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February 5, 2011

CNN Discovers the Tree Octopus
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:30 PM * 103 comments

No, the Internet doesn’t make us stupid. No matter what CNN thinks. The professor they’re interviewing tries valiantly to explain it to them, that Kids These Days aren’t more gullible that previous generations, but the interviewer won’t go off-script even after being corrected.

Besides, the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus is real.

Comments on CNN Discovers the Tree Octopus:
#1 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 07:36 PM:

That's a very old web page. How come CNN is just finding it now?

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 07:41 PM:

Maybe CNN is having a very slow news day. Or maybe they're just catching up to the internet....

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 07:47 PM:

Slow news day?

Folks are bored with Egypt?

Sarah Palin hasn't said anything lately?

=======

Actually, it's because a couple of professors in a psych experiment assigned a bunch of seventh graders in economically disadvantaged school districts to go to the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus site and rate it according to how reliable it was.

A small percentage still believed that the tree octopus exists even after being told that it isn't real.

The interviewer wants the professor to say that today's students are more gullible than previous generations because they get so much information off the 'net. The professor refuses to go along with that.

And that's the hook they're hanging this story on.

#4 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 08:09 PM:

I think "CNN is very slow on the uptake" is still the best explanation.

The study may be new, but the student assignments to do evaluations of Internet sites are not new; high school classes have been assigning the Zapato P.I. site for "evaluating Internet information" exercises for at least 9 years.

Zapato has a special web page for them, dating to 2001:
A Note to Evaluators.

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 08:26 PM:

Lesson Plan for Critical Thinking (focusing on web sites) dating to 2005. Note the link to the Tree Octopus as a suggested site to assign to students.

I also note that the interviewer takes pains to inform the Viewers at Home that there's no such thing as a tree octopus, perhaps worried that some of them think there might be some lurking in their trees (and taking dollar bills to line their nests).

(And just because it's fun, Cat Herders.)

#7 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 08:33 PM:

Of course, tree octopi are for real. If they weren't, what would fern penguins eat?

And don't, for a minute, suggest to me that fern penguins could subsist on gribbles. The beak is all wrong.

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 08:36 PM:

I dunno. I caught a fern penguin in my hovercar just the other day, chowing down on the eels.

#9 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 08:40 PM:

As You Know Bob, it's not kids who keep picking up stories off The Onion and passing them around as fact. That "lack of teaching critical thinking" the professor talks about started 30 years ago; the current generation of parents either didn't get that skill in school or just flat don't have it, which is the source of many of our current social issues.

#10 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 10:18 PM:

Jim @ #8

Yes, but aren't you in New Hampshire? That means according to Schrott's Cryptoavians of North America, what you saw was almost certainly a New England Bracken Penguin.

They're very similar to the Pacific Northwest Fern Penguin, but where the Fern Penguin is usually about 36 to 48 inches tall, the Bracken Penguin tops out at 30 inches. Bracken Penguins are slightly paler in color with smaller spots, and as you noted, eat eels.

Fern Penguins are quite particular in their diet and usually confine themselves to land mollusks.

Fern Penguins have been seen as far east as Idaho but so far have not crossed the Great Plains.

#11 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 10:43 PM:

Back in MY day, you had to reason your way past James Randi, Martin Gardner, AND Michael Shermer uphill, through the predicate calculus, BOTH WAYS.

Seriously, "But one downside is the, uh, the eroded, of our healthy skepticism here in this country, really and around the world"

After that intro, I wanted to make him do a retake.

#12 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 10:57 PM:

I hadn't known of their existence until a few days ago, when I came across a link via something to them as likely to be threatened with changing climate (the latest untoward climate event is drought in the Amazon...).

There are tree frogs, why not tree octopus.... but it DID croggle me

#13 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 11:01 PM:

Or did I get taken in?.....
At least I've never believed in jackalopes or snow snakes...

#14 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 11:14 PM:

The reporter is not only plowing ahead with his thesis in despite of everything the interviewee says, but he really can't navigate through his sentences very well. Aiiee...

Hey, long before the Internet, there were people who thought everything they read in the Weekly World News was gospel.

