What I'm Reading (Jan. 20)

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Reconsidering zoos, the most famous of monkeys, the symbolism of masks and a goldfish drives their aquarium.

“In the intervening years, the professional zoo and aquarium community has fundamentally altered the way it views the task of caring for the animals in its collections. Instead of focusing on animal care, the industry is now requiring that zoos meet a higher standard – animal welfare. This is a new metric, and it represents a huge change in how zoos and aquariums qualify for accreditation.”

There is no doubt that zoos and aquariums have changed. It is interesting to see how the same concern reflected in the words care and welfare might play out for humans. From The Conversation, Zoos and aquariums shift to a new standard of ‘animal welfare’ that depends on deeper understanding of animals’ lives

While we are on the subject of animals, here is another, more light-hearted and perhaps a little nostalgic.

“He is without a doubt the most famous little monkey in all of fiction. Curious George, known for letting his inquisitiveness get him into trouble and then using his ingenuity to get him out of it, has been entertaining children and their parents since 1941, when the first book of his adventures, simply titled Curious George, by the husband-and-wife team of Margret and H.A. Rey, was published. It was followed by six more books…”

I remember Curious George, well, more the images of George than the text. In any event, an interesting “back-story” on the author from Nautil.us, Readers Love Curious George. I Fell in Love with the Author’s Astronomy Books

Masks have played such a significant role in our lives of late if you consider two years “of late.” Could we spend a few moments discussing them more in a meta way?

“The mask, of course, has done more than contain the spread of the virus (and it should go without saying that it accomplishes this much). It has done what the best masks are supposed to do, which is to dramatize and symbolize. The surgical COVID-19 face mask symbolized the pandemic as a whole, and probably will do so for posterity—no less than those monstrous bird masks worn by plague doctors in the seventeenth century symbolize the great disease of that time, or than gas masks symbolize the brutality of World War I, or than the masks of Carnival have long symbolized the anarchic spirit of revelry and a world turned upside down. 

In its everyday use, the mask also dramatized our political conflicts and symbolized other qualities: prudence, solidarity, and politeness to its partisans; cowardice, conformity, and effeminacy to its detractors. There was a potent symbolism, too, in not wearing a mask.”

It is a moment when we should perhaps talk about masks. From the Hedgehog Review, Masks Off - The Politics of Sincerity and Authenticity

Can a goldfish drive a car? More accurately, can a goldfish guide their mobile aquarium towards a reward?

"The study hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment. Second, it shows that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn a complex task in an environment completely unlike the one they evolved in.”

Here is the video proof