Sunday, January 17, 2021
Precipitation – Soon come
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Precipitation – Soon come
Gage Hoase, left, and Angela Fisher square off during the first meeting of the newly-formed Blacktip Island kendo club Wednesday afternoon (photo courtesy of Harald Hofer)
A group of sporting enthusiasts Wednesday announced they have created Blacktip Island’s first kendo club, hoping the Japanese sword-based martial art will give islanders a safe way to vent their frustrations.
“It started with James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms, drunk as skunks, whacking each other with broomsticks outside the Ballyhoo,” club president Angela Fisher said. “We figured there’s no way to stop this kind of thing, so we might as well make it safer and offer training.
“Got the basics off internet videos, and Eagle Ray Cove’s letting us use their deck, which is handy, since their bar’s right there for post-practice drinks,” Fisher said. “We tell everybody to bring their own broomsticks, plus bicycle helmets, leather gloves and whatever body armor they can scrape together and we walk ‘em through the basics.”
Participants say the first class was a success.
“People on the island are wound pretty tight, being confined for so long, so this is a great way to let off steam safely,” Gage Hoase said. “It was pretty straightforward—they showed us some stances and attacks and parries, then let us go at it.
“At first, Joey Pompano went all Luke Skywalker and whacked me hard,” Hoase said. “Good thing I had that plastic garbage can lid strapped to my chest. I got him back, though, with a katsugi-waza upside the head that laid him out flat. It was great fun!”
Some questioned the benefits of the club.
“All I know is we got a broom shortage now, with everyone sawing off the handles to use as samurai swords,” Chrissy Graysby said. “Lots of places going unswept lately, and dust and leaves are piling up everywhere. I got my broom locked up inside where nobody can get at it.
“Not sure about the wisdom of it, either, big-picture wise,” Graysby said. “Folks get riled up and drunk, and you’re gonna give ‘em sticks to whack each other with? Me, I’m steering clear of that nonsense.”
Others saw the activity as a business opportunity.
“I’m completely sold out of brooms and helmets,” Blacktip Island store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “I have two cases of each coming tomorrow to meet the demand. Plastic rubbish bins are flying off the shelves, too, but I had a ton of those in the back room.”
Some participants experienced unexpected secondary benefits.
“Angela said to wear baggy clothes, and the only thing I had was the SpongeBob jammies my mom sent me for Christmas,” Dermott Bottoms said. “I don’t wear pajamas, and was gonna throw ‘em out, but now I got a use for ‘em.
“Lee Helm made fun of ‘em, so I whacked him good,” Bottoms said. “He won’t do that again, laughing at something my mamma gave me.”
Blacktip Island researchers say a hybrid damselfish/tardigrade will soon protect the Caribbean island’s coral reefs from scuba diver damage (photo courtesy of Warnken Schokraie)
Researchers at Tiperon University-Blacktip Wednesday announced a successful gene-splicing of a yellowtail damselfish with a Blacktip tardigrade, creating a new species they envision safeguarding Blacktip Island’s coral reefs.
“It was a longshot, but it actually worked,” TU-B marine sciences professor Goby Graysby said. “The new species has legs and a spikey mouth like a tardigrade, but also fins a tail and can dart about quite quickly. They’re about the size of your hand and attach themselves to coral. And the bright blue spots make them impossible to miss.
“They have damselfishes’ aggressive attitude, too, and are all but impossible to kill, like tardigrades,” Graysby said. “We’re calling them ‘damsel-grades.’ Like damselfishes, they nurture algae gardens and are extremely protective of them. Any diver getting too close to the coral will get one hell of a nip. We reckon it’ll do wonders for keeping divers off the reef.”
Research team members agreed.
“We envision them as reef defenders,” geneticist Lucille Ray said. “Divemasters and Marine Parks staff can only do so much. Divers wear too much weight and crash into coral all the time. But one bite from a damsel-grade’s oral stylets, divers’ll damn well learn to respect the reef.
“Damsel-grades also can’t overpopulate the reefs because they’re sterile—we create them that way in the lab,” Ray said. “We’re working with Marine Parks on where and how many are needed so we can set up a production schedule.”
Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader was cautiously optimistic.
“We’re waiting to see how they work, but conceptually it’s brilliant,” she said. “With so many divers with crap buoyancy, the reefs are just taking a beating. We’re all but powerless to stop it. But if these critters work out, the reef’ll be able to defend itself. Like fire coral, but more aggressive.
“Before, divers would laugh us off,” Schrader said. “Now, they’ll get bit anytime they even get close to coral. If this works out, we can get back to nabbing poachers and fixing mooring lines.”
Some on the island worried the experiment went too far.
“Creating a totally new species from two very different ones isn’t experimentation, it’s monstrous,” ethics watchdog Wade Soote said. “These scientists are playing God, with no way of knowing how these creatures will work out. It’s not natural and it’s not right.
“Also, anytime people introduce an exotic species into an environment, that environment invariably suffers,” Soote said. “Goby and them have no idea what the long-term effects of these creatures will be. They say damsel-grades can’t reproduce, but how can they be sure? And what happens when one savages an oblivious diver?”
Graysby said multiple precautions are in place.
