What's the point of this blog if I don't post anything for months on end? So here are some things I bookmarked (or yes, dogeared) the last couple days, in no particular order:
- "When do domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, start to understand human pointing?" (sub. req. - sorry!) There's been a lot of scientific literature - and media attention - on the ability of dogs to comprehend human social gestures, particularly pointing. This study takes a skeptical look at theories that, through the millennia-long process of domestication, dogs have evolved a "human-like" social cognition that's distinct not only from wolves, their closest relatives, but also from chimps, our closest animal kin. To make this point, the authors take a two-pronged approach, questioning the wolf's supposed insensitivity to human social forms on one hand and, on the other, reminding us of dogs who don't quite fit the ideal of the perfectly accommodating Fido, e.g. shelter dogs, ferals, etc. Do we learn more about dogs if we stop assuming they're predisposed, in an evolutionary or even cosmic sense, to be "our" best friends?
- "Activists fight plan to deport Moscow's stray dogs": Speaking of dogs who live on the fringe of human society: I first read about Moscow's famous subway-riding dogs in this widely circulated 2010 article. These dogs are going places, at least virtually: they even have their own wikipedia entry. In the analog world, it looks as though they are facing the grim reality of a cull.
- "Man's Best Friend" and "Peacocks": two sculpture series on animal forms by the artist Laurel Roth, whom I randomly discovered this weekend (how did I not know her work before). The artificial selection of dogs has never seemed... so artificial. Neither have avian courtship and sexual selection.
|Laurel Roth, Great Dane, 2008|
- Mary Gaitskill, "The Other Place": Short story in the New Yorker about a creepy guy who fantasizes about killing women in an incongruously, unsettlingly philosophical voice. Here's a very Gaitskillian sentence that captivated me: "He is interested in crows because he heard on a nature show that they are one of the only species that are more intelligent than they need to be to survive. He does beautiful, precise drawings of crows."