Today has an animal theme: ferret legging, the legendary tanuki, dog spinning, and Acoustic Kitty.
The CIA has a reputation for hatching crazy espionage plans and kooky James Bond-esque spy gadgets. While I'm sure that the myth is exaggerated, they have had some doozies to their name, including the Acoustic Kitty of the 1960s. As the name implies, cats were used as listening devices. Battery-powered microphones and an antenna were surgically implanted into a feline's tail, then the cat was placed in a location to eavesdrop on the target(s). However, they found the cats notoriously difficult to control, especially regarding direction, distraction, and food. The only recorded operation was in a park near the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C., but ended in failure when Agent Whiskers was hit by a taxi. I think they were just using the wrong cats and training methods; I adopted a pair in 2006, and the male generally comes when called, and will sometimes tolerate a harness and leash when I bribe him with food. Failing that, they could have tried with dogs, but they elected to abandon the $20 million project instead.
My cats attempted to hack into a DoD network from my laptop. Unfortunately, all they found was a Rickroll video.

I've heard of some crazy "sports" before, like Alaskan ear pulling and such, but the idea of ferret legging really takes the asinine cake. A male-only competition revolving around stuffing live ferrets down your trousers (sans underpants) and being that last one to release them sounds more like an episode of Jackass than a legitimate sport. It supposedly came about by an English law prohibiting the ownership of pets by commoners, so they would hide them in their pants... legend aside, the modern iteration was popular in the 1970s. The current world record is five minutes and twenty seconds, and despite that record having been set in 2005, the sport is generally regarded as dying.
Would you be able to endure this bugger gnawing on your junk?

Another strange ritual is dog spinning (in Bulgarian: тричане на куче(та)). As the name implies, a dog is suspended above water with a rope and spun. The rope is coiled taut, and the natural tension of the rope's coil unwinding will spin the dog. This pagan ritual, practiced by Brodilovo village in southeaster Bulgaria, was supposed to prevent or cure rabies in a canine. However, concerns about animal welfare led the mayor of Tsarevo to ban the practice in 2006. I know that practicing medicine in ages past were more about doing random stuff to make your patient think you're helping than actual treatment, but this makes less sense than snake oil and acupuncture... just what was the spinning supposed to do? Ward off evil spirits? At least giving the dog herbs or a tonic might have been a plausible cure.

Finally, the legendary tanuki refers to the Japanese Raccoon Dog (which actually descends from wolves and foxes rather than raccoons or badgers). While the species Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus lacks taxonomic interest, the Japanese folklore is. In myth, they are benevolent but mischievous shape shifters that are jolly, but sometimes match their cunning with gullibility. Kamakura era (roughly 200 years between 1100 and 1300) depictions sometimes have them with comically exaggerated testicles and generous bellies, though subsequent Muromachi era stories sometimes make them a bit more sinister, but don't tend to be malicious with their trickery. The eight qualities described to bring good lick are: a hat (often a turtle shell) to be ready to protect against trouble or bad weather; big eyes to perceive the environment and help make good decisions; a sake bottle that represents virtue; a big tail that provides steadiness and strength until success is achieved; over-sized testicles that symbolize financial luck; a promissory note that represents trust or confidence; a big belly that symbolises bold and calm decisiveness; and a friendly smile. Thier ability to disguise leaves as paper currency can fool dishonest merchants. Of course, the article completely skips the main rout of familiarization for Americans to the tanuki: Super Mario Bros. 3, where using a leaf item allows Mario to use a tanuki's ears and striped tail to fly, while the tanuki suit allows him to transform into a statue.
Tanuki depicted in an 1881 Yoshitoshi woodblock print (left), and Mario with a "tanooki" suit in Super Mario Bros. 3 (right)

That's all for today. Happy reading!

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