Thinking About the MacGuffin


“In our time — which is a rather stupid time — hunting is not considered a serious matter.” *

This is the picture that planted the seed:

The figurine is described at Super Punch as a Falconer Predator. My first reaction was excitement – what would a Predator fly? How big (Haast’s Eagle size maybe)? I pretty quickly segued into thinking about Predators as hunters – especially with an eye towards fair chase – after all, the movies have been telling us since version 1 that Predators are hunting.

Before I embarrass myself further, a couple points. First, and most important, I realize the Predator is essentially a MacGuffin – horror/thriller subsp.: the nameless, implacable threat element. The alien is there to serve the story; it’s not reasonable to expect a consistent Predator backstory or even consistent behavior from movie to movie. Second, I doubt any of the writers thought very deeply about hunting. My guess is that the original pitch was more like, “It’s The Most Dangerous Game! With an alien! And Arnold and Jesse ‘The Body”! And a mini-gun!” Thus the die was cast – man-hunting became the central narrative element. In spite of these caveats, I just couldn’t leave it be – the more I thought about it, the more interested I became in figuring out what the action really revealed.

So – by way of inquiry, I netflixed Predator, Predator 2, Alien Vs. Predator, went to see Predators in the theater and re-read my copy of Ortega y Gasset’s Meditations on Hunting. Aliens Vs. Predator – Requiem has yet to be viewed – the Design Student tells me it’s the worst of the lot – I may choose to remain blissfully ignorant. Things I noticed:

  • Predators are gamehogs. They are supposed to be trophy hunting, but their definition of trophy is pretty inclusive. The first Predator kills two squads (minus one) worth of special forces types, the second kills oodles of drug dealers, a couple cops and most of Gary Busey’s X-Files contingent. AvP throws the whole ‘being armed makes you a target’ thing over the side – being in the wrong place at the wrong time (I’m thinking the whalers in 1904, especially) make you trophy quality.
  • Not that there’s any shortage of human game, but the Predator’s approach reminds me a bit of the popular image of late-period buffalo hunters. At least the buffalo hunters took tongues and/or humps for the market – one wonders how big the Predator’s skull room needs to be.
  • Preserve hunting is A-OK with the Predators. The pyramid in AvP is closer to a lasertag playground than anything else I can think of. The preserve in Predators is a lot larger, but the way the humans are stocked is guaranteed to disorient them.

The overwhelming feeling that I had watching the movies was that what I was seeing wasn’t hunting. Way too much general slaughter, WAY too much hand to hand combat and a weird confusion of military fighting, honor fighting/dueling and the chase.

I thought about it for a while before I dropped back to my copy of Meditations on Hunting, knowing that Ortega y Gasset thinks hard about what hunting is and isn’t. On page 47 of my edition I found a paragraph that clarified things immensely:

If the hunted is also, on the same occasion, a hunter, this is not hunting: it is combat, a fight in which both parties have the same intention and similar behavior. Fighting is a reciprocal action. The gladiator in the arena did not hunt the panther that had been let out of the cage; he fought with it, because neither found himself in a natural situation. In the course of hunting a fight may occur, as in the case of the wild boar which, when cornered, turns and attacks the hunter; but this fight has only incidental significance within the hunt, and whatever grave consequences may result, it is only an anecdote embroidered on the main tapestry of hunting. If the hunted animal were normally to fight with man, so that the relationship between the two consisted in this fight, we would have a completely different phenomenon. For this reason, bullfighting is not hunting. Neither does the man hunt the bull, nor does the bull, upon attacking, do so with hunting intentions.” *

Bingo! Predators are gladiators/bullfighters. Human skulls are like bull’s ears. Which leads to an obvious question. Every ‘exhibition’  fight I can think of is done for an audience. Are the Predators instrumented and cam-ed for an audience back home? There’s a backstory that could provide some consistency – Hollywood big-wigs, I’ll be waiting for your call.

[other notes]

Slight spoiler – there was no falconer in Predators. I don’t know if it got cut, or if I’m supposed to accept an autonomous reconnaissance drone that happens to mount to a Predator’s shoulder weapon rack as falconry – it ain’t.

One of the key plot points in AvP is nutty. I’m supposed to accept that the Predators leave all their weapons stashed in lasertag pyramid between ‘hunts’? What, they have draconian gun laws back home? (And we’ll ignore all the evidence to the contrary from the first two flicks.)

In the future, Lance Henricksen will be ubiquitous.

The Garden of Eden


“I had a hunting territory in Africa at the bottom of the Olduvai Gorge.”

