Thursday, November 30, 2017

Immigrants Aren't Always Evil - Evolution Is not Always Slow

from: Terrierman's Daily Dose

Endangered Species Helped by Foreign Invasives

The United States has over 5 million alligators today. One reason for their surge in numbers is that they were put on the endangered species list back in the 1960s, about 25 years after the Nutria was first released from a wayward fur farm started by the McIlhenny Tabasco sauce family.

By 1959, there were over 20 million nutria in Louisiana, and they soon migrated to other states such as Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, and Florida, providing ready fodder for a now-growing alligator population.

A more recent example of how an invasive species has helped a native species on the ropes can be found in the rapid evolution of Snail Kites in Florida whose population has adapted, evolved, and flourished with the arrival of a large non-native species of apple snail. From The New York Times:

The population of North American snail kites — birds that use curved beaks and long claws to dine on small apple snails in the Florida Everglades — had been dwindling for years, from 3,500 in 2000 to just 700 in 2007. Things began to look particularly bleak in 2004, when a portion of the Everglades was invaded by a species of larger snail that the birds had historically struggled to eat. Ornithologists assumed the shift would hasten the snail kite’s decline.

But the number of snail kites in the Everglades grew over the decade following the invasion of the larger snails. The reason, according to a study published Monday in Nature Ecology and Evolution, is that the snail kites have rapidly evolved larger beaks and bodies to handle the bulkier snails.

“We were very surprised,” said Robert Fletcher, Jr., an ecologist at the University of Florida and an author of the study. “We often assume these large-bodied animals can’t keep up with changes to the system, like invasions or climate change, because their generation times are too long. And yet we are seeing this incredibly rapid change in beak size of this bird.”

...[R]esearchers found suggestions of a genetic component to the changes, as well. By tracking the birds’ pedigrees, they found that large-beaked parents gave birth to large-beaked offspring, setting the stage for large-scale evolutionary change.

Thirteen years after the larger snails invaded, the population of the birds has nearly tripled, to “well over 2,000,” Dr. Fletcher said. “It’s been a major development for the recovery of this species.” Outside of Florida, related snail kites are found in parts of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, where they are not considered endangered.

Large invasive apple snails are two to five times larger than the native species.

Higher Math

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sit Up Pretty

Me and My Butoh Shadow

The sincerest form of flattery: Takao Kawaguchi brings his performance 'About Kazuo Ohno: Reliving the Butoh Diva's Masterpieces' back to Japan with some consternation that audiences here may see the homage as strict mimicry. The piece, however, was well-received overseas as audiences abroad saw it as a way to reconnect with Ohno, one of butoh's creators. | © BOZZO

Takao Kawaguchi pays homage to butoh icon Kazuo Ohno by retracing his every move

The Japan Times  by   Contributing Writer
To see a performance of butoh, the Japanese dance form in which the body twists and contorts on stage, is to almost feel like you’re being transported to another world. And noone was more otherworldly than the late Kazuo Ohno (1906-2010).

Performance artist Takao Kawaguchi pays homage to the butoh pioneer in his most recet work, “About Kazuo Ohno: Reliving the Butoh Diva’s Masterpieces.” It recently finished a successful two-year world tour and will be shown in Saitama on Dec. 2 and 3.

“In Europe and the United States, there were a lot of people in the audience who had seen Kazuo Ohno perform 20 years ago,” Kawaguchi tells The Japan Times. “They were so excited to ‘see’ him again through me, and I could really feel his popularity; because of him they welcomed me, too. He was so full of positive energy and, in Europe especially, people really cherish his memory.”

Ohno, a physical education teacher from Hokkaido, developed butoh as a dance form alongside Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-86) in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Ohno famously performed in white body makeup and often incorporated whimsical or grotesque movements into his performances. Butoh is celebrated for its avant-garde movements, its unflinching look at taboo topics and its comedic connections to the theater of the absurd. Add the fact that Ohno premiered his first solo work, “Admiring La Argentina,” in his 70s and the dance could also be seen as a defiant celebration of an exuberant life force at any age.

