Dr. Seuss, Champion Of The Unusual

drawing5_smWe were led to this by a news/feature story, but the background material is even more interesting than the feature in the news. Here is a note worth a moment of your time:

Dr. Seuss was a storyteller in the grandest sense of the word. Not only did he tell fantastical tales of far-away places but he also gave us a unique visual language that carried his stories to new heights of artistic expression. Surrealism provided the foundation from which he built his career, but like a launch pad sitting idle just before liftoff, surrealism was soon to be engulfed in the flames of ridiculous fun and its launch tower thrown to the ground with each new editorial cartoon, magazine cover, painting, or children’s bookContinue reading

Fantastic Fantasy Maps Generated By Code

Different steps in the creation of a code-generated map that mimics real-world coastal landscape formation by erosion. Images by Martin O’Leary

There is no shortage of posts on maps here, but only one has been focused on the maps published in fantasy or fiction novels to set the scene. Two others have been linked to conservation, with one formatted in an amusing way. Then there’s my series on Icelandic cartography, starting in 1585 and continuing through 1849, then 1875, and finally 1906. But this is the first I hear about realistic fantasy maps created every hour by a bot – or computer program – coded by glaciologist Martin O’Leary and then tweeted on Twitter. And you can even go through the steps yourself and create a map of your making on his website! Betsy Manson writes for NatGeo:

As you travel northeast along the shore of southern Nimrathutkam, the first town you’ll encounter is Ak Tuh, followed by Nunrat and Nrik Mah before you reach the coastal city of Tuhuk, the largest urban area in the region of Mum Huttak.

If these sound like places out of a fantasy novel you read as a teenager, you’re not far off. Nimrathutkan is the result of an automated map generator that was inspired by those novels. The map bot, created by glaciologist Martin O’Leary of Swansea University in Wales, combines imaginary place names with fake terrain to produce fantasy worlds, tweeting a new one every hour from the Twitter account @unchartedatlas.

Continue reading

Cycling through the Belize Forest


There are plenty of activities at Chan Chich Lodge that will expose you to a variety of forest wildlife and immerse you in the nature of Belize, such as the walking tours, horseback riding, canoeing, or the driving tours. But one of the lesser known activities that can also provide the same thrill as the other ones is bicycling.

I went on my first bike ride along the main road a week ago.  For the first mile starting from the compound area, the paved road offered a smooth ride past the suspension bridge and up until the “Y” intersection. I turned the handlebar to the left and my bike dropped a half-inch to the lower, limestone gravel road. The gravel pebbles started out small, boosting my confidence that I would make it to edge of cattle pastures of Gallon Jug estate, about five miles out. Continue reading

Visualize Pi (and Happy Birthday Albert!)

Both a transcendental and an irrational number, Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. And both in definition and actuality it epitomizes coolness, inspiring musical homages, from rap to fugue. Albert Einstein, master of the time-space continuum, was born on this day. Makes sense, right?

But what about visual inspiration?

Artist Ellie Balk collaborates with students from The Green School in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn to combine mathematics and art to VISUALIZE Pi as murals in their community. 

Starting in 2011 the artist/student/educator teams graphed Pi in colorful, creative and innovative ways: a histogram of emotions; a weather mural, a reflective line graph that resembles a sound wave and the relationship between the golden ratio and Pi.

For example:

In 2012, students constructed an image of the golden spiral based on the Fibonacci Sequence and began to explore the relationship between the golden ratio and Pi. The number Pi was represented in a color-coded graph within the golden spiral. In this, the numbers are seen as color blocks that vary in size proportionately within the shrinking space of the spiral, allowing us to visualize the shape of Pi and its negative space to look for “patterns”.  The students soon realized that the irrational number of Pi created no patterns at all, resulting in a space that resembles “noise”. 

