Friday, September 29, 2006

stanley meltzoff

I was first drawn to this guy by his monstrous and goyaesque depictions of primitive subhumans butchering large game. people with heads like burnt matches and smeared faces. but I had no idea he was the fishpainter!unfortunate initials, yes. but he makes quite a cool signature of it.

Zdenek Burian, “paleoartist”

yeah, I got your vistas right here. straight society, heading cross country into the Americas. the fellas here are also movin’ on up the east side. here they come, with even more purpose than Columbus.

this and the rest are by Z. Burian (1905-1981) who people have called “the best paleo-painter” around. I don’t know if that includes all the unnamed cave painters but I do know that he’s Czech. people also say he’s the best at proboscideans so I’ve included an example.

some of my favorites are the ones he does of wooly rhinos and ibexes jumping wide chasms. from what I can tell, he got his start illustrating an encyclopedia of prehistoric life during World War II; when the nazis shut down all the universities and so a lot of people went off to write and illustrate books. aside from his paleo-stuff, Z also illustrated the Tarzan books for Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as books for Jules Verne and Rudyard Kipling. he illustrated over 500 books.

it seems a lot of fantasy artists are really into him too. he’s got a real handle on the epic. and I think he’s got this great kind of Arnold Friberg touch for romanticizing all these creatures and guys. for example, this gentleman-hunter down here conveys a kind of tousled but self-assured, Tom Selleck-esque dignity.

here’s a gallery

and if you go to Stramberk, he’s got a museum

Thursday, September 28, 2006


cripe! I was afraid this would happen eventually. despite my best efforts this blog has gotten all preachy. it was supposed to, if nothing else, offer a little asylum from catechism and myspace quilting. and look what’s now become of things. no, no, it’s true! it’s ok, it’s not your fault; I’m the jerk.

no wonder nobody visits anymore. I haven’t had cause to refill the m&m bowl in the parlor for weeks, even quit eating them myself. I’m not even sure if I have a parlor anymore; I should check.

I’m sorry, you probably just got here and are now feeling like you can’t leave until this is at least somewhat resolved. yes, the timing is unfortunate but let me reassure you, it’s not your responsibility. it’s been building up to this for some time now. actually your hubris in thinking that you can just show up and fix everything at this point is kind of presumptuous, don’t you think? a little insulting. your endeavors to use this situation to work out your own issues of guilt and shame are just coming off as selfish. really, you should go. just take the m&m’s and move along. listen, already they pine for you and they’re ideal for on-the-go snacking! keep the bowl, I don’t care.

but if you’re a regular then please just try to stick this out with me. you have no idea of the vistas that await, panorama of all shades, timeless values for your family…

in the meantime how about some Jeffersonian optimism? that’s it, a brisk dash through the autumn leaves and some Jeffersonian optimism. a hope so big that it embraces all things, all creatures of our still new and burgeoning nation. let it lift our spirits to know that it was only 200 years ago that such a renaissance man and statesman believed in us, progress, change and monsters; believed in his Megalonyx and the giant Paraguayan ground sloths. spurning the oblivion, Thomas Jefferson couldn’t imagine that the providence of God would allow extinction. he sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark out looking for mastodons. and he mailed his extra fossils off to Paris.

I’ll see ya’ later.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

petro-tarsi and clay footings

Vernal is out in northeastern Utah by the border of Colorado. that’s where 3 generations back the Remingtons fled a burning house and mortgage. and that was when my grandma’s family moved out to Salt Lake City. Vernal, Utah is also where they dig up dinosaur bones. in the 50s the National Park Service built a visitor center with this big housing over the bone quarry.
here’s a photo of my brother and I visiting the bones like 20 years ago. one year my wife and I went out there for our anniversary. it was mid-March so we stayed off-season at this frozen hunting lodge/honeymoon cabin with a large heart shaped jacuzzi. there was a rusted flintlock rifle hung over the bedroom door and a big chiffon bow hung over the bed. in the corner, a TV/VCR with 30+ VHS tapes. that was the last time I went out to visit the dinosaur bones. the day was overcast and we were the only ones there. a couple months ago they closed the place down, probably for good.

no fire, no arson and I’m pretty sure that they’d had the place all paid off. the swamp clay that has sheltered the bones for 150 million years has been slowly tearing down the structure from the ground up. it looks as if bentonite, which likes to maintain a certain medium of entropy, is a handier base for holding your bones than for your building. so the floor had become all uneven and caused the rest of the structure to splinter and crack apart, pulling away from the hillside, yanking free a ceiling beam here, buckling a doorframe there, and so on. there’s a disquieting fable in this. but what is conspicuously absent is the place being haunted; lonely dinosaur spirits or the ghosts of individual bones wandering around when the visitors have gone home. I’m sure I did read something about how most of the fossils are sorta radioactive.

