"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Happy Domino Day! (uh, unless you love birds)

They're celebrating in The Netherlands as I write this, after setting a new world's record for the number of dominos tipped over in the classic chain-reaction style: 4,002,136 (revised total) tiles went down in a little over two hours during the "Domino Day" event held in the town of Leeuwarden in north Holland. It was broadcast live on Dutch and German television. (Update 11/20: click on the "Domino Day" link above for fascinating photos of the setup, which had the theme "Domino Theatre of Eternal Stories". You may be amazed at the scale of the event.)

"So what?", you say. Well, what makes this otherwise trivial tale somewhat interesting is what preceded it. As you might imagine, setting up 4.1 million dominos (very carefully, I might add) is a Herculean task, one that took over 100 volunteers nearly a month to accomplish. Last Monday, as the crew was putting finishing touches on the stack of tiles, a wayward sparrow flew into the FEC exhibition center and managed to start the party early. Around 23,000 dominos fell before frantic staff were able to activate safeguards that finally stopped the premature chain reaction. Efforts to catch the bird were unsuccessful, and an exterminator on site finally shot it dead with an air rifle as it was "cowering in a corner".

The resultant furor over the killing of the sparrow has turned this into one of the biggest news stories in Europe in recent days. Animal rights activists are outraged, and at least seven separate organizations are conducting investigations into the incident. The man who fired the fatal shot may be charged with a crime, as sparrows are an endangered and protected species in the Netherlands and a licence is required before killing one. He even received a number of death threats, prompting organizers to beef up security for the event. A Dutch DJ offered a reward of €3000 (about $3500 USD) to anyone who could, as a tribute to the bird, sneak in and topple the dominos before the record attempt, but the prize went unclaimed.

Despite all this, Domino Day came off Friday night without further snafu, and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records was secured.

But here's the kicker: earlier this week a web site was hastily erected in memorial to the unlucky sparrow. A sample of visitor comments --
"I am a great fan of the domino record series, but I will not attend the show. It is completely ridiculous to kill an innocent sparrow for the figures of the network." -- G. Koerselma, The Netherlands

"This was a disgusting reaction to the innocent and natural behavior of the bird. This domino nonsense should be destroyed, arrests made, and such record attempts need to end." -- Warren Snyder, USA

"I can say that I am truly outraged by the murder of this defenseless creature. It is a testament to how far we have sunk since Sept. 11, since when civil liberties have been under attack from those vicious war-mongering politicians. The politics of fear have once again claimed the life of an innocent individual. It is a dark day for democracy in the Netherlands." -- Tijme Brommet, Netherlands
I have to admit that the last quote puzzles me. While I do love animals, it's somewhat of a stretch to associate the death of one small bird, however unfortunate, with 9/11, "war-mongering politicians", the "politics of fear", and a "dark day for democracy". Hey, we're talking about dominos and a sparrow here people, not George Bush's Iraq policy. Nevertheless, that's still not what bothers me the most about this saga. No, what boggles my mind is the fact that this memorial web site for a single Passera Europea has, as of this writing, received over 200,000 hits! Holy crap -- my hit count since launching this blog nearly two months ago hasn't even cracked the 2K mark yet, and this page gets one-fifth of a million views in a matter of days.

The lesson here, then, is obvious: the most effective way to generate traffic to your site apparently is to kill some poor, defenseless creature. So with that in mind, let me say this:

IF I DON'T GET 10,000 HITS IN THE NEXT 48 HOURS, THE KITTEN GETS IT! I'll do it. Don't think I won't.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com


  • At 11/19/2005 12:13:00 AM, Blogger April said…

    hahahaahahaha! the pic at the bottom is SOOOO freakin' unexpected! LMFAO!

  • At 11/19/2005 10:31:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    This is such a funny story. As an avid animal lover, I am also a hater a birds. I hate birds and I am scared to death of them. They are nasty horrible creatures and I'm sorry if I offend anyone. No, I'm not sorry, I've had way too many frightening experiences with birds to be sorry. When one of those little flying icks are within a mile of me I swear I can't breath, I panick, can't get into shelter fast enough. Ok, enough, I know, but just wanted to let you know.

