Tuesday, November 18, 2008


: A stereotypical rullnokk is a poorly educated young man (generally between 16 and 25) with limited interests, who chooses "sport dress" and highly values automobiles... Nokk literally means "beak." (Estonian Wikipedia)

The rullnokk, the national bird of Estonia, was once thought to inhabit only rural areas. Recently, however, during the period surrounding the American presidential election, large numbers of the creature were spotted in Estonia’s metropolitan areas.

The bird is often tall, as birds go, gangly as a stork with a shaven, ostrich-like head, and scientists believe it to possess a brain approximately the size of a bar of hotel soap. Despite the bird’s brain size relative to a human being’s, the species has demonstrated the ability, both in and outside the laboratory, to send and receive SMS text messages. Here are two I personally received immediately following Mr. Obama’s presidential victory:

Pass the fried chicken! And: 50 Cent gonna play the inauguration party!

Generally speaking, with any species, the use of the exclamation mark is a sign of arrested intellectual development, and, in this case, scientists are particularly worried about its use by the rullnokk, given the birds’ tendency toward violent outbursts when present in flocks.

Eesti Ekspress, a leading Estonian ornithological chronicle, published a photograph of two male rullnokkad in its post-election pealtnägija feature. The first bird, who bore a striking resemblance to Margus Tsahkna, sang: “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…” The second rullnokk, closely resembling Mart Laar, replied: “Oleks aeg juba see rassism lõpetada, et neeger justkui ei suudaks ise enda eest seista. Küll ta suudab, kui vaadata kuulsaid neegersportlasi ja neegritest muusikuid…”* Indeed, rullnokks may surface in places one would never expect.

The rullnokk, generally a scavenger species which feeds on carcasses discarded by those higher in the food chain, can exhibit predatory behavior when present in large numbers. Clinical trials have thus far proven ineffective in altering the bird’s behavior, and its quick death via drowning or neck-wringing is the most accepted method of ensuring a stable, balanced environment.

How can Estonia eradicate its rullnokks, which currently pose a danger to far more than the forgotten villages and fallow fields of Estonia’s agrarian past? Though the subject has never received serious attention in republics of the former Soviet Union, both western politicians and scientists have worked to fund and develop techniques to deal with the bird.

Both private- and EU support is currently available for rullnokk trapping and extermination. The most effective program, as one might expect, is also one of the most controversial. A Soros Foundation-sponsored program grants funding for the visit of 200 professional American football players to Central and Eastern European cities. The program covers the players’ hotel rooms and provides them beer money, but otherwise the Americans make themselves at home on the streets and in the bars of their host cities, engaging and eradicating the rullnokk in a quick, efficient fashion with a single blow to the trachea or ventriculus.

United Nations-sponsored seminars are also available and have achieved mixed results. Two fine examples are the seminars, “The Rullnokk Walks Upright” (limited success in Latvia) and “Teaching Rullnokks to Breathe Through the Nose” (employed on a trial basis in Lithuania).
Other foundations have funded the production of documentary films, though these often rely on a rullnokk’s ability to comprehend language of richer complexity than found in SMS text messages, and it is therefore impossible to guarantee desired results.

The Soros-funded program utilizing American NFL players has not only delivered results, but it has generated enthusiasm from the players themselves, many of whom are avid hunters as well as beer drinkers. “I’ve hunted birds all over the world, and I’ve drunk beer all over the world, but this is the first time I’ve been praised by society for doing both,” remarked a player in a recent interview with CNN. “For all of us,” noted the player, “the approach is truly a win-win situation.”

*Rough translation of Laar's speech bubble: It's about time this racism ended. Like a negro can't stand on his own two feet--he sure as hell can; just look at all those famous negro athletes and musicians...