Sinclair's petro-animism

Sincair oil is a Salt Lake City-based corporation; they’re siamese twins with Little America. fueling your journey by day and putting you up for the night. in my county there are 7 Sinclair filling stations, which is like 3,500 people to every green apatosaurus. of course there are other filling stations too but this is where I buy my gas and where my car passed safety inspection yesterday. it’s on the corner of what was, until earlier this year, the only stoplight in the whole county, one block from where I live.
photo taken today actually; several hundred sheep ran the red light a few times. with 3 or 4 Peruvian guys riding herd.
of all the oil company mascots around, Sinclair’s dinosaur is by far the boldest illustration of our utilitarian relationship with the primal world. not Chevron, with his gendered cars, alert with eyes. not Exxon’s tiger, grarrr! Shell Oil’s stylized scallop does approach the audacity of Sinclair’s animism.*
But I gotta say that Sinclair is probably my favorite place to get screwed at the pump. I mean, if only the butcher were so candid about “who killed the pork chops?” and about what it’s all about. I mean what this wild mystifying world of stratified wonders means to us: about $60/barrel. when we start scratching around for the stuff in tar sands and shale, that’s when we know it’s time to begin cloning more apatosaurus and bulldozing them deep into mass graves.
*for more on whether oil really comes from dinosaurs, plankton, shells or what, check out Cecil Adams’ the Straight Dope.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

readasaurus & mathadon

harnessing elementary kids’ fleeting zeal for paleontology and channeling it into more marketable and sensible pursuits. like math & even reading.
it’s paper-mâché but the kids I asked said they doubted that there was any candy inside.

so… is print really dead?

Monday, September 25, 2006

mammoths in moth balls

today was Kelly’s birthday and you know what she asked for? season 3 of Northern Exposure on DVD. at first I couldn’t believe it; I thought she meant my birthday. I am very lucky.

did you ever see the episode where they find the wooly mammoth frozen in a glacier and then that one guy cuts it up into steaks? that was more than 10 years ago. (if you’re looking for quality, nuanced and up-to-date commentary on television then this might not be the blog for you. my apologies.) about 20 years ago a bulldozer was working on the Huntington reservoir dam on the mountain above my house and dug up a 10,000 year old mammoth skeleton. they cast a replica and assembled it in the Fairview Museum up the road. you can go stand or read a book in its big shadow; museum donations are voluntary.
x-mas with Kent & the Huntington Mammoth

apparently they’ve found specimens of very well-preserved mammoths out there in the ice. even baby ones. and some with leaves and grass still in their mouths; mammoths that died with their boots on. there is speculation about how thawing due to climate change is beginning to expose a lot of old mammoths. this has got some people thinking about how it might be prudent to clone some long extinct megafauna back into existence to try and make up for all the minutiae we’re presently wiping out.

Discovery Channel thought this over some and they have reduced it to eight steps.

suggested method is as follows:
1. remove soft tissue from one frozen mammoth
2. attempt to identify a complete strand of DNA
3. extract an egg from a female of the mammoth's closest living relative, the Asian elephant
4. irradiate that egg to destroy its existing DNA
5. take the mammoth DNA and insert it into the elephant egg
6. using in-vitro fertilisation, insert the egg into the female elephant
7. wait 22 months (the gestation period of an elephant)
8. raise and care for the baby mammoth

this is a little complicated, especially for the layperson. I think we could save ourselves and taxpayers a lot of trouble by skipping steps 2-7. we just get some of that mammoth hair (yeah, extract it, whatever, do whatever you have to do) and fasten it all over the baby Asian elephant. surely this will take practice and tenderness but not 22 months' worth. look, I know I’m no scientist; this should be no secret by now. but I am a human being and my ideas count too. anyway, I don’t think the scientists understand baby mammoths like hair replacement techs do.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

humanity in getting there, humanity in going

Dennis Bramble at the University of Utah & Daniel Lieberman at Harvard have a different angle.

