Thursday, February 25, 2010

A book I highly recommend:

I encourage anyone interested in reading "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors" by John Z. DeLorean. And YES for all you Marty Mcfly lovers...he's was the owner of the company that produced the beloved 'fly-winged time machine'!!

The book chronicles his rise-to-the-top through Pontiac and Chrysler, but the internal struggle of ethics he had. Being paid millions didn't set well with him because it meant disregarding the customer base and allowing 'dinosaur' business execs to make all the decisions from a round table, on a top floor of a high rise.

He's an inspiration to me because in the face of big biz, he stood up for the little guy and didn't back down, ultimately sacrificing for those who deserved the loudest voices but couldn't being heard. The transformations throughout the auto industry have always been in favor of the CEO's and investors, not to mention the oil industries so comfortably hammocked in their pockets.
So here's a series of books by him- Clear Day is 5th down:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Go Green, Buy a Vehicle!

The idea of going "Green", and buying an Audi A3 TDI clean deisel is crazy. Whats next, the nuclear powerd hocky mom mobile? The link below explains some of the contraversy brought about by the add campain that Audi produced this year for the superbowl. After making this comercial they went about making a series of "public service" announcements that not only pissed off Treehugger but also the American Chemistry Council's plastics division. according to USA TODAY the ads both poked fun at Environmentalists and missrepresented the amazingness of plastic. What a shame for plastics sake. This tradition of reenventing the wheel is just sickening. Has anyone ever seen the movie "Who Killed the Electic Car?", it's about the murder of the electric car to make way for the Hummer. -Peace

Super Bowl "Green Police" advertisement

The Fire-Goat Co-op

Reading about the 'fire-y' methods of ecosystemic control employed by the native Americans in North America reminded me of a similar, interesting example; that of the use of fire by farmers in India and their ensuing social/business interactions with goat-herding nomads.
My family comes from a small village in the Konkan area of coastal western India, and we traditionally have a growing season of 4 months coinciding with the monsoon. Paddy is the staple crop. After the rice is harvested in September, the land is allowed to lie fallow till April-May. However, right after the crop is harvested, the fields are burned in controlled fires to clear any remains of the rice stalks on the ground or any weeds that might have lodged themselves in the field. The ash is later used as a natural fertilizer. However, as in the case of North American Indians, the farmers in the Konkan are aware that a profusion of (in this case, unwanted) grasses and shrubs begin to shoot up soon after the fires. The farmers deal with this by making a 'contract' with the dhangars, a nomadic tribe of goat- and sheep-herders. The farmers allow the dhangars to live and trespass on their fields and lands, in return for which the goats and sheep of the tribe graze on the succulent new grasses. This means that the unwanted weeds and grasses are controlled without any expense to the farmer, while the dhangars are able to perpetuate their herds. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Monday, February 22, 2010

History and Posterity

In reading for another class I stumbled on this quote:

"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors." - Edward Burke (1729 - 1797)

If we take this to be true, then where does the Western world sit? Where did the New World sit when it considered itself "without a history?" There could be no thought of future generations, because they wouldn't give a damn about the current one. Burke saw the acceptance of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" of economics and the Revolutionary War in his time. Things were changing quite rapidly. Could Burke have foreseen that half a century after his death the world's population would begin to grow exponentially? That we would start degrading the environment at such a high rate as to nearly ensure its total collapse? I'd say he saw our collapse, at least. Jared Diamond anyone?

- Aiden

The Course of Empire

"The Course of Empire" by Thomas Cole was a magnificent illustration of the ongoing cycle of mankind vs. nature throughout history. Although human beings may progress to the pinnacle of success, nature will always be one step ahead. Nature has a way of replenishing itself whenever it deems necessary, and Cole's painting dramatically depicts this fact.

-Robin Simpson

Panoramas: Close Enough to Nature?

It seems to me that panoramas appealed to the "civilized" masses of the nineteenth century because it provided people with a "safe" way to experience nature. Individuals sought to remain in their comfort zone while at the same time getting just "close enough" to the unknown wilderness. Their goal was use pieces of painted canvas to satisfy their desire to tune in with the unknown wilderness, rather than just experiencing firsthand interaction with the "outside world."

-Robin Simpson

Banvard's Folly

The wikipedia article about John Banvard discusses the popularity of his Mississippi panorama and describes how wealthy he became by exhibiting it here in this country and abroad.

