Our regularly updated, usually mostly comprehensive list of articles published so far. A huge body of work as you can see.
They are organised as best as I can see fit, by topic – lists have been kept together.
Skip ahead to a particular topic;
ROMAN HISTORY IN A NUTSHELL
FURTHER ROMAN HISTORY
TRAVEL AND RESTAURANTS
Tess of the D’urbervilles
The Bet, by Vivienne Tuffnell
PSYCHOLOGY, NEUROLOGY AND/OR BEHAVIOUR
NATURE, BIOLOGY AND WILDLIFE
Top Ten Cats
Top Ten Sharks
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals
Insects, bugs and invertebrates
The Origin of a Species
GROWN UP’S GUIDES
CULTURE AND THE ‘CULTURE WARS’
Hints of Life on Venus? – Discussing the discovery of evidence for phosphine gas compounds in the Venusian atmosphere.
Top Ten Venus Memes – A roundup of the top ten memes around the discovery of evidence for phosphine gas on Venus.
Space: What’s the Fucking Point? – A discussion on why liking space and amateur astronomy should not just be for nerds.
Why Mars Anyway? – What makes Mars such an important planet to us Earthlings, how it changed our views on astronomy and captured the public imagination for so long.
The Ignorant and Bumbling Beginner’s Guide to Looking at Things in Space, from Earth, with Eyes – A very basic introduction as to how to get started in skywatching and amateur astronomy with nothing but your own eyes or £20 for some binoculars.
The Ignorant and Bumbling Beginner’s Guide Part 2: Psychological Preparation – How the very act of gazing up at the sky and considering the beauties, wonders and scales involved can (and should) change you.
The Ignorant and Bumbling Beginner’s Guide Part 2: So You Think You Want a Telescope? – Discussing the pros and cons of telescopes, whether or not you ‘need’ one, and if you absolutely must buy one, how you can get the best bang for your buck on a budget.
Orion – A breakdown of the things you can see in the constellation of Orion, including discussions on the stars Betelgeuse and Rigel.
The Moon – One of the first things you will look at in space. Not even as an amateur astronomer, but as a human with functional sight. Discusses the astronomical history of the moon and the impact it has had on human history.
The Importance of Perserverance – Why NASA’s latest mission to Mars is an important step in human space travel and the significance it has to all of us.
Introduction – What can the Ancient cultures teach us about the stars and planets? Very little. What can the stars and the planets teach us about the Ancients? Quite a lot actually, all discussed here.
Vesta – Roman Goddess of hearth and home and a remarkable asteroid in the main asteroid belt. Learn more about both here.
Ceres – Roman Goddess of agriculture, crops and cereal and an incredible asteroid/protoplanet. Find out about them here.
Proserpina – Roman Goddess of the Underworld, equivalent to the Greek Persephone whose myth we look at. Also a tiny asteroid in the main asteroid belt. Less focus on the space rock and more on the myth.
Orion – Another discussion Orion, with less focus on the astronomy (because we already covered that) and more on the ancient myth and it’s relation to many other myths connecting human cultures through history.
Pluto and Orpheus – Discussing the God of the Underworld (and husband of the aforementioned Proserpina) and the dwarf planet namesake, as well as the legend of Orpheus and his journey into the underworld and the concept of Katabasis – a journey down to greatness.
Venus – The hottest planet, and the hottest Goddess all rolled into one! You bet! An astounding planet of extremes and a Goddess of love who managed to hold sway and authority as a feminine figure even in the sexist Greco-Roman society. Also a little discussion about how Lucifer came to get his name, stolen from The Morning Star, another name for Venus.
ROMAN HISTORY IN A NUTSHELL
Introduction – Why do we study Roman history? Why are Romans seemingly still so important to us that many of us find ourselves compelled to learn more about them? We take a look.
The Founding, 753 BCE and Before – The myth of the founding of Rome, the story of Romulus and Remus, is likely bollocks. But it is a powerful story containing many common human mythological motifs. We take a look at it.
The Kingdom, 753 BCE – 509 BCE – Before it was a republic there is significant evidence that Rome was a multi-tribal community ruled by Kings. Eventually some rich people didn’t like it and wanted to share the power amongst themselves. But who were these kings and what did they do to help establish Rome.
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders, 494 BCE – 287 BCE – The rich people chased off the kings and took over Rome. Sadly for poor people they got a bit disenfranchised, which they didn’t like, so they caused trouble and eventually got some political power. We look at how this happened.
Wars with Etruscans, 753 BCE – ~264 BCE – The Etruscans, of Etruria, were a tribe of people who lived in Central-North Italy. Having their own sophisticated culture, art and communities Rome borrowed much from them. However, not all Etruscans joined the Roman project and conflict occurred with hundreds of years of trouble and wars between the two.
Wars with Sabines, Veii and Fidenae, ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE – Rome’s founding myth has a story of them abducting and raping the women of the Sabine tribe, so conflict with these near-neighbours was inevitable from the start! The nearby communities of Veii and Fidenae would also join the Sabines often.
The Latin Wars, 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE – The Latins were such near neighbours of Romans that Rome took its language! Yet, as with so many of the groups from whom Rome’s founding families were taken (Latins, Etruscans, Sabines, Oscans, Umbrans etc.) they would find themselves fighting with those who chose not to join them. The Latins were one such group.
The Gallic Wars, ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE – Before Julius Caesar would ‘pacify’ (read: genocide) the Gauls and bring their territory under Roman control they were a large, disperse, diverse collection of non-unified tribes with a similar collective culture. Around 390 BCE what was likely a warband, under the leadership of a chieftain named ‘Brennus’ led what was probably the single biggest existential danger to the Romans there would ever be. Likely paid off and disappearing, Brennus had no idea how much he could have changed the course of history.
