Default settings

There’s this television programme.

It is called “Animals Do The Funniest Things”: a cheap and cheerful compilation which does what it says on the tin. It is half an hour of small clips, amateur and professional, of animals doing the funniest things.

Every now and then some owner does something so completely devoid of taste, so vacuous, that the only course of action open to us is to hoot helplessly with laughter.

Tonight was a case in point. We were introduced to a pair of continental giant rabbits. They are more than three feet long each, and have been accorded the names Roberto and Amy.

And they are the first ever rabbits to take part in a marriage ceremony.

The groom wore a small bowler hat for the occasion, while Amy sported a giant-continental-rabbit-sized white gauzy veil, and was given a wedding-band to wear around her paw during the ceremony. The wedding took place at the complex of caves in the countryside outside Wells named Wookey Hole.

Proud owner Mrs Annette Edwards, of the Bunnyland Pet Shop in Worcester, gave an interview to the BBC, who had already talked to horrified representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

“This puts the wrong message across”, protested a spokesman for the RSPCA. “Animals are not toys to be dressed up.”

But Mrs Edwards said nonsense, the rabbits are totally spoiled and well looked after.

It’s not natural though, is it? It’s off the wall, oddball, possibly amusing: but rabbits were not meant for this. It is not their baseline behaviour.

Whenever I see rabbits they are tiny taut muscular bundles of potential energy with impossibly bright brown eyes. They quiver at dawn and dusk on open grassland and scarper when anything moves. They are vital and, in their own way, quick-witted.

They are a million miles away from the great sluggish bride and groom, stranded by their own physiques, there in front of the flashes of the press cameras.

Do they, somewhere in their bunny minds, ever dream of reverting to their default settings?

Now there’s a term. One I looked up today.

My old hardback dictionary is sturdy and beloved. It has spine; it has spirit. But it, like me, has aged. It was born in 1987 when iPods and iPads were just a pipe dream, when the tiny stack Mac was front line technology.

The internet was an acedemic anorak-and-army domain, not even a Wild West being traversed by cyberwagons filled with adventurous civilians.

To a lawyer, and to my old Oxford, default is an occasion to stir the legal stumps. It traditionally means the failure to fulfil an obligation; to pay; or most infuriating of all, not to appear at an expensive court trial.

But to the online cyber dictionaries, and to anyone who operates a flotilla of hi-tech devices, ‘default’ denotes the settings which come with a device.

It is the way the computer is, before any operator starts to fiddle with it. And default settings are also what a device returns to, when something goes awry.

It denotes the baseline behaviour of something with a microchip. Its nature, not its nurture.

We all know, most of us through first-hand experience, that default settings can apply to human beings as well.

As poor Leo Bloom learnt to his cost.

Anyone remember Leo? A hardworking, industrious accountant who happened one day to be called to the offices of shameless hussy and abominable producer of stage plays, Max Bialystock.

Mel Brooks’ ‘The Producers’ is pure genius, and Bloom is the very essence of what happens when someone plays with our default settings.

As he ponders Bialystock’s dodgy financial books he muses playfully how, if one created a surefire flop on Broadway, one could make a fortune.

Because one could sell limitless stakes – up to and beyond 1000 per cent of the profits – and never have to return a penny.

The accountant, Mr Cellophane, too dull to be of interest, immediately becomes of the utmost importance to the Broadway producer. Come and join me, he implores the colourless little man. Become a producer and create a flop of unprecedented proportions.

Which he does. “I want everything I’ve ever seen in the movies,” he shouts at his epiphany.

Bloom acts out of character for a while: he liaises with an ex Nazi to procure the most offensive script possible, ‘Springtime For Hitler’; and he consorts with one of the most flamboyant factions of New York’s theatrical community to obtain a dismal director.

But his metamorphosis depends on the play folding, and Max’s default settings seem to lead him to attract disaster, even when he’s making a flop.

The play,unbelievably, is a success. Bloom and Bialystock go straight to jail without passing Go.

So how do they survive life on the inside? Why, by selling shares in dodgy prison plays to prisoners, of course. Max’s default settings kick in faithfully every time.

For time immemorial, the debate has raged: nature or nurture? Do we have a set of default settings which dictate how we are programmed to behave?

I stand before the court with two giant bunnies and a timid accountant as my witnesses.

I wonder what the jury thinks?

