Archive for the ‘999. Lost Landscapes’ Category

A Trilobite’s Suggestion

November 25, 2014 2 comments


ttttttttttt…ttttttttttttttttttttttt…a trilobite, that’s what we’re looking at.

RT likes this fossil of koneprusia brutoni, a Devonian period trilobite, unearthed in Morocco. Maybe it’s just the striking way in which the animal was preserved, on the edge of a large piece of stone; on the other hand, it could be the beast itself, in all its spiny, spiky glory. And the age of the find (420-360 million years old) adds some authority, too.

We have traveled a long way to get to our present state of affairs. The weirdness of the trilobites and other ancient fauna reminds us of the flexibility of life, its ability to adapt to almost any change in conditions. Viewed on this time scale, we are just one more adaptation to a constantly shifting environment; RT, however, likes to think that we get some of our toughness from these distant relatives and will be telling an amazing story to our descendants-in person-at some point in the far future.


PhotoKoneprusia brutoni; author, Didier Descouens. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 unported.




Osage Chief

February 5, 2014 2 comments

File:Little osages.jpg

Politics is the art of the possible. This old rubric takes on special intensity when we consider how to undo, to the extent possible, the damage to the native peoples done by the arrival and expansion of the European peoples in North America. Surely patience and goodwill (of the extraordinary kind) are required.

RT ran across this superb portrait of an Osage Indian Chief while doing research on the history and status of Indian reservations. He offers it here as a tribute to the pride, beauty, and native gift of America’s first inhabitants.


Portrait: Chief of the Little Osages; bust-length, profile showing hair style. (c. 1807) Artist: Charles B.J. de Saint-Memin. WikiCmns; Library of Congress. Public Domain.

Coney Island and my Grandfather

January 14, 2014 4 comments



Information can appear from unexpected sources. My grandfather the actor registered for the draft (WWI) in 1917 while he was performing in Montreal. He gave a Coney Island address near Mermaid Avenue; the building has apparently been torn down. The chronology I’m compiling of his life is spilling over onto page 5, with new plays being added at a fairly regular clip.

Just what was Coney Island all about? It appears to have had several incarnations: as a distant resort for New Yorkers in the mid-19th century, then as a day trip once NYC transit arrived at the end of the century, then as the amusement park/area in the 1920s…and then into decline after the WWII…and now reviving again with a stadium for minor-league baseball (don’t quote me on all that, but i think it’s more or less correct).

Which was the Coney Island that my grandfather knew? Why did he choose to live there? Was he, in his mid-20s, in possession of sufficient cash to be able to send money home to his mother, as he claimed on his draft card (“supporting mother”)? To that last question, given his steady work and good reviews, RT is inclined to answer, yes.

And by the by, just exactly what did actors get paid in say, 1915?

Stay tuned for more…  RT


PhotoBeach patronage on Coney Island, New York on Fourth of July 2006. Author: Jaime Haire. WikiCmns. CC 2.0 Generic. 


Darwin’s Fox

October 6, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Pseudalopex fulvipes.jpg


The critically endangered Darwin’s Fox (Lycalopex fulvipes) is found only on the Chiloe Islands and the nearby Chilean mainland. Although Lycalopex is a canine, it is not a fox and only distantly related to wolves–and yes, it was first described by Charles Darwin in 1834, during his renowned voyage aboard the Beagle.

With a “vast” diet, DF nonetheless depends on Chiloe’s primary rainforest; the forest is being cut on the islands. More important, however, may be the introduction of wild dogs into the area. About 320 Darwin Foxes live in the wild, according to the World Conservation Union.



RT’s Related Posts: 1) Lake Titicaca Water Frog; 2) Mediterranean Vacation: Lost Landscapes


Photo: A male Darwin’s fox in western coast of Chiloe, Chile; Author: Fernando Borques (uploaded by Lin linao). WikiCmns; Public Domain.

What if? Palmyra and the Crisis of the Third Century

September 20, 2013 3 comments

File:Temple of Bel, Palmyra 16.jpg


The Roman Crisis of the Third Century (AD 235-284) is one of the most mysterious events in world history, mainly, as far as RT can see, because it did not result in the break-up of the Roman Empire into three smaller monarchies: 1) the Gallic Empire; 2) a much reduced Roman Empire; and 3) The Palmyran Empire. This topic, RT is realizing, is far too large for single post, so he offers here this brief notice and a single question: Why was the Emperor Aurelian (in a mere five years) able to restore his broken empire? More on this subject later!   RT


RT’s Related Posts: 1) The Great Library of Alexandria; 2) Oxyrhynchus–Trash and Treasures


Photo: Temple of Baal, Palmyra; Author: Bernard Gagnon. WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic.


The Three Gorges Dam

August 21, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Drei-Schluchten-Damm (Jangtse).jpg

• • •

The statistics are insane: China’s Three Gorges Dam, completed in 2012, is the largest hydroelectric project in the world. The dam has an installed capacity of 20.3 billion watts of electricity, the largest hydro-electrical capacity in the world, ahead of the Itaipu Dam in Brazil and Paraguay (14 billion watts). The dam wall is 594 ft. tall and stretches 7,661 ft. (1.45 mi.). The TGD is the world’s largest by holding capacity (nearly 32 billion acre-feet) and has created a reservoir 370 miles long (for the record, that’s longer than Lake Superior) with an average elevation of 570 ft. above sea level.

The electricity generated by Three Gorges will go a long way to shutting down China’s coal-fired power plants, notorious for the air pollution they caused, and the reservoir should finally end the devastating floods that people along the lower Yangtze River have endured throughout history (300,000 people killed during the 20th century alone).

The problems with the dam have been manifold: 1) silting (addressed now by China’s massive forest-planting program); 2) pollution of the reservoir; 3) landslides along the reservoir shoreline; 4) the relocation of more than a million former residents along the river; 5) the functional extinction of the Yangtse River Dolphin (the Baiji); and 6) the loss of undiscovered archaeological sites along the river.

Is the TGD worth it? Would the construction of a series of smaller dams along tributaries have provided the same benefits without the ecological problems? RT guesses that wiser is not always better: the appeal of the Three Gorges Dam to the imagination is surely part of this calculation, and the scope of the project speaks to our sense of drama. RT has a hunch that this grand gamble on the part of the Chinese government will pay off.


Photo: Three Gorges Dam (Yangtze), Author: gugganij. WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic.


Gold Statuettes, Oxus Treasure

July 15, 2013 1 comment

File:Gold statuettes from the Oxus Treasure by Nickmard Khoey.jpg

Mysterious and beautiful statuettes from the Oxus Treasure, an Achaemenid-period horde of gold objects found by the Oxus River in 1877-1880. The statuettes each carry a barsom. Several topics worthy of further research, RT thinks…


Photo: Gold Statuettes from the Oxus Treasure; Nickmard Khoey; WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.