Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ape Ogling

Oh, how time evaporates...

Time Machine - the following post dateline November 8, 2009:

A bike ride that looped through the Lincoln Park Zoo was a nice opportunity to observe some apes. As not only on of the oldest, but also one of the still free zoos in the country, it is worth reflecting on our (albeit highly problematic) access to animal life as city dwellers.

N. and I took a stroll through the cat house, where we saw some very odd monsters in the cage, and wielding a hose no less. A couple days later in the Flaxman I came cross Animal Logic by Barnes by chance; the resonances resonated.

Onto the "Primate House" where the gorillas were typically quiet and somewhat withdrawn while the chimpanzees simply lounged. Cashew curled in one nest while her daughter poked at her occasionally, as parent and kids are wont to do.

A PBS show a couple years back watched Cashew with her son exploring a new "habitat enhancement" that had just been introduced to the enclosure. As biologist Elizabeth Lornsdorf talks to Alan Alda:

The individual that just took his tool is Cashew, who's an adult female and her son is next to her, swiping her ketchup from her. So he is not yet really into fishing on his own, he would rather mom do the work and he would rather steal. But notice, she is not offering it to him, she doesn't, you know, really seem to want him to have it, but he's just in a good place to get it from her.

The scene made me think of Alison Ruttan and her primatological body of work. Of course as cousins, the parallels are completely unsurprising to me, but maybe I'm just being anthropomorphic?

I aspire to join the ranks of the other "Great Apes" - chimps, gorillas, bonobos, and such. For now and s a human though, I wonder if its best to settle for " So-So Ape" status, till I get my priorities worked out a little bit more.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

petal to pollen


the "Christmas cactus" in the bathroom is apparently eager to get a jump on the blooming holidays.

Monday, October 5, 2009



It reads:

"thanks for the chill thrill, Mom!"

Fair enough - no doubt it give one the chills!

Price Chopper, Shrewsbury, MA. August 09.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009



chinese mantis in tall grass woods.

end of septembering.



Saturday, September 12, 2009


This photo was in the alley, on the left side, as I walked down two days ago. It is one of those photo-postcards that you almost never see anymore, but perhaps was never sent, given it's lack of a stamp.

On the back it says:

"What I looked like before the race."

"Hopkinton, 1980"

From that I realize it must be a image from the start of the Boston Marathon, 26 outside of the city.

The blurriness and peacefulness of everyone in the background, including the cherry tree

The website is very nice, and shows the times of the last-year's winners. "Dire Tune" came in second for the women. I'm sure in Ethiopian that name sounds and seems different than when I read it English. Deer-ay Too-nay. It sound like the name of a French delicacy.

What is so surprising the exactitude with which the men's and women's times are split. The top four finishers for both categories are piled up on each other within one minute of each other, and yet the the genders are split by 23 minutes. What explains this? As I biologist it seems natural for me to think of something physiological, but even that seems a bit fantastical given just how precise this 23 minutes difference is. Looking at other years, the clustering of top finishers is similar, but the split varies - 19 minutes, 25 minutes.

Clearly then I think that the leading racers must truly set the pace for the others. Even still the gender difference persists. What to make of it? perhaps nothing, as it is too much is being made of gender presently in the track and field world....

As for the emotions around such exertions, the competition and scrutiny, I remember the drama of "Heartbreak Hill" always covered by the commentators when I watched it on TV growing up. A map of the course shows an elevation profile; for your knees and mind both, this marathon is a monster thing.

It makes me finally wonder if the fellow in the photo I found had a picture taken at the end of the race, captioned "This is what I looked like after the race." At this point though, I'd rather leave it to the imagination.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

lost wings

________I'm preparing for the autumn season of teaching, of cooling air, and of insect collecting. It is a pleasure to go out with students to round up the last of the six-legged's before the season's over and mid-October snaps that frosty door shut on all things invertebrate. It had me rooting through jars and nets and boxes and rearranging my collection kit in my office.

