Other appearances here and there

I’ve popped up on a couple other web sites recently and wanted to link out for readers that hadn’t seen these posts. First, way back in May (wow, time is flying this summer) I did a Five on Falconry post with Rebecca K. O’Connor over at her Operation Delta Duck. More recently, the Biodiversity Heritage Library featured me in their BHL and Our Users series of posts. I don’t know if this is my 15 minutes or 15 people, but it’s fun.

Tangentially – I received an email from a photographer who is doing a series of falconer portraits. He was in the area and wondered if I’d sit for some shots. The answer was yes and although the weather wasn’t great, shoot we did.

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A small world note on the second photograph – as I wrote to peacay (of BibliOdyssey),

…he spent a lot of time on shots of my peregrine on the fist. When we were all done, he told me that he was trying to replicate a picture his roommate had shown him on the internet. Yes, you can see it coming – he pulled up BibliOdyssey (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bibliodyssey/5765177031/sizes/l/) – I laughed – told him we correspond.

 

Fuertes and Abyssinia

This is the peanut butter cup of Biodiversity Heritage Library serendipity – two wonderful things that are even better in combination. Via the BioDivLibrary Flickrstream, the Album of Abyssinian Birds and Mammals From Paintings by Louis Aggasiz Fuertes.

Fuertes, for those who don’t know him or his work, was an ornithologist and painter. I’ve loved his art since I first encountered it (I was maybe 10 years old?) in a coffee table book that was, at that point, way out of my price range. His National Geographic article, Falconry, the Sport of Kings is still a favorite (illustration below ganked from The Internet Archive).

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And a preliminary sketch for the illustration from Cornell’s L. A. Fuertes Image Database:

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And Abyssinia. Because it successfully resisted during the scramble for Africa – and for many other reasons – it’s a fascinating region.

So, on with the show. I’m half tempted to post all the Fuertes paintings, but I’ll resist. A selection, with some notes:

Two that go well with the NatGeo illustration – the Lanner:

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and the Black Bellied Bustard:

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Because I love Hornbills, the Crested Hornbill (Darren/TetZoo on Ground Hornbills here):

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Lammergeiers use ossuaries. You’d like another reason to add them to your pantheon? Here you go.

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Neil Gaiman was in town recently on the American Gods 10th anniversary tour. As a result, ravens have been front and center in my imagination (if you don’t understand the connection, you really should read the book). Fuertes remarks that the Thick Billed Raven is “vulturine in habits” – pretty typical raven behavior.

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Waxing extremely vulturine, the badass of the carcass crowd, the Lappet-faced Vulture.

“They are the most powerful and aggressive of the African vultures, and other vultures will usually cede a carcass to the Lappet-faced Vulture. This is often beneficial to the less powerful vultures because the Lappet-face can tear through the tough hides and muscles of large mammals that the others cannot penetrate…” *

“Lappet-faced Vultures, perhaps more than any other vulture, will on occasion attack young and weak living animals…” *

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And last but not least, a canid that is often cited as a possible ancestor of the dog, the Abyssinian Wolf:

Pouring iron to help a friend

Yesterday was the Sanctuary Arts Open House & Iron Pour Benefit. Ali Goodwin is fighting breast cancer and like so many in this nominally wealthy country is screwed when it comes to health care. Locals have been coming together to help on a regular basis – yesterday was one of those times. The pour was a ton of fun, the people were interesting, the weather was perfect – if only the reason for the event were different.

It's as hot as a friggin' furnace!

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Warming the ladles

warming the ladles

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Mr. Swirly is an air blower that makes sure there’s a DRAFT

Mr. Swirly

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Spectators

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art and ladle

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The macaroni art tile I made – I’ve been thinking about infrastructure quite a bit (credit goes to Adam Greenfield) so I produced a manhole cover.

My tile

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More photos here. And to finish up – a video:

 

Charismatic megafauna – six legged variety

More often than seems reasonable/random, the internet zeitgeist throws a number of seemingly unrelated references to an interesting topic my way. Today’s theme was robots; a couple weeks ago it was butterflies. The title of the post comes from a tweet from @debcha, “I often describe dragonflies and butterflies as the ‘charismatic megafauna’ of the insect world…” This post will be light on Odonata; expect loads of Lepidoptera.

