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Lyle Zapato

Review: The Lost Cavern

Lyle Zapato | 2011-06-06.0875 LMT | Entertainment
cover

The Lost Cavern and Other Stories of the Fantastic (Vanguard Press, 1948) by H.F. Heard (a.k.a. Gerald Heard) is a collection of four short stories: "The Lost Cavern", "The Cup", "The Thaw Plan", and "The Chapel of Ease". (Synopses with spoilers follow...)

My initial interest was in "The Thaw Plan" because it briefly mentions a tree octopus, but the story's setting and nascent-Cold-War perspective are interesting in their own right: induced global warming is used by both super powers as a strategic weapon, resulting in a future Earth where humanity has split into two separate species living at either pole, separated from any interaction by an impenetrable, primeval, equatorial jungle -- home to tree octopuses, naturally.

The first part of the story sets the world-building in motion. The year is 1975, 30 years into W.W.2.A. (World War Second Armistice). The world is divided into two super powers, the US and the USSR. The seat of power in the Soviet Union has moved East, to the city of Karakorum. The Chinese have taken control, turning Moscow into a Holy City and elevating the Russian people to the highest (and most powerless) level of "Ritual Rank".

Many in the West see this as a good thing since "a Chinaman never likes war". But the new leader of the USSR, Supreme Commissar Yang, has a devious plot to diminish -- figuratively and literally -- the West (including the Russians): they will use atomic power to melt the tundra, causing sea levels to rise 100 feet, flooding most of the world but leaving the tablelands of Tibet and China uninundated, from which the USSR will rule as the lone superpower.

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Lyle Zapato

Oscar III, Mountain-Climbing Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-28.8810 LMT | Cascadia | Field Trips

Cascadia's beloved musician, businessman, and punny raconteur, Ivar Haglund, was well-known, both locally and internationally, for his publicity stunts promoting his aquarium and seafood restaurant. Here's a stunt I had not heard of before:

In 1947, Ivar organized an expedition to scale the newly discovered Mount Miller -- starting from the top! Mount Miller, you see, is underwater, part of the Gulf of Alaska Seamount Province. His expedition team consisted of one brave octopus, Oscar III, who was to be dropped from a boat over the seamount, attached to a two-mile line. Oscar's mission: bring back deep-sea edelweiss to prove he had scaled to the base.

From an April 4th United Press story (reprinted in The Portsmouth Times, p. 6):

OSCAR OCTOPUS TO TRY 'MOUNT'

Underwater 'Mountain' Subject Of Novel Trip

SEATTLE, April 4—A mountain-climbing octopus, Oscar III, and his trainer, Ivar Haglund, were en route today to "climb" the mountain-infested waters of the Alaskan gulf.

The 11,350-foot underwater "Mt." Miller was their destination.

Discovery of giant submarine peaks 900 miles northwest of Seattle by the U. S. coast and geodetic survey, is responsible for Mr. Haglund's latest stunt.

"Man still has not invented a diving suit to withstand the terrific pressures involved," said Mr. Haglund. So the actual climbing will be done by a "scientifically trained octopus".

According to the balding aquarium-owner, Oscar's greatest hazard in scaling Mt. Miller is that he must start from the top and "climb" down.

The incentive for Oscar—and proof that he reaches the base of Mt. Miller—will be his favorite dish, sea-edelweiss, which grows at great depths.

When the expedition glides over the peak of Mt. Miller Oscar will be dropped overboard leashed to a two-mile wire.

If he comes back with a sprig of sea-edelweiss clutched in any one of his arms—it's likely even Mr. Haglund will eat it.

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Lyle Zapato

Why There Are No Tree Octopuses On Okinawa

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-15.6920 LMT | Sasquatch Issues | Art | 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.

Lyle Zapato

How To Hypnotize An Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-06.8839 LMT | Mind Control | Defensive Techniques | Nature

A while back I posted a book excerpt explaining how to defend oneself against a charging land octopus. It advised throttling them at the neck. But it turns out there's a more effective, and less violent, method to deal with belligerent octopuses: hypnotism.

Hypnotized octopus in hand.
Fig. 1: The proper Danilewskian method for
hypnotizing small to medium sized octopuses.

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Lyle Zapato

Kure Kure Takora (Gimme Gimme Octopus)

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-03.7630 LMT | Entertainment

Besides 17th century poetry, here's further evidence of the general awareness of tree octopuses in Japanese culture:

Kure Kure Takora (クレクレタコラ or "Gimme Gimme Octopus" in English) is a Japanese kids' show that ran from 1973-4, centering around the bizarre, greedy exploits of Kure Kure Takora, a tree octopus who wants all that he sees (hence the "gimme gimme").

(UPDATE: The videos were removed from YouTube -- see below. I removed the broken embed codes but I'm keeping the descriptions in place...)

As you can see in the episode below, he likes to sleep on the limb of his tree, where he has a telescope that he uses to survey the forest for things to steal. Only in this episode, everyone is giving him everything he wants! Is it all a dream...?

[...]

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Lyle Zapato

A Tree Octopus Renku

Lyle Zapato | 2011-04-21.0388 LMT | Art
松に藤蛸木にのぼるけしきあり

This is a renku (precursor to the haiku) by 17th century samurai poet Nishiyama Sōin, noted for his free-wheeling zaniness. My translation:

wisteria on pine --
a tree octopus climbs
there's a spectacle!

The second line would probably be more literally translated as "an octopus climbing a tree", but that wouldn't fit the renku form in English, so I chose the more economical "tree octopus". I haven't yet found any reports of actual tree octopuses in Japan, but Sōin's imagery -- intended as it was to appeal to common folk -- hints at a general awareness in contemporary Japan of some octopuses' love of trees.

Lyle Zapato

A Stroll On The Beach With One's Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-04-08.8465 LMT
Lyle Zapato

"In The Lair Of The Space Monsters"

Lyle Zapato | 2011-03-28.7910 LMT | Sasquatch Issues | Hollow Earth | Retro | Entertainment

What do you get if you cross a Sasquatch with a Tree Octopus? Perhaps something like this:

'Octopus-man' holding human aloft by the top of his head using a tentacle
"Agonizingly he was jerked in the air."
(Click for larger.)

This illustration is from the short story "In The Lair Of The Space Monsters" by Frank Belknap Long, published in the pulp magazine Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror #6 (Dec. 1932). (The first three pages of the story, including the illustration, are missing from the linked Google Books preview.)

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Lyle Zapato

The TRUTH About The Tree Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-02-10.8908 LMT | General Paranoia | Sasquatch Issues | Technology

The Mainstream Media wants you to ignore the Internet and listen only to their lies. That's why they want you to believe absurdities like that tree octopuses don't exist or that Belgium does. And who is behind all this? Bill Gates and the moneyed pharmocrats. Judy101101 -- who apparently has melded with the Internet to become one continuous YouTube monologue -- explains:

Meanwhile, METAtropolis: CASCADIA continues to prove itself a prophetic work as Erin of Snarke pleads with the august body of Science to invent a tree octopus that she can have as a pet:

Rest assured, Erin, that ZPi's Sasquatch biotechnicians are hard at work reverse engineering the tree octopus genome so we can not only provide Sasquatch and the international hominoid market with ample, uninterrupted, ethically-neutral supplies of vat-grown tree-octopus meat, but also the Human market with the cutest, most telomere-stable tree-octopus clones science can abomineer. (Unfortunately we've had a few setbacks since Sasquatch hair keeps getting in the Petri dishes, contaminating the results, and our focus-grouping showed no market interest for howling, hairy tree-megapuses.)

Lyle Zapato

Review: METAtropolis: CASCADIA

Lyle Zapato | 2011-02-09.5489 LMT | Cascadia | Entertainment | Anarchy

METAtropolis: CASCADIA (2010) is an audiobook collection of six related stories set in Cascadia in the 2070s. The stories are: "The Bull Dancers" by Jay Lake, "Water to Wine" by Mary Robinette Kowal, "Byways" by Tobias S. Buckell, "The Confessor" by Elizabeth Bear, "Deodand" by Karl Schroeder, and "A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves" by Ken Scholes. Each is read by a different Star Trek actor. Run time is almost 13 ABT hours.

It's a sequel to the original METAtropolis (2008) which worldbuilt around the post-industrial, post-national collapse of the early 21st century. That collection included the story "In the Forests of the Night" by Jay Lake that introduced the setting of Cascadiopolis, an experimental green city hidden in the forests of Mt. Hood, Oregon (it's available for free).

CASCADIA picks up that story 40 years later in the opening "The Bull Dancers" (read by René Auberjonois), which explores the conspiracy behind the city's destruction by orbital missiles; the true identity of the mysterious Tyger Tyger and his connection to an ancient Minoan secret society; and how Cascadiopolis' daughter cities have, despite or perhaps because of the missile attack, gone on to thrive -- rewilding the land and building a new eco-anarchist way of life. This serves as an intro to greater Cascadia, as the following stories portray a changed and changing region in slow recovery.

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