Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birds. Show all posts

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Image Source: pinterest.

"How does a man come to know the unknowable?" He can do it through pushing the boundaries, or through some philosophical bridge. Maybe he does it through a woman, or a leap of faith, or a contemplation of the order of the universe that he cannot see. In these respects, I want to thank Dia Sobin at Trans-D Digital blog for permitting me to quote her 20 March 2016 post, The Language of Birds & the Alchemy of Love: The Music Box. She wrote a beautiful passage about the way in which girls keep talismans from their pasts to preserve memories and conjure up love. Women,
"have a peculiar predilection for keeping memorable items in special boxes, especially as young girls. Our little magic boxes ... full of talismanic detritus we've collected over the years ... a coin, jewelry, a shred of hair, a crumbling flower head, a photo, a signature, stones, bones ... whatever. Generally the tokens are kept to remind us of lovers or loved ones ... small trophies for experiences that may eventually retreat into a mental shadowland in the same way the objects themselves have retreated into the shadowy recesses of the box. But, no matter. The box becomes a sort of artificial memory bank... a collection of three-dimensional objects representing transdimensional events in the same way a collection of symbols do. In the end, whether we're talking about musical codes, alchemical codes, or the enigmatic chemistry of love and attraction, some type of hidden language is involved ... as is some kind of communication that lies outside the bounds of what is consciously understood."
Studies confirm that women remember events, especially emotional ones, better than men. Not only is the part of the brain which deals with memory larger in women, but that brain difference prompts female behaviour dedicated to maintaining memory through the organization of material objects. This tendency to tuck away bits of sacred junk in drawers and boxes demonstrates women's semi-conscious need to connect the emotional world and past memories to the tangible world in the present and future in direct ways. Women habitually manipulate time to turn the unreal side of life into something real. With these little anchors, they navigate the course of their lives. If you remember who you were, you don't lose track of who you are, and of the person you will become.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Lake Natron

Lake Natron, a body of water in northern Tanzania can be deadly due to its high salt content and proximity to an active volcano, known among the Maasai people as the 'Mountain of God.' Local legend has it that when the volcano erupts, god is walking the earth. The volcano's proximity to the dead lake fits, since volcanoes are mythically considered doorways to the Underworld or hell. Indeed, Lake Natron looks like a toxic pool out of a fairy tale, the dead marsh a hero would cross before he might enter a dark kingdom. At its deepest point, the lake is just under ten feet deep, and is surrounded by the calcified bodies of creatures unfortunate enough to get trapped there. The process which preserves them resembles that of ancient Egyptian mummification (Images Sources: HuffPo, Viral Maze, Nick Brandt).

A calm eruption from the great volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai or 'Mountain of God' near Lake Natron. Image Source: Geological Sciences.

The photos here of frozen bodies went viral on the Internet, supposedly depicting a lake of death which instantly turns to stone all creatures that touch it. The peculiar ecosystem actually favours flamingos. Photographer Nick Brandt placed dead creatures around the lake's shoreline in 'living' poses; his photos are artfully faked poses of corpses. The Mary Sue:
No one is disputing that Natron is a dangerous place for most species, of course. As the New Scientist says, the lake can reach temperatures up to 60 °C and has an alkalinity between pH 9 and pH 10.5 ... [and] can ... burn the skin and eyes of animals who aren’t adapted to it. It also does preserve many of these animals’ bodies, specifically due to the combination of chemicals that are deposited into the water via runoff from a nearby Great Rift Valley volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.
Unfortunately, the nuances of this lake’s ecosystem seem to escape many a casual observer, and what people appear to be taking away from most coverage is this: that there’s a lake in Africa that kills literally every creature that comes near it (which is false), and that it’s capable of killing those creatures instantly by turning them to actual stone (which is also false).
... [T]he preservation process is not something that happens instantaneously — it happens over a much longer period of time. Though the photos taken by Nick Brandt depict the petrified birds on perches and in naturalistic poses as if they were just petrified, they are all entirely staged. Brandt said as much in an e-mail to NBC news: “I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania[... .] I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life.’”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Laugh of the Day: Deep Water

Anyone who has ever been suspended between thought, decision and action will identify with this video. To quote Trans-D Digital blog, there is more to the frozen struggle inside suspended animation:
"It is possible to undergo a profound crisis involving non-ordinary experiences and to perceive it as pathological or psychiatric when, in fact, it may be more accurately and beneficially defined as a spiritual emergency."
- Stanislav Grof; quote found here.
When there is a gap between thought and action, one may enter the realm of the extraordinary; perhaps that alienated vision comes with a spiritual crisis, but more likely it marks the start of a spiritual resolution and renewal.  (Thanks for the video link to -J.)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Not-So-Discreet Charm of Lateral Thinking

Meanwhile, in Vienna: David LaChapelle's dual poster, Once in the Garden 1 & 2, features American transgender model Carmen Carrera playing Eve in one poster and Adam in the other (May 2014). I can't show the whole poster due to Blogger's policies. Image Source: Out.com.