The Rest of the Med, 20th Century BCE – 3rd Century BCE – Rome is about to clash with two superpowers who trace their lineages back a long way; The Hellenic world, Ancient Greece, documentary evidence of which goes back to the 8th century BCE but this is clearly based on older traditions; and Carthage, a group of Phoenician traders who possibly trace their lineage back to the Canaanites. We learn a little about them.
The Samnite Wars, ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE – Another of the local tribes that became an enemy of Rome, there is evidence to link the Samnites with the Sabines. An important conflict for Rome as the pacification of the Samnites gave them de facto control of the entire central Italian peninsula – putting them head-to-head with Magna Graecia – Greater Greece, in the South.
The Pyrrhic Wars, The Battle of Heraclea, 280 BCE – The first time in history that two cultural titans of Europe would clash and the legendary Macedonian Phalanx would meet the upstart Roman Legion in combat. Pyrrhus, the King of Epirus, was invited to assist the Greek colony of Tarentum, leading to combat with a Rome growing in strength and might. Rome would lose the battle, but the war was far from over.
The Pyrrhic Wars – Carthage and the Battle of Asculum, 279 BCE – Carthage would go on to be a great enemy of Rome, possibly their greatest, and yet prior there were treaties and agreements. Both saw the danger in Pyrrhus’ invasion, and agreements were made to potentially ally. Pyrrhus pushed toward Rome leading to the Battle of Asculum, potentially a win for Pyrrhus but leading to his famous quote “One more victory like that and we shall be ruined.” The origin of the expression ‘Pyrrhic victory’ a victory in which one loses more than one gains.
FURTHER ROMAN HISTORY
Introducing: Bad History – an introduction to the basics of what people can get wrong when they are thinking about and discussing history.
Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – How historical narratives/figures can be politically co-opted in the present to affect our futures and why we should always question our past and what it should mean to our current identities.
Bad History: One Damn Thing – Is history just ‘one damn thing’ after another, or is it more complicated than that? We discuss those ideas here.
Bad History: Did Rome Ever Fall? – The narrative of the ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ is so pervasive. But was there a decline? Did Rome ever, actually, fall? We discuss it here.
Bad History: Great Men – Questioning the idea that ‘history’ is made up of huge events led by ‘great men’ or great figures throughout time. Can an individual really shape history so much, or are they merely the surfer of a bigger wave? We question that here.
Bad History: Presentism – Assessing events of the past with our modern eyes is often problematic when we apply our modern sensitivities and ideas to what happened in the past. Is this okay? Can this be problematic? We ask those questions here.
Bad History: Presentism and So-Called ‘Cancel Culture’ in History – Further to our last article, is holding historical figures to account for their past mistakes such a bad thing for how we interpret history? Can we, indeed should we, reconcile a troubled past with historical achievement? We discuss that here.
A New Lease of Life? – Discussing the plans for renovation of the Flavian Amphitheatre – the Colosseum – to turn it into a modern day venue and what the Romans, especially the comissioner of the building, Vespasian, would make of it.
Top Ten Aspects of Modern Life Romans Would Love – Introduction – A discussion on perceptions of Roman culture and how they may be…a bit misguided.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #10 – Easily Available Abortion – Controversial? Maybe, but the Roman ways of dealing with unwanted pregnancy were a lot harsher.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #9 – Drawing Dicks – Putting dicks, images of dicks, sculpting dicks, is a phenomenon we can trace back to the dawnings of human culture 40,000 years ago. The Romans loved dicks too, find out how much here.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #8 – Energy Drinks – Empires don’t run themselves and the Roman day, from the lowliest slave to the most August Emperor was a long and busy one. Find out why they’d have loved a can of Red Bull!
Modern Things Romans Would Love #7 – Gender and Sexuality Liberation – The idea of Rome as a Manly Man’s Paradise is actually kinda wrong. Homosexuality was common, transgender people existed and woman were capable of rising to great heights if they could prove their potency.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #6 – Travel and Tourist Tat – Opening up a large part of the world to commerce and travel, as well as invading all over the place, gave many Romans the opportunity to borrow cultural aspects or acquire foreign trinkets from all over the world. Find out about it here.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #5 – AirBnB – A great follow up to the previous entry, we discuss the notion of ‘hospitium‘, or sacred hospitality. It was a duty that Romans held to look after travellers.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #4 – Bi-Partisan Politics – We might think of the Red-and-Blue two-party systems of being a characteristic of Western democracies like the United States and the UK, but the Romans had been dividing themselve in two going back years. Find out all about it.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #3 – Fast Food – Find out about Roman street-food habits and the Thermopolia, the stalls selling hot and cold foods to hungry Romans.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #2 – Pro-Wrestling – Millennia before Vince McMahon would betray the territories and put on a stranglehold on the wrestling business, the Romans were already running systems of organised, choreographed fights. Find out why ‘Gladiators’ may not have been the remorseless life-or-death fighters we have been led to believe.
Modern Things Romans Would Love #1 – Social Media (Especially Instagram and Twitter) – For Romans, privacy was a luxury and life was lived very much publicly, not unlike today’s social media ‘influencers’ they would have faked, postured and advertised their very selves. They’d fit right in with a smartphone in hand!
The Fan -tas Tic Virtues of Rome – Dignitas is more than just a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland, it is also a Roman virtue akin to dignity. Find out about some of the most important virtues to Romans.
