American Elephants

At What Point Do You Lose Faith In The Federal Government? by The Elephant's Child


How about this one? On June 26, innumerable antiques, musical instruments and Mah Jong and chess sets have been effectively banned by your federal government from sale or trade within the U.S. The idea is to protect elephants in Africa from poaching for their ivory.

Combined with tough new international import-export restrictions, the value of these objects, once in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will evaporate.

Well, so much for my little ivory Buddha, though I doubt he was worth much in the first place, but what about my walrus ivory necklace from Alaska?

There are fantastically beautiful and expensive pieces carved of ivory. Too bad. Now worthless. Your federal government decided. This one is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.To sell or trade your object, you have to prove that it at least 100 years old and possess official paperwork proving that it was imported to America before 1990, or legally thereafter, and provide evidence that the object has been neither repaired nor modified since December 1973. The IRS is unlikely to let you write it off as an investment loss, whether you paid a few hundred or $20,000 at Christie’s.

What Fish and Wildlife will do is step in to prosecute the owners and confiscate the ivory goods.

ADDENDUM: The bureaucrats at Fish and Wildlife may mean well, but their efforts to ban the sale and trade of ivory will not save one elephant. It will only raise the price of ivory on the world market and encourage poaching. One third of African elephants live in Botswana. 150,000 of them live in an area about the size of the New York metropolitan area. Too many for a comparatively small area. Botswana President Ian Kharma has banned wildlife hunting as of January and has received awards for his conservation efforts, but the overpopulation of elephants is controlled only by disease, hunting or starvation due to the destruction of the environment. That jacks up the price even more. Elephants have no natural predator.

March Afternoon, Unbearable Ennui by The Elephant's Child

Garden Porn by The Elephant's Child
January 28, 2014, 6:39 am
Filed under: Art, Environment, Freedom | Tags: , ,

What could be sexier than pollination? With the weather freezing in much of the country, our weather here in the Puget Sound area is mild, but nippy (in the high 40°s) and it’s been foggy for days. Still, a nice pollination video is just what the doctor ordered. Reposted from last year.

The Magic of Winter. Blowing Bubbles. by The Elephant's Child

When the temperature dropped to 16 degrees in Washington, and everyone hid indoors around the fireplace, the stove, or just wrapped up in blankets,  Angela Kelly and her 7 year-old son mixed  up some homemade soap and blew bubbles to see what would happen:



Angela took photos as the frost created intricate designs in the larger bubbles, while the smaller ones froze and shattered as they it the ground. Before the sun came up the bubbles behaved as if they were made of glass. After the sun came up, the tops of the bubbles would defrost. Here is the rest of the story:

What a great idea. Perhaps people all over America will be blowing bubbles in the cold.

Old Cars and Small Town Streets by The Elephant's Child

The Elephant sent me a link to this story, which is definitely a guy thing, but completely charming just the same. It reminded me that a while back, I had posted something by the same photographer, actually three years ago, about small-town America, in a town called Elgin Park. Quite worth digging out of the archives.  Enjoy!

Ella! by The Elephant's Child
October 10, 2013, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Heartwarming, Music | Tags: , ,

Three-Dimensional Illusions in Street Art by The Elephant's Child

(h/t: Maggie’s Farm)


This Little 6″ High Figure Is a 3-D Printed Portrait! by The Elephant's Child


If you happen to be in Germany this summer, in Hamburg, you can stop by a new company called Twinkind, and for just $300 get a stunning 6″ high 3-D printed version of yourself. The final figurines range in size from roughly 6″ to 13″, around $1,700. The final figurines are strikingly realistic, capturing everything from poses and facial expressions down to hair styles and the folds in clothes— all in full, faithful color.  Pretty cool!

The picture comes from an article in Wired which has a slide show to show some of the figures they have done. They have perfected a system that could photograph subjects in the round in a split second. The products are small but the technologies and workflows are pretty complex.

I don’t understand 3-D printing at all, but these results are truly spectacular.


Shadow Dancing by The Elephant's Child
July 24, 2013, 6:54 am
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Music, Politics | Tags: , ,


The Magic of the Paper City by The Elephant's Child

Here is paper folding and pop-up paper gone wild. Beautiful and magical.

Built For Running: Explaining Cheetahs by The Elephant's Child
June 3, 2013, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Africa, Art, Energy, Freedom | Tags: , ,

And Now for Something Wonderful: by The Elephant's Child
May 19, 2013, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Art, Education, History | Tags: ,

“Making a presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity.
The use of corrupt manipulations and blatant rhetorical ploys in a report
or presentation — outright lying, flagwaving, personal attacks, setting up
phony alternatives, misdirection, jargon-mongering, evading key issues,
feigning disinterested objectivity, willful misunderstanding of other
points of view— suggests that the presenter lacks both credibility and
evidence. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for
evidence, consumers of presentation should insist that presenters be held
intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus
consuming a presentation is also an intellectual and a moral activity.”

……………………………………………………………………………………Edward Tufte

(click to enlarge)

Charles Joseph Minard’s data-map describes the successive losses in men of the French Army in the Russian campaign of 1812-1813.  Drawn by M. Minard, Inspector General of Bridges and Roads in retirement, Paris, November 20, 1869.

The numbers of men present are represented by the widths of the colored zones at a rate of one millimeter for every ten thousand men. The tan represents the men who enter into Russia, the black those who leave it. The overall toll, French and Russian was approximately 700,000 to 1,000,000. Place names are shown, as are the rivers, and at the bottom a graphic table of the temperature in degrees of the Réaumur thermometer below zero. Moscow, October 18; October 24 –rain; November 9, –9°; November 14 –21° at Smolensk; December 1, –24 ° at Minsk; December 6, –30°.  Only one soldier in 42 survived this brutal campaign — six months from start to finish.

At the war’s beginning , the army crossed the Nieman River with 422,000 soldiers. At the end, 10,000 soldiers returned across the Nieman River. The width of the lines accurately represents the numbers. So much information is conveyed by this one beautiful analytical graph, in a combination of beautiful design, true and accurate information, and a long dreadful story. Amazing.

Edward Tufte is a Professor Emeritus at Yale University, where he taught courses on statistical evidence, analytical design and political economy. He has written four books on visual displays: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations, Beautiful Evidence. They are incredibly beautiful, true, refined and luscious books, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Tufte is also a sculptor. His works are available through his website:  as is a poster of the above beautiful graphic in either French or English. He includes this analytical graph in each of his books, as probably the best graphic conveyance of information ever made.


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