November 27, 2012

more internet finds

Ancient graffiti from Pompeii. humanity doesn't change much, apparently.

the skeleton of a WWII carrier pigeon was recently found in England, the coded message still strapped to his ankle. and so far, no one has been able to crack the code.

the wife of one of the few remaining Tuskagee airmen has died. she was also a pilot- the first black female pilot in Alabama. they would meet up in the sky and fly in formation together. it's a lovely article about their life together and their struggles to serve their country amidst the racism of the 20th century.

November 26, 2012

Laid Down & Wiped Away

Gregory Euclide is a local mixed-media artist who got somewhat of a break by creating the cover art for Bon Iver's last album (the one that won the Grammys). it's almost a shame that his most famous piece is represented on such a small scale, because all his works are incredibly intricate. i got to see one of his pieces in the MN State Fair this past year and it was a great experience. 

and i like him even more after coming across this article from the UK about his day job as a teacher. as a way to relieve stress, he would paint intricate masterpieces on his classroom's whiteboard and then wipe them away. his students would then flip out, incredulous that he would destroy his works of art so easily. after seeing how affected they were, he decided to release prints of some his whiteboard paintings, calling the collection Laid Down & Wiped Away. the article has more pictures and a cool "making of" video for the Bon Iver cover, and go check out his website for more of his amazing talent.

November 23, 2012


Field is Antony Gormley's latest sculpture installation- 200,000 tiny clay creatures assembled into one massive population. wherever the exhibit is scheduled next, Gormley works with local people to create the figures. he said, "I wanted to work with people and to make a work about our collective future and our responsibility for it. I wanted the art to look back at us, its makers (and later viewers), as if we were responsible - responsible for the world that it [FIELD] and we were in."

i love this. individually, they are super cute and are reminiscent of your first clay project in grade school. collectively though, they are really powerful and do seem expectant of the viewer.

originally seen here, where there are more pictures. Gormley's website is here.

November 21, 2012

Animal congregations

Jad Abumrad's twitter feed is a wealth of information that i can hardly keep up with. it was there that i came across what is to me, one of the more entertaining pages in all of the Internet.

behold, a list of animals and what you would call a group of them. there's a few most people know, like a murder of crows. but did you know a group of ferrets is called a business? a bunch of cockroaches is (appropriately) called an intrusion. any you've been wondering about? check out the list to see if they're listed.

this is what happens when you Google "a business of ferrets"

November 20, 2012

writing on her skin.

i found this on Kottke a while ago... the artist has a condition that causes her skin to form painless welts when scratched. there's more examples on her website, but these 2 are my favorite.

November 19, 2012

vertebrae keychain

cop on duty at the library, gesturing toward my keys: hey, is that a........ vertebrae?
me: what? oh! yes, yes it is.
cop: that's uh, interesting.
me: it used to have a pelvis too, but it broke off.
cop: ......
what can i say- when you work for a chiropractor ('97-98), you get weird swag.

November 16, 2012

Mystery circles under the sea

a scuba diver recently found these mysterious patterns on the ocean floor, off one of the islands in Japan. no one had ever seen them before.

he enlisted some help from colleagues, who brought their underwater cameras to try and catch the artist at work. and guess who they found? this little guy!

he's a puffer fish, and these amazing installations are part of his mating ritual. females are attracted to the ridges and swim into the center, where they mate and lay the eggs. here's the little guy hard at work!

he also collected shells to decorate the installation, which later would be used as nutrients for the babies. the ridges also protect the eggs from being tossed about by the underwater currents. isn't that amazing? the link has more pictures and explanation. the animal kingdom is so incredible.

November 15, 2012

Cat Cafes

Many customers seemed like the shy, meek, silent type who were in need of a hug or two. Since these sorts don’t have the courage to go up to a cat and play with it themselves, they would read a book and sip coffee while they patiently hoped for a cat to come closer. It broke my heart.

have you heard about this? cafes in Japan populated by dozens of cats. apparently, most Japanese landlords do not allow pets, so these "cat cafes" began opening up around 5 years ago. they're hugely popular with young adults, who mostly live alone, are stressed out, and could use some pet therapy.

all photos by Tomo Kosuga
for years, i have been saying i wished there was a place where i could go and just play with some animals for 15 minutes or so. the company of animals is a huge stress reliever and way cheaper than therapy. i had no idea the Japanese were so far ahead of us... can someone please open some of these in the US?

