swooping down from the hills and collapsing to the ground

Bavarian goats only distantly related to Tennessee Fainting Goats

After the ‘man who sawed off his own foot’ post, I could probably take the rest of the week off. Until now, I haven’t been one of those ‘blog everyday’ sorts.

Yet sometimes the goings on in the world just keep serving up things that need to be mentioned. What could possibly follow up the excellence that was shy of working?

Well, if there is anything worthy, it’s this. You know I have a soft spot for goats. You do remember that, right? If you do an internet search with ‘you can’t always expect goats‘, the very first search term takes you to this here blog. It’s one of my many claims to fame.

What goat-related goodness do I have for your knowledge seeking pleasure? Well, this has has had my laughing all day, so I hope you find as much pleasure in it as I have. First of all, I have to tell you where I found it.

My local paper is the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and it’s regularly filled with not only excellent news, but curious things going on around Germany and the world. It’s an excellent paper, and the day I look forward to every week is Friday. It’s the day the Magazin comes out in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. They’ve come up with a very inventive name for this weekly magazine. They call it the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin.

I wish linking to it would help, but it’s behind a paywall. If you want to read the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, you either need the print edition or you need to pony up some cold, hard Geld (money). It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that nearly every week I want to talk about something I’ve found in this periodical.

It’s normally such a hassle to recreate whatever it is that I found there that I just give up at the mere thought of it. But this week, try as I might’ve, I just couldn’t keep all this mirth to myself.

The way our unique and curious goats are introduced in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin is entertaining, so I’ll do my best to translate the better parts. The title of the article?

Doofe Ziege! (Stupid Goats!)

And it gets better (how could it not?). The subheading?

Würden Sie am liebsten manchmal umfallen, weil Ihnen alles zu viel ist? Es gibt ein Tier, das tut es einfach – nicht nur zu seinem Vorteil (‘Would you rather sometimes fall down because it’s all too much for you? There’s an animal that simply does so, and not always to his advantage‘)

Are you nearly as excited as I was when I read the above early this morning? What animal could they possibly be talking about? Well, it’s the Fainting Goat, of course. Sometimes called the Tennessee Fainting Goat. Here’s a YouTube video of a National Geographic story (that’s a reputable source…you can trust that Mike Daisey didn’t make this one up):

Here’s how Wikipedia describes this little marvel of creation:

‘A fainting goat is a breed of domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat is startled. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.

‘…Fainting goats have many other names, including Myotonic Goats, Tennessee (Meat) Goats, Nervous Goats, Stiff-leg Goats, Wooden-leg Goats, and Tennessee Fainting Goats’

As the original article states, the goat (any goat, not only the Fainting Goat) is one of the finest animals you can possibly have. Without exception. Goats are above-average animals by almost any standards. They eat a hell of a lot of grass or hay or whatever…actually, goats eats everything.

They eat all the grass then they move on and eat whatever else is in there path. It’s a good thing they’re such wonderful animals, because otherwise goat herders would simply loathe these little guys. The opposite is true. There’s no loathing…goat herders love their goats.

Goats can climb, there are less fires when goats are around (they love eating dry, flammable grass) and best of all? One goat provides even more milk than your average cow (once again: my source is the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin…I’m not making any of this stuff up).

But the best part about the goat? His character. Despite the fact that You Can’t Always Expect Goats, when you do have goats, you have personable and sturdy companions. An animal you can rely on.

With one glaring exception. Yes, you guessed it. The infamous Fainting Goat. These guys just don’t handle stress all that well. To be candid, they don’t handle stress at all. At the first sign of it, their little legs freeze up and they fall to the ground. Not the most advantageous response when being hunted by prey, is it?

The very best part of the original article I read was the way they described where this breed of goat came from. As is often the case, it probably wasn’t meant to be quite as comical in the original German, but it had me in stitches. Here’s how it was in the original:

‘Wo die verrückten Ziegen herkommen, das weiß man bis heute nicht so genau. Angeblich tauchten sie im 19. Jahrhundert in Tennessee auf, seitdem werden sie in den USA gezüchtet…’ (Where the mad goats come from is anyone’s guess. Allegedly, they appeared in Tennessee sometime in the Nineteenth Century and have been bred there ever since…)

The way it’s written evokes this scene of a herd of Fainting Goats coming over the horizon, swooping down into the as-yet-not-entirely-settled lowlands of Tennessee.

They cut a striking pose, don’t they?

Until something startles them, and the whole herd collapses to the ground. For a few tense moments, the swooping will have to wait.

drunk trains in the night

interior of an earlier S-Bahn

Roughly two thousand people showed up Saturday night to protest Munich’s new law that you can’t drink on the S-Bahn (Schnell-Bahn directly translated as fast trains, but I like to say suburban trains). The term *people* I use very loosely.

As the night wore on, ten trains had to be taken out of commission. Lights had been destroyed, windows broken or covered in unspecified nontransparent material, and seat cushions ripped into pieces. After the evening’s festivities, it was discovered that nearly fifty trains had been damaged.

At least ten people are being held responsible (based on closed-circuit camera evidence) for the worst of the damage.

Since 2009, it’s been against the law to drink on the U-Bahn (underground trains), or in the trams and busses. It was only a matter of time before the S-Bahn, which is owned by the formerly state-owned Deutsche Bahn, followed suit.

The protesters were informed about the event and given regular updates on Facebook (very little good comes from that website anymore, does it?) and what started as a relatively relaxed evening turned rowdy between ten-thirty and midnight. The new law went into effect as the clock struck twelve.

Tell me, does this surprise anyone? People protesting not being allowed to drink on public transportation by getting their drink on in that very venue? (exactly the same sort of protests happened in London and Hamburg when they instituted such new policies). What started out peacefully gets quickly and increasingly out of hand?

This is a dog bites man story. The real news would’ve been if the increasingly inebriated people had become reasonable and actually considered the other people in their general vicinity.

‘All in all, the trains were more than six thousand minutes late. That’s over a hundred hours, according to the head of the S-Bahn. The damages add up to more than €100,000. Despite all of that: there wasn’t a single injury.’ (source: Süddeutsche Zeitung Monday 12 December 2011 my translation!)

Do any of you understand the gravity of this? Trains should not be delayed. Not here. This is the beginning of the end of society. Or the end of the beginning.

That same head of the S-Bahn even indicated he had nothing against a goodbye party for drinking on the trains. Can you believe that? The person in charge of this organisation actually sounds reasonable. He insisted that he drew the line at aggressiveness and property damage.

Oh, and some train employees were spit on.

This isn’t mock outrage on my part. This is me trying to tone down what jerks I think these protesters were (and are).

Fine. You think the new law is inappropriate and repressive and whatever, but do you really spit on the people working overtime to make sure your blotto self and your friends don’t fall onto the tracks and get hit by a train?

Can you fathom how indignant these people would be if they were treated in the same manner? If they were spit on for being morons? If their right to protest were infringed upon in any way they’d be up in arms.

You know, there’s probably a better way to tie this up. A funnier approach to the whole account. A perspective that shows either the protesters or the story itself in a different light. But I’m not going to do that.

A group of people show their disgust that they could no longer, in a civilised way, drink alcohol on the trains in Munich by being thoroughly and indisputably disgusting. They really made their point, didn’t they?

I’m not opposed to drinking and more importantly, I like a bit of debauchery. Actually, I’m quite the fan of a lot of debauchery. But these folk are on my opposing team. They really are.