Dinasaur Illustrations

By Michelle Tan

I was at Dinacon for almost four days in the first week of the conference, and created illustrations and comics about my time on the island.

A Kayaking (Mis)adventure

Featuring Danielle and Shreyasi

 

Singapore Foodscapes Illustration

Created for Foodscape Collective, commissioned by Huiying; as part of a public letter about urban farming and agri-diversity in Singapore

 

I wanted to portray what alternative foodscapes, imaginary or otherwise, there are to standard food practices in Singapore. A little boy picking up a fallen fruit in a supermarket encounters a dream-like glimpse into another world where product and nature are entwined. It is a farmer’s stall in a luscious, colourful setting, glowing in stark contrast to his own sterile surroundings. I was inspired by the lush vegetation on the island.

That Strange Sensation by Dezmediah

My main project at Dinacon was to write a short story inspired by one or more things I saw there. What came out was a story about a marine biologist who finds herself on a tropical island (Dinasaurs will guess it’s Koh Lon) in an unspecified future (Dinasaurs will guess it’s 2561) with a bunch of other scientists and artists. Nobody knows why they’re there and so, in addition to surviving, etc., they’re going to try to figure that out. At Dinacon I wrote about 4,000 words and I realized that I wasn’t nearly finished yet. So, since the thing had a sort of pulpy, classic science-fiction feel to it, I thought I’d serialize it.

Following is Part One. New parts get released on the first of every month and can be read at thatstrangesensation.com. The project will (hopefully) continue until late spring.

Part One

Lately, every time L ascended, she felt on the verge of passing out. About two meters from the surface, she’d find herself needing to grasp onto the inflater nozzle of her BCD in order to remind her body of the task at hand. The water would squeeze her, the churning, womb-like sounds surrounding her and disorienting her. The sun, filtered by the water into individual rays, would hit her like a spotlight, causing her to shield her eyes even as she felt herself hungrily drawing toward it.

And now, once again, she finds herself on the surface, back in her right mind, back on solid ground, which is in fact the choppy surface of the water. The sun steady, the physics standard. Escaped. Just a weird sensation was all.

Ever since she was a beginner diver, she’d felt a whiff of this sensation, but in the past few weeks it’s become stronger every dive. Glancing around to check that the interns she’s been diving with are well, she actually wonders—if she were to let herself go on autopilot during ascension, allow her mind wander even just a bit, would she make it? Or would she pass out, sink to the bottom, die immediately?

What an unscientific thought. Likely she was becoming dizzy as a result of a slight physiological malfunction. An inner ear issue. Or maybe it was simply that this feeling mimicked that of not wanting to wake up from a good dream—it was so peaceful under there after all, so cozy, meditative. Your mind couldn’t be scattered. The water directed your focus, plied your attention toward what it wanted to show you.

“My god, I know how you feel,” her colleague, E, tells her as they unsuit back on the boat. E grunts as her tank clinks into its holder. “Sometimes I just don’t want to leave that world.”

“Maybe that’s all it is,” L replies, but still she can’t explain why the sensation is getting stronger, or—could she say—worse?

**

Two hours later she is entering the day’s data into the Thai governmental database. On that morning’s dive, she and her team of interns completed a fish survey and noted this bounty: forty-five butterfly fish, nine bream, five parrot fish, three angel fish, twenty-five wrasse, forty-five cardinal fish, and one soap fish. Still much fewer snapper than she’d like to be seeing, but the other fishes were doing well.

E types away beside her, probably messaging with a prospective intern: an eager undergraduate or beleaguered graduate student, looking for a suitable research site to host them as well as an exciting Southeast Asian experience. A storm has rolled in. L’s nostrils are alerted to a metallic smell as large raindrops begin to fire away on the roof like they mean to put a hole in it. She feels as if the space has become smaller, as if the world would be happy to do them in.

L leans her forehead on her hand, rubs her temples. “I’ve got a bit of a headache now,” she says. E turns toward her and frowns.

“Take a paracetemol,” E says and, sighing, turns back to her computer. Then she groans. “This student wants to bring his girlfriend. But she’s not going to do any research. She just wants to hang out. ‘She won’t take up another bed,’ he says. ‘I don’t see why she has to pay.’” She rolls her eyes.

L gets up and heads to the kitchen to get a drink of water. On her fourth step, a curtain comes over her vision and all she can see is black. “I’m going blind,” she says as she collapses to the floor.

When she wakes up, E is standing over her. Her face looks old, and the geometry of it evokes an ancient math. L is sure, then, that there have been hundreds of people throughout human history that looked exactly like E.

