Friday, July 23, 2010

First the Triffids came for Rick Warren...and a longish Side Note

I was over at my house this evening watching the news on WNEP2, the digital sister station of our local ABC affiliate. I was a little confused when the news wrapped up at 10:45 PM. Inside Edition, the entertainment tabloid show, came on and I watched it just for the heck of it. From the very start one of the stories being touted involved megachurch celebrity pastor Rick Warren being blinded by a poisonous plant in his garden. As someone who has been known to putter around in the garden, I was suddenly very interested.

The show thundered by, apparently a truncated version stripped of any commercials - each segment ended with a preview of stories in upcoming segments, immediately followed by another segment. Finally one more extended preview came up, promising more details on the incident, and immediately segued into the closing of the show. Dammit! The one thing I was watching for, they skipped!

CNN has this to say:

Pastor Rick Warren blinded by poisonous plant, expected to recover – Larry King Live - Blogs

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren is home recovering after his eyes were burned as he pruned a firestick plant in his yard, his spokesman told CNN Thursday.


"My eyes were severely burned by a toxic poison," Warren wrote in a Twitter message Thursday morning. "Hospitalized Mon. Excruciating pain. Now home. Pray my sight loss is restored."
...and not much else. No helpful links on this "firestick plant" - that was left up to a commentor:

Charles, July 23rd, 2010 9:20 am ET: Euphorbia Tirucalli or "Firestick" the sap is VERY deadly. Will burn your skin if you touch it let alone get it in your eyes. Brazil looked at using the sap as gasoline in the 80's.
Wikipedia has this to say about Euphorbia tirucalli:

The milky sap contained in this plant is corrosive and extremely toxic. Contact with skin causes severe burning; contact with the eyes may cause severe pain, and may cause temporary blindness for up to 7 days. For eye exposures, flush eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention. Over-the-counter antihistamines may provide relief for sensitive patients. Symptoms may worsen over 12 hours. If swallowed, may cause burning to mouth, lips, and tongue. Deaths have been recorded from swallowing the sap and, if swallowed, one should seek medical attention.
As Charles noted in his comment, the sap of this plant has a potential as a biofuel. But as the plant is restricted to tropical and semi-tropical environments, I don't think I'm in danger of accidentally encountering it...yet.

Side note: After the 15-minute version of Inside Edition wrapped up, it was followed by a show from the 1960's called Crisis (formerly Kraft Suspense Theater.) The episode title was "One Tiger to a Hill." I found this title intriguing enough to look it up to see if it was a reference to something. Googling it resulted in these hits:

-An episode of Route 66 from 1962
-This episode of Kraft Suspense Theater from 1964
-A play written by Sharon Pollock in 1980
-A short story by Iftekhar Sayeed set in Bangaladesh and written in 2007
-A song by Jamie Musselwhite

...ah, here we go. From The Most Dangerous Branch: How the Supreme Court of Canada Has Undermined Our Law and Our Democracy by Robert Ivan Martin (Mc-Gill-Queen's University Press, 2003):
The phrase "One Tiger to a Hill" is taken from Robert Ardrey's African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man. Ardrey's central analytical concept is "territoriality"; this is the notion that much animal behaviour can be explained as a struggle over territory. A tiger must hunt to survive and the idea that any single hill will provide only sufficient hunting opportunities for one tiger to be able to survive.
Robert Ardrey's book is from 1961, predating the Route 66 episode. From Wikipedia:

Robert Ardrey (b. October 16, 1908, Chicago, Illinois—d. January 14, 1980, South Africa) was an American playwright and screenwriter who returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences in the 1950s.

African Genesis and The Territorial Imperative, two of Robert Ardrey's most widely read works, as well as Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape (1967), were key elements in the public discourse of the 1960s which challenged earlier anthropological assumptions. Ardrey's ideas notably influenced Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in the development of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Sam Peckinpah, to whom Strother Martin gave copies of two of Ardrey's books.
Was this phrase in common use prior to Ardrey's book? I have no idea. I had never heard it prior to one hundred and three minutes ago, and I'm fascinated to find it dotted about in popular culture. Is anyone familiar with this phase? Does anyone of a certain age remember if Robert Ardrey's works had much of an impact on daily life in the early 1960's?


hedera said...

Sounds like Rick Warren needs to learn more about the stuff he plants in his yard. I'm sorry, that's just stupid.

I remember Ardrey's books arousing a good deal of discussion in the early 60s, but I was moving from high school to college then and was preoccupied with all that. I don't recall any use of the "one tiger to a hill" meme. I have all that sort of lumped in my mind with the original Victorian response to Darwin ("my grandfather was NOT an ape but yours was, nyah").

Linkmeister said...

I remember Ardrey's African Genesis, but I remember Morris's The Naked Ape more. I saw the latter book so often I can still remember the paperback cover: a brownish-gold with a dark Homo Sapiens (or maybe Homo Erectus) standing, face to the reader. (Ah, yes. Here are the covers, including the one I remember.)

Jennifer said...

Regarding the news ending at 10:45. Usually, it ends at 10:35 (or 10:36 or so), but since there were tornado warnings and severe damage, and since we had "team coverage" that night, the news director said he didn't care if the 10pm news ran longer than normal.