Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Importance of Fur

I learned about an awesome animal today from The Dodo: Fuzzy Pigs!! Pigs are already adorable, but pigs with a curly coat are even more so. Fuzzy pigs look just like normal pigs except that instead of having lots of visible skin with bits of coarse fur, they are covered by a curly coat of fur reminiscent of a sheep's wool. These fuzzy pigs got me thinking. What if other animals whose skin was normally exposed. Imagine fuzzy rhinos, fuzzy elephants, fuzzy hippos, fuzzy lizards, fuzzy turtles or...fuzzy humans! I wonder what the world would be like if humans were born with fur.

If humans had fur, I am sure we would have thousands of fur care products marketed to us. Some types of fur would be considered more beautiful than others and then humans would do everything they could to imitate the 'better' fur. Maybe super curly red fur would be better than straighter white fur. So straight white furred humans would go to the fur salon to get it all died and permed.

If humans had fur, I wonder if we would think furry animals were less cute. Part of what makes a bunny or a kitten so cute is their furry. But if humans had fur, fur wouldn't be so cute. It would remind us more of the human condition. Maybe instead furry humans would think animals with skin were cuter. So we would all be oohing and awing of reptiles and pigs because they were so cute with their skin and scales. There wold be internet memes about lizards instead of cats.

I read an interesting article from the New York Times about why humans lost their fur. My favorite theory was that for a short while, humans were semi-aquatic. Just as whales and dolphins lost their fur to be more streamline in the sea, so did humans. Some support for this theory was the human hand. When humans spread out their fingers, there is slight webbing between the fingers. I love this theory! Imagine a world where humans evolved to live only in water. We would have under water fortresses and pet sea turtles and dolphins. We would make up stories about the strange things that must happen on the land.

The more plausible theory posed by the New York Times article (and the theory the article was primarily about) was that humans lost fur due to fur dwelling parasites like louse. Without fur, the louse could not survive and we were parasite free. Bare skin became a desirable sexual and evolutionary characteristic because it proved the mate did not have parasites.

In all this discussion of fur, there has been no mention of another way animals bodies are covered......feathers! To compensate for the lack of feather talk, here are pictures of chickens in all their feathered glory!

  These chickens I met at a festival several months ago. Any festival that has farm animals is a festival I want to go to. Chickens are such pretty little creatures. I always feel a bit bad for them. They had the good luck to be born a bird, but they can't actually fly. To have wings and to not be able to use them seems so sad.... an unrealized dream, the exclusivity of that which is right there. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Outsiders and Insiders

I've read two interesting graphic novels recently. Both of them I picked up while exploring the graphic novel section of the Central Library.

One was called 'The Vicar Woman' by Emma Rendel. This was an eerie story that really explores the idea of responsibility over other people especially within your community. The story is about a strange town that feels collectively guilty over something awful that happened, although they desperately try to convince themselves and others that they are blameless. They believe building a huge church and inviting a vicar to give sermons can be the way to redemption.  The story does a great job showing how people so adamantly try to convince themselves they are not responsible over things that really they are (Even if it is not their responsibility alone, and even if they are not the perpetrators). It shows that staying silent and doing nothing is a choice that people should take responsibility for.

The Vicar Woman really reminded me of the old movie called 'The Wicker Man.' The two stories reminded me of eachother in tone and plot, not so much in theme or lesson. I think the similarities must be purposeful on the part of Emma Rendel especially since the title of the graphic novel is so similar to 'The Wicker Man' as Vicar and Wiker rhyme. The reason the two stories remind me of each other especially is because both are eerie stories about outsiders interacting with a community that has a dark secret. The island that the Vicar goes to seems normal, or cheerful at first arrival. But the longer she is there, the more she notices things are off and that there is something dark and sinister going on. I haven't seen The Wicker Man in years, but I definitely remember that the seemingly cheerful community form that movie also has a dark secret.

Another thing I liked about 'The Vicar Woman' that I liked was the art. Rendel has a really unique and playful style of art. The characters are illustrated in a strange way that lends to  the eerie, slightly-off feeling of the entire novel.

The next graphic novel I read was a more traditional story called "Just So Happens" by Fumio Obata. This is a story about a woman with a rocky relationship with both her parents. She lives in London although she was born and raised in Japan. After she hears the sad news that her father died, she goes back to Japan for his funeral. The story is a lot about a woman trying to understand her own identity in relationship to her family and her two homes (England and Japan). This story gives me an idea about the confusion of belonging to two cultures at once. Sometimes the main character Yumiko feels like an outsider in both the English and Japanese culture, even though she belongs to both. 

The art in "Just so Happens' is also very beautiful. It has a more realistic style but still illustrative. The medium that Obata uses is watercolor which gives the story a more airy feeling. This lends well to a story that is so much about memory, reminiscing and recollections of the past. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Up, Up and Away!

There is nothing like the thrill of a window seat on an airplane ride!  I love seeing all the amazing sights down on the ground. It is amazing that we get to understand the world from a different perspective. Things that seem large are tiny and cute. The designs of cities and towns become beautiful in a whole new way, the roads and square plots of land and houses forming patterns and pictures.

Probably, being on an airplane ride will be the highest up in the air I will ever get. But with technology moving so quickly these days, who knows! Maybe tourist space travel will be a possibility some day. Although it is hard to imagine it will be available to anyone except the super the super wealthy.

Speaking of outerspace, I was excited to hear about the possible discovery of another planet in our solar system. I propose it be called Pluto Junior, since everyone was very disappointed over the loss of Pluto as planet status. Pluto Junior can never replace Pluto, but at least in name it can play homage.

If the planet exists, it would be a big ol' planet, ten times the mass of the earth. This maybe-a-real-planet only orbits the sun ever 15,000 years.

Here is an interesting article on Slate by charming astronomer Phil Plait if you want to learn more from an expert about the exciting news of a possible new planet!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Now or Never

   Here is an illustration I did of a slightly angry yet very determined forest girl. It's now or never!

The forest girl has lived with the forest animals, sprites and woodland elves here entire life. They live in a mushroom village underneath the trunk of an enormous tree. Lately, things have been changing in the forest. The city creatures are encroaching on their land. The city creatures are made of cement and iron. They come toppling clumsily into the edge of the woods. They have spindly legs and bulging eyes. The City creatures cough and smog comes sputtering from their open, toothy mouths. The city creatures plop down and all the foliage dies. Instead, tall and ugly buildings sprout upward and outward. Miserable faces appear at the windows. The faces look around and scowl. The forest girl knows something must be done. It's now or never.