Tag Archives: death

Chickcharnie

When sightseeing on the Island of Andros, dear readers, keep your eyes peeled for a creature that Bahamian folk tales describe as a three-toed elf, a red-eyed man-beast or a birdlike creature with a lizard’s tail and a fluffy mane, that likes to hang upside down from trees. Quite monstrous really. And carry flowers or bright bits of cloth, with which you will, if rumors are to be believed, be able to charm the creatures– so long as you treat them respectfully. This is something you will surely want to do.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s quite simple really. If you piss these touchy lil’ buggers off they’ll make your head spin right around. Right on around. Dastardly.

… Of course, should you treat the elf with respect, you may be blessed with good luck for the rest of your natural life—a boon not to be sneered at, in the author’s humble opinion.

Of course, some doubting souls claim that Tyto pollens, an extinct species that is distantly related to the Common Barn-owl ( Tyto alba), is the origin of the chickcharnie myth. Tyto pollens was a large, flightless burrowing owl rumored to have been territorially aggressive, though it coexisted with humans. Rapid deforestation by white explorers in the 16th century led, sadly, to this creature’s extinction… or just to the chickcharnie’s retreat from common view…

Whichever version of the story is true,  the author is ready to chance it, as some good luck– and a beach vacation– would be greatly appreciated.

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Filed under academia, extinct species, folklore, human behavior, Phobia-inducing, Uncategorized

This little fishy went to market

Alright, dear readers, okay. the author has a soapbox to stand on and a bone to pick today: it has to do with fishing ethics and sustainability, and is remarkably un-funny (as opposed to the rest of BV’s posts which are , of course, hi-LAR-ious. ahem) . What does this have to do with the picture above you might ask? well, this photograph was published by the Guardian UK online on Saturday; it depicts a  Somali fisherman hauling his catch to market in Mogadishu.

Quite aside from the sheer visual impact of this photo, with the ruins in the background and  the somewhat blank expression on fisherman’s face, the photo is a visual reminder of the difference between fishing for sustenance–for survival– and for vanity, masking itself as tradition.

Let me backtrack a bit… ah… okay, yes.  Here we go: shark fishing is an important aspect of both commercial and artisanal fishing in Somalia, and studies have not yet shown how dramatically this practice may effect the population of hammerhead, grey, and mako sharks in the area.  Some would like to see even traditional shark fishing banned, in the interest of preservation. Truth be told, the author of BV has not done enough research to say whether she falls into this camp or not.

But she will say this; in comparison to the horrific commercial massacre of sharks that occurred in Somalia in 2008, in which thousands of sharks washed up on shore after having had their fins brutally lopped off by commercial fishermen,  the artisanal practice of going to sea in small outboard-motorized vessels, and hand-carrying one’s catch to market, at least seems to even the playing field a bit.  Would you want to trade places with this man? No. I she a damned sight more respectable than the consumers who like to consume shark fins because.. oh, why was that again? oh, yes, because it helps float their peckers and demonstrates their wealth?

The answer, dear readers, is YES.

Further reading: A grassroots organization in Hong-Kong Boycotts the traditional banquet dish of shark fin soup. HUZZAH for grassroots advocacy.

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Filed under animal imagery, human behavior, marine life, politics, Uncategorized

Lonomia obliqua caterpillar: prickly little beast

In the rainforests of South America lives a fragile and lovely caterpillar–lonomia obliqua— that will kill you if you let it. Be warned, dear readers, that they are often found–or rather, go unnoticed– on the bark of trees, which provides perfect  camouflage for the nasty, homicidal little  lepidoptera.

There they lurk in unassuming wait for travelers to lean against their trees, and to unknowingly brush against one of their numbers. Scientists will tell you that the powerful anticoagulant venom is a defensive mechanism, but the author of BV knows different. Lean in close to your screen, now: they are in league with evil forces and poise dto take over the world. It’s all very hush hush.

Ahem. On a practical note, symptoms of Lonomia obliqua poisoning include “severe internal bleeding, renal failure and hemolysis.”  A lethal dose of the toxin is minuscule, among the lowest of all known toxins. Brush against two of these villains and you’re meat.

To wit: though the lonomia family is responsible for only .1 % fewer toxin-related deaths than are rattlesnake bites,  should you be injected by the caterpillar, it would only take one one-thousandth volume of venom (versus the average snakebite) to do its work. One shudders to think.

