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Lyle Zapato

Hildegard von Bingen's Octopus Visions

Lyle Zapato | 2014-11-11.6090 LMT | Cephalopods | Retro

In 1141, a land octopus living in the spandrels of the convent of Disibodenberg, in Germany, visited Hildegard von Bingen, the new head nun, and gave her visions, most likely via a combination of chromatophoric signals and pressure phosphenes from palpation of her eyeballs.

Being as she was steeped in her religion, and with the obvious cross-species language difficulties, she misinterpreted the octopus' attempt at communication as messages from the "voice of heaven". She recorded her theological interpretations of these visions in her book, Scivias ("know the ways"), which included the above illumination in the frontispiece.

Unlike later illustrations of her receiving the visions, which show divine light-rays from the sky as would suit the presumptions of the time, this original one was either done by her or made from her sketches. In fact, the image shows her sketching on a wax tablet, perhaps recording the event as it happened. So it's the most accurate depiction of the encounter -- one clearly more cephalopodic than theophanic.

(Thanks to reader Rich Thomas for bringing this to my attention.)

Lyle Zapato

Helicopters Unwelcome In Blythe

Lyle Zapato | 2014-07-04.5725 LMT | Black Helicopters

Humanoid, quadruped, swirling tire tracks

The Blythe Intaglios (or geoglyphs) are found near Blythe, CA in the Colorado Desert. They include figures of humanoids and tailed quadrupeds that were created anywhere from 450 to 10,000 years ago. Some believe the glyphs represent mythic characters from Quechan history and cosmology, while others see it as evidence that the region is La Cuna de Aztlán, the legendary homeland of the Aztec.

The present is just a continuation of the past; and the site has not remained fixed in time, as modern peoples have added to the messages of the ancients. The most visible additions are the swirling tire tracks that some ethnographers believe represent an Atomic Age creation story, depicting the tracks of subatomic particles first seen in bubble chambers and since sublimated into the collective unconscious of drunk rednecks in pickup trucks.

Then there's this addition, presumably a message from a local paranoid directed at black helicopters:

Helicopter: GO AWAY

(Indirectly via BLDGBLOG.)

Lyle Zapato

NSA Acknowledged Existence of Y.R. Tap

Lyle Zapato | 2014-06-10.8350 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots

In 2006, I posted about the then-new CryptoKids, official propaganda mascots of the NSA. I pointed out that there was an unshown member of the CryptoKid team that the NSA refused to acknowledge: Y.R. Tap, the domestic spying fly, whose extortionist adventures I imagined in a series of web comics. But, it turns out that the NSA did show Tap, albeit through a semi-official channel.

The National Cryptologic Museum, which has close ties to the NSA (although operated via a non-profit org out of a former motel two blocks from NSA HQ), publishes a bulletin for donating members called The Link. In the Winter 2005-2006 issue (PDF), they had an article on the CryptoKids (page 15). Notice who's creeping about in the lower right:

National Cryptologic Museum's 'The Link', vol. 8, num. 4, pg. 15

Of course they don't acknowledge him in the text -- no one likes Y.R. Tap! -- but he is there. Watching. Always watching.

(That image is the first panel of my Y.R. Tap Comic #3. The page is dated "Fall 2005" but obviously it was made sometime after May 2006. I don't know if whoever put it there did so intentionally as a joke or if they just Googled "CryptoKids" and thought my site was an official organ of the NSA... It's not, by the way.)

UPDATE: ...and they've since removed the PDF. It was probably a mistake that they made the back issues freely available since they weren't linked to on the public site. I only found it by accident doing a Google image search on a Y.R. Tap panel. I just did another search to see if I could find it again and instead found this amusing appropriation in a PDF of an ESL quiz from a university in Brazil:

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Lyle Zapato

Y.R. Tap Comic #9

Lyle Zapato | 2013-06-06.1268 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots | Politics
Lyle Zapato

After The Commonplace Comes Jumbo

Lyle Zapato | 2013-05-22.9690 LMT | Elephants | Nature | Retro
Lyle Zapato

Monarchs Come Home

Lyle Zapato | 2013-05-19.7560 LMT | Nature
Lyle Zapato

Paradigm Shift Clock Mk. II & Black Helicopter Hood Mural

Lyle Zapato | 2013-05-10.4610 LMT | Technology | Crafts | Mysterious Doodads | Black Helicopters

Bob Blick, creator of the Pocket Paradigm-Shift Awareness Clock, has upgraded the tech with revised firmware and an additional button:

The front panel button switches the display to show paradigm confidence levels in real time -- caution when it lingers near zero. Reset is inside if you need manual override -- during reset you can preload values with the real time button.