After his European travels he built an enormous mansion on Long Island:
On his return his invested part of the fortune he had made in 60 acres overlooking Cold Spring Harbor on the North Shore of Long Island, where in 1852-55, in competition with P. T. Barnum's palace "Iranistan" in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he proceeded to design and have built a baronial residence from its eastern shore, which, it was given out, was intended to resemble Windsor Castle; he named the place Glenada, the glen of his daughter Ada, but the locals called it "Banvard's Folly".[1] After his death it became a fashionable resort hotel, The Glenada.
Anyway. Never too early . . . the wiki article on panoramic painting goes into a fair amount of detail on the Romantics' criticism of such "mass" or "pop" culture. Great topic.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Man ranks in at #20 greatest villain of all time

I found this list of the Top 100 Heroes and Villains when I looked up Bambi online last week. Man ranks higher on the list for villains than Freddy Krueger, the Joker, and the Terminator.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Temple Grandin events next week

As promised, here is the info for the Temple Grandin events. Wednesday's lecture, as it turns out, is free. The movie on Thursday does cost some money (I forgot how much but I think it's something like $6)

Temple Grandin -- a scientist, innovator, professor, renowned animal welfare activist, much-in-demand veteran of the speaking circuit and one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with autism -- presents her final lecture as Cornell's Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor, "Animal Behavior and Welfare," Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m., Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall. On Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., Willard Straight Theatre, Grandin and producer Scott Ferguson '82 present a new biopic from HBO, starring Claire Danes, which chronicles Grandin's life through the '60s and '70s. Information:

Temple Grandin and animal agriculture

Hi gang,
as luck would have it, the following op-ed piece just appeared in today's New York Times.

Interesting in light of the points made in class this morning about Temple Grandin and the humane treatment of beef cattle. What do you all think? Is genetically-altered livestock a solution to the moral controversy over animal husbandry and/or meat eating?
February 19, 2010
Op-Ed Contributor

Not Grass-Fed, but at Least Pain-Free

St. Louis

IN the 35 years since Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” was published, jump-starting the animal rights movement in the United States, the number of animals used in cosmetics testing and scientific research has dropped significantly, and the number of dogs and cats killed in shelters has fallen by more than half. Nevertheless, because the amount of red meat that Americans eat per capita has held steady at more than 100 pounds a year as the population has increased, more animals than ever suffer from injuries and stress on factory farms.

Veal calves and gestating sows are so confined as to suffer painful bone and joint problems. The unnatural high-grain diets provided in feedlots cause severe gastric distress in many animals. And faulty or improperly used stun guns cause the painful deaths of thousands of cows and pigs a year.

We are most likely stuck with factory farms, given that they produce most of the beef and pork Americans consume. But it is still possible to reduce the animals’ discomfort — through neuroscience. Recent advances suggest it may soon be possible to genetically engineer livestock so that they suffer much less.

This prospect stems from a new understanding of how mammals sense pain. The brain, it turns out, has two separate pathways for perceiving pain: a sensory pathway that registers its location, quality (sharp, dull or burning, for example) and intensity, and a so-called affective pathway that senses the pain’s unpleasantness. This second pathway appears to be associated with activation of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, because people who have suffered damage to this part of the brain still feel pain but no longer find it unpleasant. (The same is true of people who are given morphine, because there are more receptors for opiates in the affective pain pathway than in the sensory pain pathway.)

Neuroscientists have found that by damaging a laboratory rat’s anterior cingulate cortex, or by injecting the rat with morphine, they can likewise block its affective perception of pain. The rat reacts to a heated cage floor by withdrawing its paws, but it doesn’t bother avoiding the places in its cage where it has learned the floor is likely to be heated up.

Recently, scientists have learned to genetically engineer animals so that they lack certain proteins that are important to the operation of the anterior cingulate cortex. Prof. Min Zhuo and his colleagues at the University of Toronto, for example, have bred mice lacking enzymes that operate in affective pain pathways. When these mice encounter a painful stimulus, they withdraw their paws normally, but they do not become hypersensitive to a subsequent painful stimulus, as ordinary mice do.

Prof. Zhou-Feng Chen and his colleagues here at Washington University have engineered mice so that they lack the gene for a peptide associated with the anterior cingulate gyrus. Like the animals given brain lesions, these mice are normally sensitive to heat and mechanical pain, but they do not avoid situations where they experience such pain.

Given the similarity among all mammals’ neural systems, it is likely that scientists could genetically engineer pigs and cows in the same way. Because the sensory dimension of the animals’ pain would be preserved, they would still be able to recognize and avoid, when possible, situations where they might be bruised or otherwise injured.

The people who consumed meat from such genetically engineered livestock would also be safe. Knockout animals have specific proteins removed, rather than new ones inserted, so there’s no reason to think that their meat would pose more health risks for humans than ordinary meat does.

If we cannot avoid factory farms altogether, the least we can do is eliminate the unpleasantness of pain in the animals that must live and die on them. It would be far better than doing nothing at all.

Adam Shriver is a doctoral student in the philosophy-neuroscience-psychology program at Washington University.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bambi in popular culture

Here's a video with music from the Sex Pistols. "Who Killed Bambi?" circa 1978. From their The Great Rock and Roll Swindle album. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Names, Death, and Elephants

Ok, so I was reading Walking by Thoreau, and I found one idea particularly interesting:
Why do we have names?
Thoreau gave an example of how we presume to know an individual when we know the species, as in deer. If we know what one deer looks like, acts like, we know any individual deer.

After reading this, I (by happenstance) came across two very interesting objects on the internet.
One was a psychology experiment, and I saw it very briefly, so I can't recall many of the details.
It asked you to think of an elephant. So I did. Then it asked you to think of another elephant. So I did. Then it asked you if you thought of the same elephant twice.
Uhhh...I thought. Well, I guess I did. I couldn't differentiate between the two elephants.

The other piece of internet I uncovered was a short film called "Forevers not so long" ( It is a movie, 12 minutes long, that recounts the last 4 hours of a man's life. You should watch it.
In the end, he finds a girl, spends a "lifetime" with her. But what I found interesting was that he never got her name, and she never got his. In fact, she declined to learn his name.

Maybe Thoreau was right. Maybe in human society the individual has been promoted so much that we loose the collective whole, and that our individuality is worthless. What is important is our interaction with other examples of our species.
Names get in the way of living. They preoccupy us with needless constructs, and take away from our humanity.
I am not a human, for I am Michael, but the elephant is always an elephant.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ooooh the irony

Thought it was a little ironic that after tonight's showing of Bambi I was walking home and saw four deer grazing in the Ag quad.

Theresa :-)

Wildness vs Wilderness

"...In Wildness is the preservation of the world." (Wildness is referred to eight times, once capitalized.)
"Give me the ocean, the desert, or the wilderness!" (Wilderness is referred to eight times, never capitalized.)

Both of these quotes come from Thoreau. This idea of Wildness vs. Wilderness was brought up today in my Ethics and the Environment class. Wildness is a state of being, I understand from the reading, and Wilderness is the place where Wildness is seen, or a derivation of Wildness. Is Wilderness, then, the thing that needs conserving? Or should we focus on society and becoming more Wild in our ways? Wildness may be the preservation of the world, but it doesn't necessarily follow that Wilderness is its haven.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Orangutan and the Hound

came across this national geographic video. may or may not be all that related but still kind of funny and interesting


Friday, February 12, 2010

Of Maharajas and Man-eaters

Reading about the hunts of medieval Europe for class reminded me of the stories that my grandpa used to tell me about the various hunts and 'shikars' of the Indian maharajas and their British benefactors during the golden old days of the British Raj in India. India had seen various forms of hunting since old times; the Mughals particularly liked to hunt blackbuck and other gazelles using cheetahs (the Indian Cheetah, now extinct due to over-hunting in British times). Falconry was also an established practice, and hunting falcons were accorded special treatment, including their own attendants and a special diet. The British obviously liked to hunt; in India, they found a formidable adversary that the open plains of East Africa did not have- theRoyal bengal Tiger. Notorious for its strength, ferocity and cunning as well as its penchant for thick forest, the tiger soon became the center of almost all British hunting expeditions. The Indian Princes, or the Maharajas as they were known (and there were plenty of them to be sure) loved to hunt too. Hunting also allowed them a chance to socialize with the British elite, allowing them to cultivate fruitful contacts and curry favor. The tiger hunts in those days were big affairs, complete with elephants to drive the tiger out of the bushes to stone monuments about the nitty-gritties of the hunt and the measurements of the animal killed. These measurements are somewhat of a joke; every British Viceroy to have served in India has claimed to have killed a huge tiger and broken a record, and the means of achieving a record were many a time inaccurate, to say the least. The attendants of the British saheb, in order to keep him happy, would come up with ingenious ways to increase the length of the tiger; E.P. Gee, one of India's first and finest wildlifers and a British ex-pat who preferred to live on in India after the end of the Raj, reports that the measuring tape would even be made to take a tour of the inside of the tiger's nostril to add a few more inches to the 'nose' to 'tail' length. This led to physically impossible records, including one by a particular Viceroy, who is reported to have killed a tiger over 12 feet in length !!