So dear readers, should you find yourself in a Brazilian rainforest, mind the trees, forget the snakes, and beware the caterpillars.

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Filed under Phobia-inducing, the insect world, the strange and the beautiful, tiny animals, Uncategorized

BV-worthy new exhibit

 

The California Academy of Sciences has long been beloved by the author of BV, figuring in her elementary school field trips, and, more recently, looming large in her consciousness as an example of stunning sustainable architecture. And a friend is employed there, I am proud to say, as a plant taxonomist– though, traitorous wench that she is, she will soon be abandoning us all to pursue a PhD in Chemistry on the east coast.

Pah. stupid PhD in chemistry. Stupid east coast.

In any case, If you would like to see an exact cast of Ida, the  Darwinius masillae that is a distant cousin of all of us today, you can do it at this exhibit. You can also learn about extreme adaptations (neat!) , reproduction (wink wink, nudge nudge) , and extinction (boo!).

Personally, the author of BV is excited to learn that the state fossil of California, Smilodon Fatalis, will be on display. She is also not a little bemused to discover that california *has* a state fossil.

which led the author on a rather amusing little digression into internet research-land, where she discovered the following:

California has the expected emblems, that is, a  state…

BIRD: California Valley Quail
ANIMAL: California Grizzly Bear
TREE: California Redwood

as well as a

 song
 seal
 motto
colors
nickname
flower
and flag (social studies history reports come flooding back to some of us) 

But is also has a state…

FOSSIL: Smilodon Fatalis (sabertooth tiger, see above)
INSECT: California dog-face Butterfly (well, it’s mother thinks it’s beautiful)
FISH: California Golden Trout
MARINE FISH: Garibaldi
MARINE MAMMAL: California Grey whale
REPTILE: the Desert Tortoise

not to mention:

 gemstone
Gold Rush ghost town
 Silver rush ghost town
grass
military museum
mineral
Fife and drum band (very cool)
Prehistoric artifact
rock
soil (SOIL!?!?! we have an official  SOIL. inconceivable)
tall ship
tartan
and theater.

And a poet laureate to write about all of ’em. (Which she doesn’t, at present. She seems to write a lot about love and death and architecture. But that’s a snap judgement)   

Seriously. Don’t believe me about the soil? look here. And expect a California series on BV in the near future.

sick of my rambling and want to read more about the exhibit? Read the articles from SFGATE and/or SFAppeal.

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Filed under academia, endangered species, extinct species, human behavior

Bovine rampage in Norway: Revenge of the Beef

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In 2002, a series of bizzare bovine incidents in the Norweigian countryside alarmed residents, and alerted us to the  possibility that cows are beginning to strain at the agricultural tether.

The first victim, 23-year old Stian Skoglund, was “bashed and trampled by a furious cud-chewer” according to one publication.  

The incident occurred when Skoglond noticed that one of the cows he was attempting to gather for milking appeared “uneasy.” Apparently under the delusion that he had psychic animal powers, Skoglond “made eye contact with the animal” and “tried to calm it.” Unsurprisingly, the cow “became provoked:”

 “The cow butted me and I fell,” Skoglund reported. Frightened, our failed animal mesmerist scrambled to his feet and tried to make a dash for it, but the cow, undettered, knocked him to the ground. Pleased with her work, she then began—according to the same  Norwegian  English- language publication—to  “hop and trample him,” ceasing only when her victim gave up the fight and played dead.

Skoglund suffered a shattered leg, several broken ribs, numerous lacerations, and multiple contusions. He later wondered whether the attack was done in retaliation for his part in hauling away the body of a calf that had died days earlier.

“Maybe,” quoth our budding animal psychologist, “it was her motherly instincts being aroused. I’ve also heard that I shouldn’t have made eye contact with her, that only provokes them.”  

No shit, Stian.

Other incidents include a 45-year-old farmer who was hospitalized after a cow charged his wife (The farmer found himself in this unfortunate position after he attempted to wave his arms and distract the cow from its attack on his wife), and a nearby farmer who was trampled to death by rampaging bulls.

But by far the most shocking occurrence, dear readers, was the incident of the cow who fell  from the sky and died, nearly taking a car full of Norwegian travellers with her.

