Posts filed under ‘Nature’

How Do You Say Rain in Canadian?

Sunday morning I leave for a week in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I’ll be giving a paper at a ethnomusicology conference on fiddling.

Today, I checked the weather report: drizzle, showers, sprinkles, everyday, for a week. It’s like someone got bored with the forecast and opened their thesaurus up to the page for rain.

Precipitation, cloudburst,  downpour, anyone?


1 August 2008 at 20:51 Leave a comment

Door #3: Poetry of the Seamounts

My sister Mars and I share an affinity for the crazy common names applied to creatures. Her Web site features a list of whimsical bird names from the bristle-thighed curlew to the rufous-breasted fruitpigeon.

Today I came across an equally wonderful list of fish species trawled from the underwater mountain ranges (some over a mile below the surface) in the Tasman Sea off Australia. The list links to pictures of some of the most fantastical fish I’ve ever seen.

Go ahead, read these aloud. The list is like a strange, gothic poem:

Australian Burrfish
Ballina Angelfish
Beaked Salmon
Blue Grenadier
A deepsea anglerfish (no common name)
Duckbilled Eel
Dwarf Dory
A fanfin anglerfish
Gelatinous Blindfish
Gilbert’s Halosaur
Gulper Eel
Humpback Blackdevil
King Gar
Largescale New Laternfish
Little Red Gurnard Perch
Longray Spiderfish
Orange Roughy
Plunket’s Dogfish
Portuguese Dogfish
Ribbon Barracudina
Sharpnose Sevengill Shark
Shortsnout Lancetfish
Short-tail Torpedo Ray
Silver Lighthouse Fish
A snaggletooth (no common name)
Snubnosed Eel
Soft Leafvent Angler
Southern Spineback
Spangled Tubeshoulder
Sparkling Slickhead
Spiky Oreo
Stoplight Loosejaw
Triplewart Seadevil

Who needs science fiction, when science fact is this amazing?

3 December 2007 at 8:42 1 comment

Bee Movie in My Bonnet

Am I the only one who’s bothered by the fact that Jerry Seinfeld voices the lead in Bee Movie?

It’s not that I have objections to Seinfeld, but aren’t worker bees female?

24 November 2007 at 23:53 1 comment

Anthropology Projects Ripped From the Headlines

I don’t think a week goes by without my finding a great idea for a social/cultural anthropology project in some newspaper or magazine article. (Of course, someone may already be working on these projects, but that’s okay. It seems like there’s no shortage of possible topics.)

After reading a review of Scott Weidensaul’s Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, I realized that someone should do for birders what Gary Alan Fine does for mushroomers in his book Morel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming. That is, an anthropologist should do a sustained ethnographic study of a group of birders, looking at the meanings nature takes on in this specific cultural context, analyzing the stories birders tell and teasing out the complicated (and sometimes overlapping) relationships between amateurs and professionals.

19 November 2007 at 22:03 Leave a comment

If You Liked the Sloths…

…just wait until you get a load of the tamanduas.

Xenarthrans are almost as cool as cephalopods.

And, just in case you were wondering, here’s a video that asks the burning question: is it pronounced slowth or slawth?

3 November 2007 at 23:52 4 comments

Sloth News Day

My sister and I were IMing earlier today about French bulldog puppies and other paragons of cuteness. At some point in the conversation, I sent her a link to the lolsloth I had seen, which prompted her to send me a link to a picture of a sloth in a box. She also mentioned that there was a video of a sloth in a box lurking somewhere on the net.

Somehow this led to me spending what now seems like an inordinate amount of time viewing clips of sloths, both two-toed and three-toed, on YouTube. I found one baby sloth in a box, multiple baby sloths in boxes, and a raft of other baby sloth films; a sloth stranded on the ground; a sloth swimming; even an unfortunate sloth being picked off by a harpy eagle.

The pièce de résistance, though, was a clip of the inimitable David Attenborough explaining more than I ever thought I needed to know about the digestive habits of sloths.

And is it just me, or are sloths the Edward Scissorhands of the animal kingdom?

1 November 2007 at 23:53 2 comments

When the Wild Things Are

6:07 a.m.

That’s when I left my house this morning. (The precise details of why I was leaving before dawn are not important, but I will admit that I got up early to do work that I should have been doing last night when I was watching the latest episode of Bones with my housemate.)

Anyhow, I came downstairs, and the front hallway wreaked. For a few seconds, I thought the neurotic chihuahua (is that redundant?) upstairs had skunked himself, but I quickly realized that the smell was coming from outside. I walked up the hill looking all around so I wouldn’t end up accidentally tripping over one of the neighborhood skunks.

Then, as I was standing at the bus-stop, I noticed a raccoon sneaking out from between the laundromat and the neighboring house. It snuffled around the sidewalk for a few minutes. Every time a car went by it jumped on to the closest tree trunk and clung for dear life.

Finally it started waddling across the road with me stage whispering “hurry up, hurry up!” as truck headlights bore down on it. It made it to the other side unscathed and went straight up onto the front porch of a house, presumably to root through their recycling bins.

BTW, I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that my favoritemost word in Swedish is tvättbjörn, raccoon. It literally means “wash bear.” The Norwegian version, which has the same literal meaning, might be even better: vaskebjørn. Try saying it to yourself to see what I mean.

Vas’-kuh-byern. Vas’-kuh-byern. Vas’-kuh-byern.

3 October 2007 at 17:17 Leave a comment

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