Sparrow Spelunker

To: PBS Kids

From: Rampage Productions

Subject: Sparrow Spelunker

Let’s not beat around the bush.

You have a thing for avians.

big bird

I have one lodged in the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

house sparrow

You could do with some fresh IP.

IP intellectual property

I need $100 to extract the fresh IP from the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

100 dollar bill

You seek to excite and education your young audience.

the more you know star

I suspect the three or four nanoseconds of life that sparrow had when it encountered the exhaust blower, which to him must have seemed like a ten thousand RPM birdie buzzsaw, were both exciting and educational.

furnace blower

So without further ado, I give you your children’s television flagship property: Sparrow Spelunker.

Sparrow Spelunker

Sparrow Spelunker

It’s a show as unafraid as its protagonist(s) to grapple with the tough issues.  Issues like:

  • Why you really shouldn’t go in there

  • What will happen to you if you go in there

  • How much it will cost some innocent homeowner to scrape you out again after you do go in there

This said, I admit the title of the series is somewhat misleading in using the singular form of sparrow – it will probably require a new protagonist pretty much every episode.  While this might seem like a lot of work from a characterization standpoint, I feel the script leaves both adequate room for characterization as well as presents the opportunity to vary the racial, familial, and political history of the sparrow for a true multicultural experience.  In fact, based on the flying communist who entered my furnace in an ill-fated attempt to seize the means of heat production, I’ve put together a script outline for your consideration.

  1. Opening theme

  2. Recap of previous week

    1. “O’ Righ’ – On last week’s episode o’ Sparrow Spelunker, ol’ SS explored the exhaust on a 100,000 BTU Luxair.  Didn’t end so well for him, poor chap.  But that was then, so hang onto yer hats, kiddies, ’cause this week we’re going in the intake o’ that same 100,000 BTU Luxaire!”

  3. Spelunking

  4. Audience of British-sounding-children, in Spongebob Squarepants fashion, shouts the show’s catchphase: “Oh no, Sparrow Spelunker!  You mustn’t spelunk in there!”

  5. Furnace fires up

  6. Closing theme

I also have drafts for other possible episodes of Sparrow Spelunker.  These include such exotic, spelunk-worthy locations as a wood chipper, a fractionating tower, a muscle car air intake, and – my personal favorite – the depths of some pachyderm’s wazoo.  The last, of course, is where I sincerely wish the sparrow that inspired all of this would have flown.  You know, instead of my furnace exhaust pipe.  I could have done without meeting the furnace repair guy, who in his defense was a very nice man and more than willing to convert a bird oubliette back into an exhaust pipe in return for a picture of Benjamin Franklin.

This, of course, is where you come in, PBS.  Just send that check to Rampage Productions.

And maybe a Sparrow Spelunker t-shirt.


The Size of Your Face

So if you needed another reason not to go to Sri Lanka, aside from ignorance of its geographic location and the fact it’s Sri Lanka, do I have a news article for you:

Tarantula the Size of a Human Face Discovered

Also, apparently, “the size of a human face” is now a standard unit of measurement when it comes to spiders.  Whose face?  I don’t know – presumably the guy running around shouting, “Help!  There’s a tarantula on my face!”

Apparently the Alien trilogy was shot in Sri Lanka.

Apparently, the Alien trilogy was shot in Sri Lanka.

Am I the only one who is neither excited nor titillated by the knowledge that we, as a species, have identified and cataloged a larger, scarier spider than we have ever cataloged before?  Call me short-sighted, but upon getting the phone call from some university or another going, “I hear they found a huge, creepy-ass spider out in Sri Lanka,” I fail to understand what motivates someone to go, “Gotta get me some of that!”  Thanks to this article, I spend my every waking moment terrified I will, spontaneously and accidentally, bi-locate to somewhere in Sri Lanka.  Furthermore, I have, and will continue to consider, doing something drastic enough to get on the government’s no-fly list just so I don’t find myself on a flight from Minneapolis to Chicago that diverts to Sri Lanka.  Yes, I understand the odds of these things are slim.  But that spider is real, and the odds cannot be slim enough.

Returning to the discussion of the spider, the article in question reads like the cliff notes for Arachnophobia.

The reason I carry an aerosol can and a lighter with me at all times.  ALL.  TIMES.

The reason I carry an aerosol can and a lighter with me at all times. ALL. TIMES.

If I might quote:

“The arachnid had originally been presented to [Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research organization] three years ago by villagers in Mankulam, who had killed a male specimen.”

At the request of the man in paragraph two, I would presume.

“Scientists immediately realised the dead spider was not like anything they already knew, and a group was charged with finding any living relatives.”

Presumably, the group doing the charging was their wives, and I’d hope the articulated mission was to ensure the living relatives in question were not living for long.

“It has been named Poecilotheria rajaei, in recognition of a senior police officer called Michael Rajakumar Purajah, who guided the research team through a hazardous jungle overrun by civil unrest in order to seek out the spider.”

On.  Your.  Face.

On. Your. Face.

