Jul 24

July 24, 2017

Sparrow with nest, Birds of Buzzard's Roost, William Watson Woollen, 1907.

Control Leads to Chaos: As Proven by Sparrows

“What is the nature of a species that knowingly and without good reason exterminates another? How long will man persist in the belief that he is the master of the Earth rather than one of its guests? When will he learn that he is but one form of life among countless thousands, each one of which is in some way related to and dependent on all others? How long can he survive if he does not?” George L. Small, The…

Posted in Science

Jul 6

July 6, 2017

A Sumerian Palace and the "A" cemetery at Kish, Mesopotamia, Ernest Mackay, 1929.

The First Civilization Discovers the Limits of Control

It must have seemed to the people of Sumer at it’s height that an end would never come, that so much power and progress couldn’t be brought down by something as simple as salty soil.

Posted in Sociology

Jun 19

June 19, 2017

Iron and Steel--Pittsburgh, Joseph Pennell, published in the International Studio, 1897.

Control Freaks: Humanity’s Bad Habit

I’ve been ruminating on control: rolling the word around my mouth, giving it a good chew, seeing what spills out. It feels like a master word for our species, one that explains so much of our destructive habits, our worst impulses.

Posted in Sociology

Jun 10

June 10, 2017

Plate 72 from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting a grove of mosses.

The Minimalist Genius of Moss

Lost to the cracks, roots of trees, shadowed rock faces, moss is the settler of shady nooks and crannies, hidden in plain sight, carpeting surfaces all around the globe, including the arctic poles. They live where no other plants seek to live, creating homes on seemingly inhospitable, soilless surfaces. And they are far more remarkable than you know…

Posted in Science

May 27

May 27, 2017

Cover of Theatre Magazine, Charles Baskerville, August 1923.

Pluck the Day

Time speeds up as you grow older. I thought it was just another thing adults complained about when I was young, but now I know better. Days have begun to fly by, weeks gone before I know it, and years aren’t the glacial stretches of seasons they once were.

Posted in Psychology

May 18

May 18, 2017

Cover of Radio Broadcast magazine, November, 1926

When the Power Goes Out

Modern human life is absolutely dependent on the stream of electricity flowing in from the grid, and when it’s out, we’re out of luck.

Posted in Sociology

May 12

May 12, 2017

Mosque swallow, Ibis (quarterly journal of the British Ornithologists Union), Vol. IV, 1862.

Of Flying Birds and Cold Dinosaurs

How did birds come to fly? Did ancient reptiles, like us, look up into the great big blue yonder and dream of soaring? No, nothing so poetic, but rather something very practical led to flight.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

May 4

May 4, 2017

Illustration from My Fourth Tour in Western Australia, Albert Calvert, illustrated by Walker Hodgson, 1897.

Swallowed by Dust

Here’s the story of an entire desert town where people not only swallowed dust, they were swallowed by it.

Posted in Sociology

Apr 24

April 24, 2017

Le Monde Moderne: Mai, lithographic poster designed by Maurice Pillard Verneuil, printed in Paris by L'Imprimerie de Vaugirard, 1895.

The Blink of an Eye

Humans blink on average 15-20 times a minute and these fragmentary flashes of black add up to about 10% of our hours awake. That’s 10% of your day hidden from your eyes…

Posted in Science

Apr 16

April 16, 2017

Persimmons and White-Eyes, Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1880

The Singing Life of Birds

This is the season of birdsong, when even the smallest finch bursts his lungs and heart out for all to hear, and you’d have to be hard of hearing, hard of heart, or hard on time not to take notice.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Apr 9

April 9, 2017

Illustration for edition of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales, Albert Weisgerber, Germany, circa 1900.

Nature in the City

We seem to think that nature is absent here in the city, built as it is by human hands for human wants and needs, no other life forms invited to the party unless planted in a pot or kept on leash. Yet, despite the lack of invitation, our cities still teem with non-human life.

Posted in Modern Bestiary, Science

Apr 3

April 3, 2017

Haida Canoe, Alert Bay, The American Museum Journal, Volume X, 1910.

A Haida Cure for Hubris

From the moment I heard this story I loved it, the suddenness of it, like a flick of a knife, the ending so curt it leaves the mind reeling. The meaning, the moral, is not tied up nicely, but left to sink into you, slowly

Posted in Myths & Folktales, Psychology