First up, a book I had high hopes for: The Dangerous World of Butterflies, The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists.  Short version – I was disappointed. I found the book to be superficial, not very well written and more than a little narcissistic. I don’t know appreciably more about butterflies or butterfly conservation issues than I did before I picked the book up – there didn’t seem to be a thread tying things together or even relating one vignette to another (I’m thinking of Sy Montgomery’s Birdology as a polar opposite). There were tangents that I would have liked to have seen pursued: Laufer touches on the internal mechanisms of metamorphosis and moves on quickly saying, in effect, “it’s an area scientists are still investigating.” Interview a few more scientists? Try to do some science writing? The writing itself is a bit of an issue. It’s published by Lyons Press – if this is the current incarnation of Nick Lyons’ operation, I’m saddened. “And in a box padded with wads of tissue paper for padding…” Ouch. “Item: ‘Take the Lunesta 7-Night Challenge,’ offers an advertisement for a sleeping pill. A floating butterfly illustrates the ad.” The Lunesta (hmm, what might the root word be?) mascot is a large green night-flying lepidopteran. I wouldn’t give Laufer (and the Lyons editors) so much grief but a couple pages earlier he dismisses the other fliers, “I was not seeking dragonflies or even moths. My target was butterflies.” The situation is made even worse by the “Item:” immediately preceding, which mentions -wait for it- a Luna Moth! Sorry. Thumbs down.

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Next on the bookshelf, Klea McKenna’s The Butterfly Hunter. Klea’s father, Terrence, collected butterflies in Southeast Asia and South America in the late 60′s and early 70′s.  The few words and many beautiful images in this book do much to illuminate the desire and the remorse of the hunter. Highly recommended – and Terrence deserves a series of posts as well.

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From the emotional, we move to the practical. Way back at the beginning of the Lepidopteran info storm, @debcha twote a link to Mechanisms of structural colour in the Morpho butterfly. I remember reading a bit about Morpho color a long time ago in The Splendor of Iridescence, but it was a long time ago and retention is an issue. The linked article is technical, but interesting nevertheless.  There’s a cool interplay between structure and underlying color going on in a Morpho‘s wing – makes me want to watch some flutter about.

A side note – I think this xkcd applies pretty well to me (and @debcha thinks it might accurately characterize her as well).

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And I’ll close out this already overlong post (tl;dr) with some amazing work. I’ve seen some of Paul Schmookler’s butterfly and full-dress Atlantic salmon fly pieces in person and they are stunning.

“An extraordinary display of butterfly and fly by Paul Schmookler, thought by many who have viewed this gifted American artist’s work to be the king of the ‘extreme’ full-dressed salmon fly. Measuring 17 1/2″ x 13″ overall, the gold painted wood frame houses two sunken mounts, the upper with an actual vibrant green/black Trogonoptera brookiana butterfly, a species native to Malaysia, and the lower, a striking 3 1/8″ salmon fly with corresponding colors. The remarkable fly is an original creation of Schmookler’s, tied for the consignor’s collection. In excellent condition throughout, signed on the bottom right. A rare opportunity to own an example of Schmookler’s genius with feather and thread, as this master tyer’s work seldom comes to auction.”

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And one more fly – not butterfly-linked, but I can’t resist.

Lampwork insects

Let’s combine  two recent themes: internet-as-connection-engine and internet-as-repository-of-just-about-anything-imaginable! Last night Wesley Fleming favorited some of my photographs of the Blaschka’s work; as I always do, I backtracked to see what sorts of things he’d posted to Flickr. Turns out he’s an amazing lampworker himself. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that folks were still making lampworked representations of nature – my ex (among many artistic talents) made beautiful lampwork beads. I’ll put it down to the impossibility  of successfully thinking from a fire hose; there’s so much cool stuff going on that keeping up with all of it just ain’t going to happen.

