Friday, April 19, 2013

Beatrice & Virgil

In Yan Martel's most recent novel, “Beatrice & Virgil”, Beatrice is a donkey, and Virgil a monkey. They are exhibits in a taxidermist's shop. Despite being dead, they talk, and indeed talk with each other about matters of great profundity.

The taxidermist himself, is a man of equally great profundity. When, for instance, he speaks of taxidermy, he makes you see it in a new way:
Is there a level of barbarism involved in taxidermy? I see none. Or only if one lives a life entirely sheltered from death in which one never looks into the back room of a butcher shop, or the operating room of a hospital, or the working room of a funeral parlour. Life and death live and die in exactly the same spot, the body. It is from there that both babies and cancers are born. To ignore death, then, is to ignore life. I no more mind the smell of an animal's carcass than I do the smell of a field; both are natural and each has its attaching particularity.
.........taxidermists do not create a demand. We merely preserve a result. I have never hunted in my life and have no interest in the pursuit. I would never harm an animal. They are my friends. When I work on an animal, I work in the knowledge that nothing I do can alter its life, which is past. What I am actually doing is extracting and refining memory from death. In that, I am no different from a historian, who parses through the material evidence of the past in an attempt to reconstruct it and then understand it. Every animal I have mounted has been an interpretation of the past. I am a historian, dealing with an animal's past; the zookeeper is a politician, dealing with an animal's present; and everyone else is a citizen who must decide on that animal's future. So you see, we are dealing here with matters so much weightier than what to do with a dusty stuffed duck inherited from an uncle......
While reading “Beatrice & Virgil”, I wondered why taxidermists stuff only animals. Why not humans too? Like, when your Loved Ones of the human species die – your old Mum or old Dad, or dear Wife - you could have a taxidermist stuff them. You would put them in a special room in your house, and you could talk to them whenever you feel like it. It would be like they'd never died.

Why has this never caught on?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

What's Going On In The Namib Desert?

Stretching along the entire coastline of Namibia is a desert called the Namib Desert. As deserts go, the Namib is somewhat interesting, for not many deserts stretch along entire coastlines, and the terrain of the Namib is dotted with many thousands of patches of bare earth, shaped in circles, some over twenty meters in diameter.

If you *click here*, you can see examples of these “Fairy Circles”. Amazing, dontcha think?

No-one knows exactly how these circles are made, although some Men of Science think they know. One such Man of Science recently discovered that the soil underneath the circles is somewhat damp, and that lots of termites live in it. When it rains (which isn't often) the rain that falls on the circles seeps through the bare soil, for there's no vegetation to absorb the water.

It's this somewhat damp soil that attracts the termites, thinks the above-mentioned Man of Science. He, this Man of Science, says the termites created the bare soil by eating the roots of the vegetation, thereby destroying it. Hence the termites created the conditions for the soil underneath to retain the moisture, making it nice for the termites.

No sooner did this Man of Science proclaim it as the solution of the Fairy Circle mystery, other Men of Science attacked this explanation, saying just because lots of termites live beneath the Fairy Circles, doesn't necessarily mean they caused them.

Other Men of Science have yet other explanations for the Fairy Circles, all equally tortuous. However, none tackle the question: Why are the soil patches round, or at least almost round?

How about that extra-terrestrial flying craft caused the circles? Consider that the soil within the Crop Circles which manifest in England every year, and the soil on which many UFOs have landed, often shows traces of having been subjected to intense laser-like heat.

If, then, extra-terrestrial craft - which have, most of them, been observed to be round - land in the Namib Desert, and emanate laser-like heat on to the soil on which they land, this would kill off the vegetation. Given the desert's aridity, making it so difficult for vegetation to grow, it would be a long, long time before new vegetation replaced the old. Hence the patches of bare earth are round.

Because Namibia, and particularly the Namib Desert, has so few people, it would be perfect for thousands of visiting Extra-Terrestrials to use as a vast landing area with no-one noticing.

They're crafty, those ETs.