Monday, July 16, 2018

Breasts and Titties

Two: Breasts and Titties
            Women’s breasts are wonderful things.  Soft and curved, they come in all sizes and shapes from flat to long to oblong to round, some gazing off to the side, some starward in indefinable yearning.  Sometimes, one is a little bigger than the other, which generally corresponds to the dominant side in the same way right-handed people usually have slightly larger right hands.
            Aside from being infinitely varied, women’s breasts, indeed all mammalian teats, are complex and intricate machines for the production of milk.  The minute a woman becomes pregnant her breasts start to change.  This is caused by four hormones called estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and oxytocin.  Estrogen and progesterone stimulate the development of extra milk ducts and keep her from producing milk until after the baby is born, prolactin signals her breasts to make milk, and oxytocin makes her feel calm and blissful while nursing her baby.  This fact, along with just about every other fact about using breasts the way they were intended, was never told to me by anyone before I had my first child.  In fact, I knew almost nothing about female breasts except that men were always trying to grope them or get a gander down my shirt when they thought I wasn’t looking.  In other words, what men deemed important about female breasts.  What a delight it was to find out how wonderful the things actually are and what a bonus it was to discover that once the baby latched on, my entire system would be flooded with something that caused an almost opiate-like high.  So much previously unknown became clear to me: the reason a cow, weighing 5 times as much as the farmer, allows him to milk her; and it’s also why some women choose to have baby after baby, or nurse the ones they have until they are ready to graduate from college.  Who of us hasn’t been shocked by the sight of some hippie at the “Mommy and Me” group letting her five year old come up, unbutton her blouse and have at her.  That woman is no earth mother; she’s just a bush league junkie.
            Speaking of good feelings associated with motherhood, when my kids were toddlers and I’d hold their hands to make sure I didn’t lose them, the feel of their tiny hands in mine caused a sensation similar to the oxytocin rush of breast feeding.  Oxytocin caused a positive feedback loop reinforcing me in the act of protecting my child.
            Biochemistry is a gas, man.  But back to breasts.  Remarkable things and I feel genuinely sorry for people who don’t have them.
            Unfortunately, most of the people who don’t have them are called “men,” and a lot of them are really pissed off about it.  I don’t like the word “patriarchy,” because it’s a little too soft for what I want to talk about here.  Patria means “father” in Latin, and “father” connotes a kind of cherishing or protective character, neither of which is necessarily there.  As far as I can tell the male of the human species is dominant due to denser musculature, greater physical strength and propensity for violence.  The “manarchy,” (Trademark) is so jealous of the fact that females have breasts and they do not, that they’ve created a whole culture bent on both minimizing the miraculous nature of the female breast and maximizing it as an object of sexual fetish. These things have caused womankind immeasurable grief.
            It’s important to mention here that you don’t have to be a man to be a member of the manarchy.  Well, maybe to be a Gold Star Member, but you can get a regular membership for the low low price of toadying up and forsaking yourself almost entirely.
            But back to breastfeeding.  According to Parenting Magazine, these days approximately 70 percent of American Women at least give it a try.  This is up from about 50% in the 1960’s and who-knows-what percent because no one ever talked about it, in the 1950’s.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons a woman might not nurse her baby—perhaps due to poor nutrition or other disease processes she doesn’t make enough milk—but there are also cosmetic reasons.  Many women cherish the look of their breasts more than functionality, believing that breastfeeding will cause them to sag.  Sagging, so the argument goes, is the worst thing that can happen to a breast because men like them round and firm.
            I just thought of something funny.  During the mid-1980’s, when I began to get “broody,” radical feminist lesbians had a slogan.  “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”  What a dopey saying.  Unless you’re a radical feminist lesbian, women do sometimes need men and sometimes men need women.  There’s nothing wrong with that need unless it’s so powerful it makes you give up something important of yourself.  But back then there was a lot of weird thinking going around.  For example, we had Reagan and it was a time of extreme narcissism.  Everybody was walking around thinking that their core beliefs about the nature of all things, were the right ones.  So some gay men thought all men are really gay; the heteros were just faking it, and some radical feminist lesbians thought the same about straight women.  Later on, if you’d claim to be bisexual, the extremists on either side would insist you were lying to yourself and just too chicken to come out.