Among other things, I also peeked into an old collection of butterflies and moths I caught early in my graduate school days down in North Kacalaky. A summer's worth of learning the local Lepidoptera there, the collection had been through some hard times, including being knocked down by my cat and chewed on by some other insects.

That said, nothing prepared me for the carnage I came across in the butterfly box, devastated by another brutal round of those beetles that specialize on eating dead insects, and which somehow had found their way into my tightly sealed collection crate once again...

All told, perhaps a third of the collection lay in tatters, the little beetle larvae culprits weaving around below as well as inside the hollowed out carapaces of what were fine swallowtails, lunas, fritillaries. Now I'm in the process of freezing all the remaining specimens for two days in hopes of purging them of whatever eggs lurk inside, ready and waiting to whip through the box again like some wicked hexapod tornado at any possible time.

Meanwhile, I gathered just a few of the wings that lay at the bottom of the box and made a tidy pile of them. Perhaps some butterfly passing by my desk window will take confused notice of the eyespots and colors and wonder what Shiva-like butterfly species lived inside my apartment. If Nijhout had to figure out a "groundplan" for the wing patterns of such a mythic creature he'd had have to been twice as brilliant as he already is, or at least twice as patient.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

cleaning consequence #A4Re2 (a wild list)

A scrap a paper when I was clearly keeping tabs of what animals I saw on a trip to Panama in January of 2007.
Marc was the generous host for part of the stay and guide into the jungleness of it all. The mentioned anteater appeared sitting right above our heads on BCI.

bats, anoles, small frogs, termites, ibises, trapjaw ants, army ants, dead tarantula, dead toucan, anteater!, strange mantises & beetles, leeches, black scorpion, coati (poop & tracks), multicolored kingfisher, big damselfly, Atta columbicus, Cephalotes briveps, bullet ants!, capuchin monkeys, agouti, Harpy eagle, dancing cluster daddy-long-legs, Heliconius buterfly, howler monkeys, ant-mimicking spiders, jumping - hopping water bug, morpho butterflies, fishing speiders, tanagers

Thursday, August 20, 2009

white, mangled things update

After the recent Dorami incident a couple other distressed objects came into view of the various stream, experiences of the white and the somewhat broken.

After unloading the dryer two sets of headphones where found in the pocket of some jeans. After 30 minutes of findings some way to untie them, I wondered what I had done that all for. After all, they had been through the washer and the permanent press/high heat cycles of the dryer as well, so they would clearly become yet another piece of useless consumer electronics.

So imagine my pleasant surprise to find that both sets still worked *fine* - eerily perhaps even better (?) than before once plugged in... I guess washing helps everything. Either way I humbly recommend this as a novel, contemporary disetanglement puzzle, the kind that I always seemed to see in Pennsylvanian Dutch stores when I was a kid. This one will appeal to the iPodding generation (especially for any Amish during their rumspringa).

The next morning was a matter of omelettes. That was the plan. I was enthusiastic, perhaps even giddy for breakfast and I pulled the carton out of the refrigerator a little too fast perhaps --fling-- went an egg out of the package and onto the floor.

It looked so perfect there, like the yolk finally had a taste of some freedom. A pity though. A two-egg omelette lacks what a three one can (literally) bring to the table.

It recalls to me another egg posting I'd done years back on the old Paper Boat blog*. That one actually made it into the pan...

* I must be walking down memory lane these days,folks, my apologies

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

orange addendum

I found another orange mention while dusting off some of the old electrons from my a previous blog. That post, titled "Orange" is from five years back exactly...good memories of those poppy-colored walls.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

orange is the new green

In the current eco-frenzy the color of vogue is naturally Green: green, green, green, green , green. blah, blah, blah.

Don't get me wrong, I love green, but here in the temperate region of the globe we sometimes neglect a full appreciation of nature's other colors. While walking up Mount Wachusett the other day I myself was lost in the mosses, the leaves, the lichens in an overall daydream of green when suddenly orange tapped poked me in the side in the form of a milkweed beetle.

Next thing I knew orange appeared at every corner in some novel fashion seriatim: fungus, leaf, newt(!), insect gall, toad, wasp, and then a the very summit of the modest mountain, a goldfish pond could be found, flikcering bits of orange in a deep brown soup...