#15 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 11:23 PM:

Where's that classic Doonesbury strip of a frustrated professor that all the college professors tacked on to their door? (circa 1982 or a little later)

#16 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 11:56 PM:

We must learn from our forefather's mistakes, and not repeat the reckless mollusk hunting which led to the complete extinction of the once-mighty herds of prairie squid which formerly roamed the plains.

#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 12:00 AM:

Well, after they wiped out the prairie squid, the grass sharks went extinct, so it was a lot safer to travel through that region.

#18 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 12:16 AM:

Lee @ 9: "That "lack of teaching critical thinking" the professor talks about started 30 years ago; the current generation of parents either didn't get that skill in school or just flat don't have it, which is the source of many of our current social issues. "

I don't think we've ever been good at teaching critical thinking--even in the way-back before times quality-checking happened on the production end. This talk by Clay Shirky explains the historical fusion of the roles of quality-filter and producer from an economic viewpoint, but there's a similar logic in play even if your interest is just guaranteeing reliability: it's easier to hire a couple of genuine experts to vet things as they go through the production bottleneck than it is to ensure that every member of the audience is able to differentiate between fact and nonsense.

There's also a hard limit to how far generalized "critical thinking" skills can take you in knowing nonsense when you see it. It's easy to laugh at those silly kids who can't tell that there's no such thing as tree octopuses, but really, why not? There are tree crabs. There's no good substitute for actual expertise.

#19 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 12:21 AM:

Here in Australia, of course we have the drop bear. I see that the Australian Museum has an informative page:

http://australianmuseum.net.au/Drop-Bear

Rumour has it that during military exercises, Australian soldiers would warn the American soldiers of the dangers of drop bears, thus ensuring that the Americans did not hide under nice shady trees.

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 12:24 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 3:

Sarah Palin hasn't said anything lately?

She's sulking because she was refused a trademark on her name. So all those other Sarah Palins are going to be stealing her best lines.

#21 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 12:58 AM:

Have a look at Youtube, under "archaeology". For some reason, archaeology to a kook is like a full moon to a werewolf. I blame Indiana Jones. Well, partly.

There are people telling each other that images from thirty year old photoshopping contests and beer advertisements are proof, proof I say, that there were giants on the earth. There are geocentrists and flat-earthers, Atlantids and Lemuriodds, and above all a bunch of raving nutbars screeching against evolution.

No, seriously. If you want to write something about the death of reason, or to lament over your despair of humanity, have a look there. It's an inspiration.

#22 ::: Brendan Podger ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 01:00 AM:

Yeah, you can't trust what you find on the internet. Not like TV.

Panorama Report on the spaghetti harvest

1957: BBC fools the nation

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 01:40 AM:

At least I've never believed in jackalopes or snow snakes...

There's a real disease that causes antler-like growths from the skulls of rabbits.

#24 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 01:42 AM:

There's a marvelous book that I grew up with called Fearsome Creatures of the Lumber Woods (along with a few desert and mountain beasts) by "Coert duBois". Some of the beasts are dangerous (the Slide-Rock Bolter, Agropelter or Whirling Whimpus, for example); some are not dangerous to people, but to livestock (the Hyampom Hog Bear); and some are just peculiar (the Squonk, which travels around sobbing gently, and when captured dissolved itself into tears in the sack in which it was enclosed). I could easily describe a dozen of the beasts from memory; not sure what happened to my mother's copy, though there was a (very inferior) reprint of it in a fanzine-like format significantly later, without the lovely illustrations. PoD copies are available on ABE and similar, but I doubt they're very good: some of the illos were quite nicely screened drawings.

The land octopus was not fearsome enough to be included, however. Unlike the Funeral Mountain Terrashot, the Snoligoster, the Tripodero, or the others. I wish I could recall the name of the one which would leap into large ponds late at night and slap the water with its beaver-like tail. A logger caught one, and cooked and ate it -- after finishing it, a queer look came over his face and he proceeded to run down to the nearby lake, leap prodigiously into the air and come down onto the water sitting cross-legged. Needless to say, he sank like a stone and was never seen again.

#25 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 05:54 AM:

Perhaps the interviewer could have had a look at the museum of hoaxes. How gullible did people use to be? Pretty gullible.

I was introduced to this site through this post in which the writer explains his Monkey Milk hoax in an alternative weekly paper.

