Get Your Eagle On: A Conversation With The Man Behind "Eagles That Look Like Arsene Wenger"

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You remember 14 months ago. I had that haircut, about which enough said, honestly. There were the Republican primary debates, one every 36 hours no matter what, Newt Gingrich showing up looking like a pompous marshmallow sculpture of Wade Phillips and babbling about Antietam and leadership. American football fans were touched by the heartwarming story of University of Arkansas football coach/tumid sociopath Bobby Petrino and the mistress he'd installed in the school's athletic department, and on the back of his drunk-driven motorcycle, and then Petrino got fired for all that. Also things were awful in Syria, in more or less the same way that they are awful now. The world was what it is, in other words, give or take the emergence of the world-tiltingly brilliant Tumblr Capybaras That Look Like Rafael Nadal.

That majestic bit of tumblarity was the work of London-based web designer Laurie Ainley, and was both exactly what it looks like and exponentially better than it sounds. Ainley took the time to talk to me about his capybara-based labor of love, then took 14 or so months off. He emerged, in this different but similar enough world, earlier this month with another Tumblr masterwork. It is entitled Eagles That Look Like Arsene Wenger, and it will take you back to that not-much-simpler and not terribly long ago time when capybaras seemed to look at least a bit like Rafael Nadal, things were frankly pretty similar, and Tumblr offered both some sweet, goofy relief from the workaday oof and a reminder that some animals look like some people. Ainley and I emailed about his newest venture, why he came back, and the essential eagleness of Arsenal's idiosyncratic, irreplaceable and deceptively feathery coach.

There was the distinct sense, after Capybaras That Look Like Rafael Nadal, that you were something like finished with the Animals n' Athletes game. As if there was no more left to do, no comparison left to make. What brought you back? And what did those 14 months away teach you?

Unfinished business brought me back. I knew I may have touched the hearts of 90-95% of the world’s population, won every award under the sun for animal based celebrity comparison blogs and fundamentally changed the course of humanity, but when everything’s said and done, those are just stone cold facts. I think when you look back on your achievements you start to wonder if you’ve truly explored every avenue to its fullest extent. But, you know, sleeping on a bed of various diamond, gold and crystal awards with your name engraved on them doesn’t comfort you as much as you’d think. I’m fortunate to know someone in yourself who’s as familiar with that problem as I am.

So I decided to do something about it – I took two pieces of paper, blindfolded myself, and sketched whatever felt right with a pen in each hand. And once glued together, the results became They’re not photos, those are hand-drawn masterpieces, and hence you can’t sue me for copyright infringement.

I’d say the last 14 months have taught me an awful lot about humility. I mean believe me, I could write books about humility, best-selling ones. I’d tell you more but I’d probably just make you feel inferior. Anyway, if I had one small nugget of advice to give bloggers who want to replicate my exorbitant success, it’d be to write a flurry of posts in a day, followed by a break of at least a year, and then to start an entirely unrelated new blog. A 12-month gap is pretty much guaranteed to bring you success. I mean what gets a bigger audience – the problem of day-to-day misogyny in the workplace, or the latest James Bond film? Precisely.

A capybara is an animal without much cachet, at least beyond a small group of loyalists, but eagles – despite being objectively pretty busted looking – have their patriotic significance and a sort of ambient nobility and grandeur to them. Do you think there's some deeper eagle-y aspect to Wenger that led you to this comparison, or was it just the feathered hairdo, tiny angry eyes and prominent nose?

It’s hard for me to say as I believe this sort of genius breeds on a subconscious level, but I’d have to say it’s the striking similarity in their French-tinged broken English that brought about the comparison. That and the innate ability for a bald eagle to nurture a young immature fullback and sell him on for eight times the values as a confident roaming midfielder a year later. Also, Arsene Wenger is an anagram of ‘Rear New Genes’, so that just proves it.

The thing is these days people look up their family trees and find out they’re related to some crazy unexpected people. In Arsene’s case, I just wouldn’t be surprised if his appearance on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ culminates in him tracing his lineage back to the union between a bald eagle and a barn owl.

Any idea where you go from here? Do you think it will take another 14 months to recharge your creative batteries, or are you just awaiting the proper animal comparison for Harry Redknapp? (It's clearly a stressed-out turtle, so maybe another coach or athlete would be a better choice)

Oh I think you underestimate the mental toll that these projects take on me – the sheer amount of time spent wondering what I’ll say at the Nobel Prize award ceremony and which of the headshots I submitted they’ll use for the TIME Person of the Year is draining. I wouldn’t want to compare Harry Redknapp to an animal, in case that animal happened to be an animal with an offshore bank account in its owner’s name which that animal was manipulatively using for tax avoidance purposes. But that’s just hypothetical of course.

In all honesty, I think the Internet could do with a break from me a while, as this interview is proving rather conclusively.

Anything you'd like to add regarding that photo of Wenger in a tight-ish bathing costume going down a water slide? Because I feel like there's some explaining to be done, there.

Hey, if someone takes 14 months off, how exactly do you expect them to not start sketching fan fiction of Arsene Wenger in a water-based theme park? I dare you to try it.


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