Monday, April 06, 2015

MATAMATA: Stealth and Craftiness

The most unusual Turtle in the world is Matamata, who lives in the Amazon and Orinoco River Systems of South America. Instead of looking like a typical Turtle, He resembles a pile of debris. When a Fish nibbles on the fibrous parts of Matamata’s head, He springs into action. Expanding his huge mouth, He vacuums up the unfortunate Fish. Expelling the excess water, Matamata then swallows Fish whole.

Having a sedentary but predatory way of life on muddy river bottoms is reflected in his unusual features. Matamata has a snorkel for a nose and leaf-like skin flaps covering his head and neck. His powerful back supports his neck to enable Him to vacuum up his prey. (Matamata belongs to the Side- Necked Turtle Family (Pleurodira).) With his sixth sense, He detects water vibrations. Living at the bottom of dark waterways, Matamata never basks in the sun like other Turtles.

In their various languages, the Amazon Indians refer to Matamata as “I Kill”. Blending with his surroundings, Matamata waits for an unsuspecting Fish to swim by. He remains still as Fish snacks on his head. Suddenly without notice, He will suck the surprised Fish up into his mouth. In other times, Matamata will herd Fish into a pen. A poor swimmer, He walks along the bottom of the muddy water herding the Fish. When He finally corners the Fish, Matamata vacuums Them up.

Matamata uses stealth and cunning to catch Fish. Looking like a pile of leaves, He deceives a Fish into thinking He is a tasty snack. Matamata quietly waits for the unwary Fish to start nibbling. Springing to life, He sucks the stunned Fish into his mouth. Learn how to be crafty from Matamata.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Common Snake-Necked Turtle is another “unique” animal from Australia (“Down Under”). Known in Australia as “Long-Necked Turtle”, She can extend her head and neck longer than the length of her shell. Resting at the bottom of a pond, Common Snake-Necked Turtle stretches her long neck and pokes her head above the water’s surface. She searches for a meal this way.

Exclusively a meat eater, Common Snake-Necked Turtle hunts in slow-moving water. During the day, She actively hunts for Frogs and Crayfish (known in Australia as Yabbies). Set unusually far forward, her eyes give Her accurate vision for hunting. Spying a fat Frog, Common Snake-Necked Turtle swims up to Him. While drawing her long neck back into an S-shape, She springs forward. Halting alongside Frog, She opens her mouth wide causing water and Frog to flow inside.

Australians also call Common Snake-Necked Turtle “Stinker”. When caught, She sprays stink fluid as far as three feet (one meter) at her captor. Ever resourceful, Common Snake-Naked Turtle uses her “stink” to defend Herself.

When Common Snake-Necked Turtle decides to move, She will ramble with her Friends over dry land looking for water. When She sights a pond, She heads straight for it. Not fussy, Common Snake-Necked Turtle will live in new man-made ponds.

Common Snake-Necked Turtle teaches flexibility. Not only does She have a flexible body, she also has a flexible life. She rambles from pond to pond. She will even defend Herself by spraying stink (uncommon for a Turtle). Learn how to be flexible with your body and your life from Common Snake-Necked Turtle.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SIDE-NECKED TURTLE FAMILY: Thinking Unconventionally

Present-day Turtles are divided into two groups: Hidden-Necked Turtles (Cryptodira to which most Turtles belong) and Side-Necked Turtles (Pleurodria). Many people are not familiar with Side-Necked Turtles since They live in the Southern Hemisphere. The Side-Necked Turtle Family is further divided into two groups–River Turtles of South America and Australia-New Guinea and Mud Turtles of Africa. Members of Side-Necked Turtle Family are either aquatic or semi-aquatic.

Their name “Side-Necked” comes from the way that these Turtles retract their necks. Side-Necked Turtles fold their heads in sideways so that their nose points either to the left or to the right. Their necks lie sideways in their shells in a groove between their carapaces and plastrons (upper and lower shells). When threatened, Side-Necked Turtles can only protect Themselves by pushing their heads further into their shoulders, thus leaving one side of the neck and head exposed.

Side-Necked Turtles developed their method of neck retraction at the same time as Hidden-Necked Turtles did. The two groups of Turtles came up with different solutions to the problem of protecting Themselves. Hidden-Necked Turtles can withdraw their necks completely into their shells. Although Side-Necked Turtles’ solution is more conservative than the Hidden-Necked Turtles’, They are thriving on their continents. Moreover, Side-Necked Turtles are now known for their distinctiveness.

