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On the Lam: 8 Great Animal Chases

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These animals wanted to break free—and they did, if only for a little while, leading authorities on chases that were thrilling and, sometimes, adorable.

1. A “UNICORN”

Last week, authorities took part in a chase that feels like it would only be possible in fairy tales. A 600-pound Shetland pony named Juliet escaped a Madera Ranchos, California photoshoot, where she was dressed as a unicorn and posing with children, twice. The first escape, which occurred around 2:30 p.m., had the California Highway Patrol officer who took the call scratching his head. “Initially he thought it might be somebody out there on drugs, seeing things,” CHP spokesman Josh McConnell told the Los Angeles Times. “It was a little unreal to hear calls of a unicorn running around on the roadway.” Juliet’s owner, photographer Sandra Boos, was able to capture her quickly, and the photoshoot continued.

Then, around 5:30 p.m., Juliet got loose again—and this time, capturing her wasn’t so easy. Boos told USA Today that the pony “threw up her head,” pulled free of the lead rope, and ran for it. “I was shooting,” Boos said, “but I assume she got free and was like, ‘Oh, well I’m going to run,’ and she took off.”

For the next four hours, CHP tried to catch the horse, using a helicopter and thermal imaging to track her. Eventually, Juliet hid in an orchard; she was only captured when Boos’s friend rode up on a horse named Shady—an animal Juliet was familiar with. The horse whinnied at Juliet, who whinnied back and came out of hiding, following Shady into a pen. After the police declared that “the unicorn is in custody,” Boos received a warning. "I'll continue taking photos with the pony,” Boos told the LA Times. “But we're going to decide exactly what we need to do to make sure we don't have a repeat performance.”

2. TWO LLAMAS

On February 26, 2015, a llama farmer brought three of his animals to GenCare Lifestyle at the Carillons, an assisted living facility in Sun City, Arizona, to visit with residents. The visit, community director Stephanie Schmidt told the Los Angeles Times, “went great. Everyone was really happy. It was wonderful.”

Then, when the animals’ owner was loading the llamas back into his trailer to take them home, something spooked them—and two bolted. What would come to be dubbed "The Great Llama Chase of 2015" had begun. 

At first, workers at GenCare and the llamas’ owner tried to catch the animals, but soon realized they needed more help—so they called 911, which sent officers from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Soon, helicopters overhead were following the llamas’ every move, and the feed was live-streamed on the Internet. (A third llama also briefly escaped, but was quickly caught.)

For about an hour, work ground to a halt across America as people watched the two llamas—one large and white, one smaller and dark-colored—take a trip through Sun City, evading lassos and dodging cars. It was the Ford Bronco chase of the 21st century—but, you know, with llamas, Twitter hashtags (#llamas, #llamasontheloose, #llamadrama), and memes instead of OJ.

The llamas were separated for a bit, then found each other again. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually, the little llama was captured. The larger llama continued the run alone for another 15 minutes before it, too, was lassoed. The animals were, thankfully, unharmed: Their owner told Schmidt that they were “just tired.”

3. A TORTOISE

When his owners went to a baseball game in August 2014, Clark saw an opportunity. The 150-pound sulcata tortoise escaped from his Alhambra, California home and went for a walk in his neighborhood. But he didn’t make it far. Animal Control employee Ruth Jauregui told the Los Angeles Times that “I think it pushed something out of the way and got out and it went a few houses down,” where someone spotted the tortoise and called police. “The tortoise did try to make a run for it; but, our officers are pretty fast,” the Alhambra Police Department noted on its Facebook page. “Almost had a pursuit! It took two officers to take this guy into custody because it weighs about 150 pounds (and our cuffs ... well not practical in this situation).” Clark, who an expert estimated was 18 or 20 years old, was reunited with his family the next day. Sulcata tortoises can live to be up to 100 years old.

4. GOATS

Around 1:15 p.m. on March 26, 2015, Seattle police received a call about a group of kids—the goat kind—chasing another group of kids, this time of the human variety. Around 10 goats had escaped from a yard and were roaming in the streets, according to the Seattle Times, when a passerby called the police. They were able to capture the animals “after a brief hoof chase,” police spokesman Drew Fowler said, and the goats were taken to animal control. They were eventually reunited with their owner, who tweeted, “for the record, they love kids.” The Seattle PD had fun with the incident, modifying the poster for Steve McQueen’s The Great Escape (calling it “The Goat Escape” starring “Steve BaaQueen”) for a post on its blotter.