“We know they can’t reproduce because we designed them that way,” he said. “We also made them so they emit a high-pitched whine before they attack. That and the coloring will give divers plenty of warning.
“There’s no down side, unless you dive like an idiot,” Graysby said. “And since damsel-grades only live a year, and have to be created individually, it provides a new industry on an island desperately in need of income.”
Diddley’s Landing public pier will be the site of Blacktip Island’s New Year’s ‘Torch 2020’ bonfire celebrating the arrival of 2021 Friday night. (photo courtesy of Whitey Bottoms)
Blacktip Island community organizers are prepping for Friday night’s ‘Torch 2020’ bonfire at Diddley’s Landing to celebrate the end of the previous year.
“We talked about burning sage to chase off 2020’s negative energy, but there’s not enough sage on this island for that,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “Instead, we’re asking everybody on the island to bring anything 2020-related and chuck it on the biggest bonfire in Blacktip history.
“We went around and collected all the 2020 phone books to use as fire starter,” Cobia said. “We’re gonna do everything we can to burn away the ugliness of last year, literally and figuratively. It’s our way, as a community, to say, ‘F-U’ to that damn 2020 and make sure there’s no residual negativity in 2021.”
Organizers emphasized the all-inclusive nature of the event.
“We’ll light the fire right after sundown so kiddos can join in before they have to go to bed,” chamber of commerce president Whitey Bottoms said. “The fire’s open for everyone, and anything flammable is welcome. Have something that reminds you of 2020? Bring it. Burn it. We’ll all cheer.”
Others stressed the event’s festive nature.
“This isn’t some end-of-the-year bitch fest,” Catalina Luxfer said. “It’s a celebration of bad things going away and good things looming on the horizon. There’ll be music and food, and all the island bars have donated booze, so there’s free drinks for everyone who attends.
“The idea’s to get the psyches of the entire island focused on this,” Luxfer said. “The more people who participate, the better chance we have to generate positive vibes for 2021.”
Officials noted the safety measures in place.
“Sure, having a giant bonfire and free alcohol seems like a recipe for disaster,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “But they’ve set it up on the public pier, with water on three sides, so there’s low risk of it spreading to vegetation, and there’s plenty of room for spectators without crowding. We’ll try to keep folks upwind if anything plastic gets thrown on. And when it’s over, we’ll bulldoze the ashes into the sea.
“We’ve also stipulated the drink tables be set up far from the fire itself, especially the ones with the high-proof spirits,” Marquette said. “Open-container laws will be suspended at the pier for the duration of the fire. Booze was the only thing that’s kept this 2020 shit-show together, so, really, there was no way to exclude it.”
Officials were unsure how large the fire will be or how long it will burn.
“With the way this year’s gone, if everyone brings everything that sparks bad memories, this could be a multi-day affair,” Cobia said. “Folks are welcome to bring sleeping bags and tents and what have you.
“At dusk, Jerrod’ll say a few appropriate words before he’s had too much to drink,” Cobia said. “And Rafe’s promised to turn a blind eye to any interpersonal shenanigans going on. It’s a celebration, after all.”
A pair of Blacktip Island residents fishing from shore Christmas Eve recorded video of what they claim was Manta Claus on his way to deliver holiday gifts to islanders.
“It was almost dusk when me and ‘Tonio seen a commotion in the water just off the dock,” Linford Blenny said. “It was something big, flapping its wings. Pretty sure it had a red cap and a bag full of toys, too. I pulled out my phone right quick and got footage to prove it.”
Blenny’s companion confirmed the sighting.
“The fish stopped biting, there was a sparkle in the air and a tingle down my spine,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Knew something important was gonna happen out there. Could feel it down deep. Then BAM! there was Manta Claus flapping in the sea, just like the stories say.
“With Santa not being able to come to Blacktip this year ‘cause of the COVID quarantine, we knew Manta Claus would come early, doing double duty,” Fletcher said. “For years folks been saying he’s a myth. Well, now we got proof. This isn’t Dermott saying he saw a platypus behind the Sand Spit. We got by-God video.”
Many islanders welcomed the news.
“This was shaping up to be a rough Christmas for the kiddos, big and small, what with Santa being banned,” Chrissy Graysby said. “Word about Manta Claus spread around the island like you wouldn’t believe. It’s the happiest I’ve seen people in months.”
Others questioned the sighting.
“It’s a great island myth—the manta ray who brings goodies to good scuba divers, and dead lionfish to ones with crap buoyancy,” Jay Valve said. “This story picked up everyone’s spirits, but there’s no evidence this was anything but a normal, everyday manta ray.
Some brushed aside such criticism.
“If Jay wants to be a Scrooge, that’s fine, but he shouldn’t spoil the holiday for the rest of us,” Christa Goby said. “Besides, if you don’t really believe in Manta Claus, he won’t slip under your door and leave you any presents anyway. You just wait and see. “How do you think presents get to a tropical island, some old man in a fur coat and his reindeer?” Goby said. “Please. It’s Manta Claus and his eagle ray helpers who fill kids’ stockings and eat the conch fritters we leave out for him. Santa handles the gifts north of here, and Manta covers us from the West Pole.”