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While summer lingers here with us I wanted to write a quick post about vinoks, the floral crowns of the Ukraine.  Floral crowns are nearly universal, but the vinoks descend from a long lineage of Greek and Byzantine flower crowns which were worn to denote purity (and eligibility) among maidens.

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(Instagram/Treti Pivni)

A group of floral artists and photographers calling themselves Treti Pivni (which means “Third Rooster”) are working to repopularize the vinok in the modern world (and to breathe fresh life into ancient Ukrainian cultural traditions.

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I can’t speak to the authenticity or meaning of these crowns, but the beauty speaks for itself.  I hope you enjoy them.  If so seek out the Third Rooster…er…Treti Pivni.  They are out there right now agonizingly inserting strands of wheat into wreathes for the delectation of the world.

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My mother is an expert at sewing.  When I go home, it is a special treat to visit her store and look at her creative projects.  Textile art has never worked out very well for me and my few early attempts at making things out of fabric always resulted in a mass of tangled thread and ruined cloth. I did once make a pair of colossal pants out of heavy burlap-like poplin for home economics class (I assumed the largest pattern size would be right for me, but these pants would probably have fallen off of Manute Bol), but even those were shoddy at best.  Because of this gaping hole in my creative skills, fabric art has a special appeal for me and sometimes even objects in which I would generally have no interest can be fascinating.  Additionally, my mom is a master who makes one-of-a-kind objects which beautifully meld form, color, and utility.

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Such is the case with this…fabric purse.  I am not really a purse person… yet I couldn’t stop admiring this one because of the amazing Australian fabric which pictures frogs and ants carefully trying to forage without getting too close to the magnificent blue-tongued lizard.  Blue tongue lizards, by the way, are enormous skinks (enormous for skinks–they are still pretty small compared to cement trucks or small dogs) which live in Australia where they forage omnivorously in gardens and impress color aficionados with their dramatic blue tongues.  They are admired and collected as pets because of their mild temper and expressive faces (which somehow combine phlegmatic impassiveness with a gourmand’s interest in the world’s myriad foodstuffs).  All of this is amazingly on display in this had-made purse which my mother designed herself.  It is meant to look like an Australian garden: the lizard is hiding behind a too-small rose, but when you push the flower aside she is revealed in full disaffected glory.

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Mom’s store (Market Street Yarn and Crafts in Parkersburg, West Virginia) is filled with gorgeous fabrics, yarns, and sewing tools.  Mom makes beautiful sample to show the patrons the sort of special bespoke objects which a gifted textile artist (seamstress? tailor? knitter? quilter?) can make.  I have greedily carried off quite a few choice pieces over the years (more on that later), but even in metrosexual New York, I have no need of a beautiful lizard handbag, so I merely photographed it so that you can share the amalgamated wonder of herpetology,  Australian gardens, and sewing.

My mother is also a blogger and you can read about her projects and her flocks of domesticated bird (including the famous LG) on her site.

This post isn’t just about compelling handbags, lizard with cerulean tongues, and selling sewing machines.  As our machines and our industrial mastery get better and better, humankind is moving towards a combined economic and spiritual crisis of what to do with our lives (to say nothing of our livelihoods).   I think the sewing shop and all of the beautiful clothes, quilts, and crafts on display there show how we can escape a robot-driven economic collapse and have better more beautiful lives to boot, but that idea is going to have to wait for another day.   In the mean time, enjoy this lizard purse.

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Jakarta (photo by Josh Haner for The New York Times)

Before I write about my trip home to visit my family (and LG the Canada goose), we need to pause for a moment to gawp in wonder at Indonesia’s decision to move their capital city.   Perhaps you are rolling your eyes in idiference and casting your mind back to Sung Dynasty/Mongol era when the Chinese capital (as variously construed by various factions)  could have been any of 28 locations, or you are remembering 18th century America when the capital meandered around the Mid-Atlantic to such an extreme extent that the national capital was some random bar in Trenton for a while [shudders].  Yet, this is not the era of Mongol conquest, nor the birth of a nation.  Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation and Jakarta is absolutely enormous.  The city proper has a population of more than 10 million people and the full metropolitan area could arguably be the second most populous in the world with 34,365,000 souls packed into 3,300 square kilometers…although, frankly I found that list to be completely baffling and I can’t believe New York isn’t higher (also New York City’s GDP is greater than all of Indonesia’s…so maybe we can afford not to be too tetchy about rankings on some internet list).