            These days many of the young’uns are embracing a fluid sexuality, which is great; I’m all for it.  I’m also totally lost.  But that’s okay.  Beyond the age of 55, you’re not only allowed to be totally lost, it’s expected.
            Right, preoccupation with how the manarchy wants female breasts to be.  The first time I ever saw surgically altered breasts was in the late 1970’s.  My neighbor had lost both breasts to cancer and though I barely knew her, she saw me in the backyard one day, came outside, lifted her shirt and said, “look!”  They weren’t perfect—she still had visible scars—but they looked okay, and she was a young woman; I was happy for her.  Several years later, it must have been the early 90’s, I was standing in the shower at the local gym.  The nozzles were all out in the open lined up on opposing walls and as I turned around to rinse the shampoo out of my hair I saw two half grapefruit shaped things with nipples looking as if they’d been aligned by the International Strategic Defense Committee, on the chest of a 40 something female.  My entire sensibility was jarred.  The breasts didn’t match the person behind them.  It was like seeing a hog with antlers.
            Since then, like most people, I’ve seen tons of fake breasts.  They always look the same: half grapefruit, melon, or in rare and Stormy Daniels cases, basketballs.  Nipples perfectly aligned.  But what I want to know, but can’t from these women is, “how do you feel about your breasts?”  This is because they don’t have their breasts.  They have someone else’s.  Someone else’s design, size, materials, projections, fantasies, preferences, and desires.  I want to ask them, “what does it feel like to you, when someone caresses those breasts?  Is it the sensual thrill it should be or is it simply good because the person who is doing the feeling is all puffed up because his girlfriend has breasts like a porn star?  How about breastfeeding?  Current studies find that only a third of women with implants successfully breastfeed.  I guess you can’t know what you’re missing if you are genuinely missing it, but what must it feel like after giving birth, when your milk supply lets down and it’s crowded out by a pound and a half of silicone.  I can’t imagine even trying to breastfeed if my chest contained huge wads of liquid plastic.  It makes me think of a newborn sucking on a tube of bathtub caulk.
            There’s a way of thinking about our bodies in western culture.  Most of it comes from Aristotle, Rene Descartes, and religionists of all stripes.  It is the belief that our bodies are something we inhabit, in the form of souls, in the way a person driving a large piece of machinery, a backhoe for example, inhabits the cab of the thing.  The operator in the “human being as backhoe” theory, lives in it for awhile telling it to do things like pet the dog, get a job, drive the car and eat the dinner.  Once the machine wears out—I mean, seriously, how many 1957 Carmen Gias do you see on the road?—the operator or soul, goes somewhere else.  Who knows where?  Christians say Heaven, Buddhists transmigrate into another incarnation.  Almost all religions have a story about where the “essential” self goes, that is, the part of you that is other than the physical body.  But let’s suppose, just for a minute, that there is no such self.  Suppose the complex arrangement of trillions of neurons existing not just inside the brain but including every single part of the body, ARE the essential you.  There is much more scientific evidence for this point of view than what any philosopher or religionist has ever come up with.  Any musician will tell you that sometimes fingers, for example, “learn.”  It’s why they must practice constantly to perform reliably.  The neurons in fingers do not have as complex connections among themselves as the network in brain, but with repetition they can be taught, that is, habitual neural pathways can be built.  Within this model the fact of the female breast as a part of who we are can be not just incorporated, but entailed.  If in fact we are our own individual bodies in all their marvelous unique complexity, what does it say about us to disown any of our parts for the sake of a cultural catastrophe invented by penis wielding bullies.
            I love my breasts.  When I was young they lent me soft beautiful curves.  When I became a mother they nourished my beloved babies.  These days they may not be as firm, perky, or of the same altitude they used to be—in fact they seem to be in a race to become one with my belly button—but they are a part of me no less than my feet, or hands typing, brain thinking, or eyes reading this, are.  I would no more forsake them nor accept the judgement of others, than I would cut off my hands.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy: commentary, review

