June 2009

I, Claudius

I, Claudius

The opening titles of I, Claudius are famous enough that Sesame Street parodied them in one of the first iterations of “Monsterpiece Theater.” They feature a snake crawling across a Roman mosaic; the snake is, appropriately enough, an Adder (Vipera berus), a venomous snake native to Europe, and one of only three snakes found in Britain. (It’s not terribly dangerous compared to other venomous snakes, but you still don’t want to be bitten by one. Or eat the figs.)

I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!

I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!

Last night’s episode (June 17, 2009) featured a challenge where the two competitors, Lou Diamond Phillips and Torrie Wilson, had to collect tokens from a tank of 35 snakes (some of which escaped during the course of the program). Apart from an easily identifiable Boa Constrictor, the snakes appear to be harmless colubrid species local to Costa Rica; I can’t identify any of them, but they have look of harmless tropical snakes (deadly tropical snakes are much more famous), Except for one larger snake that took a few swings, the snakes were reasonably tractable; the competitors took them in stride with hardly any ewing. But why the hell were they wearing helmets?

The episode can be viewed here (watch out for popups); the snake competition begins about 12 minutes in. A preview is also on YouTube.

Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers

Killers Mickey and Mallory stumble across a den of rattlesnakes and are bitten. The photography is fast and furious in this scene, but it’s possible to make out that most of the snakes in the medium shots are Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox), which is an appropriate choice. In the grainy, blurry, black-and-white closeups of snakes striking, I think they substituted in a harmless Bullsnake or Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer); they have similar coloration.

Then they’re off to a drug store to get some rattlesnake antivenin — or, as they call it, “snake-bite juice.” It’s sold out on the shelves, so Mickey goes for the pharmacist, who manages to blurt out, “Don’t carry it. Hospital,” before he gets shot. Here’s the thing: antivenin isn’t stocked by pharmacies, and it would never have been available on the shelves. It’s always administered in hospitals: bite victims would have to be monitored for an allergic reaction to the antivenin, which might be deadlier, in some cases, than the snakebite itself.

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