Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New from the Riddled Gifte Shoppe

Novelty Toyen-inspired hotwater-bottle covers!

Because it's feckin' cold here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

We could go and look and stare

Thinking about a Plate of Shrimp

"Take a look at this identity line-up of Cambrian lobopods, sir. Do you recognise..."
"Him! That one on the right! That's the one I saw evolving into an Anomalocarid!"
There is much to love about Cambrian lobopods, not least the term 'Xenusiids', which is straight from an old BBC script (sent back to the writer because "The name of Dr Who's alien adversaries sounds too silly").
Also their resemblance to ambulatory pear pimples for hairy fish-nuts prickly-pear bushes, or to a homemade Father's Day gift assembled from toadskin wrapped around a pipe-cleaner sculpture, NOT THAT I'M BITTER and IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS.

Over to the right of the line-up, note the speculative evolutionary trails from the Xenusiid lobopods to tardigrades, and to Pentastomid parasites like Bockelericambria -- which really deserve a Riddled post to themselves for being so ghastly as to belong in Charlie Stross' next 'Laundry' novel.
As well as Kerygmachela kierkegaardi and Pambdelurion whittingtoni, other lobopods elsewhere in the Cambrian oceans had finished evolving into Anomalocarids a wide variety of seafood-pizza toppings as shown above [art stolen from John Meszaros]. While other Anomalocarids had already evolved into primitive anthropods... ancestors of crustaceans, and in the case of the Megacheira, ancestors of spiders. So if Megacheira evolved from lobopods, how come there are still lobopods?

One Anomalocarid survived another 100 million years into the Devonian era by growing flippers and pretending to be a penguin. The official line, otherwise, is that they are long-extinct so we will never what they taste like with caper butter; and any resemblance between their circular mouthparts and those of Fane Flaws cartoon characters c. 1987 is purely coincidental.

The official line is also that lobopods are entirely of terrestrial origin, and that velvet worms such as Peripatus are the only surviving relatives.

Siberion lenaicus is especially scary. No further speciments are likely to turn up because after Dzik's initial report, that particular limestone outcrop in Siberia was destroyed. This was by private fossil collectors and was totally not a cover-up to forestall the piecing together of dissociated knowledge that would open up terrifying vistas of reality.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mooncalf Maunder Minimum

So there we were, laying a trail of hay to lead a pair of bovine alien-bait or "cows" from the Cattle Mutilation Field Station into the Evolvamat.

It started with Another Kiwi vouchsafing his skepticism about the very existence of 'mooncalves'... he pointed out that Ted Hughes (the leading authority on selenological flora and fauna) makes no mention of them in his magisterial tome. I was not convinced, for the Lunar Republicans are depicted as big-boned well-fed, to a degree that is hard to achieve without a dietary dependence on large quantities of cheese. After applying quality control to several pints of Old Blandings Shoat Tonic and Scythe Sharpener, we decided that an empirical test was in order, for which purpose the Evolvamat is ideal.

The resulting transformations were rather disturbing, unnecessarily licky, and unlikely to produce any milk.
 photo monkcalf1.gif
At this point we decided to abandon the experiment and cover up the evidence in the usual chrononautical manner, i.e. by taking the mutated calves back to 1522 in the Riddled time machine and leaving them on a star-blighted Freiberg farm. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPHECY. How were we to know that a whole unfortunate sequence of events would ensue, with a confusion between the words 'mooncalf' and 'monk-calf', and charges of heresy against the unfortunate calves? No-one could have foreseen that the consequent hearings and appeals would go all the way up to the top, culminating in a synodical hearing before Pope Adrian VI in person:

What initially triggered our conversation was a recent headline about vat-grown dairy products -- something which not bode well for New Zild's cow-related economy.

The entrepreneurs in question, Californian-funded but working in Ireland, aim for a 2016 delivery date. They are at least aware that there are 8 different casein proteins to be synthesised for Soylent Cream.

But isn't it always the same? -- you wait and wait for researchers to promise artificial milk, with GMO yeast synthesising proteins to mix with watered-down margarine, then two groups come along on the same day! The rival team are based in the SF Bay Area, and we know the people are serious and have stabilised their technology because the team "is well on its way to getting its Indiegogo campaign funded" in time to market the product by the end of 2014. Also their previous project was to eliminate gonorrhea using mutant bacteriophages so they have a proven track record.

Here at Riddled we incline to blame Robert Silverberg for causing this situation of Dueling Dairies, by writing a 1959 story in which cheese-deprived technicians on a moon base cobble together a Milk Machine from scavenged laboratory piping and tissue culture. That story -- reinforced by Wim Delvoye's similarly-intended Cloaca Machine -- created a perturbation in the morphogenic field, and made the advent of mockmilk inevitable.

