Animals Love Him, Too (Nom Nom Nom)

Last week, quite a few readers wanted to report an “error.” Here’s the story, from the 10 October (10/10/10!) issue:

Animal Lover

“I figured I’d trap it and try to get it some medical attention,” said Alexander Alcantare. He had spotted an injured 8-foot alligator in Miami-Dade, Fla., so he “baited a hook, I got it, [and] I brought it over here,” he said. But “I couldn’t really handle him too good,” he said, perhaps because he only has one arm — he lost the other in a previous animal rescue attempt. The gator bit his remaining arm. He also says he was attacked by a tiger during a trip to the Congo. “That’s what happens when you deal with wild animals,” Alcantare said, “you’re going to get bitten.” Alcantare, who wasn’t severely injured, says he’s a hero, but because the gator bit a human, wildlife officials say it must be destroyed. Also, Alcantare complained, “Somehow, I ended up with a citation, and I gotta get a permit for my raccoon.” (WTVJ Miami, CNN) …He sounds like the kind of guy who shouldn’t be allowed to have a goldfish without a permit.

The relevant sentence: “He also says he was attacked by a tiger during a trip to the Congo.”


After a flood of reports of my “error,” I finally put a note on the errata page, “Come on! The ‘tiger in the Congo’ isn’t an error, it’s part of the point!” Happily, that settled it …for the Premium subscribers. Some free subscribers weren’t quite that smart about it.

You guessed it: even though that note was on the errata page, I still got plenty of reports about it. One specific obliviot even made reference to it, saying “While listed above it states that it is not an error but a point. It is a flagrant error.”

So even when told there’s a point to it, some completely missed the point!

Geography Challenged

Pretty much, every story in This is True tells about an idiot doing something stupid. Are readers supposed to report the idiot’s “error” to me so I can “correct” it in the record? Obviously not. So why is this idiot any different?

OK, so the real question is, why is it that so many people think it’s smart to say “No, it’s not!” so they can show off their “superior knowledge,” but actually instead are showing off how stupid they are? Or, at least, how slow their thinking is, even if they really ought to know better?

At least quite a few people extended the humor of the situation, with a comment along the lines of, “Was he in the Congo to visit a zoo?” There is the difference between an obliviot and someone who thinks to not only get the point, but to get an extra laugh.

So yeah: the obliviot in the story has a bit of a geography problem: the Congo, which is in Africa, doesn’t have tigers in the wild; they live in Asia. So when the story notes, “He also says he was attacked by a tiger during a trip to the Congo,” the point, dear readers, is the “Animal Lover” really is an obliviot that knows little about animals when he lies about his exploits.

But then, we knew that from the story! So there is no error in the story which needs to be “corrected” on the errata page.

The Previous “Rescue”

Bandit in New Mexico wondered, “You didn’t say what the animal that got his arm was. I’d give my left arm to know.” (Bandit has written before: he types with one hand since that’s all he has; naturally, he has a special interest in our hapless Animal Lover).

Our Hapless Hero Alexander Alcantare tells a reporter about how he nearly lost his remaining arm.

Well, Mr. Alcantare lost his arm to …a bird!

OK, not exactly. The previous botched “animal rescue” he was involved in had to do with a bird’s nest that he judged was in peril because it was on an electric fence.

Never mind that the birds using it were fine until HE got there; their legs weren’t long enough to reach the ground to complete a circuit, yaknow?

Anyway, naturally he got zapped by the fence so badly that it put him into cardiac arrest, and he had to be rescued by someone who knew CPR. And his arm was so badly burned by the jolt that it needed to be amputated, and that’s how he lost it. (And what do you want to bet that the bird(s) he was trying to rescue ended up as dead as the gator?)

Just how stupid was Alcantare? I mean, besides trying to “rescue” animals that he should leave at an arm’s length? (Heh heh heh.) When he went after the gator, he waded into the water where it was. Just where would an alligator have the best advantage over a human? Yep: in the water.

Last, if you’re curious about the “nom nom nom” meme referred to in the title of this post, it’s from the Cookie Monster, but probably best personified by this video:

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10 Comments on “Animals Love Him, Too (Nom Nom Nom)

  1. So you’re talking about people who can’t see the forest for the trees? They get so bogged down in details that they miss the point of the story?

