Christopherson Column - On masks, Bezos, and 'brood parasitism'

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Today’s random thought trio:

    • It’s tough to get a read on mask-clad people, much less recognize them

    • How Jeff Bezos got so rich

    • If cowbirds were human, we’d despise them

On masks    

    People say you can learn a lot about a person just by looking in their eyes, but that notion has been debunked of late with so many people wearing masks when they’re out and about. Sure, a person’s eyes are potentially a great indicator, but you’re going to know a lot more about a person’s current state of mind if you can also catch a glimpse of the rest of their face.

    But what about the challenge of simply recognizing someone in a mask?

    Case in point, an exchange at the store the other day. Yes, it was the liquor store:

    She was getting her free bag of ice with her purchase and her hands were a bit full, so I held the freezer lid open for her.

    “Oh, thanks, Mike!” she said with an invigorating level of enthusiasm.

    “No problem,” I said.

    We made a little more small talk as we headed out the door, and I said something about how wearing a mask makes it hard to recognize people.

    “Oh, I know,” the tall blonde replied. “And no one can tell if I’m wearing my amazing new lipstick!”

    “I hear you,” I replied. “No one can see my amazing new lipstick, either.”

    “Oh, Mike, you’re funny!” she said as she put her ice and beverages in her SUV and I strolled toward my pickup.

    Nice lady. Wonder who she was...

On Jeff Bezos    

    Anyone into watching television via the many streaming services available knows that Prime Video from Amazon has the most impressive lineup of programming. And once the Prime Video privacy-stealers data-mine your brain and conjure up the menu heading, “Movies We Think You’ll Like,” the long list of new and older films that pops up that are some of my all-time favorites is both amazing and frightening at the same time.

   I wanted to watch one the other day, not even the whole thing, but just my favorite scene from the 2005 Viggo Mortenson film, “A History of Violence.” But I didn’t, because to watch this 15-year-old movie was going to cost me $3.99. So I started clicking on other movies Amazon thinks I’ll like, the vast majority of them several years old, like “The Revenant” and “Gladiator” and “Into the Wild.” None were free to watch, even though we pay for Prime Video through our membership in Amazon Prime.

    I relayed this dismaying discovery to a friend, who cut right to the chase.

    “Well, Jeff Bezos didn’t get to be the richest man in the world without being a (rhymes with Rick),” he said.

On evil (but admittedly genius) cowbirds

    What must bird society, or perhaps the entire animal kingdom, think of cowbirds? If cowbirds were human, one would think they’d be universally vilified, maybe even imprisoned.

    While some will say it’s all part of the so-called “circle of life” and that “only the strong survive,” cowbirds are bad news, man.

    They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. It’s called “brood parasitism.” Then the other mom and dad birds take care of the cowbird eggs along with their own, and when they hatch, they care for and feed the cowbird babies along with their own. Problem is, the cowbird babies are much larger than the other babies, like chipping sparrows or yellow warblers, so typically they get so much of the food that the other tiny babies get shoved aside and starve to death.

    Among the feeders in our yard is a wooden platform on which I sprinkle sunflower seeds. The other day, there it all played out before my eyes on the piece of plywood...a tiny chipping sparrow parent frantically shoving seeds into the gaping beak of a squawking cowbird baby about four times bigger than its “parent.” I observed through the window, as a simmer of anger became a full boil or rage inside me.

    The next day, there they were again, on the ground this time, and I swear I saw sweat beading up on that poor chipping sparrow’s feathers as it fed that obnoxious beast seed after seed after seed. Or was the moisture actual tears? After all, how many cute chipping sparrow babies died so that big bird could live, I wondered.

    I grabbed my pellet gun and blasted a hole in the circle of life.