Even though I don’t have a vermin problem, I spent the better part of my free time on December 22 watching videos of the various ways of trapping rodents, particularly rats and mostly mice. The videos spanned crude methods of rodent catching dating back 800 years all the way to present day techniques that use lasers and electrocution. Methods are loosely categorized as “catch and release” or “kill” but these are just the techniques of rodent catching as opposed to deterrence. Some kill techniques are quick and painless, employing, for example, a powerfully spring-loaded kill bar that breaks the rodent’s neck or back upon trigger; while others like glue traps and drowning aren’t as trauma-free. The most effective means of drowning mice is via the “walk the plank” and “rolling log” methods which, respectively, drop or roll the unsuspecting varmints into buckets containing water. There’s a third drowning technique but its results seem less reliable. This is the Perlite or “quicksand” technique. Perlite is a soft, white, spongy material used mainly as a plant growth media which enhances root aeration and water retention. For rodent catching, one takes the roughly pebble-sized pieces of Perlite (think of it like broken-up Styrofoam) and applies it to a bucket of water. Being light, the Perlite will float, creating a thin layer stable enough to hold light bait like seeds but when the rodent walks on the film of Perlite, the pest drops through like a cloud and into the water. There’s a part of me that feels bad for the dead mice*, but they’re rodents and pests and we kill a lot of things for less reason than that.
*Honestly, it’s hard to feel bad when they’re dead cause they’re already dead. Theoretically, at that point, they’re in utter peace. Conversely, I didn’t feel so bad when they were alive either, teetering on the board or the pole. I guess it’s just the thought of their moments of panic and dying that make me feel bad.
There are also humane “deterrent” techniques such as sound and smell that are supposed to repel rodents, but they seem to be weakly effective overall. Some of that stuff includes capsicum, moth balls, wolf urine, drier sheets, Irish Spring soap and Rodent Sheriff Spray. Deterrence videos aren’t as good a capture videos, but one is still compelled to see if the deterrents truly live up to their claims, which is rare. Perhaps it’s that there’s no threat of death and/or little chance of seeing the rodent put off that make the deterrence videos far less satisfying. See, with deterrence, there’s always the chance/hope for a win, but, after enough viewings, I know it’s an unlikely outcome, which primes me for witnessing failure, which dulls the sense of excitement of “whether or not” – sorta like knowing James Bond’s not going to die in that first 30 minute chase sequence, which may be thrilling, but you know the gist (not the detail) of the conclusion which, logically, will not conclude in his death (though he may be captured). It’s a different cognitive experience then: if Bond will evade death versus how he will evade it. But I’m probably not even being honest with this James Bond analogy either, since, in his history, he’s never died at any point in a film. So I know even at the film’s conclusion….following the pattern of Bond’s elusiveness or the lack of effect of rodent deterrents, the result of both are pretty much the same.
Shawn Woods has hundreds of videos dedicated to catching pests and every week he delivers a new video –Mouse Trap Monday as he calls it (he delivers several videos per week, actually, but Mouse Trap Monday is a pretty catchy title so he’s stuck with it). His capture and deterrence videos are mostly of mice and rats, with the occasional foray into insects and larger pests like squirrels and weasels or destructive, underground critters like moles and gophers. Shawn owns several hundred different traps and has spent thousands of dollars on them. Many of the antiques he’s purchased on eBay and others he’s reconstructed himself. He uses many traditional techniques and/or traps based on antique principles but he also tests modern day traps from throughout the world as well.
Shawn and his viewers get creative too. Shawn’s even designed a system that utilizes an infrared light switch and vacuum cleaner that sucks up the unsuspecting mouse and viewers send in 3D printed versions of their own designs that Shawn tests. It’s nice that this guy puts the killed rodents out for other critters like foxes and raccoons and hawks to eat. He has even cooked and eaten some of the rodents himself, noting that rat isn’t bad and that, although skunk organs are okay, regular skunk flesh (as he’d been told) isn’t. As a distant viewer I don’t sense that Shawn’s cruel or inhumane.** He seems to truly enjoy capturing rodents, which, with over 1 millions subscribers and 30 million views on his YouTube channel, has most likely become lucrative as well. We’ve all heard that bullshit about turning your passion into a career. For some reason I have in mind some nebulous quote attributed to some athlete about loving their sport so much they’d play even if they weren’t getting paid. I hate to attribute the worst to people but I imagine that athlete after he’s broken down and unable to play at the top level anymore. Would he be jealous of Shawn, who might follow his passion at the highest level over the course of his lifetime? See, Shawn’s passion is far less limited to age and physical prime.