#26 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 06:44 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @20: She's sulking because she was refused a trademark on her name.

I imagine she might have thought she could control commentary about herself. You know, you couldn't write an article about Palin unless she approved of the article.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 08:05 AM:

I saw a dove with no head yesterday.
Mind you, that's because Agatha the Cat Genius had been having dinner with it.

#28 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 08:57 AM:

Tom @24: I think I had that book too, or checked it out of the library. Didn't it have an entry on the hoop snake, a snake that could travel really fast downhill by biting its tail and rolling? I remember being amused and annoyed in equal parts by the book. I knew the animals were all fake (take that, CNN; I was probably seven or eight) but I liked what would today be called cryptozoological books and wanted to read about possibly-real animals. I do remember really liking the illustrations.

This is my introduction to the tree octopus too. I need to spend more time on teh internets, apparently.

#29 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 09:20 AM:

Kate Shaw: have you seen the Encyclopedia of Life?

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 09:32 AM:

Madeleine Robins #14: Not everything, but certainly the Ed Anger column and their agony aunt (whose name I forget).

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 09:34 AM:

Dave Luckett #21: Not to mention the people of Mu, who are not easily cowed.

#32 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 09:53 AM:

Fragano (31): Ow!

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 10:04 AM:

Fragano @ 31... I guess "StarGate Moo" wouldn't exactly herd the audience in.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 11:17 AM:

Serge #33: They certainly would be hard to corral.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 11:17 AM:

Mary Aileen #32: *Bowing*

#36 ::: eliddell ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 11:58 AM:

@24, 28: I remember that book too, but I believe I saw it under a different title: "[something-or-other] and Other Fearsome Critters". The Hoop Snake and the Squonk definitely ring a bell, anyway. I also recall the Splinter Cat, which supposedly was prone to bashing its head against the upper reaches of tree trunks . . .

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 12:51 PM:

Kate Shaw @28, eliddell @36: The Hoop Snake is in the second edition, which did have a different title and more beasts (and was compiled by someone else, merely reprinting the first book as its second half). That would be Walker Wyman's Mythical Creatures of the North Country, Including a Reprint of Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods By William T. Cox -- the original is much nicer (and I can't find a copy for sale online). Coert duBois was a pseudonym for Cox. Yes, the Splinter Cat is another great one -- and the name of the beast I couldn't remember was the Billdad.

#38 ::: Richard Hershberger ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 01:29 PM:

I grew up reading Isaac Asimov going apoplectic over astrology and ancient astronauts and the like. I have a hard time taking seriously the idea that the current generation is peculiarly gullible.

This isn't to say that I am surprised that CNN would take that line. Nor am I surprised that the interviewer would stick to the script no matter what. That is pretty common with reporters. Many interviews with experts are for the purpose of getting quotes to insert into the script, even if distorts the expert's intended meaning.

The only thing that surprises me about this clip is how disfluent the interviewer is. He is almost Bushian in how difficult he seems to find it to form a coherent sentence. One can't expect polished prose in spoken language, but just compare the interviewer with the interviewee. The contrast is striking.

#39 ::: CLP ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 01:57 PM:

Time recently published a list of "Top 10 Aspiring Nations". The top seven were Scotland, Basque Country, Tibet, South Ossetia, Kurdistan, Quebec, Western Sahara. The eighth on their list was The Republic of Cascadia.

I found this hilarious for two reasons. First, I lived in the Pacific Northwest for 28 years, and I think I only met a handful of people who expressed secessionist sentiments. (Whereas the first seven places on their list have large, active secession movements.) But second, out of all Cascadian nationalist sites on the Internet to quote, Time chose the tongue-in-cheek one on Zapatopi.net, made by the same people who brought you the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.

So instead of worrying that young people are gullible, maybe CNN should worry about their colleagues at Time.

#40 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 02:09 PM:

Tree frogs? Next you'll be telling us there are giant crabs that climb coconut trees for the nuts....

#41 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 02:18 PM:

NeilW@25: they may have stolen that idea from Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes, in which Miss Lux says:

"They are as the beasts that perish. ... They think that Botticelli is a variety of spaghetti. ... If it comes to that, they don't know what spaghetti is. It's not long since Dakers stood up in the middle of a Dietetic lecture and accused me of destroying her illusions." ...

