P.J.Polyp’s New Internationalist Cartoons – Updated

This brilliant cartoon by P.J.Polyp was originally published in The Ethical Consumer and is one of nearly 1000 postcards published by Leeds Postcards.

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The New Internationalist regularly features his work.

Update. Polyp has kindly added a link to an animated version of the Rat Race on Friends of the Earth’s website, and a link to his own website that you can find here.

A Parade of Parrots and A Clever Crow or Two.

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No.1: The Macaw
(You’ll have to do what the parrot says, and click on his image.)

And yes, you’re right it is a macaw. It’s the image that started me off on a long rumination about parrots.
I found it in the astonishingly well constructed site run by the New York Public Library, amongst a few thousand scans of cigarette cards. In all, there are some 600,000 images awaiting your visit.

A few minutes after finding this lovely chromolithograph, I spotted a news item on the BBC news site that related the story of an African Grey parrot called Yosuke that had wandered from its home in Tokyo. The bird was reunited with its owner because it repeatedly squawked its owner’s name and address to the veterinary clinicians who were looking after it. Now that’s amusing enough when you watch the video showing the bird speaking in Japanese, which I think (as a non Japanese speaker) is pretty smart. But what really impressed me was the assertion at the foot of the page that claimed that African Greys are as cognitively gifted as a six year old. I presume they mean a six year old human, rather than whippet, or narwhal, but I have no idea how you’d go about measuring these things. There must be some sort of universal test that researchers use to grade animal intelligence.

Repeating their name and address is a pretty commonplace feat for parrots, apparently, and it has reunited many a bird with its owner. A parrot has to be careful to tell their name and address to the right person, however, or they might get abducted while innocently chatting to seagulls, (as you do).

It strikes me though, that whoever is making the intelligence claim on behalf of the parrots hasn’t been spending much time with six year old humans recently. I’d suggest they visit a primary school classroom and listen to the year 2 students confidently cruising through their spelling tests, and then ask a parrot to do the same.
I believe that while the children are certainly using rote memory to recall their spellings parrot fashion, they are also beginning to deploy big dollops of inference and guesswork in their spelling strategy, too.

Parrots certainly have another similarity to six year old humans, which is that they can be jaw droppingly indiscreet.
Imagine the anguish one parrot owner suffered recently when he was alerted to his girlfriend’s infidelity by his talkative African Grey squawking “I love you Gary” using her voice. His name was Chris, not Gary. Whoops!

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No.2: The African Grey.

Suzy Collins had been meeting ex-work colleague “Gary” for four months in the Leeds flat she shared with her partner Chris Taylor, according to reports.
Mr Taylor apparently became suspicious after Ziggy croaked “Hiya Gary” when Ms Collins answered her mobile phone.
The parrot also made smooching sounds whenever the name Gary was said on TV.
Mr Taylor, 30, a computer programmer, confronted the woman he had lived with for a year who admitted the affair and moved out, several newspapers reported.
He also gave up his eight-year-old African Grey parrot after the bird continued to call out Gary’s name and refused to stop squawking the phrases in his ex-girlfriend’s voice.
“I wasn’t sorry to see the back of Suzy after what she did, but it really broke my heart to let Ziggy go,” he said.
“I love him to bits and I really miss having him around, but it was torture hearing him repeat that name over and over again.”
Ms Collins, 25, said: “I’m not proud of what I did but I’m sure Chris would be the first to admit we were having problems.”
Ziggy – named after David Bowie’s former alter ego Ziggy Stardust – has now found a new home through the offices of a local parrot dealer.

That couple separated without having to go through a painful divorce, but imagine what it must be like to be in the divorce court and your pet cockatoo is called in as a star witness to testify against you! To add insult to injury, the bird in this next example of parroty persiflage was named Bozo.

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No.3: Leadbeaters Cockatoo.

“I knew he’d seen everything that my husband Carlos did when my back was turned,” Mrs. DeGambos said in an interview about her bizarre divorce court ploy. “And I knew he had the vocabulary to describe what he’d witnessed.

“My lawyer thought at first it was a ridiculous idea to call on Bozo, but he doesn’t know Bozo like I do.”

Incredibly, the 14-year-old cockatoo answered questions and identified photos during his testimony before Judge Manuel Agusto in a civil court here. According to press accounts, the bird tended to repeat himself but presented convincing proof that his master, a businessman, had been unfaithful.

The stool-pigeon parrot described three “pretty dollies” that Carlos, 52, had “tickled” while his wife was away. He also identified the women in photographs, calling them by their correct names.

