A plethora of pythons?

by the Night Writer

In his never-ending vigilance and quest for news of animal jihad threats, KingDavid (and believe me, you want men like him on that wall), citing an article on Fox, warns of an emerging threat; pythons, right here in America:

The fast-growing population of snakes has been invading southern Florida’s ecosystem since 1992, when scientists speculate a bevy of Burmese pythons was released into the wild after Hurricane Andrew shattered many pet shop terrariums.

While we’re likely a long way yet from Snakes on the Plains, if gangs of pythons start becoming common we’ll need a better way to refer to a collective of them than “bevy”, which is commonly used to describe quail. Think of it, Python-Quail really don’t go together. If we were to borrow a term from the bird kingdom then crows — as in “a murder of crows” — might be a better choice. A “murder of pythons” certainly has a more sinister ring, but it doesn’t quite trip off the tongue.

I consulted Fun With Words to review how animal collectives are described to get some clues on how we might approach this for large snakes that bite and choke (you, not themselves).  Some collectives are alliterative, e.g., an army of ants, a horde of hamsters, a lounge of lizards. Others use descriptors referring to characteristics of the animals in question, ala a prickle of hedgehogs, a sneak of weasels or an exaltation of larks. Others are both alliterative and descriptive, e.g., a  glint of goldfish,  a scurry of squirrels or a dunce of democrats.

Okay, I made that last one up. But since I’m feeling creative today here is my top-ten list of possible names for a python collective; let me know your favorite or if you have other suggestions. If we come to a consensus I’ll forward the results onto the Department of Homeland Security. This last part should be pretty easy; I’m sure I saw Janet Napolitano nervously checking out the bumper of my truck just the other day.  Anyway, here are my  suggestions:

  1. A passel of pythons
  2. A pod of pythons
  3. A pounce of pythons
  4. A clutch of pythons
  5. A hiss of pythons
  6. A strike of pythons
  7. A squeeze of pythons
  8. A plague of pythons
  9. A temptation of pythons (getting biblical)
  10. A boot of pythons (turning the tables on them)

Oh, wait … I can go to eleven! Here’s my favorite: A monty of pythons!

Turn around, wise guys

by the Night Writer

Ok, Mitch posted this earlier today but the firewall at work kept me from watching the video, which is just as well because it really wouldn’t do for me to be rolling around on the floor with tears streaming from my eyes right now. People might get the wrong idea.

I guarantee that as you watch this, every now and then you’ll fall apart.

Honestly, I thought some of the scenes in the video had to have been added somehow because they were so bizarre, but trust me, the only alterations have been to the vocals. (Ninjas? Yes, ninjas!). And the part in there about having to pee? That looks pretty darn authentic, too, based on what I’ve seen around my house.

If you lived through the 80s you can consider this video your own personal catharsis.

Breaking News

by the Night Writer

It’s the time of the year for interesting rumors to fly as fast and furious as errant footballs. And given that the crashing economy has wrecked a lot of people’s retirement plans, some people may be deciding they need to keep working a little longer. Let’s go live to the Brett Favre news conference at Nye’s Polonnaise in Northeast Minneapolis for the latest update:

Music Video Code by Video Code Zone.

Music Video Code by Video Code Zone.

Special to Mr. D:

by the Night Writer

The Lumberjack (perhaps related to Minnesota’s Paul Bunyan) feels bad that Wisconsin is getting heat from Intellectual Property-Purists about co-opting the phrase “Live Like You Mean It” to promote the state (apparently, “Wisconsin: Just Say No” didn’t test well with the focus group). Setting aside any easy jokes about using Wisconsin and Intellectual Property in the same sentence, here is a sample of the state’s new campaign and a couple of alternatives from our favorite wood-cutter. View them all.

Thinking Green

by the Night Writer

Here’s a little recycling in honor of St. Patrick’s day — a couple of older posts that I’m re-running here because they fit the occasion. If you weren’t reading this blog in 2006 they’ll be new to you, and if you were, well, you’ve probably forgotten and they will seem new to you.

The first is an account of the events surrounding my first college St. Patty’s day, celebrated on a campus truly dedicated to the holiday:

I don’t think there will ever be a St. Patrick’s Day when I don’t think about my first semester of college when I enrolled in the Spring term at the University of Missouri-Rolla campus. UMR is mainly an engineering college but it was close to where I lived at the time and a convenient way for me to knock out some general liberal arts credits before transferring to the main Mizzou campus in Columbia.