"I had just informed them that spaghetti and its relations were made from a paste of flour. That shattered forever, apparently, Dakers' picture of Italy."

"How had she pictured it?"

"Fields of waving macaroni, so she said."

#42 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 02:19 PM:

NeilW@25: they may have stolen that idea from Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes, in which Miss Lux says:

"They are as the beasts that perish. ... They think that Botticelli is a variety of spaghetti. ... If it comes to that, they don't know what spaghetti is. It's not long since Dakers stood up in the middle of a Dietetic lecture and accused me of destroying her illusions." ...

"I had just informed them that spaghetti and its relations were made from a paste of flour. That shattered forever, apparently, Dakers' picture of Italy."

"How had she pictured it?"

"Fields of waving macaroni, so she said."

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 02:36 PM:

(Ah -- author on Fearsome Creatures is William T. Cox, indeed, and the illustrator was Coert duBois. One of the problems with having an almost-good memory is getting the occasional hiccup.)

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 03:02 PM:

CLP @ 39:

It may be that the advent of the TV show Portlandia has increased local interest in secession.

#45 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 03:15 PM:

Tom Whitmore #24: That reminds me of some of the boojums from Manly Wade Wells' (?) Silver John series. There was one that always stayed behind a person, so that it nobody knows what it looks like. But Silver John caught a glimpse, and he knows why it always hides, and no he won't tell you either. ;-)

Also, don't forget the Tree Lobsters!

#46 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 03:55 PM:

Lila @29: No, but after looking at it I suspect it's going to suck me in like TV Tropes. Thank you, I think. :)

#47 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 03:59 PM:

Kate: The Species of the Day is a little more manageable. Maybe.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 04:41 PM:

Coming soon to the Skiffy Channel...
"Mega Beaver vs Giant Tree Octopus"!!!

#49 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 05:22 PM:

Evolved squids that can swing from tree to tree were on the Discovery channel a while back, as a speculation of what would follow us after we go extinct.

#50 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 06:12 PM:

When I was a kid in Michigan on my first week in deer camp, they took me into the woods with a basket to catch snipe. It was a tradition. I had to hold the basket out and shout "snipe" in a high pitched voice.

It was fun watching the younger boys do it next year in deer camp.

#51 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 07:42 PM:

#38 Richard Hershberger Nor am I surprised that the interviewer would stick to the script no matter what.

I once watched an interview with the author of a novel called I Don't Know How She Does It (soon to be a movie, apparently). The interviewers had made up their minds that the book was about a couple losing interest in sex because they were bored with each other after several years of marriage, and stuck to *that* script despite the author making it repeatedly clear that her book was about a woman losing her libido through sheer exhaustion at juggling family and career.

#52 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 07:44 PM:

#45 David Harmon There was one that always stayed behind a person, so that it nobody knows what it looks like.


The Behinder.

Also, most of those creatures show up in Wellman's The Desrick on Yandro.

#53 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 08:05 PM:

There is such a thing as a tree crab, though.

#54 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 08:52 PM:

Anybody recall that "Future is Wild" series? If we just wait around about 200 million years, there will be tree squids.
They will be safe from me, though. Parents deep-fried a big octopus someone gave them when I was a kid, and it was like trying to eat a car tire, it was that tough.
I hardly dare speculate what a Behinder would taste like.

#55 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 09:54 PM:

I think with octopus smaller is probably tastier.

#56 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 10:25 PM:

This octopus would have had an arm-span of 7 or 8 feet. Not only was it tough, but the pieces had a tendency to explode alarmingly in the deep-fryer. I think I will stick with unintelligent prey.
Apologies for not noticing that Earl had already adduced the far-future-tree-squid.

#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 11:22 PM:

One of the best tempura I have ever had was squid.

It was delicate in texture; gelid and flakey, inside the crunchy batter.

#59 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 12:53 AM:

Sean @ 50:

Of course you didn't catch any snipe. The correct equipment for catching snipe is a paper bag and a tube of toothpaste.

You lay a trail with dabs of the toothpaste for the snipe to follow, which the snipe will do because snipe regard toothpaste as a real treat. When you get to the end of the trail, you put down a really big dab of toothpaste so it will take the snipe longer to eat it.

Then you hide behind a bush with the paper bag and when the snipe comes along, jump out and put the paper bag over the snipe. Congratulations! You have caught your snipe!

Snipe prefer Crest to Colgate and are not very interested in AquaFresh.

If you're curious I can also explain how to hunt geoducks with a clam gun.

#60 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 02:00 AM:

Ron @ 58: I don't know if Lyle Zapato has, but I certainly have; it was one of the highlights of my LA visit.

It's really a very cool place; the feel of it doesn't come across very well from their website.

You know how almost every museum has, somewhere tucked off in a corner, *one* room of stuff that's just weird, like a collection of microscopic sized drawings made with feathers, or scale models of buildings from Biblical times or exhibit cases on weird European superstitions? The Museum of Jurassic Technology is like all of those rooms taken from 50 different museums and then squeezed into one maze-like space. (And there's also some totally made up stuff - at least I'm pretty sure the stuff about Sonnabend and the Cone of Obliscence is entirely made up - but I think it's actually in the minority.)

#61 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 03:34 AM:

Alan @40

I am reminded of the threat of the crabs on Dr. No. As I recall, Dr. No has Honeychile Rider staked out to feed the crabs, but she knows that they're not going to eat her--Fleming could be sneaky about tropes sometimes. But if they climb trees to get nuts, Bond would have been in trouble.

(I'm sure you can imagine how Sean Connery would have reacted, without a word having to be said.)

#62 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 04:28 AM:

When I was a kid in Michigan on my first week in deer camp, they took me into the woods with a basket to catch snipe. It was a tradition. I had to hold the basket out and shout "snipe" in a high pitched voice.

This reminds me of the tradition of sending the new apprentice to the store for a can of striped paint and a long stand.

The storeman responds that they're fresh out of striped paint, and goes back to what he was doing. The apprentice hangs around for a few minutes until she or he works up the nerve to ask what about the long stand.

The storeman replies, "Haven't you stood long enough?"

#63 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 06:38 PM:

James D. Macdonald @5: One of my coworkers nearly injured himself over that video.

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 07:40 PM:

Jacque #63: It's an old joke that "managing programmers is like herding cats. And mushrooms. Same herd."

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 07:44 PM:

David Harmon @ 64... Speaking of herding cats... Did you know that Freya - the Norse goddess of Love - went around using a chariot pulled by cats?

#66 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 08:51 PM:

Some folks say cats aren't as smart as dogs, but how often do you see cats pulling a sled?

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 11:36 PM:

Angiportus @ 66... Cats can't cooperate, which was the point of one of Gaiman's Sandman stories.

#68 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 01:07 AM:

Serge @ 67:

Cats can't cooperate

They don't need to, they use humans for that.

#69 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 03:39 AM:

I've seen a cat and dog apparently cooperate on catching mice. Maybe just watching opposite ends of the hole, and not getting in each other's way, but you'd certainly think they were working together.

(This was a long time ago, nearly thirty years ago now. I was farming. The cat was a vile-tempered beast (according to the neighbours) from across the road, who was quite placid with us farm-folk. The dog was on staff. As has happened since Ancient Egypt, mice are attracted to grain stores. And cats follow mice.)

#70 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:37 AM:

Well, unfortunately I hang around in parts of the internet where the crankiness grows, and I cannot be quite so sanguine. Perhaps what protects most people is the same force that has my daughter sitting in front of the computer and asking we questions about something. (After saying "you're sitting at a computer; look it up!" fifty times, though, perhaps the message is sinking in.) But the stupid craziness is definitely amplified on the internet. I don't know about raw gullibility, but ideologically-assisted gullibility gets a huge boost on the internet.

#71 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:38 AM:

And isn't there a message in this about the lack of curiosity among CNN reporters?

#72 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 07:27 AM:

Dave Bell@69

cats follow mice

That's strange. I didn't even realize mice used Twitter.

#73 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 11:02 AM:

Angiportus & Sarah E @54-56: I'm not a vegetarian, but I do decline to eat species I've met socially. Jon Singer had a friend in Boulder who kept a salt-water tank. In the tank lived Herbie, who was a wee octopus, with a body about the size of a golf ball.

