Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

Back-to-back American holidays

February 2, 2015

This is day 2 in a pair of specifically U.S. hoidays. Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday; today is Groundhog Day.



January 24, 2015

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes features the dreaded snow shark:


It all started with Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie Jaws, with its threatening fins moving through the water and its ominous music. In the cartoon, the fins are moving through the snow, advancing on the hapless snowman.



January 14, 2015

Briefly noted, in “No Time for Bats to Rest Easy’ by Natalie Angier in yesterday’s NYT Science Times:

“A politician in Australia said, ‘Bomb the bats,’ ” Dr. Wang [bat virologist Lin-Fa Wang] said. “But if you do that, you’ll destroy the ecosystem and then you’ll get more infectious disease, not less.” The risks from wanton batricide could well be immediate: Recent research suggests that bats are likeliest to shed viral particles when they are under stress and their numbers are shrinking.

Yes, batricide. I can’t tell whether this is a playful coinage on Angier’s part, or whether bat scientists (chiropterists?) actually use the term.

(The article is absolutely fascinating, by the way.)

Fabulous creatures on television

December 19, 2014

On ADS-L, an antedating for bunyip, a fabulous creature of the Australian aborigines, which I connected to a puppet character on American television, and that reminded Jon Lighter of the Flub-a-dub on Howdy Doody.


fairy X

November 24, 2014

From Anne Cutler a while ago, a postcard from Tasmania (where she and Bill were visiting their childhood haunts) depicting Little Penguins (“the smallest of the 17 species of penguin and … the only one to breed in southern Australia”). From Wikipedia:

The Little penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin. It grows to an average of 33 cm (13 in) in height and 43 cm (17 in) in length, though specific measurements vary by subspecies. It is found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand, with possible records from Chile. In Australia, they are often called Fairy penguins. In New Zealand, they are more commonly known as Little blue penguins or Blue penguins, owing to their slate-blue plumage. They are also known by their Māori name: kororā.

At the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach CA:


On to fairies and fairy X (with fairy as a modifier), as in fairy penguin.


Ciao, Carpaccio!

November 24, 2014

In The American Scholar, Autumn 2014 (pp. 87-91), a piece by Jan Morris, “Carnival of the Animals: The Italian artist Carpaccio cast a careful, loving eye on his many nonhuman subjects” — an essay adapted from her book Ciao, Carpaccio!: An Infatuation (published on November 3rd). The book is an appreciation (with lots of color plates) of the 15th-century Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, and this essay is an appreciation of Carpaccio’s depictions of animals and birds, as in the Flight Into Egypt:

Morris writes that the ass bearing the Holy Family away from Herod’s slaughter is “as elegant as any Golden Stallion, and as beautifully groomed.”


Communication among white-footed sportive lemurs

October 30, 2014

In the latest (10/25/14) NewScientist, a piece “Shy lemurs communicate using toilet trees” (on-line; in print with the jokey title “Wee need to stay in touch”):

The white-footed sportive lemur does not need to see its family often – it keeps in touch by urinating instead.

Unlike many other primates, these lemurs do not groom each other. They do not share their tree hideouts with others, and go to great lengths to avoid spending time with the mates and offspring they share their territory with.

… Iris Dröscher of the German Primate Centre in Göttingen spent over 1000 hours watching the toilet habits of 14 adult sportive lemurs, and found that family groups went to the same places to defecate and urinate at different times throughout the night (Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology …). “The chemical traces in the urine are unique for each lemur, so by leaving scent marks the lemurs can interact and bond with their family without meeting them,” says Dröscher.

Two things here: the delightful name white-footed sportive lemur, and of course their means of communication.


Animals on duty

October 19, 2014

In the latest (10/20/14) New Yorker, a hilarious and simultaneously disturbing piece by Patricia Marx, “Pets Allowed: Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be?” (starting on p. 36), about emotional-support animals. From p. 37, on E.S.A.s vs. service dogs:

Contrary to what many business managers think, having an emotional-support card merely means that one’s pet is registered in a database of animals whose owners have paid anywhere from seventy to two hundred dollars to one of several organizations, none of which are recognized by the government. (You could register a Beanie Baby, as long as you send a check.) Even with a card, it is against the law and a violation of the city’s health code to take an animal into a restaurant. Nor does an emotional-support card entitle you to bring your pet into a hotel, store, taxi, train, or park.

No such restrictions apply to service dogs, which, like Secret Service agents and Betty White, are allowed to go anywhere. In contrast to an emotional-support animal (E.S.A.), a service dog is trained to perform specific tasks, such as pulling a wheelchair and responding to seizures. The I.R.S. classifies these dogs as a deductible medical expense, whereas an emotional-support animal is more like a blankie.

In the piece, Marx attempts (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to take (purported) E.S.A.s into places where animals are in fact not allowed, using creatures borrowed from acquaintances: a turtle, a (large) snake, a turkey, an alpaca, and a pig.

Plato — or Woody Woodpecker?

October 9, 2014

Today’s Zippy, at the Existential Automat:


First, a litany of philosophical approaches, then one of animated cartoon studios, plus Woody Woodpecker in the last panel (and, by allusion to the pileated woodpecker, in the title of the strip).


Pests on the march

October 1, 2014

In the NYT on Monday (9/30), “Once Considered Won, Battle Against Invasive Beetles Is Renewed” by Paul Glader, beginning:

It is a menace from Asia that over the past two decades has ravaged tens of thousands of trees in several states. But after being wiped out in New Jersey, it seemed to be in retreat in New York thanks to a warlike response from federal and state governments. It was gone from Staten Island and Manhattan, and the battle against it was tilting toward eradication in Queens, in Brooklyn and on Long Island.

That was until Charlie Crimi spotted one in his Long Island backyard — an Asian long-horned beetle. “I didn’t really know what it was,” Mr. Crimi said of the large, white polka-dot, shiny black bug with long, wavy antennas that he saw in the summer of 2013. But after some Internet research, Mr. Crimi, 54, realized he had seen the notorious insect equivalent of Jesse James. He emailed a photo of the bug to a state forestry worker and received confirmation that what he had seen was, in fact, an Asian long-horned beetle.




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