And then she feels her heart beating faster than it should be beating. Her breath is deep and rapid at the same time, as if she can’t get enough air. But her breath moves in and out, her heart beats, and she can see.

“I’m okay,” she says.

“My god, what is wrong with you?” E yells, her Russian accent really coming out now. “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

“No, no,” L says. “I just stood up too fast I think. Something a little off with my circulation lately, maybe my blood pressure.”

Maybe I’m fucking pregnant. Fucking pregnant, that’s a funny phrase.

“My god, go home,” E says. “Take the day off.”

“But new students are coming, I have to orient them.”

“Honey, you need to take some time off.”

**

A couple hours later L is in her house, in her bed, inside the mosquito net. Her headache has faded and she feels fine. The storm has passed away, leaving behind thin, shifting, planes of air. She’s reading a dense, poetic book about water and how to interpret it. She’s enjoying the language, but can’t process much meaning from it. She puts the book down and looks at her nightstand. Two pregnancy tests rest there, staring up at her with two blank eyes. No results.

How is this possible?

Pregnancy was unlikely, as she and her various partners on the island always used condoms, but you never knew. So she could understand a positive result and she could understand a negative result but a non-result was perplexing to say the least.

Just a little low on iron from my last period. Something, something like that.

It is barely five o clock. A breeze blows in and a rodent scampers across her roof. The cicadas are quieting down to a low, tired, scratching, only needing to cool themselves down a little in this breezy landscape.

“We will look at water as the subject. Mammals and insects are interesting, but they will only earn their place in this book to the extent that they can explain the behavior, the signs and symbols of water.”

She puts the book down and falls asleep. She sleeps 12 hours. At 5 am a gecko lands on the wall of her bungalow just outside her head and calls out, loud and clear, “unh unh, unh unh, unh unh,” and she jolts awake, thinking the gecko is in her bed, that someone put it in her bed to wake her up, but there’s no one in her house, not even a gecko.

She can’t believe she slept 12 hours.

Maybe I am fucking pregnant.

Suddenly she feels tough and lichenous, tucked away inside herself from whatever might be happening outside.

**

On her motorbike drive to work, a rabid dog lunges at her, causing her to swerve sharply. After driving off a safe distance, she stops and looks back at it. It lies in the middle of the road, sunning.

She gets to the lab before E and spends a quiet morning drinking coffee and looking over the data. The coral bleaching is getting worse and what to do, what to do about that. 50% bleached already and it’s only the beginning of the hot season. At some point in her meager little life, she’d decided that the best thing she could do was have this field station and report the data. Tell the authorities. Alert people in power. Bolster the science, strengthen the argument. Not shut up. Perhaps she should do more.

E enters the room with a clanging of bags and various attachments. Her motorbike helmet falls off her arm and rolls toward L. E’s eyes go wide and she feigns anger. “My god, what are you doing here?”

“What do you mean?” L says.

“I thought you’d take the day off.”

“Oh I’m fine. Got a good night’s sleep.”

E tuts and shakes her head reprovingly.

**

Two hours later they’re diving again. It’s been determined L will be divemaster for two of the more experienced students and E will take the newbies. That way, the experienced students can cover some of the more routine data gathering and L can be free to focus on her pet research project, which tests whether smaller solitary corals are less resistant to bleaching than larger solitary corals.

E’s group lays out the transects while L and her interns hang back and look at coral. She breathes out and sinks closer in to some branching coral, the home of twenty or so baby, white and yellow butterfly fish, who dart in and out like bees. She wishes she were doing a fish survey so that these lovely, tiny fish could be counted. If only their presence could be felt, could matter in the world. But probably they don’t care either way, probably that doesn’t matter to them.

Now it’s time to go and she motions the students to go ahead of her. With the lab’s underwater camera they take a picture of the transect measuring tape every 50 cm. Back at the lab they will need to go through every one of these 300 pictures and identify the coral just to the left of the transect. She removes her underwater slate from her BCD pocket and begins counting. Everything is slow, deliberate, meditative. She breathes slowly. It’s arduous counting all the solitary corals—there are so many. The students’ frog kicks are too frequent, they are going too fast—almost out of her sight now. No matter, they are safe and experienced. She finishes her survey and meets them at the end of the third transect at 50 minutes into their dive. Together they reel up the transects, spiders assuming the thread of their web back into their abdomens. She directs one of the students to take the transect bag and hook it to her kit. The three of them look at each other in the eyes and L makes the hand signal for “let’s ascend”—a thumbs up.