Mother of Rome – Livia Drusilla – A remarkably powerful woman in her time, her genetics propped up the Julio-Claudian dynasty and she demonstrated herself to be an effective and capable politician. Reduced to the status of “Augustus’ wife” in a lot of discussions, I believe history does her a disservice. Find out why.
The Pleb who Built Rome – Marcus Agrippa – The other third of my Unofficial Third Triumvirate of Livia, Agrippa and Augustus. If Augustus’ wife influenced his politics, his friend, confidante and general, Agrippa, influenced how he built and managed his Empire. Find out why Marcus Agrippa is my favourite figure from Roman History.
What are the ‘Ides of March’? – Explaining what the ‘Ides’ are traditionally, and also the significance they took on due to the assassination of Julius Caesar on that specific day.
We Lack Discipline Watches ‘Domina’ – A look at Sky Atlantic’s new series based upon my historical Roman ‘bae’ as the kids would say, Livia Drusilla. The Mother of Rome, wife of Augustus and relative of every member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. I binge watched the series and gave my opinions and review of it. In short: It’s good.
Portus Lemanis: The Forgotten Saxon Shore Fort: It is rare that there are visible remains of a significant Roman fortification that are relatively unexplored but such is the case at Portus Lemanis, near modern Lympne, Kent. An ancient port and fort on the Saxon Shore defences, there is evidence to suggest heavy involvement in the town by the Classis Britannica – the Romano-British Navy, even suggestions they may have been based there once. Yet only a handful of archaelogical excavations have been done here, the site is on private land and inaccessible. A tragedy.
For the Love of C*nts – Having explored aspects of genital cult worship in prior articles about Romans (specifically the breasts of the Artemis of Ephesus, or the Magna Mater, and cock-worship such as with happens in Vestal cults, or with the protective fascinus) I ask the question…Where are all the vaginal, or vulvic cults?
Charlemagne: The Patron of Curious Idiots – A barely literate warrior king with a penchant for packing his court with scholars and academics and building a catalogue of texts to preserve them!? Sounds like a Curious Idiot™ to me!
TRAVEL AND RESTAURANTS
Eastbourne: Victoriana and Ethnogenetic Surprises – Eastbourne is a seaside town with a reputation for being a bit old fashioned and run down, so when I visited I was surprised to find a vibrant and growing community full of life. There is also a decent amount of history here including a Roman era sub-saharan African origin woman it seems was raised in Britain. Our multicultural past reveals through this Afro-Romano-British woman!
Noviomagus Reginorum: Roman Chichester – Chichester is a beautiful town in its own right, today. However it was also one of the most important towns in Roman history having likely been a military garrison during the invasion of Claudius. I visited the town and museum and wrote all about it.
Fishbourne Roman Palace: A Must See – One of the most remarkable sets of Roman remains in Britain this palace was likely built as the dwelling of the King Cogidubnus (or Togidubnus, or Togidumnus) a Roman ally and leader of the Regni tribe. The palace features some of the finest in-situ mosaics in the world as well as a remarkable reconstruction of a Roman garden.
Piecaramba! Crusty, but not old! – I visited the Piecaramba! restaurant in Southampton and found an excellent take on the great British classic dish of pie and mash. With just enough tradition not to rock the boat, with sufficient twists to make it modern and appealing as well as a nerd-core decor that had me sitting and beating my niece at Super Street Fighter II: Turbo – I could have lived there!
Folkestone Museum: Tiny Charm – How could I not visit this museum when news became public that a find in the nearby Folkestone Formation, a rock strata rich in fossils, was of a theropod (the same family of dinosaurs as the T-Rex) footprint! What I found was a small but charming museum packed to the brim with maritime history, wartime history, fossils, bones, Roman history and the skeleton of an enigmatic Early-English woman.
The Curious Idiot’s™ Introduction to Shakespeare – We discuss how Shakespeare became so popular, the cultural significance of Shakespeare and whether or not he was actually that good.
Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare’s Finest Comedy – I make the argument that far from being the ‘tragic romance’ it is made out to be, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is actually a sardonic and satirical look at relationships in the Elizabethan era and is his finest, defest work of comedy.
King Lear: Part I – In Defence of Bastards – A full analysis of King Lear, in Part 1 we focus mainly on the representation (or misrepresentation) of the figures of Cordelia and Edmund, and their similarities.
King Lear: Part 2 – Reason Not the Need – The second part of the our King Lear analysis starts to focus on the King himself and his inevitable breakdown.
King Lear: Part 3 – Gimme Your Best Shot! – The third part of our King Lear analysis sees us witness the power of Lear as he challenges the Gods and yet is, himself, challenged by a Fool. A true representation of the duality of the human self.
King Lear: Part 4 – “It smells of mortality.” – The forth part of our King Lear analysis sees Lear descend into madness and his Kingdom begin to crumble, mainly as a result of his own actions. What is to become of everyone!?
King Lear: Finale – Exeunt, with a Dead March – The fifth and final part of our King Lear analysis as we discuss the fallout, quite what makes King Lear such a universal and impactful play and why I consider it Shakespeare’s finest work.
TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES
The Unintentional Innuendoes of Tess of the d’Urbervilles – The first of our analyses of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a silly look at 19th century rural life by taking the piss out of all the unintentional sauciness.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Introduction – An introduction to our analysis of Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ is mainly an overview of the plot, context and main themes.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles: Part 1 – The Virgin Eve – Dealing with the first part of the book, up until Tess loses her baby. We discuss the role of innocence and virginity and the presentation of youthful sexuality.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles: Part 2 – The Wessex Artemis – Dealing with Tess’ time at Talbothays Dairy up until her ill-fated marriage with Angel Clare. We explore the hellish nightmare that is a ‘pastoral romance’ and why I think it’s a little dreary at this point.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles: Part 3 – The Sepulchral Persephone – We deal with Tess’ life after her marriage falls apart and she has left the ‘starve-acre farm’ she was working on. This gothic ending to the novel gives us some great stuff to work with.