When you passed the tank, Herbie would scramble up to the surface of the water and peer out at you. Offer him a finger, and he would wrap his little tentacles around it and try to pull you in. If you declined to go, he would squirt you in the face.

I'm afraid I've never been able to bring myself to eat calamari.

#74 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 11:19 AM:

Jacque @73 -- calamari are squid. Octopus is different. That would be like not eating beef because you'd been introduced to a horse....

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 11:25 AM:

Jacque @ 73... he would wrap his little tentacles around it and try to pull you in. If you declined to go, he would squirt you in the face

Why do I find myself thinking of Gary Larson's Far Side?

#76 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 01:25 PM:

Jacque, #73: I'm not a vegetarian, but I do decline to eat species I've met socially.

IHNC, IJWTS that I adore this sentence.

#77 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 01:51 PM:

Tom Whitmore @74: Okay, smartie, I won't eat cephelapods. How's that?

Serge: Verily! :-)

Lee: ::GRIN::

Jim @0: It occurs to me that, in the absence of actual tree octopi, banana slugs will do quite nicely, and are entirely as unlikely in their own right.

#78 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 02:36 PM:

Jacque @ 73:

'You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,' said the Red Queen. 'Alice—Mutton: Mutton—Alice.' The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused. 'May I give you a slice?' she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other. 'Certainly not,' the Red Queen said, very decidedly: 'it isn't etiquette to cut anyone you've been introduced to. Remove the joint!' And the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place.
#79 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 03:04 PM:

Bruce CSTM, @78: in all the times I'd read that passage, I'd thought it was "eat" rather than "cut" -- which means that I'd never actually noticed the pun there. Now, the pun is quite obscure in current society, but would have been common in the day when this was published.

We learn, but slowly.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 03:17 PM:

Time to trot out "Soylent Green" jokes?
("No, THANK you!")
Drat.

#81 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 03:40 PM:

Jacque @77 It occurs to me that, in the absence of actual tree octopi, banana slugs will do quite nicely

How about peels, grunting harmoniously?

#82 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 03:55 PM:

OtterB #81:

As long as they don't go "thurb, thurb".

#83 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:04 PM:

Tom, #79: You're not alone in having missed that. I submit the distinct possibility that the word itself may have been changed in later editions; I'm fairly sure I'd have noticed "cut" because at the time I read it, it wouldn't have made sense to me.

While I'm on the topic of childrens' books being changed to fit the times: I gave away all my Alcott to a friend's daughter when I moved. A few years ago I decided that I'd like to have a copy of Rose In Bloom again, and went out and bought one. There's a scene I'm sure I remember, about Charlie slamming out of the house in a temper and telling Rose that he was going "to the Devil!" -- I think this was after he'd tried to give up drinking in the hopes that she'd accept his proposal, and it didn't work -- and that this led directly to his death. It's not in the copy I bought. Am I misremembering, or has the book been bowdlerized?

#84 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:33 PM:

Lee: While I'm on the topic of childrens' books being changed to fit the times

I believe that David Langford pointed out that the 1960's "uncut" reprinting of Penrod deleted an antisemitic piece which was the catalyst for a major event later in the book, thereby leaving no discernible reason for the event to take place.

That's not the one that bugs me, however. Did you ever see the picture book that was made of Gonna Roll the Bones by Fritz Leiber? (Yes, I agree: I wouldn't have chosen that story as my first choice for a picture book for kids.) It was adapted by someone named Sarah Thompson and I damn near started shouting in the store when I happened to look it over--the best way I can put it is that Bowdler would have been ashamed at the hatchet job done to that short, especially the ending which ends up left on a floor to rot somewhere. I've done some bad things in my time, but when the Universe and I have a final reckoning at least I won't have to say "I've beaten a damn good short story into a bleeding, spasming pulp lying unprotected in the road for no good reason."

#85 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:39 PM:

Lee #83:

Was it this?

It was very hard to resist the pleading voice and eyes, for this humility was dangerous; and, but for Uncle Alec, Rose would have answered "yes." The blue forget-me-nots reminded her of her own promise, and she kept it with difficulty now, to be glad always afterward. Putting back the offered trinket with a gentle touch, she said firmly, though she dared not look up into the anxious face bending toward her: "No, Charlie I can't wear it. My hands must be free if I'm to help you as I ought. I will be kind, I will trust you, but don't swear anything, only try to resist temptation, and we'll all stand by you."

Charlie did not like that and lost the ground he had gained by saying impetuously: "I don't want anyone but you to stand by me, and I must be sure you won't desert me, else, while I'm mortifying soul and body to please you, some stranger will come and steal your heart away from me. I couldn't bear that, so I give you fair warning, in such a case I'll break the bargain, and go straight to the devil."

That's from the Project Gutenberg edition.

#86 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:45 PM:

Serge #65: Appropriate, nu?

Jacque, #73: I'm not a vegetarian, but I do decline to eat species I've met socially.

Like this! I'm not actually sure I'd refuse to eat rabbit meat, but it's never come up, and I have to admit the idea feels a little awkward.

But I generally wouldn't eat monkey or ape meat, more so than even dog or cat. And I've had little direct exposure to monkeys and apes, at that -- but I also consider the zoonotic risk is probably worse with fellow primates. On the infectious flip side, eating your commensals is probably almost as bad an idea as eating your relatives.

#87 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 06:46 PM:

I'm sorry for sounding off like this, but one would hope that, even if you're not editing a medical work, you can keep in mind Primum non nocere for the length of a picture book.

#88 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 07:14 PM:

Lee @83 . Jim @85 quoted the scene that I remembered. But my recollection is that this doesn't lead directly to Charlie's death. In fact, he makes a good effort to reform, and is going out to India to visit his father to get away from temptation, but in making farewell calls on his friends is pressed to drink more than he should and thus can't control his horse on the way home.

But I know I have run into other Alcott that had scenes edited out in some versions.

#89 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 09:11 PM:

Jim, #85: It may well have been, and now that I know where to look for it I can go back and check. It appears that I was conflating that scene with what happened later, to which Rose is not a witness. Thanks for the pointer to the online version!

#90 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2011, 12:59 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ 79:

My last re-read was at least 20 years ago (much too long, must read again soon), and I can't remember whether I noticed that at the time or not. Thanks for reminding me just how much there is to be found in those books.

#91 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2011, 02:57 AM:

I've had some quite tasty encounters with octopus in Korea and Japan. The fried octopus balls (takoyaki) I bought from a stand late one night in Kyoto are a particularly fond memory.

#92 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2011, 09:48 AM:

NelC @#91

ObMarilynMonroe: Are there any other parts of an octopus you can eat?

#93 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2011, 04:35 PM:

By a curious coincidence, I'm reading Through the Looking-Glass right now, to create a set of Google Docs to aid in the production of a dramatic reading of it for LibriVox. (The person who did Alice in Wonderland seems to be too busy to do Looking-Glass so I'm taking it on myself.) I find myself surprised at how many bit parts there are.

#94 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 02:06 PM:

Bruce Cohen @78: 'it isn't etiquette to cut anyone you've been introduced to. Remove the joint!'

Oh, dear Ghu. And here I thought I was being so original. Leave it to Lewis Carroll to get there ahead of me.*

Tom Whitmore @79: I'd never actually noticed the pun

Please to unpack, for the uncultured among us?

OtterB @18 joann @82: That whistling sound is the joke sailing right over my head. (I seem to be suffering a case of the stupids today.)

David Harmon @86: I generally wouldn't eat ... dog or cat.

I am reminded of the flap that made the news, back during the Olympics in China, when a (sports team?) went to a Chinese restaurant. They evidently didn't realize they'd ordered a dish containing dog. This came forcibly to their attention when the waiter came out of the kitchen carrying a fuzzy puppy, blinking in puzzlement. They were asked if this would be acceptible as the main course.

Outrage ensued: the Americans were horrified, and the Chinese insulted by the American's horror. The accomodation that was reached was that the Americans did in fact buy the puppy, but took it home as a pet.

--
*For the record, I remain steadfastly ignorant of the Alice books, save what comes to me via the zeitgeist. They are much too much like some feverish nightmares I've had for me to be willing to engage with them voluntarily.

#95 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 02:31 PM:

Cadbury Moose @ 92: I realise it wasn't an entirely serious request, but here's a squid/cuttlefish recipe from Mme Barebones' familhy's part of the world.

