Sunday, December 27, 2009

the obliging cephalopod

it was the least he could do. the woman had come all this way. flown from John Wayne to Jakarta International. a six hour layover in Auckland. all that unwieldy gear. a film crew to pay. and they had all descend to his seafloor, aping his nimble motions in their own water-softened gestures. rubber tubing. bubbles. how to appease this expectant tribe. he thought a moment.

a humble busk:

he reached for a pair of coconut shells, improvising a bony skull, and and began to moonwalk on two of his legs, retracting the other six.
“oogali boogali,” he said.
“boh bah boh bah boh bah.”
“voh voh voh voh voh.”
“oxygen, apparatus, bastard, MasterCard.”

while his utterances were lost on the visiting pilgrims, the octopus’ dance appeared well-received, as these turned their masked faces to the left and right, a reverse shower of bubbles erupting from their heads and rising out of sight. and thereafter there was much spirited talk of “tool-use,” “hydrostatic bipedalism,” and a great many other -isms. all parties then went their way for a nice seafood lunch.

related: the snout, trash vortex, synanthropy, quadrupedal and bonnetted turks

Friday, December 25, 2009

the repentant apostate

It is said that once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a Catholic (according to some, though others said a protestant) who, assailed by doubts, began to think seriously of becoming a Christian. However, fear that his neighbors would imagine that he had done it just for a joke, or to attract attention, made him give up such a foolish and extravagant plan.

-Augusto Monterroso

the recurrent savior

In the Jungle it is known (or should be known) that there have been an infinity of Christs, B.C. and A.D. Whenever one dies another is immediately born who preaches the same as his predecessor and is received according to the ideas that prevail at the time of his arrival--and never understood. They adopt different names and they may belong to any race, country or creed, since they profess no religion. In each epoch they are rejected; on occasions--the most glorious ones--by violence, be it in the form of cross, stake, gibbet, or ball. This they consider a blessing, as it shortens the term of their mission and they depart assured of the value of their sacrifice. On the other hand, they are saddened by times of "understanding" during which nothing happens to them and they go their way ignored. They prefer active repudiation to passive acceptance, gallows or gunfire to psychiatry or pulpit. What they fear most is to die too old, no longer preaching nor striving to teach those who neither want nor merit guidance; oppressed because they know that like themselves in their turn, someone, somewhere, is anxiously awaiting the moment of their death to enter the world and start all over again.

-Augusto Monterroso

the black sheep

In a far-off country many years ago there lived a Black Sheep.
They shot him.
A century later, the repentant flock erected an equestrian statue of him, which looked very good in the park.
From then on, every time a Black Sheep appeared they were promptly executed so that future generations of common, ordinary sheep could also indulge in sculpture.

-Augusto Monterroso

related: the witness, nochebuena, piñatas

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

canyon, Indians, booze, birth, Indains

Sunday, December 24. I said Mass. We set out from the foot of the willow at half past nine in the morning, and halted about two in the afternoon in the same canyon, at a dry arroyo not far from a small spring of water, having traveled some four short leagues to the west-northwest.


Near the spring by the road we saw a village of Indians perched in the crags, from which they watched us pass. The commander called them and showed them glass beads but only one woman had the courage to come near. The commander gave her a string of beads. Shortly before halting near the little spring of water we saw another village whose houses were some half subterranean grottoes formed among the rocks and partly covered with branches and earth, like rabbit warrens. The Indians came out of their grottoes as if they were angry, motioning to us with the hand that we must not go forward, talking in jargon with great rapidity, slapping their thighs, jumping like wild goats and with similar movements, for which reason since the other expedition they have been called the Dancers. One especially, who must have been some little chief, as soon as he saw us, began to talk with great rapidity, shouting and agitated as if angry, and as if he did not wish us to pass through his lands, and jerking himself to pieces with blows on his thighs, and with jumps, leaps, and gestures.


