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Wednesday 14 December 2011



Männliche Mandarinte [Male Mandarin Duck] (Aix galericulata): photo by 3268zauber, 3 January 2009

That tuft of jungle feathers,

That animal eye,

Is just what you say.

-- Wallace Stevens, from Gubbinal (1921)

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata): photo by Raul654, January 2006

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata): photo by Raul654, January 2006

Mandarinententpaar [pair of Mandain Ducks] (Aix galericulata), Karlsruher Zoo
: photo by Yoky, 13 February 2008

Mandarin Ducks (
Aix galericulata), female on the left, male on the right
: photo by Richard Bartz, 15 March 2008

Mandarin Ducks
Aix galericulata): photo by Nevit Dilmen, 2006

Mandarin Duck
(Aix galericulata): photo by Ltshears, 14 December 2006

Männliche und weibliche Mandarinente [Male and female Mandarin Ducks] (
Aix galericulata)
: photo by Georg Mittenecker 30 July 2006


TC said...

My extremely pleasant, sensitive and worldly-wise European physicist friend, when I lamented that within fifty years most animal species will have been eradicated from the planet thanks to the ceaseless selfish beavering-away of the humanoids, responded:

"Yes, but by then we will be able to make animals."

(I believe he meant "reproduce", or "copy".)

O brave and brilliant children of the future, do you think "we" (i.e. you) will be able to "make" this one?

ACravan said...

No. (I know I'm not the intended audience for the question, but am certain this would be my daughter's answer also.) Curtis

TC said...


I'm going to count in that proxy vote and make the opening tally: three of us in favour of Life.

The fellow is "sincere" by the way... but: a scientist.

I countered that replicants aren't the same thing as autonomous beings.

And also that individual variations are the spice of life.

That totally untheoretical input I think fell on deaf ears, as it's obviously a world of replcants all around us, now.

(Strange to consider that PK Dick wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep right here in Our Town.)

The stuff that goes on up at Stanley Hall would make a mohawk curl. The LBL people, who always Follow the Money, drag their genetic and biological engineering and nuclear resonance magnetic imaging (by the by, my friend reveals that the tag "MRI" is a market-determined bowdlerization of what should properly be called "NMR" -- "but people don't like the sound of 'nuclear', so...") and nanotech & c. projects down there to make continuous research-whoopee... it's one big grant-funded party around the spectrometer, 24x7.

For those guys, the spill is no big deal. In fact my friend had not even heard of it.

"But I am going to go check it out," he said.

"Just follow your nose, you can't miss it," I suggested.

My friend is just a Little Guy, that rare thing, a purist. He would do physics for free, I think. Well, maybe. (I am always hoping to find a second person on the planet who would do Everything For Free. Perhaps another way of saying, The Second Dumbest Person on the Planet.)

Anyway...turning that last little lovely purling creekbed patch of bucolic memory into Love Canal West isn't bothering the Big Boys. They would never walk past there anyway. The only time they get out of their cars is when the need comes to Recreate. And that is not quite but almost the same as replicate. What do you call it when a dozen scientists Work Out on the same set of Work Out Machines at the same time??

ACravan said...

Interesting (I think) to note that the person in my college class who became the most successful financially is someone who embarked on a career path he didn't anticipate, but chose when he found the thing he would have done for free. I know this person well enough to say that when he told me this (we had lost touch for a few years after school), I can vouch for his sincerity. He was all at sea for a while and then discovered something that he was passionate about, which sparked him out of his misery (at least while he was occupied doing it.) Curtis

TC said...


So, was it... blogging?

(Oh, one fears's those "would have dones" that always separate the sane ones from the bloggers!)

Anonymous said...

I have a theory, or perhaps it is a hope, I confuse the two, that one is only ever "busy" at the work one would do for next to (or maybe absolutely) nothing. The stuff one loves, to express it sentimentally. With this as my starting point, I always find cause to wonder whether to believe those (nearly all) who tell me, as a rationale for not doing the things they say they love or wish at least to show affection, "I'm busy." No, I don't think most are so busy at all. I certainly am not.

TC said...


That is a beautiful hope rooted not in sentimentality but in the sort of idealism one had feared was forever chased away, like the pagan gods in Milton's Comus, by the infinitely tiresome new Time-Is-Moneyism that surrounds us. And what can we do against it.

Speaking of hope, I am happy that, or hoping that, others will have found these Mandarins as majestic as I did.

My wonderfully sensitive yet also always usefully skeptical true love, when first I showed her the top Mandarin photo, suggested it was a decoy. Simply too gorgeous to be real. But the magic hand of Nature is of course greater than the instruments of any human artist. So, to prove this to be the case, I went in search of other Mandarins.

And by my faith, each successive Mandarin proved to be just as beautiful as the first.

The more muted tones of the female are naturally less showy. After all, she's got nothing to prove. But in her way... at least as good at killing us softly with the infinite love which is Being.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, the mandarin's are amazing. My first thought was that the top photo was a painting, in fact. Now that the false notion of it being a decoy has been planted, I keep thinking that. The truth cannot penetrate, it seems. Really stunning.

Anonymous said...

Now I know where the idea of the lacquer box or Chinese table comes from though I cannot explain why. It is enough to say that its extraordinary being (since being and appearance are one in the natural world) stuns me in my own blood. Thank you, TC. ~ Donna

Lally said...

I second the gratitude for this post Tom. Stunning photos of brilliantly beautiful creatures. I've never seen any quite like that back here, but it may be hopeful that the Jersey meadowlands where they used to dump the bodies when I was a kid and maybe still do were totally barren of wildlife for a while but there are egrets and cranes and even lovely swans swimming in the swampy industrial landscape of some of Joe Ceravolo's poems these days.

TC said...

Brad and Donna,

Yes, they do look painted, or in particular, lacquered -- that vivid leaping gloss.

In not the easiest of times here, we keep coming back to them... and in those moments, it almost seems true that what you see, becomes what you are. An instant of attention that feels indelibly writ upon, or should one say carved into, the soul.

And then in the next instant... the city streets, the busy humans, in which category we ourselves must inevitably be counted, even if only busy at the business of trying, by petty labour and toil of necessary dailinesses, to extract a few more breaths.

I doubt very much that a Mandarin would be much enchanted by looking at a picture of (say) this blogger.

The beauty of the world is all on the other side of that invisible wall of the natural. One sometimes feels humans are working as hard as they can to tear it down, so as to eradicate (destroy by using up, or just plain destroy to show who's boss) what's on the other side.

It's like the line about "the country" given the city-bound Brando character in On the Waterfront: The crickets make me nervous.

TC said...

Michael, I hadn't seen that swell comment when responding to Brad and Donna a moment ago.

If there was ever a poet whose poems did (do!) for me what these brilliant beauties do -- Joe Ceravolo. How apposite a mention that is. Thanks for the sweet reminder.

Here's to the micro-wildernesses of New Jersey!

(Closer to you than Tarrytown, where that Eva Marie Saint character to whom Brando was responding had been sent to huddle among the nuns... and for that matter probably still wilder as well. Maybe gangster corpses make great loam? All that recycled pasta.)