Friday links! Cunning of the octopus edition

An octopus wearing a top hat, which turns out to be a surprisingly popular image

An octopus wearing a top hat, which turns out to be a surprisingly popular image

The octopus is the smartest animal. In terms of cunning, it goes octopus, weasel, crow, political consultant, fungus. Did you know that an octopus can fit through any hole larger than its eye? Did you know that it becomes much funnier if you refer to it as an “ockapus,” or if it wears a monocle? The octopus is more than just a wonder of nature, though. It is also a symbol for strange conspiracies, for the silent drifting of the alien and invisible just beneath us or, if we are unlucky, in our grills. Multifarious and mute, the octopus is mystery itself, disparate tentacles connecting at a consciousness we cannot hope to understand. In conclusion, the octopus is a land of contrast. Also, I am sick.

The good news is that if we peer at any mystery long enough, we can sort of hope to understand it. Madison’s own Eric Reinert sent me this long, excellent article about the possible rise of a new left in the wake of Clintonian centrism. The piece is full of excitingly unfalsifiable theories, the best of which is that political generations are defined by events, not years. At what event has defined our political generation? Maybe it’s the period between 2000 and 2012, when inflation-adjusted wages dropped 8% for recent college graduates and—if you pull the beginning of the range back to 1989—the percentage of graduates with employer-provided health care dropped by half. If you like statistics about how my generation has enjoyed much less economic opportunity than the previous one, you will love that article.

Broad systems are out there, and we need only comprehend them. Consider the publishing industry, which seems to have realized that books sell better when they have the word “land” in the title. Either that or the publishing industry is in a state of advanced and desperate decadence where it will believe virtually anything. Or the Times is desperate for identifiable trends. Welcome to the end of print, when prose has to compete with octopus videos at the same moment “literary” has become a mannered and obfuscating style.

Ask yourself which is better: Interpreter of Maladies or this video examination of octopus camouflage? You cannot effing beat the ockapus, nor can you determine where it is, which is terrifying. Human beings don’t know bupkis, and our speculations make us appear even more foolish than our ignorance. To wit:


The Colbert Report
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Lest you think that this manufactured outrage is confined to purveyors of conservative hysteria, it’s also made the Washington Times. So yeah—pretty much confined to purveyors of conservative hysteria.

Speaking of which, here’s Missoula representative Champ Edmunds running for the US Senate in 2014. And here he is in 2012, accidentally posting an image of donkey-related pornography to Facebook. I have no idea how I didn’t hear about that until this week. We shouldn’t make too much of a big deal out of it, though. Just because he clicked on this Social Cam video whose thumbnail is an aroused donkey looking at a naked woman doesn’t mean he enjoyed it. And just because he was unaware that it would publish to his Facebook account doesn’t mean he is dumb. This probably means he’s dumb, though:


Champ Edmunds is no octopus. I can tell you that.

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  1. Ugh, that literary criticism article just showed me how readily I take baffling prose as a sign of the writer’s ability and my own lacktherof.

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