Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Cephalopodish

Photograph courtesy of merchant mariner John Boyer,
who is sometimes based in Kuwait, and sxc.hu
The octopus is so intelligent that it is considered an Honorary Vertebrate for legal purposes in the UK. I wonder if octopi are insulted by this. Perhaps they haven't been told.

I've been writing tiny stories lately, and the thought of one involving a cuttlefish or octopus has crept into a crevice of my head and is holding on tight. Octopi in captivity play with toys and have preference for one human over another. I love the idea that cuttlefish and octopi, with their famous ability to transform appearance, may see with their skin.

16 comments:

  1. And does the number 8 figure prominently in the story (or stories)?

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    1. Still daydreaming... But it is hard to avoid that number!

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  2. I love seeing into your brain and seeing how this image may emerge in your writing, Marly.

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    1. I don't usually mention things I'm contemplating--always afraid that I might scare some shy creature away. Or talk it away. But the stories have been streaming along, despite lack of time.

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  3. I'm a sucker for numerical symbolism.

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    1. I'll have to keep that in mind. Maybe I'll write a tiny story for Tim (a tiny Tim!) with lots of numerology. You never know.

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    2. I just noticed that you used "sucker." You cephalopod, you!

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  4. When I wrote a poem about an octopus (for the gargoyle project) a couple years back, I did a wildly unnecessary but edifying amount of research into their life cycle and intelligence. I have my own opinions, but I won't share them, lest I derail your idea. Will be curious to see what the one inside your head inspires!

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    1. Oh. I'm not remembering your octopus-gargoyle poem, despite having read the book. But then my head is still, as before, a downright sieve! I'll have to find the book and take a peek when I'm done.

      I'm thinking that it will be 8 "tinies." So far I have four about octopuses. They are fairly wacky, so far. May have some cuttlefish and squid and nautiluses in the mix by the time I'm done.

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  5. How odd that we judge a creature's intelligence and worth by its possession of a spinal cord, yet to some extent we do, by instinct. Yet clearly an octopus has more personality than a flatfish, say, doesn't it?

    I once saw a film of cuttlefish courtship and mating then swimming off together tentacle in tentacle. It was truly beautiful. I would still fed their bones to the budgie if I had one but only when they died of natural causes. I have eaten a few octopi in my time but would try to avoid it now, in part, it must be said, since being offered the same octopus casserole night after night in a Greek hotel restaurant; the ring-shaped sucker coming away from the legs and floating on the surface in a most unappetising way after about the third night.

    Then there was that German octopus which was predicting the winners of the football (soccer to you) World Cup a few years ago. I can't remember his name.

    Squid on the other hand, especially the really big ones, may be intelligent but are evil b*****ds bent on taking over the world, or at least the wet parts of it, and we owe it to the planet to eat them all up. Trouble is I'm not mad on them, finding them rather like rubber bands, though deep fried in batter they're ok, or cooked Chinese style.

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    1. Octopuses (octopi, octopodes!) are pretty fascinating and they do seem to get attached to people in a way that's positively pet-like.

      I missed the German octopus. I'll have to look him up! Might be inspiring.

      Cuttlefish are often beautiful. I have gawked at them in aquariums. So ethereal in coloration at times. I love that business of the multi-layered skin with the reflective layer underneath and then chromatophores on top.

      A badly cooked squid or octopus is a sad and rubbery thing, but now I'm feeling reluctant to eat octopuses after reading about them... I don't think I'll read about shrimp, just in case.

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  6. In fact, looking at that picture, cuttlefish don't have tentacles do they? Must have been just touching their side flappy bits.

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    1. They do! Just not so many. They have eight arms, and then two tentacles with toothed (I think) suckers on them so they can hang onto prey. And I think the male uses a tentacle to stick his sperm sack into the female's face, near her mouth.

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    2. Maybe "in her face" is the wrong idea, given the anatomy. Into her buccal pouch next to her mouth, maybe. Or maybe just buccal region...

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  7. I devote scenes in all my books to animals. Nothing yet about octopi or cuttlefish, but I've had whales. And bears. And goats.

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    1. I've had quite a few, especially chickens. Mules. Country animals. Oh, yes, bear. A few possibly unreal ones.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.