Monday, August 31, 2009


I had a great weekend with M & D in Milledgeville, GA. One of the highlights is seeing this armadillo by the train tracks. Luckily, I had my little video recorder with me:

From wikipedia:

Armadillos are often used in the study of leprosy, since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically. They are particularly susceptible due to their unusually low body temperature, which is hospitable to the leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. (The leprosy bacterium is difficult to culture and armadillos have a body temperature of 93°F, similar to human skin.)

The Nine-banded Armadillo also serves science through its unusual reproductive system, in which four genetically identical quadruplets are born in each litter.[4][5][6] Because they are always genetically identical, the group of four young provides a good subject for scientific, behavioral or medical tests that need consistent biological and genetic makeup in the test subjects. This is the only reliable manifestation of polyembryony in the class mammalia, and only exists within the genus Dasypus and not in all armadillos, as is commonly believed. Other species which display this trait include parasitoid wasps, certain flatworms and various aquatic invertebrates.[5]

Armadillos (mainly Dasypus) make common roadkill due to their habit of jumping to about fender height when startled (such as by an oncoming car). Wildlife enthusiasts are using the northward march of the armadillo as an opportunity to educate others about the animals, which can be a burrowing nuisance to property owners and managers.[4]


Update September 4, 2009
When I saw this armadillo, I was thinking of a passage in a book I read recently (I highly recommend it by the way) called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly:
Animals' skills are always matched to concrete demands because their minds, such as they are, only contain information about what is actually present in the environment in relation to their bodily states, as determined by instinct. So a hungry lion only perceives what will help it to find a gazelle, while a sated lion concentrates fully on the warmth of the sun. Its mind does not weigh possibilities unavailable at the moment; it neither imagines pleasant alternatives, nor is it disturbed by fears of failure.

Animals suffer just as we do when their biologically programmed goals are frustrated. They feel the pangs of hunger, pain, and unsatisfied sexual urges. Dogs bred to be friends to man grow distraught when left alone by their masters. But animals other than man are not in a position to be the cause of their own suffering; they are not evolved enough to be able to feel confusion and despair even after all their needs are satisfied. When free of externally induced conflicts, they are in harmony with themselves and experience the seamless concentration that in people we call flow.

The psychic entropy peculiar to the human condition involves seeing more to do than one can actually accomplish and feeling able to accomplish more than what conditions allow. But this becomes possible only if one keeps in mind more than one goal at a time, being aware at the same time of conflicting desires. It can happen only when the mind knows not only what is but also what could be. (p. 228)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Theme De Yoyo

Les Stances a Sophie cover

Your head is like a yoyo
Your neck is like a string
Your body's like Camembert
Oozing from its skin
Your fanny's like two sperm whales
Floating down the sand
Your voice is like a long fuck
That's music to your brain

One of the greatest songs I've heard recently is by the group The Art Ensemble of Chicago. Theme De Yoyo is the first song off their album Les Stances a Sophie which was made in 1970 as a soundtrack album for a film, but the whole album is great. As I understand it, I don't think the music was actually ever used in the film. I've bought several other Art Ensemble of Chicago albums and they have all been a little too noise/experimental for me. I think they strike the perfect balance here between chaos and melody (at least for my taste).

Download: Theme De Yoyo (mp3)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Life with Mannequins

As a boy, I was unusually obsessed with mannequins. I used to beg my parents to take me to Sears just so I could stand next to one of them. I remember once I got too close and tipped one of them over; I was terrified but the department store staff were all very nice and told me it was okay. The above photo is the only remaining picture of this early obsession.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

don't clown you me


Reverse: John Jaccoud, Bonnots Mill MO.

(thanks, Dawn.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (New Directions Paperbook) An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by Cesar Aira

Part fiction, part non-fiction, part poetic description, part philosophy. Aira examines the depths of history, the meaning of repetition, reproductions and its role in art, compensation, and much more, and in the context of a very specific, relatable person and his predicaments. Often zooming into an idea or description with intense precision, then moving on, this book is able to contain big ideas without sounding pretentious, or bloated. In fact, the book is less than 90 pages, though it tells a story that could be told in 500 pages. It's really some of the best writing I've read. Also, I had no idea it wasn't a completely true story, because it was told as if it was pieced together from accounts and letters. But there were points where he could not have been so intimately in the character's head. Only after I read it did I find out that this is a perfect combination of history and novelistic invention. Some excerpts:

Peaks of mica kept watch over their long marches. How could these panoramas be rendered credible? There were too many sides; the cube had extra faces. The company of volcanos gave the sky interiors. Dawn and dusk were vast optical explosions, drawn out by the silence. Slingshots and gunshots of sunlight rebounded into every recess. Grey expanses hung out to dry forever in colossal silence; airshafts voluminous as oceans.
p. 14

A drove of mules the size of ants appeared in silhouette on a ridge-top path, moving at a star's pace. The mules were driven by human intelligence and commercial interests, expertise in breeding and blood-lines. Everything was human; the farthest wilderness was steeped with sociability, and the sketches they had made, in so far as they had any value, stood as records of this permeation. The infinite orography of the Cordillera was a laboratory of forms and colors.
p. 16

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Today I Learned: Portuguese man-of-war

From a novel I'm reading now called The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout:
"'Holothuriae, the 'mizzen': they have many names, small galleon, Portuguese man-of-war, sea cucumber'--they have little sails, wide at the bottom, small at the top--listen to this! 'The mizzen can lower or raise this little sail when it feels the wind and wants to sail. Under water a mass of streamers, four or five feet long, hang down from it; the color is a beautiful blue, through which however something green plays. The body is transparent, as if a crystal bottle had been filled with blue-green aqua fortis.
"'The sails are milk-white with an upper edge of purple or violet, beautiful to behold, as if the creature were a precious jewel.'
"And this: 'it is miraculous to see a whole fleet of them, a thousand little ships--all together!'"

I looked online for this creature and of all its names referenced above, the only one that fit the description was the Portuguese man-of-war:

Portuguese man-of-war

I think it rather looks like a human brain! Here is what that website says about this creature (I wonder if this information was known at the time (1955) the above novel was written):
The Man-of-War (also known as a bluebottle) is not one creature, as it is commonly assumed, but a complete colony of numerous polyps...each performing their own functions. There are polyps which do nothing but digest the captured food and distribute nutrients to polyps which are not capable of digestion on their own. There are polyps which produce the Medusa, a disc shaped organism which produces eggs and sperm. This organism breaks away from the main Portuguese Man-of-War and floats off to produce many more polyps which, in turn, gather together to form another complete creature. There could be hundreds of polyps which make up the creature we know as the Portuguese Man-of-War.

So the Portuguese man-of-war is large, it contains multitudes. Also, those streamers are poisonous so avoid.

Feral Houses

feral house

More here.

Triangulation And Consciousness

Have you ever wondered, like Elizabeth Bishop did: "Why should I be my aunt,/or me, or anyone?" I was wondering about this and I was dorky enough to google it. I came across an interesting thread in some message board, unusually insightful perspective of consciousness, and from the internet no less:
If you use a pen to make a dot on the surface of a perfect sphere, that dot has no identity, it is simply The Dot. If you make another dot, they still lack identity, except for the fact that one is not the other; but you still can't tell which is which. Now add a third dot near the second one, and suddenly all three dots become individual, in the sense that you can spin the sphere and still recognize each of them by their relative distance to the other two.

(I believe this is also a hint as to why we perceive the universe in three dimensions: it's the minimum number of dimensions necessary to establish the identity of objects. But that's way out of topic...)

And later in that same thread:
Now if I am a collection of ideas, what makes "I" "me", or rather why is it that I am this collection of ideas and not that other collection, I believe the only possible answer is: mere chance. You can only develop your identity as a result of mere chance. This is where the perfect sphere analogy comes in.

If someone asks you to select a collection of points on the surface of a perfect sphere, the first point can only be chosen at random. The second point must be chosen based on the first, but other than that, it's still a random choice, with the sole exception that it cannot be the position defined by the first point (even with two points, you can't still tell one from the other - they still don't have identity). Only when the third point is chosen is the symmetry of the situation broken, and now all points have their own identity which is their relative position to the other two.

So the first being who became conscious had no problem understanding "why am I me", since he could not be anybody else, for there was nobody else to be. The second being could conceive of being the first one, but would realize being the other and being himself are essentially the same thing, so the question "why am I me" was meaningless for him. Only from the third being on did the question of one's identity become meaningful, but it is still a meaningful question without a meaningful answer other than "mere chance". Which is why I said this was known since the beginning but at the same time it's an eternal mystery.

It's interesting to think of identity as triangulation. It doesn't explain the "why" of anything, but the "why" of anything can't be answered because it's an invalid question. It's the wrong question to ask. It only seems valid because you are you, and this randomness seems so much like fate.