I learned at night that because it was Christmas Eve refreshments were being served to the soldiers; and in order if possible to prevent drunken carousal, after dinner I said to the commander:
"Sir, although my opinion is of no value and I do not cut any figure here, I can do no less than to tell you that I have learned that there is drinking today."
"Yes, there is," he replied.
"Well, Sir," I continued, "I wish to say that is does not seem to me right that that we should celebrate the birth of the Infant Jesus with drunkenness."
"Father," he said, "I do not give it to them in order that they may get drunk."
"Clearly this would be the case, "I said to him, because then the sin would be even greater, but if you know that they are sure to get drunk you should not give it to them."
He said to me then, "The king sends it for me and they deliver it to me in order that I may give it to the soldiers."
"This would be all right at the proper time," I replied. "But I understand that to be in case of necessity."
"Well, Father," he said, "it is better that they should get drunk than to do some other things."
"But, Sir," I replied, "drunkenness is a sin, and one who cooperates also sins, and so if you know that a person will get drunk on so much you should give him less or none at all."
He did not say any more and I went to my tent without being able to prevent this disorder, because the commander had already made up his mind to distribute the liquor. And so he immediately gave it to the people, a pint to each one, saying in a loud voice:
"Be careful that you don't get drunk, because if any one is found drunk outside his tent I'll punish him."
With this he satisfied his conscience, and the people that night were very noisy, singing and dancing from the effects of the liquor, not caring that we were in so bad a mountain in the rain, and so delayed with the saddle animals and the tired and the dead cattle. Such is the rule of those absolute lords, in evidence of which I have related this incident.

Monday, December 25.--Because a little before midnight on this holy night of the Nativity, the wife of a soldier, the one whom I mentioned yesterday, happily gave birth to a boy, and because the day was very raw and foggy, it was decided that we should remain here today. I therefore had an opportunity to say three Masses, and after them I solemnly baptized the boy, naming him Salvador Ygnacio. The day continued foggy until the afternoon, when the sun shone a little, and the night began somewhat fair. Because the place is very short of water and pasturage the cattle went ahead on the trail. Today I was slightly relieved of my ills.
So savage and wild are the Indians of these sierras that last night they left their huts and climbed up in the rocks, perhaps fearful at seeing that we had stopped and did not go forward as they signaled us to do. Although they have seen that nobody has done them the least harm, yet very rarely have they come down to the floor of the canyon; but some have permitted themselves to be seen on the tops of the hills among the rocks. From this I infer that although an attempt might be made to found in this neighborhood a mission for the Jecuiche tribe, in this case it were possible it would be as difficult to reduce these Indians to a settlement as to confine wild sheep to a domestic fold; for it will not be easy to get them out from among the rocks, unless God does it all, for they climb with the ease and speed of deer.


-Padre Pedro Font

related: nochebuena, the witness, scuffle on Baffin Island

Thursday, November 26, 2009

this ghost of the school-boy pie

"Cattle are very fond of pumpkins; it is pleasant to see what a feast the honest creatures make of them in the barn-yard; they evidently consider them a great dainty, far superior to common provender. But in this part of the world, not only the cattle, but men, women, and children — we all eat pumpkins. Yesterday, the first pumpkin-pie of the season made its appearance on table. It seems rather strange, at a first glance, that in a country where apples, and plums, and peaches, and cranberries abound, the pumpkin should be held in high favor for pies. But this is a taste which may probably be traced back to the early colonists; the first housewives of New England found no apples or quinces in the wilderness; but pumpkins may have been raised the first summer after they landed at Plymouth. At any rate, we know that they were soon turned to account in this way. The old Hollander, Van der Donck, in his account of the New Netherlands, published in 1656, mentions the pumpkin as being held in high favor in New Amsterdam, and adds, that the English colonists — meaning those of New England — "use it also for pastry."
"What bread-and-milk, what rice-puddings, can possibly equal the bread-and-milk, the rice-puddings of the school-boy?
"But this ghost of the school-boy pie, this spectral plum-pudding, sitting in judgment upon the present generation of pies and puddings..."

Susan Cooper
Rural Hours

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Conrad Gessner - Historiae Animalium

Conrad Gessner
Historiae Animalium (check it out)

also, for a fabulous little bestiary of creatures--mostly piscine--by Gessner and his ilk, don't miss Gunther's post from earlier this year on Miszellen(~miscellany?).

more sea monsters here: cryptomundo.

and, lastly, it seems june '03 was a good month for monsters on giornale nuovo. actually, upon closer inspection it seems fair to ask, what month wasn't a good month for monsters over there?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

fizzgiggious fish, &c.

The Fizzgiggious Fish,
who always walked about upon Stilts,
because he had no legs.

There was an old man in a tree,
Whose whiskers were lovely to see;
But the birds of the air pluck'd them perfectly bare,
To make themselves nests in that tree.

The Tumultuous Tom-tommy Tortoise,
who beat a Drum all day long in the
middle of the wilderness.

There was an old person of Crowle,
Who lived in the nest of an owl;
When they screamed in the nest, he screamed out with the rest,
That depressing old person of Crowle.

There was an old person of Dundalk,
Who tried to teach fishes to walk;
When they tumbled down dead, he grew weary, and said,
"I had better go back to Dundalk!"

