Archive for the 'elephants' Category

But What About Architecture and Mechanicks?

August 21st, 2008

Elephants can count, over here.

The Third Earl of Shaftesbury on the Elephant (again):

But had Nature assign’d such an OEconomy as this to so puissant an Animal, for instance, as the ELEPHANT, and made him withal as prolifick as those smaller Creatures commonly are; it might have gone hard perhaps with Mankind: And a single Animal, who by his proper Might and Prowess has often decided the Fate of the greatest Battels which have been fought by Human Race, shou’d he have grown up into a Society, with a Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks proportionable to what we observe in those smaller Creatures; we shou’d, with all our invented Machines, have found it hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent.

Tuesday Elephant Blogging (Special Thursday Edition)

January 18th, 2007

By special request, here’s a picture of Babar the Elephant (and Celeste).

They have a poster up in Blackwells café right now for “Babar et les ballons”, but the mood at the Stoa is that Babar looks best in a balloon when he’s waving his handkerchief from the balloon, as above.

Happy new year

January 1st, 2007

I’ve just returned home after a period of wandering over the last few weeks that has taken me to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Houston, Las Vegas, San Francisco — and to the elephant seals on the beach outside Hearst Castle.

Oxford seems unchanged, and I’m pleased to learn from the telly that Life of Brian was marketed in Sweden with the slogan, “The film that is so funny, it was banned in Norway”.

Tuesday Elephant Blogging (Special Monday Edition)

November 13th, 2006

There’s a baby elephant in Chester, oddly enough. Over here. More here.

Tuesday Elephant Blogging

October 31st, 2006

Following up on the Earl of Shaftesbury’s remarks about the elephant, below, we’re told today that elephants can pass the mirror test.

It seems to me to be only a short step from there to the necessary “Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks”, and then, I’m afraid, we will be finding it “hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent”.

I don’t plan to get involved in this particular dispute. I intend to live in peace with the elephant, and as far as I’m concerned he (and she) can have the D of the C (though I’d still like to be able to visit France and Italy from time to time).

Shaftesbury Beaver Blogging

October 29th, 2006

Seeing the title this post over at HM’s (it refers to the second clip) reminded me that I came across another passage the other day which can usefully join the set of beaver-blogging posts from this time last year which are assembled over here. It’s Anthony Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury, reflecting on the animal kingdom, with a valuable reflection on the elephant as well as on the beaver:

Well it is perhaps for Mankind, that tho there are so many Animals who naturally herd for Company’s sake, and mutual Affection, there are so few who for Conveniency, and by Necessity are oblig’d to a strict Union, and kind of confederate State. The Creatures who, according to the OEconomy of their Kind, are oblig’d to make themselves Habitations of Defense against the Seasons and other Incidents; they who in some parts of the Year are depriv’d of all Subsistence, and are therefore necessitated to accumulate in another, and to provide withal for the Safety of their collected Stores, are by their Nature indeed as strictly join’d, and with as proper Affections towards their Publick and Community, as the looser Kind, of a more easy Subsistence and Support, are united in what relates merely to their Offspring, and the Propagation of their Species. Of these thorowly associating and confederate-Animals, there are none I have ever heard of, who in Bulk or Strength exceed the BEAVER. The major part of these political Animals, and Creatures of a joint Stock, are as inconsiderable as the Race of ANTS or BEES. But had Nature assign’d such an OEconomy as this to so puissant an Animal, for instance, as the ELEPHANT, and made him withal as prolifick as those smaller Creatures commonly are; it might have gone hard perhaps with Mankind: And a single Animal, who by his proper Might and Prowess has often decided the Fate of the greatest Battels which have been fought by Human Race, shou’d he have grown up into a Society, with a Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks proportionable to what we observe in those smaller Creatures; we shou’d, with all our invented Machines, have found it hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent.

That’s from Shaftesbury, Characteristicks, vol.3 pp.134-5 of the Liberty ed.

Catching Up With The Issues That Matter [cont.]

July 4th, 2004

Norm’s post the other day discussed a very fine book – Harvey’s Hideout, by Russell Hoban – which I don’t think I’ve thought about in more than twenty years. Go and read the post, if you haven’t already, and go and read Harvey’s Hideout, if you haven’t done that either.

Mention of Russell Hoban also reminded me of a rather odd conversation I once had with my PhD supervisor, when we were trying to work out what kind of animal Frances was (as in Bread and Jam for Frances, etc., picture here). Badger and chipmunk were, I think, our preferred alternatives, though I don’t think that either of us was at all confident in our identifications. The matter was referred to his small daughter, who prononced that “Frances is a hairy creature!”, which was both indisputably true and good enough for me.

Fine though Russell Hoban’s children’s books are, my favourite writer of this kind of thing is probably Arnold Lobel, in particular for his magnificent volume Owl at Home (image here, discussion here). Owl really is a hero for our time, and Lobel’s five short stories about Owl’s day to day existence comprise some of the more imperishable pages in the history of world literature.

(Lobel’s Uncle Elephant is another fine book, a classic Bildungsroman, but with an elephant. This book is, however, one that I only ever encountered as an adult, which means that I will always react to it in a different set of ways to those other works mentioned above.)

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