Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his encrypted diaries that his first memory was a bird of prey visiting him in a crib and sticking a tailfeather in his mouth. That’s just one of the freakish tidbits of the great artists I learned from Inside the Mind of Leonardo, a movie made in 2013 but just making its way to American theaters this
One of the biggest points of the film is that Leonardo was born a bastard and therefore outsider. If he had been in a conventional family, maybe he would have gone to a fancy school and bought into the system. Instead, he taught himself from nature–watching animals–and experience and viscerally hated men who had wealth, standing and education but none of his creativity or charm.
The nature part of his thinking explains why Leonardo was so into animals. In the film he also speculates why dogs sniff each other’s butts (to see the class of food they’ve been eating, he guesses.) He looks at birds to figure out how humans might fly. And, though not in the film, Leonardo was a great lover and sometimes liberator of animals. According to one of his earliest biographers, he would buy caged birds in Italian markets just to set them free (and wrote animal fables, including one of a goldfinch who poisons her offspring so they won’t live life in human captivity.)
If you’re looking for some guy to play the smartest guy on the planet, Peter Capaldi is a fantastic choice, given his experience on Dr. Who and The Thick of It. Capaldi lets him be angry, funny and more human than you are used to seeing him. The documentary comes close to saying that he was probably gay and did religious paintings so as to stay in the church’s good graces after a brush with the moral police. Oddly, there have been a bunch of Leonardo movies lately, some of them action movies. Capaldi as Leonardo doesn’t fly, dance with fireworks or even paint. He just sits in a flouncy shirt and coolly delivers da Vinci’s own words from his diaries, written in a mirror that the Vatican recently revealed. The effect is that, regardless of what you knew or didn’t know about da Vinci, you come away impressed and maybe a little creeped out.
One of New York City’s most famously dog-friendly bar, The Gate, in Park Slope says it will no longer allow them because it was busted under the city’s outdated health code.
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Releasing predators in Central Park play a huge role in the fantasies and rhetoric of hunters. Could one have planted a dead black bear cub scare New Yorkers? Seems like somebody with access to dead wildlife was trying to make a point.
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Watch out Fire Island deer! The Parks Service wants you out of the way of their holly plants. And tourists, if you like seeing deer, too bad. The parks service wants to cut down on “negative human-deer interactions,” which it seems to define as anything that isn’t hunting.
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The mysterious white squirrel of Prospect Park is back. And, better yet, there might be more than one living on the western edge of the park, where people have reported white (leucistic, not albino) squirrels since at least 2006, delighting even jaded New Yorkers.
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Guide to Troubled Birds is the rare funny bird book that illustrates what any birder secretly knows: a lot of birds are jerks.
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Humongous Polyphemus Moth hatches–sorry, ecloses–from one of two mystery cocoons downed from oak trees during the harsh winter.
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Wood duck mother and duckling
Something is going on with nests in Prospect Park this season. They’re everywhere. You can’t walk 50 feet in the park bumping into some adorable tableau of chirping baby birds. Half the trees in the park seem to be brimming with exhibitionist robin families. The big unusual nests this year are green herons and wood ducks (which are living somewhere near dog beach–but where they nested, I don’t know.)
Green herons are nesting on the lullwater and near the less-fancy bridge by the boathouse.
Green heron on nest by the boathouse. Babies are tucked under her wing.
Green heron feeds her creepy-looking babies.
Swans in the park, as if in defiance of a potential plan to wipe them out, are multiplying. They have two nests, one helpfully placed on an island by the ice rink to make for easy viewing.
The father swan normally spends his days chasing off other waterfowl, but he came and sat on the eggs with his wife. Apparently he was alarmed by a mommy mallard and her ducklings nearby.
I havent’ seen barn swallows build nests on the boathouse yet, just in the tunnels.
Barn swallow nest
These robins are so desperate for attention they build nests at eye level, sometimes
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Baby cardinals, so hard to find, have a weird red tint to their bodies. After years of looking I finally found a nest. The babies left before I thought they could make it. I’ll never know if they did.
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Birders harass dog people in Prospect Park saying they disturb ground-nesting birds. But only six species nest on the ground here, none exclusively. Some aren’t even in the park in the summer.
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