Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Opossum

So, I was talking to a friend of mine that I was about to write a blog about opossums, and I got a very interesting question in return: What is the difference between an opossum and a possum? The answer is a little bit anticlimactic. As it turns out, they are exactly the same thing. Americans call them possums for no other reason than they are more comfortable doing so. It is, however, incorrect. Being an American myself, I actually also prefer calling them possums, and that is exactly what I shall be doing in this blog.

Yes, possums are marsupials. Oddly, they are not indigenous to Australia. Possums originate in South America, but they have since expanded their homes into North America. Where I live in on the east coast, I see them all the time. I don't really mind it either. Despite the fact that they are commonly considered pests, I actually love them. But then again, I loved rats as well.

Possums come in a number of sizes. There are many breeds of the marsupial, and they can range in sizes as small as a mouse to as big as an average house cat. Possums are noted for having an extremely toothy maw. They have an unusual number of teeth which you will likely see if you approach one. They tend to try and scare off unwanted guests by showing their teeth while making "clacking" and hissing sounds. It is actually fairly intense.

As I grew up, I saw a lot of cartoons that depicted possums hanging upside down by their tails. I always found it very cute to see a family of possums from largest to smallest all hanging up together. You may be surprised to find out that this is not based on truth. Although the possum has a quite versatile, prehensile, and also furless tail, it cannot support the weight of a full grown adult; however, the very young ones can do it with little difficulty. Generally, the tail is used as an assistant for climbing up trees--this in addition to having opposable thumbs!

Female possums--like kangaroos--have pouches for holding their children; however, they are not macropods. Can you guess why? Macropods have horizontal pouches; the possum's pouch is vertical. Besides, it is not always utilized. Commonly, the children will bunch up on the back of the mother and cling to her fur as she climbs and even runs. Talk about the burden of motherhood!

Probably what possums are most known for is playing dead. This is absolutely true, and might I say, they do a wonderful job of it. I have seen a possum play dead, and they really do look dead! Their eyes roll back, their mouth stays agape while their tongue flops out, and they don't move at all. This is usually the last line of defense for a possum. The first line is all about trying to scare the offender away with a mawfull of teeth. For any of you wondering why playing dead would be helpful, very few predators will eat a dead animal for fear of disease.

Another morbid aspect of the possum is that they are well known for being roadkill. I would even go so far as to say that the car is the creature's truest natural predator. They really just have a terrible time with them, and there are two reasons why. Number one: their personality. Possums--more often then not--don't really care what's ahead of them. Many possums just walk where they want to go without any worry about what they will find there. Number two: their fear reflex. With most animals, they can still get lucky if they happen to be between the four tires, so that the car will just roll over them harmlessly. Unfortunately, some possums tend to jump when they get startled which can cause them to become intimate with the grill of a car. Thankfully, the ones who live around me cannot do this; they only have to worry about the tires.

In fiction, possums are pretty well-known; although, many of their personalities are not characteristic of their animal counterparts. Here are a few examples:

In the 2006 motion picture "Over the Hedge," there was a father and daughter possum duo named Ozzie and Heather. Ozzie was obsessed with playing dead. It was his passion, and he wanted to teach his daughter to be as good as he was. Likely by design, Ozzie was voiced by William Shatner, an over-actor in his own right. These are two wonderful characters.

In two "Ice Age" movies, we were introduced to Crash and Eddie who were the lovable adoptive brothers of Ellie the woolly mammoth. I thought they were very cute and cool. Even though they could talk, I more so enjoyed their silent expressions.

In 1899, the book, "Dot and the Kangaroo" was published by Ethel Pedley. Although, possums are not common in the bush, Ethel still included one in her story. The possum was very moody; although, she was uncharacteristically helpful to Dot--as the kangaroo explained. For some reason or another, the possum chose to assist the girl despite it not being in her nature to ever do so.

I have personally written possums into my fiction. I see possums as hillbilly types. In my published book "Still Wild," I included a short story called "The Fatherless Possum" about a mother possum who was very angry at her husband for cheating on her. The story was written with heavy dialect as she talks to her children about how rotten their father was. The father actually made it onto the cover of the book depicted as being in the process of becoming roadkill.

I love possums. I love them for the same reason I like rats. They are pests who act like they own the place. They care very little for where they live and what they eat. The only difference lies in the morbid irony of their existence. In many ways they represent death. Even when they live, they may still put on the mask of death, but it is very clear that they are very good at dying as long as there are cars driving along the streets.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. Clack! Hiss!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Bandicoot

There are many kinds of bandicoots, so this blog will be more of a summary. We'll get into more specific breeds later.

The bandicoot is a rodent-like marsupial. They look a little like miniature kangaroos and move about in a similar manner. This creature has very strong hind legs and tiny front legs generally used for digging. A bandicoot also has a long snout. They are about the size of a small rabbit weighing only about 4 pounds.

The long snout is probably its most distinguishing feature. It is quite useful in foraging around in the dirt. The bandicoot is an omnivore, and it does quite enjoy beetles and earthworms when they can get a hold of them. Their front paws are quite good at digging. The general order of hunting involves a little digging and a little poking. Eventually, they'll find what their looking for.

Although bandicoots can have up to 5 young, they generally only have 2 or 3. These marsupials are not macropods; not all marsupials are. They care for their young as most other mammals do. I did find it a little odd that they have 8 nipples when they can only bear up to 5 children. Extra milk for everyone!

These creatures are generally very fast. It is the same principle that makes the kangaroo so swift. They use those strong back legs to zip about at the first sign of danger. If you remember, jerboas were similar in this respect.

I was surprised at how troubled the bandicoots are. Some of them are already extinct, and many are endangered. It is really too bad when you consider how cute they are. Anybody who knows me personally is aware at how much I love rodents. The bandicoot is almost a rodent in my eyes. I wouldn't even mind having one as a pet.

In fiction, I know of only one bandicoot--this being Crash Bandicoot. He is the main character of a number of video games by famed developer Naughty Dog. I have played a few of these games, and I found them to be extremely difficult. They were also very wacky. Despite real bandicoots being very small, Crash was a very big fellow. He was also really... What is the word? Nuts? His ridiculous expressions in the games made me chuckle. But like I said, the games were very difficult, and I never finished any of them.

I think Naughty Dog had fun with their Crash Bandicoot character; however, I don't think they captured the spirit of the creature in any way. I see bandicoots as very docile people who work hard for their own survival. They could easily be farmers. They know a thing or two about the land and take great pride in tending to it. In the case of danger, I do see them running away or depending on stronger support.

There will be more bandicoots to come later. For now, bask in the rodent-like images of the tiny marsupial that I very much love.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. AHOODAMAGA!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Wallaby

I was unsure if I should spotlight the wallaby because there is not as much to say about them. This may also prove to be a very short spotlight as well. What can I say? I like the name! So, what is a wallaby?

A wallaby is the informal designation given to a macropod that is smaller than your common kangaroo. The term is sometimes called wallaroo which I also find cute. Generally, these creatures have a body length that can go up to just under 4 feet. They can be found in both Australia and New Guinea. They are herbivores as well.

Apparently, these guys tend to do be fairly social and "bunch up" in different places such as watering holes. But they also tend to do this in the middle of civilization like they own the place. Imagine waking up having a bunch of little wallabies lounging around your front lawn and eating your plants bare. Animal control do their best to keep them in the bush where they belong, but you can't stop it from happening all the time.

Unfortunately, their small size makes them prey to smaller predators such as dogs and foxes. They can still fight it out, but it works better when they are in groups. Another problem they have are cars. They tend to hop across roads suddenly in big groups, and drivers may not see the stampede coming in time. On the plus-side, they are certainly in no position to go extinct with what great numbers they possess.

Okay, straight to fiction. Wallabies make for great children's literature. The name is fun to say, and their smaller size is excellent to help the child relate to it. There seems to be a very strong fallowing among writers to write wallaby fiction for just this reason.

The only wallaby I knew from Television was Rocko from the 1993 cartoon "Rocko's Modern Life." This was a very, VERY weird show that still carries weight with all the grown-up kids of today. The reason for this was there was a lot of adult humor tossed into the show. Almost all the characters in the show was remarkably strange... EXCEPT Rocko. He was the most mild-mannered character of all living in an insane world. He really did try to accept and even figure out this world too which was part of his charm.

When I saw this show growing up, I really related to him. Sometimes, the world does seem like it makes no sense, but we still have to try and figure it out. There is no point in going mad over stuff you don't get. Rocko did this, and he was the one shining light of the show. You wanted to stay by his side and try and figure it all out with him. There was something strangely comforting about the character. He definitely belongs in the marsupial hall-of-fame.

My personal feelings on wallaby fiction is that they should be social trouble-makers. This is--of course--if I was to base them off the real thing. They would form gangs and run around trying to own the place. Interesting when you consider that a group of wallabies are known as a mob.

