(via col­or­ful pigeons amongst a flock of grey at the venice bien­nale)

Artists mess­ing with ani­mals – it seems like a nev­er end­ing theme. The com­men­tary in this blog post is worth brows­ing through. Julian Char­riere and Julius von Bis­mar­ck have died pigeons in Venice so that peo­ple don’t con­sid­er them fly­ing rats any­more…

The blog post notes they’ve paint­ed these ani­mals with­out harm­ing them. Some of the com­menters say paint­ing these ani­mals is harm­ful in itself. Rea­sons giv­en include: cam­ou­flage and pro­cre­ation. Oth­er com­menters are offend­ed by artists seek­ing fame by exploit­ing these ani­mals. I find the image strik­ing and would like to learn more about the actu­al process the artists uses to achieve this effect. I’m also curi­ous about the sci­en­tif­ic basis for some of the claims made by those com­menters tak­ing offense.

As Dave Win­er not­ed, Medi­um does con­tent cat­e­go­riza­tion upside down: “Instead of adding a cat­e­go­ry to a post, you add a post to a cat­e­go­ry.” He means col­lec­tion in Medi­um-speak, but you get the idea: Top­ic tri­umphs over author. Medi­um doesn’t want you to read some­thing because of who wrote it; Medi­um wants you to read some­thing because of what it’s about. And because of the implic­it promise that Medi­um = qual­i­ty.

13 ways of look­ing at Medi­um, the new blogging/sharing/discovery plat­form from @ev and Obvi­ous » Nie­man Jour­nal­ism Lab

Blog­ging for its rel­e­vance to project SAKE, where I am also strug­gling with find­ing alter­na­tive orga­ni­za­tion­al schemes for con­tri­bu­tions from play­ers. A stream metaphor seems wrong. Also, we real­ly want to incen­tivize qual­i­ty over quan­ti­ty (or fre­quen­cy) of posts. Medi­um might have got­ten a few things right, there.

Anoth­er SAKE ref­er­ence point — Nation­al Nov­el Writ­ing Month is an annu­al writ­ing chal­lenge. It isn’t about the qual­i­ty of the writ­ing, it’s sim­ply about get­ting to 50.000 words in 30 days. I guess a large part of the fun comes from the knowl­edge that many oth­ers are doing the same thing as you are. 

Pri­or art for Pig Chase that I was remind­ed of yes­ter­day dur­ing Kevin Slavin’s talk at Play­pub­lik. In Sharkrun­ners, human play­ers try to inter­cept sharks with a dig­i­tal boat. The dig­i­tal sharks are con­trolled by GPS-tagged live sharks.

(via blog: A Friend in Need)

The pre­vi­ous­ly blogged Venge­ful Tiger, Glow­ing Rab­bit post lead me to this paint­ing. Pulling this from a blog where it is accom­pa­nied by the fol­low­ing reflec­tions:

Most of them appear to have their own sep­a­rate per­son­ail­i­ties.  The one on the far left is a chuck­ling son of a bitch(literally), he’s just there to have a good time and pre­tend he’s peo­ple, then we go into the more seri­ous play­ers like the one in the mid­dle.  He’s not there to fuck around, he wants your dog mon­ey so he can go and gam­ble it away on the peo­ple races.  That’s what dogs would do in this par­al­lel uni­verse, right?

The writer of Venge­ful Tiger… has a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive:

Cas­sius Coolidge’s famous paint­ing of dogs play­ing pok­er, “A Friend in Need” (cir­ca 1903 and still going strong), typ­i­fies the ret­ro­grade con­scious­ness that a more enlight­ened cul­tur­al pub­lic will, per­haps, some­day tran­scend.

Coolidge’s weird image has been repro­duced end­less­ly in cig­ar ads, on cal­en­dars, on throw rugs, and in vel­vet. Dogs can­not sit on chairs around a card table in the way that Coolidge depicts; they would not want to. But Coolidge has made them.

The punch line of this paint­ing, and the eth­i­cal harm of it, is the dis­junc­tion between what is depict­ed and our real­iza­tion that dogs do not smoke cig­ars or gam­ble. Dumb dogs. But we have made them do so. Clever us. It reminds me of the Web site that sug­gests that if a cat could talk, what she would say is, “I can has cheezburg­er?” (LOL!) Coolidge rei­fies the fan­ta­sy that ours is the best of all pos­si­ble worlds, and that oth­er species could do no bet­ter than to emu­late humans, how­ev­er ridicu­lous they might seem in so doing, and how­ev­er for­eign our human­i­ty may be to their ani­mal­i­ty.

I would be less offend­ed by Coolidge if he, or oth­er artists, also cre­at­ed art that involved human ani­mals in the guise and con­text of non­hu­man ani­mals (and did so with­out cast­ing asper­sion on the “swin­ish,” “beast­ly” humans so represented)—that is, if there were a reci­procity that bespoke a sin­cere desire to broach the species bar­ri­er and see how the oth­er half lives. But that wouldn’t sell many cig­ars.

My per­spec­tive? I’m not tak­en in by the paint­ing. It does, how­ev­er, remind me of this obser­va­tion in Ecce Can­is:

…the dog was often tak­en as the ide­al test sub­ject not just because of the rel­a­tive sim­i­lar­i­ty of its inter­nal anato­my to ours, but also because its expres­sions of pain or dis­plea­sure are for us so easy to read and under­stand.

Which is to say: painter­ly exper­i­men­ta­tion on dogs like this works, because a nat­u­ral­is­tic ren­der­ing of canine faces still allows us to inter­pret the intend­ed char­ac­ter.