Side-Necked Turtles teach how to think unconventionally. They show that you can come up with different solutions for the same problem. Just remember to expand your imagination to include the cons of a solution as well as the pros.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Babylonian Creation Myth retold for Modern Times: The Mobsters (1991) (part 2 of 2)

Meyer Lansky (Patrick Dempsey)
Caught between the two bosses fighting for supremacy, Luciano decides that the old way of doing things has to end. Spurred into action when Rothstein is murdered, Luciano plots to kill both bosses, and then set up his new system of governing the criminal underworld. As part of his plan, he convinces Faranzano to let Masseria think that he won their war. After assuring Masseria of his “ultimate victory,” Luciano runs afoul of Faranzano, who scars and almost kills him. Still mindful of his ultimate goal, Luciano murders Masseria and returns to Faranzano.

 Watching Faranzano divide the underworld of New York City into the Five Families, Luciano sees how he can organize the other mobsters effectively into a collective group. After Faranzano declares himself “Boss of Bosses” (Capo di tutti capi), Luciano decides that the wars over who is to be the next boss has to end. Faranzano knows this and sends Mad Dog Coll (Irish) to murder him, only to have Luciano kill him instead.

 After confronting Faranzano, Luciano drops him to the pavement below, killing him. The scene of Luciano holding Faranzano’s body outside a window of a tall building is reminiscent of Marduk using the two halves of Tiamat’s body to form the heavens and the earth. In this scene, Luciano acts as Marduk in recreating his world.

 The final scene has Luciano meeting with the crime bosses from all over the United States. He explains that the underworld will be run nationally by a commission of bosses. The head of the new Commission would be selected by the bosses. Of course, they choose Luciano, who, like Marduk, establishes a new order with himself as the boss.

 Though two seemingly dissimilar stories, “Mobsters” and the Babylonian Creation Epic echo each other. Although Luciano and the formation of the National Commission are history, the movie reimagines their story in mythic terms. The result is the retelling of the "Enuma Ellish" for modern audiences.

 Works Used.
“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses.” U.K. Higher Education Project. 2011. Web. .
Capeci, Jerry, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Mafia, 2nd edition.” Alpha: New York. 2004. Print.
 Cawthorne, Nigel, “Mafia: The History of the Mob.” Arcturus: London. 2012. Print.
 Cicero, Sandra, “A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot.” Llewellyn: Woodbury, MN, 2006. Print.
 Cipollini, Christian, “Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend.” Strategic Media: Rock Hill, SC. 2014. Print.
 “Mobsters.” Kabankoff, Michael, Dr. Perf. Christian Slater, Patrick Dempsey, Richard Grieco, Costas Mandylor. Universal Studios. 1991 Movie. DVD..
 Siren, Christopher, “The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.” 2003. Web. .
“Sumerian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web.
 Smitha, Frank, “Civilization in Mesopotamia.” Macrohistory and World Time Line. 2014. Web. .

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Babylonian Creation Myth retold for Modern Times: The Mobsters (1991) (part 1 of 2)

Rothstein (F. Murray Abraham) and Luciano (Christian Slater)
In the Babylonian Creation Myth (Enuma Ellish), the world is first created by the two original Gods – Apsu of the Sweet Water and Tiamat of the Salt Water. These Gods mingled their waters and gave birth to the next generation of Gods. Chaffing under the rule of Apsu and Tiamat, these “New” Gods decide kill Them. After the murder of Apsu, her mate, Tiamat wages war against Them. In desperation, the leaders of the “New” Gods, Anu, Enlil, and Enki seek out Marduk, the principal God of the Babylonians for his help. He, only, agrees to fight Tiamat, if They will make Him their ruler. Then after defeating Tiamat, Marduk remakes the world from her body, and assumes leadership over all the Gods.

 The Babylonians recited this myth every New Year, reminding themselves of their place in the universe. The subtext of the creation myth is that other peoples (including the Sumerians) ruled Mesopotamia before the coming of the Babylonians. After constant warfare by the others, the Babylonians came to establish law and order in the region. Mesopotamia was then recreated into a Babylonian construct.

 The movie, “Mobsters” (Michael Kabankoff, 1991), tells a similar story. Obviously, it is about the rise of Charles (Lucky) Luciano from a poor Sicilian immigrant to the boss of the new National Commission of the American mob. Although the film purports to depict an historical person and his deeds, the director and writer instead chose to only highlight certain elements of his life, and omit others. Moreover, they also added fictional elements to highlight their plot points. The result was a mythic retelling of Luciano as Marduk.

