I Wish More People Liked Me Than Knew Me

I went to watch the newest Crash Course video from the Vlog Bros. And by the way, I’ve come to think that they aren’t nearly as good as I had once thought. John Green, in particular, is very interesting and funny, but not very informative. In particular, I didn’t think his recent Renaissance video was good, insightful, or right. But that is a matter for another day.

Here is part of a screen capture of Hank’s most recent video:

<%image(20120625-youtube1.jpg|450|410|Hank Green Video Page - Note Views and Likes)%>

Note the lower left hand corner: it says 302 views and 497 likes. How is it that more people like this video than have even viewed it?

It must be that YouTube updates the view total more slowly than it does the likes total. For example, when I reloaded the page just now, it still said 302 views but the likes were updated to 507.

Still, this is crazy. Who writes code like this?

Kittens Are People, My Friend

Kittens are peopleCorporations are things owned by people. This is what Mitt Romney meant when he said, “Corporations are people, my friend!” (Don’t you love the condescending tone of that “my friend”?) I don’t accept this, of course. Another example of how wrong this is, is that we can’t set up our cats as employees, pay them, and then have them give $2500 to a candidate of the cats’ choice. If corporations are people because they are owned by people, why aren’t pets people because they are owned by people?

It is a serious question. I don’t know why.

Forget the Policy: They Just Hate You

Jonathan Chait says what few in the mainstream media will: the GOP think healthcare is a privilege. He writes [Bold is mine. -FM]:

This is why it’s vital to bring yourself face-to face with the implications of mass uninsurance — not as emotional manipulation, but to force you to decide what forms of material deprivation ought to be morally acceptable. This question has become, at least at the moment, the primary philosophical divide between the parties. Democrats will confine the unfortunate to many forms of deprivation, but not deprivation of basic medical care. Republicans will. The GOP is the only mainstream political party in the advanced world to hold this stance.

It is a good article that you really should read. He doesn’t go into the implications of this belief, however. I think about this all the time. The fact that I do not have access to healthcare probably means that I will die many years—perhaps decades—before I normally would. So that whole thing about rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is just a lie. All modern Republicans and a large share of Democrats are more conservative than the men who founded this country.

We’re number one! We’re number one!

Is Bugs Bunny a Rabbit or Hare?

Bugs BunnyBefore getting to the burning question of whether Bugs Bunny is a rabbit or a hare, let’s take a step back and take a look at this colorful character.

A Brief History of Bugs Bunny

On 30 April, all the way back in 1938, Bugs’ Bunny was born. Well, sorta.

Note that I used an apostrophe after what has become his first name. It is in reference to the director of the first cartoon to feature the character, Ben Hardaway, whose nickname was Bugs. Thus, animators started referring to the nameless character as “Bugs’ bunny” (and later “Bugs’s bunny”) — not a name, a description. But the name stuck, even if the apostrophe didn’t.

The cartoon in question is Porky’s Hare Hunt. But the bunny in that film is not much like the Bugs Bunny we have grown to love.

For one thing, he sounds like Woody Woodpecker — literally. In 1940, Mel Blanc moved the voice from the one character to the other.

Also, this early character doesn’t have the intellectual sophistication that he will eventually develop. (Although he’s still way smarter than Porky Pig and most humans I know.) He’s mostly just a spaz, like Daffy Duck in his early versions. (He was first introduced in the similarly titled, Porky’s Duck Hunt.)

In addition to this, Bugs doesn’t look the same. He’s quite short — again, like the early Daffy Duck. And he is all one color. But there is a continuity. It’s kind of like the old philosophy riddle about replacing the handle and the head of an ax: is it the same ax? There isn’t one answer to that; it is just a way of thinking about what is is.

But in the case of Bugs Bunny, I think we can say that this little Woody Woodpecker laughing bunny is indeed a form of the iconic character.

This is not the consensus view, however.

That film was from the Looney Tunes series, and Bugs Bunny really is a Merrie Melodies character. Thus, most people consider the first appearance to be in the 27 July 1940 film A Wild Hare:

And he evolved from there. Frankly, I believe at some point he crossed a line and became uninteresting. It’s hard to set a precise moment, because there is no such moment. But it was when Warner Bros Cartoons went postmodern. That’s when there was Bugs Bunny the actor and Bugs Bunny the part he played.

Not that good postmodern cartoons weren’t made. Duck Amuck is one of the best things Warner Bros Cartoons ever did.

It’s more that Bugs Bunny became so sophisticated and so in control that he lost his zany. But there’s a lot more great Bugs Bunny than meh.

Is This a Question Worth Asking?

As far as I know, I was the first person on the internet to ask and fully answer the question, “Is Bugs Bunny a rabbit or a hare”? People go their whole lives without asking the really important questions.

