CSotD: The things with feathers

Cornered touches on the fact that birds have a close evolutionary link to dinosaurs.

I’ve been referring to the visitors at my feeders as “feathered dinosaurs” for some time and, by the way, they have really begun crowding in for the past week or so, which I would put down to fattening up for the trip south if they weren’t mostly goldfinches and chickadees, who tend to stick around.

I like Mike Baldwin’s idea that the dinos underwent sensitivity training in large part — well, in large part because it’s funny — but also because it’s our own short-sightedness that focuses on the megafauna side of dinosaurs.

So now it seems archaeoptryx wasn’t the only dinosaur with feathers, but that brings up images of Tyrannosaurus Biggus Birdus because we refuse to let go of the “huge” factor.

We have this cultural-but-not-scientific notion that, when the asteroid hit, the world was divided between enormous reptiles and little tiny mammals, which made a little more sense when we blamed extinction on the Ice Age, I suppose.

But you’d think that, even if you don’t think of former dinosaurs like gators and turtles as small, we’d notice skinks and iguanas and anoles and such, maybe even figure amphibians into the mix somewhere.

Maybe we should stop making jokes about the dinosaurs’ tiny little brains.

It’s not like we make such great use of ours.


I don’t usually feature reruns, at least, not intentionally, though I don’t always check copyright dates. But Mr Fitz is in deep rerun mode, and this 2002 strip seems particularly appropriate at a moment when it isn’t just the old retired teachers who are staying home.

And good for them. I’ve got one son who is an ER nurse and another who is an elementary school teacher and I worry less about the nurse because he goes into work sealed up like he was going to haul off E.T. (I also have a stepdaughter who is a priest, but they’ve converted to the Church of Zoom, so no worries there.)

However, all is not dread, and what this mostly reminds me of was my brief exposure to parochial education before we moved into the safety of the mountains.

In my K-1 years, when we got a saint’s day off, we’d get some Oreos, spread a blanket and have a little picnic somewhere where the public school kids had to pass by on their way to school.

It wasn’t exactly the Thirty Years War, but we did what we could.


On the topic of Covid, Bizarro offers a look at football in the new era, the joke being a combination of the lineup on the field and the numbers on the scoreboard.

It reminds me of backyard football when you didn’t have nearly enough kids and anyone who caught a pass scored.

But it’s also of a piece with the wailing and gnashing of teeth over cancellation of college ball, as seen over in the editorial cartoons, and in contrast with the NFL, which seems likely to make their season happen.

Calling off college ball makes sense: If they can red-shirt as freshmen and squeeze out an extra year of eligibility, they can red-shirt as juniors or seniors. And college should be a total experience: I don’t understand why anybody is showing up on campus just to sit in their dorm rooms.

The NFL teams are in lockdown and are taking serious steps to keep everybody virus-free, and here’s probably more than you want to know about that.

To which I would add that the “dumb jocks” I knew in college were backups, guys who had been all-whatever in high school but couldn’t figure out the demands of the college game. They never dressed for games and they surely weren’t going any further.

The only exception I can think of was a dumbass running back who managed to eke out three years in the NFL for three different teams.

You can’t be stupid and play at that level. At least, not for very long.

Case in point: The weeping of subway alumni and Covid deniers over young men missing out on the dream of a lifetime vanishes like a toxic mist in light of this bonehead, who cut all his dreams short for the sake of an attempt at hoo-hah in the team quarters.

To which my response is not sympathy for the end of his lifelong dreams but an assurance that he was too stupid to have survived the first round of cuts anyway.


For more intellectual fare, we turn to Frazz.

I just gave up on Moby Dick again, having gotten about halfway through. It wasn’t all the elaborate detail about whales and whaling. As noted earlier, I’d just finished a biography of Thomas Cochrane, and a couple of journals of 19th century sailors and was looking forward to some whaling trivia.

No, it was the constant, self-conscious authorial voice that finally turned me off enough to put it down, and I’ll cut Melville some slack for being a product of his times in that regard — I gave up on his contemporary, Thackeray, for the same reason and that doesn’t make them “bad writers.”

But it’s funny to see him paired with Fitzgerald, who has no such excuse for his preening, particularly given that he palled around with Hemingway who so carefully avoided pretentiousness in his writing.

Hemingway cut his teeth as a newspaper writer. If anything, he erred on the side of clarity, which isn’t a bad thing if your characters and plot can carry the load.

I know there are people who like Fitzgerald. And Melville. And Thackery. And Jacqueline Susann.

But a generation or so before that Lost one, Henry James feared his idol Turgenev would dismiss his work as having “too many little flowers and knots of ribbon” and I suspect, having read both authors, that he was right.

Hemingway also admired Turgenev, but he did more than admire him. He learned from him.

What a concept.

Meanwhile, if you want an unpretentious whaling saga with a moral, here’s my choice:


5 thoughts on “CSotD: The things with feathers

  1. One of my sons has never cared for fiction: he read the required books in high school and college, but he never cared.
    Now he’s 47, and he just read all of Moby Dick, not the Classics Comics form. Big wows from him.
    I can die happy.

  2. If you’re in a nautical bent and looking for something nonfictional, I really like Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana. Two years from Boston to California in 1834, and it reads like letters from a friend. One of the best “you are there” books I know. It wouldn’t apply to you, but I particularly enjoyed his travelogue up the California coast, stopping at beaches and bluffs I’ve been to until he reached the promising little village of San Francisco.

  3. Have read “Two Years” several times. A few years ago, I tried blogging it in real time, but it got little interest, even from the paper in Dana Point but it also wasn’t strictly chronological anyway. Oh well.

    Great, great book, even if you never get within 100 miles of salt water.

  4. OH YEAH! I remember that! I was one of your regular readers. I first read it decades ago, but I’ll bet you’re the reason I read it more recently. Thanks for that!

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