In response to that, in 2013 students worked to visualize the number Pi as a reflective line graph that resembles a sound wave. The colors of the mural change at each prime number in Pi so that the viewer can visualize a pattern of prime numbers within Pi. Located on a busy corner in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the sounds of the bustling traffic and rhythmic commuter passing creates the perfect backdrop for our visualization.   Continue reading

Sandstructures, Just Because


Calvin Seibert spends up to four days a week during the summer at Rockaway Beach in Queens. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

We do not need to explain it; we just like it (click the image to go to the original):

It looked like some futuristic civilization poking up out of the footprinted sand on Rockaway Beach in Queens. A lifeguard walked over to inspect it, then some surfers. A group of dripping children stopped, transfixed.

“Young people tend to watch for longer,” said Calvin Seibert, 57, who was shaping the structure. “If people sense you’re serious about it, they’ll watch longer.”

Mr. Seibert, a Manhattan artist, is serious enough about it to take a long subway ride to the beach up to four days a week from June through September. Continue reading

Mother’s Day Redux: Bluebird and her Babies

Mother bluebird feeding babies on Mother’s Day

A little less than a month before mother’s day (May 10th), a pair of bluebirds made their nest in one of the bluebird houses in our backyard in Atlanta. I was away studying at the university at the time, but my parents described to me in phone conversations the process familiar to anyone who has seen birds build a nest in their yard: first the birds made tentative visits to the site, then they began to carry in straw, twigs, and grass, finally the mother Continue reading

Stephan Brusche, Come To Kerala!

Stephan Brusche (@isteef)

Stephan Brusche (@isteef) From left to right: tiger, WBD, elephant

Hospitality is in our DNA, but we always want to go the extra mile for the those who tickle our creative fancy. In fact, World Banana Day touches us on multiple dimensions, and we thank our newest contributor, Rosanna Abrachan, for bringing it to our attention.

Stephen Brusche is someone who clearly enjoys playing with his food, and scrolling through his gallery it was close to impossible to choose favorites from over 200 fabulously creative examples, crafted with a wink and smile at both the sacred and the profane. We settled on 2 of our iconic Kerala fauna above, but be prepared to lose yourself in the images when you visit his site. Continue reading

Marari Pearl Welcomes Sand Artists And Spectators to SAFA

An artist prepares a sand installation at the Alappuzha beach during the trial run of the international sand art festival that will be held in April.– Photo: By Special Arrangement

An artist prepares a sand installation at the Alappuzha beach during the trial run of the international sand art festival that will be held in April.– Photo: By Special Arrangement

Thanks to the Hindu for  bringing this to our attention:

safa-logoCome April, sand sculptures and paintings will adorn the picturesque Alappuzha beach. An international sand art competition, titled Sand Art Festival Alleppey (SAFA), is being jointly organised by the Tourism Department and the SAFA Foundation from April 18 to 26.

We love the logo, and the website for SAFA, and will assist any of our guests at Marari Pearl with the opportunity to participate, either as artists or spectators.

Pi Day of the Century 3-14-15

It’s been a few years since we wrote about Pi, but we wouldn’t possibly skip the once in a century shout out to the famous irrational number when the numbers line up for a full 10 digits: 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 (AM or PM!) Add that it’s Albert Einstein’s birthday and we have a mathematical wow factor that can’t be missed.

Scientific American offers some great suggestions on how to celebrate, and where.

If there was ever a year to commemorate Pi Day in a big way, this is it. The date of this Saturday—3/14/15—gives us not just the first three digits (as in most years) but the first five digits of pi, the famous irrational number 3.14159265359… that expresses the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter… Continue reading

From the Flora-Files, Part 4

This little gem can be found along the path to the art studio.

And so the flora-files march on (see past posts, starting from the most recent here). Continuing these posts has become a way for me to reflect on the wonderful opportunities I had at Xandari and around Costa Rica to come into contact with a lot of fascinating and beautiful flora and fauna. As I peruse my photo catalogs and look for pictures to post, I feel like I’m back there, even briefly. Continue reading

Plant-a-Tree at Xandari

The stake in front that holds the planter’s name says (quite humorously, to my mind): 3 CANADIENSES!

Plant-a-tree programs are real winners: educational, fun, and productive. Next time you visit Xandari (or another sustainable or eco-friendly hotel), be sure to ask about the opportunity about the opportunity to plant a sapling. At Xandari, plantings are usually done in the orchard or in one of the old coffee plots. Everybody who plants a tree has a small wooden stake erected near the spot, commemorating the event and recognizing the effort to make the world a little bit greener. Continue reading

Ichnology, Xandari-Style

Ichnology is the study of animal traces—commonly tracks, but also anything else that organisms leave behind in their activities (for example, burrows, nests, scat, feeding remnants, or territory markers). It is often far easier to discover an animal’s presence through tracks than direct visual sighting, especially for shy or nocturnal mammals. “An animal can only be in one place at a time, its tracks can be everywhere,” one of my environmental science professors sometimes remarked in support of this principle. Indeed, around Emory’s campus (Atlanta, Georgia) I found tracks on stream banks that belonged to animals I had never actually clapped eyes on in the flesh. Prized among those were a  Continue reading

Brown University Keeps Giving

Ackerman-290We have a tradition of honoring Brown University from time to time because of the many gifts to the world that come from that place. The letter to the Editor (the New Yorker‘s) below is one of those. Why? Mainly, just because. It is about the quality of writing, in this case. If you read it and do not feel it is worthy, no problem. Tempting to think one must have read the original piece to appreciate the letter in full, but not really. Professor Ackerman has simply written the perfect pithy paragraph:

Re “All the Letters That Are Fit to Print,” April 10th online: Of course, I am delighted with Andrew Marantz’s piece about me. But I have three small bones to pick. First, he quotes me as saying, “I then decided that I would probably live longer if I was less fat.” He also says I speak “hypergrammatically.” So I certainly hope I said, “if I were less fat.” Continue reading

Chefs Do The Most Surprising Things, At 51 In Kerala’s Historic Mattanchery Neighborhood, And Elsewhere

Photograph by Brian Ach/Getty

Photograph by Brian Ach/Getty

The kitchen team at 51 has gone from concept and recipe development, to food trials, to opening and ongoing operations, to continued taste tests, rather nonstop for months. They have risen to the challenge–Malabar cuisine showing off its Eastern Mediterranean multicultural influences–and surprised our palates pleasurably. But now a quick break with a fun story, for the team at 51.

Everyone loves a well-planned and meticulously executed surprise when the outcome is a big smile. Why not chefs, too? Chef stories are on our radar lately and this one, if it is to be believed in all details, has a surprise within a surprise in that these culinary artists who have all “made it” still deem to sleep in modest accommodation in the interest of pulling off the party of a lifetime, in secret, for someone they care about:

For forty-eight hours this week, some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs, who hold twenty Michelin stars and myriad awards between them, were living in hiding in New York City. The twenty non-New Yorkers were sequestered together deep in Williamsburg, in dingy rental apartments with thin mattresses on wooden slats, horrible lighting, and half-eaten bags of Doritos strewn about. Continue reading

A Musically Satisfied Cow Is A Productive Cow

The Ingenues, an all-girl band and vaudeville act, serenade the cows in the University of Wisconsin, Madison's dairy barn in 1930. The show was apparently part of an experiment to see whether the soothing strains of music boosted the cows' milk production. Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society

The Ingenues, an all-girl band and vaudeville act, serenade the cows in the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s dairy barn in 1930. The show was apparently part of an experiment to see whether the soothing strains of music boosted the cows’ milk production. Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society

It is not difficult to believe, but it is funny. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this story about the importance of animal happiness, an idea we can all, from carnivore to vegan all everyone in between, agree is good (the video below is at least as compelling as the scientific references):

When it’s time to buckle down and focus, plenty of office workers will put on headphones to help them drown out distractions and be more productive. But can music also help dairy cows get down to business?

Some dairy farmers have long suspected that’s the case. It’s not unheard of for farmers to play relaxing jams for their herds to boost milk production, as the folks at Modern Farmer recently reported.

A tantalizing 2001 study out of the University of Leicester in the U.K. appeared to lend credence to those claims. It found that milk production went up by as much as 3 percent when cows listened to slow tunes like R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water,” rather than faster songs. Continue reading