“I used to think that Carlos was a faithful husband but Bozo let me know about a year ago that something was up when I wasn’t home,” Mrs. DeGambos said. “He was using new words, words of love. And he began giggling in a high-pitched feminine voice. He kept saying, “No Carlos, not here,” and things like that. I knew if the lawyers could get him to testify, there was plenty of information they could get from him.”

( Read the whole tawdry tale here ) You have to love that bit where the lawyer says: “the bird tended to repeat himself”. Brilliant!

I have no idea what sort of cockatoo Bozo is, but I bet Carlos now sees him like this:-
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No.4: The Palm Cockatoo.

This gabby behaviour is nothing new, it must be noted.

Perhaps this story might give us an insight into a strange aspect of human behaviour. Namely, that we just love teaching parrots to swear. We just can’t help ourselves, even if there are embarrassing consequences for doing so. Nor can we resist getting them drunk. Or making them smoke tobacco. Sometimes all three. Or training them to play golf, or whistle (as if they needed training!).
It’s a strange dynamic.

Blue Fronted Amazon
No.5: The Curiously named Blue Fronted Amazon

Turning our attention away for a moment from the patient parrot who became a psychotherapist, and even the geeky parrot who had his own website and e-mail address (unreachable today, unfortunately) and the potty mouthed parrots for a while, let’s take a look at their cousins, the crows, who always seemed to me to be more intelligent. Maybe that’s because they appear to be more solemn than the garrulous motormouth parrots, but it also might be because crows seem capable of inference and abstract thought processes, not to mention tool making.

Have a look at the cleverness of the crows in the video below.
Joshua Klein

Joshua Klein talks about his vending machine for crows at the latest TED Talks. It’s an amazing presentation, as are all of the TED lectures.
(Technology, Entertainment, Design. In case you were wondering.)
Link to low resolution video. Link to high resolution video.

The Parrot Fish
No.6: The Parrot Fish

Parrots are clowns. Crows are goths.

Humphrey Lyttleton’s Tribute to Louis Prima – Repeated on BBC Radio 4

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Another chance, as they say, to hear (the late) Humphrey Lyttleton’s appraisal of Louis Prima on BBC Radio 4. As Humphrey says, most people knew Prima only as the voice of King Louie in The Jungle Book, but there was much more to him than that one song. Prima and his band were musical pioneers across several musical genres from big band to rock ‘n’ roll.

Here’s the clip.

I last blogged about this same broadcast in May 2006
Link to the Louis Prima website. (Music starts when site is accessed, just press one of the links to the left.)

Gobelins Student Films at Annecy Animated Film Festival – Wrapped Up

For some years, the final year students at the Gobelins school in Paris have provided the opening shorts for screening sessions at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival & Market that takes place in early June.

Every day’s proceedings at the festival are introduced with a new short film.
Details of these animated films have been posted below day by day – Monday’s is at the bottom of the post.

The choice of hand drawn animation arose in large part from the themes chosen for the festival by the Annecy organisers. This year is the centenary of Tex Avery’s birth and also marks 100 years since Emile Cohl showed the first animated film, Fantasmagorie. There was a big focus on Indian animation during the festival with three programmes of shorts, student films, and two full length animated features.

Which might go some way to explaining why the majority of these five shorts’ artwork was executed by hand.

Friday the 13th June.

Today’s opening short is called VIP, and it deals with the all important screenings session pass.

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(Click to enlarge, etc.)

The artists are Kherveen Dabylall, Denis Do, Benoît Guillaumot, Françoise Losito, and Patrick Pujalte.

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That makes it the fifth of these opening shorts to be principally produced in hand drawn animation. It must be some sort of statement. Way to go!
See the film here.

Thursday’s (12th of June) film by the Gobelins students is called “Garuda” and it follows the trend set by the previous three in that it’s another piece of hand drawn animation.

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(Click to enlarge these pictures)

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Nicolas Athane, Meryl Franck, Alexis Liddell, Andres Salaff, Maïlys Vallade were responsible for creating Garuda. You can see the film here.

Wednesday 11th of June
The third release is out there now. It’s called Wild Casting, and was created by Nicolas Caffarel, Thomas Charra, Floriane Marchix, Jérémie Moreau, Baptiste Rogron, and Melvina Wong.

(Click the thumbnails to expand)
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And guess what! It’s hand drawn animation again…. Here’s the link.

Tuesday 10th of June

The second Gobelins film to be released, La Ballade Sauvage, (below) is now online here.

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Another hand drawn animation! Is this a trend? Will they all be hand drawn?

