After stumbling across a circle of white-rumped shama enthusiasts while writing an earlier piece, one of my favorite reads from their ranks is Alan Pang’s post explaining why he lost interest in traditional shama competitions. The standard Singaporean competition, he writes, last as much as two hours:

Personally, i only enjoy active, swift n nice display and long melodies song type of shama. I prefer them to go around the cage flicking and flashing their tails plus some wings display at the same time. Not the stand singing type. What i meant by stand singer is flick tail once or twice sing two three notes and stay in one position all the time. This is no fun to watch for many of us but don’t forget this are the the birds that is able to last for hours! Haha…! So for those birds that showed us wonderful display, swift cage play, stretching all muscle to give us the best posture and bursting at the top of their voice with beautiful songs would be drain out by then. Then how? How about the next one hour? Frankly, i do not think Shama is by nature create to show that kind of aggression in the wild for such prolonged hours. Did we extend the competition time for human satisfaction? Haha…

Sing it, brother.

And in the video above, you can see one of Mr Pang’s shamas “singing like crazy till sorethroat,” which has accumulated a whopping 276,133 views on YouTube.

animals

Pursuit of the White-Rumped Shama

Here’s a little recording I made in Kauai in April 2012:

I later learned it was a white-rumped shama. The shama is popular for its song—we heard this bird well before we saw it—and inspires a quite devoted following in some quarters.

Copsychus malabaricus is a type of thrush native to south and southeast Asia. It was first introduced to Kauai by Alexander Isenberg in 1931 (presumably this is the son of beloved sugar baron Paul Isenberg). The particular subspecies on the islands is C.m. indicus, found from east India and Nepal to northwest Burma.

In Asia, there are whole groups devoted to the bird. Singapore, especially, has an active set of shama enthusiasts raising them, sometimes catching them in the wild, and entering birdsong competitions with them.

To see what a shama looks like, the photo below (posted on Flickr by Chris Thomas), gives a better view of one of these birds than the less-than-stellar iPhone snap I filed with that audio clip.

bird on the trail

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Print called "Fine Wind, Clear Morning" or "Red Fuji" by Hokusai
Asia, disaster

Mount Fuji In Red, After Fukushima

Among the eight vignettes in Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams is “Mount Fuji in Red.” It’s the sixth story, and among the eight dreams, it’s one of the nightmares. It’s a stark, bleak view of a few people discussing——while trying to flee——a nuclear disaster.

Akira Kurosawa: DREAMS (1990) from cinema.antifono on Vimeo.

[Update July 2013: Ugh, someone took down that video. Sorry for the inconvenience. Until I find another version to embed, you can read the relevant script dialogue here.]

I saw this before Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, which began just about two years ago. But where the short film might come off as preachy and reflective of some reflexive late-80s anti-nuclear sentiment, it now evokes the anxieties and concerns about nuclear safety that we’ve come to know as Japan’s “safety myth.” That, as the Times summed it up, “Japan’s nuclear power plants were absolutely safe.”*

“They told us that nuclear plants were safe,” says the woman in the dream. “Human accident is the danger, not the nuclear plant itself. No accidents, no dangers. That’s what they told us. What liars!”

*Or, rather, as the Japan Times put it after the government’s report on the disaster, the myth required ignoring the possibility of rare but extreme events.

 

 

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art, China, development, environment

Phantom Landscapes: Wherein China’s built environment overtakes the natural one

A few years ago, the China Environmental Protection Foundation worked with advertising firm J Walter Thompson’s Shanghai office on an anti-pollution campaign featuring the work of Shanghai artist Yang Yongliang. Certainly the message here is as relevant today as it was in 2009.

(Click to enlarge)

A couple of the images appear to be from a series Yang calls Phantom Landscape II. While the work here takes off from the old shan shui style of landscape painting (shan means mountain, shui water), I believe these are digital creations. In any case, shan shui is one of the most evocative styles around, and Yang’s take on it is a lot of fun to look at. You can see more at his website.

Below: From a completely different series, A Bowl of Taipei 1
Image of mountains in a bowl by Yang Yongliang.

