When tourism ceased, property prices fell, and the legal system in Fiji was in chaos, Alex Mason hastily buys property, at bargain-bin rates. He then widely proclaims his intention of building a state-of-the-art tourist aquarium, which the country's self-appointed coup government, beleaguered by international disapproval and a rapidly collapsing economy, felt was a much-needed feather in their cap.
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Alex's wife, Vicky Mason, has long been waiting for her marriage to "come right. Under Fijian law, "desertion" would give him grounds for divorce and custody of the children. If she leaves without her beloved son and daughter, she may never see them again. Alex has removed the children's passports. She cannot, will not, leave.
A battle of wits and wills ensues. Vicki soon comes to understand how powerless her position is. Aside from a few pops at celebrity adoptions and a joke involving a Giant Panda, Tropic Thunder is woefully stale in its humor. The jokes, an amalgamation of F-bombs and noxious sight gags designed to appease the male age bracket, are nasty, rude and crude.
The taboo button-pushing assault quickly loses its luster, as the script penned by Stiller, Etan Cohen no relation to Ethan Coen and Justin Theroux breaches into obtuse tastelessness. With its forced humor and expected objects of jest, Tropic Thunder lacks any genuine comedic punch. Neither a well-thought out satire of Hollywood institutions nor the war film genre in general, Tropic Thunder is a sprawling, indolent mess.
John Burroughs expresses the opinion that birds have perceptions, but not conceptions; that they recognise a certain fact, but are incapable of applying the fact to another case. I am almost convinced that some birds are capable of logical actions under circumstances absolutely new to them, and as a bright and shining affirmation quote "Baal Burra.
Are you sure?
It came as the gift of a human derelict, who knew how to gain the confidence of dumb creatures, though society made of him an Ishmaelite. Vivacious, noisy, loving the nectar of flowers and the juices of fruits, Baal Burra was phenomenal in many winsome ways, but in a spirit of rare self denial I refrain from the pleasure of chronicling some of them in order to give place to instance and proof of the reasoning powers of an astonishingly high order. Are apologies to be offered, too, for the homeliness of the example--its unrelieved domesticity?
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I must begin at the very beginning lest some necessary point be lost, and the beginning is porridge! A small portion was invariably left for Baal Burra. On the morning of this strange history a miniature lagoon, irregular in shape, of porridge and milk had settled in the very centre of the dry desert of plate. In response to customary summons to breakfast, Baal Burra skipped along the veranda.
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It was a daily incident, and no one took particular notice until unusual exclamations on the part of the bird denoted something extraordinary. By circumnavigating the plate and at the same time stretching its neck to the utmost it had contrived to convert the shapeless lagoon into a perfectly symmetrical pond just out of the reach of the stubby tongue. Hence the scolding. Three witnesses--each ardently on the side of the bird--watched intently. Decently mannered, it refused to clamber on to the edge of the plate, for it was ever averse from defilement of food.
The tit-bit was just beyond avaricious exertions--just at that tantalising distance and just so irresistibly desirable as might be directly stimulative of original enterprise towards acquirement. The chatter and abuse continued for a couple of minutes. Then the bird stood still while seeming to reflect, with wise head askew after the manner of other thinkers. Hurrying, to its playthings--which happened to be at the far end of the veranda--it selected a matchbox, dragged it clatteringly along, ranged it precisely close to the plate, mounted it, and from the extra elevation sipped the last drop with a chuckle of content.
That the bird on deliberation conceived the scheme for over-reaching the coveted food I have not the slightest doubt. Baal Burra bestowed frank friendship on a fat, good-humoured, yellow cat, fond of luxury and ease during the day, a "rake-helly" prowler at night. Into Sultan's fur Baal Burra would burrow, not without occasional result, if the upbraiding tongue was to be believed.
Baal Burra would fill its lower mandible with water from a drinking dish and tip it neatly into the cat's ear, and scream with delight as Sultan shook his sleepy head. To dip the tip of the cat's tail into the water and mimic the scrubbing of the floor was an everyday pastime. In addition to being an engineer and a comedian the bird was also a high tragedian. In the cool of the evening upon the going down of the sun the cat and the bird would set out together to the accustomed stage. Baal Burra burrowing through the long grass, painfully slow and cheeping plaintively, while Sultan stalked ahead mewing encouragingly.
The tragedy, which was in one act, was repeated so often that each became confidently proficient, while the setting--free from the constraints of space--helped towards that degree of deception which is the highest form of art. Baal Burra was, of' course, the engaging and guileless victim, while Sultan, with triumphant realism, rehearsed a scene ruthlessly materialised elsewhere. Climbing into a low-growing bush, Baal Burra would become preoccupied, innocently absorbed in an inspection of the young shoots and tender leaves which it seemed to caress.
