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Humor

THE BRIEF CAREER OF THE BEAR WHISPERER

There's a lot of job descriptions in this big old world. Take the late Timothy Treadwell, self-invented Grizzly Bear expert. Treadwell took it upon himself to spend 13 summers in Alaska observing Grizzly Bears up close and personal. He would have still been at it if not for the fact that one of the bears he liked to think of as his brothers and sisters decided to eat him and his hapless girlfriend. The German film maker Werner Herzog made a side-spliting comedy documentary about his life called "Grizzly Man," using mostly video footage shot by Treadwell himself during those 13 summers before he became bear lunch. Of course the documentary wasn't made to be a comedy, it just sort of turned out that way since Treadwell was such a natural buffoon.

Now, here's the thing about Timothy Treadwell; he had no education in the field of wildlife studies, no scientific background whatsoever and was a thorn in the side of the National Wildlife Service, who constantly cited him for violations of bear-safety rules in the wild. The guy would camp for months on end in the midst of Grizzly Bears, one of the largest, fiercest and most unpredictable predators on the face of the earth. His self-described mission was to "protect" the bears. And towards that end he filmed them, gave then cute names and approached them close enough to touch these irritable behemoths, never a wise move. Even dumber, there were numerous incidents of him sharply scolding these animals like they were mischievous human children.

Other times he would film himself having serious conversations with the bears. One-sided, of course, the bears giving him feedback only in the form of puzzled stares. with the occasional indifferent grunt or menacing growl thrown in. And Timothy Treadwell never carried a weapon of any sort, describing himself as a "Peaceful Warrior." I'd describe him more as an imbecile myself, and the fact that he often left his food unprotected in bear country and camped in places where hungry bears would pretty much trip over him sort of reinforces my opinion. It's nothing short of a miraculous he didn't get eaten sooner.

Now, I'm no wildlife expert or great outdoorsman, but in this world you can't help but be aware of the fact that bears will eat almost anything, have noses more sensitive than bloodhounds and that there are strict rules for anyone camping anywhere that bears might be. Your food must be hidden in an inaccessible place away from your campsite, preferably hanging from a tree nowhere near your tent. You also must move your campsite frequently and far away from your original one. And none of these campsites are supposed to be located on frequently travelled bear trails. In the National Park where Treadwell worked, rules limited any camper from remaining more than seven days, lest the bears decide you're part of the local wildlife and thus eligible for consumption.

Timothy Treadwell violated all of these rules, spending months on end in one location, leaving his food out and staying right in the middle of he bears. Many of the videos he shot were actually more about him and his bitchy ex-girlfiends than about the bears. Many more videos were rants about his perceived enemies in the scientific community and the National Parks service, people who knew better than he did about Grizzly Bears and their eating habits. The man could no more understand why these sensible women and scientists wanted nothing to do with him than the Grizzlies could understand his babbling gibberish. He was a bundle of neuroses and very funny in a pathetic kind of way.

So I suppose it's fitting that he died not for the cause of the Grizzly Bears, although he did wind up providing valuable protein for one or two of them. No, Timothy Treadwell's death was for a greater cause, that of Great Comedy. The only tragedy was that his latest girlfriend got eaten along with him before she had the chance to make him her ex-boyfriend. The world was spared his death on videotape since he characteristically left the lens cap on his camera while the bears ate him and his sweetie. The audio portion was pretty clear, though, complete with a lot of "Oh Shits!" and the delighted growls of a bear enjoying easy pickings. So for some good belly laughs, rent the movie Grizzly Man. I give it two claws up.

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