Virtual dodo makes a comeback online and in 3D

"The Dodo & Given", by G. Edwards (1759)

Paleontologists and artists alike may be interested to hear of a new project to further our understanding of the unfortunate Raphus cucullatus, otherwise known as the dodo. Fewer that 300 years ago the bird was strutting around Mauritius, yet today only two complete skeletons are known to science. Researchers at the Massachusetts College of the Holy Cross are hoping to extend the influence of one of those skeletons by giving it new life online.

Cast of mummified dodo head (looking thoughtful) from Aves 3D

The skeleton has been scanned in 3D, digitized, and uploaded to a public website funded by the National Science Foundation. Using a Java plugin, users can manipulate 3D images of the individual bones, as well as a mummified head (left).

We first read about the story in Digging up the Dodo, an article on IOLscitech. The dodo images are found on Aves 3D. The Aves 3D database contains images of many bird species; it’s primary aim is “to allow for the rapid global dissemination of three-dimensional digital data on common as well as rare and potentially fragile species, in a format ready for a variety of quantitative and qualitative analyses, including geometric morphometric analysis and finite element analysis.”

After conducting our own research using the data, we can also report that by careful rotation of the mummified head image it is possible to produce quite convincing facial expressions including “solemn,” “offended,” and “thoughtful.” Each expression requires tiny adjustments to the image, but of course, as the most famous dodo of all once advised, “the best way to explain it is to do it.”


Alice Art from Auchtermuchty, Scotland

Paintings inspired by Alice from the brush of Scottish artist Marie Wrightson are currently on display at the Leith Gallery in Edinburgh. If popping over to Scotland this week isn’t in your schedule, you can see the artwork on the Leith Gallery website.

Wrightson, who is based in the town of Auchtermuchty, paints in oils on themes of childhood and fantasy.

Marie Louise Wrightson "The March Hare"

Marie Louise Wrightson "Alice's Mad Hatter"

Marie Louise Wrightson "Pool of Tears"

Wrightson’s paintings are part of a “Down the Rabbit Hole” month at the Leith Gallery. Other Wonderland-inspired art on display includes stained glass sculptures of Cheshire cats and mimsy borogroves by Emma Butler-Cole Aitken, jewelry by Pauline Eadie, and Wonderland bronzes from the Robert James Workshop. The latter were previously exhibited at the Hampton Court Flower Show, and are rumored to be at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show. The exhibition will run until the end of this month.

Robert James Workshop

Emma Butler-Cole Aitken "Mimsey Borogove 1"


“Ink Me” – Alice in Wonderland among the most popular literary tattoos

The Publisher’s Weekly blog PWxyz ranked The 5 Books that Inspire the Most Tattoos, finding Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the top 5. Their online research seems to be thorough, even if the methods aren’t scientific: “We spent an untold number of hours combing the Internet’s two most extensive literary tattoo sites: Contrariwise: Literary Tattoos and The Word Made Flesh, then cross-checking the most frequently occurring tattoos with Google searches and Google image searches, all to get to the bottom of what books inspire the most tattoos and why.” Lewis Carroll’s book was beat out only by… Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, only because of the popularity of the phrase “So it goes.” So it goes.

2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Evidence:  hip “Who in the world am I”twinkle twinkle feet,shoulder caterpillarhip “take care”ankle cheshireback nonsense,leg dodoforearm “we’re all mad here”shoulder cheshirefeet rabbit and hatter.

Alice has inspired the most varied collection of tattoos of any book. Its wide cast of characters, quotes and images are all represented: the Cheshire Cat, the Dodo, the White Rabbit, and the Caterpillar all have fans out there. Out of the quotes, “We’re all mad here” was the most commonly occurring. Credit Alice‘s popularity among the tattooed to the fully-realized world Carroll created, and for tone specific to its story. More than any other book on this list, you’d be likely to get an Alice tattoo because it simply looks great and is hyper-intricate. Tim, who has an image of the Cheshire Cat on his shoulder blade, said on Contrariwise: “The Cheshire Cat is the only creature in Wonderland who uses logic. Though his words often seem mocking and bizarre, his process is always logical. To me the Cheshire Cat symbolizes the fragility of the border between genius and insanity.”



