Wednesday, June 30, 2010

the big bite

Introducing, L. melvillei, a newly described sperm whale named to honor Herman Melville. Even more bellicose than Moby Dick, L. melvillei was a hyper-carnivorous eater of other whales:

Klaas Post, honorary curator of fossil mammals at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and his colleagues were traveling through a stretch of desert about 50 kilometers southwest of Ica, Peru, in 2008 when they spotted what at first looked like elephant tusks. But they turned out to be teeth from an even less-likely animal: a giant sperm whale.

Perhaps the discovery shouldn’t be a complete surprise. Fossils of the great shark, Carcharocles megalodon, have been found in the same region. Both animals would have lived about 12 million to 13 million years ago during the Miocene. And like megalodon (at 20 meters long, thought to be one of the biggest fish to have ever roamed the sea), L. melvillei is breaking a few records of its own. With jaws more than 5 meters wide, it had the biggest bite of any mammal to have ever lived.

But L. melvillei was quite different from modern sperm whales (hence scientists gave it a new genus name). Today, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) have fairly small lower teeth and almost no teeth on the upper jaw. They primarily eat squid, which they pull in via suction. But L. melvillei had teeth as large as 12 centimeters wide and 36 centimeters long on both its upper and lower jaw, which would have afforded it a much different tactic for hunting: According to the paper published today in Nature, the researchers suspect that the aggressive whale grabbed prey with its teeth, living off of smaller baleen whales (whales with comb-like dental plates instead of teeth, such as the humpback).

Your Meat is Alive

This should make you not want to eat fish ever again: skinned and gutted dog fish wriggling around.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Aggressive Bed Postures

Not from The Onion:

Police Tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandma in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she couldn't breathe, after her grandson called 911 seeking medical assistance, the woman and her grandson claim in Oklahoma City Federal Court. Though the grandson said, "Don't Taze my granny!" an El Reno police officer told another cop to "Taser her!" and wrote in his police report that he did so because the old woman "took a more aggressive posture in her bed," according to the complaint.
Via Kendra, who puts up with my bed postures.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's the Matter with Kansas?

My dear Kansas has such nasty problems, between the immigrant-hating Kobach, the town-destorying tornados, and--well--it's pretty miserable politics. But sometimes the Crazy, when it gets really crazy, almost makes it worthwhile.

Case in point, the gay-, America-, everything-hating Westborro Baptist Church, most famous for demonstrating with non-sequitur signs at the funerals for dead US soldiers. You remember these guys, right? These people are so odious, so thoroughly beyond the pale of any semblance of theological coherence, that they actually manage to be funny sometimes. When your theology centers around hating gay people and condemning everyone everywhere that they are going to hell, it's pretty hard not to seem self-satirical.

And this brings me to the cultural artifact of the week: the granddaughter of the Church's founder/cult leader is apparently a gifted videographer. And the WBC seems to think that the best way to spread their enlightened message is through parody videos. Really the headline of this blogpost at Kansas City's Pitch Weekly speaks for itself: "Westboro Baptist Church has dropped another Lady Gaga joint, yo."

It's hard to imagine that the WBC spends its time with this kind of stuff. Really, it's just odd.

Via my man in the thick of it all, J. Barry.

And while I'm on the topic, there's a great documentary about the WBC, which you can watch online here.


I don't know what it is--maybe I've been reading too much D. H. Lawrence lately--but somehow watching the raw, spontaneous emotion of people reacting to Landon Donovan's World Cup goal is almost better than watching the goal itself:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Two things to know about seahorses:

One: They are thought to be the only species in the world to reproduce through "male pregnancy." (And it's an amazing sight.)

Two: They are endangered. From Wired. Yet another reason to strengthen CITES and the other international treaties on fishing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Bloomsday

"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses, 1954.

Thanks, GC. HuffPo has pictures of Bloomsday being celebrated around the world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Think Progress has a post up today entitled, "After making ‘American English’ the official language of Texas, GOP recruits Latinos in Spanish." Here's the video featured as part of Texas' new Youtube campaign, "Soy Tejano Republicano(a)."

Now, there are three interesting things about this video. First, judging from the cast of the video, the number of Tejano Republicans is very, very small. Couldn't they have hired actors? One of the featured speakers is clearly not a native Spanish speaker. Given that the point of this video is to attract a wider Hispanic base, one would think that the creators would have preferred to show the breadth of Tejano Republicans by featuring -- well, Tejano Republicans.

The second thing that struck me about this was the way in which these Tejano Republicans talk about "America." As Spanish speakers know, "America" refers to the Americas generally, not to the United States, which is Los Estados Unidos. "Americans" are "Estado Unidenses," not "Americanos." In other words, when you say "Americanos" in Spanish, you may very well be speaking about Mexicans or North Americans genreally. And so it somewhat interesting to note that at least one of the Tejano Republicans featured here (about 20 seconds in) talks about "American" opportunity:

"Soy Republicana porque creo en la oportunidad equitativa para todos los Americanos."

In other words, this is hedging: Republicans stand for equal economic opportunity for all "Americans," but American here means something broader than United States citizens. The sentence could have read "Soy Republicana porque creo en la oportunidad equitativa para todos los Estado Unidenses," but it does not. And why? Because in order to cast itself as pro-Hispanic, the Republican party has to do some serious backbends.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ecological vegetarianism, again.

The authors suggest that eating less red meat and/or dairy products may be a more effective way for concerned citizens to lower their food-related climate impacts. They estimate that shifting to an entirely local diet would reduce the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as driving 1,000 miles, while changing only one day per week's meat and dairy-based calories to chicken, fish, or vegetables would have about the same impact. Shifting entirely from an average American diet to a vegetable-based one would reduce the same emissions as 8,000 miles driven per year.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

build it and they will come

Mega-projects of the future. Via BB.


Be sly: Donald Duck did double-duty as a propagandist during WWII.

From MoJo's collection of VD-related propaganda of WWII, "Enemy in Your Pants."