November 7, 2012

Done and done.

Happy and proud to be a Minnesotan this morning. Obama re-elected with our 10 electoral votes in tow, both amendments defeated, Klobuchar and Ellison still on the job. yet, somehow, the Bachmann crazy train continues to roll...

November 4, 2012

Everybody counts. Everybody matters.

Like many young Americans, 2008 was the first time I voted. It was an exciting time. I remember driving home and seeing people in my neighborhood out in the streets, celebrating and holding up homemade signs and posters. And believe it or not, I am more passionate about my vote in 2012 than I was 4 years ago. I firmly believe in this administration, in their ability and capacity to continue the path of progress they started. But I am even more passionate about another item on my ballot- voting NO on the proposed marriage amendment to our constitution. 

For those of you outside Minnesota, we will vote on whether or not to add an amendment to our state constitution defining marriage as solely being between one man and one woman. 31 other states have already passed similar amendments through their own voting booths; if we defeat our version we will be the first state to do so. There's been a lot of debate, activism, and of course TV commercials on both sides. Many of our elected officials- governor, senators, congressmen- oppose it, and a surprising voice for the Vote No movement emerged in Chris Kluwe, the punter for the MN Vikings. He's wicked smart and has written several op-eds on the issue (he has had a blog on one of our newspaper's websites). His last post lays out the practical reasons why anyone, regardless of how they feel about gay marriage, should vote no on Tuesday. Go read the whole thing, but here are his 4 bullet points:

1. It's an intrusion of government into personal life.
2. It's an attempt to sidestep our political process.
3. Voting yes on this amendment does not protect your right to vote. 
4. Voting no on the amendment won't change a single thing legally in this state.

So, those are the facts that resonate with me. this is how i feel.

My mom is white, and my stepdad is black. (not the folks above, but equally adorable) Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for them to get married. In fact, their state's constitutional ban on interracial marriage wasn't removed until 1998, a scant 2 years before they got married. 

My husband was married once before. He got divorced and then later, got remarried to me. Some individuals believe this is a sin and our marriage is not valid. Now, our marriage has never been endangered, and we have never experienced discrimination based on these particular religious convictions. But still, there are people who believe that my marriage and/or my parents' marriage are wrong. And you better believe that gives me loads of compassion towards those who currently don't have the right to marry.

I have friends & co-workers who are gay. And almost all of them are in long-term, loving, monogamous relationships. They buy houses, pay taxes, have pets and children, work hard at their jobs, take care of their parents. They are exactly like me & Matt, except they have less civil rights than we do.

Here's the deal. It's easy to vote for discrimination when you have never been discriminated against. It's easy to blur the lines of religion and government when you don't know anyone whose lives would be affected by imposing your beliefs on the entire population. I know this personally- when I was younger and more sheltered, I held some beliefs based on what i thought were moral reasons, not having a clue how they affect real people. But I grew up, moved around the country, and met people who are different than me. Wonderful people who deserve the same rights that most of us take for granted. 

I understand this is a complicated issue with many factors motivating people's decisions, and I totally respect that. This is just my humble explanation of what's motivating me... I believe in the separation of church & state, and I believe in equal rights for everyone. That is why I am voting no.

(today's post title comes courtesy of Rep. Keith Ellison, my congressman and a strong voice against the amendment.)

November 1, 2012

Little Free Libraries

all pics from their site
i've seen a few of these on my run from my house to the Mississippi River, and i finally remembered to look them up once i got home. turns out they are a non-profit from Wisconsin that's seeped over into Minnesota. no clear-cut mission statement or anything... looks like they just want to spread reading & community spirit. sounds good to me! keep en eye out for Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood... or sign up to have one of your own.