So, that's all I got for the wallaby. It was a short spotlight, but I had to give Rocko his due respect. There are many more marsupials on the way--many of which I am sure you will find quite fascinating.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. Crikey!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Koala

I just know that there is some person out there who is surprised to read that the koala is not a bear but--in fact--a marsupial. So why do so many people call them "koala bears?" Simple! They look like bears--big-nosed, frowny, tree-climbing bears. This is one of the reasons I have said that there is a lot of diversity when it comes to marsupials. The koala looks nothing like a kangaroo other then the fact that they are also macropods--this meaning that the females have pouches for their young.

The koala is a chubby animal with a general body length of 33 inches. They can also weigh as much as 33 pounds. (That's right; the same number for both.) They have very dark, curved noses which is one of their most noticeable features when contrasted to their beady, little eyes. They also have very rounded, fluffy ears which adds to their iconic appearance. Their "hands" have something you may find weird and wonderful. They have two opposable thumbs which assists them with climbing trees. Just to clarify: that is two thumbs and three fingers. The idea of this makes me think it would feel weird to have one grab my arm. The koala also seems to have a perpetual frown on his face. No joke in the world is clever enough to fix this. Don't even try.

Now, for the fun part: personality. More often then not, koalas are personified as being very sleepy. Is this based on reality? The answer is: yes! Koalas are one of the most useless animals ever created--as they pretty much remain asleep for 20 hours every single day and only wake up to do a bit of eating. As I am sure 4 hours of eating eucalyptus leaves must be very tiring for them, they pretty much have to sleep off all that hard work. Yes, I know it must sound like I am being mean to the poor things, but the truth is that I really am being mean to them.

Another hilarity about the koalas is how amazingly stupid they are. As a matter of fact, the koala has one of the smallest brains in proportion to body weight of any mammal anywhere! "Why is that?" you must be wondering. Apparently--and I am not making this up--their skulls have to be extra thick because they have a tendency to fall out of trees a lot while they are sleeping. These guys come with their own black box!

Like many marsupials, they can only be found in Australia; however, koalas are generally found on the eastern side. As I previously suggested, they absolutely love eucalyptus trees. It's like cheese to a mouse for them. But you may be surprised that they do have a social period of their day. They all get together and make noises at each other for no more than 15 minutes, then its back to sleeping! It's good to see animals so active in their community.

Koalas are no strangers to fiction. I have a few that I love personally. The first of these would have to be the 1987 cartoon "Adventures of the Little Koala." This show was actually an anime that was produced in Japan after all the girls there went nuts over some koalas that were showcased in one of their zoos. The series was actually a major influence on me. I ended up writing my "Cottontail Pines" stories with much drawn from that show. It brought together many cute animals living together in an adorable village, which is similar in aesthetics to what I have done.

In 1984, I was introduced to another translated anime called "Noozles." Let me be clear: I love this show. There is not a day that goes by that I want to get this show on DVD; however, it just doesn't look like it will ever happen. This was both a children's show and a scifi all in one. It was about two trans-dimentional koalas who travel to our world and make friends with a young girl. In the presence of adults, they turn into plush animals, and the girl can bring them to life by pressing her nose against theirs. They have strange magical powers that are indigenous to their race, and sometimes they would take the girl to their world which was really, REALLY strange. I'm talking "Alice in Wonderland" strange! It was brilliant, and I--to this very day--think fondly of it.

In 1981, the world was introduced to "The Kwicky Koala Show." This was weirdly a Hanna-Barbera show done by Tex Avery. It is very similar to his Droopy cartoons. Kwicky Koala is a very slow-speaking creatures that constantly outwits a wolf by being able to run away super fast. It's cute! Sadly, Tex died during this project and it only produced 16 episodes.

There are more--I assure you--but I am leaving you with my favorites. Koalas are really well-loved. Despite the fact they are quite stupid, they are cute, and in this world, being cute is enough to save you from extinction. For me, I see them as lazy good-for-nothings, and I would write them that way. They seem to be competing with sloths for who can sleep longer. I have not actually written a koala into a story yet, but believe me, I am quite capable of doing so.

Whatever you think of the koala, they are quite amusing. It is fun to look at them hanging around their tree... for a little bit, anyways. I mean--after all--we can't just stand there and watch them sleep all day. We have things to do in this life. Let us strive to be better than the koala. Let us try and be smarter as well. Just remember that the difference between humans and the koala is that the koala can't help it.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. Zzzz.