She doesn’t think about that strange sensation. She’s thinking about the data she gathered and about what conclusions she might begin to draw. Slowly, slowly, she swims up, not even needing to think about moving her feet, just willing herself up. And then, at three meters from the surface, once again, it hits.

**

The pressure is more intense this time, the movements of the water like a thousand little flies distracting her attention. The light hits and she feels the heat of the sunrays on her body. The rays form a cone, which twists around her, and she is an unwilling dancer, moving her limbs oddly, floating six inches above an empty stage.

And then she is elsewhere. Her face is naked—no regulator. She feels sand in her nose and on her lips. She sputters, rubs her nose with her index and thumb, sticks out her tongue. Opens her eyes. She’s on the beach. Or a beach, rather. She doesn’t recognize the topography of this beach, with its thick forest, its meters of white sand. All the beaches on her island are short, with sparse, low vegetation and pieces of trash strewn about. This beach is pristine. A breeze tumbles down the white sand, unobstructed by a single other person. She is alone.

Excerpts from Dinacon

I came to Dinacon with the intention of writing and reading for TIGER, the next performance in my life-long project, The Unreliable Bestiary – a performance for each letter of the alphabet, each letter represented by an endangered animal or habitat.  So far my collaborators and I have made MONKEY, ELEPHANT, WOLF, and BEAR.  I’m aiming to have TIGER ready by Fall 2019.  Here are some raw excerpts from what I was writing. 

 

June 5 2018 Tuesday

Flying to Hong Kong. 12 hour layover before flying to Phuket. Then a 2 hour taxi to Chalong Pier. And then I wait for a boat. And then I take a boat. Out to an island.  Koh Lon. That’s the island. To the Baan Maai cottages. I hope this is how it all works out. We flew past Churchill Manitoba and Hudson Bay. I have a card of a polar bear cub with me. We flew next to Lake Michigan and over Lake Superior. Now we must be somewhere… Northwest Territories? Siberia? Well. We’ve only been flying for 3 1/2 hours. It’s going to be a total of 14 hours and 50 minutes. We pulled away from the gate around 3:35 PM Central Time. We taxied for a long time.  Finally took off at 4:10 PM. So we should be flying until 7 AM Chicago time, or 8 PM Hong Kong time. I’m glad to be sitting next to the window.  Wait… Is my seatmate going to pee? No. He’s gone back down into his seat. Seems that he’s jacking into a movie. He doesn’t speak English. The pilot or copilot sounds Aussie.  The stewards and stewardesses speak English and Chinese, Maybe other languages. The man next to me was reading a Chinese newspaper and the stewardess would switch to speaking in Chinese when talking to him.

 

Yesterday was very full. And so was this morning. Everything gets scaled to the expectations of the journey. If you expect a 16 hour flight, the 2 Hour drive up to Chicago isn’t a big deal. The hour-long wait in the security line isn’t either, just glad that I gave a three hour cushion. After the long bus ride to the terminal and the security line – I only had 45 minutes until boarding.  But here I am with 275 passengers and I don’t know how many crew.  Boeing 777. 

 

June 8 2018 Friday 

T-shirts worn by Chinese tourists; CREATE ACTICITY enjoy leisure (no typos there – that’s what it said). A small child with a black T-shirt wandering on the beach. In white block lettering the shirt says I am drunk.  But I look again and the shirt says SLAM DUNK.

 

Numbers. 900 languages in India. How many in North America?  300 before European invasion – according to Robin Kimmerer.  Tigers can do it – sexual relations – 50 times in one day? Two days? How does it work? Need to look this up. 

 

“She announces her fertility by repeatedly scent-marking the borders of her territory with a pungent, thick, musky fluid and roaring lustily until one or more males respond.  The embodiment of liberated lascivious female desire, she allows them to fight without quarter for the privilege of enjoying moonlit nights and torrid days of violent unremitting passion, in which the victor may mount her as many as 50 times.  Even today, Rajasthani men boasting of their masculine potency refer to themselves as ‘two-legged tigers.’”  p. 36 Tiger by Susie Green (Reaktion Books)

 

A tiger population can bounce back pretty quickly if there’s enough food. And for there to be enough food, they need to have solid habitat. (There is a cat lying on my feet right now. I like it. He’s cleaning himself.   His name is Turtle.) I’m sitting on the porch of my cabin. I’m on Koh Lon. Which I think translates to Lone Island. My cabin is surrounded by palm trees, myna birds, and at 6 AM this morning, a huge amazing chorus of cicadas. Totally amazing.  A slow, very slow crescendo. Five black heron-ish birds on the beach. There was a lot of wind. The tiniest bit of rain. Threats. Here at the beginning of the monsoon season. 

 

Yesterday, in the Hong Kong airport, there was heavy rain. We had to be bussed out to the airplane. While standing in line, the stewardesses would check your boarding pass and hand you a small plastic bag which was filled, packed, with the flimsiest of throwaway ponchos. They packed us on two buses. When we were coming up to the checkpoint, I could see the rain coming down in buckets. Like a fire hose. The flimsy ponchos– they really felt like slightly, barely organized saran wrap–as if you were a bowl of cold tuna salad and the purpose of the poncho wasn’t really to keep off the rain (or torrential downpour depending on the moment) that was actually intended to simply prevent the other food in the fridge from becoming infected with your fishy onion stench. They packed us onto the buses. The buses were under an overhanging roof – so no threat of the rain here. But standing there on the bus looking at the rain absolutely DRIVING DOWN out of the sky – well, I put on my saran wrap. Most other people did too. But then, as we stood there, on the bus, more and more people packing on, the rain let up. And then the rain stopped. Finally the bus drove out to the plane. Right up to the canopy stairway that led up to the airplane door, so when it came down to it, there was about… 6 feet that was unroofed, uncovered, unprotected from the sky. 6 feet and hundreds of bags of organized saran wrap, liberated, free and wild and open and loose–this saran wrap could go back to its natural habitat: the Pacific ocean Northern Gyre. Great garbage patch of the north. Does the Indian Ocean have a gyre? Are the waters in Hong Kong the China Sea? How does this work?  I can talk to Mr. Google I guess.

 

I drove up to O’Hare on Tuesday morning. Left at 10:15, got there by 12:15, driving 80 most of the way. (Oh – the cicadas have started again– it’s very subtle– who starts it? Why does it start? What is the initiating factor? Barbara Ehrenreich quote “an emergent quality.” That’s what was happening at 6 AM. I don’t often find myself paying attention to a sunrise. Actually there was no sun this morning. Just a brightening of the clouds and the ocean. Chalong Bay. Cicadas. Ocean. Herons. Wind. Palms in the wind. Myna birds. Cats. Bugs are holding still in the wind.) It took a little longer than usual to park. The train–shuttle to the terminals is on the fritz, so, buses to the terminal. The international terminal was last. Cathay Pacific. Hardly any line. Checked my bag all the way to Phuket. Makes me a little nervous. 12 hour layover in Hong Kong– will the bag make a dash for freedom during its 12 hours in non-transit? But I go with it. I have prepared for this journey. A 14 hour and a 50 minute flight from Chicago O’Hare International to Hong Kong… whatever that airport is called. I have a seat next to a window: 69K.  When I check in to claim my seat, the chart doesn’t have many openings. There is an open row at the back, in front of a row of seats that are all marked “U”. I look at the keys. What does “U” mean? “U” stands for unaccompanied minors. Ah. A row of lost children. This, clearly, was a wildcard. Which way could it go? Terrified, silent, wide eyed children? (Possibly the best kind of children on long plane trips.) Loud belligerent tweens, nonstop computer games, kicking the seats in front of them. Or babies that scream. For 14 hours straight, with the 50 other minutes spent drinking water because they are so parched from the screaming. Well, as it turns out, the row designated reserve for unaccompanied minors is actually just old folks on their way to Kolkota. They are quiet. They are sleeping. They’re watching action movies with headphones. There is a Chinese man that sits down next to me. A large round Indian woman sits next to him on the aisle. Across the way is her husband. He is also large and round and has dark circles under his eyes. The man next to me has unruly gray eyebrows. Lots of personality. He has gray hair. Not quite a flat top but close. He’s pretty low to the ground. A collared sort of striped golf shirt. He does not speak English. I do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese or whatever they mean when you say “I don’t speak Chinese.” He reads his Chinese newspaper.  I give him my chocolate bar.  He gives me some peanuts.

