I’m Not Going to Make the Obvious “Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!” Joke

(Note:  The latter parts of this post will reference animal-on-animal violence.)

This past weekend was my very experience with a truly uniquely Harbin place.  Enter the Dongbeihu Yuanlin—Siberian Tiger Park.

I was almost too excited about going to see these tigers.  I love tigers.  More than I should.  If the honey badger wasn’t my spirit animal, the tiger would be.  This will likely be the highlight of my trip. I love them *so* much.

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Okay, now that I’ve got that little bit of fanboy-ing out of the way, I can tell you this stuff:  The park is on the northern outskirts of Harbin and is practically a must-see if you go there.  With only a few hundred Siberian tigers left in the wild, this park is doing everything it can to regrow the population.  According to Wikipedia, the park only had 8 tigers upon opening, and if that’s true, then, yeah, they’re rebuilding the population big time.

We bought our tickets and get onto our tour bus really quickly, and my goodness those buses took no chances: steel bar cages around the wheels (which I suspect are for the tigers’ protection more than ours) and big, sturdy metal grates over the windows (which I certainly hope were for my protection).  When the afore-mentioned guide talked about their ferocity, he wasn’t kidding.  In the slightest.  At all.

The tour began safari-style, with us entering the park to see all of the tigers.  At times, my tourmates were more exciting than the tigers, squealing excitedly when they caught a tiger in the bushes on their cameras.  After the standard tigers came the diversity area, with jaguars, leopards, and cheetahs (oh, my!).  (I had to do it; I’m so sorry.) The most exciting part was their healthy liger population.  Go google them and tell me you don’t want one.  They’re massive and adorable.

Then, the grand finale.  This is where the squeamish should look away.

Feeding time.  We saw this two separate times in our excursion.  Once was while on the bus, when they brought out a baby lamb and dropped it out by the tigers.  The baby was carried off very quickly, met by the raucous applause of my 15-or-so tourmates.

The second was rougher.  In the walk-and-see section (on elevated walkways with big barriers, don’t worry) of the tour, a lady bought and threw a duck (because, yes, live animals are available for purchase for this purpose) into a pond with about twenty tigers.  This wasn’t over as quickly, since the tigers couldn’t see underwater.  It became like hide-and-seek, with the duck popping up for air, being spotted by the tigers, and diving back under.  The whole ordeal lasted about 10 minutes, before the duck was caught and carried off.

I won’t lie.  I got caught up in the excitement.  It’s hard not to with one hundred other people cheering and screaming.  I found myself cheering simultaneously for the duck and the tigers in some perverse version of The Most Dangerous Game.  That’s the effect of mass culture and possibly the most interesting part of the park: this sport is encouraged, so people encourage it in return.

This park could certainly something that couldn’t exist in my home, the U.S., and I’m definitely glad to have seen it.

I know that it will be the tendency of many to dismiss the most controversial aspect of this park as sadistic, and I am not one to say it isn’t.  I would, however, beg of you to consider this before taking too high of a moral ground: the Chinese popular sports are ping pong, badminton, and basketball; all of which feature very low rates of injury to humans.  That’s something that can’t always be said of American popular sports.


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Just What the Hell is My Problem, Anyways?

Misplaced frustration or really deserving of a bath?

This week has been a hellstorm of bad feelings situated around a blank page on Microsoft Word.  At one point, I was ready to declare war and set fire to my computer out of frustration.

I made a pledge to write three articles this week; it’s Sunday afternoon now and I’m writing my first. Suckish, I know.  I just couldn’t, for the life of me, think of anything to write about, despite more than enough time devoted to brainstorming.  I thought I was dead mentally.

I turned to one of my Awesome Aussie pal, Catherine’s, resources online and was slapped in the face with what felt like a week-old pufferfish.

I am taking myself way to seriously.

I am a super-duper perfectionist. Other self-proclaimed perfectionists are amateurs when you compare them to me.  That’s been impeding my writing here a lot because I don’t feel like what I’ve produced is worthy of the internet.  I wanted to fix the world with my writing, right here, right-fucking-now.  Yes, I felt like my stuff wasn’t good enough for a platform that houses 4chan.org (OH MY GOD PARTS OF THAT ARE NOT SAFE FOR WORK) and the Tumblr of every prepubescent child in America (those are probably safe for work, but I still don’t recommend investigating too closely).

The first blow came in the first minute of the first of Catherine’s videos–always nice to start with a swift punch to the gut, right?  People don’t read on the internet, they skim.  Hemingway and Faulkner wrote in books for a few good reasons, the first being that they didn’t have internet, the other being that nobody’s going to sit down and read a whole bunch of gritty, rough, and deep text for what could be said in a paragraph on the internet.  Nay, people are on the internet for grab-and-go writing.

This breaks my problem down quite nicely in to two issues.

I wanted to fix the world.

I need to lower my lofty ideals and realize that each of my entries is NOT going to tackle (and, of course, solve) some societal issue that has plagued mankind since its inception. Yes, my previous entry on homophobes was aimed at humanizing gay people a bit, but it isn’t going to change the world’s view overnight. Quite frankly, realizing this saved me and drastically expanded the pool from which I can pull content. As Catherine would say, “Awesome!”

