That frog prince story as seen from the home castle

Filed under: Philologia, Politikos, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 21:31

One of those articles-that-started-as-a-comment: meant to be taken following Robinson's.

I'd briefly considered joining on the expedition, if only to catch the views from the mountain retreat. But I'm generally quite uninterested in deliberately poisoning myself, figuring the modern environment is probably doing that quite well enough already; and regardless of the substance involved or how many acquaintances did it and felt great afterwards (in the rebound of the neuro-endocrine pendulum from having felt awful during). So since I wouldn't be partaking and the time commitment was quite uncertain - indeed, even more uncertain than initially thought - I figured I'd be best off staying on my own path.

After being dropped off at home in the city I washed and rested up a bit, noting the skin on my right middle knuckle, perhaps not quite bruised but certainly darkened. It had been my second time with boxing training, and I'd initially tried striking the teacher's mitts bare-handed, but soon observed the wrong sort of pain(i) in that hand and took up the offer of wrapping it in a pad.

I then invited a girl I'd met online to grab a coffee, an invitation I allowed to morph into lunch then dinner as she was supposedly so tied up with work at a restaurant. Long story short, she wasted a bunch of my time with false promises and never ended up showing at all. Afterwards I randomly crossed paths with another girl - well, technically a 10-years-older woman but still a girl at heart - who's kinda into me but has a very different temperament and mostly just wants a buddy for world travel adventures right now. But y'know, maybe in another life, or if I changed my priorities to better suit her. Anyway, she was off to someplace with another guy friend so after some brief hellos I continued home, with my Al-Basha beef kibbeh to go in brown paper bag in hand.

At 5:40pm local time I received the first not-exactly-distress call from Robinson, saying that he was unexpectedly still at the mountain, that they'd "hit him hard" but it was all good and he'd call again later. The next call came at 8:10pm when he said he was unwell and Owen was driving him to the hospital; the strained breathing was audible in his voice. I asked if this kind of reaction was common in the shaman's experience and heard that it was very rare, so I concurred that calling in the support of the white man's medicine was the best path at that point. The phone signal was breaking up so I asked him to text me Owen's number or have him call me, in case I couldn't find it otherwise in my own or shared records, which indeed I couldn't. With his compromised faculties Robinson managed to send the text, but with a bit flipped, so I was unable to connect; not knowing of the error, I took the silence as simple unavailability and opted against further pestering the driver on those dodgy mountain roads for the time being. At 8:40 Robinson called back from closer to the hospital and we got the phone handoff sorted. At 9:45 I spoke again with both, hearing that Robinson's condition was stable and he might be home by midnight; his voice sounded better, too.

During this time, I considered going to meet them at the hospital but decided that between Owen and the institution, the man was in good hands already, and I'd be of most value by staying available back at base meanwhile learning as much as I could. I'd never heard anyone mention "Kambo" and only knew of it as "doing the frog poison", so lacking the proper search terms I had a false start down the path of "poison dart frogs" of the family Dendrobatidae, for instance the golden poison frog Phyllobates terribilis, "likely the most poisonous animal on the planet" and, I'd hazard a guess, the eponym of the local brewery and pub chain La Rana Dorada.

Golden poison frog
This guy.

Also, lacking much of any library coverage on the diverse topics involved, I mostly ended up at Wikipedia (whose pretty pictures I've cheerfully re-stolen), the New York Times and similar pits of sadness. Anyway I found the proper term soon enough, learning that it was instead the Giant Monkey Frog or thereabouts that was most likely involved.

Giant monkey frog
That guy.