 

There are moments in the itinerary that I’m anxious about. These are moments that I might label “unknown.” Or, “things I’ve rarely done.” Like Getting a Taxi. Or Getting  A Boat That Will Essentially Be A Taxi.  Or Going Through Immigration and Customs In a Foreign Land.  Or Finding the Hotel That is Supposed To Be In the Airport, And it Pretty Much Is In The Airport, But You Still Have To Go Through Immigration To Get To The Airport Hotel.  That was brilliant.  A 12 hour layover.  Five hours of solid melatonin induced sleep and then waking up at 2:30 AM, because it’s really 1:30 PM… and why, for God’s sake, are you asleep? Wake up. There are some flashes in the dark, and I think to myself, “Lightning?” And I’m surprised. Because it all feels so hermetically sealed. So canned and bottled and completely free of the uncontrolled. It is 70°. Probably 68. So everyone has to wear a light sweater. There is a low hum. A fan. A motor. A mechanical drone to bring us back to the swoosh and slosh of the womb. Ebbing tides. In the morning. At 5:30, I head back to the terminal. It’s pretty quiet. The only time I’ve really had to wait was the security line in O’Hare. But it worked out. Otherwise – everything’s been fast and smooth. I have not had to take off a single shoe. I have not had to take off a belt or unpack a bag. I did have to remove one laptop. So everything is quiet. Everything is white and metallic and bright. Everything is both in English And Chinese. There are beautiful blond families and advertising.  There are beautiful square jawed Chinese men and women.  There is the dream of luxury and leisure. And there are expensive watches.  Images of expensive watches that are – what – 4 feet across? So there’s the picture of the Bulgari watch. On a bright white background. All glowing, lightbox. Lit from within. And under the watch is a sign that says TYPHOON ADVISORY, FORCE 1.  A hurricane bearing down on the Hong Kong International Airport?Should I be worried? Should I figure out how I can elevate my lifestyle so I can achieve this magnificent timepiece – a mark of excellence, a mark of the very best. A watch that is powerful.  A watch that is a force of nature.

 

June 9 2018 Saturday

What does typhoon mean? What does Force 1 mean?  Is it related to hurricane categories? Will they eventually give us Category 6 with Category 5 becoming ordinary? Will the coming years bear Category 7 or 8 what would a Category 8 hurricane be? 360 mile/hour winds? Raining knives. Tsunamis as a matter of course? Who will be our heroes? Who will save us? The last hope. Will Turtle or his father, Colonel Turtle lead us? Will the Pacific Reef herons lead us? The mynabirds. The hornbills. The palm trees. The coconuts. Pythons and pit vipers and hermit crabs. The wind. The rain. The sky.  The ocean. The Buddha on the mountain. The bros that just arrived for their weekend with their dance music.

There are bros everywhere. All around the globe there are bros. And some of them are here. I have a cat in my lap. Named Turtle. I love this wind. It’s low tide right now. So what about heroes? Based in stories. We tell ourselves what we can do and what we can’t do. And this limits us. Heroes (are stories about) throwing out the limits– stepping outside the boundaries, outside the box. Beyond our mortal selves. Hanuman – bigger than a mountain. Smaller than a mouse. Saving the world. The lynx water-god. The amphibious Tiger God. They are not friendly. They are not happy. They have enormous power and that power can go in every direction. When you are sitting in a fantasy… well, no, not the fantasy, sitting in the real world but surrounded by all the elements of what people fantasize about: beach, palm trees, ocean, mountains in the distance, birds calling, Last night I saw my first flying fox. A bat as big as a red tailed hawk.  Fuck.  Amazing. Also: hermit crabs with their vast array of varying show houses. And then two very big crabs that scuttled into big sand holes. Where am I?

 

The mornings have been so nice. When the sun actually crested the mountain today– just for a little while– there was a time when all the color came into the world. Pinks and teals and tangerines and aqua greens/blues… I had looked down to read for a little bit, and when I looked up– the world had gone from the latent quiet potential of grays and blacks and silhouettes and shadows to full kinetic color. Like someone had flipped a switch. The cicadas. A Hornbill in a tree 15 feet above me. The cats returning to hunt and mew and jump into my lap.  

Just got back from a tidal walk with Andy, scouting for a drone shot with mangroves. The tide was coming in, but still low enough to walk out along the rocks and sand, out past the Muslim Village, around the bend. The ocean side of this island was pounded.  Devastated by the 2004 Christmas Tsunami, this side was flooded.  LOTS of garbage and debris left over. Today, less, but still plenty of garbage. Here are some of the things I saw:  a flip-flop (left foot) covered with barnacles. A fan, somehow all the parts within a couple of yards from each other. Big woven plastic sacks for grain. A motorcycle helmet. A dead puffer fish as big as a motorcycle helmet. A big chunk of thick green rope. Plastic bags. Plastic water bottles. Beer cans. Beer bottles.  Broken glass.  Netting.  A dead ray with it’s wings cut off.

