The Anti-Jataka

Teeter-pong is cool! It’s this “humane mousetrap,” a trap for rodent control which does not harm the mouse. The mouse climbs in, and the trap rotates, a ping-pong ball trapping the mouse inside.

When I was living in a Co-op in college, my friend Jennie had a snake and decided one day it would be cheaper to feed it the mice in our pantry than to buy “feeder mice” from the pet store. So she bought a few “humane mousetraps” (not teeter-pong though) and put them under cabinets in the kitchen.

A few weeks later we were cleaning up the kitchen in a cultish workshift called Intensive Kitchen Cleanup (The IKC!!! Gotta represent!!! Woot woot!) and we found one of these things… opening it up it had a starved mouse in it. Jenny had forgotten to check the traps.

Cruel? Compare this with the redneck’s dream tool, the Rodenator, which fills gopher holes with a propane and oxygen mixture and then detonates it, Caddyshack-style. Yee haw Jeb!

SAMIR: uh how does it work?
BRAIN: the teeterpong?
BRAIN: I like that thing
BRAIN: from what I can guess:
BRAIN: the bottom leg is the entrance
BRAIN: the bait is in the left leg
BRAIN: the ping pong ball in in the right leg
BRAIN: the mouse goes in, it tilts, and the ping pong ball ends up in the entrance leg
BRAIN: I guess the Rats of NIHM would have someone jack one end,
BRAIN: have a second rat plug the entrace,
BRAIN: and the captured party would move the ball back, then exit
SAMIR: hahaha
SAMIR: rats of nimh
SAMIR: awesome
BRAIN: for some reason I always think of how you’d get out of one of these
SAMIR: perhaps you were a rat in a past life?
SAMIR: a super smart one?
BRAIN: maybe so
BRAIN: I am like the Jataka tale
BRAIN: or its direct opposite

So, in explanation:

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a great children’s book about a widowed mouse mother, Mrs Frisby. Her family lives in a cinderblock half-buried in a field on a farm… one of her children is ill and she needs help moving him before the field is tilled, when her cinderblock will be destroyed. So she calls on some family friends, the Rats of NIMH.

The Rats of NIMH turn out to be escapees of the actual NIMH – the National Institute of Mental Health. They were part of an experiment on animal intelligence and have been made super-intelligent. Too smart to let on they were smart, they tricked their researchers and engineered their escape, having in the process reinvented farming, electrical engineering, and politics.

Don Bluth eventually made this into a cartoon movie called The Secret of Nimh, although it had nearly nothing to do with the original book- that movie had magic in it and very clearly-defined “good guys” and “bad guys,” when in the book the rats were just like people, and the only really scary thing was when the researchers from NIMH caught up with them and destroyed the colony.

Compare this with the movie which made Jenner an actual moustachioed villain instead of the shadowy Stalin he was in the book, and what the hell is “The Secret of Nimh” anyway? It no longer has anything to do with NIMH, which is much scarier than some random glowing amulet.

The Jataka Tales are a series of fables about the Buddha’s previous lives, usually ending in his death / self-sacrifice, but quite a few with the Buddha acting as the clever hero who outwits the enemy. They predate Aesop’s Fables and of course Christianity. Of course since they are Buddhist parables the enemy is rarely killed or “punished,” more often they are simply reformed. So a Jataka tale where you just dick over the adversary doesn’t seem very Buddhistic to me… I guess it could work.