 At first glance, the pairing of the activities of American mobsters in the 1920s to the Creation Epic of the Babylonians seems absurd. However, there are subtle similarities such as two original bosses ruling the criminal underworld of New York City. Furthermore, the subtext of both are the same – the overthrow of the old order, a period of disarray, and finally the establishment of the new order. The original world that Luciano inhabits is ruled by two Sicilian bosses – Joe Masseria and Salavatore Faranzano. Like Tiamat and Apsu, these two bosses spawn other bosses, who chafe under their rule. Fearing usurpation, Masseria and Faranzano kill off the others first. The war between the two finally ends when Luciano kills them both, and recreates the Mob as his own construct.

 In both stories, ethnicity is stressed since new groups of peoples are moving in to replace the original groups. This is implied in the Babylonian epic with the Gods of the Sumerians becoming ruled by the Gods of the Babylonians. In Luciano’s world, Arnold Rothstein, who is Jewish, is the middle generation of bosses. Like Anu, Rothstein takes the next generation under his wing. He grooms the mixed ethnic group of Luciano, Frank Costello (Sicilian), Meyer Lansky (Russian Jew), and Bugsy Siegel (Ukrainian Jew) to be the future bosses.

Monday, February 16, 2015

SLOTH BEAR: Expand Your Perceptions

Known as the “Unbearlike” Bear, Sloth Bear defies most people’s ideas about Bears. Because of her slow gait and ability to live in trees, Sloth Bear was classified with Sloths. Adding to her slothlike characteristics, She also specializes in eating Termites and Ants. Because She lives in the tropics, Sloth Bear does not hibernate like other Bears.

However, Sloth Bear is from the oldest lineage of True Bears. She diverged from the main lineage of Bears about 6 million years ago. Scientists think that glaciers blocked her passage out of India. In her migration north, Sloth Bear was stopped at the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sloth Bear adapted to life in the Tropics by eating fruits and Insects.  By dragging her long front claws, She digs into Termite mounds. When Termites rush outside, Sloth Bear vacuums Them up, with her large mobile lips. In addition, her vacuuming is made easier by the lack of upper incisors in her jaw.

Sloth Bear lives a rich life. Spending time with Her Friends, She howls, roars, squeals, yelps, rattles, and gurgles with Them. Even when She suns Herself in a tree, Sloth Bear buzzes and hums. When She is out and about with Her Family, Sloth Bear Cub rides on Mother’s back. Father Sloth Bear travels with Them as well.

Sloth Bear changes people’s perceptions of Bears. In fact, She asks them to expand their notions of life. Regardless of what people think, Sloth Bear is all Bear, even when She is buzzing in her tree.
sloth bear

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

POLAR BEAR: Power of the Primeval

The largest carnivore on land, huge Polar Bear is well suited for life on the icy tundra. Strong and active, She has better eyesight than most Bears. The soles of her feet are covered with fur to give Her stability on the slippery ice. Polar Bear’s thick white coat traps warm insulating air, and also acts as a solar collector to keep Her warm. In addition, Polar Bear can stand high on her hind legs to scan the Arctic landscape.

Called “Ursus maritimus”, Polar Bear swims the seas like a seal. A fast swimmer, She uses her forepaws as flippers. Swimming from ice floe to ice floe, Polar Bear roams the frozen seas of the Arctic Nations, hunting from Russia to Greenland.

Feeding mainly on Seals, Polar Bear uses guile to hunt Them. She will pretend to be an ice chunk that just happens to drift by Bearded Seal. Not suspecting anything, Bearded Seal will surface next to the “ice chunk”.   Springing into action, Polar Bear lunges and kills Him in a single, powerful bite.

Polar Bear lives in a two-dimension world for sight in the Arctic and one-dimensional one during the long dark winters. For these reasons, She relies greatly on her sense of smell. Because the air is always moving, Polar Bear can smell the molecules of anything distances away.

Among the Inuit and Inupat, Polar Bear is a teacher. Since She showed them how to survive, they call Her “Person inside a bear hide”. With great reverence, they hunt Her, and also respectfully use her corpse.

Face to face with Polar Bear, a person feels her raw, wild power. Living in civilized places, most people rarely experience such power in its fullness. An encounter with Polar Bear is to come face to face with the primeval sense of life. Respect that power, and learn how to survive in your own Arctic wilderness.

polar bear hunting
Polar Bear’s Teachings Also Include:
“We are alone standing here. The only movement is the wind, our constant companion. And it comes, the sudden ghost-like appearance of the white bear moving silently, steadily across the gravel and ice-covered landscape.”   Copyright: “Bears of the World”, Terry Domico.