Friday, August 6, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 1

I'm introducing a new Friday feature here at AiP called The Anthro Reader. Longtime readers will find that it resembles the former In the News: Weekly Roundup feature which I discontinued because it served no real purpose to me or you—it was just an odd assortment of links that seemed to grow each week drawn from what a variety of sources. It was a mess.

Well, this too will be an assortment of links, but hopefully less oddly assembled. My goal for The Anthro Reader is to highlight interesting anthro and science reads from around the web. In general, I'll try to keep the list relatively small by only highlighting 3 - 5 posts a week though this isn't a hard and fast number—sometimes there may be more to share. 

Readers, you're also invited to send me interesting reads that may be featured here. You can message me on Twitter @anthinpractice or send me an email.

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And without further ado, the links for the inaugural edition of The Anthro Reader are:

The Primate Diaries is in exile and Eric Michael Johnson is drifting around the blogosphere on a guest blogging tour. His latest post, The Scientist and the Anarchist Pt. 1, is at Jennifer Quellette's blog, Cocktail Party Physics. And it begins:
The first thing you noticed was the smell. It was an oppressive, suffocating odor. It assaulted your senses day and night, at work, at rest, preparing a meal, or enjoying children’s games. It pervaded every aspect of your life and soiled the very experience of living, and dying. It was the birth of modern civilization. East London in 1841 was a society on the brink of collapse.
It is a riveting read about the failures of urban planning in East London and the surprising rise of Thomas Huxley in a ragged and desperate environment. East London was rivaled only by New York's own Five Points, but I say this with the understanding that the horrors of the past tend to fade with time, and East London was slowly being reigned in when the Five Points emerged. I know from my research about this neighborhood that while there were many bright stars, only a select few managed to survive, and Huxley's story is well told by Eric.

Next, let's hop on over to Testimony of the Spade where Magnus Reuterdahl treats us to a preview of tomorrow's historic remains. As a large part of what I consider both here and at The Urban Ethnographer is the way that we are connected to our histories. He treats us to some photos of two decaying houses and says,
Even if they are on the ropes, they still hold a kind of desolate beauty, they are still vital enough to tell tales of their late owners.
This is one of the reasons I am so captivated by signs of our past that manage to push themselves to the surface of the asphalt streets and stick out from the building facades.

And finally at Skulls in the Sky, Dr. SkySkull tells us the story of the attack of the giant squid (1874). Dr. SkySkull provides some background on the giant squid (genus Architeuthis), and then uses a letter that he uncovered to tell us this harrowing tale:
On or about the 25th of October last, while a man by the name of Theophilus Picot was engaged at his usual occupation of fishing, off the eastern end of Great Bell Island in Conception Bay, his attention was attracted to an object floating on the surface of the water, which at a distance he supposed to be a sail, or the débris of some wreck, but which proved upon nearer inspection to be endowed with life.  Picot, on observing that the object was alive, to satisfy his curiosity pushed his boat alongside, and I believe struck at it with an oar or boat-hook, whereupon the creature’s fury seemed to be aroused, and it struck at the bottom of the boat with its beak, and immediately afterward threw its monstrous tentacles over the boat, which probably it might have dragged to the bottom had not Picot with great presence of mind severed one (or more) of the tentacles with his axe.
The fearless boatman managed to secure this tentacle, and it was a great boon to scientists looking to study this elusive creature. Not only is this a great story, but it's also an interesting look at how scientific understanding can change through the ages.


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