There are a lot of wannabe artistes out there in the online world. But you cannot mistake the genuine type. Only Ms. Dia Sobin at Trans-D Digital Art could find the link between bird song, medieval-derived 3-D geometric art, and lucid dreams about the mathematics of nature. Somehow, she recognizes the buried associations that "decode the living matrix." And I have to thank her for marrying bird song to the underlying art of the universe, because she identified a bird that warbles beautifully outside my window.

I've tried for ages to find its identity. It is not quite the wood thrush Sobin describes: "the song of the male is often cited as being the most beautiful in North America." She cites a 20th century naturalist who wrote: "As we listen we lose the sense of time—it links us with eternity…Its tones…seem like the vocal expression of the mystery of the universe, clothed in a melody so pure and ethereal that the soul still bound to its earthly tenement can neither imitate nor describe it. 

The bird outside my window is a hermit thrush, sampled for the Mockingjay's song in the 2012 film, The Hunger Games. The Globe and Mail writes of the hermit thrush:
A Fluttering of Wings to Lift the Heart: The hermit thrush ... spends its summers in the cool woods of the north. You rarely see it then, because its brown-grey back and speckled white breast are perfect camouflage in the dappled light of the forest.

You know it is there only by its haunting song, perhaps the most beautiful of any North American bird. One ornithology site calls it a “clear, flute-like note followed by a series of ethereal, bell-like ascending and descending tones,” but words can’t really do it justice.
You can hear the hermit thrush's song here and here. These are only partial samples of what it can do. Juvenile birds learn songs from their parents, and the one in my yard is a virtuoso, pealing waterfalls of cascading bell notes. It really is unbelievable. The bird sings in stereo.

This point brought me to another surprising fact: American robins are thrushes, whereas European robins look completely different and belong to the flycatcher family. This means the need to preserve robins in the culture was strong enough - it was seen as a bird that sang to Christ on the cross and fetched water for souls in purgatory - that colonists pressed the symbolic role on another bird when they arrived in North America.

Getting to the point, somehow, some day: proponents claim that lateral thinking is synonymous with creative thinking. Critics disagree and call lateral thinking 'divergent.' Image Source: Lateral Action.

Some argue that to think artistically is to think laterally, not linearly. Lateral thinking is defined on Wiki:
Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.
In this theory, lateral thinkers differ from linear thinkers. Chuck's Lamp gives a simple contrast:
[M]uch of our world is indeed structured upon the concept of logic (very basic logic at least). We learn math, deductive reasoning, and tend to apply these logical processes to our everyday life. Our drive to do so comes from our inherent need, as cognitive humans, to categorize our experiences in our minds and make projections about what the outcome of an action will be. We compare our expectations with our experience, weigh the similarity, and adjust our thought processes as needed. Linear thinkers are very much the same. They start at step one and usually do a good and efficient job of completing the task before moving on to step two. They are driven, focused, and don’t easily get off topic. ...
[By constrast, in lateral thinking h]uman thought [is] characterized by expansion in multiple directions, rather than in one direction, and based on the concept that there are multiple starting points from which one can apply logic to a problem. Non-linear thought increases possible outcomes by not being so certain about the starting point for any logic process. Non-linear thinkers tend to jump forward, and from side to side through the steps of a project, in an effort to see the big picture and tackle those areas where they have the most interest. Where non-linear thinking falters is in finally carrying out the required action, because as a thought process it often encourages a user to agonize incessantly over where to start (that agreed upon truth, from which logic can be applied and action can be taken).
Systemic problems diminish the performance value of the status quo. And this theory suggests that lateral thinkers are better at breaking current thinking patterns or overturning the status quo to solve problems. They ask why accepted values or systems exist. Or to solve a given problem, they engage in
provocation techniques—wishful thinking, exaggeration, reversal, escape, distortion, or arising. The thinker creates a list of provocations and then uses the most outlandish ones to move their thinking forward to new ideas.
It seems that lateral thinkers and linear thinkers are arrayed, facing each other across a great divide of Millennial change. The lateral side is immersed in infinite chaos and displays occasional redemptive epiphanies. For the most part, lateral thinkers gain their insights because they are alienated from the forward march of technological progress qua 'progress.' And the other, linear, side stolidly clings to what remains of stable ideas and pushes relentlessly forward, logically, sometimes with brute force, through tabulation and data management to control, authority and power.

In the push and pull between these mentalities, the future technocracy is up for grabs. Will it, or will it not, become a police state? To put it in a less dire way, consider the words of Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of the United States Congress, who was quoted in a recent documentary: "Stories unite people. Theories divide them." What arcane mix of these two manners of thought will take us down the better path?

LaChapelle's artwork defaced at a Viennese bus stop. Image Source: BBC.