In creating “About Kazuo Ohno,” which premiered in Japan four years ago, Kawaguchi’s main artistic goal was to honor the master through a careful reproduction of his most famous works and movements. It was particularly challenging as Kawaguchi had no previous experience in butoh and had never seen Ohno perform live. In fact, his fascination with the legendary dancer started with a photograph.

A tribute: An image of Takao Kawaguchi is displayed on the stage behind performance artist Takao Kawaguchi during his performance of 'About Kazuo Ohno: Reliving the Butoh Diva's Masterpieces.' | © BOZZO

A few years before Ohno’s death, Kawaguchi attended a butoh exhibition at a local museum. Ohno’s image “haunted” him.

“Even in a photograph, his statue and aura was so beautiful,” he recalls. “I was compelled to buy a copy of the photo as a poster from the museum shop. The poster is still hanging on a wall in my room.”

Still, it was almost a decade before Kawaguchi developed the idea of a butoh-oriented performance, which came together in a rather spontaneous manner.

“All of a sudden Ohno surfaced into my consciousness as a performance idea,” he says. “I realized that I wanted to work with his movements to understand butoh on a deeper level and not just as a concept or an idea.”

Kawaguchi’s technique involved focused, deliberate imitation.

“My approach was to copy from as much as I could see on a video,” he says. “Ohno is improvising, of course, so to copy or repeat anybody’s improvisation, even my own, is very difficult. But I tried hard to be faithful to the video and to not intervene with my own interpretation — just to create a representation of the video movements themselves.”

Also inspired by a series of avant-garde films Ohno made in the late ’60s with director Chiaki Nagano, Kawaguchi performs his own improvisations influenced by the whimsical, abstract movements in the films to open the show. His improvisation starts while his audience is still in the lobby and before the curtain has even risen.

“I start when the audience is arriving because Ohno used to do that,” Kawaguchi says. “He would go to the lobby and, if there was a chance, he would play a tape recorder and start dancing, simply to make something happen. In the ’60s and ’70s, artists did that, they just went out to make things happen, and Ohno was a master of this irrepressible spontaneity.

“I like that spirit, too. From the moment I surprise my audience, waiting for the show, I value the unexpected encounters that will start our long journey together. A lot of warm feelings, memories flashing back, coquettish humor that all evokes Ohno’s irresistible positive energy.”

Kawaguchi’s career has been marked by such energetic risks, challenges and creative collaborations with a wide variety of avant-garde artists, from Khoomei throat singer Fuyuki Yamakawa to popular media artist Daito Manabe. His work is often described as on the cutting edge of performance art, defying classification or genre.

To start this project, he connected with Ohno’s son, Yoshito, to get his blessing.

“He was more than happy to give me permission,” Kawaguchi says. “More than that, we were able to borrow some of his father’s costumes and all the materials I needed from the archive to study his father’s movements.”

Yoshito was on hand for the show’s premiere in 2013 and has continued to actively support the production. A personalized homage is included during the piece, as a poignant video reveals Yoshito “dancing” with a hand puppet of his father, a special gift to Ohno from a Mexican artist before he died.

Acceptance from the wider butoh community in Japan toward Kawaguchi’s project has been mixed, however.

“There were other people who really encouraged me besides Yoshito, including a disciple of Kazuo Ohno’s,” he says. “But others were reluctant, feeling perhaps a sense of taboo toward copying the master. The butoh heritage is very strong, and I am coming from outside, so it did provoke some strong feelings. In a way, I am more nervous, bringing the production back to Japan again. For me, it is another big challenge to perform here.”

“About Kazuo Ohno” copies movements from the dancer’s best-loved works, “Admiring La Argentina” (1977), “My Mother” (1981) and “The Dead Sea” (1985). In one sense, Kawaguchi is performing a duet with the past. But the application of the kind of technology that allows him to do so also gives a nod to butoh’s possible future.

“About Kazuo Ohno: Reliving the Butoh Diva’s Masterpieces” will be performed by Takao Kawaguchi on Dec. 2 and 3 at Saitama Arts Theater in Saitama (3 p.m. start; ¥3,000 in advance; 048-858-5500). For more information, visit or


Butoh Dance Performance in Japan

Roger Walch  Published on Nov 8, 2007  3 min. 25 sec.
Part of Swiss Butoh dancer Imre Thormann's performance at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Shiga (Japan) in summer 2006. The live music is by Swiss jazz pianist Nik Baertsch and his band "Mobile".


H.B. | Filmriot Filmstro One Minute Short Film Contest

Gaspar Palacio  Published on Nov 13, 2017  1 min.
Better quality here: This is my submission to the 1 minute short film contest by Filmriot and Filmstro. I used the 'Volcano' track on Filmstro for the music. You can check my other works here: -Credits: Director/Editor: Gaspar Palacio Writer: Robert J. Lee (you can read his screenplay here: Sound recording: Oriane Palacio François: ÉRIC BARBIER Lucie: JADE BARLATIER Marie: ÉLA BARBIER The crowd: ANTOINE, CORENTIN, MARCO, BRIGITTE, VÉRO, LIONEL, ARMAND, PHILIPPE, SONIA, ÈVE, CLARA, DONATIEN, LÉNA, ORIANE The siren alarm is I used a Panasonic G7 with the 14-42mm kit lens and a 25mm lens. I recorded sound with a H1 and a zoom go. Due to scheduling I couldn't shoot it before the 11th, leaving me two days to edit the film.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Kidwell Farm

Where pardoned turkeys spend their all-too-brief final days.

Pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey is a White House tradition dating back to 1863 when Tad Lincoln successfully interceded with a call for clemency. In modern times, the lucky birds are selected by the poultry industry for their size and docility, and pose for a very quick photo with the president before being shuffled off camera and out of view. Lesser known is the longterm fate of these chosen birds, after they receive the nation’s highest avian honors.  

In recent years most of the turkeys have ended up in an outdoor pen on Kidwell Farm, the government’s demonstration exhibit of agricultural technology from the Great Depression. And despite the President’s 2017 prediction of a “very, very bright future”, most of the Turkeys of the United States don’t make it through their first winter. “We usually just find ‘em and they’re dead,” Kidwell Farmer Marlo Acock told ABC News.

The slaughter isn’t a byproduct of shoddy veterinary care, but an unfortunate reality of modern agribusiness. In order to attain their unnaturally plump gait, most Thanksgiving turkeys are fed a gluttonous diet of corn and soybeans and pumped up with antibiotic cocktails. By the age of 18 months or so, the Presidential turkeys are simply too fat and unhealthy to survive for more than a few months outdoors. 

In the past, Presidential Turkeys lived out their days on Mount Vernon’s educational farm, but the birds were banished for reasons of historical accuracy—there’s just no way an 18th century farm could have raised 45-pound gobblers.

2 Silly

Best Film of Murmuration I've Seen

The art of flying - 2 min version

Jan van IJkenPRO  Nov. 7, 2017  

WATCH THE FULL FILM (7 min) here:

Short film about “murmurations”: the mysterious flights of the Common Starling. It is still unknown how the thousands of birds are able to fly in such dense swarms without colliding. Every night the starlings gather at dusk to perform their stunning air show. 

Because of the relatively warm winter of 2014/2015, the starlings stayed in the Netherlands instead of migrating southwards. This gave filmmaker Jan van IJken the opportunity to film one of the most spectacular and amazing natural phenomena on earth.

'AKC' Monsters Down Under

The Purebred Crisis: How dogs are being deformed in the name of fashion

SBS VICELAND Nov 19, 2017  8 min. 27 sec.

Instagram loves flat-faced dogs. But they're facing a health crisis and no one can agree how to save them. We talk to a breeder, the RSPCA, the AVA and an owner whose dog has been in and out of surgery her whole life.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dead Portraits and Not-So-Dead Portraits

Clearing Up Some Myths About Victorian ‘Post-Mortem’ Photographs
Stories abound of dead people being propped up on stands to seem alive. The reality was different.

Día de los Muertos - Pixar Style

‘Coco’ Dominates Thanksgiving Weekend at the Box Office

“Coco” earned $71 million domestically over the five-day holiday weekend. Credit Pixar/Disney, via Associated Press


A superhero squad was no match for a boy with a guitar and a dream at the box office this weekend.