Outdoor recreation in Bruegel

Nice discussion of Bruegel's Children's Games at , with closeups of some of the activities and analysis of what the artist is up to.

Lots of fun websites just on this painting, some with extreme closeups on more of the details, e.g., .

great paper topic!!

Hunters in the Snow

let's try this--some commentary on the "stag with a crucifix" from William Carlos Williams's poem on Hunters in the Snow:

We live in the golden age of technology!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gaston de Phoebus

From the commentary on a 2008 exhibit on the Livre de Chasse in New York:

Art in Pursuit
Gaston Phoebus’s incomparable 14th century hunting manual at the Morgan Library

“Illuminating the Medieval Hunt,” at The Morgan Library, New York, is a seductive window into the difference in temper between the Middle Ages and our own more complacent era. On exhibit are some fifty illuminated pages from the Morgan’s manuscript by Gaston Phoebus (1331-91), La Livre de la chasse, the most famous hunting manual of all time. It was a bestseller in its day, prompting multiple copies and translated into various languages, first in commissioned manuscripts, later in printed editions.

manuscript page

The feudal epoch was one of wide accomplishment, ranging from technological advance to the arts of governance. Among these last was warcraft, agent and protector of statecraft. Feudal nobles were landed rulers but, above all, they were warriors — mounted cavalry. Prowess in close-quarters combat, an occupational requirement, found ritualized expression in the hunt. The blood sport of princes, hunting was proxy for the arts of war; it kept men in trim for battle. (A modern analogy might be George Patton’s 1941 Louisiana maneuvers in which his 2nd Armored Division attacked, not an enraged boar, but Shreveport.)

Surnamed Phoebus — Latin for Apollo — in tribute to his manly beauty, Gaston III, Count of Foix and Viscount of Béarn in southwestern France, was one of the most powerful French feudal nobles. A man of arms, he was also a talented naturalist whose expertise in the hunt was sharpened by expeditions north during lulls in the Hundred Years War. He pursued game across Sweden, Norway and East Prussia and read every available manual on hunting. He dedicated his own to friend and fellow warrior-huntsman Philip the Bold, who first saw battle at age 14.

Disbound for conservation reasons and the preparation of a facsimile (happily on hand to be leafed through), the Phoebus manuscript is uniquely accessible just now. Two dozen additional rare volumes on the hunt, dating from the 11th century to later Persian and Mughal works, complete the display. The Morgan’s copy was most likely commissioned by Philip’s son from a Parisian workshop around 1407.

The Phoebus manuscript is a jewel of medieval illumination. The hand of the calligrapher is as subtle and measured as the painter’s. Undulating, chiseled script, no less beautiful than the coloration, knits text and imagery together. The architecture of each vellum page has a harmonic integrity that testifies to the vitality of medieval aesthetic sensibility.

Here are more than antiquarian objets d’art. The charm of the exhibition is incidental to what it portrays of a chivalric culture that spread across Europe, even to Syria and the edge of the Arabian desert. The loveliness of the manuscript holds lessons of its own. The medieval imagination transformed aesthetic pleasure into a mystical joie de vivre inextricable from contemplation of the Good, beauty’s transcendent source. Art-for-art’s- sake would have been an unintelligible creed.

Phoebus describes the habits of wild animals; the nature of dogs and their care; the elaborate techniques of hunting with dogs and the less laudable ones of hunting with traps, snares, and cross bow. He begins by invoking the Trinity and the Mother of God before praising the virtues of the chase. Starting in the wild before daybreak and lasting until prey was run to exhaustion, the hunt was a rigorous campaign. It banished idleness, thereby causing men “to eschew the seven deadly sins.” [The author himself dropped dead at the end of a grueling bear hunt.] Phoebus thought 7 or 8 a proper age to begin a boy’s training in the hunt. Stamina and resourcefulness were best acquired early, because “a craft requires all a man’s life ere he be perfect thereof” and it is never too soon to learn to dread failure. Physical and moral courage were of a piece.

Like the fabric of medieval life itself, the rubrics of the hunt were intertwined with the liturgical calendar, the cult of the saints and codes of courtesy. The great stag was strong, swift, cunning and bellicose (“wonderfully perilous”); hence, the worthiest prey. Stag hunting began and ended on two different feast days of the Holy Cross. In between, around Mary Magdalen Day, when deer polished their antlers on trees, was the optimal time for tracking them. A tree “frayed well high” indicated a tall, hale specimen. So did the size of hoof prints and the quality of his bellow. One miniature shows scouts returning to camp with droppings, another indicator of size, displayed for noble inspection.

Boar hunting began on Michaelmas, when the animal was fleshiest. Polar opposite of the stag, the boar was the original bête noir, a menacing symbol of evil and a fierce, dangerous opponent. A pair of boars is depicted copulating, the artist’s way of indicating their base nature. Badgers, on the other hand, were not fair game; besides being inedible, they slept too much and had few defenses. Phoebus’s sporting dismissal of them, portrayed close to their burrows, is analogous to chivalric refusal to kill an unarmed man. Otters, foxes, rabbits, hinds, wild goats, reindeer, bears, wild cats (“their falseness and malice are well known”), and the hated wolf are treated in turn.

Running with hounds was the favorite and most respected form of the chase.
Phoebus, whose kennel numbered 1,600 dogs, lavishes attention on “the best knowing of any beast God ever made.” In what is almost a canticle to hounds, the author describes them in terms befitting the ideal Christian knight. No attention to their wellbeing was too minor to mention. They appear in almost every miniature, on the chase or in the hands of groomsmen who examine their ears, trim and bathe their paws, tend wounds.

The strategies and risks in selecting prey, tracking, ambushing and killing it are described with precision and illustrated with verve. (Not always accurately, since Parisian illuminators did not get into the woods much.) So are the protocols for ritual dismembering of the stag. Since women practiced falconry, hawking was preferred for May, Mary’s month. Hunting-hawks, like dogs, were deemed capable of fealty; their self-sacrificial acts of loyalty, real or mythical, are sweetly illustrated.

The Phoebus manuscript ends as it began, with prayer. The extended display closes with a 17th century Mughal scene of a female hunter holding a gun, the weapon that finished hunting as Phoebus knew it. La Livre de la chasse is an an exquisite emblem of chivalric culture, one that marked Western civilization with unique characteristics the future will be lucky to sustain. An exhibition that breathes life into even a single part of it is a welcome event.

Postscript: Edward of Norwich, Duke of York, later to die at Agincourt, translated Phoebus’s manual into English, under the title The Master of Game. Theodore Roosevelt, writing from the White House, introduced the 1909 reprint edition with praise for the great medieval lords as “mighty men with their hands and terrible in battle” as well as cultivated statesmen. At the same time, he lamented the eventual deterioration of the hunt into destructive obsession and a riskless “parody of the stern hunting life.” He reserved his highest admiration for the roving hunter who penetrates the wilderness with simple equipment and shifts for himself.

“Illuminating the Medieval Hunt” at The Morgan Library (225 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 212-685-0008).

This essay appeared first in The Weekly Standard on June 2, 2008.

Copyright 2008, Maureen Mullarkey


Monday, February 8, 2010

Polar Bears in Rome?

When we started our discussion in class today about the gradual evolution of animal sacrifice in the Roman Coliseum I was amazed to hear that Polar Bears were used in the Hunts. I found that tidbit to be very interesting and so I searched "Polar Bears in Rome". What I found next was pretty interesting, a couple of photographs of homeless Polar Bears wielding cardboard signs and tin cups, protesting in the streets of Italy. I think that it is worth cheeking out for you self.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bear Grylls as the new modern nature man

Here's a link to an interesting article by Jim Motavalli, author of Naked in the Woods: Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery, discussing Man versus Wild's Bear Grylls.

Grylls has allegedly faked some of his outdoor exploits for the Discovery Channel. Who knew?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, read all about it!