St. Patrick’s “Day” was actually a 10-day party at UMR. The campus was about 90% male then, almost all in grueling engineering classes that seemed to require binge drinking in order to cope. The reason St. Pat is such a big deal at UMR is because he is deemed to be the patron saint of engineers for having driven the snakes from Ireland and thereby creating the first worm drive (engineering humor). The rites and festivities of the season were under the auspices of the St. Pat’s Board: upper classmen (some I think were in their 30s) elected by their fraternities, eating clubs and campus organizations. For most of the year their duties seemed to be based around regular “meetings” marked by drinking and carousing. Come March, however, they were especially prominent in their filthy green coats (part of their semi-secret initiation rites) as they enforced the rules and protocols of the holiday (for those familiar with the St. Paul Winter Carnival – especially in the older days – think green Vulcans).

Part of the tradition was that all freshmen males were to have beards in the week or so leading up to St. Pat’s, and were to carry shillelaghs (an Irish cudgel). Most people think of shillelaghs as being a bit like walking sticks, but at UMR there were specific requirements: the shillelagh had to be at least two-thirds the height of the student and at least one-third his weight, and it had to be cut from a whole tree with at least some of the roots showing. The punishment for being caught beardless by a Board Member (and they usually traveled in packs of two or more) was to have your face painted green. The penalty for being without your shillelagh was to be thrown into Frisco Pond. Frisco Pond was actually the town’s sewage lagoon, but was called Frisco Pond because the St. Pat’s Board of 1927 rerouted the Frisco railroad into the pond after one of their meetings. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea to them at the time.

Fortunately I was able to cultivate my first beard, red and wispy as it was, and I cut myself a suitable cudgel. Carrying books and a shillelagh of the stated dimensions was a challenge, and even more so when certain professors wouldn’t allow them into class, meaning they had to be stacked in the hallways and guarded because Board members liked nothing better than to snatch unattended shillelaghs and then wait for their rightful owners to appear — followed by a honking procession to Frisco Pond. (I did mention the campus was 90% male and fueled by alcohol, right? During St. Pat’s week the campus looked like No Name City from “Paint Your Wagon.”)

The reason we carried cudgels was in case a Board member approached you with a rubber snake and demanded that you “kill” it. This generally meant pounding on the snake with your cudgel until the Board member (not you) got tired. I weighed about 170 then; you do the math as to what my shillelagh weighed, minimum. I was fortunate to go largely unnoticed (as unnoticed as a guy carrying a tree can be) through most of this period. This was especially remarkable given that one of my friends from my hometown was on the Board. Toward the end of the week, however, he came up to me in the dining hall. “Red,” (for my beard) he said, “I think I see a snake.” With chants of “snake! snake! snake!” I was led outside and my “friend” tossed said snake on the ground. It landed, however, in a flower bed. “Freshman! Kill!” was the command. Hoisting my club over my head (and somehow not tipping over backwards) I brought it crashing down onto the hapless rubber creature — and even more hapless plants in the soft earth.

“Hit it again, it’s not dead,” was the order. I looked down once, then again. “Oh, it’s dead, alright,” I said. Actually, it would be more accurate to say, “Missing, presumed dead” because the rubber snake was nowhere to be found in the newly-created crater. Rather than wait around for CSI, or the gardener, the small group repaired to the dining hall to toast the success of the mission and I survived the week, the highlight of which was the St. Pat’s Parade.

In those days the St. Pat’s Board would be out early in the morning with mops and barrels of green paint, painting Pine Street in advance of the parade. High school bands from around the area would march, car dealers would drive demo models with pretty girls in them and various and sundry other parade standards would be present. In particular, however, I remember the Precision Pony Team: a group of students scooting along on empty pony kegs strapped to skateboards with rudimentary heads and yarn tails attached to the kegs. They wove patterns and formations down the street, stopping periodically to lift the tails of their “mounts” and drop handfuls of malted milk balls.

Much like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the event culminated in St. Pat (not St. Nick) appearing on the route, riding a manure spreader and attended by his Guard. The duties of the Guard were largely to keep St. Pat vertical (he’d probably been drinking for four days straight) and to bring any fetching lasses from the crowd to St. Pat for a good luck kiss. (I did say the campus was 90% male and fueled by alcohol, didn’t I?).

After this particular St. Patrick’s Day all the other ones I’ve experienced have just kind of faded from my memory.

Note: the annual UMR St. Pat’s parade and related festivities still go on, but in a much more muted manner. A couple of alchohol-poisoning deaths were a factor (sad and true) to be sure, but I also think it was because some of those Board members finally graduated.

Also in keeping with this sainted day, here’s my “Fundamentals in Film” review of the great John Ford and John Wayne classic, The Quiet Man: