Friday, March 30, 2007

Signs of spring

Banana flower

Okay, I'm back, finally. On Wednesday I had my last class. EVER. I've still got a couple of papers to write and a lot of grading to do, but then it's straight on to the dissertation proposal. I can't quite wrap my head around that yet.

Today, I took the day off and visited the Allan Gardens Conservatory, and then Riverdale Farm. I hadn't been to either in months, and saw reasons to go back to both soon. I'll want to drop by Allan Gardens again to see how the banana flower is doing -- as you can see in the above photo, it's about halfway along to becoming a banana bunch. Meanwhile, at Riverdale Farm, it's baby animal season:

Reason to go back soon

A pair of calves are already out and about; today they were nursing hungrily:

Messy eaters

More plant and animal photos here.

Semi-regular posting will now resume!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Invertebrates invade InterAccess

Outside, looking in
Yes, it's another blog lull, brought on by another big work crunch. Things are going to be sporadic around here for about another month or so.

I've been so busy I'm only just now getting around to uploading my pics from the opening of the ZOO show at InterAccess a month ago. The good news is that the show runs until March 17, so you still have time to check it out! Above, gallery-goers peer into Amy Youngs' "Holodeck for House Crickets".

I know the picture below is a little fuzzy, but it's a picture of a giant hissing Madagascar cockroach controlling a robot. In the dark. That's "Cockroach Controlled Mobile Robot #3" by Garnet Hertz.


And I somehow managed not to get any decent pictures of "Digital Crustaceans v.0.3: Homesteading on the World Wide Web" by Ingrid Bachmann, but do click on that link to check out the website.

It's a ridiculously fun show -- it's worth going just to look at the live crabs and bugs -- but also full of ideas. I was intrigued by the fact that all 3 pieces incorporate living things that are wildly different from humans, but the artists seem compelled to assign human qualities to them. Amy Youngs, designing a cushy dream-home for crickets, gave them a fake waterfall and a holo-view of a meadow -- but admits that they probably don't care and that this is a "human conception of an ideal home for crickets." Garnet Hertz has helpfully provided his cockroach pilots with a flickering light-screen that they can use to navigate -- but notes that cockroaches don't actually use visual information much at all, relying instead on vibrations and smells. (In fact the cockroach doesn't even have a brain -- just several clusters of ganglial cells distributed around its body -- which helps explain why it can live for so long with its head cut off.) Ingrid Bachmann's hermit crabs have their own avatars on Second Life! Obviously, this is something the artists were very conscious of. I think it's interesting that when we try to interact and engage with the natural world, what we often seem to wind up doing is picking out entities in that world and treating them like people. Even if these entities did have subjectivities like our own, their experiences would be unknowable to us. What is it like to be a cricket? There's a paper in this somewhere, but I'm too busy to write it.