Even though I’d probably be scared snotless the entire time I was there and would need to keep an eye out at all time for spiders, snakes, and dozens of other potential killers, I’d still like to visit Australia one day: it just seems like the right thing to do. I’ve wanted to check it out since Kish and I read In A Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson’s classic and hilarious book about his travels in Australia. Now there’s just one more creature waiting to knock me off when I finally make the long flight to the other side of the world.
There is no doubt that the humble blobfish is an exceptionally ugly thing. It’s common name is totally accurate, and that doesn’t help. It looks like a large, slimy phlegm wad, and it’s perpetually disgruntled expression even makes it resemble Rodney Dangerfield. Not surprisingly, it’s not an edible fish. Who would want to have one brought to them on a plate?
The Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, breaks just about every rule we associate with museums. Instead of an imposing marble structure, it’s housed in a curious building. Rather than ascending broad steps, you descend several flights of stairs to get to the exhibit floors. There are no labels or informational signs prepared by curators on the walls of the museum; visitors get an iPod crammed with information about the exhibits and are asked whether they “love” or “hate” each piece. And the museum has an on-site brewery and vineyard, too.
MONA features eclectic pieces, such as “living” art consisting of fermenting fruit and agar and a piece that replicates a digestive tract and produces, at 2 p.m. daily, a stinky piece of artistic fecal matter.
I’m not sure why anyone would want to see a turd, no matter how artistically it was produced or presented — we get to see them often enough. But the idea of shaking up the museum world, and presenting art in different settings, is a good one. I don’t think I’d travel to Hobart, Australia to see MONA, but I’m still kind of glad it’s there.
The BBC has an interesting article on the efforts of scientists to predict the extinction of religion in certain countries. The scientific study considers the number of people who indicate no religious affiliation in census data and then seeks to identify the “social motives” behind being a religious person. The study predicts that religious faith will die out in Australia, Austria, Canada, The Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. (Ireland? Really?)
The scientists apply a “nonlinear dynamics” model that seeks to measure and predict the social and utilitarian value of putting yourself in the “non-religious” category. As one scientist explained, the concept of nonlinear dynamics “posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.” Nonlinear dynamics has previously been used by scientists to predict the death of certain spoken languages, where individuals have to decide between a language that is spoken only by a shrinking pool of participants and learning a more popular alternative.
I think the scientists may have missed the boat on this one. To be sure, religions and languages both have a cultural element, but for many religious people their belief is rooted much more deeply. Adherents to the world’s various religions, after all, are motivated at least in part by faith. If joining the larger social group was all there was to it, history would not reveal such a long and bloody list of religious martyrs who were burned at the stake, stoned, and tortured rather than repudiate their beliefs.
It sounds like a far-fetched scene from The Stand or some other Stephen King novel, but it isn’t — it is just a return to the natural order of things. It is not surprising, really, that delinquent cats would form thuggish, bullying gangs. Everyone knows that, deep down, cats despise humans. When cats resort to their feral state, and are no longer dependent upon humans for Purina cat chow or canned salmon, they are bound to act out the superiority they clearly feel. Right now, they are probably treating Moorooka like one vast litter box and scratching post, yowling at the moon, strutting in their leather jackets and riding their cat motorcycles into saloons.
I am sure that other citizens of Australia are deeply concerned that the cat gangs of Moorooka might spread throughout the Land Down Under — and then across the face of the globe. And before you know it, every haughty, diffident Tabby, Morris and Whiskers is feeling that feral urge, ready to pounce on their human companions as they slumber and scratch their eyes out. This menace must be stopped before it is too late!