Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The growth of Monday Morgue

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Wild boar (Sus scrofa vittatus) skull, Pulau Ubin
31st May 2009

Monday Morgue had a humble start. It began as a weekly feature over here on The Lazy Lizard's Tales, a way to provide filler material when I didn't have the time or energy to write proper blog posts, while giving me the chance to share random photos I'd taken of dead animals I encountered while outdoors.

Last year, I decided to split it off and have Monday Morgue hosted on its own dedicated site. At first, I toyed with Tumblr, but eventually settled on Posterous.

For some reason, Monday Morgue seems to have become quite a hit with many people.

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Monitor lizard (Varanus sp.)
Bukit Timah, 23rd April 2011

Perhaps it's the interest generated by this combination of the morbid and the exotic; we are drawn to images that depict blood, gore, or violence, while at the same time, many of the animals featured on Monday Morgue are species unfamiliar to the average Singaporean.

Or it could be the strange hybrid of still life and portrait that attracts people; some of the animals most probably died very recently before they were photographed, and some might mistakenly believe that the animal is just resting. But these bodies are as animated as a bowl of fruit.

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Stone crab (Myomenippe hardwickii)
Changi, 14th November 2008

Maybe people are somehow able to see something horrendous yet beautiful in these images, whether it's in the splatter of internal organs of a frog that was run over by a car, or the way sunlight and shadows interact on the skull of a domestic dog. Perhaps people like these images because they are a haunting reminder that we are all mortal, that we are all made out of meat, and that this is our eventual fate: to live is to die someday. Every individual organism is a character in the epic drama that is life, and even as each member of the cast arrives, only to eventually leave the stage, the show must go on.

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Glittering cuttlefish (F. Sepiidae)
Changi, 21st February 2010

Of course, I can't possibly document every dead animal out there. I've been open to guest submissions since last year, and recently started posting some photos that various friends have shared with me. The result is that I now have a growing number of photos of carcasses encountered by friends or friends of friends, and some of them feature species that I've yet to encounter, whether dead or alive. These include the blue-eared kingfisher seen by Ho Yong Sheng and Gabriel Zhou, and the Oriental dwarf kingfisher seen by Tan Zhen He, which Amanda Tan subsequently shared with me.

Blue-eared Kingfisher
Blue-eared kingfisher (Alcedo meninting)
Nanyang Technological University campus, 8th March 2012

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
Oriental dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca)
Tanjong Pagar, 27th March 2012

Some contributions are of animals that I've seen while they were still alive, such as the Asiatic lesser yellow bat that Lynn Chan found, or the black-naped oriole submitted by Lin Juanhui, so these photos are valuable additions to the ever-growing list of species on Monday Morgue.

Asiatic Lesser Yellow Bat
Asiatic lesser yellow bat (Scotophilus kuhlii)
Toa Payoh, 19th January 2012

Dead Black-naped oriole
Black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis)
Yio Chu Kang, 11th January 2012

Other species have previously appeared on Monday Morgue, but the photos depict remains that are much fresher, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Such examples include the wild piglet that Low Youjin encountered and tweeted about, and the Sunda pangolin that Simon Tay stumbled upon; You can view the ones that I've uploaded so far by following the Guest Submission tag, and credit goes out to all the people who have willingly shared these photos with me.

Wild Boar
Wild boar (Sus scrofa vittatus)
Lower Peirce Reservoir, 23rd March 2012

Sunda Pangolin
Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica)
Bukit Batok, 9th April 2012

Monday Morgue... on Instagram!

I rely very heavily on Twitter as a resource to find interesting things to read, as well as an avenue to communicate with people, regardless of whether it's intellectual discussion or just mindless (albeit entertaining) chatter. I've recently developed a habit of tweeting about my latest Monday Morgue uploads, using the hashtag #MondayMorgue.



A lot of my friends also use Instagram, an app which allows users to edit photos, apply filters, and upload their works online. If you've followed the news, Facebook recently purchased Instagram for the whopping sum of US$1 billion. For a long time, I'd been resisting the urge to hop on the bandwagon, but eventually succumbed sometime at the beginning of the year. The main thing that you could say sets my Instagram profile apart is that my account is entirely dedicated to Monday Morgue, sharing the very same images as the ones that I've uploaded here on the Monday Morgue site. People might not necessarily click through to the posts here on Posterous, but they can still view the photos on Instagram, express their pleasure (or displeasure), and leave comments.




Instagram is still very much designed to be used on a mobile phone, and it is available on both the iOS and Android platforms, although there are external apps that enable you to view photos and change settings through your web browser: I use Webstagram.



A couple of weeks back, I realised that there were many photos from the archives that I wanted to share on Instagram. As a result, I began a new series: besides the usual updates every Monday, I have also started uploading photos from my older posts on a daily basis. I have to credit Elaine Chiam for suggesting that I adopt the name Daily Decay for this series.

If you are on Instagram, follow me at @mondaymorgue. Or you can track my uploads with the hashtags #MondayMorgue and #DailyDecay.

Monday Morgue... on Facebook!



I've also just set up a Facebook page for Monday Morgue. Even though it was officially launched just 5 hours ago, the page already has 22 Likes, and I'm sure this figure will grow. It's not just another platform to publicise my photos of dead animals; people who are not so familiar with Twitter or Instagram can also share their own images, and I can add them to my list of guest submissions.

Monday Morgue... at the Festival of Biodiversity!



The main purpose for raising the profile of Monday Morgue is due to my involvement in the upcoming Festival of Biodiversity, which will be held on 26th and 27th May at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Inspired by the efforts of other active individuals like Ria Tan and N. Sivasothi in sharing about our biodiversity and what we can do as ordinary citizens, I've decided to give a 45-minute talk on why it is important to pay attention to animal carcasses. It also helps that when I gave a short presentation last June at the Tanjong Pagar KTM & Green Corridor Open Mic, where I shared photos of many of the animal carcasses I had found along the railway tracks, the audience responded in a very lively and positive manner. I'm currently scheduled to talk from 2 pm to 2.45 pm on Sunday, 27th May.

One of the main objectives of my talk is to get more guest contributions. It's not exactly a citizen science effort, but I'm sure that somewhere in Singapore, somebody will stumble upon a carcass with a very interesting story to tell. For instance, the dead animal might show that a particular species still survives in Singapore, or at least represents a recent record that shows the occurrence of this species in a particular area. Or the carcass might show obvious signs that pinpoint human activities as ultimately contributing to the animal's death. In such a case, Monday Morgue can serve as a platform to publicise such finds to the larger nature conservation and scientific community.

Another objective is to help raise awareness of the fact that should one find the carcass of a wild animal, one should contact the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, as the carcass can be retrieved and added to the museum's vast catalogue of specimens. These specimens can subsequently be used for various purposes, whether as exhibits or in further scientific research.

Of course, besides my talk, there are plenty of other activities and exhibitions going on at the Festival of Biodiversity, but it would be great if some of my friends and other readers attend my talk as well.

It's certainly very interesting to see how a little side project documenting dead animals could have received such a positive response from many people, friends and strangers alike.

[Cross-posted to Monday Morgue]

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