If the dogs no longer guard­ed the sheep, he observes, they would be tak­en by the wolves (again, at once the clos­est ances­tors and the fiercest ene­mies of the dogs). “In deny­ing us the bones,” the dogs protest, “you will lose them along with the meat.” We, in oth­er words, eat the beasts of the field togeth­er, and it is this arrange­ment that keeps us alive, and that gives shape and mean­ing to the pro­noun in the first-per­son plur­al.

Ecce Can­is — Justin Erik Halldór Smith

Fan­tas­tic arti­cle on the coevo­lu­tion of dogs and humans, and its philo­soph­i­cal impli­ca­tions.

Animal Ethics in the Hitchhiker’s Guide

Two inter­est­ing episodes in Adams’ clas­sic sci­fi com­e­dy. The first, involv­ing a sen­tient cow-like ani­mal offer­ing parts of its own body for din­ner in a restau­rant:

A large dairy ani­mal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox’s table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingra­ti­at­ing smile on its lips. “Good evening,” it lowed and sat back heav­i­ly on its haunch­es, “I am the main Dish of the Day. May I inter­est you in parts of my body?” It har­rumphed and gur­gled a bit, wrig­gled its hind quar­ters into a more com­fort­able posi­tion and gazed peace­ful­ly at them.

You mean this ani­mal actu­al­ly wants us to eat it?” whis­pered Tril­lian to Ford. “Me?” said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes. “I don’t mean any­thing.” “That’s absolute­ly hor­ri­ble,” exclaimed Arthur, “the most revolt­ing thing I’ve ever heard.” “What’s the prob­lem, Earth­man?” said Zaphod, now trans­fer­ring his atten­tion to the animal’s enor­mous rump. “I just don’t want to eat an ani­mal that’s stand­ing there invit­ing me to,” said Arthur. “It’s heart­less.” “Bet­ter than eat­ing an ani­mal that doesn’t want to be eat­en,” said Zaphod. “That’s not the point,” Arthur protest­ed. Then he thought about it for a moment. “All right,” he said, “maybe it is the point. I don’t care, I’m not going to think about it now. I’ll just … er …”

Look,” said Zaphod, “we want to eat, we don’t want to make a meal of the issues. Four rare steaks please, and hur­ry. We haven’t eat­en in five hun­dred and sev­en­ty-six thou­sand mil­lion years.” The ani­mal stag­gered to its feet. It gave a mel­low gur­gle. “A very wise choice, sir, if I may say so. Very good,” it said. “I’ll just nip off and shoot myself.” He turned and gave a friend­ly wink to Arthur. “Don’t wor­ry, sir,” he said, “I’ll be very humane.” It wad­dled unhur­ried­ly off to the kitchen.

The sec­ond, towards the end of the last book, involves lib­er­at­ing zoo ani­mals, foie gras and eth­i­cal lazi­ness:

They checked into a large two-bed­room suite at the Lang­ham. Mys­te­ri­ous­ly, Ford’s Dine-O-Charge card, issued on a plan­et over five thou­sand light years away, seemed to present the hotel’s com­put­er with no prob­lems. Ford hit the phones straight away while Arthur attempt­ed to locate the tele­vi­sion. “Okay,” said Ford. “I want to order up some mar­gar­i­tas, please. Cou­ple of pitch­ers. Cou­ple of chef’s sal­ads. And as much foie gras as you’ve got. And also Lon­don Zoo.

That’s what I said,” said Ford into the phone. “Lon­don Zoo. Just charge it to the room.

Are you hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty under­stand­ing the Eng­lish lan­guage?” con­tin­ued Ford. “It’s the zoo just up the road from here. I don’t care if it’s closed this evening. I don’t want to buy a tick­et, I just want to buy the zoo. I don’t care if you’re busy. This is room ser­vice, I’m in a room and I want some ser­vice. Got a piece of paper? Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. All the ani­mals that can be safe­ly returned to the wild, return them. Set up some good teams of peo­ple to mon­i­tor their progress in the wild, see that they’re doing okay.”

Just a sec­ond,” Ford shout­ed, and returned to his nego­ti­a­tions with room ser­vice. “Then we’ll need some nat­ur­al reserves for the ani­mals that can’t hack it in the wild,” he said. “Set up a team to work out the best places to do that. We might need to buy some­where like Zaire and maybe some islands. Mada­gas­car. Baf­fin. Suma­tra. Those kind of places. We’ll need a wide vari­ety of habi­tats. Look, I don’t see why you’re see­ing this as a prob­lem. Learn to del­e­gate. Hire who­ev­er you want. Get onto it. I think you’ll find my cred­it is good. And blue cheese dress­ing on the sal­ad. Thank you.” He put the phone down and went through to Arthur, who was sit­ting on the edge of his bed watch­ing tele­vi­sion.

I ordered us some foie gras,” said Ford. “What?” said Arthur, whose atten­tion was entire­ly focused on the tele­vi­sion. “I said I ordered us some foie gras.” “Oh,” said Arthur, vague­ly. “Um, I always feel a bit bad about foie gras. Bit cru­el to the geese, isn’t it?” “Fuck ’em,” said Ford, slump­ing on the bed. “You can’t care about every damn thing.”

Well, that’s all very well for you to say, but—” “Drop it!” said Ford. “If you don’t like it I’ll have yours.

schiz­o­phre­nia did not rise in preva­lence until the lat­ter half of the 18th cen­tu­ry, when for the first time peo­ple in Paris and Lon­don start­ed keep­ing cats as pets. The so-called cat craze began among “poets and left-wing avant-garde Green­wich Vil­lage types,” says Tor­rey, but the trend spread rapidly—and coin­cid­ing with that devel­op­ment, the inci­dence of schiz­o­phre­nia soared