Maybe today I will write about Monster, Kris Schwartz and the night of 1000 orgasms? Ha ha. 4. Tigers. 50. What? How? Why? When does it flip into pure mechanics? Maybe it’s always mechanics? Pure electrochemical biology.  She worked at the Lifetime Channel as an editor. Her soft stomach was crisscrossed with scars. Lots of long scars, making a kind of raised skin network. I asked her about them. She didn’t want to talk about it. Her fallback, resting state was dour and depressed. She didn’t seem to stand out in any way. She had dirty blonde hair. Her shoulders hunched. She could be coaxed into a kind of braying, chatty humor –– and she assumed, well, of course if we’re having this frank talk– we are talking honestly here, right? Well, if speaking frankly– of course you’re going to agree with her. And that whine, that… whine, with its assumed,”We’re all friends here” talking about the agreed-upon ways of the world– this whine was soaking in the assumption that the world was fucked.  That – yes, we can make jokes about it, you know, to lighten the load– but through and through, deep down, at the core of all humanity–everybody everything is darkness.  Everything was fucked. And there was nothing they could change that fact. And apparently, she wanted to go out with me. She didn’t tell me directly. She told me through a friend. I’d never met her. I knew nothing about her. But somebody wanted me. Sadly, that’s all I need.

 

We went to a bar.  We drank beer.  She talked about her favorite bands.  She said she wanted to sleep with me.  We went to her apartment.  She had a cat named Monster. He was a pretty nice cat. At first. And then he was less than nice. He was big. Maybe he was gray. Whatever color he was, he weighed over 30 pounds. Kris’s apartment had a small entryway, a small kitchen. Small bathroom. And a bed. Kris lived in this small place with her big cat. They had figured out how to live together. But if you brought in anyone else– the balance was off. I think Monster slept on the bed with Kris. So when I slept over– Monster was shoved aside. Onto the floor and the barely used cat bed. Monster did not like this.  So the first night we went to bed– to her bed, to Monster’s bed, Monster the mid size predator, not a 500 pound tiger, Monster the 30 pound house cat who had been displaced from his bed.  Kris did not want to sleep.  Kris wanted to have sex.  Kris wanted to come.  Over and over.  And she wanted me to come.  Over and over. Maybe there are people out there who know what normal is.  I have no idea. Is it normal to have sex and fall asleep?  Let’s say you’re with someone for the first time. It could be kind of great. It could be exciting and new and thrilling. I’ve heard stories of famous athletes sleeping with literally thousands of women. So, okay, so that’s one kind of normal. I guess. You’ve got Tom Brady and Gisele. First night. How many times? Now for these two, I’m not sure if they’ve even actually had sex– like I bet they bought those kids online. I can’t imagine them spending any time not looking at themselves in the mirror. Or working on his website – how to live forever and for a small monthly fee, he’ll tell you how you can live forever too! How about Wilt Chamberlain– a legendary lover. Or Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan. I am not Wilt the Stilt or Ghenghis or Tom or a two-legged tiger.

 

Ok.  So it’s somewhere in the middle of the sex and the not sleeping and the bleariness.  I get up to pee.  Standing in the doorway between the bed and the toilet is Monster the 30 pound predator.  I have to step over this enormous cat.  He is clearly not having it.  He is a step away from bristling and hissing.  I am naked.  I have to make a decision about my dangly cat-toy-ish bits which may or may not entice Monster the 30 pound predator and his claws.  I survive the passage.  I come back to bed.  There is Kris. Mousy. Trying to smile.  Trying to get over her shyness. Trying to put on a show, get out past her usual desolation … or at least put on a funny front where we can join, meet each other in mutual darkness.

 

Just got back from a 5 1/2 hour interruption. Just in time for the family down the beach that likes having babies, playing shitty music, and grilling. Grilling. A verb. At 12:30 Andy got his drone going and we shot some mangrove stuff.  The roots that come up, out of the sand or the mud. Like a small field of them. Oh God… the wind has started. It’s so good. It feels so good.

 

The first morning when I woke up early here, I lay out on the porch, in the dark, 5 AM. And the wind was up. And it’s warm. It’s not hot outside at night, but it’s not cool. But the breeze comes in. And it’s all over your body, very gentle. And for a little while, with the cicadas, very slow dawn, the herons walking on the beach in silhouette –an emergent quality–the breeze, the perfect wind on me–the world as a lover. Yes yes yes–it can smack you down too. So can a lover. But this felt so nice. So soothing and perfect. It was a very hot day with sun – so even hotter. So the wind, now, quiet, on the porch with Turtle the forgiving kitten– Ah. So nice.