I was reminded of all this on 9 June 2014, when BBC's Hard Talk broadcast an interview between Stephen Sackur and world famous photographer David LaChapelle. Sackur was the voice of inquiring reason. He asked about the uproar caused this spring in Vienna by LaChapelle's transgendered poster for the HIV/AIDS benefit event, Life Ball (31 May 2014) and associated exhibition at Ostlicht Photography Gallery (2 June - 14 September 2014).

LaChapelle is known for his kitsch pop surrealism (see his website portfolio here); his splashy portraits of celebrities are dreams on the verge of nightmares. Think: Bubblegum Salvador Dalí meets Vogue in the subdivision - or the rain forest.

Stephen Sackur wanted to know whether LaChapelle thought it was appropriate to have Carmen Carrera's transgendered nudity simultaneously playing Adam and Eve this spring in Vienna's streets. He asked about small children who could see the poster and ask questions, which they reportedly did, about Carrera, who has male genitalia and female breasts.

LaChapelle dismissed this in the interview, but he did in fact worry about backlash. Both he and his model increased their security during their visit to the city. From Page Six:
“David and Carmen both had four bodyguards each from the minute they landed in Vienna until the minute they left,” said a rep for the photographer, who had an exhibition at a Vienna gallery this week following the Life Ball, which included nude images of Carrera.
The FPO had filed suit against the Life Ball, and its spokesperson claimed that LaChapelle’s work “[doesn’t] just cross the boundaries of good taste…but…also the limits of criminal law.” But the posters, LaChapelle pointed out, had been ­approved as art by the city before they were hung in train stations and other public places.
Some who objected to the images began defacing them by covering up Carrera’s exposed parts with spray paint. One 70-year-old woman, who graffitied the posters after dark, in a local report said of the images of busty Carrera with a penis: “My 4-year-old grandson asked me while walking if I actually also have a spatzi.” (We’ll let you figure out the translation on that one.)
In the end, all the controversy only amped up interest in the LaChapelle work. An original ­image titled Once in the Garden, on which the posters were based, was expected to sell for $41,000 at the Life Ball’s auction, but went for a record-breaking $245,500. An Audi car designed by LaChapelle sold to members of the Missoni family for $136,400.
“Art was victorious…it was all love,” LaChapelle told Page Six of the event, where Ricky Martin and Kesha performed, and guests included Bill Clinton and Courtney Love.
LaChapelle passionately pleaded that his work is not pornographic, that Once in the Garden is a Botticelli-esque expression of unfettered beauty. Once marginalized sexual imagery is no longer marginal but mainstream. In response, Sackur asked about LaChapelle's furry-oriented photo of a half-nude Angelina Jolie having her breast nuzzled by a horse. Is that mainstream too?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Interlude: Birds in the Receding Storm

Gif Source: Lân Phạm Hoàng.

For today, here is a beautiful clip of animation from the Japanese 2013 film, Kotonoha no Niwa (言の葉の庭The Garden of Words), with birds flying across a city sky through clearing skies after a rain storm. The film is directed by Gen Xer Makoto Shinkai.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Millennial Artist: Jee Young Lee's Stage of Mind

Resurrection. Image Source: My Modern Met.

Caption for the above photograph: "Inspired by the Story of Shim Cheong, a Korea folktale as well as by Shakespeare’s Ophelia, Lee JeeYoung made this installation by painting paper lotus and flooding the room with fog and carbonic ice in order to create a mystic atmosphere.
Lotus flowers grow from the impure mud to reach for the light and bloom to the rise and fall of the sun; in Asia, it bears various cultural symbolisms such as prospects and rebirth. It is also known for its purifying function. The presence of the artist in the heart of such flower is meant to convey her personal experience. 'I was born again by overcoming negative elements that had dragged me down and cleansed myself emotionally. The figure within a lotus blooming implies a stronger self who was just born again and is facing a new world'. It is this is very moment when one reaches maturity and full-potential that Lee illustrates in 'Resurrection', and, more generally speaking, throughout the entirety of her corpus."

My Modern Met reports on a South Korean Gen Y artist, Jee Young Lee, who creates beautiful interiors (hat tip: Ken Kaminesky):
Jee Young Lee creates highly elaborate scenes that require an incredible amount of patience and absolutely no photo manipulation. For weeks and sometimes months, the young Korean artist works in the confines of her small 360 x 410 x 240 cm studio bringing to life worlds that defy all logic. In the middle of the sets you can always find the artist herself, as these are self-portraits but of the unconventional kind. Inspired by either her personal life or old Korean fables, they each have their own backstory, which of course, only adds to the intense drama. From February 7 to March 7, 2014, OPIOM Gallery in Opio, France ... present[s] a selection of Lee's ongoing body of work called Stage of Mind.
Further from Brain Factory:
This exhibition introduces seven new photographic works ... a project on which the artist has been working continuously since 2007. Jee Young Lee “constructs” scenes for her camera rather than employing the traditional method of “taking” images such as still lifes, figures, or landscapes. ...
Lee's artistic motivation derives from her quest for personal identity. In each of Lee's stories, the artist is the protagonist. At times facing away from us, at other times showing only part of her body or reclining, she quietly and mysteriously inhabits her dream-like realms. Through their bold materials and patterns, dramatic colors, and intriguing narratives, Lee's new works signal maturity, coherence, and sophistication. The legends of East and West, Korean proverbs, personal childhood experiences, and immediate realities provide the motifs for her creations. ...
Lee's constructed realities belong to the “directorial mode,” employed since the 1980's by Postmodernist photographers in repudiation of the Modernist practice that sought truth in the everyday world. Lee's “constructed image photography” may be compared to the works of German sculptor and photographer Thomas Demand, who builds life-sized models he intends to demolish after photographing them. Her “staged photography” brings to mind tableaux vivant not unlike U.S. installation artist and photographer Sandy Skoglund's orchestrated room-size installations. But in contrast to these earlier artists, Lee's subjects are deeply personal and intensely psychological.
See more of Jee Young Lee's works below the jump and at this site. All works are copyrighted by the artist and are reproduced here under Fair Use.

Childhood. Image Source: Bored Panda.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Curse of the Purple Sapphire

The Delhi Purple Sapphire, in an arcane setting designed by one of its owners to contain its maleficent power with binding spells. Image Source: Live Science.

Today's Countdown to Hallowe'en post is about a curse of imperial plunder. Above, a gemstone with a reputation for leaving disaster in its wake. The gem is in fact an amethyst, stolen by a British soldier from a Temple of Indra - Hindu god of rain and thunderstorms - around the time of the 1857 Indian Mutiny. The current owner, the Natural History Museum in London, claims that it was stolen in 1855. From Kanpur, India, the stone made its way to Britain in the hands of Bengal cavalryman, Colonel W. Ferris. According to Live Science and The Indian Express, the gem spread misery to all who possessed it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Eagle Eyes

Image Source: Turbo Squid.

Just in case you needed a pick-me-up, see the video of the day below the jump: from the perspective of an eagle in flight in the French Alps, Chamonix, Mer De Glace area. Is it a real camera strapped to an eagle's back, and not a simulation? I certainly hope so (Hat tip: Joseph De Palma).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Times Outside of History 10: De-Extinctioning at Pleistocene Park

Omission: The Fossil Record (1991) © by Alexis Rockman.

The news was recently full of the discovery of the best-ever preserved woolly mammoth, which raised cloning hopes. CNN:
Researchers from the Northeast Federal University in Yakutsk found the 10,000-year-old female mammoth buried in ice on the Lyakhovsky Islands off the coast of northeast Russia.

Scientists say they poked the frozen creature with a pick and dark liquid blood flowed out.

"The fragments of muscle tissues, which we've found out of the body, have a natural red color of fresh meat. The reason for such preservation is that the lower part of the body was underlying in pure ice," said Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the expedition and of the university's Mammoth Museum, in a statement on the university's website. ...

Grigoriev told The Siberian Times newspaper it was the first time mammoth blood had been discovered and called it "the best preserved mammoth in the history of paleontology."

"We suppose that the mammoth fell into water or got bogged down in a swamp, could not free herself and died. Due to this fact the lower part of the body, including the lower jaw, and tongue tissue, was preserved very well," he said.

Grigoriev called the liquid blood "priceless material" for the university's joint project with South Korean scientists who are hoping to clone a woolly mammoth, which has been extinct for thousands of years.

The controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation is headed up by Hwang Woo-suk -- the disgraced former Seoul National University scientist who claimed in 2004 that he had successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells before admitting he had faked his findings.

Typically, researchers contemplating revival of an extinct species do not think about the species but about human motivations. We are 'atoning for past sins,' or 'proving what we can do' if the money is right.

Is seems less challenging, morally speaking, to resurrect relatively recently extinct species, such as the aurochs, the baiji dolphin, the Japanese sea lion, the Caribbean monk seal, the thylacine, the passenger pigeon, or the dodo bird. In 2000, the last Pyrenean ibex died. In 2009, a clone brought the species back from extinction for the seven minutes that it remained alive.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Canada Day, Gangland Style

Prime Minister Chrétien choking a protester in 1996 in what became known as the Shawinigan Handshake, named after Chrétien's home town. Image Source: Ugly Hockey Sweater.

Today is Canada Day. I ran across a dumb video of a parrot singing the national anthem. But the result was just disturbing. I tried to find something happy, but the first thing that came up was former PM Chrétien strangling a protest in a famous encounter from 1996 (above).

The photo recalls recent Canadian news, which lately has been awful.

Large sections of Calgary and other Alberta communities were washed out last week by apocalyptic floods. You can see footage of Calgary's flooded downtown centre below the jump.

