Sunday Links

A roundup of usual suspects, more, and worse…

Derb is on the evo beat– the book he recommends sounds like a winner, and I have put it on my Wish List. But “Intelligent” Design shows no sign of going away– the bill he opposes here just passed.

Are bananas about to disappear from our breakfast tables? A parable of our agricultural state…

Mrs P on the peculiarity (ahem) of our state seal.

LabRat of Atomic Nerds on things that things Stingray is not allowed to do. Gee– sounds pretty normal to me…

When pigs fly: Australia liberalizes its gun laws.

This George Will column touches at least peripherally on something that occurred to me: will Keller, counterintuitively, mean that McCain gets FEWER votes because those motivated to vote for him solely to defend their right to bear arms now feel less urgency?

Is Thomas Jefferson resonsible for the ranchette epidemic?

Albanian virgin warrior women.

Is a “green” convention possible? I find this hilarious. As someone said, the greenest option would be to stay home and do it virtually. Like THAT would happen, with no ego gratification…

Small Polish farms devastated. Subsidies for Big Ag are evil.

Tibet’s parasitic medicinal fungus is discovered, and suddenly everyone wants a piece, with predictable results for the environment. China of course plays a part. Luckily (though not much info is given here), American ingenuity seems to have figured out how to grow it “domestically”.

A mountain lion eats a New Mexican, not too far from here. Though I worry more about them getting my dogs, I’ll continue to go armed in lion country.

An unusual piece for the NYT: hunting hogs with pitbulls! (And no sign of disapproval.) HT Dr Hypercube, whose site has been so full of good things, from books to terraria, you should just go there immediately and follow all his links.

For fans of the American Museum of Natural History in New York (since my childhood not only my favorite museum but the Platonic ideal of a museum) comes this is a splendid link to photos of its history, including all manner of taxidermy, diorama building etc. (HT Brian at Laelaps.) Those interested in such subjects should also check out the latest issue (number 6 ) of the online magazine Antennae which is devoted to new “art” taxidermy. Antennae is a sort of avant- garde scholarly mag about animals, but less forbidding than that sounds. You can download it as a PDF, which is worthwhile for the fantastic images alone.

Bats get no respect, and many are in trouble. Carel Brest van Kempen blogs about them here.

Big changes in bird phylogeny coming after new studies. I can see the parrot- falcon connection but some of these are unexpected! I suspect I will be doing periodic updates. HT John Carlson at Prairie Ice.

Morer sooner I hope..

Heller

Maybe– 2 1/2?– cheers for the Heller decision. A lot of people still want to load it with enough restrictions to make it meaningless, but at least the principle is affirmed.

Funny how so many people want the WRONG interpretation to be kept– even though most scholarly opinion, including that of such honest liberals as Laurence Tribe, affirms “originalist “intent.

Stingray of the Nerds has a more rigorous take here. I’,m inclined to agree, with LabRat’s caveat about violent felons.

Lots on deck, from lizard pix to Albanian warrior virgins to bird phylogeny, soon…

Steampunk?

Could this be the new counterculture? Someone born before 1970, help me out, here. I’m too young to have known the last one.

They call it steampunk, an aesthetic and a subculture “that simultaneously embraces burlap and iPhones.” Whatever it is, I kind of like it.

This more-than-retro computer keyboard first caught my eye.


Then this video showing the artist who created it making a companion flatscreen in similar Victorian fashion. Call me crazy, but that’s artistry. That’s craftsmanship. That’s a $300 Dell monitor with brass fittings and a marble stand!

Maybe this is just the new Creative Anachronism, a twist on something we’ve seen before. Folks who just like being different, camping out in every sense of the phrase.

We like different. No real complaints there.

But where the medieval times and civil war reenactors typically chose to stay “in character,” at least for scheduled events, these steampunk folks seem to pick and choose what they like from both current and their preferred eras, blending them into a full time style of life.