A quick Google search for the words "orange nature" turns up an nice Flickr site devoted to the theme.

Such sentiments make Andy Goldsworthy smile on the inside, I have no doubt.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


~ ~ If something didn't break while you were gone, you probably weren't actually away ~ ~

A brief history of the thing:
Dorami - sister to Doraemon, purchased as a cute copyright infringement at a ceramics factory in Xi'an China, spring 1996. First fractured: spring, 1999, North Carolina (knocked off bedstand while reaching for alarm clock). 2nd fracture: summer, 2009, Chicago (whole shelf knocked down by housesitter).

Monday, July 20, 2009

go ahead, stare at it

_________(-(--( * )--)-)

Friday, July 17, 2009

fantasy creatures have hearts (and livers) too


Japanese monster artists have created a vast menagerie of crazy creatures (or Kaiju 怪獣). the beloved Godzilla being a most notable specimen.

Godzilla/Gojira has always been a bad-ass, with her ability to breath fire, or breath ice, be radioactive, shoot lasers from her eyes, and various other things besides (depending on what model year we are talking). But if she eats some bad shrimp, does she get a stomachache like I do? Does she even have a stomach?

Where fantasy meets the possibility of reality and myth finds embodiment is the place where a monster’s monsterful anatomy might also be imagined, and in detail. Every cause has an effect, as modern science has taught us, so it is only fair that some odd organs should underlie what otherwise would seem to be “super”natural abilities:

Godzilla’s purported ability to move her limbs with the complex grace beyond that of a Shaolin monk or drummer Buddy Rich, for example? Well, according the the anatomy chart here, we can leave that to the two subsidiary nerve ganglia in her that work like two “sub-brains” to process all that muscle control - one for the arms and one for the legs, respectively. What I love about this is that even in such a fiction lies the fact that many insects are built in just such a neurologically distributed way. When it comes to science, perhaps the matters of "fiction" and "non-fiction" are fuzzy at best...

A glimpse at some more Japanese monster anatomy charts can be found here.
Better still, the old-school Leuckhart charts

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ode to water quality

I agree, on a blog called "the various stream" it seems only right to mention recent news on water quality:

Chicago's 2009 water quality report just came out and it was notably silent on the matter of the various pharmaceuticals that lace the public agua supply. This pharmacopeia in the tap would seem to be something to worry about considering drugs are designed to have effects at low doses - what is it to have anti-depressants, cholesterol reducers, sex hormones, and nicotine all mixed up at the faucet? In the mind of health officials perhaps "no news is good news" for the public...

It makes me think of Osamu Tezuka's masterpiece Ode to Kirihito that I am now reading on an excellent recommendation from Xa. As of page 234 (granted it is over 800 pages so things may change) the diligent doctor Kirihito believes that an odd disease in remote villages turning people into dog-like forms is caused by water contamination - in that case from prehistoric mineral deposits with some strange substance in them. hmm....

Of course, just today a paper was published on the clever use of analytical chemistry to track patterns of illicit drug use among neighborhoods and towns in Oregon via testing the public water supply. Ironic but maybe unsurprising to think that the technology would be used to surveil the public's behavior in one instance and yet ignore its implication in another; alas the "war on drugs" doesn't include Glaxo Smith-Kline in our ice cubes...

If you start feeling like a golden retriever, perhaps you have a jump on where to start looking for answers.

p.s. (7/18) It *was* the water after all (some rare earth mineral). Poor Kirihito got used being doggish in the end though...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I noticed today that baby dinosaur eyes has done its page up in nice circular curl-E-Qing.

This is great just because, but also for the fact I just happen to have bought misself a spiral generating device in a 100 yen shop in Japan the other day, (w/ both pen and paper included in the kit).

