23 December 2012


 Beauty that impoverishes words exists everywhere, but most often, in the most reviled of places.

20 December 2012

Island halo or huh?

This morning this island looked very very good, or just about to be invaded.

18 December 2012

What doesn't kill you makes you curiouser.

This is the sausage blubber egg mass of the sea snail Polinices sordidus or P conicus (I apologise for my confusion here. I don't know enough to be more specific.) 'Blubber' is an inaccurate term altogether, that opaque white solid mass of fat—but colloquialisms can never be accused of being wrong. This bag of jelly is lipid-free, or at least tastes as such, is quite delicious, and since there is no grain, breaks as easily as any jelly does, into amorphous shapes—each one catching light and glaring out in ways that chandeliers have the rep for, but are feinting imposters compared to this uncelebrated highly perishable blob.
"The oxygen transport physiology of sand snail Polinices sordidus egg masses was investigated using oxygen microelectrodes and open-flow respirometry. P. sordidus eggs are laid in a jelly matrix that rapidly absorbs water and swells into a horseshoe-shaped sausage. The average diameter of these sausages is 37mm. Eggs are enclosed in capsules that are distributed throughout the jelly matrix, but 65% of the eggs are located within 3mm of the outer surface. There is no circulatory or canal system within the matrix so all gas exchange between developing embryos and the environment must occur by diffusion through the jelly matrix."
— from the Summary in David B. Booth's paper, "Oxygen availability and embryonic development in sand snail (Polinices sordidus) egg masses", The Journal of Experimental Biology 198, 241–247 (1995)

We're also called 'sausage jellies', which pleases us more.

Tossed in a salad bowl with greens, what could be prettier? The taste is purely of the sea, absolutely clean seasalt and nothing else except the light refreshment of jelly. There are only two problems that I see with this as a perfect food. First, it always bears small grains of sand throughout the matrix, which means that those of us who have teeth, must swallow but not chew. And second, I don't have a clue about its possible toxicity. Not that it's ever worried me. Grazing in moderation is only moderately deadly.

See also,
Harry Breidahl's page: Sausage jellies and sand collars
and for more fascinating egg cases, his Southern Shores Mollusc Egg Survey

14 December 2012

Camera shy? Consider the python

This diamond python (Morelia spilota spilota) was sunning itself on a forest path today, and felt exactly as I do when photographed. Even a snake is an individual, a truth which sadly, is not self-evident. Although a brown snake and I startled each other once under a medlar tree while we both hunted for wayward-hens' eggs—it rearing up in a sideways S and me rearing back on my heels—this is the first time I've seen a python exhibit this response of fear and if not loathing, definitely admirably dangerous attitude. Usually they do as redbellies do, but slower—slip off into the bush. This one literally never wavered, though its blue tongue flickered.

While all snakes are beautiful, these glossy diamond pythons are my favourites. Although my photographs didn't do it justice, once I came upon one looped around a small acacia here, and the light gold you see on this one was, in that individual, aquamarine.

09 December 2012

Butterflies are better at foxing

The phrase "to fox" is completely wrong. Butterflies are far more capable. The other day an innocent insect-eating professional was flying like a fool, snapping its beak with a click as resonant as Scrooge's pocketbook. Each time though, that beak was left empty and there probably wasn't much in the bird's stomach, as the butterfly flopped in front of the big sleek hunter as butterflies do: flowsily, dropping between sloppy flaps of its gaudy wings, rather like Isadora Duncan making toast and tea.

The insect was infuriating. Beautifully stupid-looking and utterly insouciant. I could just hear it thinking, "I might look like I'm just alive for looks and don't have a thought in the world, but look at you, so determined, so single-minded. Hunters need glasses if they can't score with passes."

And so, to another truth about these beasts. They "butterfly us" with their names, stage or otherwise. This one might be a Swordgrass brown (Tisiphone abeona) and my name might be Doodls*8hceqauigyhi. I wouldn't stake my next crumb of dry crust on stating definitively anything about its particulars, even what's up with that asymmetrical costume. Whatever the name, not to mention sex, this is an unusually foxy butterflydy flitterer.

You might be interested to know that my camera burped after catching this. It felt so self-satisfied. But cameras are stupid, aren't they? When butterflies invented them, the butterflies programmed the machines for ignorance, so cameras still don't know they are borne to 'capture' butterflies as they pose.

08 December 2012

A fish's teeth

This fish's teeth are so chipped, that one wonders what it ate. It looks like it liked to nibble hard taffy, or rocks.
Partly filleted, it had been tossed on the beach just beside the fish-cleaning sink in the harbour. I don't fish any more, so don't know what this is. Can anyone help? Its scales are the size of guitar picks.

07 December 2012

Octopus and gargoyle -- Jeff Sypeck's book of poetry treasures

I most definitely recommend (roll of sticks on strung skins ... blare of a serpen) — for everyone who loves both gargoyles and poetry with rhyme, song, wit, pun, and endless imagination, Jeff Sypeck's Looking Up: Poems from the National Cathedral Gargoyles.

No rational explanation
"I’d no idea" he wrote, "there was an audience for such unfashionable folly: three years of light, occasionally obscure, medieval-influenced neoformalist verse...Some books you plan to write; others simply happen."

This book was, quite simply, demanded!

The poems and his excellent photos of the many gargoyles go page in page.

Whet your appetite with "An octopus reappraises her lobster" and seeing the two hanging out together.

 Get the book. It's a collector's item that you will break the back of, you'll enjoy it so much.

02 December 2012

The three dots’ burden: ellipses and meaning

The joke:
"To make a long story short," said the senator, " . . ."

The news report:
The prime minister spoke of "remarkable results", but later in the speech acknowledged criticism, saying "But the job we have set ourselves...is not yet complete."

And now, consider the the plight of Ephemera Hunt, when upon bended (replaced) knee, 89-year-old Dempster Kneeduluck III proposed, his infatuation with Ephemera's skills as a game creator having won both his heart and his hope that with his billions, she might not only consider writing him into her next adventure, but teach him how to hear anything on his iphone.
"Marry . . . Us?" she said, choking on her drink. "That's so cool! Nobody'll believe . . . actually, you know, no thanks." For of course, no matter how attractive the offer, she really couldn't consider a man so old, he still used email. She couldn’t look Kneeduluck in the eye, so she gazed instead, into the black depths of the olive in her cocktail.
“You won’t get sympathy from me,” the olive shot back. “Remember the last time you tried crowdsourcing to fund your little games?” Ephemera couldn’t argue, and Kneeduluck wasn’t used to taking ‘no’ for an answer, so . . .
Above are examples of how ellipses can look in fiction, and (let's be generous when it comes to politicians' speeches) non-fiction. See the broad expanse in fiction? And the little dots all huddled together in the harsh world of reality, where three dots must work for cuts?

The problem with ellipses is that they serve more than one function, and those functions are diametrically opposed, so a confusion has naturally come to be as to how they should be formatted internally, and placed in relation to other text.

I've named the different types, but these names are only written in figurative pencil because I wouldn't dare to presume. They should of course, already have names, but I’ve never found them. And if their names are old and human-like, these names are the equivalent of Smith and Cooper, for the different jobs ellipses need to do should determine their names and be crucial in decisions made as to the visual representations of ellipses at work.

At present, the reason ellipses look different depending upon the setting is just a matter of which agony uncle or aunt in Chicago or Oxford or some ethereal but militaristic place is followed for everything an ellipse has to do, regardless.

If however, the different uses were given graphic freedom to serve, they could enhance the text, as any good punctuation does. The different ellipses should be treated as distinguished beings on the page—as distinguished as a full stop and comma, an exclamation mark and a question mark; even for that thingie: those two dots, one upon the other as differentiated from the dot above the comma.