 

Deke Weaver

[email protected]

unreliablebestiary.org

Translating Nature into Art

As an artist, I see myself less so as creator and more so as a translator. I take my direction from the biggest source of  inspiration there is, nature, and try to turn what I see into images that can foster in others just a little bit awe for the natural world. Generally, I work at translating natural design into tattoo design. I am interested in how one can simplify the complexities of natural elements into simple lines, forms, and patterns.  

Before I arrived at Dinacon, I was inspired by photos being posted on the Dinacon social media platforms. I saw photos of plankton collected on the Divamarine lab and I was moved to start translating translucent microscopic creatures into black and white 2-D designs– to make visible the invisible. Once on the island, it was the specimens I encountered there (sometimes literally at my door step) that I drew from. Since Dinacon, I have continued creating designs based on the local flora and fauna of Thailand that touch me with their beauty. 

Below are some tattoo designs (plus one pen and ink sketch and one watercolor drawing) that were motivated by projects of other Dinacon participants as well as the unique outdoor experience of the convention.

-Mari Crook

View of Koh Lon from the Diva marine learning lab
starfish larva
crab larva
jellyfish larva
crab larva
ink and watercolor drawing of specimen found at Dinacon
drawn from a common tree frog found on the walls of the Dinacon lab and maker space
drawn from a common tree frog found on the walls of the Dinacon lab and maker space
baby king cobra
hibiscus
frangipani

Hannah Wolfe

 

Dates: 06/26/2018-07/07/2018

Project: Island Caterpillar

Bio:  Hannah Wolfe is a media artist and PhD candidate in Media Arts and Technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  She earned a B.A. in Visual Arts from Bennington College (2009) and both an M.S. in Media Arts and Technology (2016) and an M.S. in Computer Science (2017) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work has been shown at international art exhibitions and published in academic journals.  Her artwork focuses on the relationship between body and technology, giving computers and robots biological qualities. Her research interests include human robot interaction, affective computing, virtual reality, and computational creativity.

Website

Isabel Tweedie


Issy Tweedie is a theorist whose work lies at the intersections of psychology, critical theory, feminist theory, and philosophy; her current interests center on altered states of consciousness and feminine subjectivities. She received her Master of Arts in Critical Theory from the University of Kent, where she completed a dissertation on sexuality in feminist science fiction. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College where she developed an interdisciplinary concentration in psychology, philosophy of mind, and psychedelic studies. Issy has presented work at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) and the Cognitive Development Society, participated in artist residencies at Cultivamos Cultura, and has extensive research experience in developmental psychology labs.   

Mary Miller

[Dates: May 30-June 13]

Projects:

  • Secret graphic novel project I’ve been working on with Andy and some other folks, which may make its debut at Dinacon
  • Music video for a song called “Robot Language,” on my upcoming E.P. , “Beep Boop.” (I write/perform under the moniker Dezmediah)
  • Short story inspired by what I see at the conference.
  • Collecting soundscapes for my soundscape collection.

Bio:

Writer and activist. I have a Master of Social Work degree, with a Health Policy concentration. I’m interested in system dynamics and how ecology intersects with social justice. I was a cofounder of 350 STL, a local chapter of 350.org, and have experience planning marches, sit-ins, and all sorts of fun stuff like that.

Lately, I’m concentrating more on my writing and will be attending Boston University’s MFA program in Fall 2018. I like to write science-fiction and literary-fiction and have been writing a young adult science-fiction graphic novel series with Andy for the past year.

Although my higher education background is humanities- and social-science-based, I am definitely a biology and science-writing nerd. Would love to geek out with fellow E.O. Wilson and Elizabeth Kolbert fans. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mushrooms and am looking forward to checking out the fungal life on Koh Lon.

Update #6 – Wow! Applications over!

That was amazing! We got applications for over 250 people from every continent except antarctica (snubbed by the penguins!). This is such an amazing group of people with such diverse backgrounds and ideas.
The applications are closed now, and we will be going through them and trying to figure out how to accommodate as many people as possible!
Application Rundown
From a quick peek at the application summary, here’s some fun quick stats about people who applied!
Places
We had people from every continent apply! (well except antarctica!) Most applications came from SE Asia, Europe, and North American.
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Genders
108 female-ish identifying applicants
28 non-binary / other
10 unknown
105 male-ish identifying applicants