Based on Side View’s Weekend Theme: ‘usually’. You can find her challenge here

Photo courtesy of Sky News

27 thoughts on “Default settings

  1. I usually say your posts are fascinating…and today is no different:)

    I had no problem wih dressing animals until I started watching ‘Monkey World’. I do put coats on my dogs, though; and Molly spends half her life in a jumper because she feels the cold so much.

    But weddings for rabbits…? Dear, oh dear.

    Thanks again for the headsup re the other post.

  2. What a terrific and thought provoking post, Kate. We shall not hold you in contempt of court for failure to appear. You have presented some terrific evidence for consideration by the jury.

    Exhibit A ~ A wedding should be one of the “happiest” days of our life . . . those bunnies look anything but happy. At first glance, I thought they were dead and past caring.

    Fact #1 ~ Other than fairy tale rabbits and story book bunnies . . . rabbits do not wear articles of clothing of their own volition. When they do, they tend to get snagged up while exiting Mr. MacGregor’s Garden . . . a terrifying ordeal that they are careful NOT to repeat.

    Fact #2~ The default setting on that accountant is obviously and usually “LAX and LAZY.” Most strive for higher ideals than defrauding investors by “throwing the game.”

    The Verdict? Mrs Annette Edwards, of the Bunnyland Pet Shop in Worcester, who arranged the ceremony held at a complex of caves in the countryside outside Wells named Wookey Hole is . . . NOT GUILTY (by reason of insanity).

  3. i would habve been a lot more accepting had the wedding food comprised nice fresh water and some crunchy carrots and such.

    Are those very large bunnies not also active? How very sad.

    My default settings have developed a glitch. I wake in the wee hours – usually

    1. so I see, Sidetrack 😦 hope you get a lovely Sunday lie in.
      As to active: during the wedding, no, these bowlers and veils an be so restrictive…but it it possible their owner has a lovely large meadow in which they can lollop. They have, however, been bred large, and the breed is notorious for health problems. They will never dash anywhere, I fear…

      1. the only photos i have seen of the big bunnis is of them being held so that their size can be compared to the human holding them

        poor things, not to hop and pop around enjoying bunny-time

  4. Very well said Kate! 🙂 If I want to read something really worth it, I mean something that will give my brain something to ponder then I’ll just go here. Anyway, I think those bunnies deserve their lives. Maybe I won’t understand their reason because I have no bunnies to wed or dogs to dressed. 🙂

    1. This is quite true, Gemma 🙂 I have a dog but if I dressed him the very fibres of the clothes would plead with me to remove them. He habitually smells like a barnyard.

  5. Very cleverly written — I love how you segued from the giant bunnies to a hilarious Broadway play. (Loved “The Producers”, by the way. Will Farrell was hilarious as the Nazi.) What if the natural default setting for rabbits was the role they played in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”? *evil chuckle*

    1. I love Will Ferrell in all reincarnations 😀 and a grail bunny fan- the ferocious rabbit never made it into this post because I didn’t have enough words, but thanks for making sure we included him in the debate. One day, I want one of those as a guard bunny.

  6. Bwahaha, Kate. You are too funny sometimes. I watch that particular ‘animal’ show sometimes and am sometimes astounded by what humans do to their pets(?). I love the way your mind darts from one subject to another with such tenuous links and the way in which you manage to put it on paper is pure genius. 😀

  7. The Producers, I loved, the wedded wabbits, don’t think so. Your blog. Always.

    I have four dictionaries sitting around from different decades. Although I will default to whatever my fickle computer takes me to, I still love to pull out the hardback editions; my father’s, a college edition, one I found in a used book store, one I bought new just before we bought our first computer. My father’s is the best one, though, it has words we no longer use.

    1. I have never thought of that aspect of an old dictionary, that lexicographers might shed words! Now I want a really old one…I could rescue wonderful old words…

  8. Interesting one, the use of the word “default” when it comes to the settings for some sort of electronic device. Not really thought about it before. Looking at the various definitions, default is all about the failure to do something that you were supposed to, so I suppose that the factory settings for some equipment are what you get “by default” when it arrives, because someone has “failed” to set it up to your own specifications?

  9. I loved ‘The Producers’, Kate – felt I was laughing inappropriately the whole way through (probably due to one of my default settings) 😀 I think Mel Brooks is a genius – and one of the funniest interviewees of all time

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