    Sparrows are the worst. They swoop down on innocent people and scare the shit out of them. I'm glad it got shot. If they need some sparrows over there I'm sure we could donate a few, the US doesn't seem to be in short supply. And how one of those lunatics compared the shooting of that bird to 9/11 is an outrage. Think before you open your ignorant mouth and DO NOT compare the shooting of a sparrow to the lives lost since 9/11.

  • At 11/19/2005 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Brandi: LOL, I remember you writing about your ornithophobia once before, and thought about that while writing this post. My sister-in-law has it too. So I guess watching the Alfred Hitchcock movie is out of the question for you, huh?

  • At 11/19/2005 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cleary the bird was an Al-Quaeda operative. The link between the dominoes and 9/11, not to mention Sadam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction is obvious and I can't help but question the patriotism of anyone who suggests that it is time to stop killing sparrows!!!!!!!!!!!

  • At 11/20/2005 01:39:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Mr. Cheney: Thank you for taking time away from your busy schedule as leader of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to comment on my blog. I am honored. If you would like another theory to explain this bird thing, here's mine: For the last several years, secret Al-Queda sleeper-cell operatives in this country have conspired with a cabal of Godless Pinko Anti-American Hollywood entertainment media honchos led by Michael Moore and Linda Bloodworth-Thomas to insert a coded subliminal signal into all television programs and movies produced in this country. This signal works undetected on our brains to cause us all to develop an irrational phobia of birds. When any of the little feathered freaks come within a mile of us, we experience severe panic attacks, have difficulty breathing, and cannot get to shelter fast enough. At the same time, sympathetic avian genetic researchers in Switzerland and The Netherlands (well-known hotbeds of radical socialism) develop a new strain of Killer Sparrow and train them to attack wherever people gather, such as at Domino Festivals. This biological marker, cleverly disguised as "Bird Flu" to escape detection by the public, mutates worldwide. Suicide Sparrows multiply uncontrollably, and soon vast waves of Flying Icks cover the nation. America then becomes ripe for invasion by non-TV watching Islamic terrorists who are able to take over the country unchallenged while we are cowering in our homes (ironically, watching CNN). Of course, I realize that by now making this knowledge public, I have exposed myself and run the risk of, oh wait ... excuse me there's a knock on my door, but as I was saying ACK oihjiipuwe4j njzsdc

  • At 11/20/2005 01:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    *rubs hands together*

  • At 11/20/2005 07:40:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    I'm OK folks, it was only Pat Robertson at the door. I was able to convince him that Dover PA, being closer to Whambamistan (or wherever the terrorists come from), will be among the first places to fall. He seemed satisfied with this and went away.

    But seriously - you may think this whole bird thing is a joke, but parts of the upper midwest are already showing early warning signs of this plague. I have recently received reports from reliable sources in North Dakota describing a scene of horror: Kamikazi Sparrows that "swoop down on innocent people and scare the shit out of them". Oh, the humanity! This can only get worse, and there's no telling who may be next. Turn off your TV before it's too late, people!!

  • At 11/21/2005 12:21:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Are you making fun of me Toast? I should hope not, lol, this is serious stuff! Sparrows are very frightening, as I've already told you. In the near future I'm going to dedicate a whole post just to birds...people need to be aware! And it doesn't stop at sparrows my friend...crows, seagulls, pigeons, chickens, geese,robins, parakeets, hummingbirds...the list goes on and on. And while I'm at it, I may as well mention dragonflies and moths....and butterflies. Anything bigger than a bumblebee that flies is terrifying!!!

  • At 11/21/2005 12:24:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Omigosh, when I said sparrow, I meant (barn)swallows. Same thing I guess....both are gross little birds. So sorry for the confusion....


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