Other assorted fun findings included:

  • The substance produced by the Dentrobatidae, containing a diverse range of alkaloids, is properly referred to as a toxin or poison but not a venom, as the frog doesn't transmit it by biting or stinging; it's secreted on the skin and works its effect when the ignorant predator eats the frog.
  • Thus, the defense it affords the individual frog is only in the collective educational effect on would-be predators, which is why it's accompanied by bright colors and patterns in an honest signal or aposematism.
  • The secretion of the Phyllomedusa bicolor (family Hylidae or formerly Phyllomedusidae) on the other hand contains opioid peptides and is known for inducing intense vomiting.
  • The potion produced by frogs in captivity is impotent, and thus it must be harvested from wild-caught ones. It's supposed that this is because either the toxins themselves or their precursors are sequestered from the frog's natural diet, you know, termites and centipedes and shit that you can't buy at the pet store.
  • The harvesting is done by inducing stress in the frog, for instance by stretching its legs or binding them and holding it near a fire, then scraping off the secretion onto a stick and leaving that to dry. Or something like that. It doesn't sound to me like one would get a particularly controlled dosage by this traditional method, i.e. one man's "five dots" could easily contain more juice than another's ten.
  • Kambo is an old tribal practice originating in the Amazon and Central America, reportedly used to prepare warriors or at any rate to test their mettle. Alongside Ayahuasca, in recent times it's become trendy among foreigners in search of alternative medicines and/or experiences. The substance was banned in Australia in 2021, with no findings of medical benefit, reports of deaths after use and otherwise internal damage in some cases.
  • 95% of interviewed frogs report feeling great and more alive than ever after being released from the experience.

While I'm all in favor of full freedom to let each pick his own poison, I can't help but note some similarity with the also recently trending mRNA "hotfix", promoted for preventing reducing the effects temporarily reducing the effects of COVID-19 infection, in that both seem to be marketed as "vaccines" and with little to no awareness, acknowledgment or research into adverse effects on the part of their promoters. On the other hand, between the two, Kambo would seem to have the merits of being old and bringing a much lower asymmetry of information between its producers and consumers.(ii)

As to what I might have done better in this episode, it seems unlikely that anything a skeptical ignoramus like me could have said up front would have made much of a difference - and what would that have been anyway? Don't go explore this thing you've been curious about? An unspecific "be careful", like I'm some kind of worried mother? Not likely. I could have done more reading beforehand; but it was his interest, not mine. He does all kinds of exploring of things that seem entirely uninteresting to me and once in a while something valuable comes back; it's a part of his value to me, and generally I see my choices as either to come along for the ride or else stay out of the way.

I reckon I should have got that phone number down before parting ways in the morning, though.

  1. "No pain, no gain" they say, but there's the sort of pain that brings gain, and the sort that brings injury. And perhaps that provides its own sort of gain eventually, but meanwhile it sets you back and potentially with even more problems than you started out with. I'm not sure if we're missing a word here in English to distinguish, or if the distinction is strictly in my own head, or what. [^]
  2. Ingredients list A: frog goop we found in the jungle. Ingredients list B: trade secrets we cooked up in a lab. Using Excel spreadsheets. Who's got more to gain by hiding things? Or I dunno, maybe it's not even a secret strictly speaking, but could just as well be since nobody reads code anyway and there's no way to verify it's built from the advertised sources. Which nobody can do anymore either. [^]


  1. But I'm generally quite uninterested in deliberately poisoning myself

    Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis ? You intoxicate yourself with booze from time to time, don'tchya ? Maybe that's an exception to the general rule.

    Good point about the challenges of dosage control.

    Re the Aussies, yeah, and they were particularly savage with their lockdowns imprisonments and mRNA mandates.

    Anyways, thanks for writing it.

    Comment by Robinson Dorion — 2023-07-22 @ 02:02

  2. > You intoxicate yourself with booze from time to time, don'tchya ? Maybe that's an exception to the general rule.

    It is an exception to that "generally" indeed, though it hadn't specifically come to mind.

    Fwiw, I did hold off quite a while on getting started there, which had its contributory effect toward further alienation from the various "cultures" whether high school or collegiate. I'd show up to some of those "parties" to give them a try and feel entirely at a loss as to where was the appeal in getting wasted in large numbers and talking about how wasted you got that other time or whatever. Though on the other hand in some cases it helped connect me with others who similarly didn't get it.

    Comment by Jacob Welsh — 2023-07-23 @ 17:12

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