I’m spending a very rainy Houston Fourth of July cooking Texas chili!
There really isn’t much to report, aside from the chili thing. In between games of spider solitaire and episodes of the first season of Felicity on DVD, I’m still poking at dissertation topics with long sticks to see if they move. Most of them are dormant or dead. But in lieu of my usual boring academic updates, I thought I would post about the three interesting and disturbing things about the natural world I’ve learned this week!
(1) So there’s this thing called the corpse plant. It is so named because its odor, which is reminiscent of a a rotting mammal, can be sniffed for blocks when it blooms (which is very infrequently). It is also extremely ugly. Its formal name is Amorphophallus titanum, which, according to Wikipedia, means “giant misshapen penis” in Ancient Greek. There is a corpse plant named Bella on the campus of UNCC, and it bloomed a day or two ago. You can visit Bella’s website, and I recommend scrolling down to see Bella in every stage of her disgusting plant life.
(2) While working on an article about Donne at SEL, I learned that in the early modern period they used to sew a hawk’s eyelids shut while training it for falconing. The trainer would loosen these threads from time to time to give the bird limited vision. I don’t know about current hawking practices, but I’m hoping they no longer involve sewing anything shut.
(3) In other news, they caught
off the coast of Anarctica. It seems that the squid was caught in February, but I only learned about it this afternoon while browsing around mental floss. This squid — this squid is what’s wrong with the world. Global warming is horrible, but if the polar ice caps melt and we’re all adrift in snazzy life jackets in the one giant ocean that used to be our planet, I certainly don’t want to be sharing the seas with a 33-foot mama squid and it 40+ foot family members.
That’s all I got.
But I also wanted to note that the poem on the Writer’s Almanac on NPR yesterday was truly excellent: “The Coming of Archy,” by Don Marquis. I’m going to paste it below, but I recommend going to the website and listening to Garrison Keillor read it!
The Coming of Archy
expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went
into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook on life
i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i can’t eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why don’t she
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be for
there is a rat here she should get without delay
most of these rats here are just rats
but this rat is like me he has a human soul in him
he used to be a poet himself
night after night i have written poetry for you
on your typewriter
and this big brute of a rat who used to be a poet
comes out of his hole when it is done
and reads it and sniffs at it
he is jealous of my poetry
he used to make fun of it when we were both human
he was a punk poet himself
and after he has read it he sneers
and then he eats it
i wish you would have mehitabel kill that rat
or get a cat that is onto her job
and i will write you a series of poems
showing how things look
to a cockroach
that rats name is freddy
the next time freddy dies i hope he won’t be a rat
but something smaller i hope i will be a rat
in the next transmigration and freddy a cockroach
i will teach him to sneer at my poetry then
don’t you ever eat any sandwiches in your office
i havent had a crumb of bread
for i dont know how long
or a piece of ham or anything but apple parings
and paste leave a piece of paper in your machine
every night you can call me archy