Some of Mr. Fleming’s work:

We’ll start with a favorite – a leafcutter ant (timely, too – there’s been a link to a leafcutter nest casting and excavation making the rounds).

Atta (leafcutter ant)

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Japanese Hornet.

Vespa mandarinia (Japanese hornet)

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And a variety of stag beetle that’s, as far as I know, new to science, Lucanus alces – the Moose Beetle.

Lucanus alces (moose beetle)

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It strikes me that thumbnail dart frogs might make good lampwork subjects. Quite a few of them have a very shiny, almost metallic, body color with dark spots or blotches seeming to float above in a separate layer.

A BLAST of Dazzle Camo

Via @roundmyskull, a post on a British dazzle camoufleur and Vorticist: Edward Wadsworth. The Design Student has indicated an interest in model building/painting (we’re going to ransack the house for his old Warhammer figurines – could be a nice side job); perhaps I should build a WWI ship model or 2 for him to dazzle up.

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And a print from RISD’s dazzle plan collection. I reiterate – I need more wall space.

Two Russian book links

Via @bibliodyssey, Semën Ul’ianovich Remezov’s Khorograficheskaya Kniga.

By the mid-17th century, Russian development in Siberia extended all the way to the Pacific, but from the seat of Russian power in Moscow, there was still little known about the area. By all reports there were at that time no maps of Siberia in Russia and so, seeking to collect knowledge and understanding of their extended interests in the area, late in the 1600s, the Siberian Court Office of Moscow ordered the production of a number standardized settlement maps. Cities and towns were to be represented and notes made on surrounding features of the land, particularly their situation on rivers and the native settlements within certain proximities.

Throughout Siberia, land-surveyors and draftsmen were recruited to do work on this massive project, but one notable man in Tobol’sk, Semën Ul’ianovich (alternately, Semyon Ul’yanovich) Remezov, would emerge as the primary cartographer of the region, creating, by the estimate of historian James R. Akerman, some 80 percent of the surviving Siberian maps of his century. Akerman’s biographical sketch of Remezov tells a compelling story: a low-level government administrator who brought creative energy to his census registry work, compiling ethnographic data in the depths of Siberia, a “restless” intellect who contributed much to his city of Tobol’sk, and an artist who would capture a dynamic sense of Siberia on page after page of beautifully rendered maps. *

Siberia, especially in it’s less than accurate usage meaning ‘all that stuff east of the Urals’, is HUGE, my knowledge of the geography of the are is limited and my ability to read Cyrillic script and/or Russian is nonexistent. As a result, this atlas is for me like a dispatch from another planet – Borges and Tolkien do some mapping.

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I’m wondering if this could be the maritime province – Primorsky Krai? Great Wall at the bottom, Korea to the east, and the Amur and Ussuri watershed center. If so, that’d be an Amur Leopard gamboling about in the upper left.

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Via the consistently great Five Books, Robert Chandler on Tales of Soviet Russia.

The Soviet writer he [Vasily Grossman] was closest to was Andrey Platonov and the stories do have quite a Platonov-like quality to them. There is one about a dog, just called ‘The Dog’, and it’s quite close to reality. There were several mongrel dogs that were sent up into space on the early sputniks and this is a story about the first dog to be sent up into space and to come back alive to earth.

Laika? No. She died, didn’t she?

Laika died. That was the very first dog. This is the fictionalised successor to Laika and it’s very unexpected. I showed it to a poet friend called Elizabeth Cook and her immediate comment was that it was really shamanistic! It would never have occurred to me but actually it’s a valid comment. The heroes of the story are the female dog and the scientist in charge of the laboratory, a really hard-headed, unsentimental scientist who, to everyone’s amazement, gets quite besotted by this animal, and he has visions of her going out into space and for the first time the cosmos will penetrate the eyes of a living being. And somehow he will look into her eyes when she’s back on earth and will see the cosmos. It’s very warm and tender and funny, and there’s a certain irony to these mystical ideas, but some seriousness to them as well. Quite a lot of them are about animals.