There looks to be some selective rejection of the trappings of consumer culture here, a positive trend. Some effort to exert a little control over the forms. There is some nostalgia here, too, although none of these people can be old enough to have real memories of mechanical typewriters or telegraph machines. So is the nostalgia more basic, a yearning for an analog, push button, personal touch technology that has somehow been buried in decades of molded plastic?

I find this an appealing aesthetic in the way the movies Dune and the more recent Golden Compass married the steam-engine and digital worldviews. It adds a sense of solidity to everyday items we’ve come to see as disposable. In this sense, I think it reflects a similar impulse to the one driving the “slow movement” of organic farming and sustainable living.

Although my interests in falconry, coursing, cooking, writing, gardening, acoustic music, etc., predate my recognition of these activities as possibly “nostalgic,” I can now see that as part of their satisfaction. But they are all also contemporary and living forms of art; they are not merely affectations.

Like this steampunk aesthetic, if I read it right, these hobbies and pursuits are manifestations of an appreciation for real life, tactile and lasting, wherever you find it.

Bookride

Don’t know how I hadn’t found it before (or for that matter exactly how I did) but Bookride may be the best bibliophile site I have ever seen. It is written by a long- time bookseller with a shop in Charing Cross Road, for people like me– people who in the words of Albuquerque bookman Jerry Lane are in need of a “book muzzle”. It is literate, erudite, and at times laughing- out- loud funny. It is very English if you like such things– I do– and utterly without genre snobbery, or any other kind. It impartially covers “literature”, children’s books, crime, sci- fi, science, military books, erotica, photography, and any other category you can think of, from the Renaissance to the present, from books worth $25 to $90,000.

Nigel can really get on a roll. Here he is on a too- detailed description of a battered copy of a 1951 children’s book called Bulldozer:

“It is described in what I call the Alain Robbe Grillet style –i.e. so much detail that it is hard to envision what the thing actually looks like. The cost for this paperback is $70 – take it away Alain:

‘…Fair binding cracking at page 100; heavy spine crease; moderate crease along spine edge of front cover; slight crease along spine edge of back cover; ½” trinangular chunk missing from front fore-edge; ½” closed tear to top back spine edge; 1″ closed tear to top and bottom front spine edges; small, slight crease to back corners; two heavy creases to bottom front corner; heavy crease to upper front corner; rubbing and chipping to upper edge of front cover; rubbing to other edges; rubbing, slight soil to covers; several indentations to front and back covers, two penetrate to next two pages; crease to bottom corner of about a dozen pages; age tanning to pages and inside of covers, pages are not brittle; moisture stain to margin of bottom corner of first 18 pages, does not affect the text; rectangular piece cut out of top corner of front endpaper; ¼” closed tear and crease to fore-edge of last three blank pages…’

He adds: “If the book was stabbed through the middle with a greasy kebab skewer and then dropped in a puddle it could hardly be worse but after all this we are assured ‘…pages are clean, no marks to text, no owner signatures, inscriptions, store stamps, remainder marks.’ I would avoid buying the library of the collector who buys this.”

I also like his concept of what he ends up calling the Mad Hatter Book:

“I’ve been looking for a name for the phenomenon referred to a few days back with Lady Liza Lizard – a the book that became more expensive in web listings as the condition got worse. I wrote: ‘Sometimes you get a perfect vertical gradation where there are, say, 6 copies each more expensive than the other and the most expensive is in the worse condition and as they get cheaper they improve in condition with the cheapest being the best. This is perfectly logical because the more greedy a seller is the more he will ignore the effect of condition on price – so the worst copy is often the most expensive.”

Go to this site if you love books, for the delight. You will doubtless learn more than a few things. But don’t go for investment advice. As Nigel says, the only real advice there is that “The old cliche about buy what you love still holds… “

Lake Ontario Shipwreck from 1780

The deep, cold fresh waters of the Great Lakes seem to provide the best environment for the preservation of old shipwrecks. The latest example is the 1780 wreck of the British warship HMS Ontario recently found at the bottom of Lake Ontario. According to this report the ship is the oldest wreck ever found in the Great Lakes and is in an excellent state of preservation.

I thought this picture was kind of a teaser and have been looking for more. Let me know if you guys find any.