In Montreal, the third mayor in less than eight months has been sworn in, due to rampant city corruption. Also in Montreal, the language police have been out in force lately, and linguistic strife has been building since last fall's election of the separatist Parti Québécois led to an intensified effort to stamp out non-French languages (see a related video here). The language police are banning all non-French words from Montreal's restaurant menus, including words such as 'pasta.'

There is another story about a teenager working in a grocery store on the South Shore of the city who was forbidden from talking in English, even to Anglo customers who asked her questions in English on the store floor; she was also prohibited from speaking English to fellow Anglo co-workers while working with them or during work breaks. An Anglo political counter-movement is starting to gain momentum, and some of its proponents are not much better than the people they are criticizing.

An unreleased video of the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, purportedly shows him smoking crack. After Gawker leaked the story, Ford's popularity jumped. The case is getting more convoluted, and now involves a loosely connected murder trial.

News of a video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack was recently leaked. His popularity rose after the scandal, which is still unfolding. Image Source: Gawker.

Montreal's interim mayor Michael Applebaum resigned amid corruption allegations in June 2013. Image Source: Sun News.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 20: Putting the Natural Back into Supernatural

Image Source: Ian Miles.

Today, the Countdown to Hallowe'en blogathon continues with a spooky post on the environment, a topic I normally cover here. All Hallows' Eve overemphasizes the supernatural: it is a Christian night of purgatorial observance, coming before All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). But Hallowe'en is also a celebration of the power of the purely natural world, because it incorporates pagan elements, pre-Christian traditions around the harvest, and northern autumnal festivals. These latter aspects draw from the Roman feast of Pomona; the Celtic festival of Samhain; the Welsh Nos Galan Gaeaf; and the German Martinisingen. Below the jump, some unsettling calls from birds and animals (some are speculative).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Birds, Animals and Insects Hold Funerals for Their Dead?

Image Source: I09.

Animals, birds and insects all show strange behaviour when one of their number dies. Researchers debate whether this is an auto-reponse based on their sensitivity to chemicals produced by creatures' bodies after death; or whether this behaviour, in the case of some highly intelligent species, indicates a level of rudimentary consciousness. I09 complements my earlier post, "Do Animals Sense Death?" with a report on recent research that Scrub Jays gather together they lose a member of their flock:
Researchers at UC Davis have observed this funereal behavior in western scrub jays. When one bird spots a dead jay on the ground, it stops what it was doing and starts sending out loud alarm calls. The calls bring in jays from all over, who gather around the body and continue sending out the alarm calls so that as many jays as possible show up near the dead body.

Of course, it's unlikely that these alarm calls are the western scrub jay equivalent of a eulogy. Instead, the researchers are pretty sure that the dead body functions as a warning that predators are nearby, and the jays treat this information seriously enough to gather their entire population around the site of the death. The sight of death had a profound enough effect on the jays that they stopped foraging for the rest of the day, although exactly why this behavior change occurred is difficult to say. It's tempting to say they were too grief-stricken to eat, but we simply don't have enough information to make that assumption.

To better understand what drove the reactions of the jays to the dead bird, the UC Davis researchers presented them with various objects, including recently dead jays, stuffed jays, colored pieces of woods, and stuffed great horn owls (their main predator). A BBC news story charts the birds' reactions:

When the birds were fooled into thinking a predator had arrived, by being exposed to a mounted owl, they also gathered together and made a series of alarm calls. They also swooped down at the supposed predator, to scare it off. But the jays never swooped at the body of a dead bird. The birds also occasionally mobbed the stuffed jays; a behaviour they are known to do in the wild when they attack competitors or sick birds. The fact that the jays didn't react to the wooden objects shows that it is not the novelty of a dead bird appearing that triggers the reaction. The results show that "without witnessing the struggle and manner of death", the researchers write, the jays see the presence of a dead bird as information to be publicly shared, just as they do the presence of a predator.

The BBC observes that whole disciplines of research are devoted to whether animals and birds display comprehension or distress when one of their number dies. Of course, awareness of death has long commonly been considered to be the hallmark of human consciousness. The language of death is the language (we think) of our knowledge of our own souls.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Millennial Mysteries: Mass Deaths of Dolphins, Fish, Birds, Animals Continue

In April 2012, HuffPo reported that since February, 3,000 dead dolphins have washed up on Peruvian shores, as have thousands of dead anchovies. In addition, 1,200 pelicans have died (other reports from the end of April put the number at 538); other dead seabirds include boobies (54) and gannets. On 30 April 2012, the Peruvian Production Ministry was investigating pelican deaths, stating: "They did not show evidence of having been washed up dead by the sea. The mortality appeared to have occurred on the beach." Scientists have not explained why the dolphins are dying, although they assume it has to do with oil companies' activities along the coast and their possible use of underwater sonar. The Peruvian Production Ministry is still testing the causes of dolphin mass mortality in this case. For other reports, see here and here.