The famous dodo painting and its modern translation

"Detail from the oil painting of the dodo by Roelandt Savery, which will be on display at the Natural History Museum." Image from The Guardian

The iconic painting of the dodo bird above, by Roelandt Savery circa 1626, will hang in the UK Natural History Museum starting January 21st, 2011, as part of the permanent exhibition Images of Nature. About Savery’s depiction of the dodo, Robin McKie wrote in the Guardian on Sunday: “The poor creature looks faintly absurd, which probably explains the inclusion of the image in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

For contrast, the paleontologist Julian Hume has painted a version to depict a more realistic image of what the dodo looked like. It will hang next to the original.

“Savery claimed he had painted the dodo from real life but there is a lot of evidence today to suggest he only saw preserved specimens,” says [Judith] Magee [the gallery’s new curator]. “These would not necessarily have represented the dodo in its proper original form. By examining the skeletons of dodos, we have produced this new image of the bird which depicts it in a different, and we believe more realistic way. The painting shows it having longer legs, a straighter neck, a less bulky body and a smaller head.”

"The modern interpretation of the dodo's physique by palaeontologist Julian Hume. Photograph: Natural History Museum"


Lewis Carroll-themed signs at Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert‘s march on Washington, D.C., yesterday, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, was estimated to be about 250,000 sane people strong (approximately triple the headcount at Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally in August, which yesterday’s event was parodying.) Stewart requested attendees to bring pro-sanity signs, and suggested for example “I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler” and “I am not afraid of Muslims / Tea Partiers / Socialists / Immigrants / Gun Owners / Gays … But I Am Scared of Spiders.”

The Huffington Post did a nice job supplying slide shows of hundreds of suggestions and photos from the rally yesterday. I just went through them looking for a few good Lewis Carroll-inspired ones:

UPDATE! Here’s two more that another LCSNA member found at BuzzFeed’s 100 Best Signs at the Rally to Restore &c…


New York Times makes “Through the Looking Glass” reference in their headline about Bergdorf Goodman’s 5th Avenue Alice-themed Window Display

Hey, kid-
Wouldn’t you like to be on Broadway?
And wear some Bergdorf Goodman clothes?
Red alligator shoes, a golden anklet,
And seventeen dozen nylon hose,
Hey, kid!
-Langston Hughes
(from the Kurt Weill opera Street Scene, 1946)

Alice’s New Musical Adventure won’t be coming to Broadway for awhile (it’s still playing counties), but she’s on 5th Avenue in Bergdorf Goodman’s Christmas window display. From the New York Times‘ article with a Carroll reference in the title:

Bergdorf Goodman’s windows beckon with a swanky sparkle. “Alice in Wonderland” is the loose inspiration, and some fancy clothes play a role, but exquisite handicraft is the star of the show.

The shine comes from a vision in mirrors: A silver lobster plays a silver violin, beneath fluted columns with mosaic animal heads, under a disco ball surrounded by a Venetian frame — all reflecting the street scene, and all echoing a dramatic Pamella Roland gown swooping down from above.

Elsewhere, a king and queen, in black and red, sit on a chess board playing cards and drinking tea. But the chessboard is standing on edge against the back wall of the display, so the view is of the top of the monarchs’ heads — a neat optical trick that makes it seem as if you are peering down from above rather than walking by on the sidewalk.

The true standout is a fantasia of white, built — literally and literarily — out of books. In a space covered top to bottom with whitewashed volumes, a dodo bird with feathers made out of pages hobbles near a turtle with a lamb’s head. A tea party spills out of the pages of an open tome like a tongue out of an open mouth. Delicate birds flutter out of another with origami pages. You could stare at it for an hour and only then notice the frog wearing a judicial wig.