October 31, 2012

Love, Life, and Elephants

We need another wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of animals. in a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we will never hear. they are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of earth. Henry Beston, a WWI vet  who sought solace in nature and wrote about his experiences

And while i have much to learn, this much i know: animals are indeed more ancient, more complex and in many ways more sophisticated than us. they are more perfect because they remain within Nature's fearful symmetry just as Nature intended. they should be respected and revered, but perhaps none more so than the elephant, the world's most emotionally human land mammal. Daphne Sheldrick

And so ends Love, Life, and Elephants, Daphne Sheldrick's memoir about growing up in Kenya and establishing Kenya's national parks in an effort to conserve and protect the nation's land and wildlife. i'm pretty sure i heard about this book from Yao Ming, the gigantic Chinese NBA player. he recently embarked on a tour of Africa's national parks and reserves to bring awareness and education to the Asian population. elephant and rhino poaching have once again reached epic proportions, almost entirely due to demand from Asian countries, who buy ivory trinkets as talismans and signs of wealth. Rhino horns are thought to contain valuable medicinal properties, when in reality they are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up our fingernails. i find it so commendable that Ming elected to take on this cause. here he is visiting Sheldrick's elephant orphanage (babies wear blankets because they would normally be shaded from the sun by their mothers):

anyway, on to the book. Daphne Sheldrick is British, although her family has lived in Kenya for generations as farmers. she was born there while Kenya was still a British colony and lived through its transition to an independent country. she and her second husband David were the founding co-wardens of the Tsavo National Park for 20 years, and during that time Daphne continued her childhood penchant for attracting and raising orphaned animals. they soon had a motley crew of orphans- rhinos, zebras, and buffaloes, all under the watchful leadership of Eleanor, the elephant matriarch who considered this brood her family. after David died suddenly in 1976, the Nairobi Park offered her a small parcel of land to build a home, and she has lived there ever since. she's become an expert on all kinds of animal husbandry and was the first person in the world to successfully rear a milk-dependent baby elephant to adulthood. an elephant orphanage naturally sprang up around her home, as people heard of her and brought her baby elephants who had been orphaned by poaching. today, the orphanage and the trust begun in her husband's memory are still going strong, with dozens of baby elephants being reared and eventually reintroduced into the wild, and the trust also concentrating on anti-poaching efforts, mobile veterinary units, and community outreach.

the older orphans always look out for the newest and youngest
it will come as no surprise that i loved this book. i was a little wary at first, as Sheldrick is now her 70's and her writing style does have a slightly flowery, grandmotherly tone. but her story is so incredible, the content totally supersedes any stylistic prejudices of mine. and as most people know, i have a fierce love of animals- especially elephants- so i was hooked from the beginning. i sometimes joke that i prefer animals over people, but i really do believe that, as Sheldrick wrote,  "they are more perfect because they remain within Nature's fearful symmetry just as Nature intended." She put into words my feelings about animals- their superiority over us, their innocence that we have destroyed, and the notion that they are far more "human" in thought & emotion than science gives them credit for. i felt like i was reading the story of a kindred spirit. especially the way she describes her efforts to rear the orphaned animals who find their way to her. everything from elephants, rhinos, antelopes, mongooses, birds, and more. she named each one (the mongoose was named Higglety), lavished love and attention on them, and always maintained a respectful balance of parenting the animals while slowly, carefully reintroducing them to their own kind, with the expectation that they will eventually return to the wild on their own time. those that are unable to return- the completely blind rhino named Maxwell, for example- have a permanent home at the orphanage.

meanwhile, poaching has once again risen to devastating levels. poachers have become more creative with their efforts to kill the elephants. poisoned arrows and watermelons, wire snares, semi-automatic weapons, waiting around a dead elephant for the others to show up and mourn, then picking off the rest of the family (as described by a poacher on NPR last week)... all of these things happen on a regular basis. National Geographic has a great section on their site devoted to
the issue (which was last month's cover story) if you are interested in learning more. one fact from the cover- 25,000 elephants were killed last year. twenty five thousand.

back at the orphanage, the keepers of the orphans basically become their mothers. to work at the orphanage, they make up to a 10 year commitment, as elephants mature and age at a similar rate of humans and need many years of stable rearing. the keepers sleep in the stalls with their babies, and rotate on a regular basis so the babies don't develop an unhealthy dependence on any one keeper. there the orphans begin the emotional work of recovering from seeing their mother/family slaughtered before their eyes (many exhibit textbook PTSD symptoms), and re-forming a new family with the other orphaned baby, adolescent, and adult elephants. it's a long, uncertain road for them, but for the last sixty years, Daphne & her family, the orphanage, and the trust have dedicated themselves to protecting and paving a way for all the animals they encounter.

