Speaking of Camels and Cats

People are fascinating creatures. The things that hold their interest and capture their passion continue to amaze me. My life is filled with the joys of being a husband, father and grandfather, the joys and concerns of a pastor with a complex congregation and the struggles of life in a community that has its own tragedies and triumphs. I sleep with a phone on the headboard of my bed and there are nights when its ring signals that I need to get up and respond to an event, usually a crisis, in our community. I have my hobbies. I love to paddle and row boats and I enjoy building them. And I have the normal chores of living, including a list of home repairs that are unfinished and a stack of books that are unread. It all seems to me to me to be normal human stuff.

But there are other people whose passions and concerns seem foreign and exotic to me.

Take camel beauty contests, for example. I’ve never owned a camel. I’ve never wanted to own a camel. I’ve only ridden on a camel one time and that was in an enclosed paddock in Central Australia, not far from Uluru. I’ve looked at camels in zoos and a couple of other places and have failed to see the beauty that others perceive. I’m perfectly content to let camels live their natural lives and, if others want to raise them and ride them and even race them, I’ve no problem with that.

But camels are a big deal in some parts of the world. The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia is a big deal. Prizes this year are worth $57 million. That’s a lot of money for a camel. Of course there are many prizes for different categories of judging. The main part of the event is the camel beauty contest, but there are also camel races and a camel milk tasting event. The beauty of a camel is judged by the shape of its lips and also of its humps. I guess you have to be a camel fan to understand. I’m not sure I know the difference between beautiful and ugly camel lips. And as for humps, I guess I haven’t paid enough attention to know which shapes are the most prized. But the festival was rocked by scandal this year. The owners of twelve camels were caught enhancing the looks of their animals for the beauty contest. Botox injections were used to shape the camel’s lips and other facial features. There were camels entered in the contest that had had nose jobs and even enhancements to their jaws. It was shocking to the camel fans.

Here in the United States our newspapers are so filled with stories about the Mueller investigation and the President’s decision to impose tariffs and the resignation of the president of Michigan State after an athletic doctor was convicted and sentenced for abusing athletes. Our papers report of sexual misconduct and the deferred action on childhood arrivals and how well our President’s ideas are going at Davos. It’s hard to find serious articles on camel beauty in the midst of stories of school shootings and drug policies and diet news and the stories of children held captive by their parents.

So I thought I’d bring you up to date just in case you missed it.

And if camel beauty contests aren’t your thing, I can also report that Grumpy the Cat won $710,000 in a lawsuit in a California federal court. Grumpy the Cat Limited sued the coffee company Grenade for exceeding an agreement over the cat’s picture. Well, it wasn’t a photograph, just a drawing. Back in 2013, the coffee company purchased the rights to use the cat’s image on its “Grumppuccino” iced coffee drink. They paid $150,000 to use the cat’s scowling face on bottles that held their iced coffee beverages. All would have gone well, had the coffee company only done that. But the cat’s owners were horrified to learn that the cat’s image had also been placed on t-shirts and even on roasted coffee.

They were shocked. They were horrified. They felt that their cat was being exploited. They sued. And they won a $710,000 settlement. From what I can tell, the cat didn’t really need the money. One story that I read claimed that the cat has already earned millions in endorsement and advertising deals.

By the way, the cat’s name isn’t really grumpy. That’s just a nickname. Its real name is Tardar Sauce. There have been rumors that Tardar Sauce is set to star in a film alongside Will Ferrell and Jack Black, though that may just be a rumor.

Courthouse News reported that the cat herself made a brief courthouse appearance, but she didn’t show up for the verdict. And, to be accurate, the award was $710,001. The extra dollar was awarded for breach of contract. The rest of the settlement was for copyright and trademark infringement.

The cat is pretty famous. She has traveled the world and has appeared on television and in 2014 she starred in her own Christmas film. She has a range of merchandise including calendars, clothing and soft toys. She has an animatronic likeness at San Francisco’s Madame Tussauds.

If you are wondering, Grumpy the Cat, or rather Tardar Sauce, does not have any artificial enhancements to her appearance. No botox for her. the cat’s perpetually sad and unique expression is reported to be caused by feline dwarfism and an underbite that causes her lower jaw to extend forward.

I’m guessing her owners can afford to feed her soft food.

Grumpy, however, needs to earn all the money she can, because in case you haven’t noticed, cats aren’t trending too well. Their future as the dominant stars of internet videos is in question. According to BBC’s North American Technology Reporter, Dave Lee, “Cats on the internet are over. Done.” Dogs are all the thing now. The most popular animal on Facebook is a dog named Boo. He’s got more than 17.5 million likes, more than double that of Grumpy the Cat. Dogs outpace cats in Google searches as well. “Cute Dogs” gets more searches than “Funny Cats.”

I’m not making this stuff up. I read about it on the Internet. And now you know, too.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!