Assuming a ferocious mien, Sultan approached soliloquising, no doubt, "Ah, here is another silly wild-fowl! Come, let me indulge my bloodthirstiness! After two or three preliminary feints for the perfect adjustment of his faculties and pose, he bounded into the air with distended talons well over his screeching playmate. The scene would be rehearsed several times before Sultan, tired of mummery and eager for actualities, slunk yawling into the bush, while Baal Burra, whimpering in the dusk, waddled home to be caged.
Being a previously recorded fact, the first is excusable only on the grounds of its applicability to a debatable point. On a remote spot in a very rough and rugged locality, hemmed in by immense blocks of granite, is a large incubating mound. Save at one point it is encompassed by rocks, but the opening does not grant facilities for the accumulation of vegetable debris, yet the mound continually increases in dimensions.
At first glance there seems no means by which such a large heap could have been accumulated for the birds do not carry their materials, but kick and scratch them to the site. A hasty survey shows that the birds have taken advantage of the junction of two impending rocks which form a fortuitous shoot down which to send the rubbish with the least possible exertion on their part.
The shoot is always in use, for the efficacy of the mound depends upon the heat generated by actually decaying vegetation. Did the birds think out this simple labour-saving method before deciding on the site for the mound, or was it a gracious afterthought--one of those automatic impulses by which Nature confronts difficulties? As I wandered on the hilltops far from home I was astonished when Tom, the cutest of black boys, dropped on his knees to investigate a crevice between two horizontal slabs of granite filled with dead leaves and loam.
The spot, bare of grass, was about twenty yards from the edge of a fairly thick, low-growing scrub where scrub fowls are plentiful. I was inclined to smile when he said, "Might be hegg belonga scrub hen sit down! A more unlikely spot for a scrub fowl to lay, could hardly be imagined. There was no mound, the crevice being merely filled flush, and the vegetable rubbish packed between the flat rocks did not appear to be sufficient in quantity to generate in its decay the temperature necessary to bring about incubation. Yet the egg was warm, and upon reflecting that the sun's rays keep the granite slabs in the locality hot during the day, so hot, indeed, that there is no sitting down on them with comfort, I perceived that here was evidence on which to maintain an argument of rare sagacity on the part of the bird, and that the hypothesis might be thus stated: This cool-footed cultivator of the jungle floor had during the casual rambling on sunlit spaces become conscious of the heat of the rocks.
Being impressed, she surveyed the locality, and of her deliberate purpose selected a spot for the completion of her next ensuing maternal duties which, while it scandalised the traditions of her tribe, presented unrealised facilities. This was a natural incubator, certainly, but superior to those in common use in that the solar heat stored by the stone during the day rendered superfluous any large accumulation of vegetable matter.
Surely it is but a short and easy step from the perception of solar heat to the conception that such heat would assist in the incubation of eggs. None but a mound-builder who, of course, must have general knowledge on the subject of temperatures and the maintenance thereof, could conceive that these heated rocks would obviate the labour of raking together a mass of rubbish.
Further, her inherent perception that moist heat due to the fermentation was vital towards the fulfilment of her hopes of posterity would avert the blunder of trusting to the dry rocks alone. The hot rocks and a small quantity of decaying leaves stood in her case for a huge mound, innocent of extraneous heat.
Having, therefore more time to scratch for her living, she would naturally become a more robust bird, more attractive to the males, and the better qualified to transmit her exceptional mental qualities to her more numerous offspring. These are the bare facts. Let those who believe that birds are capable of taking the step from the fact to the principle continue the trains of thought into which they inevitably lead.
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Will this particular scrub fowl by force of her accidental discovery start a revolutionary change in the life-history of mound-builders generally? Or will the bird? But there are the facts to conjure or to play with. Gould informs me is also an Indian species. Sixty-one years had passed since Macgillivray's visit, during which no knowledge of the life-history of the bird which spends most of its time hawking for insects in sunshine and shower had been revealed, when a fragment of a nest adhering to the roof of a cave on one of the highest points of the Island attracted attention.
Submitted to an expert Mr. Campbell, of Melbourne, Victoria , the identity of the builder was guessed. Subsequently I had the satisfaction of finding a colony close to the water's edge, on the weather side, where the birds had frequently been seen darting among blocks of granite almost obscured by jungle. No nests were found in crevices deemed to be favourable spots, though the predilection of the genus for gloom was appreciated, but upon the exploration of a confined cave the excited flutterings of invisible birds betrayed a hitherto well-kept secret.
When my eyes became accustomed to the dimness I saw that the roof of the cave which is fairly smooth and regular with an inclination of about thirty degrees was studded with nests.