Edward Lear
from More Nonsense

(and check out the nonsense botany on Project Gutenberg)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

snipe hunt

"The gnat chasers, which likewise serve other purposes, are called cucurios, and are winged worms, inoffensive, a little smaller than butterflies, and resembling rather a scarabaeus, since their wings are protected through a tough outer covering, into which they are drawn when the insect stops flying. These insects, like the fireflies we see shining at night or certain luminous worms found in hedgerows, have been supplied by provident nature with four luminous points, two of which occupy the place of the eyes, and the other two are hidden inside the body under the shell, and are only visible when they put out their little wings like the scarabs, and begin to fly. Each cucurio thus carries four lanterns, and it is pleasing to learn how people protect themselves against the pestiferous gnats, which sting every one and in some places are a trifle smaller than bees.

"As soon as one knows that these dangerous gnats have invaded his house, or wishes to prevent them doing so, cucurios are immediately procured by the following artifice; necessity, the mother of invention, has taught this method. To catch cucurios, one must go out at nightfall, carrying a burning coal, mount upon a neighboring hut in sight of the cucurios, and call in a loud voice, "cucurios, cucurios!"

-Pietro Martire d’Anghiera
De Orbo Novo

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

fish stories

"A certain cacique of the region, Caramatexius by name, was very fond of fishing. Upon one occasion a young fish of the gigantic species called by the natives manatí was caught in his nets. I think this species of monster in unknown in our seas. It is shaped like a turtle and has four feet, but is covered with scales instead of shell. Its skin is so tough that it fears nothing from arrows, for it is protected by a thousand points. This amphibious creature has a smooth back, a head resembling that of a bull, and is tame rather than fierce. Like the elephant or the dolphin, it likes the companionship of men and is very intelligent. The cacique fed this young fish for several days with yucca bread, millet, and the roots the natives eat. While it was still young, he put it in a lake near to his house, as in a fish-pond. This lake, which had been called Guaurabo. was henceforth called Manati.

"For twenty-five years this fish lived at liberty in the waters of the lake, and grew to an extraordinary size. All that has been told about the lake of Baiae or the dolphins of Arion is not to be compared with the stories of this fish. They gave it the name of Matu, meaning generous or noble, and whenever one of the king's attendants, specially known by him, called from the bank Matu, Matu, the fish, remembering favours received, raised its head and came towards the shore to eat from the man's hand. Anyone who wished to cross the lake merely made a sign and the fish advanced to receive him on its back. One day it carried ten men altogether on its back, transporting them safely, while they sang and played musical instruments. If it perceived a Christian when it raised its head it dived under water and refused to obey. This was because it had once been beaten by a peevish young Christian, who threw a sharp dart at this amiable and domesticated fish. The dart did it no harm because of the thickness of its skin, which is all rough and covered with points, but the fish never forgot the attack, and from that day forth every time it heard its name called, it first looked carefully about to see if it beheld anybody dressed like the Christians. It loved to play upon the bank with the servants of the cacique, and especially with the young son who was in the habit of feeding it. It was more amusing than a monkey. This manati was for long a joy to the whole island, and many natives and Christians daily visited this animal.

"It is said that the flesh of manatis is of good flavour, and they are found in great numbers in the waters of the island."

-Pietro Martire d’Anghiera
De Orbo Novo

Thursday, October 15, 2009

...and hemispheres

In that hemisphere I saw things incompatible with the opinions of philosophers: a white rainbow was twice seen around midnight, not only by me, but also by all the sailors. Likewise we have frequently seen the new moon on that day when it was in conjunction with the sun. Every night in that part of the sky innumerable vapors and glowing meteors fly about. A little while ago I spoke of the hemisphere, although it is not properly to be spoken of as a complete hemisphere, comparing it to ours; yet since it approaches such a form, such may we be permitted to call it.

-Amerigo Vespucci
from Mundus Novus

Monday, October 12, 2009

of hemispheres

Ptolemy and the other geographers believed that the world was spherical and that the other hemisphere was as round as the one in which they lived, its centre lying on the island of Arin, which is below the Equator between the Arabian and Persian gulfs; and that the boundary passes over Cape St. Vincent in Portugal to the west, and eastward to China and the Seres. I do not in the least question the roundness of that hemisphere, but I affirm that the other hemisphere resembles the half of a round pear with a raised stalk, as I have said, like a woman's nipple on a round ball.

-Christopher Columbus
October 14, 1492

related: reconquista 84627

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

pterodactyls, & the universe as a wax cylinder

the prevailing wind at our new place is a pretty strong zephyr, out of the west. and when we moved in earlier this month, one thing on the fix list was the back fence, which was leaning into our yard at about a 60 degree angle. so as we’ve gotten into the project this week, with a lot of leaning on pry bars. trying to dig out the former post-footings has also involved a little speculative archeology: “what the hell were they thinking?” and so on.

