L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Music

What do artistic Asian elephants and late metal musician Ronnie James Dio have in common? Guitars

Elephant painting a guitar

Metal singer Ronnie James Dio, who died last year at age 67 after a battle with stomach cancer, is helping animals posthumously through a partnership between the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout cancer fund set up in his memory and the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project.

Dio's wife and manager, Wendy Dio, arranged to have elephants decorate several guitars as a fundraiser for both organizations. The Times' music blog Pop & Hiss reports:

Plans call for three elephant-painted guitars to be auctioned this fall, according to a spokeswoman for Dio. Details on the time and manner of the auction are to be announced. SUAS also plans to auction off a total of 100 other instruments being donated and/or signed by celebrity players to raise money for its prevention, research and education efforts.

The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project sells elephants' art (you might have seen an amazing video in which one of the animals paints what appears to be a self-portrait), using the money to provide food, shelter and veterinary care for captive elephants and provide education on humane elephant treatment for their mahouts, or handlers.

You can see examples of the elephants' paintings at the charity's website. Our favorite elephant artist is a 7-year-old female named Khamtool, a resident of the Maetaman elephant camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand, whose favorite painting subject is colorful flowers.

Tennessee's Elephant Sanctuary looks to make a fresh start after co-founder's firing
Indian official orders probe into wild elephant deaths near wildlife refuge

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: An elephant named Jaab painting an electric guitar. Credit: Mark Weiss

Charo says she had to give up her pet bull after Beverly Hills neighbors complained

Charo Charo says she has a beef with her neighbors. The Spanish-American guitarist and entertainer says she had to give up her pet bull after a neighbor in Beverly Hills, Calif., complained about the smell of its feces.

Charo says she adopted the bull calf after they filmed an anti-bullfighting video together for the animal rights group PETA in 2009. Now that the bull has grown, she says, "Beverly Hills people complain" about the aroma.

A Beverly Hills spokeswoman confirms that officials advised a resident that livestock isn't allowed in the city.

Charo says the bull is named Manolo. She says it lives at a Malibu horse farm but is still allowed to visit her.

The entertainer appears in the SiTV series "Latino 101." She just released the single "Sexy Sexy."

Justin Bieber's hair helps rescued farm animals -- wait, what?
Paul McCartney asks India's prime minister to declare a national Vegetarian Day

-- Lauri Neff, Associated Press

Photo: Charo on Feb. 23. Credit: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Justin Bieber's hair helps rescued farm animals -- wait, what?


Devoted friend to animals Ellen DeGeneres, a former PETA Person of the Year who was instrumental in the donation of a million servings of pet food to homeless animals through the U.S. Postal Service's "Stamps to the Rescue" campaign last year, has done yet another nice thing for animals in need.

It's a strange one, and it involves Justin Bieber's hair.

Allow us to explain. After the recent premiere of his new movie "Never Say Never 3D," the teen star cut his famous hair and gave it to DeGeneres to auction on eBay, our colleagues at The Times' celebrity news blog Ministry of Gossip report. (The winning bidder, who hasn't been identified publicly, also gets to meet Bieber the next time he appears on DeGeneres' talk show.)

Bieber's hair brought in a staggering $40,668 in the auction, proceeds from which will benefit local farm-animal rescue charity the Gentle Barn. The charity, which houses more than 100 rescued farm animals at its Santa Clarita sanctuary facility, has been featured on DeGeneres' show and is a favorite charity of the comedian and her wife, Portia De Rossi.

DeGeneres and De Rossi are both longtime supporters of animal-friendly causes; De Rossi has been a spokesperson for the feral-cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies. Bieber is no slouch in the animal-loving department, either; he recently partnered with PETA's youth division, PETA2, on a campaign to promote companion animal adoption.