Commentary/Review:  Hillbilly Elegy
            Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir by J.D. Vance.  Vance, a former hillbilly and Yale Law School graduate's greatest claim to fame is that he got out.  Attention: he has not written a White Lives Matter book and the publisher, Harper, wants to make sure we know this.  There are 11 solid pages of "Praise For" blurbs right up front. With most books there are a few on the back cover and maybe a couple of pages in the beginning if it’s really good.  So when I picked up Elegy I figured it must be the best book ever written in the entire history of the world.
            It’s not, but it is an interesting account of the catastrophic combination of tribalism and traditions born of living in poverty.  Vance’s tribe springs from Scots-Irish immigrants that landed in Appalachia, mostly becoming coal miners, but moved to a small town of the so-called rust belt of Ohio when the coal mines began to shut down in the 1970’s and 80’s.  He gives an account of his life from his earliest memories to the present with kind of unflinching representations of the extended family he grew up with.  “Kind of,” because he’s stuck with the memoirist’s dilemma.  Some of the people he writes about are still alive and he doesn’t want to hurt them.  There is his mother, who winds up a homeless heroin addict, while his sister and aunts remain virtuous and stalwart to the end.  Vance himself, having survived a childhood full of domestic violence (though little of it directed at him), substance abuse, poverty, and an emotionally enmeshed extended family so dysfunctional that it doesn’t have time for anything but rescuing kids from abusive parents, divorce, bailing each other out of jail, going to rehab, battling obesity and diabetes, and dying early due to unhealthy habits and extreme stress, grows up, pulls himself up by his own bootstraps—U.S. Marine issued-- and attends an ivy league law school by virtue of extreme smarts and the fact that such institutions take a few poor people in to prove they’re not elitist, (which of course, they are.)  Unfortunately, Vance grows up to be a conservative Republican.  In the Afterward he claims he didn’t vote for Trump, but I don’t believe him.
            This book was published in 2016, which means it was written before the current shit storm of the Trump White House commenced.  But for all its virtues, and it has many, the greatest of Hillbilly Elegy is that it explains the mentality of the people who put Trump in the White House and continue to support him.  They are white and they are furious.  The latter is not necessarily directed at anyone in particular; it’s aimless.  It is simply the ambient emotional state of a particular segment of the population, and they like Trump because he is aimlessly furious too.  One day he is mad at the Democrats, then next woman, then Latinos, then Muslims.  Later he is enraged by the FBI, or Rex Tillerson, or Alec Baldwin.  Rosy O’Donnell.  Venezuela.  Then come educators, environmentalists, animals—especially that pesky eagle that attacked him while he filming a commercial.  After that you’ve got the EPA, all regulatory agencies, LGBTQ people, Californians, black people, the Pope and Elizabeth Warren.  This ranging, aimless anger is the most defining feature of Donald J. Trump, and as Vance describes succinctly, is the defining feature of every wife beater, mean drunk, dinner plate hurling, drug seeking, chain smoking, jailed or recently paroled member of his Hillbilly family.  This fact combined with their incredible clannishness—they are suspicious of virtually all outsiders and value family loyalty above all else-- successfully insulates them from every possibility of learning ways of life that might provide escape or an iota of happiness for any one of them.  In other words, Hillbilly Elegy is not so much an account of a segment of the population of the United States, but a roadmap describing how one person got out.  Most of the individuals he describes are “losers,” but he, by virtue of twists of fate, one of which is that he was genuinely loved by his grandparents, escaped.
            Books about anything are always products of a selection effect.  By definition, people who write books share several qualities in common.  One, they can read and write.  Two, they can think (usually), and three, they are alive.  Whenever I’ve read great tomes on the reasons for a world war, it is by necessity written by someone who survived it.  I’ve always wanted to hear the point of view of the guy hanging in shreds on the wire strung across the battlefield for the exact purpose of trapping him in that exact predicament.  Did he think the war was a good idea?  Serial killer books are always, and again by necessity, written about the psychologies of the perpetrators and not the person who is now a skeleton chained to a drainpipe in a moldy basement somewhere.  Analogously, Hillbilly Elegy is written by a survivor of cultural, socioeconomic, and familial chaos of a type rife in virtually all sectors of the American public in which clinging to destructive traditions is the only clear option presented.  It would have been a much more interesting book if penned by the heroin addicted, homeless mother.  But of course she can’t write, or think, or probably, remember her own name.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Affordable Care Act and Me, by Catherine O’Sullivan, June 2018
