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Taningia danae

This is Taningia danae, the Dana octopus squid.  CNN featured a video of one filmed by some sort of submersible off the coast of Hawaii and I thought I would look up the animal and write about it (since the short CNN video contained almost no information…and was bookended by obnoxious ads for IBM office services and dubious stomach medicine).   The squid is a member of the family Octopoteuthidae, a group of pelagic and benthic photoluminescent squid (although some taxonomists question whether the family is valid). Although Taningia danae is not as gigantic as the colossal squid or the giant squid, it is still a very large creature: specimens have been caught which weigh up to 161.4 kilograms (356 pounds) and with a length of 2.3 m (7.5 feet).  These highly intelligent and maneuverable squid sometimes hunt together like wolf packs.  They live on fish and smaller squids of the mid-ocean depths and are preyed on by large powerful marine mammls like sperm whales.

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The squid makes use of intense photoluminescent arm tips for hunting, measuring distance, and communicating with others of its kind. It can emit a brilliant strobe-like flash to stun prey, but it also uses the flashes for mating displays. The squid in the video endearingly came up and hugged the glowing submersible…although maybe that is an unduly cheerful interpretation.  Being hugged by an 8-armed sea monster that weighs as much as a linebacker might be less endearing than advertised.

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An actual photograph of the businees end of T. danae (Image: Tsunemi / Proc. Roy. Soc. B)

 

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Once again it is time to talk about contemporary color trends! I am of course talking about Pantone’s “Color of the Year” proclamation, a transparent (yet important) marketing event in which the great taste-makers announce the dominant color palette for next year’s clothes and consumer goods. Last year, Ferrebeekeeper was quick off the mark to comment on “Marsala” an attractive 1970’s chicken-liver color. The color for 2016 was announced only yesterday. Thanks to our sharp-eyed friend, Beatrix, for pointing out that the pronouncement had been made throughout the land! [Thanks also to Beatrix for noticing that my blue gray bird art is ahead of the fashion curve…at least in terms of color]

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This year Pantone is taking two bites of the great pastel ice cream cone by announcing an unprecedented TWO colors: “Rose Quartz” and “Serenity” a pale grayish pink and a pale grayish blue. This pink/blue dichotomy seems deliberately gendered, and, despite Pantone’s strident assurances that such is not the case, one instantly intuits that Rose Quartz was too “feminine” and Serenity was too bland to escape from committee on their own.

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Naturally, Pantone explains the choices differently. The Wall Street Journal reported on the spin coming from company:

“We wanted compassion, which today a lot of people are looking for,” [Leatrice] Eiseman says. Pantone’s news release describes the colors as “inducing feelings of stability, constancy, comfort and relaxation,” and argues that they “create balance in a chaotic world.”

Pantone also emphasized how ideal the colors are for wearable technology…although since that sort of equipment has not really made it off of the battlefield and on to main street, I have some doubts (unless the armed forces are changing their color palette too).

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To my eye, the colors have some pizzazz–so long as they are next to each other. As a team they evoke the blue and pink combination which Western painters have long used for the Virgin Mary, but somewhat less vibrant and more conservative–like a Fra Angelica painting which has faded and needs a hand from professional art-restorers.

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Adoration of the Magi (Fra Angelica, 1434, tempera on panel)

Pantone walks a fine line between choosing colors which are too bold and colors which are too dull.  There is a quick test for this: would McCarthy throw you in prison for wearing a shirt that color? This year the answer is “probably not.” It is an ominous answer. Years with vibrant colors tend to be good years (economically speaking) whereas years with button-down 50s colors underperform…or worse! Indeed “Serenity” bares an ominous trace of 2008’s beautiful “Blue Iris.” However economists rightly note that the Pantone benchmark is not necessarily born out by broader financial metrics and, indeed, seems like something I made up right now on the spot so I would have something controversial and noteworthy to write about.

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Only time will tell, but I for one am pulling all of my money out the markets…or I would if I had any money…Sadly I lost my “Blue Iris” shirt in 2008 and never got it back. If the “Color of the Year” is to be believed, 2015 was the froth and 2016 will be the harrowing.

 

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Peacock Pheasant (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, mixed media)

The success of my mixed media turkey artwork has led me to make a second cut-out paper bird.  This one is a beautiful peacock pheasant with iridescent tail feathers and with rhinestone “eyes” across his breast.  The real bird which this cutout is based on is the grey peacock pheasant (Polyplectron bicalcaratum) the national bird of Myanmar—a nation clawing its way from horror to democracy.  One of these days I will do a post on the gray peacock pheasant (which is not unlike the beautiful Palawan peacock pheasant, which I already wrote about), however I am going to wait a while.  The actual animal is so gorgeous that it puts my paper cutting to shame….

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Lately I have been fascinated by Mesopotamian art–particularly early Sumerian art.  Here is an inlay carved into a piece of shell from early dynastic Sumer (circa 2800-2600 BC).  It depicts the hero/king/god, Ninurta fighting a seven-headed dragon (ancient Mesopotamians were fascinated with the number seven—which they put everywhere, in case you ever wondered why the week has seven days).  Ninurta was a famous hunter and warrior (who some scholars suggest shows up in the Bible as the hunter Nimrod).  His attributes include a bow and arrows, a sickle sword, and a talking mace named Sharur! [as an aside, I feel like a mace would be a singularly brain-damaged talking entity]  Ninurta killed a sequence of seven heroic monsters in order to receive innovations and magical items (a tale which is echoed in the stories of Hercules and the offspring of Echidna).  One of the monsters he fought was this splendid 7-headed dragon which, in this carving, looks like a cross between a leopard and a seven headed snake.  This amazing mythological creature was quite likely the original version of the Greek hydra.  Additionally a seven-headed dragon has a big scary role in the events of the Book of Revelations—so he is more on people’s minds than Ninurta is, these days.  However all of these allusions and myths are not as important as the vitality and beauty of this amazing artwork—which is nearly 5 thousand years old!

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