The results in the very first attempt were quite satisfying; it has been over 20 years since I've used one of these things, but it is like riding a bicycle (actually not at all like riding a bicycle)

as for spinning , b.d.e. offers more still - I just can't get enough!
(make sure you click through options, post-bananas)


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

tokyo to narita

passengering in a country obsessed with trains, it is hard to not oneself become obsessed

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


at Kurodani temple waterlilies let things go.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


a circled K - a woman talking wirelessly with only wires above - eyewitnessing of a sunny Kyoto in June

click here for the haps

Monday, June 15, 2009

darwinia: file entry #452

Yes, it is his the sesqui.150.centennial of DJ Darwin, my favorite DJ of them all.

Beautiful images with problematic narration. At minute 1:46 the unfortunate and seemingly unquestioned employment of the concept "weaker human beings" by the curators in conflation this with "the tensions class conflict." The same sort of unqualified voicing that was as biologically misguided then as it is now. Yeah, nobody means anything by it, as sure as it's always said, but if you Get It, then why not Get It Right (right?) Perhaps it's my Americano ears with their own pretensions egalitarian that the British accent can't help but add some unwanted rub...

Friday, June 5, 2009

the box game

a friend of mine T.R. recently told me about a project by friends of his called The Box Game, which in turn I share with friends-you-all.

I like it very much and perhaps for the obvious reasons of: public solicitation + mystery + graphing all put together. As a dish, it is my fantasy casserole combination.

In this photo (purloined from their blog) I only can assume and hope it is Devil's Rock looming in the background. It not only triggers a deep childhood memory of synthesizer music, it is also a nice allusion to mashed potatoes and the idea of this casserole I now want to cook (kind of like shepard's pie, but not. with pine nuts)

> yay the box game <

Monday, June 1, 2009

space is the place

Space: the final frontier.
Or just the stuff that is - between here and there, what people take up too much of, what every dubious lover wants.

Cloud Gate (aka. the Bean) warps it for you, providing empirical evidence for Einstein's contention that space is indeed bendable. Holla out to Anish Kapoor.

And here is a new photo of a room you'll never get to go into. Unless you are tiny (maybe you are)

You see, when you cross the new Nichols Bridge, spanning the there & here on opposite sides of Monroe Avenue you can walk into the Art Institute, wander around for miles, and finally get to the Thorne miniature rooms: 1 inch to one foot. I took this photo and fooled myself into thinking small was big and tall was short. Even still, I remain 5'6".

See the nicer images of the fuller collection here.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

nature pages

This last week at the MBL I came across Louis Agassiz's credo, all big and in its original form, hanging in the library.

We studied all-too-plenty books during the visit, but nature is also and always there to let you know what is what. Even the smallest fishes in Eel Pond were an infinity to consider.

ps. visit the Leuckhart chart exhibit


Sunday, May 17, 2009

slips of stuff

a stencil from summer 2006 (?) found in the stationary drawer today among some yellowing envelopes. Love the Lampyridae.

Friday, May 15, 2009

sun spotz

Thierry Legault photographs the space shuttle Atlantis tranversing the girth of a star we call the Sun. Yes, it is a photo from land of the shuttle floating through outer space, in orbit. Yes, the sun does in fact seem to be the very yellow object of a child's crayon.

Outer space is completely black, tracing the seemingly perfect sphericality of a thermonuclear reaction that is older than ancient. The shuttle is in silhoutte because the sun is the biggest light bulb for millions of billions of miles, and I suppose Legault ended up foregoing flash when the camera clicked. Of course, that light is 8 minutes old since the sun is far far away; 93 million miles off the object-actual sun looks different than the background provided for Atlantis.

They say and you know that Atlantis was a giant island kingdom that sank to the bottom of somewhere in watery oblivion, having almost been found more times than not. Now something by the same name with wings quenches the large yellow blanket of light. Or maybe it is a giant pollen grain. or a tiny pollen grain, because it is spring and maybe Theirry was photographing through a microscope not a telescope. it's all really it is hard to know, especially if you care to know.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's always there regardless

the omnipresence in collage of an emperor who was thought of as god.

I love the collages of Nobuyuki Oura, but in some particular places they seem to make too much meaning. Ironically but not unexpectedly - where most meaning might be made of them.

