Vodka and Grapefruit

Unreal gets the lowdown on the Dirty Dog, meets plants who love a free lunch and finds a blogger who can't get enough Favre. Plus, Scientology's "volunteer ministers" are bringing relief to hurricane victims -- but not the kind you'd think.

The world celebrates Greyhound Planet Day on Sunday, September 18. St. Louis' commemoration takes place at the boathouse in Carondelet Park, where from 3 to 6 p.m. you can adopt an orphaned greyhound, get your greyhound's nails clipped or get a tracking microchip installed beneath his hide so he doesn't go chasing a rabbit to Little Rock.

But just what is a greyhound? Is it an oft-abused canine species? A large vehicle that gives poor people fresh starts in new towns? A refreshing cocktail? Or all of the above? We turned to local greyhound enthusiast Pat Brinkhorst for clarification.

Unreal: Why do you call it "Greyhound Planet Day"? Why not just "Greyhound Day"?

Pat Brinkhorst: Because it's actually a worldwide event.

Would Earth be a better place if it were populated by greyhounds instead of humans?

It would be kind of dull if it were all dogs, wouldn't it? The great thing about our planet is its diversity. But these poor guys are just being used and thrown away in a lot of places.

What is your opinion of West Memphis greyhound racing?

This is difficult. What we're trying to prevent are abuses of the animal. What we're trying to do is promote adoption.

An acquaintance once told me that fat greyhounds are called overweigh-hounds by greyhound breeders. True?

I have no idea.

Let's say you're a bartender and Jim Edmonds comes in, requests that you play Britney Spears' "Toxic" on the house stereo and orders a greyhound. What do you pour? And do you go ahead and play Britney Spears?

He would have to fill out an application. I'm not sure what you're talking about.

There's a drink called a greyhound.

Oh, I didn't know there was one. I'm a teetotaler; I'm not a party girl.

Do you think naming a bus line after greyhounds is exploitative?

Not really. They go fast. Greyhounds go fast. In fact, we tried to see if they would have a rest station with a bus as an advertisement for them and as a cooling station for us.

Do you find Greyhound's nickname, the "Dirty Dog," offensive?

I think that would be offensive for any person or animal, except if you were a rapper and you had a song, "Dirty Dog," about your friends.

Mistletoe Sucks

In honor of the new school year, Unreal highlights an area educator who's making a difference in the world of science: Dan Nickrent, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale botanist whose specialty is parasitic plants -- i.e., plants that freeload nutrition directly from other organisms.

The best-known example is mistletoe, but other specimens -- viewable on Nickrent's vast online database (www.parasiticplants.siu.edu) -- are far trippier. Some look like pretty, colorful warts, others like alien invaders. One produces red-and-white-spotted flowers that smell like death. Another creates a flower so strong it can displace concrete.

Nickrent, who has written an ode to one of his favorites, Rafflesia ("...She's a parasite inside a vine/Fifteen pounds does a flower weigh/No stems, no leaves, no dirty roots/ She's thrown them all away..."), insisted upon communicating with Unreal via e-mail.

If they just tried harder and learned to live on their own, do you think ultimately this would be better for parasitic plants?

You have the whole process backwards. These parasites have evolved from ancestral plants that once were free-living (nonparasites). Getting a "free lunch" on another organism is such a successful way of life that it has evolved over ten different times in flowering plants and innumerable times in animals.

In a sense, are not we all parasites, living off of the energy of other things?

You've expanded the terminology quite a bit. I'm a stickler for being precise in what I say, so I would not lump all living organisms into the category of parasite. There is a better term that encompasses organisms that derive their energy from other sources (i.e., don't manufacture their own food through photosynthesis). This term is heterotrophism (the organism is heterotrophic).

Does it bother you when people use the word "parasite" in a derogatory manner?

The negative connotation usually derives from animal parasites, such as tapeworms, head lice, and worse! Even within the scientific community, parasitic associations conjure up different impressions. For example, when I see a tree absolutely covered with mistletoe parasites, I say, "Wow, look at that great population of mistletoes!" When a forester sees the same tree, he may say, "Oh, that poor infected tree."