            Not having health insurance scares me, a lot.  In 2013 I didn’t have it, wound up in the ER with a nasty infection, and walked out with a bill for 3,000 dollars.  Oh, I’d tried to buy it, but this was pre-ACA and someone had decided I had a pre-existing condition, so I was denied by every insurer available.  Then things changed.  Obamacare kicked in and not only couldn’t they deny me coverage any longer, my grown kids were able to stay on their father’s insurance until they turned 26.   Seeing that neither of them had jobs with benefits, this was a big help.  
Back in the early days, the fledgling AFC, while not perfect, made things easier for a lot of people, especially the ones like me for whom working 40 hours a week at a meaningless job just for the insurance, is untenable.  Over the last few years I’ve witnessed Obamacare getting steadily worse, with higher copays, ridiculous deductibles—my most recent was 5600 dollars, but hey, if you’re hit by a bus or get cancer, who wants to split hairs, right?  However, lately things have spiraled right into the crapper.  I blame the Trump administration and its gutting of the ACA from the inside.  When everybody hates the Affordable Care Act as much as I do, repealing it will be a breeze.
            It took me awhile to figure out something was up, and looking at the last 5 months or so it’s not surprising.  A dentist biopsied a thing on my gum, which turned out to be nothing, but anytime anyone scrapes or digs something off or out of you, we’re talking heavy dough.  I was told my insurance would pay for it, but soon began receiving bills from the dentist’s office.  It seemed strange, but every time I called I was told to ignore the computer generated bill, and they would put it through insurance again.   In addition I was seeing a provider about once every three weeks through CODAC, and one day their office called and said that I couldn’t come anymore because my insurance wasn’t paying its portion of the bill.  I figured it was a mistake I could iron out.  Wrong.  I called Health Net (my insurance provider) and the guy told me that my insurance has been cancelled as of January of 2018.  “Whoa, what?” I said. “But I’ve got papers and booklets all labeled “proof of health insurance, 2018,” and I did, too.  I know because I was waving them in my hand as I talked to them on the phone, (as if that could help, Do’h!)
            “Sorry,” said the guy on the phone, and after some sniveling and apologizing, he connected me with  They were quick to inform me that their records indicated that the policy holder (me) had called and cancelled the policy.  I hadn’t.  I never would have, not in a million years, but no matter who I talked to and how many times I stated this fact they insisted that I had, in fact, cancelled my health insurance and they knew this to be the case because otherwise, it wouldn’t have been cancelled.  They assured me that they have very strict procedures in place including security questions to insure that only the policy holder can make this kind of change.  The longer I spent on the phone the more I got the feeling they thought I was either incredibly thick or otherwise addled, for not remembering cancelling my own insurance.  Because I had done this, they assured me, I did not qualify for “special enrollment.”  Nobody’d died, I hadn’t gotten divorced recently, and I hadn’t had a baby (it’s a good thing too; I’m 60 years old.)
            Finally, after about an hour and a half on the phone with various flow-chart wedded dunderheads, I pulled out the old standby.  “May I please speak with your supervisor?”  Eventually, I got to someone who sounded like she had some degree of neuronal activity.  She was able to bring up a whole new category.  Something called a “disenrollment error.”  I wasn’t sure whether she was admitting a mistake on their part, or implying I’d sleepwalked and accidentally cancelled my own health insurance, but she gave me an iota of hope.  She said they’d investigate and while it could take up to 30 days, and I’d have to pay all the premiums I’d missed at one time, they might reinstate my policy.  I took off for a couple of weeks for cooler climes, figuring everything would work out.
            Yesterday, upon my return, I found a letter dated May 11, 2018.  It says, “After reviewing your case, we’ve denied your reinstatement.  Our records show your Ambetter Balanced Care 9 plan with an effective date of 01/01/2018, has been cancelled effective 01/01/2018 due to voluntary withdrawal.”
            I’m fairly lost at this point as to even how to argue this.  The letter goes on to say that I didn’t pay an invoice dated 1/15/18, but I can only assume that since the insurance was cancelled two weeks earlier, it was never sent, which would explain my never getting it, but not the fact that I have a cancelled check for a payment on 1/4/2018.
            During my panic in the midst of this, I looked, for about 5 seconds, on the internet for health insurance alternatives.  My phone started blowing up with calls from private companies trying to sell me insurance.  This lasted for several weeks and I still get one or two calls a day; my inbox is still full of junk mail from fly by night health insurers.
 I assume I’ll be penalized for not having health insurance when I file my income taxes next year.

