Thursday, June 26, 2008


In stunning contrast to the last post, and the speciest hubris of the Bush administration, comes this huge piece of news: Spanish parliament has passed a resolution stating "Non-human hominids (great apes) should have the right to life and freedom, and not be tortured." It is the first national legislation to enshrine human rights for chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos. Funny that such legislation would come from the land of bullfighting. Odder still, who's been torturing great apes in Spain to begin with? That said, an amazing, although still hierarchical, step in the direction of honoring all of our living roommates on this planet.

Thanks Ted for the article.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sonar Wars...

The Navy says it can't perform its sonar training off the coast of Southern California if they have to shut down operations whenever there's a whale or aquatic mammal in the vicinity. As you may have heard in the news, mechanical sonar can disorient or kill several ocean species. Earlier this year a federal court barred the use of sonar "close to marine mammals." But the Navy says no way, we need to train our boys and girls to use sonar even if it's at the expense of a few fish. The Bush administration appealed the decision and the case will now go to the Supreme Court. I suppose we have the right to protect ourselves from ourselves, but to what extent does that right exclude the rights of other species?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Diving Animals...

Gene Alba claims to have the world's only SCUBA diving cat. Obviously, he's never been to Russia where this sort of thing goes on regularly. Not to mention sky diving. Actually, diving animals seem to crop up everywhere. Animal cruelty activists - on your marks...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Animal Totems (Condor)...

My brother, who works as an ecologist in Central California, came across a young California Condor sitting in a nearby tree while checking Gypsy Moth traps at Lake San Antonio. What significance should one bring to such a rare encounter? The notion of animal spirits or totems is timeless, found in ancient cultures on all continents and in many today, perhaps most notably in Native American tribes.

The condor is said to be a symbol of death and rebirth and new vision. Coincidentally (?), my brother and his wife had just attempted to rescue a puppy, which turned out to be very sick with Parvo. The dog's health declined rapidly, and eventually they had to put it to sleep - a devastating decision for them of course. I wonder if this condor is somehow connected to that event. I'm sure there are plenty of Native American's who would say "Duh!" to that. Similarly, there are equally as many men in lab coats who would say the connection is all smoke and mirrors. In which camp do you pitch your tent?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Karni Mata Temple of Rats...

Karni Mata temple is a 600-year-old Hindu temple at Deshnoke, Rajasthan, India. Karni Mata is believed to be the incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga. The peculiarity of this temple is that thousands of rats are worshipped here. The rats are seen as holy, owing to the belief that the souls of the followers of Karni Mata are in these rats and thus they must be looked after. If one of the rats is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid gold.

via Wikipedia

Karni Mata Temple


We don't generally consider the horse's sense of humor. They seem fairly serious. Or at least I thought so until I had a good look at what horseballs can do for a sober pony.

See for yourself right here

(Horses & Headgear image by Tim Flach)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"The imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man."

- Richard Feynman

("Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder, 2 am, Feb. 1987" by Peter Beard)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Boombox Babies...

Baby birds brought to the British RSPCA are being cared for with CD recordings of the dawn chorus. Apparently, the ability to sing is vital for survival, and is taught by parents, so the hope is that they'll be able to pick out their own kind from the morning singing. Read all about it here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Honing Anthropomorphism...

Here we see an "animal studies and action analysis" class underway at Disney Studios around 1940. One of the kingpins of this era was an animator called Clair Weeks, who was the son of a missionary stationed in India. According to one expert: "Weeks not only exhibited mastery of construction and posing, but also the ability to embed the spark of life that makes a drawing come alive. His technique allowed for both analytically realistic depiction and cartoony stylized caricature." This Disney-born hybrid of realism and cartooniness - the oversized, over expressive eyes and cutified skulls - of so many 20th Century animated characters was probably inevitable, but also probably responsible for several generations worth of deep confusion about the nature of animals.

(source material with nice sketches here)

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Isn't it ironic that taxidermy is Greek for "moving skin"? What I love about taxidermy is the way the makers get things wrong, the elements that are slightly too expressive or just plain off. I have fond memories of long hours spent in the dark, cavernous halls of The Natural History Museum in New York, enraptured by those strange, frozen sculptures of beasts and Neanderthals going about their daily routines as if the city around them and the gawking crowds had yet to exist.

("Bjork and Polar Bear" by Jean-Baptise Mondino)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Plastic Air Bears...

Lovely Noo Yawk street art by Joshua Allen Harris. Love the way they keel over and "die" only to come right back to fully animated life. Emotional engagement with plastic bags - now that's some primo anthropomorphization.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Breaking News: Lemmings NOT Suicidal...