Count Us In

With hundreds of thousands in the Gulf Coast states of the U.S. homeless or without electricity from hurricane Katrina, Scientology Volunteer Ministers are being dispatched to the area to help with the emergency relief effort.... If you are not a trained Volunteer Minister contact us and we will train you in hours and get you involved with our relief efforts.

-- Posted at www.volunteerministers.org

Nothing quite brings out our humanity like a natural disaster. When we learned that the Church of Scientology was dispatching an estimated 1,000 "Volunteer Ministers" to the Gulf Coast, Unreal was eager to sign on. Still, pretty much all we know about Scientology is that personality-test thingie we took once -- and truth be told, we randomly filled it out.

How might we help refugees "resolve problems in all areas -- children, personal conflict, anguish or upset and emotional shock, substance abuse, learning problems...?" We gave the ol' Scientology 800 number a spin.

Volunteer Minister: Volunteer Ministers, can I help you?

Unreal: Hi there! Can I go to Louisiana with you guys if I'm not a Volunteer Minister?

We can train you. It takes about 24 hours -- 48 hours -- it depends on the person, you know. We can also train you down there.

What's it take?

The ability to communicate to people and find out what's needed and wanted.

Like, food, water and clothing?

Yeah, but we're mainly giving them "assists" -- which is something that allows people to get in the present time and function better. It also relieves built-up pains, stuff like that.

Wow, a lot of refugees are in the past? What sorts of pains?

It's not just the refugees. We help you unload. We bring in lots of trucks and stuff. We have an operation where we can use people to assist the policemen and firemen. Basically, you just have to have a communication cycle. It's not difficult. You just find out what they need and provide that assistance.

Would you hold me?

Yeah. Well, not necessarily.

No?

Mostly people need "assists" right now -- it's basically like a locational in the area; you get back into communication with the environment and get out of the past.

Sounds helpful!

Yeah. We have about 400 [volunteer ministers] on the ground and about another 400 en route.

LOCAL BLOG O' THE WEEK

"Fuck Your Couch"

fuckyourcouch.blogspot.com

Author: Alex Fritz

About the blogger: Fritz is a 25-year-old student and sports fan. He has been known to post a picture of Bob Horner "Just because I can."

Recent Highlight (August 31, 2005): "Brett Favre plays well during times of turmoil," I say.

"That's an understatemenet," you respond.

"Brett Favre is positively phenomenal when things are at their worst," I profess.

"That still doesn't quite cut it," you rebut.

"Brett Favre fucking rocks when things have gone to shit!" I exclaim.

"Exactly," you say pleased.

I have written about it before, but Brett Favre turning on the goosebumb machine after his father passed away in December of 2003 still ranks pretty damn high on my list of favorite moments in sports.

Last year the Green Bay Packers started the season 1 and 4. Dismal, pathetic, and a clear sign that the Packer's reign of the NFC North was coming to an end.

Then, on October 14, 2004, Brett Favre's wife, Deanna Favre, was diagnosed with breast cancer. This news came just eight days after Deanna's brother, Casey Tynes, was killed in an ATV accident.

Brett Favre's next game was on October 17th. And granted, it was against the lowly Detroit Lions (who haven't won a Championship since Vietnam was a French colony) but the Packers won big, 38 -10. Including that game, the Pack proceeded to run off 6 wins in a row, and finished the season winning 9 of their last 11 games. Favre finished the season with 30 TD's and over 4,000 passing yards before spontaneously self-combusting (yet again) in the playoffs.

It has now been pretty well documented that Favre, a native of Kiln, MS, and his family have been badly effected by Hurricane Katrina. Not nearly as bad as tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of others living in the Gulf, but effected negatively none the less.

Given Favre's track record for coming up big (all right, REALLY BIG) in games following his and his families personal tragedies, what should we expect from him next weekend (when he plays again against the hapless and piss-poor defense of the Lions)?

Know of an Unreal-worthy local blog? Send the URL to unreal@riverfronttimes.com.

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