Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Liveblogging _The Soul of an Octopus_

Page 12, after a discussion of animals, feelings, etc.

"To many, we spoke heresy. Skeptics are right to point out that it's easy to misunderstand animals, even those most like ourselves. Years ago, when I was visiting Birute Galdikas's research camp in Borneo, where ex-captive orangutans were learning to live in the wild, a new American volunteer, smitten with the shaggy orange apes, rushed up to an adult female to give her a hug. The female picked up the volunteer and slammed her against the ground. The woman didn't realize that the orangutan didn't feel like being grabbed by a stranger."

I'm not sure this story belongs in the context of "animal feelings are hard to understand/some people don't think they exist". This is more like a, don't be an idiot story. You can honestly have the exact same experience with a human as with that orangutan, if you go up and enthusiastically hug the wrong stranger at the wrong time.

The next paragraph is actually worse. After telling some story about an animal communicator (self-identified) who uses telepathy to talk to animals including an elephant: "After her telepathic conversation with the elephant, the communicator told the keeper, "Oh, that elephant really likes me. He wants to put his head in my lap." What was most interesting about this interaction was the part the communicator may have gotten right: Elephants do sometimes put their heads in the laps of people. They do this to kill them. They crush people with their foreheads like you would grind out a cigarette butt with your shoe."

Actually, elephants used to be used to kill in battle and as executioners. But they usually used their feet to crush. I'm still looking for an example of an elephant crushing anything with its forehead. The statement in the book is unsourced. *sigh* Look, feel free to make fun of the person who claims to be telepathic. I don't really care. But elephants crushing people by putting their (elephant) heads in the human person's lap? Sourcing, please!


Elephants crushing human heads using elephant feet. Just like you would _expect_ an elephant to go about the business. This head in lap theory just doesn't make a lot of sense. The elephant would get a completely unnecessary crick in its spine.

Also, for your enjoyment. An elephant snuggling in someone's lap:


Repeated, unsourced, in an excerpt in the Boston Globe:


Insert snotty remark about people from New Hampshire.

ETA: The stuff about the possible effects of octopus ink on pages 158-60 is really interesting.

Weird editing error on page 161: "(Tarantulas do this too -- if a leg is injured, they will break if off and eat it.)" The error is that the second "if" should be "it".

ETAYA: p 194 gratuitous error

"Says a cameraman for the Seattle NBC affiliate, KOMO."


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2016 06:30 pm (UTC)
Example here, but I can't find any news story about such an incident, so maybe it's made up as well: https://books.google.com/books?id=ajWnHvBAmfAC&pg=PA211 There was an elephant named Tunga at the Portland zoo, but he doesn't seem to have ever been in a circus.

Wait, this seems relevant: http://www.elephant.se/database2.php?elephant_id=1483

And this: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19780506&id=SIQsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=o80EAAAAIBAJ&pg=4045,1226924&hl=en

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas seems to have conflated the two incidents. And neither seems to involve crushing with foreheads.
Aug. 15th, 2016 07:55 pm (UTC)
I'm now _very_ curious about Morgan Berry, because I think I grew up knowing a bunch of his children/grandchildren/other relatives! I was told that the father/grandfather had had a private zoo, and that was about it (same last name, in Seattle -- what are the odds?).

I recently saw a photo of my Polish aunt who during her first marriage was part of a circus and rode around on elephants. Things I never knew until the participants were long dead.

ETA: ALSO, based on reading those accounts, those poor elephants were slandered! It looks like the people died by accident/heart attack and then accidental trampling and the elephants felt so protective and awful about it afterwards. And this damn author turns it into "elephants crush people with their foreheads by putting their heads in people's laps". What a bunch of bullshit.

The book isn't very good. There's a strong sense of I'm So Special that pervades all the stories, and if that wasn't enough there's this:

"Is Octavia [the octopus] in an "egg zone," in which little else registers, like some mothers? So many of my friends, once outgoing and social, are transformed once their babies are born. Women's who couldn't sit through a two-hour concert are held transfixed by their infants, even though the babies do little more than suck, sleep and cry."

Because believe me that concert was _so_ much more worthwhile and fascinating than one's own baby. I mean, and anyone would clearly find Sy Montgomery far more fascinating than something that does little more than suck, sleep and cry.

I went through it too: most of my friends had children long before I did, and I found ways to continue to participate in their lives. I always figured it the height of narcissism to expect a new parent to pay attention to anyone but their own children (and that extends to people who have recently acquired a new pet), so if you want to stay in their lives, you'd better figure out how to participate in or at least support that dyad. You'd think that would have occurred to the author but apparently not.

Edited at 2016-08-15 08:03 pm (UTC)
Aug. 15th, 2016 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks!
If "a new person just CAME OUT OF MY BODY" isn't an excuse to be a little preoccupied, what the hell is? And you would think anyone who has presumably sat around watching animals as much as she has would understand the appeal of watching babies make faces and wiggle about.

Yeah, I got the impression that if either of those poor elephants did put their heads down to the humans, it was to try to figure out what had happened. So sad.
Aug. 15th, 2016 08:33 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks!
That was my impression, too, from the articles: the elephants were mourning. Very sad indeed! To have lost a close human friend.

Montgomery starts scuba diving in the second half of the book, and I am just _astounded_ at her poor judgment. She had all kinds of problems with her ears.

"But nothing works, and I suppose it's no wonder: I did three dives yesterday including the deepest of my life, 84 feet, and then this morning I forgot to snort my usual decongestant spray."

Wait, she's scuba diving while taking a _daily_ decongestant? I know, you're thinking, wow. That's bad. And then she _forgot_ the daily dose, which means that she's got rebound congestion. But wait! There's more!

"The crew helps me clamber back onto the boat and I sit miserably on a bench, my head and its uncooperative ears in my hands. I swallow a Sudafed, hoping it will clear my ears in the hour and a half between now and the next dive."

Yes, yes, she was diving with people who would let her take a Sudafed and then go into the water.

Aug. 15th, 2016 08:57 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks!
Unfortunately I don't think using decongestants while diving is at all uncommon, even among professionals.
Aug. 15th, 2016 10:57 pm (UTC)
I do know that lots of people dive while on meds. But the idea that someone would dive while taking decongestant spray for long enough to guarantee rebound congestion when skipped, then skip the day of a dive, then attempt to dive after taking another, different decongestant sort of appalled me.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )