Happy Super Bowl, a special day when Americans across the country will gather and watch more than 200 commercials, and some team will play some other team in just 11 minutes of actual game time.
No wonder the NFL and its advertising partners try to sell the commercials as entertainment in their own right: If you watch the Super Bowl, you’ll be subjecting yourself to an relentless onslaught of adverts for everything from Budweiser to Booking.com, insurance companies trying to out-zany each other, and gambling commercials. Lots and lots of gambling commercials for sites like DraftKings, Caesars Sportsbook, MGM and FanDuel.
Super Bowl Sunday was previously made brighter by the Kitten Bowl, but Hallmark canceled the cute fan favorite last year, saying only that it’s “not currently developing original animal-centric programming.”
It was inevitable that another network would move in to capitalize on Hallmark dumping its popular annual special, and taking the place of Kitten Bowl is the Great American Rescue Bowl, an event by the Great American Family Channel and the North Shore Animal League which will feature adoptable dogs and cats on a pet-size football field, along with host Beth Stern revisiting the stories of kittens, cats, puppies and dogs who were featured last year and found their forever homes. If you don’t get the Great American Family Channel you can stream the event on Hulu beginning at 10:30 a.m. (See the previous link for other streaming options.)
Viva la Tiger Bowl!
Watch this space in the coming week for a new longform story about the Champawat tiger, the most dangerous animal documented in more than 5,000 years of recorded human history. Little Buddy and I did quite a bit of research for this one, and we hope it’ll make for a good read.
This is only tangentially related to cats, but 1) It’s awesome, 2) It represents one of the best surviving examples of Roman home life, and 3) Cats invited themselves to the party.
The AP has a story and an extensive photo gallery of what it calls “newly restored remains of an opulent house in Pompeii that likely belonged to two former slaves who became rich through the wine trade offer visitors an exceptional peek at details of domestic life in the doomed Roman city.”
The House of Vettii was known as Domus Vettiorum in Latin and its owners, Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus, were freed slaves who used their knowledge of wine — probably gleaned from their former dominus — to launch a successful business which propelled them to the economic heights of Roman society.
And who do we have there in slide number 16 of the photo gallery? A tabby cat, checking out the restored lararium, a nook where Romans would venerate their “household gods.”
The Vettii spared no expense when it came to hiring the best craftsmen and artists to lavishly decorate their home, covering the walls with scenes from Greek and Roman mythology. It took 20 years to restore the domus to much of its former glory
“They evidently tried to show their new status also through culture and through Greek mythological paintings, and it’s all about saying, ‘We’ve made it and so we are part of this elite’” of the Roman world, said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, a German archeologist who is now the director of the Pompeii archaeological park.
Looking at the restored home, it’s clear shows like HBO’s Rome and Starz’ Spartacus did a good job of portraying what Roman houses looked like on the inside, and how individual rooms were used by the people who lived in the homes as well as their servants:
We tend to think of ancient Greek and Roman buildings as monochrome since the paint has long worn off most structures, but the unique circumstances of Pompeii allowed some homes and other structures to remain largely preserved under volcanic debris since 79 AD.
Here’s a scene from Rome showing the interior of Servilia’s home, giving us an idea of how a wealthy Roman’s house would have looked in contemporary times:
Have you ever wondered what the world looks like to your cat?
Veterinarians, animal ophthalmologists and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s ophthalmology group provided insight for this article and the accompanying images, which show how scenes look to us humans and to our feline friends.
The images are striking and show the relative strengths and weaknesses of feline vision. While cats see the world in muted colors and in less acuity than typical humans, they make up for it with their astounding night vision and their ability to instantly detect motion within their visual fields.
This image shows feline night vision at work thanks to the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue that acts as a retroreflector, increasing the amount of light that makes it to the photoreceptors in cats’ eyes. The tapetum lucidum is best known as the reflective “lens” that makes cat eyes appear to glow in the dark:
This image shows the trade-off compared to human vision. Cat eyes have a wider field of view, seen below, but they don’t pick up reds or greens, and their overall vision is blurry compared to average human eyesight, represented in the top image:
Night vision and extreme visual sensitivity to movement are important to cats as crepuscular hunters, allowing them to spot prey in low light conditions and to negate advantages from natural camouflage, as motion gives away the presence of prey animals.
Cats have a slightly wider visual field than people do, at approximately 200 degrees compared to the human 180 degrees, while most cats have between 20/100 and 20/200 vision. (That’s much better than Big Buddy sans glasses, whose 20/600 vision enables him to see blurry, colorful shapes and not much else. No wonder Little Buddy likes to torture his human by swiping his glasses.)
Of course, these images do not entirely account for how cats see the world, which is why I’ve created my own image. Behold a Buddy’s Eye View, showing how the world — and humans — look to him:
According to the legend of the “Panther of Kharkiv,” a vengeful house cat has been using his superior feline vision to spot the telltale red laser dots from sniper scopes and warn Ukrainian soldiers they’re targets before snipers can get off a shot.
I imagine it goes something like this:
“Dude, there’s a red dot on your face.”