Archimedes was like:
just give me a big crowbar and somewhere to stand; watch me rock your world.

now people are like:
just give us the right tuning fork to strike the earth and we’ll recall all reality.
past & present.

the tuning fork’s probably a bad example. I’m thinking it would probably have to be something more like a tremendous steel-tooth comb (as from a music box) or a giant player piano.

although the instrument’s still a work in progress, in the mean time, we’ve at least found some more rock to drag across it. in France they’ve turned up 150 million-year-old fossilized lakeshore, printed and stippled with pterodactyl tracks: dance steps where, one day, a small dinosaur came in for a serviceable, if not very graceful, landing. how do you like that?

anyway, the fence should be about done by the weekend.

related: the witness, martin prothero, tracks, humbaba, cherubim, chainlink, the dawnland, tiktaalik, petro-tarsi & clay footings, mammoths in moth balls, hoboclowns & coelacanths

new digs - 89503

I’m trying to come up with anything more American than walking into a Sears, buying a brand-new washer and dryer, and having them delivered to your home. (I guess maybe only voting or NASCAR.) they’re the front-loader kind with the window, so you can sit down and watch your clothes roll around like people scuffling on daytime TV.

as we settle in, the kids make due with bivouacs, hobo camps and other provisional shelters.

Tom in a box

Ash builds her own.

and here’s the moon from our backyard earlier this month.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

last week's eclipse

situated as I am in the western hemisphere, it was sure nice to see all the AP & Reuters photos of last week's eclipse posted on I guess it was 6 minutes long over parts of India & China, the longest eclipse anticipated this century.

it's also been sort of fun -in more of a petty, less cosmically inspiring way- to skim over the hundreds of things said in multiple languages in response to the truly amazing photo collection. aside from effusive gratitude, the comments generally seem to follow one of a couple basic threads. bickering: whether it's the Ganges or Ganga, whether Hyderabad is in India or Pakistan, and so on. and evangelism: Islam, Christian, anti-Christian, math & physics, and so on.

as if a "one planet, under heavenly bodies, with sunlight and darkness for all" weren't more than enough for us to just agree on and be thrilled with. (and then there's the occasional wild posting of stuff like lyrics from an entire Pink Floyd song.)

anybody else ever seen an eclipse? I've just seen a couple partials. the first was one morning they let us out of junior high. I held up a sheet of looseleaf and we watched 3 crescents form in the shadow it cast. the second was one evening, 7 or 8 years ago from my lawn.

anyway, for those of us who missed this last one, we can try to console ourselves w/ this video.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

a final pitch for next Saturday

I first announced this last month and if it turns out to be even half as much fun* as the deal last week with the suits, then you won't want to miss it. a week or so ago I went and drove the course; it's pretty spectacular. (did I mention mostly downhill?)

a few things you can expect along the way: a handful of small emerald lakes, larks and larks, wildflowers, spruce, pinyon, aspen, juniper, snakes?, a few 4 wheelers (just being honest here, Saturday in Sanpete County), deer, the bleached bones of sheep & elk, and a lot of sky.

again, it's this Saturday, July 25 (around 10am). please feel free to run all or just part of the course, arrange a relay, do it on your bike, whatever. also feel free to contact me w/ any questions.

english dot brooks at snow dot edu

* yes, I can guarantee it will be at the very LEAST half as fun as the suit run.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

4.01k suit run roundup

for anyone who missed the important meeting this last Saturday, here are a few photos, beginning w/ everyone starting up on Wall Street:

summary: 20+ real serious types, well-groomed, fancy photographers, wingtips, blouses, bluetooths(blueteeth?), a stroller, all kinds of jaywalking, conference calls and networking, an unscheduled jaunt through the farmers market, snacks, high-tech prizes, a plazaful of tiny geysers, a bride and groom (?), God Bless America (??), handshakes. "thanks for coming." breakfast.

for more detail, see the latter half of these July pics on picasa. this "the professor" character has also posted some real-nice professional quality photos over here. and there are plenty more photos all over facebonk, I recommend starting w/ Abigail's gallery.

if you've got photos too, please post any links in the comments section. congratulations all; a very productive morning.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Shopping for Independence Day

You need certain things for the marinade:
Ginger root, olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, Coca-Cola.

Giant plastic letters mounted to the concrete above the entrance.
The letters are sky blue, and a pair of crows sit atop the “a”.
Iridescent, mouths open, they pant in the shimmering heat.
One hops onto the r, the m, a, c, y, and flies off.

