Sunday, September 19, 2010


Shuichi Nakano, "Searching for Paradise" - more at my Tumblr outpost and at the always excellent Pink Tentacles

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This should be animated...

From Aristotle's History of Animals, Book IX:
There is enmity between such animals as dwell in the same localities or subsist on the food...

There is enmity also between the owl and the wren; for the latter also devours the owl's eggs. In the daytime all other little birds flutter round the owl-a practice which is popularly termed 'admiring him'-buffet him, and pluck out his feathers; in consequence of this habit, bird-catchers use the owl as a decoy for catching little birds of all kinds.

The so-called presbys or 'old man' is at war with the weasel and the crow, for they prey on her eggs and her brood; and so the turtle-dove with the pyrallis, for they live in the same districts and on the same food; and so with the green wood pecker and the libyus; and so with kite and the raven, for, owing to his having the advantage from stronger talons and more rapid flight the former can steal whatever the latter is holding, so that it is food also that makes enemies of these. In like manner there is war between birds that get their living from the sea, as between the brenthus, the gull, and the harpe; and so between the buzzard on one side and the toad and snake on the other, for the buzzard preys upon the eggs of the two others; and so between the turtle-dove and the chloreus; the chloreus kills the dove, and the crow kills the so-called drummer-bird.

The aegolius, and birds of prey in general, prey upon the calaris, and consequently there is war between it and them; and so is there war between the gecko-lizard and the spider, for the former preys upon the latter; and so between the woodpecker and the heron, for the former preys upon the eggs and brood of the latter. And so between the aegithus and the ass, owing to the fact that the ass, in passing a furze-bush, rubs its sore and itching parts against the prickles; by so doing, and all the more if it brays, it topples the eggs and the brood out of the nest, the young ones tumble out in fright, and the mother-bird, to avenge this wrong, flies at the beast and pecks at his sore places.

It's been a while...

... because I've been spinning my wheels - or, the wheels have been spinning me.

(Wretched cat!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

state birds

 "Pelican in her piety": the state flag of Louisiana depicts a mother Pelican wounding herself to feed her young with blood

  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaking to reporters at East Grand Terre Island - with oil-drenched pelican dubbed "The Governor's Bird"

Friday, June 4, 2010

dog links: antiquarian & posthuman

Two totally disparate recent discoveries:

* The National Sporting Library in Virginia has just opened an exhibit of their canine-relate materials, Lives of Dogs Viewed Through Literature, Art and Ephemera.

* Experimental musician/performance artist Laurie Anderson has composed a 20-minute musical piece for dogs - it will debut at the Sydney Opera House on June 5 for a mixed human and canine audience. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

spares no one

Apropos my recent posts here and on Tumblr on the histories of fish and humans in the Atlantic world, today I came across a grim report from the Louisiana Coast on the ecological, economic, social disaster looming over already fragile African American oystering and shrimping communities:
Ironically, one approach to keeping the oil away could itself finish off the black fishing community here.

State officials have opened Mississippi River diversions, such as the White’s Ditch Siphon, hoping that a strong outward flow of water will keep the oil out of the bayou and marsh where it could persist for decades, and ruin the already brittle wetlands . But emptying that much fresh water into the oyster beds throws off the delicate salinity balance the bivalves need to survive.

When the White’s Ditch Siphon was installed in 1963, it destroyed most of the oyster beds owned by African Americans, said Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oysterman Association. Encalade says he had close to 1,500 acres of oyster beds before the White Ditch intrusion and now has about 200 acres. At peak, blacks owned almost 10,000 acres collectively, but now maybe 1,500, he said.
As this sadly beautiful photo-essay from ColorLines puts it: the oil spill spares no one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the sea is history

I have a new Tumblr picture post on the monstrous, predatory fish in British artist J. M. W. Turner's famous 1840 painting The Slave Ship.  The task seems daunting and overwhelming, but I wonder if it would make sense to think the histories of Atlantic slavery and Atlantic sea life alongside each other?  The waves of transpecies disasters threatening the Gulf of Mexico, from Katrina to the BP oil spill, would seem to demand it.

Image From Greenpeace Flickr stream

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

free range

I've been scavenging lately through Indian biologist Sunil Kumar (S. K.) Pal's decade-plus research on free-ranging dogs in Katwa, West Bengal (you'll need institutional subscription to access most of these titles, sorry...) The statistics in these articles frankly hurt my poor little humanist brain a bit - nevertheless I'm learning lots about filiative and affiliative behavior among these hard-scrabble creatures. Maybe I'm delusional, but behind the ='s and %'s I think there's a certain stark poetry in narrative passages like this:
Of all pups (N = 35), only 13 survived to the age of 3 months showing 63% pup mortality. Of all pup deaths (N = 22) recorded in the study, 2 (9%) were due to adverse weather, 5 (23%) from various diseases, 4 (18%) from collisions with automobiles, 2 (9%) from predation by adult dogs, 3 (14%) from malnutrition (interviews with area residents), and 6 (27%) deaths were caused due to removal of pups as pets by the children particularly of the lower-class section.
- "Parental care in free-ranging dogs, Canis familiaris,"
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
90 (2005)
Charles Darwin thought that domesticated species in non-Western, non-industrialized societies were more likely to have to fend for themselves, find their own food in the lean seasons, etc. As such, they were subject to greater pressures of natural selection than their European counterparts, who were shaped primarily by human-orchestrated artificial selection, by "man's wants and fancies." I'm struck by how "natural" and "artificial" dangers commingle in Pal's account of pup death - how dog life is imperiled by human technology (automobiles) and human desire (pet-seeking children) alike.

* image from Are you a Pariah Dog fan?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

quality of mercy

* originally titled "dead dogs" - revised March 20, 2011

Things I've been reading recently, about the precarity of dogs in human society, especially those branded as "vicious," "unadoptable," or plainly, "pit bull":

* "Dead Dogs: Breed bans, euthanasia, preemptive justice" by Colin (aka Joan) Dayan: in grad school I read some of Dayan's work on race, slavery, and prisons. I also saw her give an amazing talk on "cruel and unusual punishment": still the only time I've heard an academic speaker whisper to mark points of emphasis, in almost mesmeric decrescendos that pull the audience forward, body and all. Then I discovered that she is a dog person via an elegant, unflinching essay simply titled "The Dogs." Part memoir, part philosophy, the essay tracks the liminality of dogs in Judeo-Christian thought through a terrible personal memory: under disorienting circumstances, Dayan had agreed to have her 11-year-old dog Dogie put down for a sudden, mysterious illness, a "good death" she later came to doubt. She's one of a small handful of critics/writers I know who has grappled with the fact of dehumanization under racism - of people being treated "like dogs," "like animals" as a matter of state policy and coordinated race and species violence - while treating animals as well as humans as social beings.  [Updated May 2: forgot to note that the "Dead Dogs" article mentions the case of Oreo, the pit bull who survived being thrown from a six-story building only to be diagnosed with terminal aggression by the ASPCA and put to death.]

* Pit Bull Patriarchy: a tough and beautiful blog which explores the life-and-death consequences of breed phobias, co-authored by spotted dog farm (also a photographer - Flickr stream here) and redvelvetfemme. Mulling over SDF's recent post on her "dog bite embroidery" project, it strikes me that maybe pit bull fear is, at bottom, a fear of non-human sociality, of a sociality acted out with bodies that are irreconcilably alien to our own, despite our attempts to make them conform to human desires:
A bite is a most basic form of communication. I mean, dogs don't have hands, or English. What are they trying to say? I've seen dogs bite out of love. Extreme love, and the desire to be close, and to play. My dog bite embroidery is a series of linens that have been "altered" by Kaya, the artist, and then embroidered with phrases that I think she might be feeling while she's shredding my linens. The words are a reminder that dogs want family, a lifelong commitment; they are not bodies to be dumped when mistakes have been made, fear sets in and anger shows its teeth.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

pigs, 3 ways

i. Pig as food pet.


ii. Pig as pigoons (fictional and non).


iii.  Pig as oracle bones to the human past, pigoons of history:
Tracing the roots of pig domestication may help in tracking past human migrations and cultural development, said study lead author Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Durham in England.

Though they are not the earliest known domesticated species — dogs beat them out for that title — pigs were bred in large enough numbers as a food source to leave plenty of bone remnants to study. Domesticated dogs, in contrast, were so limited in number that it's harder to cull information from the few remains they leave behind, Larson said.

Using animal DNA to study human history is easier for several reasons, Larson said. For one thing, the animals outnumbered their human owners and thus left more bones behind to be analyzed. For another, digging up and testing ancient human DNA is ethically problematic.

"Local cultural groups are not super keen for us grind up the bones [from burial sites] to see what their signatures are," Larson said.
- From "Domesticated Chinese pigs' ancestory goes back at least 8,000 years," Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

origin stories

New York Times: New findings put origins of dogs in Middle East...

The Onion: Yes, but dogs were first turned into surrogate children in the Western Hemisphere during the mid-20th century.


I.  Shanty town in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China
(Source: image / article)

II. Tent city on a golf course in P├ętionville, Haiti
(Source: image / article)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

dog tree of life

Why is it a circle?  I don't really understand this but I'm mesmerized.

Cross-posted at tumblr (sort of)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

skunk & cat

... sharing a free meal and the suburban ecosystem:

(Screen shot from Is That Skunk?)

russian dogs from Pavlov to now

It's been months since I've posted anything here! In the interim, it has belatedly dawned on me that Russia is where it's at with dog studies.  Duh.

First there's the fascinating case of post-Soviet subway dogs...

(image from English Russia)

... whose increasing detachment from human homes (though not from human-built environments) seems to suggest some kind of cosmic reversal of Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev's Cold-war era silver fox domestication experiment...

(image from Thoughtful Animal)

... Around the same time that Belayev's foxes were being aggressively selected for tameness, Laika was being immortalized (and mortalized) as the first dog in space...

(image from Wikimedia Commons)

... And of course, before Belayev, there was Pavlov and his salivating dogs:

(image from Wikimedia Commons)

... one of whom is seen here at the Pavlov Museum, borg-like with surgical implant - and stuffed.