**This got me to thinking about psychopaths and if there’s a stereotypical psychopath, with Jeffrey Dahmer coming to mind as the prototype. But I wasn’t sure if he’s technically more psycho- or sociopathic. According to a thesis by Abigail Strubel, she is skeptical of Dahmer as psychopath due to his reliance on alcohol to commit his acts of murder, torture and cannibalism. So, maybe the jury’s still out whether Dahmer was psychopathic or psychotic or schizotypal. Where I wanted to go with this before it got all tangled up was to question whether a psychopath or sociopath viewing or reading about the acts of a fellow psycho/sociopath feels anything? And which one, psycho- or sociopath (if either), feels something but has or creates mechanism to override those feelings of unease (e.g. Dahmer’s booze).
***For fuck’s sake, this minute point of distinguishing psychopathy by emotion is a whole other ball of wax. Lacking or lowered empathy seems to be a common characteristic of psychopaths and with empathy being a fundamental element of moral development, there’s a clear problem. But, according to Valeria Gazzola: “So far, the dominant understanding of psychopathy was that they basically lack emotions such as fear or distress. If you clap your hands behind someone’s back, she will startle, and you can measure how her palms get sweaty. If you do that with individuals with psychopathy, experiments have shown that their response is flattened. They barely startle and their hands stay dry. Now imagine, if you had never felt real fear or distress, how could you empathize with the fear or distress of others?” So it is lack or empathy or lack of fear or distress? Hell!!!!
Crispin Glover published a book called Rat Catching which was sort of a collage, artistic spin on the 1896 classic Studies in the Art of Rat-Catching by H.C. Barkely, which itself is a curious piece mixed narrative with technical guidance on rat and rabbit capture. Some people think that Glover’s eccentricity is just a put on. Maybe it is or maybe it’s not but as I’ve watched over 8 hours of rodent trapping videos, I am genuinely fascinated and engaged in a way that no painting in The Art Institute of Chicago has given me. Note how Barkley describes rat catching as an art, not a science. I tend to agree and wonder if Glover wasn’t really onto something. And I’m not saying Shawn Woods and his mouse and rat trapping videos are better than Piet Mondrian, but I am saying what he’s doing is far more interesting to me.
Barkley’s book begins with wisdom on how to manage ferrets, such as when to feed them (early in the day is not good because they will be too lethargic for a day’s worth of rat catching) or how to to carry them in (a sack is preferable to one’s pocket as the latter method will “make your coat smell”). I’ve since learned elsewhere that minks are good for rodent catching as well, but they are hard to tame, hence, the ferrets’ comparative popularity as pets and presumably hunters for man.
And then there’s Leonard Mascall’s 1590 masterpiece booke of engines and traps to take polcats, buzardes, rattes, mice and all other kindes of vermine and beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all warriners, and such as delight in this kinde of sport and pastime. Macall’s biblical masterpiece of rodent extermination includes details (often with illustrations) of 34 different traps as well as recipes for 9 poisonous baits. In a 1992 paper titled UNMASKING MASCALL’S MOUSE TRAPS published by the University of Nebraska as part of the Proceedings of the Fifteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference, David C. Drummond**** writes, ” Thus while there are very occasional earlier depictions and descriptions of traps and some archaeological material, we are left with Mascall’s book as the earliest substantial body of information on this topic. Since also, some 200 years were to elapse before further and generally much less comprehensive works on traps began to emerge (e.g., Roubo 1782), the importance of Mascall’s book for understanding the history and development of traps is self evident.”
We also learn from Drummond’s paper that Mascall, as Clerk of the Kitchen to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was sort of a man of letters of all things domestic, having written books prior to booke of engines and traps to take polcats, buzardes, rattes….. on subjects such as “compounding medicines, removing spots and stains from fabrics, cultivating fruit trees, keeping poultry, fishing and trapping.”
****Searching for details on David C. Drummond summons a wealth of information on the current Google Senior Vice President of the same name (even the same middle initial), who I can neither confirm nor deny is the author of UNMASKING MASCALL’S MOUSE TRAPS, though I find it unlikely. The former Drummond has been cited as the author of a 1966 article in New Scientist titled “Rats Resistant to Warfarin.”***** A later 1993 article in the same publication titled “Fat Rats That Love Their Poison” details how some rats have developed a genetic immunity to the blood thinning “poison” warfarin. Drummond, having written of a similar topic nearly 30 years prior in the same publication, is not mentioned. He is also the author of numerous books on rodent traps and the cultural symbolism of rodents over at mousetrapbooks.com where’s he’s described in the introduction to Nineteenth Century Mouse Traps Patented in the USA as a professional zoologist and former Director of the UK Ministry of Argiculture’s Research into Plant Pests and Diseases
*****Warfarin is an anti-coagulant which prevents a rat’s blood from clotting which, in turn, will kill it within a few days from brain bleeding. However, some rats and mice have developed a genetic resistance to warfarin, which has curtailed the effectiveness of warfarin for large-scale rodent extermination in both rural and urban environments. Dry ice has recently been used in urban areas as an effective killer. Dry ice is dropped into burrows, then covered. As the ice sublimates, the rats suffocate.