this is basically what they found.

and the Nature abstract

as a runner, I feel a little better about this one. I think we've always been trying to beat the vultures. but give lawn dart enthusiasts the opportunity and I’m sure they’ll come up with something fairly plausible too. same for bow-hunters, badminton players, whatever: the morphology of the human hand bears a remarkable functional and visual similarity to the badminton racquet. . .

(26.2 / 3:27:27)

Friday, September 22, 2006

aquatic apes & ultrasound

the motel in Logan had a TV. and around 9pm there was a cable show with a man named Jones who has spent a lot of time with dolphins. some of the show he spent talking about dolphin sonar and trying out these custom-made dolphin speak-and-spell devices. but he was quick to confess that we don’t really know what the whistles and chirps mean, so it was kind of like releasing a big praying mantis on the typewriter keys. that is, Jones was the mantis. and however nimble, the mantis doesn’t know QWERTY. fortunately dolphins are non-judgmental and they seemed to appreciate his effort and that he wasn’t blasting them with naval sonar. they even chased a hammerhead shark away from him.

you know, there’s a hypothesis, a Rodney Dangerfield among theories, about people coming from a race of swamp apes. this aquatic ape hypothesis is based on a lot of pretty disparate observations about how people nowadays have a “diving reflex,” enjoy beachcombing, and sometimes turn out to have webbed toes. we can’t twitch our skin very well, we’re not scared of the water and it’s even been pointed out that we do it like dolphins. yeah, I guess that’s right. Anaximander was the first to propose something like this, around 500 BC. and though we don’t credit him for the term “swamp ape,” it seems he may have been onto something. the trouble is that macaques and other primates can also hold their breath. and they say our ears are too big and our underwater vision too poor for the theory to really go anywhere.

that is, unless we’re talking about the Moken Sea Gypsies; who totally rock!

it’s been about 9 months since I’ve been to the ocean myself. but over the last couple months I’ve become more interested in doppler and ultrasound. and I can’t help wondering how it must sound from the inside, through all the membranes and amniotic fluid. it’s probably not exactly a sound so much as a vibe and if they could recreate it, they’d sell all kinds of ultrasound ringtone cards to pregnant women. something between vibrate and an orchestra of crickets or a pod of dolphins, available over the counter at a pregnant woman mall kiosk. the pregnant woman/fetal foto. like the recent marriage of KFC & A&W.

jeez, I’m sorry for that. I’m not sure what happened.

anyway, it’s all really exciting and I think it’s time to start experimenting with some of these sounds, at least at home I mean. a week or so ago we tried looped choruses of strings and percussion amplified to around 100 dB.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I first saw one of these dinosaur targets last summer in the county Pioneer Day parade. it went by on a haywain float with camouflaged guys.
this is where you can also find targets shaped like wild boars, lynx, fat turkeys(easy), sleek turkeys(harder), and deer with their organs painted on the outside. there are less conventional ones too like baboons, pink panthers, carp, cobras and giant poison frogs!*
not like shooting a trachodon or a baby brontosaurus, these are the badass kind of dinosaurs. the sort of dinosaurs that hate freedom and want to destroy your way of life and your babies. this time it’s either him or you.
that’s right, you’re extinct and if you ever so much as think of coming back into this world as our contemporaries, this is what you would have coming to you. right in the rib panel!

there’s something awfully redundant about shooting a dead lizard. but we’re using the appropriate modified Clovis technology and not like howtzers & stuff so the anachronism’s not too glaring.

*the manufacturers support our troops in Iraq, whose target of choice in the 2004 expo was a stegosaurus.

roadkill torture test - no woodpeckers, no problem

*4,000 arrows in a skunk-
shot from a shoot

***** !

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

a curiosity of neighborhood kids

when ninety or so bats are squeaking under my eaves, that’s a colony. and when they fly out they are called a cloud.

and when I was taking these pictures the neighborhood kids began to gather too.