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Eating Aliens: One Man's Answer to Invasive Species

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Back in high school daze, my buddy Jackson Landers was a hyperactive polymath who could always be counted on to have the most interesting summer plans. One year he swore he was going to walk to Peru and back from his house in Virginia. The crazy thing is, we all believed we would actually follow through with it. He was that kind of guy: seemingly knowledgeable about everything, entirely convincing, and just a teensy bit nuts (in a charming way). I lost track of Jackson for a few years but caught up with him recently, only to find that he's become a hunting instructor and locavore activist -- which means, among other things, that he teaches urban foodies how to hunt and kill and field-dress their own venison.

He was horrified by a recent massacre of 400 Canada geese in Brooklyn's Prospect Park -- the city claimed they posed a hazard to passing aircraft, and perhaps they did -- but it was more the method of their disposal Jackson took issue with. They were gassed to death and tossed into a landfill. “I saw people saying you can’t eat them, and I knew that wasn’t true,” he said, quoted in a recent New York Times article. "Canada geese, Mr. Landers said, taste better than most species of duck. Their diets are more consistent. 'They’re herbivores, grazers,” he said. “In Prospect Park, they’re eating mown grass.'"

So he organized a workshop to teach Brooklynites how to cook goose.

“When people think goose, they think something out of Charles Dickens, that it’s this big thing that you have to roast whole like a Christmas turkey,” Mr. Landers said by phone. “My theme is going to be casual goose. You can take that goose and just do it like fried chicken. You can take the meat off the bones and run it through a grinder and you’ve got gooseburgers.”

It was a practical solution to a pesky problem -- what to do with invasive or otherwise troublesome species, besides throw them away? In a world where so many go hungry every day, and in which privileged westerners are becoming more adventurous about what they eat all the time (in LA, for instance, tongue and brain tacos on a menu are more likely to provoke curiosity than gagging), the answer seemed obvious: eat them. And that is the concept behind Jackson's proposed new reality show, Eating Animals. Check out the trailer and let us know what you think in the comments!

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A trailer for Jackson Landers’s proposed show about eating invasive species.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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