Deep inside, way in back, there’s a shallow marine tank.
Surrounded by schools of static, headless fillets.

Bubbles. The lobsters wait like strangers, cocks and hens
Each for its day, to whistle and snap like firecrackers.
Fastened to the armored wrist of one, a barnacle.
Still pulsing, it reaches and strains, licking the desert suspension for particles.

An analogue watch, set to a more tidal rhythm. A lunar calendar
beating within our Gregorian grid of bank holidays.

But there we go, anthropomorphizing. I pluck the last ingredient-
An 8 ounce bulletshell, red, and white stripes- from the display;
It releases so easily from the plastic cuffs, like a lowest-hanging fruit.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

7/25 - Wasatch Plateau Skyline Run III

OK, this will be a little shorter than the last couple years (just over 21 miles). as always, you can run it, walk, mountain bike, do a relay, whatever. and, because of the length, it makes a great training run for anyone doing a Marathon in the fall (St. George, Logan, etc.).

here's a map of the general neighborhood.

and here's a map of the course. this time we're starting at the top of Ephraim Canyon, running the Skyline Drive (about 10,000 ' elevation) to the top of Manti Canyon, and then heading down into town. since most of the route runs down Manti Canyon, this will be mostly a downhill course. (hooray!)

here are the posts detailing similar runs from the last couple summers: 2008, 2007

and for more details you can follow this link to the of course it's legal event disclaimer and FAQ's (a la Gil Scott Heron)

otherwise, let me know if you're in or have any other questions. things will probably start around 10 am.

7/11 - Suits Are Kicking Up the Hill 4.01k

it's been a while since I can remember having worn a suit to anything. (Cate, maybe to your wedding a couple years ago.) but, for the last several months I've had this persistent longing to put on an old suit (yeah, I know) and go run somewhere. maybe even with a briefcase in hand, some sort of styling product in my hair. somewhere public. you know.

I had something like a 5k in mind. and I was really trying not to put too fine a point on it, but a friend suggested making it a 4.01k. (you know, suits.) and who could resist that?

anyway, here's the plan:
a little over 4 kilometers (run, walk, both, whatever)
wear a suit, tie, slacks (blackberry, cufflinks, etc. again, whatever, you get it.)
if you could find an old race number or two to pin on that would also be handy.

Saturday July 11, around 8 am. (let me know if you're interested and we'll work out the details.)

of course, this is not an organized "race".
so there's no fee. no t-shirt. no trophies. no cops. (hopefully no cops.)

we'll be starting up at the Utah State Capitol, running basically down State Street to 300 S. then taking a right over to 400 west before wrapping back up north for the final three or so blocks. although not required, jaywalking is of course heartily encouraged. here's the map.

as you look things over, you'll also notice that the run finishes in the middle of the big fountain at the Gateway Mall. from there maybe we can go for breakfast somewhere.

any questions? who's in?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

another post about running

the desert thunderstorms have let up for a couple days and it's definitely summer. so I'm planning a couple runs for next month that I want to sell you on. when talking with friends, sometimes I tend toward a kind of bossy moralizing about "why you aught to run". but instead of doing that here why don't I direct you to last month's Radio West show where Doug Fabrizio talks with w/ Christopher McDougall about his book Born to Run.

it's a pretty great interview despite Doug Fabrizio's signature half-question-followed by statement-followed by slight backpedaling-followed by surprisingly keen observation-concluded with either totally leading or vaguely open-ended question style. they cover everything from human anatomy, to the Tarahumara/Raramuri runners of the Sierrra Madre, to those funny glove-shoes with the toes that you see people shopping in when you go to Whole Foods. maybe best of all, they reference some of Running After Antelope by our (Utah's) own beloved Scott Carrier. (for more of this latter piece check out one of these four This American Life shows.)

related: getting there, going

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

reconquista 84627

I thought this little story from the Salt Lake Tribune might be of interest to some.

from there it looks like it got picked up by the AP and went out on Deseret News, KSL, Daily Herald, City Weekly, Fox and a couple blogs.

and since then, the SL Trib went and did an editorial too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

3 haiku: early summer

pollen clouds blowing
from the trees, like golden smoke
or a solar wind.

runoff flows over,
and she still tries to unstop
our flooding culvert.

we take a last run,
chase peacocks, deer, and make your
headwreath of bindweed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

all the weekend tee vees

yard sale, Saturday. $4-5 hundred? haggling. rain.

memorial day. Six-Mile canyon. orange peels (lichens). Elmer's glue.