Apophenia

Hold on tight – this is going to be more than a little tangential. After writing the Curta/Rohloff post yesterday, I was seized by a desire to re-read Pattern Recognition. So I did! When I got a hundred or so pages in, I had a little shock of recognition myself:

Pattern Recognition Cornell Box

Recognition, because the book on the top of my nightstand stack is Simic on Cornell.

Simic on Cornell

I’m moderately confident that this is pattern recognition gone wrong – and there’s a word for that!

Pattern Recognition Ch 12

Definition of apophenia 

the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)*

Good for a laugh, but pattern recognition and its evil twin are near and dear to my heart. K asked recently if i was a ‘spotter’ – one of those people who see stuff in the woods before anyone else does, or when no one else sees the thing at all. I allowed as I probably was, but that I wasn’t sure if my skill extended outside of the northeastern US. I’ve written about what I tend to call ‘native vision’ before (while talking about the Blue Ant books!) ; it’s a central plot line, as far as I’m concerned, in a top 5 movie – Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala. An aside – honing my spotter skills in different biomes is a Big Bike Ride goal.

Another bit of characterization in Pattern Recognition caught my eye, too. Boone Chu, Cayce Pollard’s computer security sidekick,has a bit of Mod fun, riding a scooter wearing a fishtail parka emblazoned with an RAF roundel*.

I ride a G.S. scooter with my hair cut neat
I wear my wartime coat in the wind and sleet

– I’ve Had Enough/Quadrophenia/The Who

Sometime during the reading I called up some tunes from Quadrophenia on the hi-fi, and noticed the title’s suffix. Because I was already thinking about apophenia, the lack of an R (it’s not Quadrophrenia!) struck me – esp since Jimmy, the protagonist, is presented as having 4 personalities. With an R:

Suffix[edit]

-phrenia

  1. mental disorder.*

Coming up with a definition for the sans-R suffix, -phenia, is a little trickier. One idea is that it /should/ have been apophrenia and the dropped R is a mistake. But I like this idea:

…if the word derives from “apo” and another Greek word, “phainein” […] meaning “to make appear,” then apophenia is correct after all.*

The suffix works nicely with Quadrophenia – it was recorded during the heyday of quadraphonic sound systems – and though apparently the vinyl was never quad, I remember a ton of pre-relase marketing noise bruiting Quadrophenia as quad sound’s full realization. “Making quad appear” works!

And finally. a chapter title from Pattern Recognition that wraps up The Who, the Big Bike Ride and pulling meaning from coincidence up in a neat bow.

Pattern Recognition Ch 16

* They’re called roundels damnit, NOT TARGETS

 

The Rivermen

During my visit to the Waterfront Museum a few weeks ago, David Sharps and I chatted about a range of things, but of course the topic of New York (City mainly, but Erie Canal, too) history was a biggie. I mentioned that I was reading Up in the Old Hotel and he immediately pointed out a painting of shad fisher’s barges in Edgewater, NJ as mentioned by Joseph Mitchell.

Jos. Mitchell reference

I haven’t been devouring books as quickly as I once did; I blame media hyper-saturation  – just too much to absorb – but last night, in Mitchell’s The Rivermen chapter, I finally encountered the old barges.

edgewater barges

I’m thinking rivers may be the most interesting form of water. Bold statement, I know. I need to ponder it.

[Side note: I can’t see Edgewater without thinking of the hotel in Seattle.]

 

No No: A Dockumentary

A couple weeks ago, prompted by this boingboing post, I pointed the car in the direction of Brookline, Mass and headed out for Short Notice Movie Night.

I am not a huge baseball fan, but I am a BIG fan of baseball misfits and weirdos: Bill Lee, Sidd Finch and of course Dock Ellis. Mr. Ellis is most famous for pitching a no-hitter with a head full of LSD – I knew there was more to him than that, but I did not know how much more.

No No: A Documentary is one of the most interesting biographies I’ve seen in a very long time. Ellis, as one of the generation of ballplayers that came up after the majors were integrated, had a lot to say about civil rights and racism; he was wild on and off the field and in the end was someone who circled back to help addicts after he got sober.

no_no_a_dockumentary

 

The Seventies vibe was palpable and I loved it. I read that No No is now available via the internet streams – HIGHLY recommended. Why post now? As I was heading in to the local big city this AM I listened to a segment on Only a Game: a conversation with Jeffery Radice, who made No No, and Tom Reich, Dock’s agent. On a personal note, the names of some of the Pirates my dad and I saw play at Forbes Field: Roberto Clemente, Willy Stargell, Manny Sanguillen – brought tears to my eyes. Green Weenie 4 evah.

Rock on (in beisbol valhalla), Mr. Ellis.

P.S. Thanks to Lauren for the restaurant recco – tacos and elote, yay!

A Great Stirrer Up of Passions

Falconry, that is. Now that peacay has posted from The Book of the Hunt of King Modus &  Queen Ratio (what are you waiting for – click through – I’ll wait) I can turn this little bit of goofiness loose.

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N. B. I discovered the image only because peacay pointed me to the book pre-post – all credit redounds to him and all blame to me.

And some explanation for non-falconers: sure seems like the protagonist is trying to whup on one of his hunting companions with a lure. A slip is a chance for a hawk to pursue game – it can be screwed up innumerable ways, but mostly by flushing game before the raptor is in position.

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.