You’re not here to read high literature.

Style. This one is going to be a struggle, I’m not going to lie. Really, though, if I’m going to be able to push out content, I need to stop writing epics (it took Homer a lifetime to write two, yaknow) and focus on what these are: entries, articles, posts, whathaveyou. They’re snippets of information designed to make you think a little. Save the drama fo’ yo’ momma, I’m here for lightbulb moments, and that’s what I’m going to deliver, goshdarnit.

So here’s what I’m going to do:

-I’m going to start using Write Attack! for posts (it’s what I wrote this on!). It’s a nifty tool to keep you on-task and producing work that I’m in love with, but I’ll let their website explain the specifics.

-I’m going to focus on some of the smaller things that will probably make people think about things closer to their daily life.  Yay, utility!

Here’s what I want YOU to do:

-Write something too. Use Write Attack! or don’t, I won’t mind, but do it. Ten minutes, two hundred words, put it in a Facebook note and send it to a friend. Doesn’t have to be about them or specifically directed to that friend, just throw a thought that’s worth thinking out there for them.

-Let me know below how it went!

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Showering in Public is So Much More Frustrating Than It Was Before.

Tensions between my hall-mates and I in Minton Hall have grown over the past week.  I was in the shower earlier, and it was a “peak shower hour,” so there were others in the showers, too.  Now, Minton’s showers are in stalls along one wall of the shower room, with mirrors and sinks along the opposite wall, arranged so that, if other showering people are tall, in the right part of the stall, and you really try, you can see their eyes or forehead from your stall.

I stepped out of the shower (not out of the stall, out of the actual area where hot water falls on my head) for a second to grab my shampoo, coincidentally when another guy got out to dry off.  We happened to look at the mirrors at the same time and made awkward eye contact.  I thought that was the end of that.

Until I finished my shower and was drying off, that is. That’s when I heard from the hall, “…caught that one queer kid tryin’ to look at me in there.”

Of course.  He and his friends were hanging out around the shower room talking about what he felt had happened.  I was so devastated that I spent thirty minutes drying, dressing, and brushing my teeth so that the guys weren’t still hanging around when I left.

What I should have done instead was head out there right away and tell them that:

He isn’t attractive.

Aside from my lack of glasses in-shower (making it impossible for me to get a worthwhile look at him), he isn’t attractive enough to warrant it.  That he just assumes he’s hot enough to be worth creeping on shows that he’s just a little proud of himself.

Not everyone is attractive; in fact, last semester I spent a day mentally playing “Would I Tap That?” and at the end, my proportion of “yes” responses was about 1 in 20.  That means that, based on looks alone, there’s a 5% chance of my being attracted to a guy.  Once you add in that I know the guy and know that I don’t like him (he’s a bit of a jerk), the percentage drops to almost zero.  Seriously, homophobic guys have this habit of assuming that gay guys have this uncontrollable urge to have sex with every single penis in sight; that they are the object of every gay affection in the region.  Both of these assumptions are bogus, unfounded, and offensive.

Gay men are just as in control of their hormones as everyone else.

Think critically.  If showers were co-ed and the object of your sexual attraction were in a stall next to you, would you look?  Or would you respect that person’s privacy?

Yes, some would look, but vast majority would avoid looking out of basic control and dignity.  My being gay doesn’t make me a mono-dimensional person, and there are other things in life for me than lusting over male bodies.  I’m able to keep that part of my life in check long enough to respect your right to shower privately and to avoid the personal ramifications that being caught would lead for me.

In fact, gay men, if anything, are less likely to look, because:

“1-Gender Zones” are minefields for gay people.

Think back to high school gym.  If yours had a changing/locker room like mine did, then try and remember how different people changed.  Remember the kid you always kind of thought was gay?  (I won’t shove the stats down your throat, but your class likely did have a gay kid in it)  How did he/she change clothes?  If it was anything like my class, that person changed as quickly as possible, in a corner, facing a wall, before leaving as soon as clothed enough to be deemed decent.

Compare that to the testosterone-laden football players who often shot the shit half-naked for ten or more minutes.

The problem for gay people here is that people’s discomfort around them is multiplied exponentially in areas that are single-gendered.  These areas are often segregated this way because of some form of indecency or undress is involved, and provide a hotbed for “Is he going to look at my junk?  I know that he likes guys, so there’s no reason for him not to, right?”  Gay people are aware of those thought processes and, as stated above, respect your privacy, oftentimes for their safety, by getting out of areas like this as soon as possible.

So no, dumbass, I wasn’t looking at you.  I couldn’t because my eyesight is shitty (you know that I wear glasses); no matter how much you think it, you aren’t hot enough to merit it; I’m a decent enough person to respect your wish to shower privately, because I know how uncomfortable I’d be if the tables were turned; and, to be blunt, it’d be safer and more satisfying to just look at guys on the internet in my room.

I just happen to like having clean hair.

So what about you?  Are there any unfair judgments that have been made of you or someone you know?  Share them in the comments below.


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