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Stateside: Life Imitating Cartoon Art?

Stateside with Rosalea Barker

Life Imitating Cartoon Art?

It's not often I see a movie on TV and want to go out the next day and buy it, but on Christmas Eve I enjoyed the kids' cartoon movie Madagascar so much that I decided on Christmas morning to go to the nearby Walgreen's and get it. Wandering the aisles, I couldn't see where they kept their DVDs, grabbed some grocery items instead, and went and stood in line. It was a long line, this being one of the few stores open on Christmas Day, and the people behind me had time to get into conversation with one another.

One, a woman who said she lives alone and is 85, had decided to treat herself to something to cuddle--one of the many stuffed toys that were in the bins by the checkout lines. The couple next to her started talking about the choice she'd made--a Siberian tiger. The other choices were a snow leopard or a Doberman pinscher. I bought my stuff, went home, started working on my computer and came out to watch the TV news at 6 o'clock.

Like, I guess, everyone in the Bay Area that evening, I was transfixed by the story of the four tigers that had escaped and were roaming the San Francisco zoo just after closing time. It took a while for the story to get down to one tiger roaming, the other three still in their enclosure; then three people injured; and finally, the tiger dead, a person dead, and two other people mauled. BBC World was onto this story right away, even before they had any video of it, calling instead a local radio reporter who simply repeated what we'd all been hearing on the various local TV reports.

It was interesting to watch those first television reports. The studio newsperson would ask questions that the reporter couldn't answer with facts, and it was almost like the anchor was throwing out answers as questions only to have them waved away as unanswerable. It's quite a common technique here. They also asked questions that were grounded in complete misunderstandings, such as not realizing that although the 911 call came in after the zoo's closing time of 5pm, in reality people are given an hour to leave:

"What were they doing at the zoo after it was closed?" "Well, they told the paramedics they'd bought tickets but wouldn't say anything more than that."

Since then, of course, it's transpired that the Siberian tiger that escaped--Tatiana--is the same one that ripped the flesh from the arm of a zookeeper at feeding time last year, causing the zoo to review its safety standards. And while it wasn't clear at first that the three people were connected in any way, we're now learning they all went to the zoo together, that the dead man was near the cage and that the other two must have run and been chased by the tiger, which the police shot when they distracted it from mauling its third victim.

If that's the right word.

Did I tell you about Madagascar? I missed the beginning of it, but it's the story of four animal friends--a lion, a hippopotamus, a zebra, and a giraffe--adapting to life in "The Wild" on the island of Madagascar, where they've ended up in the course of being shipped from one zoo to another. The lion's predator instinct comes out and he starts seeing even his friends as steaks-on-legs, so he runs away into the jungle and finds a rocky enclosure around which he builds a wall of pointed stakes so that he can't get out and harm his friends, and they can't get within reach of his claws.

Here's hoping that nobody watching the movie got it into their head that the next day they would go to the zoo and liberate a lion!




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