"Going back to the treason hearing of the calves," I said, "this whole late-medieval tradition of legal prosecution of animals is fascinating. Also, Evans' book on the subject has the best deadpan-humour index EVAH... it is the material of stand-up comedy."
"Try the veal," AK suggested.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Before paintings of dogs playing pool...

We had to make do with woodcuts of lions playing Backgammon. You kids today don't know how easy you have it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thus do I refute Alex Jones

Alex Jones is hopelessly ill-informed on the limits of modern biotechnology.
You can put three heads on a man’s shoulders, and two heads on a woman’s shoulders — that’s a known anatomy.

You can tell that he's never visited the Riddled Research Laboratory.
H/t SEK.
For some reason, all our laboratory creations seem to end up chasing Ann Althouse. It's all they want to do.

UPDATED with state-of-the-art results in putting heads on a man's shoulders. Basically it's just plumbing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

In the country of the two-eyed, the Cyclops is proud of the superior vision resulting from his freedom from binocular distraction

Gaw-lee, Hugh Kenner: you use your mouth purdier than a $20 whore!
...when words have lost meaning you may be very fluent with them, as fluent as the narrator of the "Eumaeus" section of Ulysses, who tells us how Parnell "notoriously stuck to his guns to the last drop even when clothed in the mantel of adultery." [...]
Such were the scribblers for Irish provincial newspapers who provided one model for the style of "Eumaeus," and "Eumaeus" in turn, where from end to end of every shapeless sentence the tropes wriggle in place like maggots, was one armature for the style of Finnegans Wake. ... You find, in short, a language that has died, but that like an unembalmed corpse is full of local life.
Kenner is describing the clown-car verbal pile-ups that result from entrusting a keyboard to someone whose thought process is a buzzing hive of cliches, all trying to escape at the same time and tangling themselves together in the process. Of course the style is not confined to Irish newspapers, and here (via bspenser) is Rev. Dr Hugh MacKenzie turning some fine phrases -- only to abandon his lathe and finish with some kind of hand-drill:

The cracks were already widening into the iron maw of total industrialized warfare
I mused that never in my life had I seen so much anarchy descending so fast. The center truly is not holding. Every day one looks for yet another shoe to drop on the world scene.
Didn't anyone ever tell you that so many times the only realist in the room is the person of catholic faith? We are the gimlet-eyed people.
Emphasis mine that of a dead
but unembalmed language

"I knew someone at university who could open beer-bottles with his eye-socket," Another Kiwi vouchsafed.
Below: tragic outcome of
excessive phrase-turning
By 'gimlet-eyed', MacKenzie seems to intend 'realistic' or 'unswayed by sentiment', although to me the epithet suggests "squinty" or "single-minded scrutiny for the main chance".* Perhaps it is a garbled form of 'cold-eyed' (perhaps he meant "vision affected by too many cocktails"; perhaps he had overdone the Habit of Tourneur).

The Great Gazoogle informs us that "cold-eyed", as a self-description of clear-eyed objectivity, is an increasingly popular macro in the collective right-wing word-processor.

Alas, the epithet has secondary connotations of angry ill-will, or the cold eyes of a sheep-killing dog Vladimir Putin. Thus the writers often quote Yeats and specify that the cold eye is being cast, in the manner of a fishing lure or a bronze figurine, to make it clear that the optic gelidity is of the objective kind. G.W. Bush's staff neglected that advice that back in 2000 when he gave the phrase his imprimatur.
I will be a cold-eyed realist when it comes to the world. I see the world the way it is, not the way folks hope it is.
J. K. Galbraith remarked somewhere that when the rightwingers of his acquaintance wanted to prove that their economic and military doctrines were simply fact-facing unsentimental realism, without resorting to evidence, "hard-headed" was their preferred self-description... in contrast to the soft-headed optimistic delusions of their opponents. He could never extract an explanation of how cranial impenetrability was linked with objectivity.

The N-Gram reveals that 'hard-headed' peaked during the Great Depression and the Isolationist period, with a minor revival during the Vietnam War, but was in decline over most of Galbraith's career. However, "cold-eyed" has a long way to go before supplanting it.

 photo cyclopes.gif
"No good can come of using an eyeball for a woodworking tool," said AK.

"It does not auger well," I agreed.
* Mrs Spat is gimlet-eyed when she suspects that there is food somewhere in the kitchen, but this is not coupled with a realistic expectation of being fed.