'Cove' star Ric O'Barry meets with Sting about Taiji dolphin slaughter
Paul McCartney asks India's prime minister to declare a national Vegetarian Day

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Bieber at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 16. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Video goodness: Piano-playing dog sings -- or howls, to be precise -- the blues

OK, so Tucker the schnauzer-poodle mix doesn't have the musical chops of a real piano virtuoso like, say, Nora the Piano Cat. His performance in the above video is all about his contagious enthusiasm, and we'd be the first to sing along if only we were able to howl like he does.

Unsolicited advice for some animal-loving booking agent out there: Hire Tucker, Nora, Beamin the piano-playing beagle and Elissa the piano-playing Flemish giant rabbit to perform in some sort of dueling-pianos show. Get Maru the cat on tambourine and we bet you'll have a hit on your hands!

Tucker "plays the piano and sings along at least 3 or 4 times every day," his owner writes on YouTube. "In spite of all of his practicing, he really isn't getting any better at it."

Your morning adorable: Beatboxing cockatiel struts his stuff
Your morning adorable: Talented cat plays the theremin

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: KennedyFamily99 via YouTube

Paul McCartney asks India's prime minister to declare a national Vegetarian Day

Macca NEW DELHI — Outspoken vegetarian Paul McCartney is urging India to declare a national Vegetarian Day to celebrate meat-free living and compassion toward animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said McCartney sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying such a day could save animals while helping to protect both the environment and people's health.

McCartney's letter said "it would be a celebration of life."

The United Nations food agency in 2003 estimated that 42% of India's 1.2 billion people are vegetarian, mostly because of financial and religious concerns. Strict Hindus and Jains do not eat meat.

Singh's office could not immediately confirm receipt of McCartney's letter Tuesday.


-- Associated Press

Photo: McCartney in 2001. Credit: Jan Bauer / Associated Press

Video goodness: 'Dancing' hummingbird grooves to Al Green

Birds love our backyard in Echo Park. It's rife with an eclectic array of plants from fruit trees to cactus.

The other day, I was working in my office when I noticed a hummingbird darting about from the lantana to a bird of paradise to an orange tree and back. I got out my Canon still camera to try and capture a frame of the hummingbird in flight. I trained my lens on the bird as it rested on a wire, waiting for it to take off. But it didn't take off. It sat on the wire, swaying back and forth and moving its head from side to side, as if dancing to an inner rhythm.

I went back into my office and grabbed my video camera. Darn it! The battery wasn't charged. I sought out an extension cord, making sure the bird was still there and still dancing. It was.

For more than 7 minutes, I videotaped the tiny creature, watching it bounce and sway, and I started to hear soul music in my head. After it finally flew away, with the footage in my computer, I added just the right Al Green song, "I Feel Good," and it's just like he's dancing to the music.

Your morning adorable: Beatboxing cockatiel struts his stuff
Your morning adorable: Frostie the cockatoo shakes his tail feathers

-- Pamela Wilson

Video goodness: Cat does not appreciate being Rickrolled

If you've ever been Rickrolled -- subjected to the popular Internet meme of a few years back, in which an unsuspecting web-surfer clicks a hyperlink and winds up watching the music video for Rick Astley's 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" -- you will understand the frustration of Fro the cat.

RickRollThe Rickroll quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, turning up everywhere from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to college basketball games to protests against the Church of Scientology. And it didn't stop there. Times technology writer David Sarno wrote in 2008:

[T]he Rickroll has sired many memelets, including the Fresh Prince roll, the rainroll (plopping you in front of a video of Tay Zonday's "Chocolate Rain") and even the Reichroll, where Astley's song is spliced with footage of Adolf Hitler for an unsettling sort of lip sync.

Though Fro manages to tolerate "Never Gonna Give You Up" for a while, he clearly hits his tolerance threshold toward the end of the video. We've all been there. At a certain point, you've just got to say "DO NOT WANT," turn off the 80s pop music and push the phone across the table, you know? Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Video goodness: Cat in a banana-split costume eats a banana. No, you are not hallucinating
Your morning adorable: Cat punches the air while watching boxing on TV

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: ThirstyEar2 via YouTube

OK Go's new music video for 'White Knuckles' features talented dogs (and raises money for homeless animals)

When animal trainer Roland Sonnenburg of Talented Animals met director and choreographer Trish Sie in a meeting about a TV show several years ago, he had no idea that it would lead to the production of the music video above, for OK Go's "White Knuckles."