It’s amazing the lengths to which gone to rid ourselves of vermin but it makes sense really since they carry disease and seem to have been genetically developed for fucking our shit up. And human ingenuity into solving the problem ranges from the sublime to the bizarre to the grotesque. Take examples from the Vox article 7 Horrifying Attempts at Building a Better Mousetrap which include ballistic, impalement, disembowelment, and my personal favorite of blunt force trauma, the spring-loaded “home run derby” technique.
These creatures have been the subject of our scientific study and our scorn and torment for centuries. But this vermin that’s come to symbolize evil and poverty and plague..this beast that we still use as a model for trying to understand ourselves by injecting it full of cancer. Or we shoot it into outer space and we open up its brain to connect it to electrodes to study their neural activity, all in hope of better understandings of ourselves.
Earlier in the day I had done a Google image search of “Lena Dunham naked”, which yielded some interesting results. I won’t waste time elaborating the trail of bread crumbs that led me there, only that it began with the idea of new beginnings for a new year. 2019 was just around the corner and I got to thinking about how to re-calibrate my standard of feminine beauty.
At night my friend messaged me and I explained that I’d spent much of the evening watching mouse trapping videos and earlier in the day had looked at a bunch of pictures of Lena Dunham naked. I suggested he should do a similar search and he asked me what was wrong with me and why I’d even suggest that. Sometimes abnormal things stimulate my mind and I suppose I lose sight that it’s not the same for everyone.
What I now believe to have been doing was performing a sort of reversal of the Watson/Rayner ‘Little Albert’ experiment (which also involved rats) on myself. But instead of negatively conditioning myself against rats or Santa, I was trying to positively condition myself to a different standard of contemporary feminine beauty – noting that the coupla Moosehead’s were acting as the positive reinforcement.
But, was that was what was happening? Or was it a form of self-torment? Was I the one clanging the steel bar at the introduction of the white rat? Or is my acceptance of a heftier female form something I’ve buried deep down inside me….buried beneath Playboy magazines and Bud Light bikini models? Artists are visionaries or some bullshit like that, right? Well, look at what Renoir and Alsina and Courbet and Rubens had to say about the voluptuous form. Maybe there’s something eternal to the aesthetics of fat Lena Dunham.
My friend went on to say that I might be suffering from cabin fever. The day before was the first day of winter so that was a decent analysis. I’m not sure if what Jack Torrance suffered from was schizophrenia or cabin fever or something else but he got caught writing the same thing over and over. Well, naked Lena Dunham and rodent trapping isn’t that, so I think I’m still on solid, not The Overlook’s shaky, sacred ground. Some believe Jack Torrance went mad due to writer’s block. Obviously, I don’t have writers block since I’m blissfully engaged in this essay about rodent trapping and Lena Dunham’s ass and titties. So there you go….I’m writing off cabin fever or any more sever form of madness as the cause of this rambling essay. Instead, I’m attributing it “being itself”.
According to Anti-SJW/Pro-Beef & Crustacean psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, there’s something within the philosophy (maybe even psychological application too) of phenomenology that puts consciousness at the center of being. Phenomenology comes from the Greek word phainesthai meaning “to shine forth” or “thing appearing to view.” In his lecture on phenomenology, Canadian professor and psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson explains it this way:
“One interesting phenomena is how interest guides you ability to concentrate. Let’s say you’ve got an array of difficult papers on your desk and you have to read them. Some of those papers, independently of their difficulty, we’ll presume you’re actually interested in and some of them you’re not interested in. The papers that you are interested in come with this quality that the phenomenologists call shining forth.”
Peterson continues, “The phenomenologists would consider the fact that some things are illuminated so that they’re easy to concentrate on is a function of being itself. Some things shine forth as meaningful or some things don’t.”
When I woke up on December 22 I didn’t have much of a plan for my day. I could have read the comic book about Andre the Giant my friend gave me for Christmas or I could have started The Great Gatsby or Call of Duty: Ghosts or gone down to The Borderline and gotten drunk. But I got caught up in nude photos of Lena Dunham and videos about rodent trapping, both of which, according to my interpretation of phenomenology according to Dr. Peterson, acted on me as expressions of “being itself” cause those are just what happened to shine forth on December 22, a pre-winter’s day that was otherwise cold and dreary.