Friday, December 22, 2017


One day, school children will be tasked with learning this just like they are the preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.  Below, find the definitive annotated version soon to be enshrined in the Library of Congress:  (Annotation by a bigly, hugely scholar, or "schooler" as this fine thinker likes to say, because it means someone who went to a lot of school.  He just noticed that.  He notices the most things.)

I did try and fuck her. She was married. ("fucking," a slang word for "banging." I have the most words and can go back and forth. Only people with the highest IQ's can do this.)
I moved on her like a bitch. (Also a word for female dog. Nobody knows this. I've asked around and it's amazing the things... Isn't it amazing?)
But I couldn’t get there. (the opposite of "here," which means on the other side of the conference table holding a chair upside down.)
And she was married. (It means when there's a contract between a man and one of those people that sometimes has blood coming out of her wherever. Disgusting. Anyway, it can cost you big money unless your lawyers muscle them into signing a non-disclosure agreement. It still costs you money but they have to shut the fuck up about it.)
You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful. ("attracted" means you want to nail them so you can brag to everyone you meet and to Howard Stern on the radio.)
I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss.
I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it.
You can do anything … (See, when you're as and litigious as I am, they'll never say a thing because you can sue them back to the stone age. Can you imagine a 50 thousand dollar a year local TV newsreader coming back at me? It's hilarious! They'd be on the street within a year!)
Grab them by the pussy. (another, more high-class word for pussy; and I know this because I have the best words, is "snatch.")
You can do anything. ("anything" is the opposite of "nothing," which is what all you dumb motherfuckers are going to be left with in 20 years, or to use another of my many, many, words, towards the end my fourth term in office, which they tell me is against the rules but I've already got people working on it. I've got the best, most loyal people (on retainer).)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

If any of y'all'd like to look at my artwork go to Bill

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Are Zoos Better than Circuses?

I just finished reading an article in the latest New Yorker.  It concerned Marius, a young giraffe killed, or "culled" several months ago at a Denmark zoo.  Regrettably born a male similar in genetic material to other males in the zoos's collection, at 18 months of age the young giraffe was offered a piece of rye bread by a keeper and upon leaning over to accept it, shot in the head by the zoo's veterinarian. His genes were not needed to keep up a healthy breeding group of giraffes for the zoo's collection

This however, wasn't what caused animal lovers around the world to have a hissy fit.  That was caused by the zoo's scientists dragging the dead animal into a public space and dissecting it in front of several classes of school children.  Later, behind the scenes fortunately, they fed it to the big cats. The whole event was staged to make a splash, the Denmark zoo proclaiming, "we're a scientific institution, not a Disney movie. Sentiment has no place here."

Hold the bus right fucking there.

Zoos and oceanaria like to think of themselves as scientific institutions and not entertainment venues. To a zoo's way of thinking, it provides a public service by displaying, housing, and sometimes intentionally breeding, endangered and rare animals.  Its "good" is twofold.  Part one, so the theory goes, is that by educating the public about animals, patrons/citizens are bound to appreciate them more in the wild, (there is little statistical evidence to support this), and part two, as guardians of endangered species DNA, they are preserving animals destined for extinction in the wild.

"Culling" is an interesting term.  It means killing animals judged surplus.  This act is carried out routinely by Fish and Game officers throughout the world when local wild animal populations are judged too large.  This happens most often with deer.  When big predators are gone natural population control vanishes and the deer invade suburban gardens, causing great discomfort to homeowners, then dying of starvation come winter.  Sometimes, when islands are devoid of natural predators but flush with populations of boars or goats, riflemen are brought in to shoot the surplus from helicopters

But the killing of Marius, the young giraffe, did not take place on an offshore island or even behind the scenes.  It was not something that the Scandinavian zoo sought to hide from the press; indeed, it did not evince any feeling of embarrassment or guilt in ending the life of this animal.  It was business as usual and the zoo took pride, overmuch as it turned out, in its decision to represent the event as a fun lesson for school children.

There had been several offers by other organizations to take the animal, including one of several million dollars from an entertainment executive in Los Angeles.  All offers were rejected.

Yesterday, the news was agog.  After 150 years The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is being shut down once and for all.  The large animals, elephants particularly, will be relocated to sanctuaries where they will live out their lives in habitats more suited to their roaming nature and social needs.  The movement to stop keeping large, intelligent, "charismatic" animals in captivity has been around for awhile but really got off the blocks with the release in 2013 of the documentary "Blackfish." Blackfish made a compelling case that keeping free ranging orca whales in small cement tanks and requiring them to "dance for their bread" 4 or 5 times a day, is cruel.  People who previously wouldn't have known an anchovy on a pizza from a killer whale, were suddenly up in arms about orcas in captivity.  Sea World in San Diego agreed to end it's Shamu Shows.  The hue and cry went out. Ringling Brothers demise was only a matter of time.

It's interesting to note that roadside circuses are still perfectly legal and can be found in any rural county fair.  It's also a fact that many discarded zoo and circus animals wind up in attractions where people pay large sums of money to shoot them.  So maybe PETA shouldn't be cheering and tossing its babies in the aisle just yet.