“It’s everything you want from a window,” my friend said. “You basically want to feel like the Little Match Girl, with your nose pressed up against the glass. You want to be delivered from your drab existence in just the moment before you perish from the cold.”

by Ariel Kaminer
The New York Times, December 4th, 2009
The Times website also has a slideshow with Ms. Kaminer narrating over the various New York City window displays, including Bergdorf Goodman, look for “Audio Slideshow” when you go to the full article. Thanks to Jenny Woolf for finally finding pictures of the storefront at

Alice Miniseries on the Syfy Channel, December 6th-7th

If you haven’t heard the hype, Syfy is rolling out a hot new four-hour miniseries inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, this coming Sunday and Monday evenings starting at 9pm. (Syfy used to be called the Sci Fi Channel, and this rebranding is being boycotted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Slate as an “unsupportable offense against orthography.”) This show should should be a wild take on the Alice “myth”, with Carroll listed as only one of many influences including Doctor Who and other classic genre-benders. The adult Alice (Caterina Scorsone) can do karate. You may remember Harry Dean Stanton, who plays an insurgent Caterpillar “resisting” the Queen of Hearts, as a regular from David Lynch movies and the slithery Fundamentalist Mormon prophet in Big Love. And the Dodo, also an insurgent, is played by Tim Curry, who was of course once the sweet transvestite transsexual from Transylvania. The Syfy plot sounds too complicated to recap before seeing it, involving some sort of coveted ring of power, the Gem of Wonderland, but the production and acting all sound first rate. There’s trailers and other promo material at, and Troy Patterson’s review at Slate (which I was just paraphrasing) is here. Patterson coined a delicious Carrollian portmanteau “maluscious” (luscious and malicious) to describe Kathy Bates’ Queen of Hearts.


Novelty Cards from Blue Barnhouse with Tenniel Illustrations & witty captions

Twenty new cards from Blue Barnhouse called “A Weekend With Alice” re-interpret Sir John Tenniel’s classic Alice illustrations with irreverent captions. There’s also others with the same trick using Oz and other retro illustrations. Available for $5 a pop at the Blue Barnhouse online store.

There’s also four in their Drug department (not just making the obvious jokes, they’re pretty left-field. The illustration of the White Rabbit with trumpet & scroll is captioned “Somebody hold my MFA so I can light this thing.”)


Syfy’s Alice

Announced at least a year ago, Syfy has finally started releasing pictures and press information for its four-hour miniseries Alice, slated for December of this year.

“…writer/director Nick Willing has created the modern-day story of Alice Hamilton (Caterina Scorsone), a fiercely independent twenty-something who suddenly finds herself on the other side of a looking glass. She is a stranger in an outlandish city of twisted towers and casinos built out of playing cards, all under the rule of a deliciously devilish Queen (Kathy Bates) who’s not very happy about Alice’s arrival. …Rounding out the stellar cast are Tim Curry as Dodo, Colm Meaney as the King of Hearts, Philip Winchester as Jack of Hearts, Matt Frewer as the White Knight, Andrew Lee Potts as Hatter, Alessandro Juliani as 9 of Clubs, Timothy Webber as Carpenter, Alex Diakun as Ratcatcher, Zak Santiago as 10 of Clubs, and Eugene Lipinski as Doctors Dee and Dum.”

Should be interesting, but wouldn’t it be nice to have an adaptation where the Red Queen/Queen of Hearts isn’t the bad guy?


New Old Dodo Picture

In all the hubbub of newly released character and scenery pictures from Tim Burton’s Wonderland, only the Telegraph (U.K) has taken note of a previously undiscovered 17th century picture of a dodo. The picture is particularly important as it was drawn before the bird became extinct, although it is uncertain whether it was drawn from life. The picture is to be sold at auction by Christie’s on July 9.