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Posts Tagged ‘birds’


November 19, 2015 | by

In the past week, I’ve downloaded a guided meditation app, bought a new album I’d been looking forward to, and let several worthy podcasts pile up in my queue. And yet, the only thing I find myself listening to is “Skylark,” the 1942 standard brought to prominence by Glenn Miller. Do you ever get in these obsessive ruts—these experiences where suddenly, a song you’ve heard a hundred times speaks to you in a new, urgent way? And nothing else feels like the sound track of that moment? Read More »

A Century of Censorship, and Other News

November 18, 2015 | by

Audrey Munson, in a still from Inspiration.

  • Our new anthology, The Unprofessionals, is out now. What does it mean to be unprofessional, you ask? In many cases, it’s as easy as spitting in someone’s food or showing up to work in bondage gear. But if you’re a writer, escaping the rising tide of professionalism proves more difficult. Fortunately, our editor, Lorin Stein, has some advice: “The stories that excite me most tend to have three qualities. First there’s a voice, a narrator who urgently needs to speak. Even if they never say ‘I.’ Second, the narrator tries to persuade you that he or she is telling the truth. The third thing is, for lack of a better word, wisdom. A kind of moral authority, or at least the effort to settle a troubled conscience … There’s a kind of realism—not just in stories, but in poems and essays—that assumes we live in dishonesty, that we lie to others and ourselves as a matter of survival, but that part of us knows the truth when we see it. That’s what interests me: the truths we can’t tell except when we put on the mantle of this authority.” 
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard hears this voice, too: “The novel is an oddly intimate genre: at root, it is always a matter between two individuals, writer and reader, whose first encounter occurs when the writer writes—for in writing, the very act of it, there is always an appeal to a you, redeemed only by the insertion of a reader. This you may be inserted at any time, even hundreds of years after the event of writing, the way, for instance, we might read a novel written in seventeenth-century Spain, or eighteenth-century Russia, or early-twentieth-century Germany, and yet still induce the voice of the self to rise anew within us, remoteness dissolving. And that self may also reveal itself to us in the reading of novels from places geographically remote to us, such as China, Kenya, Colombia.”
  • A century ago today, on November 18, 1915, cinema saw its first nude woman, and people have been in a tizzy over sex and censorship on-screen ever since: “The bare breasts and buttocks of Audrey Munson, the actress in Inspiration, seemed to enter the public consciousness only obliquely. One contemporary critic wrote that the film was ‘both inspiring and intellectual,’ with Munson giving a performance of ‘innocence, modesty, and simplicity’; others noted that it was ‘daring’ and a ‘triumph of Film Art.’ One, the Daily Capital Journal, scoffed at the idea of anyone being offended by it. After all, it pointed out, this is a work of ‘extreme artistic and educational value,’ not a titillating striptease.”
  • Today in nests and nesting: in Zvenigorod, forty miles west of Moscow, there stands a cathedral with a wealth of rare printed matter hidden inside: letters, newspaper clippings, candy wrappers, banknotes, some as old as the early nineteenth century. For this horn of archival plenty, we can thank the birds: “flocks of swifts and jackdaws had built nests in the attic out of various bits of papers, dirt, branches, and trash that over the centuries came to form a considerably thick layer of preserved history … Other documents record the town’s civic, religious, and educational affairs; among the lot: bus tickets, delivery contracts, a county court slip, students’ notebooks and diplomas, parish registers, and even church confessional statements.”
  • The photographer Andrew Moore’s new book, Dirt Meridian, features ten years of his pictures of homestead sites, taken along the hundredth meridian line that runs through Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, where once pioneers were attracted by the Homestead Act. What’s there now? “Almost World Famous Dixie’s Café,” crumbling houses, Simon’s Schoolhouse Museum, and a lot of property that looks more or less the same.

Where They Live

June 8, 2015 | by


Guy Laramée, via This Is Colossal

The French Canadian artist Guy Laramée, whom we’ve featured before on the Daily, has a new series of book sculptures, “Onde Elles Moran”—“Where They Live.” Laramée spent nine months on the series, which features Brazilian birds painted on secondhand, linen-bound Clássicos Jackson—something akin to our Great Books of the Western World, those generically handsome tomes seemingly designed to collect dust on attractive shelves—with the birds’ native habitats carved into the pages.

Laramée has become known for his book sculptures, which he began about five years ago; he regards books as raw material in need of processing, and he’s proven unafraid to go at them with a chain saw. But he can also approach the medium with a miniaturist’s attention to detail, as demonstrated in the topography of the landscapes here; he uses oil, inks, pigments and dry pastels, crayon, fixative, and beeswax. “It all started in a sand blaster cabinet,” he said in an interview with ANOBIUM about the sculptures’ genesis:

I put a book in there—stupid idea—and there it was. Within seconds I saw the landscape, the drama, Borges, the little people who lived in books, everything … I never really totally forget that these are books, that my raw material is not wood, not even paper, but a book. At times I’m lost in the project, in the landscape. But a book is a book, structurally. The pages are not glued, so you have to respect the structure, from the binding of each pages to the cover, otherwise pages will fly away when you release the clamps.