Despite what you may have learned from watching Disney as a kid, lemmings do not share a mass suicide compact.

OK, technically, in their annual mass migration frenzy, some (on rare occasions) do jump off steep cliffs fully convinced that they will swim to greener pastures. That doesn't always happen in the frigid oceans of northern Finland. But it's determination that is their fatal flaw, not depression.

Learn all about it here and here.

In fact, there are rumors that just maybe some of those lemmings in the Disney film were pushed for cinematic effect. No kidding!

(Leaping Lemmings knit sculpture by Aprill Newman)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


It doesn't get any more creative than this. Reminds you how much life is really about these little shapes or forms that emerge and fight against the ravages of time and space to just to exist.

(Visuals: "Genesis" Music: "In My Room" Beach Boys)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pachyderm love...

Elephants prefer privacy for the love-act. They will seek out woods and secret places behind huge rocks or trees or in caves. Oftentimes these huge creatures will prefer to mate in water so that the male's weight can be more easily supported. He will mount her with grace and ease and remain with her for four minutes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sacred Cow Samba...

A cow in India is more sacred than a hamburger in the USA. They rule the streets and the traffic. If a cow wants to lie down for a spell on a major highway, it does, and you wait. If a cow wants to eat plastic bags, it does, and then it dies - even though the government is supposed to be regulating the thickness of bags so that rag pickers will be interested in selling them for scrap (paid by weight, get it?) It's all infuriatingly magnificent! Must get to India one of these days.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Look at us: This is who we are!

Who's afraid of the big bad wolves? Not I. It goes without saying... I fully expect animals to drop their killer instincts, to shelve the "wild" act, for little old me Me ME! I expect wolves to lick my wounds, tigers to nuzzle at my neck, orcas to do back flips as I proudly walk the aisles of Trader Joes in my track suit. After all, I get animals, I'm on their side. Animals like me! I mean, they'd never do anything to hurt me, right?

People who have given up on people often resort to animals. In extreme cases, outside the realms of crazy cat ladies and ferret fanatics, the Timothy Treadwells of the world believe they have a special bond with truly dangerous creatures who can snap their necks without a thought. To some extent, I do believe that we can communicate with animals. I do believe that animals generally kill by choice not by blind impulse. That said, I generally eat chocolate by choice... We all have our slip ups.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Cruelty or Destiny?

Well looky here... now if that isn't the suavest cowboy monkey I've ever seen I'll eat my tiny Stetson. What's going on inside the minds of these animals? I'm sure that PETA would have their panties in a bunch over this, but will you look at those faces? I mean really, that's all we have to go on - two of the happiest dern critters this side of the Pecos. Granted these two probably didn't choose each other, but aren't most of the world's marriages arranged?

Lynx of note...

This commercial is based on a true story

Near death macaque walks tall

Curious Expeditions make for nice lives

Movies with misleading titles

Put the cage on the human

Place your bets

Elephant talk

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Who scratched these negatives?

It's been almost a year since those squirrels were arrested for spying in Iran. You've got to wonder what's happened to them. More to the point, this photo poses an interesting question: If a squirrel could take pictures, what would it take pictures of?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Aesthetics of Power...

Fact is, leaders and animals have some deep and weird ties... Let's face it, animals are pretty conservative at the end of the day - generally, they adore routine, understand and obey power structures, kill when they feel threatened, and don't mind lounging around throne rooms so much.

Let's look at some dictator-animal relations:

Pol Pot

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Elizabeth Moreno, 26, is one of three successful female bullfighters in the world. Full of potential and grace, Moreno found few allies when she decided to become a bullfighter in her hometown of Mexico City.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pioneers of Space (Soviet Inebriation Style)...

(Первые на Луне "First on Moon" by Aleksey Fedorchenko)

The Ship Sank...

If you've not read Yann Martel's Life of Pi, find a ten year-old, a tree, and a blanket, and get going. There are many achingly cinematic scenes throughout, and the sinking of a cargo ship loaded with zoo animals during a massive sea storm certainly counts as one of them. This depiction of that event is really nice. Wish the picture were more high res, but I think you can make out the beauty and the horror of this moment. Talk about a psychic trigger!

("The Ship Sank" by Andrea Offermann")

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Lost Sheep...

If a human must be remembered for one thing and one thing alone, let it be something heartbreakingly real. Thank you Adriann Munsey. Thank you. May you find your way home...
(And thanks WF)

("Bette and Franke" by Vinoodh Matadin and Inez van Lamswerde)