But back to Barnum and Bailey.  Clearly, riding in trains and performing under the big top for a living is not a natural way for an elephant to live.  And just as clearly, most circuses at some time have used cruel methods to tame and subdue elephants, but I got to thinking yesterday, having just come off the Marius article, about what I would choose, if push came to shove, were I an elephant tasked with choosing whether to live in a zoo or the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  I think I'd choose the circus.

At least animals in the circus have something to do.  Their lives are varied.  They go from city to city, receive great veterinary care, are constantly learning new things and are, within their admittedly limited world, loved.  Many even seem to enjoy performing.  Having worked with captive animals I can honestly state that the majority of persons I've met who spend their lives ministering to them, to the point of  living along side them in RV's, forsaking family, relationships, and any other "normal" human activity for the sake of their charges, genuinely care for their animals.  As for the tricks or "behaviors" they're trained to do, sophisticated persons may be upset by the perceived degradation of having an elephant sit up and beg like a puppy, but the elephants don't know they're being degraded. All they know is that everybody's excited and happy when the tent goes up and the bright lights go on and that they get a loaf of cinnamon bread chucked into their mouths if they do a particularly good job.  Animals in zoos just pace all day, or sleep, or hide, or masturbate.  Anything to relieve the relentless boredom of their meaningless lives.  In zoos, hunters to not hunt, grazers do not graze, birds have very little room, if any, to fly. One of the Denmark zoo's points was that Marius's birth was due to the fact that they don't neuter or keep their animals on birth control.  They are allowed sex and reproduction.

The Denmark zoos's point in being open about the practice of culling, which whether they'll admit it or not is done by almost all zoos worldwide, is a very Scandinavian pragmatism.  This is how it works, folks.  We are the keepers of the Ark and sometimes it gets too crowded.  These beasts are expensive to house and feed.  You should thank us. Without us, you'd never get to see these animals at all, alive or dead.

Which brings up an important question.  Why should we have the privilege of seeing these marvelous animals at all? Whether discussing circuses or zoos, why is it that we imagine we have the right to stare through bars or slabs of plexiglass at captive wild animals?  Worldwide habitat destruction is the single reason that populations of elephants, giraffes, big cats and countless animal species are disappearing.  Animals need range.  African elephants travel between 19 and 37 miles a day, giraffes dozens of miles.  Big cats like leopards require up to 30 square miles of territory, tigers, 23 to 39 square miles.  There were 7 billion human beings on earth in 2012.  That number has increased by half a billion in the last 5 years.  With 7.5 billion people on planet Earth and at the current rate of exponential human population growth, in 50 years there will be no undisturbed animal habitat anywhere.  The logic is straightforward.  Where humans are, wild animals can't be.  If you put a farm or factory in rangeland formerly used by elephants, the elephants, by definition, become a "menace" and are shot.  Same thing with big cats and giraffes.  In the last 15 years giraffe populations have dropped from 150,000 to 80,000 world wide.  Giraffes are a seriously endangered species; Marius was just a drop in the bucket.  In 50 years it's entirely feasible that giraffes, both African and Indian elephants, tigers, leopards, pandas and hundreds of other less "charismatic" species will be extinct in the wild.  Living examples will exist only in zoos.  If you call that living.

If zoos are in fact, genetic repositories for the DNA of animals destined for extinction, neither Marius's existence nor his death make any sense.  DNA can be preserved in labs without feeding or housing it, indefinately.  The so-called scientific argument propounded by giraffe dissectors and their ilk, that zoos provide a vital function in maintaining genetic diversity, is entirely specious.  Unless human populations drop dramatically-- as the result of a pandemic, natural or human caused disaster-- there will never be places these genetically diverse animal populations can thrive.

So we keep them locked up, and justify ourselves with self-serving arguments so that little kids can press their grubby faces against thick glass windows, laughing at gorillas as they masturbate and the polar bears swimming round and round its pond in circles, its suffering having caused it to go stark raving mad.  In the wild polar bears have evolved over millions of year to range over hundreds of miles.  Climate change not withstanding, we are in the way now.

Zoos are no better than circuses and both have outlived their time.  We are the dominant animal on the planet.  We won.  This is what it looks like.  Those "scientists" who shot Marius?  They'd have done the world a much greater service by shooting or at least neutering themselves.  That would make for a revised human population of seven billion four hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight.

At least that's got things going in the right direction.