Here is another one of Hugh Crawford's photos of the day. It was taken in July 1982, but the theme is universal. It describes, with extraordinary accuracy, except that it is clearly warm in this picture and in Ireland it is cold, how I am feeling today.
Friday 22 August 2008
I'm treating this site as a blog. The photographer seems to be called Hugh Crawford, though it's not a big professional/ self-promotional joint. It's an archive of a man's daily adventures with Polaroid, and I'm really enjoying the old-school site layout. It's actually the best of what a basic website can be, no frills but also no bullshit. Beautifully curated and constructed. The pictures themselves are deeply evocative and rich of the life, the place, the time. So far I'm up to December 1983. It's gorgeous.
Thursday 21 August 2008
I discovered a new concept today. Sometimes though, whether you have the concept in mind or not, your body just starts moving like this on its own...
From the site:
"Parkour is the art of moving through your environment using only your body and the surroundings to propel yourself. It can include running, jumping, climbing, even crawling, if that is the most suitable movement for the situation. Parkour could be grasped by imagining a race through an obstacle course, the goal is to overcome obstacles quickly and efficiently, without using extraneous movement. Apply this line of thought to an urban environment, or even a run through the woods, and you're on the right path. Because individual movements could vary so greatly by the situation, it is better to consider Parkour as defined by the intention instead of the movements themselves. If the intention is to get somewhere using the most effective movements with the least loss of momentum, then it could probably be considered Parkour."
This is probably going to be the last update on this story. This part struck me as very sweet:
"One effort came from Aboriginal whale whisperer Bunna Lawrie, who visited the calf Thursday afternoon. Adorned with feathers on his head and white paint markings on his face, Lawrie reached into the water to stroke Colin [baby whale creature] while singing a humming, tongue-rolling tune.
But after a few minutes the whale swam away to nuzzle a nearby yacht."
I suppose part of what drives us crazy about this story is the relentless inevitability of it, the whole mistaken mother thing is just intensely sad, and the human quality of the persistence in a pointless strategy, despite the futile outcome, because there is just no better option available. We understand that kind of activity, that kind of impulse, all too well.
So it seems that baby whale creature was attacked by sharks before his abandoning, and that his mother probably reckoned his chances as being slim for survival. Life can be so strong sometimes, so determined to be.
Wednesday 20 August 2008
Ok, I am glued to the baby whale story, like, um, a baby whale to a yacht. So there is no great rescue mission underway, all the people in the viscinity can do is wait. The only thing that will save baby whale creature is if another lactating whale mother is found in the area. Here's what a yachtsman from one of the boats said today:
"It sounded like a bit of a vacuum cleaner on the bottom of the boat. I finally got up and here's this whale suckling the side of the boat," Peter Lewis told Fairfax Radio Network. "It was a very, very sad sight. It did it for about an hour, going from side to side on the boat and at times blowing air under the boat, and it just seemed to give a sigh out at one stage as if, you know, 'this isn't working.'"
So why can't they just make a gigantic rubber whalemama-like nipple and whack it on the side of one of the yachts and get this kid weaned? Of course they've had that idea. And dismissed it:
"They suckle for 11 or 12 months, so it's a long time — we'd just agree it'd be very difficult," the environmental spokeswoman said. "We think it really needs to find its mother or foster mother and those are really the only chances."
A small baby whale creature really would need to learn a lot of stuff from his mum, she is not just a source of nutrition, but she would also teach him how to be a whale. Maybe she is swimming the ocean desperately trying to find him, or maybe she just had an instinct in her to be free. Whatever way, from whatever human perspective we can look at this, this story is heartbreaking. There will, most likely, be tears at the end of it. I will be very happy to post about something else.
So I'm inspired by the baby whale creature topic. Beware though, this post is not for the faint of heart.
It's interesting to me that when we are faced with something like this in the 'natural' world, ie. amongst other animals, that we tut tut, and say with sad wisdom, "yes, sometimes in the wild mothers abandon their young. We don't understand why but they do." And it's considered one of those difficult-to-deal-with anomalies of nature, just what happens 'in the wild'. Nobody thinks of making laws where we go after other species mothers who have abandoned their young, to prosecute them (tough love) or offer therapy (no one will think badly of you, just own up) or reconcile parent and child in a supportive community framework. I suppose it's a question of us governing our own species' behaviour in this respect, and having some sense that wild natural behaviour is far out of our ability to control.
