Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Life-Long Love Affair With Penguins

I don't know exactly when it started.

Screen shot of the original Pengo arcade game
I can't pinpoint any kind of epiphany when I realized that the penguin is my favourite creature in the animal kingdom. It's possible that the catalyst was a bizzare arcade game called Pengo which I fell in love with and played incessantly when it made its first appearance at the Innis pub at U of T while I was a student there. I do know that this game is what gave me my first safe-to-print nickname, "Bi3F", courtesy of my buddy Brett MacMillan. "Biff" is the sound I used to make when I kicked the blocks of ice at the "Snow Bees" (the antagonists of the game) and Brett decided it would be better with a "silent 3". Yes, we were that dorky. He and I would play that table-top game for hours, sitting across from each other with a pint or six. It's also the reason I've used "Pengo" in most of my online handles for much of my life.

"Penguin Crossing" magnet from South Africa
Whatever the reason, I started receiving penguins in various forms as gifts from all of my friends and family. If they went away on a trip and came across a penguin souvenir, it invariably found its way back to me. It continues to happen to this day: my friends Kemp Watson and Nancy Brockelbank were in South Africa a couple of months ago and brought back the magnet you see in this picture. Extra information: the magnet is stuck on a CD rack in the shape of...a penguin. Double your pleasure, double your fun!

Conductor Penguin and music stand, in pewter
I also used to look for penguins when I was traveling and I would purchase them for myself. However, I now have so many different "types" of penguins I find it difficult to remember where each one came from. For example, I think I bought this "maestro" penguin when I was in California before my kids were born; however, I am not 100% sure of that and that's a shame. I have penguins made out of pewter, wood, glass, crystal, ceramic and plaster. I have stuffed animals, Christmas decorations, books, figurines, paintings and toys. I have keychains, t-shirts, hats and even a Mario Lemiuex Pittsburgh Penguin hockey jersey.

My very own "Wandering Penguin"
My friend Susan Adsett made me a "Wandering Penguin" by hand last year. If you can't tell from my picture: there is a compass between its feet and its right flipper is pointing which way to go; this is what makes it a "Wandering Penguin", which is also the name I use for my Flickr account and for most comments I make on news sites. It has a place of honour between my keyboard and monitor. It may well be my favourite of all my penguins; it's at least in very limited company. A very talented artist is Ms. Adsett!

Sarah and Pepe the penguin
In April of 2006 Sarah and I went to Florida with her dad and his partner, Lana. Before we left, Sarah booked us all into a behind-the-scenes package which included an opportunity to pat a penguin. This was, obviously, the highlight of my trip to Sea World and maybe even the whole vacation. The keeper brought the little African penguin out to see us, put him down on a low wall, sat down and spread a towel over her lap, then looked at the bird and tapped the towel a couple of times. Adorably, the penguin came toddling over and hopped up onto her lap to receive his fish treats. There were about a dozen or so of us on this tour and we all took a turn patting the little guy. I made sure I went last so I wouldn't feel pressured to hurry. He was a very social creature - as I've heard is the same for the penguins currently at the Toronto Zoo. What a fantastic treat that was.

And that brings me to the catalyst for this post today. My friend Ronna Mogelon - who is wholly or partly responsible for three of the blogs I link to on the right-hand side, Ronna's Blog, The Poutine Chronicles and Art Fayre - posted this video on my Facebook timeline today:

As I said in my comments on the original FB thread: I was holding it together until the gentoo chick started to trill; then I became a puddle. You can find a little more about the making of this video at this link. I think I need to travel with this man.


I've kept my comments open and moderation-free for many years, but I've been forced to now review them before they post due to the actions of one member of my family. I apologize for having to take this stance, but that's the way the world is headed, sad to say. Thank you for your understanding.

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