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The wisdom of animals

Cats never smile. This is what makes Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat so uncanny. Animals are expressionless, contributing further to their capacity to present to us humans as other — both familiar and alien according to Paul Shepard. “Deeply committed to the play of facial features and the power of expression, we find the immobile faces … Continue reading

How animals make us think

Dog, cat, sheep, fox, hen, Pokémon — we don’t only classify animals and their surrogates, but animals are a primary means by which we develop the very idea of categories — and their denial. That’s the main thesis of Paul Shepard’s fascinating book: The Others: How Animals Made Us Human. Classification Shepard argues that animals  are “unusual parts of our … Continue reading

Stupidities (Why cartoons have animals 3)

We don’t just consume animals for nutrition, but consume them culturally. They are “painted, written, construed, arranged, stuffed, chained, trained, dissected, imagined,” according to cultural theorist Randy Malamud, and this happens “with an iron-fisted sense of entitlement and control on the part of the cultural hegemons, that is, us” (2). Malamud outlines evidence of the “digital approximation of taxidermy” … Continue reading

Why cartoons have animals 2

Watching pet owners coach their pets to talk provides one of the more amusing diversions on YouTube. Apparently you can train a dog to say “hello” as a kind of vocalised yawn, or to growl out something like “sausages.” In a post in May 2012 I outlined 9 reasons why cartoons feature animals. Here’s a 10th reason: getting animals to talk. It’s obvious: animals (non-human) … Continue reading

Why cartoons have animals

Why do adults and children like to see animals as characters in fictional stories and cartoons, especially when stories about animals are so confusing? Everyone knows that Micky Mouse (a mouse) lives in a house and has a pet Pluto (a dog) and a friend Goofy (a dog that talks). I recently caught up with … Continue reading

Escapology 101

Biologists and animal behaviourists refer to their study of escape responses as escapology. Fish, cockroaches and higher animals move at speed in a direction away from an immediate threat from a predator, but not always, and not directly. The direction of the escape travel depends on the lay of the land, the position of likely … Continue reading

The lion and the jackal

Jackals are omnivores. They eat plants and hunt small prey. Jackals normally forage and hunt singly or in pairs, but will form larger alliances to scavenge a carcass. By stealth, they will steal from a lion. A lion, three jackals and a dead warthog A female lion catches a warthog in the early morning. Warthogs … Continue reading

Wild signs (Africa edition)

As anyone who walks, treks, or rambles in the countryside knows, nature is replete with messages. Animals deposit and pick up trails and traces. They communicate within and across groups, populations, species and families. They broadcast, narrowcast, and live stream messages to friends, rivals, predators and prey, deliberately, inadvertently, or even falsely. Not all channels … Continue reading

Tags and codes

Graffiti tags are like the scents left by animals to mark territory. The territorial call signs of birds presumably fill a similar function. Territories are defined as much by secret conventions as they are by walls and boundaries. As explored in my previous post, one of the technical terms for such sign conventions is “deictic” … Continue reading

Nonsensical signs

“A tweeting egg! This struck Alice as very odd; she had only ever heard of birds being able to tweet. But then again, birds did come from eggs, so it made sense they should have this ability from the outset” (52). That’s Alice’s first impression of Trumpty Dumpty sitting on a wall in the satirical … Continue reading

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