Richard Conniff, author of the Species Seekers, found himself, while researching that book, cataloging the strange deaths of many naturalists over the past two centuries. He compiled them on his website. It makes for fascinating reading. Among my favorites:
Biermann, Adolph(?–1880), curator of the Calcutta Botanical Garden, survived attack by tiger while walking in garden but succumbed a year later, age unknown, to cholera.
Brown, Kirsty M. (1974-2003), marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, drowned, age 29, when attacked while snorkeling and dragged 200 feet underwater by a leopard seal.
Macklot, Heinrich(1799–1832), naturalist, was so enraged when insurgents burned down his house, with all of his collections, that he organized a revenge attack and was speared to death, age 33, in Java.
Nevermann. William Heinrich (1881-1938), entomologist, killed, age 57, while hunting ants by lantern with a colleague at night in Costa Rica. He was shot by a neighbor who thought the lights of the two lanterns were the eyes of a puma.
Ruspoli, Prince Eugenio (1866-1893), Italian explorer, gave his name to one of world’s most beautiful and rare birds, the Ethiopian endemic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, whose first specimen was found in the prince’s hunting bag after he was trampled to death, age 27, by an angry elephant.
It's been a good couple of years for new species discovery, even mammals, even fairly large mammals, but I'm not sure what to make of this dude:
Cryptozoologists everywhere must be rejoicing. Whenever a big and new animal is discovered it offers hope -- and proof! -- of the possibility that sasquatch/yeti/orang pendek/et. al. are still out there, lurking in the forests, cunning enough to remain undetected for all these years. But I don't know about the snub nosed monkey. That's the only specimen ever recorded (and it was eaten immediately thereafter), and it even looks like the fakeries of explorational yesteryear, when taxidermy chimeras where brought back form places mysterious proving the existence of this or that mythical creature. So don't get your hopes up. Besides: why not be satisfied with the truly new species? You don't need to hold a torch with sasquatch when you have an adorable purple cartoon octopus friend from the deep!
When we were in China, I always had the feeling that when we weren't around the locals would turn into pandas by night. Wouldn't Ailuropoda melanoleucanthropy, i.e. werepandaism (the former technical term having been coined by me, just now!), be pretty awesome? The answer is yes, it would. That's not what's going on here, but it is also pretty awesome:
This is how researchers are interacting with the panda cubs, so as to not habituate them to people, as they get ready to release them into the wild. I guess that's better than letting us gweilos, or Japanese tourists, run wild in the baby panda enclosures. (Or let's say it's more scientifically responsibility, because in my view there is nothing better than Japanese girls covered in pandas, or being so covered oneself.) My question: is there a chance that this technique will just habituate the little critters to people dressed like pandas? I hope this doesn't affect the people-panda program. Or maybe next time we trek to Sichuan, we will have to wear the suits ourselves, which I wouldn't mind (for obvious reasons).
Who knew Ailuropoda melanoleuca liked birthdays so much? In light of that, why did it take so long for all that revelry to be collected in place? Even more important: why have I neet been sent that link like five hundred times already? (Thanks Joy Meads, for stepping up.)
Me -- I think the parasol is a nice touch. Not to mention the music, which I think we can all stipulate is what makes this not just another bipedal pug, but a transcendent experience that made another commenter say: "I have watched this 30 times and it always brings tears of joy in my eyes."
But my favorite comment got practical, simply wanting to know, "What modifications did you do to the stroller so she can push it?"
I like how one of these incredible animals that actually do exist is just a really huge cat:
Some other animals that DO exist? More cats! But the real payoff is the weird scrolling message at the end: WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE. Most collections of animal stills set to music may be teenage boredom, but not this one. Baby ground sloths + really huge cats = existentialism. To that, my cousin Poochie asks: are teenage boredom and existentialism the same thing? Think about it. A fine riposte. And the answer is clear, especially, if you have recently caught the Virgin Suicides on cable, like me. Twice!
If, like me, you find unusual tales of human-squirrel domesticity charming, then this is for you. Just a man and his squirrel: in the shower; on a drive; and wiling away the afternoon with a pint at the pub!
Thanks to one Professor Charles Snowdon of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the world finally has some answers on a vexing issue of our time! While the rest of us were content to fuck around with plants listening to Mozart for the fifth grade science fair -- I mean, really, we all already knew that tomatoes enjoy the charm of Der Zauberfloete -- Snowdon stepped it up by subjecting some adorably fuzzy-head primates to Bach, Miles Davis, a little Zep, and a dose of Ride The Lightning. Guess which one calmed them down the most? That's right. And naturally, they preferred the early years. Nothing after And Justice For All. That stuff is for pussies. Or Pygmy Tarsiers.
I mean, you know I love monkeys doing human things. As the poster of this video of a recent Banana Derby states in the description: "Monkeys wearing little jockey silks, riding dogs like horses! Hilarious!"
But the idiot quotient surrounding this particular event seems high enough to make the whole thing feel unseemly. Then again, it is pretty cool that the dogs and monkeys are such good friends. Maybe they are just waiting for the right moment to turn on their masters one day. Imagine: an army of monkey-equipped hounds, tearing through the audience with banana-fueled blood-lust. People running, and peels everywhere adding to the confusion -- now that's something I'd like to see.
Maybe that's because he is a little gremlin! Last collected in 1921, the pygmy tarsier weighs 50 grams, about as much as a king-size bag of Fritos. This particular guy was captured using "276 mist nets," according to the article -- which are what exactly? Gremlin-trapping devices, apparently. Although the mist nets are not quite perfect: "One other individual was spotted but eluded capture."
Since the last summary of the world’s mammals was published in 2005,
tallying the roughly 5,400 mammalian species then known, Dr. Helgen
said, an astounding 400 or so new species have been added to the list.
“Most people don’t realize this,” he said, “but we are smack-dab in the
middle of the age of discovery for mammals.”
The reason, however is likely because of unprecedented human penetration into the wild. So the age of discovery is accompanied by an age of extinction. Bad news for scientists and pseudo-scientists alike. So if you're going to find bigfoot, better do it soon.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.