    There was a time at a party when the DJ played an old 1961 hit from Little Eva called “The Locomotion.” One guy pushing 30 tried to show off his age by remembering the “original” by Van Halen. Us older ones had to remind him that it was Little Eva that was the actual original. Interestingly, in retelling the story, most people would miss the point of his attempt to appear older and knowledgeable because they immediately bogged down on the fact that Van Halen never did “Locomotion”, but rather Grand Funk.

    Now watch someone bog down on the fact that it was actually a 1962 hit, or that “Us older ones” is grammatically incorrect.

  2. Whoa, really? An electric fence strong enough to put him into cardiac arrest? You use “naturally”, which makes me think this isn’t strange.

    It’s strange to me that that is allowed.

    Actually, I meant the “naturally” in the sense that if a guy that dumb is going to fool with an electric fence, “naturally” he’d get zapped. Such fences for animal control aren’t likely to have enough current to actually hurt someone like this, but security fences (such as around a prison) often pack a real jolt. The articles I read did not give information on where this happened, or what sort of fence it was. -rc

  3. As infuriating as it might be to continually get these emails from the many many MANY that miss the humor…even after it has been patiently explained to them… it sure does afford a small dose of extra snarky fun to my morning. That is completely selfish, I realize, and I would like to thank you for wading through those comments and sharing it with the rest of us. I cannot, however, thank you for the coffee I aspirated when I read it. Maybe attach a warning: Do not sip hot beverages while reading.

    Though come to think of it… I really ought to have known better anyway.

    I like the way you reply to your own argument. But yes, I’ve long understood that a significant function of the complaints is to entertain the people who “get it”! -rc

    • Some of the News groups (when that was how items were passed), would have a note at the top “Keyboard Alert!”, meaning “Put your coffee down before reading This!”

      Which I pretty much figure is a given for any reader opening This is True at any time. -rc

  4. Although not relevant to this story, there once were tigers in Africa — the name was used for big cats other than lions in the Dark and Middle Ages, especially jaguars in the early days of European exploration of the Americas and cheetahs in Africa.

  5. Just a thought, but maybe Alexander Alcantare didn’t make a mistake in the comment “He also says he was attacked by a tiger during a trip to the Congo.” It is quite possible that he passed thru Asia on his way to the Congo (his real destination and why he phrased it so) and just happened to see a tiger while in Asia.

    You’re certainly charitable! -rc

  6. It is great that you treat your subscribers as intelligent and knowledgeable people but sadly it was your assumption that subscribers are already aware of Africa’s lack of tigers that allowed the less perceptive among them to infer that you had made an error.

    You could perhaps have avoided the hassle by making it clearer that the “tiger in the Congo” was part of the point. Even just writing “He also claims” rather than “He also says” might have made a difference. As a journalist, I have often resorted to verbs such as “claim”, allege” and “maintain” when reporting questionable statements.

    I think you missed the point. Those who don’t know where the Congo is, or don’t know there are no tigers in Africa, wouldn’t consider that there’s an error. Those who do know it made a stupid assumption: that the error was mine, even though the story clearly notes I’m not saying that, but the guy in the story is. Thus it’s patently obvious who made the error — and it wasn’t me! -rc

  7. Losing one’s arm to an electric fence is about as believable as wrestling a tiger in the Congo. Just about the only place you could find a fence carrying a lethal charge like that would be the border between North and South Korea.

    Good point. I hope that there’s some verification of the story (e.g., the newspaper found an earlier report). But we’ve often seen reporters swallow some incredible — as in not credible — stories. -rc

  8. Regarding the electrocution of the self-professed hero, one report at the time of the gator incident notes that he said it was a power line and not an electric fence that did the deed. Plus, he says he baited a hook to lure the gator to shore before wrestling it, so wasn’t quite so foolhardy as to wade into the canal to pull it out as stated in another comment.

    I can only go with the reports I see, but it doesn’t shock me to think his story might change over time. -rc

  9. Could not resist. I sometimes tell kids I’m Amos Moses and they wrote this song about me. (Yes. I’m going for *years* of therapy :^)

    Bandit is mentioned in my write-up above. -rc


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