Posts Tagged ‘martyrdom’

To the First Whale

25 August 2007


There is a lot wrong that is wrong about this (n.b. QED!). But I couldn’t resist. Click for the sound clip.

Brian a.k.a Laelaps has cursored his latest epic, tracing whale evolution from Sarcopterygian to Flipper, or thereabouts. Those looking for a cetacean overdose should also check out Carl Zimmer’s post about the evolution of baleen.

One of these days I’m going to write about monophyly in river dolphins, and now I’m thinking about afrotheria, desmostylians and sirenians…Damn it, when am I going to write all of this??

The Crosby/Nash song that inspired the title of this post is admittedly sappy, but has new relevance with the demise of the Baiji. Those with a strong stomach can watch the youtube video.

Death Throes pt. 1

14 June 2007


Deceased White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, on the north shore of Great Salt Lake.

About 100 meters from Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”, I once stumbled across this pickled pelican. Interestingly, others have noted (1, 2) a scattering of dead pelicans around the large earth and rock spiral artpiece which juts out from the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. In fact, there are even Flickr photos of what appears to be a different individual. Large colonies of nesting White Pelicans on nearby islands are the presumed source of the dessicated cadavers, which might float some distance across the lake until being left high and dry by receding waters.

These salt mummies are oddly appropriate accents to an art piece concerned with time and permanence. In fact, Smithson’s 1970 film about Spiral Jetty even includes a sequence with the ‘Trachodon mummy‘, an exceptionally preserved 65 million -year-dead hadrosaur fossil discovered by Charles Sternberg in 1908, which you can see for yourself. In the just barely under-the-top scene1, Smithson uses a spooky blood-red filter to turn the natural history museum into something out of Hostel part II.


Smithson’s intent would seem to be to forge a direct link between the silent testimony of the fossil and his own attempt to reify time (that’s right, I said ‘reify’). I wouldn’t give either the pelican or the jetty good odds at sticking around for 65 million years, although in retrospect, who could have said the Edmontosaurus would?

Smithon’s construction has undergone several briny baptisms which have left an aura (or perhaps crust is a better term) of agedness that belies the fact that it was constructed, geologically yesterday. The pelican, conversely, has been preserved in a state of arrested decay, spared the instant deconstruction fated most no-longer metabolizing clots of nitrogen and carbon.

Both strike the addled visitor as rather insignificant blemishes on the gleaming crystalline flats. But in a sea of uniformity, blemishes catch the eye.

Wait a minute, didn’t I promise a ‘sciencey’ post? Don’t worry we’re getting there…maybe.

1 – Actually, I haven’t seen this film since college. It might not even be Sternberg’s ‘trachodon’ in the movie, but it’s something like it. There is a clip on youtube. It’s not the hadromummy scene, but one with a vaguely chilling foreshadowing of Smithon’s death in a plane crash while surveying another piece in Texas.

Decimating Birds: Episode VI – To Tell a Titmouse

8 June 2007


Let’s set aside strange phallic flowers and take up small gray birds with snicker-inducing names.

So, here’s most beautiful bird #6, the celebrated Lava Beds Titmouse, Baeolophus something-or-other. To many, it may be be a dicky bird. To William Gambel it would have been a plain-old Plain Titmouse, which was good enough until 1996. For the contemporary birder, it’s something of a headache.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blasé Feathered Tyro

29 January 2007


Photo: J & S S INTERNATIONAL, INC., DBA Kokoro Dinosaurs Copyright 2006

Microecos is nothing if not loose with the English language. Even so “feathered dinosaurs are relatively blasé” seems an especially exapt case of modifier mis-use.

For those awaiting the follow-up phugoid post: if you think I’m stalling… well, you’re right. But as we’re soon to see, stalling well is a very important skill.

Kokoro persists while Dinamation goes extinct. Selection or stochasm?


24 May 2006

Too many chromosomes. I am enjoying The Omnivore's Dilemma, though not as much as Botany of Desire, which leads me to wonder, is this one even better? I have developed the default assumption that the first or second album by any band is likely to be their best, but it seems that I've internalized no such rule of thumb for literature. Perhaps I don't read enough.

+ = ?

I'm not not sure that this expression has anything to do with the McNugget Number, which may itself simply be an indicator that mathematicians are eating way too much McDonald's.

Ever wonder about those discrete McNugget morphotypes? (image links…)

Ontogeny recapitulates epistemology,

(thanks to Pharyngula, Mike the Pod, McDonald's, Wizards of the Coast and Mexico!)

Apis-Mania III: Elegy

24 April 2006

Another entry for the ever-expanding senseless death file:

this poor little worker was no match for my serge de Nimes, for which I overpaid at target.

Ben, up from Los Angeles, likened the scene on my jeans to a suicide bombing. Sadly, this little bee didn't even save a Haldanian minimum of eight cousins.

But let us end on a positive note from blessed bee:

photo credit: Blessed-Bee Apiaries Inc.

Tis the season for bee petting, just head to your nearest lavender bush.