5. A SHETLAND PONY

Shortly after 2 p.m. on January 24, 2016, Sussex Police were called in to help capture an escaped Shetland Pony. It took four police units 45 minutes to snag the pony, which led them on an epic chase through a housing development, and the whole thing was captured on video. The pony was eventually captured and sent to the RSPCA to be reunited with its owner.

6. AN ANTELOPE

Brownsville, Texas resident Jose Antonio Davila was driving down the street with his wife on February 18, 2015 when he spotted a kudu in the street. The large antelope was “running right in front of our car," Davila told the San Antonio Express-News. The animal, which lived at the city’s Gladys Porter Zoo, was in the process of being transferred when it escaped and led police on a chase through downtown Brownsville, according to the Express-News.

The animal managed to elude capture for several days before it was spotted near the Amigoland Events Center. The zoo brought in a helicopter; a tranquilizer dart was fired at the kudu, which went down around three minutes later and was captured without incident.

The antelope, which had been brought to the zoo from a ranch for mating purposes, was then placed under quarantine for a month. The zoo held a contest to name him—the staff picked five names, and the public settled on “Kudini”—before ultimately returning him to the ranch. “After watching this animal closely for over 30 days, we just don’t think he will ever feel comfortable in close proximity to people,” Walter DuPree, the zoo’s mammal curator, told the Valley Morning Star. “Many antelope adapt, but not this one.”

7. ZEBRAS

In April 2015, seven zebras escaped from a ranch near Brussels, Belgium. According to Marc Luyckx, who lived near the ranch and was reportedly there when the zebras escaped, the animals broke through an electric fence that wasn't working. "Normally they are quiet ... They [became] nervous and broke out into the street," he told a local news station (according to Google Translate). "The impossible has happened." Four of the rogue zebras were captured almost immediately, but three took a tunnel into the city, where they walked along a canal and and led up to five police cars on a chase for more than half an hour. The animals’ escape came to an end when they were cornered, tranquilized, and taken back to their ranch.

8. A FLAMINGO

Screenshot versus KTXS

Flamingos might be the best animal escape artists: They frequently take off from zoos, so staff there try to keep their wings clipped. The flamingo that flew the coop at Texas’s Abilene Zoo in December 2013 was with a group of birds heading into a barn to have their wings checked when it caught a gust of wind, flew over the fence, and landed in a nearby lake. "The flamingo was perfectly content in the lake," Abilene Zoo Director Bill Gersonde told local news station KTXS. "He was out swimming and having a great time." Workers chased the bird for about an hour before one of them was able to jump in and grab it. The bird was reportedly stressed but OK.

BONUS: PEOPLE DRESSED AS ANIMALS "ESCAPING" FROM ZOOS

It's important to be prepared—and that's something zoos in Japan take to heart. There, staff hold drills to prepare for animal escapes in the event their enclosures are destroyed by an earthquake. Someone dresses up like an animal, and the employees work to subdue, capture, and transport that "animal" back to its enclosure. The results are delightful; below, video of drills shows just how wonderful they can be.

This drill took place at Tama Zoo in Hino, Japan, last year. "We focused on making this drill as realistic as possible. One of our staff being knocked down, injured and then being knocked unconscious and going into cardiac arrest was a part of that," Yutaka Fukada, director of the zoo, told the International Business Times. Children weren't scared by the leopard, which was a bummer to the man playing him: "Personally I feel I did my best but it didn't work for kids. I'm a bit disappointed," Toshiya Nomura said.

This year, Yumi Tamura, a primate keeper at Ueno Zoo in Taito, Japan, dressed as a zebra for the drill, which involved 150 zoo employees as well as members of the local police and fire departments. "The zebra is an animal that easily panics," she said. "I myself felt panicky when acting it out." The director of the zoo, Toshimitsu Doi, said that "When you're doing everyday work as part of a routine, you forget what it's like when something out of the ordinary happens. It's important to take these opportunities to remember what needs to be done."

In 2012, Ueno Zoo made a giant papier mâché rhino that was piloted by two employees. According to The Telegraph, "simpler costumes are sometimes used, but the zoo's director explained that the more realistic papier mâché rhino was used this year for its 'impact.'"

For this 2014 drill at Ueno, zookeeper Natsumi Uno donned a gorilla costume. "In our work there may be times when we need to capture an animal, but we would never be the ones being captured," Uno said. "So I tried to feel what an animal might feel and realized when they were on the run they would be scared. That's how I felt."

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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