A month back, I noticed and commented on this BB post. Like other commenters I recognized it from the Life Nature Library (Early Man, to be precise). My primary partner in workcrime has a complete set of the books in his classroom, so I’ve scanned the illustration Mark F referenced and two others I particularly liked. I’m going to leave cleanup and stitching for another day…




A little chest puffery – my original ID of the antelope as a Topi was dead-on. For an interesting post on early human/hyena conflict by Steve Bodio, click here.




Jay Matternes’ web site (he did the work above) is here.

Har Nuur, Mongolia – EOIotD

Har Nuur sits in the Valley of Lakes of western Mongolia. Bordered bymultiple mountain ranges, the Valley of Lakes hosts remnant basins of larger ancient lakes, dune fields, and salt marshes. Har Nuur, like other lakes in the region, is a closed-basin lake fed by precipitation.

My guess is the pH and dissolved mineral content of the lake is pretty dang high – I wonder if anything other than little crustaceans and planktonic life can survive there.

Har Nuur, Mongolia : Image of the Day.


An earlier post from the Earth Observatory Image of the Day (if I had to guess, I’d say that north=down in this one):

Sand Dunes in Har Nuur (Black Lake), Western Mongolia


And for folks who’d like to explore via Google Earth, a Khyargas Nuur placemark.

Tereshkova & Lucid

“Valentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times during her three day spaceflight in Vostok 6 in 1963. First woman in space! .”

“Born in Shanghai to missionary parents, Shannon Lucid became the eighth woman in space when she flew aboard the Shuttle Discovery mission STS-51-G in 1985. Shannon made four more spaceflights including the 1989 Atlantis mission to launch the Galileo probe to Jupiter, and a stay aboard the Russian Mir station saw her break the record for the longest time spent in orbit by a woman. 188 days in space!”

Flickrset here.

Via BruceS.

Venus orbiter to fly close to super-rotating wind

The Venus Climate Orbiter, called AKATSUKI, aims to find out why blistering winds zip around the planet at speeds of up to 400 kilometres per hour. The upper clouds can circle the planet in four days or even less, and no one knows why. The effect is called “super-rotation”, because the bulk of the atmosphere is rotating much faster than the planet itself. Venus takes 243 Earth days to make one rotation.

Venus orbiter to fly close to super-rotating wind – space – 14 May 2010 – New Scientist.

Vertical Blue 2010

The Shark Girl sent me a heads-up a couple days ago – she and D are in the Bahamas (Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island to be exact) videoing the Vertical Blue 2010 freediving event. The footage is amazing – you can find all of it here and write-ups of the days events here. Below, William Trubridge does a world record unassisted (no fins, no nothin’) dive to 92 meters. My back of the envelope calc puts that at approximately 30 stories – yowza.

The Impossible Project, SX-70 and FMM

A while ago, a friend offered up his old SX-70 for sale. At that point, Polaroid was out of the film business and though there was a lot of interest in keeping the film in production, it wasn’t a sure thing. I figured what the heck, gambled and bought the camera. The gamble paid off – The Impossible Project (the folks who bought the production equipment) just released their first film packs. Not cheap, but not as expensive as some things I’d like to shoot someday.

Manipulated 1

Portrait of FMM, manipulated by her own little self then digitally processed by me.

Old color film that came with the camera.



New film. I like it – and I need to remember that the focusing circle is not centered in an SX-70.


FMM and T-rex.

Taken by her mom (not Polaroid).


Hey, it’s my blog and I’ll post cute small person pictures if I want to!


Like LOLCats were, internet centuries ago, 8-bit is everywhere and it’s fun.

Uploaded by onemoreprod. – Watch original web videos.

After 1:48, all I can think of is ice-nine.



Much the same as 1st video, but with music!


rstevens has been having pixelfun since before everything (this strip is esp. for Sy, the ladies and the cassowary).

Bulls, Bikes, Birds

Via a retweet from @bibliodyssey, an addition to the blogroll – Next Nature. I knew I’d hit paydirt when I saw that the most recent post talked about aurochs and Heck cattle – a topic we’ve visited here previously. On (to the blogroll) you go!


Over at Ride the Machine – one of my favorite two-wheeler blogs – s.a. has posted some great Velocette (not to be confused with velocet – or drencrom) cover art.

I love this one for the aeroplane, the pants (plus-fours? maybe even plus-sixes?) and the mystery of what the heck is going on. Courier? Passenger checking in, as a motorcycle valet rushes in (out of frame)?


The way the ‘L’ and the ‘TT” (Tourist Trophy) are used is wonderful.


On a personal note – I had a wonderful time Tuesday and Wednesday – Noted Nature Writer was in town to do a talk/signing event at a great local indie bookstore. We had a great time discussing birds and frogs and spiders and…

That’s Sy, waaaay back at the table.