THE BET, BY VIVIENNE TUFFNELL
The Bet, by Vivienne Tuffnell – Introduction – Self-published Indie authors definitely suffer from the reverse halo effect (or horns effect) and Vivienne Tuffnell is one such author. It is my belief that, with a few certain other author’s name on it this work would be considered one of the best and yet it isn’t. I aim to change that by analysing ‘The Bet’ and demonstrating Vivienne’s excellent writing technique and talent for storytelling.
The Bet, by Vivienne Tuffnell – Chapter 1 – An analysis of the first chapter of ‘The Bet’ that looks at the incredible imagery used by the author as well as some of the key topics and themes we are likely to encounter.
PSYCHOLOGY, NEUROLOGY AND/OR BEHAVIOUR
My Life and Learned Helplessness – In which we explore the concept of ‘learned helplessness’, the idea that an organism can literally learn to give up, and how it has affected my life.
My Life and the Halo Effect – In which we explore the concept of the Halo Effect, and it’s reverse, the Devil Effect – The idea that something that presents itself as good or bad in one way must be good or bad in others – and how it has affected my life.
My Life and Executive Dysfunction – Executive Dysfunction is what happens when you literally cannot do anything. Your mind and body are overwhelmed and you have no capacity to do anything. It can happen to anyone, indeed it is likely all of us will get it at one point. It is particularly prevalent in depressive, ADHD and ASD communities. I discuss how it has affected my life.
My Life and Autism – Exploring what autism is, and then going on a long, autobiographical discussion about how having autism, diagnosed late in my life (in my 30s) has allowed me a new perspective on my so-called ‘failures’ and come to terms with who I am and where I am.
My Life and Intolerance to Uncertainty – Fear of the unknown, of uncertainty, is common in people. In people with mental health issues or neurodivergence, however, it becomes a beast of all of its own. Find out about it here.
My Life and Rejection – Rejection and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria can be some of the most difficult things to deal with as a neurodivergent person. Find out how I, as an autistic person, deal with rejection and the painful feelings around it.
My Life and Disappointment – A look at the phenomenon of disappointment – when expectation fails to meet reality and how it can affect us and traumatise us.
“A Problem Shared…” The True Cost of Damage – A discussion about how humans are capable of reflecting, mirroring, a person’s problems back at them and causing them to remember and re-feel their traumas and how we need to be mindful of it.
Wanna Play? Why Games are Important – An introduction to Ludism, or the study of play, and how it can have a positive effect on the human psychology.
We Need to Talk About Love… – A discussion about what ‘love’ is as a concept, both biologically and philosophically, and how ‘romantic love’ has come to dominate discussions of ‘love’ despite most love being non-romantic.
Thinking to Hell and Back – Wicked Problems – Discussing ‘wicked problems’ the sociological phenomenon of issues that can’t be easily solved and don’t have a necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer.
The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing – A look at the psychological-economic concept of ‘value’ and how, unfortunately it can lead to bias, prejudice and problems.
NATURE, BIOLOGY AND WILDLIFE
TOP TEN CATS
Top Ten Cats: An Introduction – An introductory discussion that details the evolution, biology and behaviour that makes a feline a feline.
Top Ten Cats #10: Pallas’ Cat or Manul, Otocolobus manul – A small, fluffy, camouflaged cat from Asia that eats small animals like pika.
Top Ten Cats #9: Jaguarundi, Herpailurus yagouaroundi – An enigmatic, seemingly primitive cat from central and south America.
Top Ten Cats #8: Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa – An absolutely gorgeous Asian jungle cat with striking colouration.
Top Ten Cats #7: Jaguar, Panthera onca – A muscular, stealthy hunter with a passion for cracking skulls with its powerful bite.
Top Ten Cats #6: Lion, Panthera leo – Emblematic, legendary, majestic and one of Africa’s greatest predators. We discuss both lion biology and what it means to humans.
Top Ten Cats #5: Black-Footed Cat, Felis negripes – One of the smallest cats in the world and looking like a tabby kitten, the black-footed cat is potentially the most effective feline hunter in the world.
Top Ten Cats #4: Smilodon sp. – The sabretoothed cats have gone down in myth as beastly man-hunters. Here I try to explore the majesty, adaptation and interesting potential behaviours of this scary and exciting cat.
Top Ten Cats #3: Tiger, Panthera tigris – One of the most upsetting to write, because persecution of tigers has led to the extinction, in living memory, of multiple sub-species. One of the most beautiful animals in the world, I explain their biology, their behaviour and the necessity of their protection in the wild.
Top Ten Cats #2: Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus – In my opinion the perfect form of land predator, an effective hunter, ineffective parent, but surely one of the world’s greatest animals. The fastest land animal at full sprint, but that speed is nothing without their remarkable agility, we explain it all here.
Top Ten Cats #1: The domestic cat, Felis catus – For reasons of historical pest control, their co-evolution with us during this agricultural revolution, and their love and companionship that seems them share our homes. We explore all that makes our housecats wonderful animals, incredible predators, canny tricksters and loving companions.
Caturday Special – The Origin Story: Proailurus and Pseudaelurus – The ancestral species of all current cats, we explore the natural history of felines, how they evolved and what their ancestors were like.
Caturday Special – The Snow Leopard, Panthera onca – ‘The Ghost of the Mountains’ introduced with an original poem by me, and discussing why this unbelievably gorgeous cat is one of nature’s finest creatures. Exploring their behaviours, their enigmas and what makes them so charming.