Uh, anyway, according to president, Joko Widodo, Indonesia will move its capital city to Borneo over the course of the next decade, as set forth in this not-very-compelling illustration I just made.

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As you can see, Jakarta is in northern Java, so the move crosses about 1250 kilometers (800 miles) which includes the Java Sea.  Imagine if we decided to move Washington DC to Saint Louis, but St. Louis was on a huge island (St. Louis is not on an island, right? I don’t know much about it).

I have never been to Jakarta, but my mother grew up there and her house is filled with furniture and artworks from the great city.  When we visit my grandparents I hear all sorts of tales about Grandpa’s obstreperous mynah bird (that bird evidently had a naughty mouth), the giant cobra in the garden, and the beauty and chaos of 1960s Indonesia.

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Bogor in 1968 (photo by Roy Stall)

Jakarta needs to move because it is sinking fast.  Not only is the Java Sea rising (like all of the world’s oceans) but the city was built on top of a huge aquifer which was seriously depleted by the needs of 34 million people and all of their crops, showers, dishwashers, and whatnot.  The new location is more stable and already has some critical infrastructure in the oil-rich cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda.  To quote Asia Today, “The capital will be built on 180,000 hectares of land already owned by the government, thereby minimizing the cost of land acquisition. Earthquakes, flooding and volcanic eruptions are less common in that area.”

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The current site of the proposed capital

The new capital is currently a rainforest, but the Indonesian government hope to minimize forest loss by keeping the city as dense as possible and by “building green.”  That sounds faintly hopeful, but if Indonesia’s real estate developers are anything like the ones here, it might not work out right in the real world.

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To be honest, I have no idea how to assess this proposal.  Obviously all of Jakarta won’t go to the new location.  It could be the Indonesian president is trying to juice the (moribund) project of building up the economy of Borneo (the majority of Indonesia’s economic output comes from Java).  But whatever the case, and whatever the ultimate outcome, this is not the last instance of this sort of move which we shall see.  The near future will feature massive disruption to seaside communities everywhere in the world (New York has been studying Holland and creating parks and building huge seawalls, but who knows if our plans will hold up?).  Best wishes to Indonesia in their quest.  Please spare the rainforest as much as possible, and let us all know what you learn.

Welcome back! uh…to me, I guess, since you have been here all along, reading Dan Claymore’s posts.  Speaking of which, a big thank you to Dan for looking after the old blogstead while I was home enjoying the gorgeous waning days of summer.  We’ll keep our eyes out for his novels as soon as they hit the shelf (and I’m going to look more attentively at the tops of my sandwiches to see if there is parsley there).   He’s right: terriers and working dogs are super awesome (although so are all of the hunting dogs…and the hounds…and most of the frou frou dogs too: in fact, pretty much all dogs are awesome, full stop).

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It is good and necessary to get away, and as soon as I unpack, I will share some of the lovely and interesting things I found during my trip, but first, I realized I have been remiss in a more fundamental matter.  I built a website for my artwork, but I never shared the link with anyone!  So, without further ado, here is the link to my online gallery of artwork.

If you have a moment to kindly look the site over I would appreciate it enormously (and if you would perhaps leave me some thoughts about how things could be better, I would appreciate that even more).  I work really hard on my artworks, but I try not to make them obsessively autobiographical.  We have had a LOT of autobiographical art lately and it seems like maybe we could refocus a bit on the worldwide ecological crisis, or perhaps on some overlooked non-human characters who would enjoy our attention too. However the art world has sort of a set template (which is known to work), which frames the artist front and center instead of the artwork.  My work instead focuses on a tragic all-knowing fish who reappears in endless protean guises.  This flatfish represents ecology (specifically the complex and sometimes rapacious relationship of organisms to one another) and human history’s role in larger ecological cycles.  It is unclear if people will be able to transfer the strong feelings they have for Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, or Cindy Sherman to a strange benthic fish.

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If this strikes you as contrived, or if flatfish are not to your taste, there are other works from earlier creative periods, and there is even a little biographical section (although the best artists I know are mostly introverts/workaholics who spend the bulk of their time furiously drawing or painting).  Anyway check it out and see what you think!  I am happy to be back and I have some amazing things to talk about.  Thanks again to Dan, and above all, thank you for reading and for you kind attention and your wonderful comments!

 

Like most parts of the human body, the tongue is amazing. It allows us to speak, sing, kiss, and, arguably best of all, or at least most essential, to eat. Not just eat, but to enjoy eating. To savor it. To understand what it is that we are eating.

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It achieves this by the use of five tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.

Salty: The mineral sting of flavor’s foundation.

Sweet: A bit of luxury, a bit of fun.

Sour: That sharp acid burn of depth and complexity.

Bitter: The one that saves our lives.

Umami (savory): The carnivorous urge––your tongue kills.

The ideal meal finds a balance between these five tastes; a feat so difficult, the ability to consistently achieve it is cause for wealth and celebrity.Image result for Anthony BourdainThat guy was cool. 

Today I want to focus on one particular and shockingly overlooked tool in the constant search for beautifully balanced repast.Image result for parsley                                                              Italian parsley

Humble parsley.

If you are anything like me, for too long I regarded parsley to be nothing more than a sprig of annoying salad some lunatic was always sticking on top of my sandwich on the side of my plate.

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Well, for no good reason. Those people WERE lunatics. Or at least dopes.

Turns out, parsley is delicious!

Falling into the bitter range of tastes, it adds that difficult aspect to a dish without making it taste like someone dumped a head of lettuce in your chicken tikka, or mushroom soup, or roasted garlic potatoes, or grilled carrots, or…you get the idea.

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Parsley is also extremely healthy.

A chemoprotective food, parsley helps inhibit the formation of tumors in the human body. It is a source of anti-oxidants, folic acid, and vitamin C, which means it’s good for cardiovascular health and protects against arthritis. Image result for super food

So, next time your local deli guy drops that waxy twig of leafy green on top of your turkey club…don’t throw it away.

Put in your mouth, and ask for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, hierarchy. Where would we be without it? How would we know who is important and who is not? How would we decide which families are worthy of security, luxury, and opportunity, and which families deserve yesterday’s scraps and a kick in the bum?

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We wouldn’t! (citation needed). Hierarchy is the seating chart for civilization. Without it there would be utter, bloody, lunatic chaos and everyone would die (citation needed).

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You can’t let just anyone sit in the front row.

But some annoying people aren’t satisfied with the little they deserve and want to change the way of things. In order to keep things from changing, we invented sumptuary laws.

Image result for sumptuary lawsProbably not the guys who started it, but they look like guys who would.

Sumptuary laws have been around since, well, probably the moment one guy had more stuff than the guy next to him.  The intention of these laws is to restrict consumption. By restricting what people consume, you control what they can wear and eat, where they can travel, what they can see, do, and learn. Even who they can talk to.

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Control what a person can consume (not just buy), and you can more or less control who they can be.

These laws come in very handy when traditional power structures are threatened by unexpected social progress.

In Japan during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868(!)), the merchant class–what we would call middle class–began enjoying an incredible run of prosperity. Quickly their wealth far surpassed that of the samurai, who were considered important aristocracy with status far above the servile merchants. Rules had to be made to maintain order and the honor of the samurai, while also acknowledging that the newly rich merchants finally had some social clout (cash money, honey).

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So, merchants were allowed to wear their fancy clothing with only one sword, while samurai were ordered to wear two when out and about.