The newspaper article mentions how the images ran counter tothe educational goals of the museum and its commitment to neutrality and fairness. What fairness has to do with neutrality I'm not sure; it'dseem the latter must often be given up to allow for the former. Either way, it is one thing to be neutral, and another to be neutered.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Maybe you are at the zoo. Maybe it is the Lincoln Park Zoo and you are with a class and you are breaking up into teams to watch, listen, and consider the why-how-what of zoos as institutions and the metaphorical or literal Arks they claim to be.

There are jaguars six feet from you and you smell them, but something about their spots defy your best attempts to take them completely in. A gorilla disdainful. Sad colorful birds. Thoughtful children. Screeching children. The pigeons seem non-plussed by the condors.

If you squint your eyes you might think one of your students is in fact a giraffe. At this point you look for a water fountain and sit down on a bench shaped like a giant yellow rainforest frog. No doubt that will make you feel more clear-headed in a minute.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

i heart Sonnenzimmer!

Nick and Nadine make things more beautiful than you could imagine (and I know your imagination is particularly fecund)

visit Sonnenzimmer!
and buy a poster for someone you love.

Sonnenzimmer: the shoestring portrait from dsinker on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

the continued search for Andrew Yang

Of course you might imagine my surprise when I read this headline in the the Chicago RedEye the other day. I had only just eaten at "Yang Restaurant" an hour before in the South Loop at now I was considering if they or I had been arrested, and were just slow on the uptake.

It turns out Marni Yang was the criminal in question - and what a crime it was:

"Yang plotted the killing, driving a rental car with stolen plates and buying dark makeup and a cornrow wig to disguise herself, prosecutors said."

The various press coverage does its best to be equally creepy - from web videos sifting through her online personals to bikini photos.

Two days later my phone rang. This is how it went:

"Hi, is this Andrew Yang?"

"Yes, it is"

"I know this might be a strange question, but I'm a reporter with CBS and I am wondering if you are you the Andrew Yang who is son of Marni Yang?"

"No, I am definitely not that Andrew Yang"

"Ok, sorry, thanks! "

Wow. And so what was she going to ask me - how I'm doing? Who knew journalists actually still called people randomly up by names and numbers listed in the phone book. These reporters need to be issued computers, yo.

Regardless, the episode fits in to the Who is Andrew Yang? files, and its updates.

As for the Andrew Yang that I was mistaken for this time, I can only say sorry and good luck with things....

Saturday, February 21, 2009


If there is any really good reason to look forward to the end of Chicago winter besides the obvious ones, I would offer relief from the tyranny of "dibs."

Of course digging out a car is no small or happy thing. I saw one of many empty spots in my street and parked it. A couple days later this note showed up on my windshield. Ah, communality.

I don't know who to feel sorrier for, me as a victim of a needless and random hate crime, or the poor sod who in an apparent gesture of so-so samaritanism didn't manage to keep a spot free for himself. I also wonder where his chair went, since I never saw it. The magnanimous restraint of his neighbor in not keying my already pocked-marked car seems a little dramatique, but threatening missives need that kind of punch.

Gaper's Block has a thread on dibbing for our enjoyment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


One of my students showed this video in class the other day. We were all pretty floored.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Today was balmy in that eerie "climatic instability" way, but boy, it felt nice on the skin.

The icicles from the other week are a memory, but one worth keeping in mind - who knows that next week will be like.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

modern art/modern fashion

Old abandoned factories in the northeast = great showcases for art. Who would have thought? My museum-going collaborator CMD always manages to dress appropriately somehow - I guess she has a contemporary sensibility at heart?

Or at least one that jives with Sol LeWitt at Mass MoCA (left) or indeed those minimalists at DIA Beacon (below). I didn't know blue, orange, and black created a nice color groove together as an ensemble as much as on a canvas. What kind of stuff are we channeling, I wonder. The collective unconsciousness? the derivative nature of fashion? the fact that museums are an infinitesimal sampling-slice of what everyone else is doing some other way?

Makes we want to get my kaleidoscope glasses out, just to bump it all up a notch.