95% Paradigm Confidence. Looking good!

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Lyle Zapato

Dixon's Tree Ammonite

Lyle Zapato | 2011-07-17.7070 LMT | Cephalopods | Nature

Dougal Dixon's book The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution (1988) imagines what life would look like if the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event had not happened and non-avian dinosaurs had continued evolving over the last 65 million years.

Besides the eponymous new dinosaurs, one of his hypothetical creatures inhabiting the Austral­asian Realm is the coconut grab (Nuctoceras litureperus), a type of tree-climbing ammonite:

The coconut grab is an unusual ammonite in that it can spend much of its time out of the water crawling about on land. On many of the tropical islands of the ocean it can crawl up the beach and eat coconuts, and even climb trees to find the nuts when there are none available lying in the sand or washed up on the shore.

It's preyed upon by a flightless, tree-climbing pterosaur called a shorerunner.

In Dixon's hypothetical present, tropical tree octopuses apparently never had a chance to evolve, which is probably just as well for the dinosaurs.

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Lyle Zapato

Pontosaurus minnesotae

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-27.6100 LMT | Nature

Ponto Lake, Minnesota, Home of the endangered Pontosaurus

Ponto Lake in Minnesota is home to possibly the last remaining pontosaur (specifically Pontosaurus minnesotae) in all of Cass County. This mosasauroid's ancestors presumably arrived in Minnesota in the late Cretaceous when the area was reachable by the Western Interior Sea (for more on this mosasaur-dominated environment, see The Oceans of Kansas).

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Lyle Zapato

Why There Are No Tree Octopuses On Okinawa

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-15.6920 LMT | Cephalopods | Sasquatch Issues | Nature

Unlike here in Cascadia where octopuses live in the trees and are preyed upon by Sasquatch, on Okinawa, hominoids are arboreal and fear octopuses.

Three scared Kijimuna in banyan trees, menacing octopus in water below.

The above painting by Matthew Meyer -- part of his A-Yokai-A-Day series that you can buy as a print -- depicts Kijimuna in trees fearful of an octopus threatening to climb up after them.

Kijimuna (キジムナー) are a species of arboreal island hominoids native to Okinawa. Their diminutive size compared to Sasquatch, Yeti, etc. is probably a result of insular dwarfism and their partial baldness a likely adaptation to the subtropical climate. They live mostly in banyan trees, but will venture onto the ground to go fishing or interact with Humans. Human-Kijimuna relations have been strained in the past due to arson and flatulence. Human Okinawans often accuse Kijimuna of mischievousness, but this is probably Human chauvinism; we rarely get to hear the Kijimuna viewpoint in Okinawan media. (For more on Kijimuna, see Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's Kijimuna page or the Japanese Wikipedia.)

But what's the deal with the octopus? In his blog post about his painting, Meyer partially explains:

One final fact of note about kijimuna — they loathe octopuses! I am so far unable to discover why they hate them so much, but the lowly octopus is the one thing they cannot stand. Kijimuna will avoid them at all costs, so keeping octopuses around is a fairly foolproof way for humans to avoid potential kijimuna-related troubles.

I think Meyer has inadvertently shown in his painting the reason for octopusophobia among Kijimuna: a dispute over territory and resources.

As I have noted before (see: "The Ara-Eaters: Tree Octopuses Of Polynesia" and "Nicharongorong: Tree Octopuses of Micronesia"), octopuses in the South Pacific are drawn to trees, and many have adopted arboreal or semi-arboreal lifestyles. On Okinawa, this arboreal niche has already been occupied by the Kijimuna, denying octopuses there the "green embrace" they so desire.

Octopuses are persistent and determined creatures. They would simply not abide not being able to tentaculate through the banyans, nibbling on the figs. (Athenæus in his Deipnosophistae relates that besides olive trees Mediterranean octopuses [polypus] "have also been discovered clinging to such fig-trees as grow near the seashore, and eating the figs, as Clearchus tells us, in his treatise on those Animals which live in the Water." [Source.] Presumably Pacific octopuses would likewise be fond of banyan figs.) Octopuses are also greedy (a trait noted in Japanese culture -- see: Kure Kure Takora), so sharing the trees is not an option.

Kijimuna, hanging as they are in the way of the octopuses' sense of Arboreal Manifest Destiny, would surely attract octopodous belligerence. It's not unreasonable to assume that centuries, perhaps millennia, of stealthy attacks and attempted incursions into their trees would have instilled in the Kijimuna a healthy, and justified, paranoia about octopuses.