“Coco,” a vibrant, multicultural film from Pixar set in Mexico, drew $71 million domestically over the five-day holiday weekend, beating out “Justice League” for the No. 1 spot. The results reinforced Disney’s Thanksgiving dominance and proved that stories with Latino themes can have wide international appeal.

The movie takes place on Día de los Muertos and follows Miguel, a boy from a family of shoemakers whose quest to reignite his musical roots sends him on a journey through the underworld. Pixar put extra care into ensuring the movie was culturally accurate, and audiences and critics responded strongly: The movie received an A-plus grade from ticket buyers in CinemaScore exit polls and a 96 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregation site.

With school out, families propelled “Coco” over the holiday weekend, making up 73 percent of the audience. The turnout made “Coco,” which opened in nearly 4,000 theaters, the fourth-highest-grossing Thanksgiving opener of all time, behind its Disney predecessors “Frozen” ($94 million), “Moana” ($82 million) and “Toy Story 3” ($80 million). (It probably didn’t hurt that “Coco” was paired with a 21-minute “Frozen” offshoot, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure,” with new songs performed by Josh Gad, Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel.) Audiences didn’t seem to be deterred by recent allegations against the Pixar founder John Lasseter, who has taken a leave from the company.

Ticket purchases for “Coco” poured in internationally, too. The movie continued its record-setting run in Mexico, where it became the biggest release of all time. More unexpected was the movie’s success in China, where it hit No. 1 with an estimated $18.2 million over three days, according to Disney. The movie will receive an extended international rollout, with France, Germany and Spain up next.

“Great stories can come from everywhere,” Dave Hollis, the president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios, said in a phone interview. “They can come from all over the world, and when they’re executed as well as this is, can be relatable across languages and generations.”

The estimated global total for “Coco” stands at $153.4 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. The studio has not given a price for the movie, but Pixar films generally cost roughly $175 million to produce. Disney hopes that the movie will continue to build steam during the relatively uncompetitive weeks before “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” arrives on Dec. 15.

“Justice League” chugged along, with a five-day total of $63 million. The Warner Bros. superhero movie, starring Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, received mediocre reviews and lags behind previous DC blockbusters like “Wonder Woman” and “Suicide Squad.” The movie has fared much better overseas, with its cumulative global take of $481 million surpassing the $400 million it cost to make and market.

“Wonder,” Lionsgate’s family-friendly drama starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, continued its surprising run, earning $32 million over the long weekend. The breakout movie, which cost $20 million to make, has accrued a $69 million total.

Columbia Pictures’ “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” a Denzel Washington vehicle that examines the Los Angeles criminal court system, took in an underwhelming $6.2 million over the five-day weekend at about 1,600 domestic screens. Its production budget was $22 million.

On a much smaller scale, the well-reviewed “Call Me by Your Name,” a coming-of-age drama from Sony Classics, became the most successful limited-release opening of 2017, earning $404,874 at just four venues in New York and Los Angeles.

COCO Trailer 3 Extended  5 min. 26 sec.

Eyes on the Hurricanes


Hurricane Season Animated
Video Credit: M. R. Radcliff (USRA) et al., NASA's GSFC, SVS; Music: Elapsing Time by C. Telford & R. A. Navarro (ASCAP
Explanation: Where do hurricanes go? To better understand dangerous storms, NASA compiled data from several satellites into a supercomputer simulation of this past year's hurricane season. Specifically, the featured video shows how smoke (white), sea salt (blue), and dust (brown) tracked from 2017 August through October across the northern half of Earth's Western Hemisphere. These aerosols usefully trace sometimes invisible winds. In the midst of the many mesmerizing flows, hurricanes can be seen swirling across the Atlantic Ocean on the right. Some of these hurricanes lashed islands and coastal regions in North America before dissipating in the northern Atlantic. Studying this year's weather patterns may bolster more accurate storm forecasts as soon as next year.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Moon Money

If No One Owns the  Moon, Can Anyone Make Money Up There?

 The moon has been overlooked since NASA's Apollo missions. Private companies are now looking to set up shop. Credit NASA
Ambiguities in the 50-year-old Outer Space Treaty may be getting in the way of entrepreneurs seeking opportunities elsewhere in our solar system.