DAY 202: Wastebasket taxa (Not about Trump)

February 5th, 2017 § 0 comments

Like the rest of us, those whose job it is to classify mammals (put them into phyla, orders, families, genera and species, and give them a couple of Latin names for good measure) have a job which has its boring moments; and at the end of a long day and too many cappuccinos they’ll always find – I have to assume – a few mammals lying around on the table which they haven’t managed to sort. This blindingly obvious fact only became clear to me when I got obsessed (don’t worry, I’ve got over it) with the tenrecs, a bewildering variety of beasties

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who hang out in Madagascar and Réunion and similar lush places. These – because they eat insects, which you’d think was reason enough – were included in Insectivora (Don’t worry, I’ll get on to Trump soon, but isn’t it a relief to be discussing something else?) But some pernickety taxonomist (I had to get that word in somewhere) decided that the insectivora – the tenrecs and ant-eaters and shrews and stuff were not really similar enough  to deserve a single Latin name and they had just been aggregated by a lazy act of wastebasket taxonomy.  It’s like Basque and Albanian, which many of us feel belong together as European languages which aren’t related to any others. (Other examples of wastebasket taxonomy include lumping together a load of subgenres of 1990s dance music into a category called ‘commercial tracks that may not easily be categorized’ because something like ‘Everybody dance now‘ escapes the 16 or so narrowly defined genres (no, I’m not going to list them) they’ve managed to think up. You can see how it works – make up your own.)

And of course, being in that position leaves you wide open to being wiped out by the members of other huge hegemonic taxa. Hence the numbers of Basque refugees (remember them?) in


Guernika after the 1936 bombing – compare Aleppo. (You thought I was going to post Picasso’s famous pic – but I did, I think, in no. 1 or thereabouts.) Or of Albanians now for that matter.

Well, I said earlier that I was going to get on to Trump, but I don’t see why I should. We just have to build a world counter-hegemonic movement of workers, women, blacks, Muslims, LGBTQs, disabled and so on, that’s all; and you can read more, and probably more sensible things about Trump and about doing this, than I can say in any number of other fora. Music can take our minds off our present troubles, but I can’t get Angela Rippon singing ‘Let’e face the music and dance’ on Eric and Ernie (as I’ve complained before) because the BBC along with all their other crimes have blocked the vid. So here’s a quickie of Nat ‘King’ Cole; while here – (I really hope it comes out ok – is the Comitato Antirazzista Saluzzese singing a partisan song in a square at a great speed. (I posted it earlier elsewhere but it bears repetition.) And here is Nancy Ajram (with subtitles, if you can read the Arabic):

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