When Pets are Past Their Prime

Photo from Critter Sitters.

Retirement homes for elderly herbivores and posthumous plans for your pet should you kick the proverbial bucket of water, first.

Not long ago, I read an article about the Seattle Zoo which pointed out that many of its residents were seriously over the hill: the hippo is 44, the zebra 32, the gorilla 39 and the orangutans -- twins -- just turned 40. These are unusually ripe old ages for the kinds of animals that, if they were living in the wild, would have been pushing up daisies long ago.

In captivity, however, various accommodations have been made to help the Zoo’s most senior inhabitants. Heated pads and rocks have been installed for the lions and hippos to help relieve arthritis pains brought on by the cold weather. Hay is dampened to make easier chewing for the toothless mouths of elderly herbivores. Perches and ropes have been thickened and flattened for aging monkeys whose swinging skills aren’t what they once were. These are thoughtful solutions to a major problem: what to do with animals past their prime.

Unfortunately, there are no celebrity apes at the Seattle Zoo -- at least, none famous enough to be recognized by a casual observer -- which is a shame, because there’s a very special place just for monkey has-beens. This place is C.H.E.E.T.A.. (“Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes", a Californian desert sanctuary that provides residence, care, and rehabilitation for “homeless or unwanted ex-show business primates”. This idyllic-sounding sanctuary is named after its best-known resident, Jiggs, officially the world’s oldest chimpanzee, and more familiar to us mere mortals as Cheeta, the role he played in 12 Tarzan movies before his retirement in 1967.

Back in his fast-living showbiz days, Jiggs apparently liked nothing better than to join his human pals smoking cigarettes, playing cards, and knocking back the bourbon. But hard living has a price, even for apes. Now in his late 70s, Jiggs neither drinks, smokes, nor gambles, but is spending his golden years puttering around, “socializing with other primates and caregivers", and painting “Ape-stract art”™ [buy your own original Jiggs painting here: (if you don’t specify the colors, Jiggs will choose them for you)].

If your aging animal happens to be a horse that’s too old to be ridden, but still needs exercise, you might consider investing in a Fleethorse NATURMOBIL, the “. . . unique way of using the power of animals in the mobility of mankind”, whatever that means. “From time immemorial,” boast the makers of the NATURMOBIL, “animals like horses have brought the mankind to its destiny with their great speed and power.” As payback for all the great things your equine pal has given you, then, you can give your horse a workout and let it take you where you want to go at the same time, all without consuming expensive gasoline.

About as technologically sophisticated as a carrot on a stick, the NATURMOBIL is essentially a cage on wheels containing a treadmill for your horse. The treadmill powers the wheels, and all you have to do is sit in the front and steer. The website boasts that it’s an “environmentally friendly” mode of transportation—which may be true until your horse decides he needs a dump, at which time, well, let’s just hope you never get stuck behind one of these monstrous contraptions in traffic.

What if it’s not the pet that’s past its prime, but the owner? In the old days, if a pet owner died, the animal was “put to sleep” by the vet, taken out quietly behind the barn and shot, given away “free to a good home”, or handed over to most convenient relative. These days, however, there are more humane options.

If you don’t want little Muffin to fall into the hands of phobic friends or allergic aunts, I suggest you talk to your lawyer about setting up a Pet Trust, a concept whereby, for a small annuity, you can be sure beloved Buster will be spending his golden years in contentment long after you yourself have gone to the happy hunting ground. One option is to plan for your pet to go to a retirement community like Palm Meow, “A Tropical Paradise for your Cat” located in sunny south Florida.

At this exclusive cats-only resort, services offered to bereaved felines include “medication administration”, “specialized diets”, “daily brushing”, and “individualized playtime” (because you know how cats have an annoying tendency to play in gangs). While the cats pictured at the Palm Meow website certainly look happy and content, you can’t help noticing that a number of them are watching television -- not a good sign in any daycare facility.

What’s more, as you scroll through the pictures, you realize this “exclusive tropical resort” with its “home-like setting” looks worryingly like -- well, a home. The home of the neighborhood cat lady, to be precise. Nothing wrong with ladies who love cats, of course -- as long as it remains within reason.

Before making posthumous plans for your pets, best read "People Who Hoard Animals" by Randy Frost on the Psychiatric Times. It suggests that some people who hoard animals may suffer from a highly focused form of delusional disorder.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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