I read somewhere that Leonard Cohen had released a recording of one of the concerts of his current world tour. The tour itself now seems endless, and indeed will apparently involve more than one circumnavigation.
The set list for this gig in London is quite similar to what Pete R. and I got back in January. After a cursory listen on the laptop speakers, I am somewhat unimpressed; perhaps it took him six months to get bored enough to stop experimenting, or remember how the songs go. The schtick is almost identical, and there's nothing to complain about there, but I don't (yet) think this eclipses the live album of 1994. That had an indoors, sit-down feel, whereas this one almost makes one grateful that U2 wasn't warming up.
CDs are so cheap now, I got this for $18 at the JB Hi-Fi lurking in the basement of the Strand on Pitt St mall.
Midday snorkel with Rob at a fairly rough Long Bay. We got in, wearing spring suits, from a little beach a bit further on from the boat ramp on the north side, as the surf was quite rough. Someone dumped a car in the bay, just south of the boat ramp, giving us something to look at for a few minutes. Quite pleasant in, I'd guess around 18 degrees, but quite uncomfortable out (around 14 degrees with a stiff wind and some light rain).
Balthazar Getty and Molly Parker. Otherwise forgettable.
I braved the runoff from the recent rain and went for a mid-afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. Beautiful day for it, warmish, heading for hot. The water remains temperate. Quite a few people snorkelling.
An early outing of the trademark Oliver Stone blunderbuss. Bogosian robustly voices endless schtick that is trite and cliched at this distance. The plot has an arc that wouldn't surprise a goldfish. Might've been better on the stage, or as a radio production.
Early-afternoon snorkel with Rob at Bare Island. We took our time and made it all the way around, but the water was too murky to see much, and we had to swing wide on the ocean side due to the rock fishermen. Quite pleasant once in, in a spring suit at least, and the continuing forecasts of showers, thunderstorms and other rain events still fail to eventuate.
I finished reading this book, a distillation and popularisation of their more technical The Ants, back on Christmas Day of last year, but have only now found time to write it up. Indeed, it is not worth trying to critically evaluate or summarise; suffice it to say that anyone with an interest in natural science should read it lock-stock.
The highlights were the personal stories of how the authors came to study these insects, and the characteristics of the various ant species, specifically the leaf cutters (farmers of fungi), the weavers (assemblers of leaf nests), the bivouac-building army ants, and the aphid-shepherders. I'd be keen to see any of these in action. The art and photographs are amazing; you can get some idea from this National Geographic article on army ants.
The concept of eusociality is fascinating, and was apparently somewhat of a mystery to Charles Darwin, who intuited that that kind of specialisation depended on strong familial relationships. In essence, the question is why it would ever be more effective to put effort into raising sisters rather than one's own offspring. Work from the 1960s on kin selection explains this in terms of generational gene frequencies, and the author of the papers on the mathematical models, W. D. Hamilton, seems to be of the old naturalist school too. I want to understand this better.
Random things about the ants:
- Sydney Uni has an insect behaviour mob who have recently studied ant traffic control.
- Dad told me about the omnivorous Argentine ants that infested various parts of Sydney, and that they were one of the few exotic pests to be successfully eradicated. (Strangely enough this invasion story recurred in 2004.)
- Meat ants will supposedly save Australia from the cane toad. Dad reckons this predation vector was known before the toad was introduced.
- The authors have a new (2008) book out called The Superorganism. (Thanks to Tyler for the pointer.)
- Apparently some species of ants engage in voting protocols that some people perceive to be similar to how bees appear to do it.
I bought this book back in 2002, when it was first published, probably in the face of this SMAGE review that I may have read at the time. It has rotted on my shelf for that long, always too daunting with its references to too many people I've heard of but never paid any mind to. Until now, until now.
Well, that review was right. John Clarke well knows that the quality of a metaphor is in how it twangs when overextended, or how much inspiration Dali got from it fracturing. Unfortunately the biggest joy I got from this text beyond the inviting novelty of the first few chapters was finishing it.
Someone's taken the time to do a good vibes write-up of his and others' efforts on the Mekong Delta.