Caturday Special – The Scottish Wildcat, Felis silvestris grampia – A once noble emblem of many Scottish clans, the wildcat population is dwindling. Under increasing pressures from persecution and interbreeding with domestic cats, we ask what is the best way to help this amazing animal.
Caturday Special – The Serval, Leptailurus serval – A beautiful and majestic medium-sized African wildcat, the serval looks every bit the elegant feline. It is coming to the fore more recently as the ‘savannah cat’ takes off as a breed, a cross of serval and domestic cats.
Caturday Special – The Kodkod, Leopardus guigna – The smallest cat in the Americas, seemingly endemic to only Chile and bordering parts of Argentina, it is an elusive little cat about which little is known. I explain complex interdependent mutualisms in nature using the example of the Brazil nut tree to justify why knowing more is better than knowing less!
Caturday Special – The Feliformia, the Hyaenidae and the Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta – Not a true cat, but a good chance to talk of the feliformia, the cat-like carnivores and especially the hyena. Many people do not know that they are more closely related to cats than to dogs and they have some very interesting aspects of their own biology to explore. They are socially intelligent, for example, and the female’s genitals are in the shape of a pseudo-penis and pseudo-scrotum!
Caturday Special – The Cougar, Puma concolor – The cougar has many common names. It is a cat widespread down the Western side of North America, through central America and into South America, making it one of the most widely distributed cats. They are also gorgeous. Find out more about them and also learn a little about how their only remaining Eastern United States population, the Florida Panther, was saved from the brink of an inbreeding extinction by the introduction of some Southern Belles.
Caturday Special – The Eurasian Lynx, Lynx lynx – A beautiful cat, long-limbed, square-faced, with tufted ears and a little beard, these little cuties range from Norway into Russian and all the way down into Asia and the Himalayas. Once present in the UK there is a campaign to reintroduce them to see if they can help manage numbers of over-abundant herbivores such as roe deer.
Caturday Special – Hybids – A look at hybridisation in the feline world. From natural hybridisation, hybridisation in unnatural settings like captivity and hybridisation for domestic cats. One of those is okay! Whilst savannah cats, pumapards and ligers and tigons might look amazing they are often subject to significant health problems and rarely contribute to the conservation of wild cat species.
Caturday Special – Fishing Cat – A beautiful cat from Asia, the fishing cat’s name describes it perfectly. Typically spending much of its time slinking around the banks of rivers and streams and catching fish. It’s a beautiful cat indicative of healthy waterways.
Caturday Special – The Marbled Cat – This cat marks us having written about a cat from every living clade (a group of species who can trace their lineage back to a common ancestor). The marbled cat is also a beautiful, elusive cat from Asia with excellent teeth and an incredible ability to climb trees. We also look at their similarity to the sabre-toothed cats.
Caturday Special – The Eurasian Cave Lion – Once widespread across Europe and Asia it can be hard to get people to believe that our early human ancestors would once have shared, for example, the lands of Britain with native lions! Yet they were widespread until the Pleistocene extinction around 13,000-11,000 years ago! We look at the radiation, adaptation and amazing life of this species and their significance to human culture.
Caturday Special – Homotherium – A stunning extinct genus of sabre-tooth cat less well known than the Smilodon genus. There is significant evidence to suggest these cats were intelligent, social, and even may have butchered their large prey for ease of carrying it back to their dens. Incredible cats.
Caturday Special – The Rusty-Spotted Cat – Possibly the world’s smallest cat (it’s a toss up between this and the black footed cat) this is an exceptional species from India and Sri Lanka that just melts your heart.
Caturday Special – The Leopard – An amazing, diverse, disperse big cat. The final member of the genus Panthera for us to cover and by no means the least. The leopard is an amazing cat, the most widely distributed of all big cats and that distribution used to be greater. Well adapted to both plains and forests, with a wide diet – they are opportunists. They also have cultural significance to humans dating back at least as far as Ancient Greece and their association with Dionysus, the God of wine and festivity.
Caturday Special – The Sand Cat – It started as an appreciation of one of the cutest cats on the planet but became a discussion about how humans should consider their future relationship with the environment. This is the amazing power of the cat! A tiny desert species of cat that can teach us about resourcefulness, survival and balance. A real treasure.
TOP TEN SHARKS
Top Ten Sharks – An Introduction – Discussing shark natural history, biology, evolution and the overwhelming diversity of what constitutes a ‘shark’.
Top Ten Sharks #10 – Megalodon, Otodus megalodon – A prehistoric monster, likely the largest predatory fish to have ever existed and we explore the power of its teeth, bite, body and myth.
Top Ten Sharks #9 – The Blue Shark, Prionace glauca – Proof positive that sharks are cute, but we delve into the lives and behaviours of the blue shark and find out it is also a breeding factory and a migratory machine! Learn about them here.
Top Ten Sharks #8 – The Buzzsaw Shark, Helicoprion sp. – If ever you wanted to believe in intelligent design then this spiral-toothed prehistoric beast should make you think again. An incredible feat of evolution and a bizarre specimen of sharkhood.
Top Ten Sharks #7 – The Frilled Shark, Chlamydoselachus anguineus and C. africana – Giving is remarkable insight to sharks of the past, this so-called ‘living fossil’ species features primitivisms of shark biology thought to have died out millions of years ago. It is a remarkable animal with much to tell us about sharks.