The non-fiction ellipsis shows that there has been a cut made and fat excised, so these little dots are the bandage bridging the missing flab. There is no need for the bandage to be large, and indeed, it's a nuisance, so a cramped little...will do nicely, and even that grotesquery from Microsoft works fine.
Another, who is annoyed that his girlfriend earns more than he does, complains, "All the things we need to be good at to thrive in the world...are things that my female friends and competitors are better at than me."
The Economist, quoting from Hanna Rosin's The End of Men: And the Rise of Women
The extended time ellipsis (probable name: Extenson) has two branches: the dialogue ellipsis and the continuation of activity ellipsis. Both spend their time doing what soldiers do in war, without having to do the hard part. They sit around.

  • The dialogue ellipsis sits in for a pause in speech.
  • The continuation of activity ellipsis sits in for a dialogue or statement that continues without us suffering the tedium of reading it. 
The visual symbols for both of these Extensons should be, I think, like the liquid lunch. Well spaced. And that really should include, in the case of an ellipsis coming at the end of a sentence, a space before it just as there is on both sides, within a sentence. If we think of an ellipsis being 'a word' as Robert Bringhurst says it is (a concept that I agree with), then of course there would be a space before the ellipsis at the end of a sentence, with a quote mark or a question mark added with no extra space, just as there isn't any space between the last letter of this sentence and its final punctuation solution.

So then we come to the spacing of the dots within the ellipsis. If they are to look like what they are doing instead of faking it, those layarounds, the Extensons, should be well splayed out. Having their dots set a whole space apart might be too great these days (a stinginess I decry, but then that might be pure old-fashionedness, just as I prefer every syllable of 'constitution' pronounced, yet the Washington elite doesn't have time for that, only stopping for 'cons'tushn'). However, setting the dots a half-space is a choice that many good typesetters have employed to excellent effect.

At the moment, the only diacritic available in many fonts is what I would call The Nonfiction cramped little thing, in which the dots are even closer together than if they were put in as three dots without spaces.

Finally, why stop there? Let's extend meaning, as we once felt free to with text, and are doing now with texting.

"To make a long story short," said the senator, ". . . ∞"
And if Americans knew that in other English-speaking countries, a 'period' is a 'full stop', they might laugh too, at the message that hasn't made the news, in these posters.

Maybe some did laugh.
In the last weeks of the campaign, . evolved to !

01 December 2012

A most excellent gift for armchair explorers

The perfect mix of science, exploration, and exhuberant extravagance of the imagination.

If you marvel at the monstrous details of life, such as teeth (a visual preoccupation of McB's) and can be found with your nose in Belt's Naturalist in Nicaragua or Kingsley's hilariously dry tales of tromping through swamps and casually emptying baskets of odds and ends such as a human hand, then get this book.  McBride is not just an artist of great skill but a lively writer. Here and there, a word distinguishes itself by its wayward spelling, but all scientific spelling is pedant-certified. 
Navigating the composition of the pages is an adventure in itself.
World of Monsters by Marc McBride was published a few years ago, scooping up honours but not enough notoriety to keep him in pens. If you buy it for someone special, you can pretty much be sure that it won't be a case of "I already have it."

Any child who gets it, is one lucky child. It's the kind of book that ages with you. It is, in 6 words: a classic that doesn't know it—the kind that is your friend.

International shipping from Scholastic Australia
Highly recommended for all people who know that no leather jacket is as cool as a leatherjacket.

The amazing BBW

When I was very little, I used to ride a BBW. It not only revved with a thrillingly powerful murmur, but picked up crumbs as we cruised.

The most terrible aspect of growing up is that I can longer feel the buzz of my BBW, nor the freedom to eat with no thought given to that frowning fun spoiler, lady-likeness. The highway is no longer the byway with me on a BBW, due to that old wowser, gravity.
I came upon another BBW as I was strolling on the beach yesterday. Known as the Botany Bay Weevil or Chrysolopus spectabilis, this is my favourite species of weevil, and one that is a perfect victim of my intrusive urge to immortalise it with portraits. Get a load of that crumb picker-upper.