Dead Duck Day 2014, an illustrated report

Dead_Duck_Day-Anjes_Gesink-2014Thursday June 5th 2014 was the date of the 19th Dead Duck Day. After a rainy day, the late afternoon brought a clear sky and at 17.55h when about 40 people gathered right below the Dead Duck Memorial Plaque of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, the sun was shining. Everything went as planned.

First, Kees Moeliker brought back memories of June 5th 1995 and reminded the audience that the duck (the first documented victim of homosexual necrophilia in Anas platyrhynchos) is part of the special exhibit ‘Dode dieren met een verhaal‘ (Dead animals that tell a tale) inside the museum. He then told that, on Dead Duck Day 2012, he failed to report a then recent case of necrophilia from Brazil: ‘Necrophiliac behavior in the “cururu” toad, Rhinella jimi Steuvax, 2002, (Anura, Bufonidae) from Northeastern Brazil’ (Britto et al., 2012 in North-Western Journal of Zoology 8[2]: 365-366).

In honor of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera‘ Kees Moeliker blew a duck call, and announced that he would search for funding to have a performance of this mini-opera on site, at the 20th Dead Duck Day in 2015.

Dead_Duck_Day-Anjes_Gesink-2014As a recent relevant paper of interest to Dead Duck Day, Moeliker recommended ‘Bird–building collisions in the United States: Estimates of annual mortality and species vulnerability‘ by Scott R. Loss, Tom Will, Sara S. Loss & Peter P. Marra in The Condor 116 (1): 8-23 [2014].  Then he showed and recommended the new book of Menno Schilthuizen Nature’s Nether Regions that devotes almost two full pages to ‘The Duck’ and even to Dead Duck Day.

Linda_Lombardi_devilduckhuntThis year’s special Dead Duck Day Message was send in by Linda Lombardi, (pictured here) author of the book (and blog) Animals Behaving Badly. Kees Moeliker read it aloud:

Human beings have the strange idea that no other animal has sex solely for pleasure. But if our fellow creatures only care about the perpetuation of the species, why do they do it in so many ways that don’t result in babies? From manatees to manakins, all kinds of animals get it on with members of the same sex, and many have figured out that if you’ve got a stick, a rock, or a prehensile tail, who needs a partner?

As I collected material like this for my book Animals Behaving Badly from the comfort of my office, I came to admire the people who observe and report the sordid truth about the sex lives of the animal kingdom. When I read about a black-winged stilt pleasuring itself with a piece of driftwood, twenty or thirty times at a go, every thirty seconds, I thought about the researcher who carefully recorded this data. Were her feet wet? Was she regretting her decision not to go to medical school instead?

But no one inspired me more than the man who had the fortitude to observe for a full seventy-five minutes the spectacle of the homosexual rape of a dead duck – and then, because it was time for dinner, said, Enough is enough, collected his specimen, and went home. Kees Moeliker knows that if we all waited to eat till animals stopped behaving badly, we’d starve to death. And if that’s their wicked plan to drive the human race to extinction, he won’t let them get away with it. [Linda Lombardi, June 5th 2014]

Jacob_van_Gijs_Dead_Duck_Day-Anjes_Gesink-2014Then, for the first time in history of Dead Duck Day, there was an invited speaker: Jacob van Gijs, architect at MVRDV (pictured above). He spoke about the use of glass in modern architecture and showed the surprised audience what might well become a novelty in constructing buildings: a brick completely made of glass.

a_glass_brick_DDD_2014About 20 people, including the invited speaker, joined the traditional Dead Duck Day Dinner at the Tai Wu Restaurant.

Pictures that illustrate this post are by Anjès Gesink.

The Homosexsual Necrophiliac Duck Opera

Composer Daniel Gillingwater, in 'The Betsey Trotwood', London, March 2006.

Composer Daniel Gillingwater, in ‘The Betsey Trotwood’, London, March 2006.

A couple of weeks ago composer Daniel Gillingwater, who I know from some 2006 Ig Nobel adventures in the UK, brought me thrilling news by e-mail:

“We are having the premiere of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ at the Ig Nobel Show, Imperial College, London next March.”

I knew vaguely about his plan and then thought he was joking. But now it seemed real. I have to admit, the dead duck (paper) changed my life, did inspire some people, and I even made a few laugh-and-think (see my 2013 TED-talk), but the performing arts – even an opera – are new grounds to me.

So I asked Daniel about the creation and message of his work. Here is his response:

Sarah Remond will play (and sing) me.

Sarah Remond will play (and sing) me.

“Kees, I have long admired your Ig Nobel Prize winning paper ‘The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard (duck)’ (PDF). Last summer, under the influence of too many espressos in the Welcome Trust cafe with Ig Nobel founder Marc Abrahams, I put forward the suggestion that your Dead Duck Paper would make a fine mini opera. At which point Marc sprayed his coffee across the table and implored me to go home and begin work. Eight months later I did. By February 2014 it was all but finished.”

“I have set it for solo high voice, in this premiere performed by Sarah Redmond (playing your role, as  witness and first [and only author]). The gender difference need not be an issue as you are an elegant and willowy specimen, much like Sarah. The scoring also includes clarinet quintet, the Edge Ensemble with Shaun Thompson on clarinet. We have a vocal chorus of four – soprano, alto, tenor and bass punctuating the section beginning ‘Rather startled, I watched …’ which is the final vivace section of a pseudo Mozartian aria.”

“The two male singers will also be portraying the mallard ducks in question, through the medium of contemporary dance. A tasteful re-enactment of the duck display, mixing flowing, poetic body movements and extreme sexual violence.”

My excitement grew. The actual words of my classic 2001 paper would be sung and the duck’s display re-enacted! I had to find a way to participate. So I convinced Daniel that I am a virtuoso at playing the ‘Duck Call’. He agreed immediately:

“Now this rarely used orchestral instrument will be in the heart of the whole work and serves to comment sardonically on the comparisons of this act of homosexual necrophilia and the state of western civilisation today.”

My duck call (book not related).

My duck call (book not related).

Although I do not read a note of music, I am extremely confident in my role.

Come, see and listen: Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, 14 March 2014, 18:00-20:00h: Imperial College, London (South Kensington Campus, The Great Hall, Sherfield Building), with Marc Abrahams, including the world premiere of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ composed by Daniel Gillingwater, performed by Sarah Redmond, the Edge Ensemble with Shaun Thompson, and me, and more improbable stuff. [tickets]

My way to TED2013 – part 1: [EXTREMELY URGENT]

 TED AmsterdamTalent Search (Photo: James Duncan Davidson)On Monday, June 18th 2012 I discovered an e-mail in the ever growing pile of spam, titled ‘Kees Moeliker | Invitation to TED@Amsterdam [EXTREMELY URGENT]’. It was send a week earlier by Kelly Stoetzel, TED Content Director, based in New York:

Dear Kees, We’ve been following your work and are excited to invite you to come and give a short 6-minute talk at our TED@Amsterdam salon event, taking place the evening of Wednesday June 20, 2012. Some of the speakers for TED@Amsterdam have applied to participate and have been chosen from a group of applicants … but we wanted to be sure to involve people whose work we’ve had on our radar and admired, and that’s why we’re writing to you.

Thanks to the weird selection criteria of my spam filter, this was a short-notice invitation, but I gladly accepted it. I had a good experience speaking at TEDxRotterdam in 2011, and liked the idea to perform in Boom Chicago, the comedy club where the ‘TED salon’ would take place.

Minutes after I agreed to participate, my e-mail box filled with nice messages from various TED-people, about my slides, with forms to be signed, with call-sheets and rehearsing times. Yes, REHEARSING TIMES. I politely replied that I could not make it to the American Hotel the next day, for rehearsals. I had to work, bring kids to school, and – minor detail – prepare my talk. With friendly perseverance, the sweet TED-production team offered me the opportunity to rehearse my talk that Wednesday, in the early morning. I soon learned the secret of the TED-talk is practice, practice, and practice. So I took an early train to Amsterdam and reported at the American Hotel at 8.30 am. Fueled with remarkable good coffee, I gave my talk ‘How a dead duck changed my life’, showing slides on a macbook, right in front of TED curator Chris Anderson, Content Director Kelly Stoetzel and some of my fellow speakers. Chris smiled, and said: ‘Don’t change a thing!’. That was nice feedback.

After talking to my fellow speakers, I slowly realized I was taking part in a TED world wide talent search. Hundreds of speakers, from all over Europe had applied for this opportunity to speak, only twenty were invited to come to Amsterdam. The aim: to get selected as a speaker for TED2013, in Long Beach, California.

I truly enjoyed taking part in this thoroughly organized event. [Thanks for the unforgettable e-mail, Sean: “If you are not at the venue you are LATE! Come immediately. You were supposed to be here at 1:15p“]

The evening in Boom Chicago, including giving my own talk there, was very inspiring. My fellow speakers are among the most remarkable people I had ever met, to name just a few Linda Monique, Peter Holmes a Court, Bas Lansdorp, Sabatina James, Kate Stone, Jeroen van Loon, and Rasmus Ankerson. And the audience even included some friends!

In summer, the voting started on a special website with video-registration of all talks.

Completely unexpected (I somehow suspected they had added me to the speakers list for some ‘couleur locale’), TED e-mailed me on 28 September 2012:

Dear Kees, Thank you so much for participating in our TED Worldwide Talent Search and for the time and effort you put into preparing for it. We heard a whopping 293 talks and performances in the 14 different cities, and had to narrow our choices for the Long Beach TED stage to just a tiny subset of that.

We’re thrilled to invite you to come and speak at TED2013!

We can offer you 12 minutes on the stage this time around, and we can’t wait for the rest of the TED community to hear your story.

I am thrilled too! Stay tuned.

TED Talent Search Amsterdam June2012.

Hij is er: De bilnaad van de teek

Het boek is gedrukt. Ik heb ‘De bilnaad van de teek’ in huis. Mooi geworden. Gelijk aantal pagina’s als ‘De eendenman’ (208) maar iets dunner (dunner papier); 115 stukjes ‘beest’ geïllustreerd met evenzoveel foto’s of tekeningen. Op 5 oktober in de boekwinkel. Benieuwd naar de inhoud en achtergrond? Klik hier en daar. Met dank aan Henk ter Borg mijn uitgever bij Nieuw Amsterdam, mijn altijd opgewekte en scherpe redacteur Pieter de Bruijn Kops, de ontwerper van het omslag Volken Beck, persklaarmaker (rotwoord) Yulia Knol en alle anderen die een bijdrage hebben geleverd (leest het drie pagina’s tellende dankwoord).