Hundreds of dead pelicans have been found on the Peru coastline, "along a 70-kilometer (43-mile) stretch of beaches around San Jose Bay, located in Lambayeque region" (April 2012). Image Source: Hispanically Speaking News.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Millennial Mysteries: Dead Birds, Dead Birds, Dead Birds ...

Dead birds found on Feb. 20 at the University of Texas at Arlington. Image Source: The Shorthorn.

Curiouser and curiouser.  This week, three reports are circulating about dead birds: one from Maryland, one from Pennsylvania, and one from Texas.  Unlike earlier cases, two of these incidents now involve ritualistic aspects, just in time for Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Millennial Mysteries: The Answer to Arctic Owls Flying South and Other 2012 Arctic Bird Oddities?

Painting of Snowy Owl (1996) © Kim Hunter.

Never seen a magnificent Arctic Owl? Depending on where you live, now could be your chance. I recently mentioned strange Canada Goose migrations. Snowy Owls are currently migrating hundreds of miles far south from Arctic climes - in a way not seen in many decades, such that some observers are calling the phenomenon a 'wildlife event.'

A once-in-a-lifetime sight: "The Missouri Department of Conservation said no one has seen a snowy owl this far south since 1974." A Snowy Owl in northern Jasper County, Missouri, January 2012.  Image Source: Carthage Press.

The birds' winter range normally does not extend south of the Great Lakes in North America, or south of Russia in Central Asia. But they have been spotted quite far south all over the United States.  Unlike most owls, they are active during the day, making sightings more likely.  Unused to human environments beyond their Tundra habitat, they are stressed and confused and getting into trouble.  One owl showed up at the airport in Hawaii, and startled staff shot it.  One owl in Kansas City was killed when it flew into a train.  Another is being cared for at Washington State University in Seattle after it collided with a car; the owl is being kept on a tub filled with ice with a fan blowing on him, which you can see hereYahoo News reported on 28 January:
Thousands of the snow-white birds, which stand 2 feet tall with 5-foot wingspans, have been spotted from coast to coast, feeding in farmlands in Idaho, roosting on rooftops in Montana, gliding over golf courses in Missouri and soaring over shorelines in Massachusetts.

A certain number of the iconic owls fly south from their Arctic breeding grounds each winter but rarely do so many venture so far away even amid large-scale, periodic southern migrations known as irruptions.

"What we're seeing now -- it's unbelievable," said Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana.

"This is the most significant wildlife event in decades," added Holt, who has studied snowy owls in their Arctic tundra ecosystem for two decades.

Holt and other owl experts say the phenomenon is likely linked to lemmings, a rodent that accounts for 90 percent of the diet of snowy owls during breeding months that stretch from May into September. The largely nocturnal birds also prey on a host of other animals, from voles to geese.

An especially plentiful supply of lemmings last season likely led to a population boom among owls that resulted in each breeding pair hatching as many as seven offspring. That compares to a typical clutch size of no more than two, Holt said.

Greater competition this year for food in the Far North by the booming bird population may have then driven mostly younger, male owls much farther south than normal.

Research on the animals is scarce because of the remoteness and extreme conditions of the terrain the owls occupy, including northern Russia and Scandinavia, he said.

The surge in snowy owl sightings has brought birders flocking from Texas, Arizona and Utah to the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest, pouring tourist dollars into local economies and crowding parks and wildlife areas. The irruption has triggered widespread public fascination that appears to span ages and interests. ... This winter's snowy owl outbreak, with multiple sightings as far south as Oklahoma, remains largely a mystery of nature. "There's a lot of speculation. As far as hard evidence, we really don't know," Holt said.
For further reports on the Snowy Owls from MSM outlets and local bird-watching societies, go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.  The Great Backyard Bird Count expects to record this irruption.  The Bird Count is an annual event in which people across North America submit reports on the numbers and types of birds they see in their backyards.  This information helps keep track of phenomena such as Arctic birds flying further south than usual. The Great Backyard Bird Count starts February 17 and runs until February 20 (to participate, go here).  Last year, 11.5 million birds were counted by amateur bird-watchers in the Bird Count, which also runs a photo contest and gallery.

Although this owl irruption is a really popular Internet story, no one has bothered to ask (at least, as far as I could see) whether other Arctic avian species which normally stay within a certain northern range are flying south as well. This is where this seemingly isolated event gets interesting.

A parliament of Arctic Owls in British Columbia's Boundary Bay (7 January 2012) © Sandy Milliken. Image Source: via The Spokesman-Review.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Millennial Mysteries: 20 Tonnes of Dead Fish Wash onto Beaches at Kvaenes, Norway

Image Source: Washington Post.

Caption for the above photograph: (Jan Petter Jørgensen / Scanpix / Norway/Associated Press) - In this image taken Saturday Dec. 31, 2011 Molly the dog walks amongst the dead herring on a beach at Kvaenes northern Norway. Norwegians were puzzled on New Year’s Eve, tens if not hundreds of thousands of dead herrings carpeted a coastal stretch in northern Norway.

