Walton Ford "Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros" 2008 Watercolor and Gouache on paper 95 1/2 x 39 3/4 inches
- This past year, more reports of young bull elephants attacking rhinoceroses and turning on members of their own clans appeared in international papers and journals. Biologists believe that this rise in unprovoked violence is the result of prematurely elevated testosterone levels in the elephants. Because older bulls are not present in many elephant herds, the social hierarchy necessitates that younger males fill the role many years before they would normally be expected to do so. As they assume the mantle of seniority, they experience chemical changes, including a marked increase in the production of testosterone. The absence of older bulls is attributed to federal culling programs. These well-intentioned programs were instituted to reduce the stress of overcrowding within African elephant (Loxondonta africana) populations, but because the professional hunters usually kill the larger, older animals, they have unintentionally upset the social dynamic.
- In May 2008, biologists reported that wild three-toed sloths sleep 9 1/2 hours a day, whereas their captive counterparts sleep an average of 16 hours a day.
- I recently learned of a Jamaican man who, highly regarded as an artist in his home country, decided to move to the United States in the 1970s. He settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he would live for many years. Yet, for some unknown reason, the man was no longer compelled to make art. Although he continues to reside in Baltimore, he only paints when he returns to Jamaica to visit family and friends.
- Biologists report that epaulette sharks (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) living in and around Australia's Great Barrier Reef shut down most of their nervous system and go blind when their environment becomes starved of oxygen. Because the sharks live on shallow parts of the reef, at low tide they can become isolated in large tidal pools, temporarily cut off from the ocean. These tidal pools commonly are hypoxic (having very low oxygen levels). To prevent suffocation, the sharks' electrical activity ceases. Because electricity consumes fifty percent of nervous system energy consumption, shutting down the nervous system allows the animal to survive.
It looks awesome and like it would eat hours of my life. Using every shred of my self control, I have not downloaded it. (yet) If you do, please let me know how it is.
[Ed. Note: This game does not currently support Macs. The site says that a Mac version is coming out when they are done with the PC version, but that they "aren't making any promises." If you use a Mac, or are sympathetic to those of us that do, please head over the their website and leave a comment. The more people ask for it, the more likely it is to actually be made]
Michael has kindly invited me to become an (ir)regular contributer to Letters From the Inquisition. At his request, I'll preface my first post with a brief introduction.
My name is Christopher Reiger. I am an artist and writer currently living in Queens, New York. I've known Michael as a friend and professional peer for over a decade. We met in 1996 at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. During our time at William and Mary, we co-founded Synoddity, a cross-disciplinary arts organization. Synoddity championed generalism over specialization but, acknowledging that our current body of knowledge is increasingly divided and sub-divided, encouraged conversation and exchange across fields. In many respects, Letters From the Inquisition is similarly inclined, and I'm pleased to be a part of it.
Working alone on weekends (and four weekdays during the summer), the high school drop out and iron worker has constructed the eponymous Bishop's Castle in the Rocky Mountains, just outside the tiny, central Colorado town of Beulah. He began the project in 1969. Then, he only intended to build a stone cabin. Forty years later, that cabin has grown into an incongruous marvel.
In the first two minutes of the video, Jim Bishop seems the very picture of artistic heroism. Bishop works for the "glory of God" and for himself, and he characterizes his efforts as those of an honorable "peon." His astonishing creation is a "one-man project, donation box basis." The artist is justifiably proud of his remarkable accomplishment. The castle is not a funded public art project, yet it is far more impressive than Christo's Central Park "Gates" or Eliasson's "Waterfalls."
The castle construction has been fraught with legal battles (over insurance, material use and zoning) and even tragedy. In 1988, Bishop's four-year-old son, Roy, was killed at the castle site, apparently crushed by a tree that Bishop felled. One of the castle's towers is named after Roy, and Bishop says that he will inter his son's ashes there.
A rough-worn, but charismatic man, Bishop tosses off memorable quips: "Engineering without money is ingenuity."; "I'm building this for myself. Basically, I'm an egotist." Early on, this rugged individualist act is endearing but, as the video advances, a darker side of Bishop is revealed. He rants about our nation's eroding morals and civil liberties. Although his convictions are not entirely without merit, his attacks on big government seem increasingly irrational. Near the video's end, he yells from one of the castle's towers, seemingly possessed by a God-given vitriol. "I'm about to pass out. I'm getting...I'm....I just gotta get the blood in the right place now. Get that camera rolling! I'm doing work! I benefit everybody!...I'm the anti-devil!" Come again?
Still, like Jean Dubuffet, I believe that (with the exception of Sunday painters) those artists wiling away in obscurity, whatever their reasons, are often producing exceptionally exciting work. Bishop is one such outsider, and his astonishing project deserves more attention.
I often find myself in arguments in which I want to simply turn to the other person and say. "With all due respect, Marshall, you're wrong about the beards." The other person is usually a bureaucrat, customer service representative, or just a plain old customer.