Also, Poecilotheria rajaei just happens to be Sri Lankan for “Help – there’s a tarantula on my face.”

And if a spider the size of your face wasn’t enough to get you writing your congressman and demanding a tactical nuclear strike on Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte1, dig this.  Apparently, when pressed to provide a little more detail on the arachnid in question, their three adjectives of choice were “colourful, fast, and venomous.”  This inadvertently answers the questions of (1) how the spider ends up on your face and (2) what it does when it gets there.

It also raises questions as to what precisely happened to the previous village doctor, on which the article is silent – disturbingly so:

“They [the big @$$ spiders] prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation, the number have dwindled, and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings. […] The living Poecilotheria rajaei were eventually discovered in the former doctor’s quarters of the village’s hospital.”

Presumably the former doctor was not.  Before leaving on his flight to anyplace that was not Sri Lanka, my bet is that he was last heard telling the new village doctor, “Whatever you do, do not go in there.  There’s a spider the size of your face.”

1The capital of Sri Lanka, you geographic ignoramus.2

2Totally didn’t just look that up on Wikipedia.3

3Totally lying about not looking that up on Wikipedia.

The Invisible Man

Has anyone ever written about the slimming powers of camouflage?


That’s good.  It has none.

The other Wal-Mart shoppers never see him coming.

The other Wal-Mart shoppers never see him coming.

It does, or so I’m told, have the ability to drastically reduce the chance one will be gored, trampled, or otherwise molested by a wide assortment of woodland creatures.  This is a definite plus for the weekend warrior crowd who are forever attempting to prove the superiority of the species while cowering in a tree stand.  But to speak of it – it being camouflage – as a fashion statement…  What it states, boldly, is that the beer-gutted wearer has pretty much given up all pretense of attracting a suitable mate.

In short, while the deer may lose the battle, they just might win the war.

While we’re discussing the future, or want of it, for our species, I’ve recently become aware of a locale where the above points on style need to be made – namely the local boat, gun, and RV show.  Making said points via Jumbo-tron, in addition to being ironically appropriate, would probably net the best ROI, but it isn’t my first choice.  Personally, I’d like to print the opening three lines of this piece and nail them to the front door of the convention center, but I’m not sure if either basic literacy or the ability to appreciate an allusion to Martin Luther can be expected in my target audience.  Based on my experiences, I’m thinking not.

If you think this is a history book…you might be a redneck.

If you think this is a history book…you might be a redneck.

Here the question arises as to what precisely I was doing in said environs, given that my first response upon encountering a squirrel, rabbit, or small dog is not, “I could shoot that and eat it,” accompanied by the sound of something ricocheting off a spittoon.  Well…correction – the dog sometimes sends the ol’ train of consciousness down those particular rails, but that’s usually because the dog is crapping in my azaleas and deserves to die.  No, my presence at the venue was tied up in the doings of some event organizer who had negotiated the temporary import of a couple dozen exotic animals.  Yes, you read that right.  Endangered species.  Readily available firearms.  Wisconsinites of dubious sobriety.  And last but not least, beer served right there at the event – serendipity or stupidity?  Only time and the local news would tell.

Yet before inebriation attempted to blend itself with a spontaneous exercise of second amendment rights, I had high hopes of using the fauna as a diversion for my daughter, who is approaching two and self-identifies as a guinea pig.  I saw the proceedings as an opportunity to either let her gape at strange and exotic creatures, hopefully prior to taxidermy, or as a chance to reunite her with her own kind – provided I could discretely pitch her into a pen without her mother noticing.

Hey – anyone else that has had any two-year-old in their care for any length of time has thought exactly the same thing.

Yet to return, after much meandering, to the subject of camouflage and what it will and will not do for its wearer: I’m convinced that if the RVs had been replaced with some sort of indoor forest, all the attendees still would have looked ridiculous – just fractionally less so.  Though camouflage was the unofficial dress code of the day, given the complete dearth of greenery, I found myself questioning if anyone actually understood how the fabric worked.  Or was the go-to assumption that it magically makes you invisible?  One oversized, camo-clad guy, manning some sort of hunting booth on a crowded exhibition floor, was blissfully sitting in a camouflage chair eating popcorn from a large tub.  He was shoving so much in his mouth at once that he had to hold the tub under his chin to catch what wouldn’t fit as it fell back into the tub.  It was hard not to stare – partially because he put off measureable units of gravity, but I’ll try to keep the fat jokes to a minimum…though such is difficult since the fat jokes practically write themselves.

My wife, whose knowledge of hunting starts and ends with Jane Austen novels where men with British accents and uncomfortably tight pants potter around for a couple hours before tea, expressed bemusement that it was a boat, gun, and RV show, as if the third was some sort of non-sequitur.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, she was laboring under the assumption that our woodlands were being depopulated by sinewy men with facial hair best described as “robust” and not those who could have served as stunt doubles for Rover in The Prisoner.

The Great White Hunter

The Great White Hunter

Needless to say, she knows better now.