 You can see more of his work at This Is Colossal, JHB Gallery, and on his Web site. Read More »

Angry Birds

December 2, 2014 | by


From The Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1893.

Here’s a scene from Barbara Pym’s 1952 novel Excellent Women, in which the protagonist, Mildred Lathbury, meets Everard Bone’s eccentric mother.

I thought I had better revive the conversation which had lapsed, so I commented on the animals’ heads in the hall, saying what fine specimens they were.

“My husband shot them in India and Africa,” said Mrs. Bone, “but however many you shoot there still seem to be more.”

“Oh, yes, it would be a terrible thing if they became extinct,” I said. “I suppose they keep the rarer animals in game reserves now.”

“It’s not the animals so much as the birds,” said Mrs. Bone fiercely. “You will hardly believe this, but I was sitting in the window this afternoon and as it was a fine day I had it open at the bottom, when I felt something drop into my lap. And do you know what it was?” She turned and peered at me intently.

I said that I had no idea.

“Unpleasantness,” she said, almost triumphantly. Then lowering her voice she explained, “From a bird, you see. It had done something when I was actually sitting in my own drawing room.”

“How annoying,” I said, feeling mesmerized and unable even to laugh. 

I draw this to your attention because unpleasantness is a term that is sadly underused. I think of it often, usually in the context of that disgusting, grinning coil-of-feces emoji. (I will not dignify it by using its infantile moniker, as I was discouraged from babyish scatological terminology at an early age and cannot break the habit.) I mean, I don’t sit around being furious, or think about it at unrelated times, but people text with that thing all the time. Indeed, in a recent feature in a fashion magazine, I saw no fewer than two celebrities list this as their favorite, and most frequently used, emoji. (Even I will grudgingly concede that it is versatile, in its inscrutable, repulsive way.) 

To me, this is the unpleasantness emoji. This also applies to its animated iteration, which features circling flies. I know its history is an interesting window into tech development (read about it here, if you don’t find the juxtaposition with oral too off-putting) and I’m sure there are far more damning indications of the coarsening fiber of modern society. But it is a small, bad thing. And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never really understood what it means.

By Conservative Estimate

May 30, 2014 | by


Here’s a weekend recommendation for you—think of it as an extended Staff Pick, if you like.

Bill and Coo was made in 1948 to showcase “Burton’s Birds,” a troupe of trained lovebirds managed by former silent-movie actor George Burton. And does it ever! The tiny, Trucolor-hued town of Chirpendale is filled with bird characters of all kinds, doing all sorts of remarkable things: working in barber shops, wearing dunce caps, performing in circuses. In this idyll, we are told, “love, happiness and contentment blend together in harmony.” That is, until the Black Menace—a crow—descends and wreaks havoc. There’s romance (the eponymous Bill and Coo), adventure, song and dance. The film won a special Oscar. A New York Times critic deemed it “by conservative estimate, the God-damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.” 

I adored Bill and Coo as a kid—we had a bootleg Betamax video of it—but I worried it wouldn’t hold up, or that as an adult I’d see signs of avian exploitation. (For the record, I’ve detected no indication of that, although maybe there’s an untold story that bears serious investigation.) I need not have—it is as weird, and as entertaining, as can be. A novelty, yes—but a wonderfully watchable one.

The whole film is readily available online—and you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you watch it from start to finish. But here’s a taste. Read More »

The Uncommon Birds of George Edwards

April 3, 2014 | by

Edwards American Kingfisher

The American Kingfisher

edwards the bearded vulture

The Bearded Vulture

Edwards The Toucan or Brazilian Pye

The Toucan or Brazilian Pye


The Golden Bird of Paradise


The King Bird of Paradise


The Whooping Crane


The Black-Capped Lory


The Green Parrot of the West Indies


The Longest-Tailed Hummingbird


The Ornate Lorikeet


The Penguin


The Red African Gray Parrot


The Hawk-Headed Parrot


The Dodo and the Guinea Pig


The Summer Duck of Catesby

George Edwards, born today in 1694, is known as “the father of British ornithology”—as fine a paternal legacy as a guy can hope for. Today, his reputation as a naturalist endures in no small part because of his excellent drawings, which introduced English readers to scores of exotic creatures: first and foremost, birds. His greatest work is the four-volume Natural History of Uncommon Birds, whose full august title deserves to be seen in toto: A Natural History of Uncommon Birds: And of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals, Quadrupeds, Fishes, Reptiles, Insects, &c., Exhibited in Two Hundred and Ten Copper-plates, from Designs Copied Immediately from Nature, and Curiously Coloured After Life, with a Full and Accurate Description of Each Figure, to which is Added A Brief and General Idea of Drawing and Painting in Water-colours; with Instructions for Etching on Copper with Aqua Fortis; Likewise Some Thoughts on the Passage of Birds; and Additions to Many Subjects Described in this Work.

These drawings are taken from that work, which you can read here. Of particular note is his illustration of the dodo, which was, even then, extraordinarily rare and facing extinction.

As for the man: According to The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and Their Collectors, a contemporary of Edwards’s “described him as of medium stature, inclined to plumpness and of a cheerful, kindly nature ‘associated with a charming diffidence.’”