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Created by: Cyril Drouin, Mai Nnguyen, Gabriel Jolly Monge, Elen Le Tannou, and Marion Stinghe.

Monday 9th of June

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(Click to enlarge the thumbnails, please)

A new student film makes its debut each day of the festival, and the first to be released is “Supertromp” produced by Brice Chevillard, Melody Cisinsky, David Francois, Jacques Jarczyk and Gaelle Thierry.

Delightful to see that Supertromp has been animated in 2D hand drawn animation.

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Stay tuned!

More films will be added to the Gobelins web page as the week rolls on.

With Friends Like This… (Updated)

Who needs enemies?

Just seven pages long but classified as “UK Top Secret”, this latest intelligence assessment on al-Qaeda is so sensitive that every document is numbered and marked “for UK/US/Canadian and Australian eyes only”, according to our correspondent.

According to reports, this document may have contained details of names of individuals or locations which might have been useful to Britain’s enemies.

However, it appears that in a serious breach of the rules, the papers were taken out of Whitehall by an unnamed official and left in an orange cardboard envelope on the seat of a Surrey-bound train from London Waterloo on Tuesday.

Update: Amazingly, there were some other secret documents travelling on a train in the opposite direction on the same day! Read the story here.

And wait! There’s more:
November ’07: Discs containing child benefit records of 25m people lost
December ’07: Driving Standards Agency contractor loses records of 3m people
January ’08: 600,000 details of would-be recruits lost by Naval officer

… And this lot want to introduce a database that holds the most detailed identity information about every single citizen of this country….

There’s an opportunity to tell them what you think of their National Identity theft Register here.

André Durenceau – Inspirations 1928

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(Please click all these thumbnails to see the bigger pictures)

Illustrator, artist, muralist and bon viveur André Maurice Durenceau was born in Auray, France in 1904 and by the time he was 24 he’d emigrated to the USA and had his first limited edition folio of designs, called “Inspirations”, published.

There’s very little easily accessible biographical detail about Durenceau on the web, but thanks to Time Magazine’s online archive, we can learn that he had acquired US citizenship and was thriving as a muralist in Hollywood around 1934, and that he was a colour adviser to Technicolor. He went on to pursue a career as an illustrator, illuminating several books and occasionally producing some modernist art deco paintings.

There’s evidence that he worked as a textile designer in the US, and it’s likely that he had studied design before arriving stateside.

Be prepared for some colour overload as you feast your eyeballs on these boisterous designs.
I found them on the New York Public Library site, and you’ll notice that they own a rather grubby, apparently flood damaged copy of the Inspirations folio. I’ve corrected the scans slightly, but if I’d followed my impulse to give them a total wash and scrub up treatment, some of the colour might have suffered, so I held back. A bit.

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Continue reading this post, there’s a lot more text and pictures after the fold, here >> Continue reading

Will You Still Love Me?

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Will you still need me…when I’m sixty four?
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A picture of one of many much loved beach huts in West Wittering, near where our family recently spent a long weekend with friends on the Selsey peninsula near Chichester.
Selsey is one of many coastal towns that is beginning to renegotiate its relationship with the sea, in the light of future sea level rises.

Here’s what the area will look like when the sea level rises by just 5 metres. Have a play with the amazing interactive map that was constructed by Alex Tingle of flood.firetree.net

In the not too distant future, no-one will be able to find, nor indeed love, the beach hut. Or the beach, come to that.

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On the way home from Selsey, we took to the hills, and took a long walk in the Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, just to the North West of Chichester. It features groves of 2 – 3000 year old yew trees and there is a group of 3,000 year old barrows on the top of a hill which are definitely out of reach of any rising waters.

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You can clearly see these circular mounds in this Flash Earth image.

The yews in the forest below cast a heavy shadow that give the woods a lugubrious, almost sinister mood. My advice is to use a tripod if you’re taking pictures.

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Some of the trees have fantastically gnarly bark.

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I was delighted to find a magnificent example of The Chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) bracket fungus growing on one of the yews. It’s about the only bracket fungus that’s fit to eat. In the gloom under the heavy canopy, the fungus glowed with an amazingly strong brightness and colour.

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The most delightful sight was the hundreds of little Common Spotted-orchids growing in the long grass of the chalky hillside. I stretched the macro feature of my camera to the max. The lens was about 2 centimetres from the flower in this shot.

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Dactylorhiza fuchsii The Common Spotted Orchid.
(Click this small image to enlarge it)

I will surely keep loving the sight of this beautiful flower long after I’m sixty four.

Beach Huts on Flickr
Yew Trees on Flickr
Bracket Fungi on Flickr