It was a question that had burned in my mind since I was a child. Rabbits and hares look similar, but they are very different animals.

But I was surprised that almost to a person, my friends found the “rabbit or hare” question absurd — just Frank being Frank. However, since I published this article back in 2012, it has been one of the most popular pages on this site of 8,000 pages.

Clearly: a lot of people had the same question.

And several years after this article was first published, a number of other people published similar articles. There’s even a video that deals with the issue, although in a roundabout way.

Bugs Bunny: Rabbit or Hare?

So let’s get to the question: is Warner Bros Cartoons’ most famous character a rabbit or a hare? The question must be answered!

Is a Bunny a Rabbit?

I know what you’re thinking: his name is Bugs Bunny, so he must be a rabbit. And yet, most of the cartoons have titles like Hare Brush and Fallin’ Hare and Bill of Hare.

What’s more, just look at the titles of the two films that people argue about being the first to feature Bugs Bunny: Porky’s Hare Hunt and A Wild Hare (both embedded above).

An Ill-Defined Term

And the truth is that “bunny” is an ill-defined term. But not because it isn’t defined as (generally a young) rabbit. Rather, because most people lump rabbits and hares together.

So the situation is far from clear.

A Little Biology: Rabbit vs Hare

Before we get into this, I should tell you a little bit about rabbits and hares.

Despite the fact that they look quite similar, they are, in fact, not just different species, but different Genera.

In fact, rabbits (and I always kind of knew this because you just can’t trust rabbits) are in 8 different Genera.

This depends on the exact kind of rabbit. Most Americans will know the rabbits in the Sylvilagus Genus, which includes the cottontail rabbit.

Hares are all in one genus: Lepus.

Rabbits have 44 chromosomes, while hares have 48. So they really are fundamentally different.

So rabbits and hares are only in the same family: Leporidae. So they are as related as humans are to gorillas — very related, but far from being the same.

Two Cottontail Rabbits
Two cottontails (rabbit)

What’s In a Name?

Part of the problem is that five of the 32 types of hare are called jackrabbits. (Five different kinds of rabbits are called hares.)

This reminds me of all the confusion about the dormouse. The dormouse is not a mouse. In fact, they aren’t even the same Family; you have to go up to the Order (Rodentia), which they share.

When I was younger, I wondered why the jackrabbits I see everywhere here in Northern California seemed so different than domesticated rabbits. It is because they are only distantly related. And personally, I find hares much more interesting, even if I’m personally more like a rabbit.

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit in Tall Dry Grass
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (hare)

What Does This All Have to Do With Bugs Bunny

Perhaps the most obvious difference between hares and rabbits is how they are born. Hares are born with hair (Ha!) and are fairly independent. Rabbits are born blind and hairless.

Unfortunately, his does us no good in our search for the truth about Bugs Bunny, because no film survives from his early days. But all hope is not lost.

Because of the fragility of young rabbits, they are forced to live underground in burrows. And Bugs Bunny lives in a hole. This almost seems like a smoking gun:

I’m not sure that the hole they are in at the beginning is Bugs’. It may be Shorty’s. But we have seen that Bugs lives in a hole in many other episodes. This does suggest that Bugs is a rabbit. Unfortunately, it is about the only thing that does. And The Flintstones live in houses, not caves. The hole seems clearly designed to give Bugs Bunny a sense of place, and in later episodes a sense of his being human-like (note that neither hares nor rabbits easily outwit humans).

Bugs is gray, and hares tend to be grayish. Bugs has long ears, and hares have longer ears. Bugs is fast, and hares are very fast (jackrabbits can run up to 40 miles per hour). Bugs is quick witted, and so are hares — they have to be given they live out in the open. But by far, the most compelling evidence that Bugs Bunny is a hare is that hares do not live in groups — they are loners.

The argument for Shorty is perhaps better. For one thing, he looks like a rabbit. And he doesn’t speak English like hares normally do.

Conclusion: Is Bugs Bunny a Hare or a Rabbit?

In the end, I suppose we shouldn’t depend upon cartoons for our biology education. Bugs seems to be both a rabbit and a hare. But the evidence points more toward him being a hare.

What is clear is that the crew at Merrie Melodies saw hares and rabbits as interchangeable. Given that Warner Bros Cartoons was based in Los Angeles, California, the main experience of the people working there was likely the jackrabbit — a hare that is called a rabbit.

And obviously, given that Bugs Bunny was first paired with Elmer Fudd, and Elmer Fudd was first paired with the proto-Bugs Bunny (Elmer’s Candid Camera), of course they would use “rabbit” to make fun of Fudd’s speech impediment (it was 1940).

I think Bugs Bunny looks and acts more like a hare than a rabbit. But what he really looks and acts like is a cartoon character. One of the very best.

Now all I have to do is get the scoop on that Trix “rabbit.”