Top Ten Sharks #6 – The Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias – Probably the most misunderstood of all sharks, the great white, or white shark, is the poster-child for sharp-toothed, man-eating monsters. But there is so much more to them than the image basically put into pop-culture by the movie Jaws and we examine this intelligent, exceptional hunter to dispel those myths.
Top Ten Sharks #5 – The Megamouth Shark, Megachasma pelagios – A shark that is put on the list for what it teaches us about what we don’t know, rather than what we know about it. Previously undescribed and undiscovered until 1976, this elusive filter-feeder reminds us there are mysteries waiting to be solved in our natural world.
Top Ten Sharks #4 – The Hammerheads, Family Sphyrnidae – A whole shark family! Yup! Since many of the species have similar lives we cover the whole family but pay particular attention to conservation and protection of the Great and Scalloped Hammerheads – who are massively overfished for their fins and the small bonnethead shark, which has been shown to be omnivorous!
Top Ten Sharks #3 – The Basking Shark, Cetorhinus maximus – The second largest fish in our seas today, and it is a gentle, placid, filter-feeder. Far removed from the image of sharks as monsters, there’s a zen-like aspect to the basking shark that makes it so remarkable. Indeed, in this examination we give you the basics of the basking shark’s biology and then explain why we could all do with behaving a little more basking shark.
Top Ten Sharks #2 – The Greenland Shark, Somniosus microcephalus – One of the weirdest, most amazing animals living today. It can reach sizes up to 7m in total length (around 20 feet) it lives in the frigid waters in the arctic circle, or down in the depths, and it has been found to have stomachs full of fish, squid, seal, moose, a whole reindeer and polar bear. Oh, and they are the oldest living vertebrates that we know of, with lifespans of around 300 years, on specimen could have been as old as around 500 years.
Top Ten Sharks #1 – The Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus – Everything you’d think a shark isn’t. This elegant and beautiful filter-feeder should be one of the most monstrous animals on the planet. It isn’t, though, and is instead a gorgeous example of sharks for their evolutionary ingenuity, placidity, elegance and delicate balance with their ecosystems. The whale shark is the largest fish on Earth and that record is unlikely to be broken, the largest reliably measured specimen was 18m. An absolute titan, but a gentle giant.
TOP TEN HATED (BUT MISUNDERSTOOD) ANIMALS
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Introduction – The human relationship with our natural world is one formed not of facts or understanding, but of fears, myths and superstition. In this introduction I mainly look at things I intend to exclude from the list, including snakes and jellyfish. But we do also explore why some animals are considered a ‘problem’ and whether they deserve that reputation.
Just a Misunderstanding: Why Do We Hate some Animals? – Unlike the introduction this focusses more on the animals we dislike and the psychology and anthropological history of why we have a dislike for them. In some cases it is warranted but in others we simply build up myths, create scapegoats or even just fabricate stories.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #10 Bats – Outside of the rodents, Rodentia, the order of bats, Chiroptera, contains the highest number of mammal species. These swift and adaptable species have a lingering air of suspicion, as many nocturnal animals do. We are ill at ease with things of the night, associating them with death, darkness and evil omens. Not helped by the vampire bats, species that drink blood of living hosts. However are they dark and spooky? Or just cute and misunderstood?
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #9 Pigeons – “Rats with wings!” is the mantra I’ve heard time and again about these beautiful birds. A domesticated form of the rock dove, our town-and-city pigeon saves our local authorities millions by eating our waste, money that then gets wasted trying to find ways to purge them from our urban centres rather than try to find a way to live with them.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #8 Wolves – Our relationship with wolves is an old and storied one, how apt, then, that they should turn up so often in fairytales. Once upon a time, when forest covered the paths between villages and humans were ill equipped to defend themselves, wolves would prey upon people. But since the invention of firearms that relationship changed. Wolves are now shy predators, fearful of people. Our reputations did not adapt as quick as theirs and we still fear and persecute them.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #7 The Red Fox – Here in the UK the fox is often portrayed as a menace. Urban populations have a reputation for being diseased scavengers in our bins and the countryside population has a reputation for spooking henhouses and taking livestock. In reality neither of these is true. There is a concerted lobby who enjoy killing foxes, Britain’s largest remaining native predator, and want to tar it with a bad reputation. CONTENT WARNING: Lots of aggressive, angry language and images of foxes having been attacked that some may find upsetting.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #6 The Aye-Aye – The largest nocturnal primate species, the aye-aye is a lemur native to the island of Madagascar. In various cultures of the Malagasy people it is known to have a reputation as a bringing of evil, bad luck and death. Possibly inspired by its odd appearance, its deathly fingers and its nocturnal habits. However recent research suggests this reputation is not universal, and some Malagasy welcome the aye-aye as a controller of crop pests.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #5 The Plateau Pika and the European Mole – One thing that came up a lot in researching hated animals in a colonialism, a racism, a notion that the west cares more for their wildlife than does the east. This comparison puts that argument to bed. Both species provide similar ecosystem services, helping their local habitats in similar ways. Both are persecuted almost universally as a pest and an inconvenience. Both are fantastic little animals, vital to their ecosystems.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #4 Vultures – Perhaps the highest up the list with the least bad reputation, culturally the vulture is still associated with death, with the picking-of-bones, with greed. However their relationship with us is much improved. But the vultures have suffered a great deal in modern time and we use the lessons of the Asian vulture crisis and the California condor to show how humans and nature can work together to improve our natural world.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #3 The European Herring Gull – Very few species can boast of a reputation so bad that a near 50% decline in their numbers on a coastal-island nation perfect as a native habitat is barely even spoken about. Such is the reputation of the herring gull that their population decline is met with a shrug. People see them as vermin, big-bag raiding, fish-and-chip stealing villains who want to spoil your day at the beach. They are actually an excellent, intelligent and opportunistic bird that deserves much more love and respect.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: #2 The Brown Rat – When I say “rat” you likely think of filth, of disease, of plague. In the UK, recorded cases of direct disease transfer from rat-to-human, per year, are probably 10 or fewer and of those the majority come from people who work with rats, or keep them as pets. The reputation of the rat is little more than a pest-control marketing campaign, and the services they provide to science alone should make them a welcome and beloved member of our wildlife. Instead they are trapped, poisoned, punished and persecuted for the crime of being successful near us.