“You said that 42 times in the last hour.”
“Well, it’s true. Give me my treat as a reward, otherwise I might forget to inform you next time.”
“If I find out you’re lying…”
“Treat, now! Thanks…Mmmm, that’s good. Oh look, there’s another red dot on your head! Quick, take cover and give me another snack!”
Either that or kitty is just launching himself at Ukrainian foreheads, chasing the ever elusive red dot.
Of course you don’t need us to tell you this viral social media story is nonsense, do you?
Hundreds of thousands of people have proven themselves more credulous, and continue to share the Panther of Kharkiv posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok and other platforms despite warnings that the story isn’t true. The accompanying photo, while real, is from 2018.
“Complete garbage,” is how Liam Collins, a West Point faculty member and former defense advisor to Ukraine, put it.
Psy-ops have long been a part of war, from Alexander the Great’s armies leaving giant-size helmets and breastplates in the ruins of conquered cities to seed tales of impossible huge — and unbeatable — Greek invaders, to a CIA-devised plan to drop condoms on Soviet territory.
“Condoms?!?” you ask. “How exactly do condoms help a war effort?”
Because they were intentionally manufactured in ludicrously huge sizes marked “Medium” and “Small” with “MADE IN USA” prominently stamped on the packaging, which would be left for the enemy to discover and, the thinking went, to kill their morale. (There are also reports that US psyops left footlong condoms on the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam, leading terrified Vietcong to hide their women.)
The point is to raise friendly morale, destroy enemy morale, or both, and it makes perfect sense that psyops would move into the digital domain in a war in which cyber warfare has become a major part of the hostilities.
The Panther of Kharkiv, like tall tales of wars past, collapses under scrutiny.
The entire point of a sniper is to take out targets over long distances without giving themselves away. They’re not equipped for routine firefights, and the last thing they want is to be stuck somewhere relying on a sidearm while riflemen flank them. That’s asking to get killed.
The second absurdity is the idea that cats can be reliably trained to do anything of military value. The CIA already tried that in the 1960s with Project Acoustic Kitty, when they outfitted cats with listening devices and released them in the vicinity of Soviet targets in an attempt to eavesdrop on their conversations.
Twenty million dollars, a few years and several failed attempts later, the CIA concluded training cats as spies was “not practical.” The problem, of course, is that you can train cats all you want, and maybe the cats even have the best intentions, but then…Oh hai is that a bird? Is that a bird? Yes, it is! I’m chasing the bird! Wait, birdie! Oooh, what’s this on the ground? A bag with a half-eaten burger? How delicious! …
Cats are easily distracted, easily bored, driven to do their own thing, and not really open to suggestions when it comes to telling them where they should walk or lounge.
The Panther of Kharkiv joins The Ghost of Kyiv as a creation of social media, wish-fulfillment figures of legend for the age of information. The latter has been earning praise as a supposed ace fighter pilot who has been terrorizing Russian Su-35 pilots from the cockpit of a Soviet-era MiG-29.
In the viral video, a Su-35 screams overhead as two Ukranians chatter in the background. A shaky camera tracks the jet until a missile fired from out of the frame blasts it to pieces. The MiG-29 follows a millisecond later, dipping its wings in a celebratory gesture as one of the observers says “Oh shit!”
When a simulator looks like this, it’s easier to understand how people could mistake out-of-context, long-range footage for the real thing:
Now if you put a cat in that footage, wearing goggles and flying wing, people would know it’s fake. On second thought, maybe they wouldn’t.
You have to feel sorry for the people still stuck in the Zuckerbergian cesspit that is Facebook, spending their days wading through tedious political arguments and “SHARE IF U AGREE” shitposts written for the paste-eating crowd.
Unfortunately, the platform’s rampant misinformation is not limited to politics. Here’s one of the latest viral posts:
And this is what it looks like now, to protect people like your aunt who keeps sending you email forwards about Pizzagate:
Whenever I encounter stuff like this, my first instinct is to dismiss it as nonsense no one would actually believe. Then I remember our dubious track record when it comes to critical thinking: a third of millennials are flat-Earthers, one in four Americans thinks the sun orbits the Earth, and more than 16 million Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
Some futurists and ethicists thought the world wide web would bring an end to conspiracy theories and outlandish beliefs, with the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips and the disinfectant power of the truth. But falsehoods have remarkable staying power, and the internet is happy to oblige any conspiracy theory no matter how far removed from reality, with sites like this one that says it offers “no-bullshit truth”:
So at the risk of stating the obvious, purring has nothing to do with a cat’s heartbeat, and cats experience all the same primary emotions we do (happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, nervousness) as well as quite a few secondary emotions, like jealousy, disappointment, contentment and confidence.
The idea that animals like cats and dogs are emotionless automatons went out of favor more than half a century ago, and modern technology has made it possible for scientists to peer into the minds of our domesticated friends and witness brain activity that mirrors our own when we process emotions. There is no debate: Cats have very real emotions, which is another compelling reason to treat them well.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.