Sie mentioned that her brother was a musician and that she was interested in making a video for his band that featured animal actors. Sonnenburg agreed to discuss the idea, "knowing that everybody in Los Angeles has a relative in a band, and the odds of anything ever coming of that conversation were slim," he wrote on Talented Animals' blog.

What Sie neglected to mention was that her brother was Damian Kulash, the frontman of OK Go, a band known for its impressive music videos. (Kulash, a dog lover in his own right, has two rescue dogs of his own named Bunny Carlos and Dora. He talked about them and the importance of rescuing homeless pets in a video for PETA's youth-oriented sibling, PETA2.)

Eventually, Sonnenburg, Sie and Kulash met in person and decided to move forward with the idea for a dog-centric video. But Sonnenburg was dismayed to learn that Kulash's vision was to use a single take for the video, with no cuts.

"Now for those of you who have never worked an animal on film, we use cuts and optimal camera angles for everything," Sonnenburg wrote on the blog. "They are the tools that let us succeed. Without cuts, the animals would have to all work at the same time with their trainers far away, and we would need to get each dog and trainer and [band member] and [crew member] to nail every single behavior all in the same take." In other words: Hard.

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Children's artist teaches kids to be responsible for their pets through music

No, you didn't just accidentally ingest something hallucinogenic. 

You've merely witnessed a music video by children's songwriter Didi Pop, a local artist whose songs (many of them animal-related) are intended to teach valuable lessons to kids aged 1 through 6.

"Feed the Pet" is silly, sure (and it also makes us feel a bit woozy, rather like the oddly hypnotic children's show "Once Upon a Hamster"), but we can't argue with a song that teaches children the importance of looking out for their four-legged friends.

Didi Pop's repertoire also includes other pet-themed songs, including the aptly named "Wack Job Dog" (the dog of the title does, in fact, seem to be on the eccentric side) and our personal favorite, "Max the Wonderdog," a first-person account of the rescue of a former car-shop guard dog. "Max" has tinges of Nilsson's "The Puppy Song," and coming from us, that's a very big compliment indeed.

A different kind of birdsong: Photo of birds on electrical wires inspires music
Octopus oracle Paul inspires a theme song

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: didipopmusic via YouTube

Octopus oracle Paul inspires a theme song

Color us excited: Our favorite novelty-animal-song writer, Parry Gripp, has penned an ode to Paul the octopus (or, if you prefer, "el pulpo Paul"), the so-called oracle who recently went 8 for 8 in predicting the outcomes of World Cup matches.

"He picks the winner / when he eats his dinner," the lyrics note, referencing the fact that Paul's predictions were made by selecting a mussel from one of two clear boxes marked with flags. "Your tentacles are magical / They pick the winning team / You were born in England / Now you live in Germany," the song continues. Elvis Costello-style wordplay it is not, but has Elvis ever written a song about a soccer-predicting octopus? To the best of our knowledge, no.

Paul has officially retired from the prognosticating game, although public relations expert Max Clifford told CNN that he could still make a mint by appearing in commercials and print advertising campaigns. The German aquarium where he lives has said that it is vetting offers "to see if there are opportunities to spread Paul's fame even further, without involving the canny cephalod directly." Meanwhile, PETA Germany is asking Paul's fans to sign a petition to free him.

We're not sure if Gripp's "Paul the Octopus" rivals his earlier masterpieces -- among them "That Skunk Is Mad," "Shopping Penguin," "Spaghetti Cat (I Weep for You)" and our personal favorite, "Cat Flushing a Toilet" -- but it's still, in our opinion, the best psychic-mollusk song out there. 

Paul the octopus oracle picks Spain to win World Cup amid media frenzy, death threats
Soccer prognosticating octopus Paul picks Spain over his own Germany in World Cup game

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: Parry Gripp via YouTube


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