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animal: #1 Wasps – The common wasps, the social wasps, the stinging (aculeate) wasps are the ones you probably think of. They, themselves, are amazingly valuable predators worthy of praise and love. Yet wasp species number into the hundreds of thousands and the services they provide to our natural world help maintain a balance you do not want to upset. That any wasp is hated is a crime against nature, that all wasps are hated because of our wrong assumptions around a small group is truly an international, natural shame.
The Wasp Tragedy: How Can We Help? – In our article on the #1 hated but misunderstood animal list we discovered that the wasps reputation for aggression and being a ‘pest’ is much undeserved and that they provide valuable ecosystem services as pollinators and controllers of other invertebrates, e.g. crop pests. As such I look at what we can do as individuals to help make what little (or big) space we may have available a much better environment to encourage not merely wasps, but other invertebrates, pollinators, and the wildlife that may prey on those items such as hedgehogs.
Hated but Misunderstood Animals: Final Thoughts – I give a summary of what I have learned during the making of the Top Ten Hated (but Misunderstood) Animals list, as well as reflecting on, particularly our, the human, part in proceedings. Why do we develop the ideas that we do and how can we undo harmful ideas.
INSECTS, BUGS AND INVERTEBRATES
Insects: The Savage Eden before your Eyes – The study of wasps for my Top Ten Hated but Misunderstood Species list opened my eyes to a group of creatures I had, for a long time, been hesitant about. I respect insects and invertebrates but I never really go ‘into’ them. Well, wasps changed that and I write about why they are valuable perspective-changers.
#WaspFlower – Join the Photo Challenge – An appeal to get people to join in the Big Wasp Survey and photograph some wasps on flowers, or provide photographs of wasps on flowers.
#WaspFlower – Walk One – A Gallery – A gallery showing the incredible wealth of biodiversity on display on just one walk looking for wasps on flowers!
Is That a Wasp? A Simple Wasp Identification Guide – Not aimed at letting you identify by species, but merely to understand what comprises a ‘wasp’. Many people think only of yellowjackets and hornets but wasps are diverse, varied and not always black-and-yellow. In this guide you will learn a little about common pitfalls in wasp identification.
THE ORIGIN OF A SPECIES
The Origin of a Species: The Saltwater Crocodile, Crocodylus porosus – A new series for random animals I want to talk about. Similar to how I do my Top Tens only for random species, we explore the gorgeous hunk of predator that is the Saltwater Crocodile and look at what makes it so amazing and successful (with a little hint of how it will hunt humans for fear and good measure…).
The Origin of a Species: The Tapirs – Spread across the New World species of Central and South America and the Old World species in Asia, tapirs look like an ancient throwback, as if someone crossed a cow and an elephant! In fact they are incredible, shy and intelligent species that are sadly endangered due to human activity.
The Origin of a Species: The Common, or Viviparous, Lizard – Perhaps a ‘common’ species, but no less remarkable, this lizard is widespread across Europe but is one of only six native UK reptile species. They are declining in numbers and are a joy to spot so learn more about them and go find them.
The Origin of a Species: The Red Panda – A true panda (unlike the giant panda which is a bear) the red panda is a beautiful, cute and unique ‘living fossil’ species that provides us an insight into the value of the biological discipline of taxonomy – the classifiction of organisms into related groups.
The Origin of a Species: The Slow Worm – Not slow, and not a worm this is a European legless lizard that is one of the UK’s six native reptiles. An incredible species, with a reputed longevity of up to 30 years in the wild and over 50 years in captivity! They can autotomise (shed parts of their body, their tail specificall) and regrow them and give birth to adorable, tiny live young!
Nature: The Abusive Mother – An introduction to my…philosophies, I suppose…On nature and how it affects us and our lives. I effectively argue that most of nature’s intent towards us is to harm, and it is our role as living organisms to defend ourselves from harm.
Consciousness: The Saviour? – A counterargument to Nature: The Abusive Mother in which I argue that the adaptation of conscious intelligence could be the perfect counter to the mindless, harmful aspects of most natural processes.
Introduction to Biology – Grow, Fuck, Age, Die! – A slightly bleak introduction to the fundamentals of biology which consists of questions of reproduction, growth, senescence and death. We ask why these things and discover the consensus answer is, basically, we don’t know!
Fat versus Fiction – Exploring myths about obesity, and the phenomenon of fatphobia and body-shaming and why they might be somewhat misguided.
Happy Birthday Darwin – A discussion about Charles Darwin, the role of Natural Historians in modern science and philosophical discussions and what Darwin means to me.
Why Every Biologist Should Oppose Racism – That all of biology runs counter to racist doctrine should be self-evident, however through the years scientific or biological racism has attempted to use data, biology and bullshit to justify the marginalisation and persecution of non-whites. Find out why I think that’s absolute nonsense and why every biologist should oppose racism here.
Red vs. Grey – Squirrels at War – A look at the UK’s battle between their native red squirrels and grey squirrels introduced from North America. We Lack Discipline attempts to puzzle out the best way to manage the situation and create safe habitats for their native species whilst containing a very successful invader.