The kings of Europe tended to use sumptuary laws in the ways you’d expect from western royalty: stopping other people from wearing or eating or owning anything the King himself particularly favored and thought made him kingly.

Related imageThe law prohibits you being like these dudes. 

In England, Edward II outlawed the “outrageous and excessive multitude of meats and dishes which the great men of the Kingdom had used, and still used, in their castles.”

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Ahem, except of course, for HIS castle.

In 7th century Greece, part of a legal code stated: “A free-born woman may not leave the city during the night, unless she is planning to commit adultery.”

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The usual patriarchal misogynistic nonsense…until that twist at the end!  Okay, ancient Greece, you do it your way.

I bring up Sumptuary laws, because although they have traditionally been used by the rich to maintain their lofty positions, they can also be used the opposite direction.

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At a time when income and wealth imbalances are indeed medieval in scale and severity, perhaps it is time to impose some consumption restrictions once again. Not on people who want to buy a nice pair of sneakers or a fancy watch, but on the those very special ones who can’t think of anything better to do with their multiple billions than make ugly rocket ships and drink the blood of young people.

 

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Today’s subject is somewhat frustrating for me, because as you will see, this is partially about human limitations within an endlessly fascinating and beautiful world. But let not such petty concerns dampen our curiosity.

So…

Birds be invisible, yo.

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In 2007, a group of biologists studied 166 varieties of North American birds that were known for both sexes sporting rather drab plumage. To our eyes, these were rather boring birds to look at. How sad to be one of these unlucky things, cheated of florid feathering in such a vivid world. Poor, poor birdies.

Image result for boring birdsWhat a boring birdie! Boo! Boo! 

How wrong we were.

Turns out 92% of these drab, unpainted creatures were adorned in colors that exist only in the ultraviolet spectrum. They aren’t colorless after all…in fact, they’re downright psychedelic!

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Image result for psychedelic birdsA lilac-breasted roller. It is beautiful, but not even close…

Since humans only have red, blue, and yellow color receptors, we cannot see ultraviolet light. Birds, however, have both colored retinal filters–which increases the colors they can see in the rainbow spectrum–and possess a fourth color receptor in their eyes.

color rangeAn important looking graph. 

A fourth color receptor is a big deal. If you don’t believe me, here’s a depressingly effective comparison for you.

Dogs have two color receptors: blue and yellow. Because they lack that one red receptor, they cannot see shades of red. Now, look around you…notice all the red things…all the reddish things…think of a sunset or sunrise…a rare steak…a rose. To a dog, the world human beings see is unthinkable.

Image result for what dogs see vs what humans see                                                If he only knew, he’d be so much sadder.

The vastness of difference is unfair. 

But the last laugh is not ours.

For us, the world of birds might as well be an alternate reality, an alien planet, a beautiful dreamworld defying all explanation.

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Groovey, man.

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Faaaar ouuuut! 

Maybe it’s the raw jealousy talking, but I feel like another color spectrum might be precisely what humans need right now to snap us out of this collective funk we seem to mired in. A brighter world, literally. 

 

But I’m happy for the birds. I swear…

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour’s boat ride off the southern California coast sits Catalina Island. It is a beautiful place, popular with tourists, sightseers, day hikers, and sport fishermen. The scuba diving is world-class due to the abundance and variety of sea life in the surrounding waters, and no less an authority than Jaques Cousteau stated that it was his favorite place to linger beneath the waves. He apparently had a deep appreciation for the squid that breed near the island, which I find slightly surprising, given the many exotic locales he was fortunate enough to spend his life exploring.

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But the subject of this post is about an unusual land-based animal that inhabits Catalina Island: the North American buffalo.

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And in case you were wondering: no, they have no business being there. 

So how did buffalo wind up on a smallish island off the California coast?

Hollywood!

Image result for silent era film setBuster Keaton shown here for humorous purposes only. He had nothing to do with the buffalo story.

In the early days of the film industry, an attempt was made to film an adaptation of Zane Grey’s Western story THE VANISHING AMERICAN. In order to economically create the proper sense of a wild west setting, buffalo were shipped into Los Angeles, loaded onto a ferry, and transported onto the island where shooting was to commence.