if you'd like to follow their stories, you can "like" them on Facebook to keep abreast of what's currently happening. the trust's website is also amazing, with tons of photos, journals of the keepers, updates on anti-poaching efforts, wild animals saved through the mobile vet unit, extensive articles, etc. it looks a little "Web 1.0" but there's lots of valuable content. they've begun a campaign to end the illegal ivory trade- you can sign their online petition here. and most importantly, for only $50.00 you can sponsor an orphan and help give one of these little guys a second chance.

October 26, 2012

Interesting Facts from RG3's Wikipedia page

1. he was born in Japan
2. he was a track & field star in HS and college, advancing to the Olympic semi-finals in the 400-meter hurdles
3. he was HS class president and ranked 7th in his graduating class, and graduated a semester early
4. he went to Baylor University, starting in the spring when he was only 17
5. he graduated in three years with a degree in political science and a 3.67 GPA, having started a Master's degree in communication
6. he is the first NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA player to have Roman numerals on his jersey
7. he is the NFL's first starting quarterback who was born in the 1990's
8. due to his immediate endorsement deals, he earned more than any other rookie in NFL history before the season even began
9. this is his fiancée, a fellow Baylor student

the inevitable Wikipedia-induced rabbit hole led me to this great article about his early life, from the perspective of his father, RG2. my favorite part is his penchant for novelty socks, as seen below:

1, 2, 3
cute, non?

October 22, 2012

Liesbet Bussche

i love people who see the world in a playful and unexpected way; these remind me of Blue Sky's installations in my hometown. Liesbet's site is here; i saw her here. and now i kind of want some cement earring posts...

October 17, 2012

First Cameraman

this book was so great. it's kind of a memoir by Arun Chaudhary, a filmmaker and Washington outsider who became Barack Obama's campaign videographer, and subsequently the first ever official White House videographer. here he chronicles a tiny bit of his background, how he got on the Obama campaign, how New Media helped clinch the victory, and how his essential role evolved into a brand new position in the White House. (previously all video was done by the military.) he also includes some history on political advertising, some theory on the interplay between politics and art, and some really fascinating, amusing, and/or surreal anecdotes that only come from being at the President's side for over four years. one of my favorites was Pres. Obama filling out his census form- "uh, what phone number should i put down? the White House main switchboard?"

it also goes without saying that Chaudhary is a big fan of Pres. Obama, so be prepared lest that ruffle your feathers. he repeatedly mentions Obama's personal authenticity- "[He] is one of the few people in politics who is the exact same person on and off camera". (he also indulges in a tangent on the word "authenticity" itself- its ever evolving meaning and implications.)

regardless of how you feel about the current administration, it's a great behind-the-scenes look at a highly secure (and sometimes secretive) political community, with lots of valuable history made palatable for the layperson.

October 3, 2012

The Book of Jonas

no idea where i heard about this one, but it was quite good. a short, sparse story told from several different perspectives. the blurb from tells it like it is:

Jonas is fifteen when his family is killed during an errant U.S. military operation in an unnamed Muslim country. With the help of an international relief organization, he is sent to America, where he struggles to assimilate-foster family, school, a first love. Eventually, he tells a court-mandated counselor and therapist about a U.S. soldier, Christopher Henderson, responsible for saving his life on the tragic night in question. Christopher's mother, Rose, has dedicated her life to finding out what really happened to her son, who disappeared after the raid in which Jonas' village was destroyed. When Jonas meets Rose, a shocking and painful secret gradually surfaces from the past, and builds to a shattering conclusion.

it's telling that our current war has lingered for so long that novels about it have reached publication. the author, Stephen Dau, worked for years in post-war reconstruction and international development, and i'm sure Jonas is based on a number of people he encountered along the way. Dau is also from Pittsburgh, where the American half of the story takes place. how could you not love a book that includes scenes in the Cathedral of Learning AND The O? 

