humor, life, People, Pop Culture, reviews

TikTok star details murder-prone animals in a hilarious new book that will make you want to stay inside forever

The way children learned about animals when I was a boy was through a TV show called “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”

The syndicated show aired on WHO-TV in the Des Moines metro on Sunday nights if I recall.

The show was hosted by zoologist Marlin Perkins.

Perkins wore stylish, conservative dark suits. His hair was silver, and his mustache matched. He had the kind of twinkle that people do when they love their job.

Perkins showed films of conservation efforts around the world.

He often narrated the activities of his friend and fellow zoologist, Jim Fowler.

Films usually showed Fowler in tan safari clothes wrestling with an alligator or lion.

Fowler engaged in this grappling to sedate the animals so they could be tagged, and their actives traced by small radio transmitters inserted into ear piercings.

Sometimes the films showed Perkins in the field, too, complete with a pith helmet and ascot.

I don’t know if I learned very much about animals from this show, but it kept me entertained for a half-hour on Sunday evenings.

I thought of Perkins and Fowler last week when two headlines caught my attention in the news feeds.

The first came from a local TV station. It read: “Brain-eating amoeba shuts down Iowa beach.”

Someone from Missouri visited the Lake of Three Fires in Taylor County. They went for a swim and came down with a life-threatening infection associated with a rare amoeba.

There have been about 160 cases of this infection since 1962. Only four people survived it.

If the pandemic did anything, it’s to remind us that the deadliest life forms on earth are the ones we can’t see without a microscope.

Though a recent headline out of Florida suggests plenty of animals in the visible spectrum are deadly.

Giant snails recently infested a Florida town. The snails can grow to the size of a coffee cup.

I’m not sure a coffee cup is a good simile for size anymore. When I was a kid, that was a very specific size and almost always meat it held slightly more than a cup in fluid ounces.

Today’s coffee drinkers have soup bowls with landscape art drawn in the foam.

I hope they mean a 1970s coffee cup and not a 2020s coffee cup.

Regardless, these giant snails carry meningitis, another deadly malady that attacks the brain and spinal cord.

All of this is the long way of me suggesting a fun summer read by a TikTok star.

Believe me, I never thought I would type a paragraph that recommends a book by a social media influencer, but times change and so must I.

Plus, this book is funny.

The writer is by Mamadou Ndiaye. The title is a little tricky to publish in a family newspaper, but the gist of it is, “100 Animals That Can (explicative) End You.”

Ndiaye’s TikTok (@mndiay_97) gives brief lessons on how deadly wild animals — and some not-so-wild ones — are.

Ndiaye rates the American white-tailed deer as the most dangerous animal in America.

The Bambi mafia kills 200 people on an average year in the United States and causes 1.3 million vehicle crashes.

Ndiaye’s writing exposes some gross truths about dolphins that I would have preferred not to know yet could not stop reading.

When I was a boy, the only exposure I had to hippopotamuses was a board game called Hungry, Hungery Hippo that involved plastic hippos capturing marbles.

Ndiaye sets readers straight.

“Hippos aren’t just the most aggressive animals in Africa,” he writes, “they’re one of the most homicidal things to ever have a pulse.”

These 2,000-pound murder machines run 30 mph an hour on land. They’ve been known to capsize boats and maul those who fall overboard.

The hippo is responsible for at least 500 deaths a year in Africa.

Ndiaye ranks the African elephant as the world’s most dangerous animal. Some weigh as much as 12,000 pounds.

Ndiaye details a story about a herd of elephants getting drunk off fermented fruit in India, plowing into a nearby village where they killed three people and destroyed 60 homes.

Reading Ndiaye’s book in combination with recent headlines has taught me one thing: None of these stories involve a person who spends most of his time inside watching Johnny Carson reruns on Pluto TV.

I don’t know what the rest of you people are going to do, but that’s how I plan to avoid murderous amoeba, snails, and elephants, oh my.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

baseball, des moines, humor, life, News, Newspapers, People, Pop Culture, sports

These damn Yankees are making me care about baseball again

My doctor says I should avoid unnecessary stress.

That’s why I cheer for the Chicago Bears. They are usually out of contention by late September.

I don’t have a favorite NBA team, though I enjoy the Golden State Warriors.

So, the days of me getting riled up during the NBA Finals have long passed.

But baseball, the sport I love the most and is managed by its owners the poorest, is where I must be very careful.

I root for the New York Yankees.

For most of my life, it was completely safe to root for the Yankees.

They won the World Series in 1977 and 1978, but I was too young to remember those teams.

Anything I know about them is from books and documentaries.

The Yankees I grew up with were those of Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, a lot of great players who underperformed, and terrible trades that kept the Yankees mediocre most of my childhood.

But there was always “Donny Baseball,” cranking dingers, scooping low throws to first, and embodying the best player in baseball from about 1983 to 1989.

He injured his back in ’89 and was never quite the same.

This strange and frightening thing happened: The Yankees got better.

They made the playoffs in 1995, losing a heartbreaking series to the Seattle Mariners.

Then Mattingly retired.

And the Yankees got even better.

In 1996, rookie shortstop Derek Jeter, who shared the same birthday as me, led the Yankees to their first World Series since 1978.

This was horrifying.

I found myself emotionally involved with the daily box scores.

(Younger readers, if there is such a creature, will have to look up “box scores” on Google.)

Between 1996 and 2003, the Yankees won the American League pennant six times and won the World Series four times.

This was very stressful.

When your team has a chance of winning, suddenly reports about high ankle sprains and turf toe become harbingers of doom for a happy fall.