Here we are, ringing in the New Year with conspiracy theories, predictions about the end of the world, and dead animals, in this case thousands of dead fish in Norway which washed up on the beaches around Kvaenes on 31 December, and then disappeared (reports here, here, here, here).  For two of my earlier posts on this subject from 2012 and 2011, click here and this post has a list of all such incidents from 2010 into mid 2011.

Thousands of dead herring at Kvaenes beach (Credit: Jan-Petter Jørgensen). Image Source: The Watchers.
Dead fish were spotted by people walking their dogs on New Year's morning (Credit: Jan-Petter Jørgensen). Image Source: The Watchers.

Click to see all my posts on Millennial Mysteries.
See all my posts on Millennial Omens.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Millennial Mysteries: Dead Birds Fall from the Sky in Arkansas and Weird Migrations

Bird kill reported in Arkansas, 1 January 2012. Image Source: AP via THV.

Early this morning, someone on Twitter said, "I can remember 2011 like it was yesterday." Here is another reminder of last year, this one inauspicious: 2011 began with the mass deaths of birds and fish (see here, here and here).  New reports are coming out of Arkansas today of a repeat case of dead birds:
Thousands of dead blackbirds rained down on a town in central Arkansas last New Year's Eve after revelers set off fireworks that spooked them from their roost, and officials were reporting a similar occurrence Saturday as 2012 approached.

Police in Beebe said dozens of blackbirds had fallen dead, prompting officers to ban residents from shooting fireworks Saturday night. It wasn't immediately clear if fireworks were again to blame, but authorities weren't taking a chance.

Officer John Weeks said the first reports of "birds on the streets" came around 7 p.m. as residents celebrated the year's end with fireworks in their neighborhoods.

"We started shutting down fireworks," he said. "We're working on cleaning up the birds now."

He said police were working with animal control workers and others to remove the birds and determine a death count.

"We're not sure if they're going to continue to fall throughout the night. I can't tell you," Weeks said.

Scientists say the loud cracks and booms from celebratory fireworks likely sent the birds into such a tizzy that they crashed into homes, cars and each other before plummeting to their deaths last New Year's Eve. The birds landed on roofs, sidewalks, streets and fields. One struck a woman walking her dog. Another hit a police cruiser.

The blackbird die-off, coupled with tens of thousands of dead drum fish that washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River, flung the state into the national headlines and drew conspiracy theorists and filmmakers to the town about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock that shares Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe's last name.

Some people speculated that the birds had been poisoned; others said their deaths marked the beginning of the apocalypse.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dinosaur Feathers Found Encased in Canadian Amber

Wired recently reported that a bunch of dinosaur feathers have been found encased in Canadian amber, further confirming that the great reptiles actually looked like nightmarish giant birds.

Discoveries of dinosaurs' feathers have dramatically altered how we think these creatures looked - see below. (Hat tip: Ken Kaminesky)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Midsummer's Simmering Collective Unconscious

Naked Russian diver tames Beluga whales in Arctic waters.  Um ... what?  Image Source: Viktor Lyagushkin/KNS/I09.

Some days, the news headlines give a straightforward snapshot of what is going on in the world.  Some days, the mainstream media stories are curiously uninformative, strangely empty of content and meaning.  On days like that, I appreciate Fox Mulder and Twilight Zone a little more.  Offbeat Websites capture the current mood, if not the facts.  And frankly, the mood's uneasy.  Even more than usual, the Internet is positively humming with weirdness right now.

Weimar blog focusses on twins this week. Image Source: Andrej Glusgold via Weimar.

Midsummer. It should be a dreamy, beautiful time.  But we're half way through a troubling year.  The year began with flocks of birds falling from the sky and fish dying in their millions (bizarre occurences are still happening).   Then Japan had one of the worst earthquakes in her history; and the worst nuclear accident in global history resulted, about which the news is not improving.  The death of Osama Bin Laden prompted an upswing in threats and conspiracy theories.  Economists remain pessimistic about global economies.  An Indian prophet died amid expectations of his resurrection.  An Italian prophet predicted a terrible European earthquake.  A California prophet proclaimed the end of the world now, no, this autumn - and then suffered a stroke.  The Middle East has churned through its 'Arab Spring' to a violent stalemate.  Astrologers are proclaiming that the heavens have turned upside down in a month intensified by three eclipses.  A Chilean volcano exploded.  And so on.

Image Source: Rodney Smith via Weimar.

Here's the collective unconscious, at a glance:
Image Source: David Byun via Weimar.

True to the impulse toward Milliennial dualism, it feels like the ghostly mirror image of the second half of the year is manifesting opposite the first six months that have already transpired. The stage has been set, we're ready for Act II.  Or is it Act III?  An eerie expectation arises that there's a ethereal third dimension to this mirrored configuration.

