When good vegetarians turn bad.

Being a connoisseur (stress on "sewer") of giant monster movies, I have been struck by the great acting wasted in many of them. In "Night of the Lepus," (1972) Sheriff Cody, played by Paul Fix (see below), manages to deliver the following line in a dead straight, no nonsense, policeman doing his duty manner: "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention. There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way." This man should have gotten an Oscar for being able to get that out with a straight face. In the gang my wife and I hung out with when we were first married, trying to equal Fix's performance was a test no one was able to pass. Most of us were okay until we got about to the word "herd," then we fell apart. It's still a great party game for science fiction/fantasy fans.

Which brings to mind a question: Why would giant herbivores turn into carnivores in a desert? According to the plot of "Night of the Lepus," the rabbits, growing to gigantic size, switched from vegetation to meat as a food source. This also shows up in the movie "Them" (1954) when Joan Weldon, playing Dr. Pat Medford (the pretty one), remarks about the giant ants, that with the lack of forage, "...they'd have to turn carnivorous." Huh? Looking at the American Southwest's deserts, there's a heck of a lot more biomass available in vegetation than large prey species (well, yeah, there is Sun City). Most likely the dedicated herbivores would have died of starvation before they developed into dedicated carnivores if the situation was that dire. Of course, they could have gone only half way and joined us and bears as omnivores (would you care for a small steak with your salad, sir?). Being multi fueled is a pretty good strategy sometimes. One could consider carnivorous rabbits as something of a throw-back when you figure mammals started out as a bunch of bug-snatchers (this might explain why some of my relatives, as Jeff Foxworthy's wont to suggest, consider a six pack and a bug-zapper as a fine evening's entertainment). I realize for the sake of the story the giant whatevers have to chow down on people (that good old chill up the small mammal's spine) and the desert is spooky and handy to Hollywood, but for the biology types a little cringe comes with it.

For more on this, you may want to get a hold of a copy of: Fudd, R.E. "Giagantism as displayed in some specimens of Oryctolagus cuniculus from the Basin and Range Province, Western North America." 1973. Extracts in Papers on Late Holocene Mammals from the American Southwest. Ed. B. Bonnie, Oswald Rarebit and Fr. R.A. Hare, S.J. Berkeley: University of California, 1996. 337-452.

Paul Fix (1901-1983) appeared in 350 roles in movies and TV starting in 1927 (he appeared in 27 John Wayne movies alone). He started as a smooth heavy then moved into character roles such as Marshal Micah Torrance in the ABC show, "The Rifleman" (1958-1963), starring Chuck Conners.

Christmas Gift Idea:

Bird Watcher's Digest. http://birdwatchersdigest.com/

This bimonthly digest-sized magazine kind of snuck up on me. I tripped over it for the first time at the supermarket. The pictures are nice and the writing is well done.

A story that jumped out at me from the November/December 2009 issue concerned the rediscovery of a forest owlet thought to be extinct 100 years in India. Mixed up in this was the Richard Meinertzhagen affair. This was gravy to me as Meinertzhagen (remember the staff officer and his trick in the movie "The Light Horsemen?") and his doings are of especial interest to me.

26 November 2009: Feast of St. Conrad of Constance, Thanksgiving (U.S.), blizzard of 1896-North Dakota, Note: Tomorrow it becomes legal to play Christmas music in 23 states.

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