Types of things you do
This was one of the coolest parts of this conference. We attracted folks with a crazy wide variety of talents and most people spanned multiple aspects of this conference based at intersections between interaction design, field biology, and art.
Over half the people identified as some sort of artist or designer, at least a third each seemed to relate as biologists or some kind of tech folks, and 13 of you were too amazing to be summed up in any of our boxes except that one box 😉
Timings
now this is the trickiest thing for us people running this thing, how can we get as many awesome excited people as possible to join us. Earlier I had joked that i will have to do some heavy logistics in case 100 people signed up to come for one week. uh oH! Currently each of these weeks can only hold 30 people :/
Inline image 1
 
Sponsors
Awesome sponsored raised over $2500 USD! adding to our initial budget of just $6800 for renting out the place

 

This money is helping us out do things like
  • Provide a couple travel stipends to some cool participants from far away!
  • pay some documentarians to help us capture the whole event!
  • Add sustainability measures to our conference (like industrial water purifiers instead of using tons of plastic bottles)
  • and lots more!
Expanders!
So our conference is free! we got your housing covered, your food covered, and there’s not even “registration” fees. You just have to get there. At this basic level we have a big house we are renting (that can hold 10 people) and a big yard (that can hold 20). As of right now, these are the logistics we are planning for. There are several other cabins at Baan Mai, however that you can rent for ~45$USD per night. We are trying to see if we can rent some of these cabins, or more camping space at a reduced rate, but they can be slow to make deals with. But if you are an applicant interested in paying for their own room/housing while at the conference, please send me a note! This would potentially free up space for more participants to join us in total.
What happens after Jan 30?
  1. We will look over the applications! My goal is to try to get as many of you here as possible! We had a LOT of folks apply though, so we are rushing to figure out how much we can expand it if possible. Logistics are going to be our big challenge here
  2. Refine dates period- lots of people have asked me about changing dates, we may send out a more refined survey to learn exactly what days everyone is planning on coming
  3. We will send your official acceptances (or waitlistings) in February (will try to make this as soon as possible, but bear with us)
  4. Refine your details period
    1. You will need to fill out a form to make any revisions to your project proposals
    2. You can revise any of your personal details and contact info (we will only use the personal info you give us, so you can make up pseudonyms or whatever you want).
    3. You will also send in a photo you want us to share related to you or your project
    4. you will also send in a SUPER SHORT 3 sentence bio (most node leaders already have this taken care of.
    5. you will select a publication type – see below
  5. Publishing Projects -You will have a choice after you are accepted of how we publish your project on our site (the goal is to connect you all to each other, so we want to get started on that!).
    1. Public-Web / print, Public-Group – This will be the default. We will list your projects and yourselves on our website in a way similar to how we have the node leaders listed at www.dinacon.org/people
    2. Anonymous-Web / print, Public group – If you want, we can leave your personal details or contact information off the website, and still leave up descriptions of your project and the timeframe you are going to be there (so maybe people can coordinate with you). You will still be included internally with our group mailing lists for better coordination.
  6. Waiver-  we will have a basic waiver you need to sign that just says you acknowledge that you are entirely responsible for your own self and safety and such.
  7. Code of Conduct: We will have a code of conduct you need to agree to about how you are required to be nice to your fellow people on the island (or we will literally kick you off the island!)
  8. Deposit – as noted in the FAQ, we want to make sure those people signed up and accepted actually show up to claim the space we reserved for them . http://www.dinacon.org/faq  So we will have you give us a 20$USD deposit that we can give you back on the island (probably in baht).

Update #3

Time is getting close! Applications only have about a week left! Here’s details on what’s coming up, and 2 incredible opportunities to go hop on a boat!

-Application deadline! Jan 30!

If you have applied yet, please do if you want to come! www.dinacon.org/apply

and help us spread the news for any last minute folks who want to join!

– mid-con sailing adventure! 

– a cool contingent of people including Jan (fellow NUS prof),  Miguel (fellow NUS Prof), and Yasu (Sound artist), are wanting to put together a little local sailing trip

They plan to “block 17-26 June for sailing in Phuket, and plan to sail for 7 days sometime within that time.

We have already 5 of us, so would need just 3 more for an 8-person crew (which I think shld be easy to find, or otherwise we cld get a smaller boat for 6). I am very preliminarily calculating that the bareboat rental would be about 50ish euro per day per person, so about 350ish euro per person per week (but could be a bit more or less, and there might be other hopefully-small expenses, deposit, insurance, beer fund, etc—but that remains to be researched).

http://yachtcharterinasia.com/yachts/isabella/   — maybe something like her.”

If you want to get involved with this mini-expedition, the point person is probably: Jan Mrazek <[email protected]>   (they are also possibly considering a trip from around singapore to Phuket)