Posts Tagged ‘carnage’

Faces of Death

28 April 2009

Chris Norris recently deployed the term “asteroid porn” for a certain gratuitous style employed by those writing about meteoric catastrophe:

Here is a brief summary of a typical piece of asteroid porn. Dinosaurs are peacefully grazing (or browsing, or doing whatever) on a warm sunny day (or at sunset, or some other time of peacefullness) when they see a big fireball fall out of the sky. It hits the Earth so hard that larva comes out, like a big bursting geological zit. The larva shoots up hundreds of miles into the air and comes down, setting fire to, like, the whole planet. All the forests are on fire, and all the dinosaurs are on fire as well. Then there’s this big blast wave, and it’s so big it goes round the world, like, 5 times at the speed of Concorde, and when it hits the burning dinosaurs they all get blown into burning pieces…

You’ll want to read the entire post.

Not all porn is so literate though.  Books, television, film and, most especially the internet abound with visual artworks that operate in the same vein.  One well-worn style adopts a “dinosaur-eye view,” typically peppering the foreground with a tyrannosaur, hadrosaur or ceratopsian or some combination thereof.  A few enterprising artists even manage a nod to Charles Knight.

picture-4The players in these epic finales span a comical range of emotive reaction to the impact, from “wha?” to “HOLY EFF!” to “screw extinction–I’M GOING TO EAT YOU!!!” A few contemplative dinosaurs, cast in silhouette, even appear rather philosophical about their impending demise.

And of course, it’s a nearly irresistible vehicle for a one-liner:

picture-5Large pterosaurs offer a convenient excuse to adopt an aerial perspective that permits a more graphic celebration of “the junk” (the bolide that is).  Plus there must be a sense of clever satisfaction tat comes when you work Quetzalcoatlus into a painting of Mesoamerican Armageddon.

picture-6Another popular technique takes yet another step back to show what the hypothetical Troodon cosmonauts would have seen.

This view shifts the victim role from the dinosaurs to the planet itself. It also lends a certain historical anonymity to the event–this could be a catastrophe in the distant past, or the not-so-remote future.  In fact, some even depict an anachronistic geography that necessarily implies the latter to the careful observer.

picture-8It’s tempting to speculate that this orbital perspective might not have occurred to an artist working prior to the advent of satellite photography.  A similar argument has been made regarding the link between the Victorian “aquarium craze” and the subsequent proliferation of artworks adopting an underwater perspective (Clary and Wandersee 2005).

With their melodramatic flair, stereotyped compositions and limited pool of motifs, these images might easily be regarded as derivative at best and sure, pornographic at worst.  Much like metal album art.  However, these depictions will also afford ample fodder for a future, likely poor, overeducated and underemployed, generation of science/art historians interested in the cultural impact of late 20th Century neo-catastrophism.  Unless we are all wiped out by an asteroid first.

Coming up: Stravinsky, climate change and the Bataan march

postscripto: Huh, look at that.  300 microecos posts in just over 3 years.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

A note on the images:  All are thumbnails gleaned from Google Image searches of “asteroid impact”, “dinosaur extinction” etc.  They are reproduced here for the purposes of discussion only.  This is a cultural studies blog.  Deal.

Bear Flag Republic

23 March 2009

gorda-bear-2Don’t know about you, but I find it terribly difficult to stay on task while visiting museum collections.  Sure, I’ve got the 20 page print-out of specimens I’m supposed to measure.  And, sure I deeply want to look at Lobodon and Kogia and Lissodelphis and Hydrodamalis. I mean, truthfully, I really want to bring the sea cow skull down to the table and well, you know, cuddle for a while.


All of which I did, except for the whole sketchy sirenian molestation bit.  But…I also, of course, peeked at the babirusa and popped open the giraffe braincase (hey, it was already sectioned man).

babiesAnd I couldn’t help but admire the shelf of California grizzlies, several of which had interesting dates attached to them but that’s another story.


gorda-bear-3_1Note the bullet hole.  See you after the wedding.

The Idles of March

9 March 2009

geocheloneLooks like another slow march around these parts, well, more of dirge really.  Hence the carrion which seems as reasonable a metaphor for the rancid stench that’s been lately gathering on the blog (except for the jumping spider of course, that was delightful!)

Believe it or don’t there is some inspiration here actually: Dr. Vector’s hilarious post about the curious case of a snapping turtle carcass, which in turn was inspired by Darren’s incredibly informative tutorial on the fine art of skeletonization.

All of which recalled this large Geochelone (probably G. sulcata) tortoise I stumbled upon last year in the hills above greater Los Angeles.  How the poor bloke wound up like this I suppose I will never know although most likely somebody dumped it, hopefully post-mortem.  It would have been nice to salvage the thing (Matt’s suggestion of strapping it to the university van roof would have made for an entertaining spectacle), or perhaps I could have buried it on the spot and retrieved it later but, no such luck.

C’est la mort, I suppose.


Wakarimashta ka?

15 December 2008


img_0588Wakarimasen.  Name the cucurbit:  Winner recieves an Afrothere t-shirt! (Christopher Taylors need not apply).img_0590

Gracious God, what a jaw! how many animals have been crushed by it?

24 October 2008

Mammoth Snack – by the inimitable Unforgivable Realness

lowing of death All were killed except one male the fiercest of the race and him even the artillery of the skies assailed in vain He ascended the bluest summit which shades the source of the Monongahela and roaring aloud bid defiance to every vengeance The red lightning scorched the lofty firs and rived the knotty oaks but only glanced upon the enraged monster At length maddened with fury he leaped over the waves of the west at a bound and this moment reigns the uncontroled monarch of the wilderness in despite even of Omnipotence itself MAN 81
Mastodon, Mammoth, and Man By John Patterson MacLean

Because sometimes, ZooBorns just can’t satisfy one’s primal thirst for unicorn blood.  Also, be sure to check out in the future, war is more humane and centaur solutionto a raptor problem (a diptych!).


15 September 2008

Molluscs: let’s face it they’re delicious.  If there wasn’t a local folk tradition in Anhui that eating a gravid snail is an auspicious event it would be necessary to invent one.  Uh, such tradition that is.

Which reminds me: UCMP scholar Jan Vendetti has a blog about food in Japan, and studying snails in Japan, though not necessarily about studying gravid food snails in Japan.

Also, Os Mutantes are hawking Happy Meals, forty years later !?!? WTF!!!

Where Has All the Carrion Gone Again, again.

21 August 2008

Whilst yez all labor over IDs for the last post here’s some more fore yez:

all rotten and laced with clues. and bacteria.

POSTSCRIPTO: Apologies for the subliterate turn, sadly it’s not the first time.  It’s metaphorical.  It’s a coping mechanism.  My lease on blogging is neither new nor transferable.