Googletranslated from
here

Serves 6
Preparation 1 pm
Cooking 1 h

2.5 kg of cuttlefish or squid ungutted
2 onions
Tomato puree
saffron branches
pepper, cayenne pepper,
olive oil
polenta

For the recipe, we must find whole animals in order to retrieve the bags and empty ink yourself.
We can also take squid and it has every incentive to take large animals (700 g to 2 kg).
To empty the animal, pull the head while holding the body: the pocket ink gland is elongated along a pearly body length which is inside the body.
The book in a small bowl, then serve it.
We can also prepare the tentacles, but personally I throw the whole head with entrails.
It must then remove the skin to turn brown body with white: the trick is to insert fingers at the junction of the wings under the belly and pull them.
Thus all the skin comes back with.
Finally, again from the wing-body junction to loosen the skin.
This finished, cut lengthwise to open the body and clean inside.
Then cut the white into strips 1 cm wide and fry in a casserole 1 / 2 cup of olive oil over medium heat.
Do not enter, but blanch gently for 15 minutes, turning regularly.
Towards the end, add 2 finely chopped onions that are mixed with everything and also returning.
Add salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, saffron branch, thyme and bay leaves and turn the whole thing.
Resume pockets ink and crush them in the preparation and turn to distribute the color.
Add the tomato puree supplementing with a little water without covering all of the whites and cook, covered, 1 hour and any small fire.

The best dish is reheated.
Before serving, keep hot cuttlefish drained and give a large fire to reduce the sauce.
Serve with polenta spread on a board for carving.

#96 ::: praisegod barebones sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 03:00 PM:

Jacque @ 94: to 'cut' someone in nineteenth-century English parlance is to ignore them, or act as though you didn't know them.

#97 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 03:14 PM:

Jacque @94 The peels are a reference to Masque World by Alexei Panshin. Peels, which I've always envisioned as somewhat like banana slugs, descend from the trees in the evening (IIRC) and grunt to each other for mates. People in the book plan to meet up with each other at peelgrunt, and a character playing a game of "Wonders and Marvels" proposes his team present a set of matched peels, grunting harmoniously.

The "thurb" reference is to another character in the same series of books, who makes that noise.

#98 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 03:44 PM:

praisegod barebones #95: Yeah, about that universal translator....

#99 ::: Jacque sees praisegod ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 04:23 PM:

@96: Danke!

OtterB @97: Ah! Splendid. Thank you!

I haz a ignerunce toodates.*

--

* Ya ever have times when it seems like you understand nothing anybody says to you, especially the clever stuff? I hope it's just Someheime'rs....

#100 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 07:03 PM:

I would have a hard time eating an animal with which I was personally acquainted, but I wouldn't necessarily rule out whole species on that basis. I once held someone's pet chicken for a few minutes, but have no trouble consuming chicken. And my Hungarian grandmother, who was a farmer's wife for much of the first half of her life, doubtless killed, cooked, and ate many animals she had known their whole lives. The rooster that scarred my father's face earned his place in the pot.

#101 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2011, 02:18 AM:

Another good primer on gullability is "The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays", a book which describes at some length all of the major biology hoaxes of Western history. What's particularly fascinating about the book are the number of hoaxes which became the predominant views among natural historians for literally years, to the point where collegues were ostracised or even defrocked for not believing them. Geese Barnacles, for example, or the Vegetable Lamb.

And may I say that I have mixed feelings about the semi-endangered status of the coconut crab? As it is, I may never nap under a palm tree again. And it's certainly more incredible than the Drop Bear ...

#102 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2011, 11:11 AM:

Jacque @ 99

Oh dear, not here too. Sorry once again. Autocomplete has its drawbacks....

#103 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2011, 05:50 PM:

David Harmon @ 95

Hang on, let me just get this fish out of my ear. Ah - that's better.

I was going to tidy up google's English (and did in fact click to let them know that in this context 'reservez' should probably not be translated as 'book'. But then I decided that most people on the thread would probably be reading for gist, and that if anyone did stumble this way looking for a recipe for cuttlefish cooked in ink, they'd probably be able to English the googlish for themselves. And there was a pot of Beef Schadenfreude on the stove that needed urgent attention...

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