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Wow! (Or, as the driver initially says, according to a translation in the New Yorker, “What the fuck is that?”)

Surely one of the most interesting things to be seen on the planet these last twenty-four hours is this meteor streaking across the Russian sky, brightening up the Chelyabinsk dawn.

But not everyone is so taken with this astronomical display:

No way, Jose. I want to believe.

science

Touchdown on Mars

Here’s something you don’t see every day: The Rover’s eye view of landing on Mars.

Four photos per second snapped by the Mars Descent Imager.

Somebody took the photos, made them full-screen, and smoothed the video out:

And as for just where the rover touched down, as of today, it’s called Bradbury Landing:

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journalism, science

What It Takes To Write About Science: A Lehrer Lesson

The whole Jonah Lehrer thing just keeps unspooling, yielding a trove of new insights, or presumed insights, or see-how-these-details-fit-what-I’ve-said-all-along insights. Lots of insighting.

It’s sparked some soul-searching (ahem, navel-gazing) among the media about just what it means to be a noble, truth-seeking writer or reporter who focuses on science.

One obvious conclusion:

What we need are not journalists and popular writers who turn their hand to science, but scientists who turn their hand to journalism and popular writing.

That, from a scientist. And another obvious conclusion, from a journalist:

This is what happens when journalists major in neuroscience instead of #journalism.

So, that’s settled.

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money

Money Can’t Buy

Once a week, I visit the question-and-answer site Quora, usually prompted by an e-mail newsletter it sends me. And one of the featured questions in my inbox was “What are some things that money can’t buy?

Some pretty obvious answers there: time, true love, a clean conscience, &c. And then there’s this popular answer—which is either bracingly honest or a joke:

Read Quote of Anon User’s answer to Being Wealthy: What are some things that money can’t buy? on Quora

I love this answer. I’m inclined to think that our anonymous interlocutor is revealing a key truth about how the other half (closer to one percent, probably) lives in San Francisco. I’ve never had money enough to live high on a hill in the city, and hadn’t heard of this vexing problem. A quick search turns up one brief about the difficulties of life on the less posh, but still very desirable, Potrero Hill, as noted by the Potrero View in 2010:

Plumbing
For years Potrero Hill residents have complained about low water pressure; apparently they have reason to do so. According to Thomas Friel, who offers plumbing service from his Connecticut Street office, it takes one pound of pressure to raise water two feet uphill, and pressure gets used up as water is pumped higher. Friel said low water pressure is common on the top of the hill, and offered some solutions, including removing devices that restrict water flow, and conserve water, from faucets and shower heads. “You’re not wasting water by removing it,” said Friel, “you actually need more water flow [in] your shower head and faucets to enjoy the same amount of water that your neighbors in the high pressure areas enjoy.” If that doesn’t work, another option is to install a booster pump and pressure tank in the cold water supply to provide extra pressure. Though a more expensive fix, “that will give you a lot better shower,” said Friel.

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irony, journalism

You should check it out.

An exchange I spotted this morning on Twitter:


Good luck finding a copy.

Spotted this morning on Twitter:

Storified by Tim Lesle · Wed, Aug 15 2012 18:38:28

The best ideas come to me when I’m in the showerLIL E
@THEREAL_LIL_E there’s science behind this.G Ryin G
@GRyin for real? Cause that’s when I think the mostLIL E
@THEREAL_LIL_E this author, Jonah Lehrer explains it it his book "Imagine: How Creativity Works". you should check it out.G Ryin G
@GRyin yeah I am just cause u said that cause I never think of nothing super dope unless I’m in the showerLIL E

Good luck finding a copy. Jonah Lehrer’s book seems not exactly available. I suppose you could get it at your library, but it might be a while. At my library, at least, there are 50 holds on it.

screenshot showing there are 50 holds on the Imagine book according to the San Francisco library website

And while the media are aflutter over Lehrer and his fact problems, how long does that story take to spread into the wider population? Does it?

In any case, I don’t think the shower point has been discredited.

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