The Yankees cooled off after winning one more in 2009.

They went to the playoffs a lot, but you could tell they didn’t have the spunk needed to win it all.

For the last dozen years, baseball returned to a pleasant background noise to be checked in on occasionally between other activities of greater import, such as going on Facebook to wish happy birthday to someone I barely knew from high school.

I thought for sure I wouldn’t be bothered with baseball in 2022 given the late start to the season over another labor dispute between owners and players. Billionaire owners arguing with multi-millionaire players give a guy who couldn’t afford a ticket to a single Yankees game very little to root for.

But now, just two weeks away from the All-Star break, all that preseason animus has faded and I find myself nibbling on my fingernails again.

The Yankees are good. They have the best record in baseball. The win with big home runs, sacrifice flies, and everything in between.

Detractors mock the distance of Yankee Stadium’s rightfield wall.

Those same critics fall silent when it’s noted the Yankees have the best team ERA in baseball, too.

The team had won 58 games through Tuesday, the most in the majors.

This makes me nervous. Is the Paul Bunyan-esque figure of Aaron Judge going to stay healthy for the entire season?

What trades could be made to solidify a sometimes defensively mediocre outfield?

Can journeyman Matt Carpenter maintain his flawless mustache?

These damn Yankees are going to force me to care about baseball again.

Apathy is so much easier. There’s no emotional build-up when your team’s got no juice.

But these Yankees remind me of the 1998 Yankees, who had all the juice.

I’m going to be looking up box scores online before I go to bed and checking records and waiting for the magic number.

The Yankees are making me care about baseball again.

I guess I can live with that.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

humor, life, Movies, Music, People, Pop Culture

Everyone is approaching the ‘Stranger Things’ song challenge incorrectly

Pick your favorite song.

No, not just your favorite song.

Pick a song that’s so good it can bring you out of a funk and restore your soul.

Pick a song that would drive out a demon and prevent you from being dragged to the Upside Down and devoured.

OK, the previous paragraph needs an explanation.

“Stranger Things” is a show on the streaming service Netflix about a bunch of teenage misfits who save the world by basically understanding Dungeons & Dragons and a little bit of high school science.

Many movies in the 1980s worked this way. Pre-adolescent children saved the world while clueless adults watched the news.

“Stranger Things” is in its fourth season. In one episode, the character Max is about to be dragged to the Upside Down — the show’s version of hell — but she’s saved at the last second by her ex-boyfriend remembering her favorite song is ”Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush.

He plays the song on her Walkman cassette, and she avoids a trip to hell.

This is silly, but it tugs at the heartstrings of many people from my generation who were raised on movies, TV, and music.

This plot point inspired scores of columns and news stories about what song people would choose to prevent being dragged to hell by a vampire tree monster.

This is silly, too, but the larger the news outlet is, the sillier its stories are.

But I’ll play along.

Let’s say I buy into this premise that a pop song could save me from a demon.

My first instinct would be the Lord’s Prayer rather than a pop music song.

I was raised Methodist. I don’t practice, but with an actual demon dragging me to the Upside Down, I’ll start reciting the prayer with emphasis.

Alas, this is modern content on a streaming service.

The only way religion can be presented is to be totally ignored, as it is in “Stranger Things,” or alluded to with snide mockery, as it is far too many other places.

So, if religion is off the table, what song would I pick?

I used to have a CD collection that numbered in the high thousands.

Side note: Parents 2.0, the kindly couple who raised me after my parents died, gave me my first CD player and five CDs to fill up the 5-disc changer.

As my collection started to pile up around the house, Dad 2.0 offered a note on frugality that I wish I had considered earlier in my life.

“You can only listen to one at a time,” he said.

Anyway, back to the “Stranger Things” song challenge.

I thought about this for weeks and I don’t have a good answer.

Part of the problem is I’m a middle-aged man. Music doesn’t occupy the same space in my life that it did when I was an adolescent or college kid.

My friend Tracey Doyle always seemed to know about every band and their story before anyone else had heard them play a note.

She might take a while to answer this question because the breadth of her musical knowledge is so huge.

Me? I learned most of my favorite songs from movie soundtracks and commercial radio. The songs I’m fondest of are tied to specific memories.

“Lady in Red” by Chris De Burgh reminds me of my first girlfriend, my first kiss, and a lovely dance at the 12-B formal in 1992.

If the demon’s tendrils were around my ankle, I don’t think a love song that recalls a long-ago-ended relationship will be the thing to inspire me to kick free.

My favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival. I constantly play their greatest hits in my car.

Would “Fortunate Son” going to wrest me free from the demon?

I don’t know. I think of CCR as my chill music. I like to put on the headphones, close my eyes, and space out.

My favorite artist is Taylor Swift. I love “No Body, No Crime” from her “Evermore” album, but is a country noir murder ballad going to prevent my murder by demons?

I doubt it.

I think the only thing that would shake the demons out of me is a song I despise more than the idea of being eaten by a tree vampire.

Only one song fits that bill: “Ebony and Ivory,” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Two of the greatest songwriters and artists combined to make this simplistic, sentimental pap.

I hate this song. I know others love it. It might even be some poor, lost soul’s favorite song.

That’s fine.

We’re all free to choose which things we love and hate in this world, especially unimportant things like pop music.

And I hate “Ebony and Ivory.”

Just a few notes of it pouring into my ears would have me fist-fighting the devil himself.

By the time they reach the chorus, I would be free of the demon and running down the road.

The only stop I’d make is at church, to say the Lord’s Prayer.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Gazette.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.