke that sucked.

Maybe Jesus was a funny-ass dude?

If he was bombing… it probably was a test.

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Do you remember the first time you heard a recording of your voice? Do you remember how shocked you were? How you swore it was someone else?

Maybe it was.

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Life ain’t for the innocent
who told you that was telling lies
your lungs
gonna ossify
with your coin in your pocket
you’re gonna die
travel round in a circle
and you don’t know why
— Nanoo Nanuck 2012

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The laws of physics that hold the houses and the fences and the street lamps to the ground, and cause plants to grow towards the sun, and a magnet to stick to a refrigerator, and the tortures of slow decay of life as we know it in cellular form, as well as stir the blood that moves us to love, don’t apply here at ARTOFSTARVING.COM

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