The Pionus Queen


We recently re-united two snowy plover chicks with their father—a first!

The tagged chicks were mistakenly picked up by beachgoers who thought they were abandoned, and brought to the Aquarium for care. The adult plover still had one chick with him, and representatives of California State Parks and Point Blue put a small cage over the chick to keep the parent close by until we could arrive with the other two.  We then placed all three chicks in the enclosure to give the dad a chance to see them.  After ensuring that the male was interested in the chicks, we removed the cage and he began caring for all three once again. Success!

Once numbering in the thousands, U.S. Pacific coast western snowy plovers were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993.  Today it’s estimated that only about 2,100 plovers breed along the coast, with the largest number found from south San Francisco Bay to southern Baja California. You can help keep adult plovers from abandoning their nests. Keep your dog on a leash on beaches during snowy plover breeding season and stay out of areas that have been blocked off as bird nesting sights.

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A Form of Happiness: Dopamine

We have all felt the rush and experienced the feeling of happiness, and Speculative Design artist Jessica Charlesworth, along with her husband, Product Designer Tim Parsons, has made it tangible. The couples’ A Form of Happiness project has masterfully resulted in their creation of a wood and magnetic representation of the neurotransmitter responsible for releasing the chemical that fuels our desire for happiness. The effects of the organic chemical, dopamine, are likened to the euphoric feeling and pleasurable physical reaction to things such as searching through sale racks while shopping, enjoying a delicious meal, or the pleasure received from engaging in sexual activity.

A Form of Happiness, displayed as the physical model of dopamine, is part of a kit that allows user to assemble the wooden pieces into the chemical compound strand. Each part is held together by embedded neodymium magnets. The kit includes examples of the various roles that the physical piece could take on and provides a more vivid display of what occurs during moments when dopamine is released. Charlesworth and Parsons pose the question, ‘What makes you happy?’ and while the answers will vary by person, as their model and kit prove, the feeling is the same for everyone. Happiness is a simple chemical reaction we seek it throughout life; a chemical bit of magic. 

Visit Jessica Charlesworth’s Portfolio

- Lee Jones

Nice melding of art and science. I want to touch it!

I also like that it shows how dynamic these molecules are.

A Day in the Life


A typical day for me is something like this.

9:00- 8 week Shih tzu vaccine appointment. Owner doesn’t believe in vaccines.

9:15- Litter of found kittens presents for vaccines, and three of them are sneezing and have “goopy eyes”.

9:30- Pet store brings in a group of 3 guinea pigs with bald…

Ha! This is lovely! Love the pug wrestling. The onion toxicity one made me snort my dinner.

There are many names for what she does. She prefers dominatrix. 

"Take the weight OF your feet"?


These typos make me cringe.

(Source: hogwarding, via bbcsherlockftw)


Happy Valentine’s Day! Do you love octopuses, like our aquarists do? Turns out they may have the supreme power to love you back, since a male octopus has three hearts! Not only that, but they skip a beat when introduced to a female. 
View our Valentine’s e-cards or share on Facebook

So jealous, I could cry.


Happy Valentine’s Day! Do you love octopuses, like our aquarists do? Turns out they may have the supreme power to love you back, since a male octopus has three hearts! Not only that, but they skip a beat when introduced to a female.

View our Valentine’s e-cards or share on Facebook

So jealous, I could cry.

What I did in fanart class, or Do I show the booty? Yes I dooo…


(A bunch of people have asked about my class on transformative art, so I thought I’d put up some of the images and talk about what we said. I’ll try not to drone on, but it was an awfully fun class. Plus there were butts.)

During the last class session of Intro to Media and Popular Culture, we looked at a whole bunch of transformative art, including a fic by aderyn, one of Amy Kinley’s videos, a bunch of stuff students brought in from different fandoms—and the following images. (I did a pretty complete analysis of the fic, which I’ll post separately.) I didn’t just want to explain the content of fanart, all the usual stuff such as where the artist gets their ideas, is it copyright infringement, why people like it, etc; I also wanted to explain how one goes about interpreting it—that is, not just what fanart is but what it does. How it works. So with all of these, we practiced the five interpretive strategies Henry Jenkins outlines in Textual Poachers, reading each in the context of: canon, artist’s work, subculture (are there, say, inside jokes that a member of the fandom would get?), trans-generic stories (casting the characters in different types of stories, like Arthurian quests or such), and intertextual relationships (whether the work includes an element from some other text). By actively interpreting the art we kept away from the “do you like it/do you not” mindset which lets students remain passively distanced. You can’t just ignore the work when you’re asked to do something with it. You have to take it seriously. (And I know y’all are probably sick of my tagline, but there it is.)

The sequence was fairly long, and started with Bill Mudron’s “Baywheux Tapestry,” which tells the whole history of Doctor Who in the form of the Bayeux Tapestry (the 1000-year-old embroidery that tells the history of the Norman conquest of England).  


I love this work, because the fan artist takes a story about a man who travels through time, and travels through time himself by using a touchstone of Western art history, bringing the viewer along with him. And much like the original tapestry, it’s at once an art object, a historical record, and an educational tool: it’s cool to look at, it records the doings of all the Doctors, and it can indoctrinate the newbie fan.

(This was a canny, perhaps questionable, move: I began with a male artist, and a work that mimics traditional methods and values. I wanted to bring skeptical students in with something that didn’t fit their preconceptions of fanart, that it’s shallow, or made only by women, or only for erotic purposes. Of course, we talked about these prejudices once I had shown the rest of the art—why would I need to do this? Did it work?) (Because sexism, and yes.)

Next we ran through a long sequence of images, starting with some alicexz. We did the five-fold interpretation, but also talked about how she uses light, line, color, and style.




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Look at this lovely genius work. Very nicely done!


A Survey of Light: Chromatic Chiaroscuro in The Great Game

So the spectacular color in the planetarium scene The Great Game where Sherlock and John battle BBC!Golem is an homage to a German Expressionist silent horror film, The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920). (See the gifs on the right above.) 

The Golem was was tinted by writer/director/actor Paul Wegener so yep it was always meant to have this vibrant color. The vivid greens, blues, reds and yellows mixed with the low key lighting make for a visually stunning film.

chiaroscuro: Literally, the combination of the two Italian words for “clear/bright” and “dark”; refers to a notable, contrasting use of light and shade in scenes; often achieved by using a spotlight; also referred to as low-key lighting or high-contrast lighting. This lighting technique had its roots in German Expressionism. (x)

Sherlock’s creators adapted Wegener’s tinting effect for the digital era in the planetarium scene and I’d say it works pretty darn well on television, too. The garish colors in Sherlock must have a diegetic source— in this clever case it’s an in-story technicolor documentary that provides the visual rationale (and the astronomic clue Sherlock absorbs to solve the art case.) It’s educational and pretty! 

Romantic Chiaroscuro in TGG

Low key lighting happens to be a particular specialty of TGG’s cinematographer, Steve Lawes. My favorite example of his chiaroscuro is the opening scene which intentionally establishes Sherlock as a Byronic hero:

Lord Byron’s famous poem “She Walks in Beauty” expresses chiaroscuro in pretty words:

Sherlock She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in his her aspect and his her eyes

The Astronomer 1920-1688

Dig this still from The Golem of the astronomer. Does it remind you of anybody in The Great Game?

This scene from Sherlock was modeled on a Vermeer painting, in particular it’s a visual nod to “The Astronomer” (c. 1688).

Vermeer was THE master of chiaroscuro. His painting “The Milkmaid" is another famous example.

Further Reading

I love this stuff!