But how are humans so different to animals in these biological ways of responding? Yes, humans are capable of art and culture and ideas and altruism and all kinds of refined applications of the human heart and mind. But in our animal, biological ways, how different are we from any other animal? When it comes to desiring sex, taking care of our young, how we respond when we're hungry, how we respond when we're physically threatened, we have animal responses for these things, and I wonder how much those core animal responses have really needed to evolve over the lifetime of the species? Animal responses, for what they are, are pretty effective mechanisms.
But we treat our own species differently, of course. We have rules, social and civic, legal and personal ones. We have standards and codes of behaviour, we approve of certain behaviours and disapprove of others, and there is generally quite a lot of individual variation in open cultures as to what is approved of and what disapproved. And generally, if you really want to get people tut tutting, just tell 'em a story about a mother who has abandoned her child, or has gotten an abortion, or even someone who has been unable to take care of her children, with the result that her children are either taken into care or grow up feral, neglected. That's one way to flush out people's disapproval. Usually, the most important consideration to us is actually the child's safety, which no sane person would argue with, but we tend to pathologise the mother.
But what about someone who has an abortion because she discovers that the child she is carrying has got some serious genetic problem? Is this also a natural response?
It seems so arbitrary when it happens in nature, but it does happen, and each mother is different in her response. Cats, dogs, tigers and lions all often reject a 'runt' and favour the strong ones. When the runt dies, she eats it and thereby gets nutrition for feeding the others. Motherhood in animals is remarkably bullshit free. I'm not recommending that we humans start eating our dead babies, or ignore the smallest because he or she is weak, my point is that in this animal zone of our own behaviour, we apply standards that we often just can't follow, because it is not how our instincts operate.
Why do we treat human females who abandon their young as having a problem to overcome, when it is evident everywhere else in nature, not that this is the norm by any means, but that it is, in fact, another aspect of nature?
So what about baby whale creature's mother, swimming out to sea? Do we think she's heartless? The baby whale story is terrible. Baby whale creature will probably die. It is awful and I will be cheering if they manage to find a way to save the baby whale creature.
But baby whale creature's mother has swum freely off into the ocean. Someone will see her again some day, in another yacht, blowing jets of air up into the sky, taking HD camcorder footage with glee and oohs and aahs, wondering at the beauty of the natural world, or maybe you'll happen upon some of that footage of whales tossing a baby seal between them, killing it with shock, playing with it before eating it, and flinch at the cruelty before moving swiftly along to another cute kitten video. It is hard, what happens sometimes in nature. And we are more a part of nature than we usually care to understand.
Tuesday 19 August 2008
So there's talk that beijing is to be converted into a jungle after the Olympics. A visionary plan for a modern city? Or a cynical attempt at some positive pr to counteract the relentless dodgy stories emerging from China during this Olympics? Hmm...
Ok, not the most cheery start to the day, but that's how it is sometimes. I just read this.
So sometimes, in the wild, a mother abandons her baby, who still seeks its mother, and decides that a yacht will be its mother instead. Hm. I'm imagining how the people on the yacht are feeling. They are most likely very rich, and on their holidays. Faced with a doomed baby creature of tremendous natural beauty, who is looking for its mum and thinks their yacht is her. They cannot help said doomed baby creature. There is nothing they can do, except watch, or leave their yacht, effectively re-abandoning the baby creature. Other rich holidaying people in the viscinity are encountering the same possibility, as doomed baby creature gets hungrier and circles them, trying to find its real mum.
I imagine lots of long distance emergency video conferencing with therapists; knuckles-full of diazepam and prozac getting knocked back; and a general panic as the waves of complicated emotion surge as the baby whale creature circles, crying out for its mum, wondering why its mum won't come and nuzzle baby reassuringly the way she always has, wondering why mum won't feed him the way she always has.
Need a lot of drugs to numb that. Need a lot of explanations to stop you from listening to the song of the baby whale creature surging within, making its last flailing dance of life inside you.
Monday 18 August 2008
It's a pretty cool resource. I'm currently reading articles from the National Geographic... yeah, probably with some trash to follow. This site's got em all, for now. Basically it's a joint where the members of the site - free to join, free to upload - can scan magazines and articles and people can read them online, for free (I'm reading them and I haven't joined). Hm, wonder who's gonna be irked by that?