September 22, 2012


seen on the awesomely named It's Okay To Be Smart via Jad Abumrad's Twitter

an x-ray of a sting ray; all that intricate stuff is cartilage. how beautiful is this??? if i had a fancy loft with white walls, i would want a big print of this in the dining room.

September 21, 2012

I love my mayor, part one million.

mismatched socks at the DNC. i mean, come on. 

Pig rescues baby goat

some pig! which is a lot more than i can say for the human who just sat there filming...

September 20, 2012

The Blue People of Troublesome Creek

"They looked like anybody else, 'cept they had the blue color," Stacy says, sitting in a chair in his plaid flannel shirt and suspenders, next to a cardboard box where a small black piglet, kept as a pet, is squealing for his bottle. "I couldn't tell you what caused it." source

you learn something new everyday. this morning i came across an article about globalization potentially leading to ethnic homogenization that began with a story about Martin Fugate and his descendants in Kentucky. they had a disorder that made their skin blue. yes, blue.

Fugate and family- obviously a b&w photo that was hand-colored (source)
Fugate was a French immigrant who settled in the Kentucky hills in the early 19th century. he and his wife were carriers of a rare condition called Methemoglobinemia, which affects the molecular composition of blood, giving one's skin a blue appearance. their children each had a 1 in 4 chance of acquiring the disorder, and a 1 in 2 chance of becoming an unaffected carrier. due to the times, culture, and isolation of rural Kentucky (as one Fugate put it, "There was no roads"), a fair amount of intermarrying occurred, which created a micro-population of blue people. this enclave lasted well into the 20th century, but when new railroad tracks coincided with coal mining job opportunities down the line, most of the group dispersed and eventually began to mate outside of their community. the condition continues to be carried down through generations and there are a few modern examples. a similar disorder be acquired by ingesting large amounts of various metals, like this guy. it's usually because the metals exist in the water supply or prescribed drugs, but he was purposefully taking silver for preventative health reasons. oops!

photo source
The line of Fugates continues, and a descendant was born with traces of the disorder as late as 1975. the doctors were ready to administer a blood transfusion after the baby boy was born with blue skin, until his grandmother stepped in and explained the condition. his skin eventually faded to a normal color, but for a while his lips and fingernails would turn blue whenever he was cold or angry. it is said that there are still blue people living in the hills of Kentucky, but as no one has seen any, it seems they prefer to be left to themselves.

(has anyone listened to the Radiolab episode about colors? in it, they discover that blue is almost always the last color identified and named by civilizations, due to its rare occurrance in the natural world. i want to email Jad and let him know about this particular example!)

September 18, 2012

Penny Paintings

tiny paintings on pennies by Jacqueline Lou Skaggs. see the rest here, including her artful way of matting and framing them.

September 17, 2012

In The Woods

a friend recommended this one, and it was a great read. i'm slowly warming up to mysteries/whodunits, and this was another good "starter book" for that genre. it's set in Ireland in the early 00's and focuses on the main character- a murder detective with an unsolved tragedy from his past that left 2 of his friends missing, and a new crime that is potentially linked to the old one. i think my favorite part is the setting- descriptions of the Irish towns, little bits of the country's history woven into the plot, etc. apparently it's one in a loose series of cop mysteries by the author. this wasn't a page-turner of a book for me, but i've already got the other 2 books on hold, so that should tell you something.

September 14, 2012

Flying Houses

i love these photos by Laurent Chehere. see the rest of the series on his website.

September 13, 2012

The Book of Drugs

i know very little about Soul Coughing, other than the one or two songs that Matt's cover band would play from time to time. i became a Mike Doughty fan post-Soul Coughing, which- according to this memoir of his- means that i am Mike Doughty's favorite kind of fan.

the book has a pretty linear narrative- beginning with early home life, school, musical beginnings, the entire arc of Soul Coughing, a very detailed account of his life as an addict, and ends with his recovery and blossoming solo career. this book is sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. or more accurately- Sex! DRUGSDRUGSDRUGSDRUGS. rock'n'roll. he's a good writer though, and each segment is an entertaining ride. Soul Coughing fans will be interested to read his take on those years (spoiler alert- they were not good years) and his attempts to distance himself from the band in order to establish as a solo artist. fans of his solo work will be interested to read some of the inspiration behind his songs on Haughty Melodic (spoiler alert- mostly girls, drugs, and a lowercase "g" god). it's the only album of his that i really know, and i love it. here's one of my favorite songs from the album:

September 12, 2012


(no one, not even robots, can resist a good self-portrait.)

have you seen the photos coming back from Mars? MARS!

i'll admit, i was the typical average American who took slight notice of the Curiosity landing last month, and have only paid peripheral attention to the photos coming back. it just got lost amidst all the other news- Olympics, RNC, DNC, etc. but if i stop to think about it (or actually read an article from start to finish) it begins to sink in... we flew an unmanned craft all the way to Mars, landed it successfully, and now it's tooling around, taking photos, streaming music to & from Earth... everything it does is groundbreaking, history making stuff.

speaking of the photos that are coming back, they are amazing. obviously, because they are flying through millions of space miles, but aesthetically they are really moving and emotional. i was scrolling through this slideshow this morning, and the photos totally convey the sense of desolation, exploration, and uncertainty of the mission. they remind me of the early photographs from the 1800's, of frontiersman exploring the West. from an artistic standpoint, i think they're really successful. here are a few that gave me pause (click the photo for larger sizes).

September 11, 2012

Bad Children's Books

file these under "hilarious things you feel bad laughing at." below, some of the tamer selections:

you can see the rest here. and you can blame this find on Kottke.

August 31, 2012

Internet Cat Video Film Festival

if anyone remembers my summer plans list from back in June, August concluded with an Internet Cat Video Film Festival. believe it or not, this was put on by the Walker Art Center, our acclaimed modern art museum. every summer they host a slew of fun interactive stuff on their grounds "to explore what happens when people get together to share and exchange skills and interests, to create something new, or delve into the unknown." this particular event was dreamed up as a social experiment- whether or not viewing cat videos, which is normally an indoor, solitary activity, would translate into an outdoor festival atmosphere with a multitude of people participating together. judging by the amount of time Matt and i watch cute animal videos together, i had a feeling that cat video lovers would feel no shame in gathering on a grassy hillside to watch Keyboard Cat for the eleventy-billionth time.

i was right.

by the time i pulled up on my bike, the hillside was wall to wall people and festival organizers were concluding their introduction. as i scrambled to lock up my bike across the street, people were scurrying past, either saying, "oh my god, look at all the people" or "HURRY UP IT'S STARTING." i was able to find a spot on the hill to squeeze into, right as the show was starting. the cute couple next to me shared their program- this was like a bona fide festival, y'all. videos were broken up into CATegories: Comedy, Drama, Foreign, Animated, Documentary, Musical, Art House, Lifetime Achievement, and People's Choice. all in all, they showed around 70 videos, whittled down from the TEN THOUSAND that were submitted. was there every any doubt that people love their cat videos??

Matt had a band thing so i was there by myself, but it didn't matter. i was surrounded by an estimated 6,000-10,000 fellow cat video enthusiasts and we were all having a blast. when certain videos came up on the screen, people would gasp or say almost involuntarily, "oh i love this one!" crowd pleasers got lots of claps and cheers. the festival ended with the People's Choice results- the top 7 videos voted on earlier in the month. the winner was Henri 2, Paw de Deux, a hilarious black & white short about a French cat with a crippling case of ennui. it was made by a guy in Seattle named Will Braden, and i don't know how he got here, but he was there to accept the Golden Kitty Award in person (below). when asked if he would like to say anything, he took the mic and said, "i'm purring so loudly right now!"

if you want to read more, here's the official page from the Walker's website. and here's the full list of videos shown last night, with a link to watch them all on the Walker's youtube page. (the People's Choice nominations are here) all the photos are by Craig Lassig and found here- click the link to see more pics, including folks who brought their cats last night, dressed up as cats, or wore their cat-themed attire. and because i can't help myself, 2 of my favorite local tweets about the event:

thank you Walker Art Center. i can't wait til next year...

UPDATE- so apparently, the New York Times sent a reporter to the festival. and there were actual cat celebrities in attendance, including the incomparable Lil Bub. looks like i need to plan better for 2013...

UPDATE #2- a nice little video about the night...