No sooner than the last bison stepped off the boat when the film’s financing fell through, and 14 baffled buffalo were left stranded on the picturesque island. Image result for catalina island buffalo

But the animals shook off their confusion and thrived…and people loved it!

From 1924 to 1996, 59 male bison have been brought in to keep the genetics of the herd robust and healthy, a technique that seems to have worked exceptionally well. In the years following 1969, 2,013 bison have been taken off the island and returned to their natural habitat in the great plains.

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Raw deal! I wouldn’t want to leave warm and sunny Catalina for the cold expanses of Wyoming or Montana, but maybe that’s just me. And Jaques.

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Thanks to the Wrigley family––of chewing gum fame and former owners of Catalina Island––serious efforts have been made to maintain not just the bison, but all wildlife on the island. 80% of the island operates as a conservation area. The rest is occupied by  wealthy hippies and the service workers that surround them.

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The lucky herd that remains on the island sits today at around 150 animals, and continues to enjoy all southern California life offers.

May it ever be so.

But if you ever go to see them, please don’t bother them. In 2018 a man was gored by a male buffalo.

 

 

Hi, all! I’m back again to do some ferrebeekeeping.

I’m going to start with something personal. I just got a dog!

I love dogs, but I prefer breeds that were created to perform specific jobs or tasks. Dogs with natural vocational skills and an innate sense of purpose seem happier, prouder, and um, gooder dogs, than canines bred to be merely decorative accessories. I prefer people who prefer working dogs as well, but that’s another blog…

We often know these occupationally oriented animals by their very names. Retriever. Shepard. Blood hound. All magnificent animals and wonderful pets.

My wife and I just adopted a terrier, and although the terrier’s genetic calling is not proclaimed in its title, every breath this little puppy takes exudes its identity as a vermin killing machine (as evidenced by our torn and perforated feet).

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Terriers are extremely British dogs, designed exclusively for killing rats and chasing down foxes. A dog perfect for arrogant Lords and dirty basement gamblers alike.

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Out-maneuvering rats and out-witting foxes sounds like impossibly difficult work, requiring extremely specialized skills. Skills like small size, intelligence, tenacity, and fearlessness. If this sounds like your dog, you probably have a terrier. Image result for terriers

They are also stubborn and contrary, often making up for their relative small size with big personalities.

The terrier: the-guy-at-the-local-pub-everyone-likes-to-drink-with-but-he’s-always-hoping-a-barfight-starts of dogs.

 

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Once again, it is time to head back to the wild forest cwms of my ancestral homeland.  I will feed LG some corn, walk the golden fields and green forests, and visit my mother’s kinfolks who dwell on the other side of some truly hospitable mountains.  It is going to be lovely. Brooklyn’s urban lifestyle is nonpareil, but sometimes one must escape Flatbush for a bit.

Of course abandoning the old blogstead is not without peril! As soon as Ferrebeekeeper announced these travel plans, economic indicators started blinking red and the market began screaming in protest.  Evidently, without Ferrebeekeeper’s weekly posts, the yield curve inverts and the world economy comes undone.

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A chilling macro vision of the future?

Therefore, I am once again turning over the reins of Ferrebeekeeper to the experienced hands of Dan Claymore, the great speculative fiction visionary whose soon-to-be-released sci-fi epic stares unblinkingly at the wonders and horrors of our AI future.  Perhaps he will elaborate on these dark prognostications in some of his posts, or maybe he will take you back to the fish markets of Tokyo, or to the sketchbook of Japan’s greatest movie director, or to places yet unknown.

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A chilling macro vision of the future?

At any rate, I am sure he will take you on a soaring journey…of the mind.  Also, he will have to bear sole responsible for the world economy for a week.  So please give a hearty welcome to Dan Claymore! Make sure to comment a lot (oh, and please let him know if you have deep connections to the world of science fiction publishing).  I will see you in a week!

Highlander

Dan Claymore? (photo citation needed)

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