Okay, for those who have seen me a few times, you know that I have this fascination with sea life. Mysterious, and in a culture all their own, the life of the sea has been an alien planet in our back door, inhabiting 75% of our surface, "flying" in a thick hydrosphere we call "water". They must look at birds and say, "Why work so hard in that thin liquid? Dive down here where you can rest. The penguins have a good thing going, are you going to let them do that? You wuss..."
A few years ago, while exploring comedy's roots and truffles, I discovered that many people have capitalized on silly animals, and the first thing that came to me was the the Squid. That animal is comedy at its best! Don't believe me? Okay take this simple test:
|Rush Limbaugh wearing a tie... or||Rush Limbaugh wearing a squid...?|
No contest! Squids are funny! Just look at them: torpedo shaped head, ten "arms" (two of which are feelers), swimming backwards staring at you with one of their two huge unblinking eyes. Even the name "squid" is a funny sounding name... "skoo-wid". How can you take such an animal seriously? I guess maybe if a giant one was eating your $100,000 luxury yacht, yeah, I can see your point, but when's the last time you saw the headline:
"Princess Cruise Liner Attacked by Ferocious Sea-Beast off the Coast of Aruba"
or, as USA Today might put it,
"Big Bad Squid Embraces The Love Boat -- Limbaugh Suspects Liberal Plot, and How Will this Affect Night at the Grammies?"
I can just see it, a huge squid slithers its tentacles across Fiesta Deck 4, while Gavin McLeod is beating it down with a cocktail shaker, and guests complaining it ate all the shrimp salad off the buffet, but hey, sea voyages are rough, so shut up and eat what's left of the ambrosia salad before the ice sculpture melts. But I digress, that just doesn't happen. Or at least anymore, I miss those good old days... we'd have been rid of Vicky Stubing before her makeup became so dense it formed its own gravity and sucked her career into a black hole.
Some people fail to see the squid as a potential for comedy in today's world. To an American, squid is this exotic thing that is best hidden in a fried batter shell and eaten with lots of lemons and tartar sauce to conceal that what they are eating is not at all fish-shaped as they have grown to appreciate it (that is, stick or fillet-shaped, in a batter shell), and thus hide it under names like "Calamari" and "Blackfish" (which is really neither squid nor fish, it is octopus). Most other countries in the world view it as a staple to their diet, and don't need it concealed at all; they'll eat it wiggling and gripping their lips as they chew it, hearing it scream in a satisfactory manner saying to their friend, "I am eating squid, a decapodal sea creature that shoots ink, and loving it!" Or maybe they don't. That's actually typical of an American, who would brag, "Yes, sir, I am eating roasted jungle fowl legs out of a bucket after they have been boiled in oil and covered with a granular wheat product that usually attracts locusts..." I wonder if that's why KFC changed their name?
Squid fishing makes up a major part of recreational (and commercial) fishing in Japan. This I would expect from a country that invented pachinko and karaoke. But there is substatial evidence that the Bushido never used squid as a weapon.
But is the squid, as we humans perceive most animals, a stupid sea animal that gets easily stuck in nets to be eaten by weirdos overseas who don't eat with a fork and knife? I say they are not. Squids (like many cephalopods) have feelings, mates, territories, and complex social behavior (kind of like suburbanites, but without the lawn mowers) that have been studied in labs and diving expeditions all over the world. Some believe that Giant Squids are the pinnacle of evolution, and that humans are only these weird monkeys who sail above in rafts of dead trees in a thin atmosphere that penguins won't even bother to learn how to swim in. My friend Bruce of FanTek went on a Punk Walrus Field Trip to the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, and at their invertebrate lab, they had three squids in a large tank, all swimming about together, arguing in that squid like way with each other ("No, I did not hear you say, 'look out, a biologist is after us'!" "Don't take that shade of color with me, Frank. You're just as much to blame as the rest of us!"). Bruce tapped the glass, and all the squids came to the glass, and started waving their tentacles. Bruce waved back. The squids changed colors and waved and danced. Bruce was communicating with them, and Bruce is no Forrest Gump, either. I wonder what the squids were thinking?
Frank the Squid: What's he saying, Frank?
Jerry the Squid: "Toaster charlie alpha shell chocolate tea bag," I think.
Frank the Squid: That makes no sense. Maybe if I turn blue and dance upside down, I'll understand him better...
Jerry the Squid: No... now he's just repeating "We mean no harm to your planet" over and over....
They have shown all kinds of cephalopods can solve complex tasks, like unscrewing jars, solving mazes to get at shrimp, ("Hey, all I have to do is go through this glass maze and they give me a shrimp... how did this land-monkey fall into my power...?"), and guarding mates in trouble.
What's the difference between a Squid and an Octopus?
I just wanted to add here that I have never understood why people rave all about eating lobster. First of all, they serve it to you whole, so you have this alien-insect like thing lying on your plate with a pathetic expression of "Oh, dang it!" on its boiled face. Second, I have ate all kinds of lobster, from the cheap "All-U-Kan-Eat-Till-U-Explode" kind at the local "Land Lubber - Ocean Grubber (Still Taste Like Rubber)" seafood joint, to the most posh "L'New England Fromage on the Bay" place where just staring at it will cost you ten dollars, and if you order a lobster you get to pick out the very one you want out of the tank while your head waiter assigns you an interest rate so you can make a down payment on the appetizers... and yet, they taste the same; like nothing. Oh, wait, they give you a bowl of melted butter to dip it in, so now it tastes like... butter. Butter and herb dipping "au-jus" tastes like... you guessed it, butter and herbs. I am under the distinct impression that lobster is flavor-less, and it's all a sham... but I digress...
But what about a squid's sense of humor? Do squids buy fake dogfish doo-doo as gag gifts to other squids? Do they sit around, quoting Monty Python, or perhaps sing Tom Lehrer tunes? Or perhaps squids have a dry, silent sense of humor, like Woody Allen films? Or maybe, squid humor is something so alien to our method of thinking, that we would not be able to fathom it at all:
Bob the Squid: Bloop! Bloop bloop blip [turns blue, pulses mantle]
Translation: Hey, Tom, your mother uses swim bladders!
Tom the Squid: Blop blip bloop blooop! [flips over, wiggles tentacles]
Translation: Ha ha, Bob. I heard your mother lays eggs in her ink sac, but I didn't have a sand dollar!
I have some squidly things of my own. My prize possession is my life-size Glow-in-the-Dark squid from Archie McPhee, a company that sells all manner of rubber sea animals. I showed it to Bruce and Cheryl of FanTek, and they bought several dozen for their "Squid Toss" at their pool party one convention. Boy, can that thing glow... Recently, I also got a small brown spotted white squid from the Smithsonian gift shop. It now resides on top of my monitor at work.
So, what have we learned? Well, we learned that Clyde knows to much about the Punkadyne Labs "Build a Better Pineapple" Division. We also learned that Rush Limbaugh wearing a squid doesn't look that much different from the ties he already wears. But the most important thing we have learned is that squids are intelligent, witty, and just like us in many ways, so no wonder we make fun of them...