Image Source: Karl Hubbuch (1927) via Weimar.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nuclear Leaks 10: A Beautiful World

Nuclear Memories (14 August 2009). Image © ~cuber/Vladimir Petkovic/Vladimir Studio. Image reproduced with kind permission.

Today, the news is grim, but not as dire as it was on 27 May, when a Super-typhoon known as Songda, then a catergory 5 storm, appeared set to hit the Fukushima plant directly.  By 28 May the storm was downgraded to a category 3 and changed its path slightly.  As 'Tyler Durden' at Zero Hedge remarked: "The good news: by the time it passes over Fukushima, Songda will be merely a Tropical storm. The bad news: by the time it passes over Fukushima, Songda will be a Tropical storm. As the latest dispersion projection from ZAMG shows, over the next two days the I-131 plume will be covering all of the mainland."  The fallout will also be blowing over the Koreas, eastern China and eastern Russia at this time.  The real danger from Songda (aka Chedeng), aside from the nightmare of coping with three simultaneous meltdowns in a typhoon, is that radioactive fallout will be carried up into the atmosphere by the storm system.

Image Source: Weather Underground (Hat tip: Zero Hedge).

Video Source: ZAMG via Zero Hedge.

In addition to the position of the I-131 plume (we're not even talking about the presence of plutonium at the site, which isn't being discussed much), there are almost 100,000 tonnes of radioactive water at Fukushima, not including the radioactive water already released into the sea and polluting the immediate vicinity in the Pacific.  And while the amount of radiation released is currently 10 per cent of that released at Chernobyl, a TEPCO official has estimated that Fukushima's radioactive fallout released may eventually exceed that of Chernobyl.  There is a constant trickle of problems reported, most recently, a fire at the neighbouring Dai-ni Fukushima plant (not the one where all the problems are) and cooling system failure in Reactor #5 at the Dai-ichi plant.

There isn't much on the Web that states how storm systems like typhoons, hurricanes and tornadoes might carry radioactive fallout along with regular wind patterns.  Certainly, a tornado carried fallout at Kyshtym, when it touched down on a radioactive dried lake bed where waste had been dumped, turning the site into a nuclear disaster zone of seriousness equal to Hiroshima.

You can trace the daily radioactive plume over Fukushima here.  You can follow the daily Jet Stream projections over North America, here.  Meanwhile, the American Midwest is getting catastrophically battered by tornadoes, which not only potentially carry Japanese fallout while spreading disaster; they have caused little-reported damage to American nuclear plants in Alabama as well. When you add the flooding that damaged other nuclear plants along the Mississippi River, which involved the release of radioactive water into the river system, followed by tornadoes that pick up the water and carry it into the atmosphere and an unusually high level of North American spring rainfall - well - it's starting to look like a house of cards.

Meanwhile, as if matters in the civilian nuclear sector were not bad enough, nuclear weapons problems are also looming.  Even in circles noted for sober assessments, observers commented this past February that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon within one year and missile capabilities within two years; according to Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London: "Whichever method were used, at least six more months would be required to convert the gasified HEU into metal and fashion it into a weapon. The minimum timeline, then, for the first weapon, is over two years under the Pakistan method and one year for the batch method. Developing a means to deliver a nuclear weapon adds to the timeline. Last May [2010], in a companion Strategic Dossier on Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities, the IISS concluded that Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile, which has a range of about 2,200km, is still two to three years of flight testing away from becoming operational."

But even in the face of horror, we can find something beautiful.  Two stories on Fukushima and Chernobyl are reminders of this.  On the day of the Japanese earthquake, the telescope at the Hoshi no Mura ('Village of Stars') Observatory in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, cracked in half; one portion of the telescope, weighing about three tonnes, rolled down and crushed the seat of the astronomer. Fortunately, the director, Hiroaki Ohno, was away at lunch.  Despite being only 33 kilometres from the plant and just outside the evacuation zone, Ohno is still attending to the facility.  He is also seeking to help local evacuees, and has been travelling to shelters with small telescopes.  Taking advantage of the fact that all city lights are turned off in the region, he is teaching them how to look through these telescopes to see the stars.  From the Japan Times: "'A bedridden woman came out of the evacuation shelter once in a wheelchair to take a peek. She told me she could distinguish the rings around Saturn,' Ohno said. The planets and stars appeared to provide much-needed cheer in the evacuees' lives, he added."

The twenty-fifth anniversary of Chernobyl last month also inspired a renewed appreciation of the natural environment in the evacuation zone.  Boing Boing ran a piece on the sounds of birds, animals and insects there at dawn and dusk (-Thanks to J.).  The recordings were made by London sound artist Peter Cusack in 2006; you can listen to them here.

In addition, a charity album of dark ambient and horror music, Remember Chernobyl, was composed to commemorate the anniversary. There is an album sampler from Ambientaria Records, below the jump.