The story begins like a joke, with four men traveling in a car and debating the source of “a large shadow in the sky.” Was it a bird? No. a plane? No. nor was it a caped adventurer. It fell to earth with a mighty thump, mere feet in front of the moving vehicle.

Driver Olav Kjeldstad reported that, having barely managed to avoid hitting the mysterious object, he stopped the car and he and his three passengers looked behind them to where a cow lay in the road; according to one passenger, the fallen bovidae bovinae “only managed a few moos before dying.”

Kjelstad admitted that he “was pretty shaken afterwards” but also admitted– with typical Norse pragmatism and an inborn appreciation for dramatic subgenre–  that “we had a laugh as well;” the entire situation, he said, “was tragicomic.”

Perhaps  Kjelstad should have loaned his well-thumbed Companion to Norse Drama to poor Stian Skoglund,  upon whom the subtleties of tragicomedy were clearly lost.

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Filed under human behavior, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Money Might Not, But Barnacle Geese Do (grow on trees)

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 Source: British Library Images Online Copyright Copyright 2004 British Library / Used by permission Manuscript description British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 36r

What medieval-inspired bestiary would be complete without the Barnacle Goose?  According to Sir John Mandeville, who wrote in the 14th century CE, this fantastic creature is–or was– a species of goose that grows on trees. Not in trees, mind you. On trees.

In his Travels, Sir John writes that

 I told them of as great a marvel to them, that is amongst us, and that was of the Bernakes. For I told them that in our country were trees that bear a fruit that become birds flying, and those that fell in the water live, and they that fall on the earth die anon, and they be right good to man’s meat. And hereof had they as great marvel, that some of them trowed it were an impossible thing to be.

We moderns might be inclined to trow it impossible, too. Yet is it possible that the barnacle goose finds its equivalent in recent college graduates, who find themselves suddenly adrift of the parental money tree, and must function on their own or perish?  Indeed, the author sees many subtle similarities. Barnacle goslings grow on trees that overhang bodies of water; the young birds hang from their sprouting-points by their beaks.  When the birds are “ripe,” they fall. The fortuitous ones, which fall into the water, float and find themselves well on their way to healthy, productive adult lives. But those that fall on land– or go to graduate school– face a harder fate. Some die. The 14th century besties apparently all died, as there simply aren’t many tree-growing geese running about these days.

Yet today’s hapless little geese, who unerringly choose graduate studies in something “esoteric” like “Medieval English” or “Philosphy,” may in fact return to the life-giving tree well into adulthood, until the tree at long last shouts:

“Enough already! how long does a dissertation TAKE, anyway?

sigh.

take it from the author of BV, dear readers. major in something useful, like billiards, or graft.

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Filed under academia, baby animals, extinct species, folklore, human behavior, medieval, parasites, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Catobelpas: Head of an Ox, Tail of a snake, Bad dinner date.

To all of the singletons reading this entry: the author of BV would like to caution you about the Catobelpas, for according to Pliny the Elder, this next member of our medieval bestiary series, which is  “of moderate size and inactive with the rest of its limbs, only with a very heavy head which it carries with difficulty and it always hanging down to the ground” is also “deadly to humans, as all who see its eyes expire immediately.”

Others, like Edward Topsell, the 14th century author of The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, rejected notions that the beastie’s breath was the actual culprit, writing that despte its diet of poisonous herbs, “it is more plausible, that like the cockatrice, he killeth by seeing, than by the breath of his mouth, which is not competible to any other beasts in the world.”

Charming.

It is perhaps not terribly unfortunate that the Catobelpas has gone the way of the DoDo.

…And yet… if the author of BV’s  experience in the dating world is any indication,  there may be a significant subgroup of human descendants of the Catobelpas: individuals who slouch, hang their heads, and eat poisonouos herbs (read: garlic) at the dinner table are in no short supply in today’s dangerous dating tundra.

So,  readers: be forewarned! Should you suspect your dinner companion of being just such a shaggy-haired specimen, then when s/he at long last raises his heavy head and gaze at you with his bloodshot eyes, and ask if you want to split the bill, Do. Not. Make. Eye contact.   

Pay for your food and run.

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Filed under academia, extinct species, human behavior, medieval, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized