The Familiar Name of Earth

earth-11084_640The planets of our solar system have grand names drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. Even their moons have appellations from Shakespeare or other literary or mythological sources, yet the name of our planet is derived from the word for ground or soil. Our ancestors knew the earth beneath their feet long before they realized that the Earth was suspended in space, and this is reflected in our languages. This article from Dennis Mammana is an interesting read on the subject.

Would we respect the Earth more if she had a “proper name” or is the name of Earth far more precious than that of ancient gods? If you have a name for Earth in a language near and dear to you, please share it in the comments section and be sure to let us know the name of the language as well.

Happy Earth Day and thanks, as always, for reading!


Listen to the Thirsty Trees

Did you know trees make noise when they get thirsty? Bioacoustician Bernie Krause has amplified and recorded these sounds, which are generally inaudible to human ears. You can read and listen here. Even more interesting is his work dealing with biophony and the idea that each component in an ecosystem makes sound within its own particular pitch range.

There is an informative video about French research into the subject of vascular tree noise here.

© Erwin Bolwidt with CCLicense

© Erwin Bolwidt with CCLicense

Look at the Beautiful Noise: Noise Photography and Jeff Ascough

We often feel we must choose between representation of the external and expression of the internal. Can’t we enjoy both?

© Don_Gato(LoFi Photography) with CCLicense

© Don_Gato(LoFi Photography) with CCLicense

With the advent of the digital camera ideas about image quality changed radically. Photographers became obsessed with clarity, and the presence of image grain, known to photographers as noise, became a contentious issue. A wide gulf opened up between museums and art photographers, who often turned away the work of digital artists for being too clean, and digital photographers and institutions that considered grainy images anathema, seeing them as mistakes or bad shots passed off as art. A good deal of great work on both sides was getting stigmatized, and that stigma remains in many circles.

© glindsay65 with CCLicense

© glindsay65 with CCLicense

Part of this may stem from the way noise itself changed. On film, especially in black and white or sepia tone, noise presents itself as fuzziness or grain. With digital, noise often presents itself as oddly colored pixels which look very alien and stand out mercilessly in the image. Digital artists came to prize clarity, the strength of their medium, while those who stuck to film prized personality, the strength of theirs. It would have been valid to ask what beauty was found in the weaknesses inherent in each medium. Instead, many photographers and critics threw words like “artsy”, “clean” and “noisy” around as if they were pejoratives and it looked as if society was turning its back on noisy photography. Then services like Instagram came out, redefining noise as romantic, vintage and trendy and letting us add it to our digital images.

Jeff Ascough is among the most famous wedding photographers in the world. He considers himself a “wedding documentarian”, meaning he likes to take unposed shots as they happen, without special lighting in order to capture the essence of the moment. The use of noise is prevalent in his work, both as an aid to reveal how the moment felt and as a natural product of foregoing intrusive lighting and positioning. At any rate, many of the images he produces have a weight and power that a perfectly clean photo would miss.

This interview with Jeff Ascough from fellow wedding documentarian Crash Taylor’s Blog is full of scrumptious images (not all are from weddings) and reveals a very interesting and intelligent artist. I love the smoking man from the wedding set, so delightfully whimsical. Please enjoy!

Listening to Haughton Forrest’s “Ships in a Storm”

Much like painters may create landscapes, sound artists may create soundscapes, like this one of the sea during a storm. The evocative power of these constructions are undeniable and art galleries are employing these sound artists to add a new and powerful element to their shows. Here is a reblog from Sounds Like Noise featuring a sea soundscape by Jay-Dea Lopez inspired by a painting, Haughton Forrest’s Ships in a Storm. It is quite magical.


From Desert to Ocean: The Harmattan: Winds of Life and Death, Part I

This is a glorious, informative and poetic post about the origins of the deadly Red Tides, one of which affected Florida earlier this year. These growths of algae kill marine animals and pose a threat to humans as well. What you might not realize is that they are caused by ferocious dust storms in the Sahara, known to the native Tuaregs as the harmattan. The second part of the series will come out on Thursday on Neil Griffin’s Other Nations blog. I can’t wait to read it!

Where Sport and Art Collide: Hockey Mask Artist David Arrigo

© David Arrigo used in accordance with Fair Use Policy

© David Arrigo used in accordance with Fair Use Policy

We often separate artists and athletes by stereotyping them: the artist is withdrawn and effeminate while the athlete is aggressive and masculine. The truth is that both athletes and artists are a mixture of different types, just like anyone else. Sometimes society creates very uncomfortable molds, but Canadian David Arrigo has broken through to become a successful artist who just happens to make hockey masks. He failed art in high school and dropped out of a graphic design class in college, but these setbacks failed to kill his creative urge. His career is personally satisfying and lucrative, and has also brought him in contact with many important athletes. David is an inspiration for those whose talents might not fit in with a classical artistic sense, but are vibrant within the context of modern culture. You can take a good look at his work on his website and read about his interesting career and philosophy in this article from The Glendale Star. Sometimes we create our own creative niche and sometimes it finds us.

Crossing the Country on Foot: Transformation One Step at a Time

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Walking across the continent is not a new thing, but the extent of North American civilization has made it a different experience from what it was in the past. There was a time when there were no accurate maps and many areas were sparsely populated or populated by unknown cultures. The likelihood of reaching the destination was nearly impossible. Today, we have maps, roads, lodging and a high probability of meeting a friendly stranger. It has, however, become harder to wean ourselves from our digital culture and place ourselves in the vulnerable position of wandering. This article by Kate Murphy from the New York Times Opinion Page speaks of men and women who have done just that.

TrekWest Crosses the Border in Arizona: Raising Awareness for Wildlife

TrekWest Trail MapIn late January, John Davis, a conservationist and explorer, began a 5,000 mile journey from Hermosillo, Mexico to Fernie, Canada. He is hiking, cycling and paddling this route to  document the lives of wild animals and confirm the need for wildlife corridors in the west. Wildlife corridors are protected areas that link isolated habitats and allow animals to travel long distances, primarily for the purposes of feeding and breeding. He has already completed a similar project for the eastern side of the US.

Last week Davis arrived at the border between the US and Mexico, where he was met at a walled wildlife crossing near Naco, Arizona by wildlife supporters from both countries who carried an art project celebrating the endangered jaguar and other animals. A traditional Yaqui tribal blessing was held. Some supporters wore jaguar masks and some attempted to scale the border wall to show sympathy and solidarity with the desert creatures. As he continues his trek into the western United States, Davis hopes that people will take notice of the hardship the 16 foot high steel fence creates for animals who are trying to follow their traditional pathways to food and water. In some areas, animals are dying within sight of water while trying to find a place to cross to the river.

Arizona Border FenceCCLI by CBP Photography on Flickr

Arizona Border Fence
Public Domain Image by US Customs and Border Protection

Want to read more about John Davis’s journey and the loss of animal and human life on the border?

TrekWest website

TrekWest… an Epic Journey to Save Our Wild West is About to Begin (Wildlands Network)

Wildlife Supporters Gather at Border Crossing (The Sierra Vista Herald)

Border fence putting Arizona Pronghorns in peril (Arizona Central)

Fence in the Sky: Border Wall Cuts Through Native Land (The Native

The Border Effect (The American Prospect)