Fresh as a Daisy: On Flowers – A short essay about the natural history of the evolution of flowering plants, angiosperms, and how unbelievably new, yet dominant, they are. Not only have they changed the makeup of the Earth’s plant life significantly but entire species co-evolved with them, such as bees.
Men, We Need to Talk About Violence – I have placed this under biology because much of my discussion is about the biological nature (or lack thereof) of biological causes for masculinised violence. There aren’t any that have yet been discovered. As a result we have a global epidemic of men committing atrocious acts, usually on other men, with no known biological or neurological cause.
GROWN UP’S GUIDES
Hedge-Hunting for Bugs – Why would you want to do this? Well because zoos are £25 a ticket to go see some non-native species unnaturally behind bars. Hedge-hunting is free to see some native species performing wild behaviours! Wanna laugh at beetles shagging!? You will! Wanna watch a spider destroy a fly!? You will. Wanna see bees going mad for pollen!? You will. Adults should learn how to enjoy this hobby so they can get kids involved and learning more about how important our invertebrate species are to the health of our ecosystems.
Fossil Hunting in the UK – Another excellent activity that usually just involves a piss-about at the beach! Many fossils in the UK are found on our shorelines from eroding fossil beds in cliffsides. Areas such as the Jurassic Coast or the Folkestone Formation in Kent, or the London Clay in North Kent and South Essex, provide amazing fossils, for free, for little effort. A great day out with some tinnies and your mates or an excellent way to shut your kids up, teach them something and get free souvenirs!
Why I love the Pre-Raphaelite Style – A discussion the the Pre-Raphaelites, who they were, what their ideas and philosophies were and quite why their work resonates so much with me.
Etched into my Mind – Gustave Doré – I give a few examples of some of my favourite works by French painter, etching artist and illustrator Gustave Doré and explain why I like them. To my mind nobody does Christian imagery quite like Doré!
CULTURE AND ‘CULTURE WARS’
The Sopranos Vs. Sex and the City – A topic that took over social media for a little while, I explain my perspectives and ideas and why the argument and comparison itself is quite redundant.
Silence is Golden: An Assassination of Sia’s ‘Music’ – the Review – A movie review of Sia’s portrayal of autism, ‘Music’ – an obnoxious and dull movie with little to do with being a good movie, having a good plot or autism.
Silence is Golden: An Assassination of Sia’s ‘Music’ – The actual assassination, I explain how the movie itself is effective autistic fetishism and does little to help the cause of neurodivergent people.
The ‘Culture Wars’, ‘Attack on Britishness’ and the ‘White Working Class Problem’ – Discussing the artificial narratives driving a cultural divide, and how certain terms and concepts are politically motivated, more than representing an actual problem.
Why Does ‘We Lack Discipline’ Engage with Academics? – Following engagements with some quite well known academics we answer the question of why an organisation that encourages curiousity for its own sake, deplores academic institutions and doesn’t believe you need qualifications to prove you’re ‘smart’ enjoys engaging with the academic community.
Under Your Bed: The Need for Monsters – I decided to throw this in the ‘culture’ section, even though it is sort of a mythological/psychological/cultural intersectional piece. I think it deals a lot more with pop-culture issues and presentations of monsters in popular culture, so here it is.
The Fire Still Burns: The Enduring Legacy of Dark Souls – A little retrospective of Dark Souls, how it came about, why I feel it is valid as a work of art from the videogame world and quite how it has been so deeply, culturally ingrained.
We Lack Discipline Preaches: The Bible – Introduction – Yup, I’m going to read The Bible and analyse it for the site! Find out why I think reading the bible, or any religious text, is important even for atheists and why the bible is particularly worthy of study.
We Lack Discipline Preaches: Genesis Chapters 1-5 – God immediately rubs me up with wrong way by making stuff, which, as Douglas Adams once opined “Is widely considered a bad move.” He continues to rub me the wrong way by acting like a tool, persecuting Adam and Eve and having tantrums.
We Lack Discipline Preaches: Genesis Chapters 6-11 – God continues rubbing me the wrong way! Here he decides that everything isn’t ‘very good’ like he said it was, but is actually rubbish and needs to drown. We do have a good discussion about the origins of flood myths and their pervasiveness through human history.
We Lack Discipline Preaches: Genesis Chapters 12-17 – We cover much of the story of Abram (later God changes his name to Abraham), from him pimping his wife to some Egyptians pretending she is his sister so he can rob them, through to him being the biggest gangers in Canaan. We also discuss his importance as a moral-ethical figure in human history.
To Mum – Literally a post for my mum, about my mum, for Mother’s Day 2021.
Shit and Chips – Is British Food Really that Bad? – I look at the cuisine of the United Kingdom, its history, its ingredients and its historic reputation for badness and argue that, actually, that’s quite wrong. Everything considered ‘bad’ about British food exists in other cultures to, whose reputations are mostly bolstered by traditions of opulence from royal courts (I’m looking at you, France!)
We Lack Discipline: First Quarter Review – A retrospective of what has been achieved in the first quarter of 2021, basically our first quarter running full time. We look at what we have achieved, why we wanted to achieve it and where we are going.
Not Politics: The Marketing of a Washing Machine – Definitely not an analysis of the UK local election results, but actually a discussion about the marketing of a washing machine. It is actually a really good lesson on the basics of product marketing but…yeah…it’s a political analogy!
An Update: Personal Blog – Probably just me bitching and moaning.
Where Have I Been? Where Am I Going? – Anothing bitch and moan looking at the struggles of running We Lack Discipline solo and how it can dent my confidence.Follow @wldiscipline