A man, a plan, a Fantasia, and an octopus

What Table Talkers are saying about Bush, "American Idol" and eight-legged freaks.

Salon Staff
June 2, 2004 3:38PM (UTC)


Even more mangled language

David Lettvin - 09:40 am Pacific Time - May 24, 2004 - #1824 of 1952

Having worked for several years with the delightfully intelligent creatures, I can say that most scientists will use octopusses in preference to octopodes. I knew a few British researchers who split the difference and used octopods.


The Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy, also includes a public aquarium. (One of the features was an electric ray in a petting tank. You couldn't get away with that in the U.S.) We had a large octopus in one of the display tanks who disappeared one night. The catwalks we used to feed the display animals were simply a set of boards laid over the tops of the tanks.

When we went searching, we found sucker marks drying on the boards and followed them. The octopus had gone past the dogfish tank (dogfish love to eat octopus), past the moray eel tank (morays also find octopus tasty), past the sea anemone tank (pretty but inedible) and dropped into the crab display where he reposed on a pile of empty crab shells radiating pleasure and satisfaction. Many people don't realize that an octopus can clearly show its emotion. It is relatively easy to tell when an octopus is happy, sick, scared, curious or even horny by the texture and color of its skin, which it can control almost instantaneously. After a few similar incidents, we moved this guy to a large tank in the common area of the research facility where he became a pet.

For those of you who may still doubt the intelligence of an octopus, let me continue. Our new pet loved being fed by hand. He also liked to grab my arm to get lifted out of the water and taken for a walk. They can survive cheerfully in the open air for longer than you might think.


His favorite game was to watch the door to see who came into his area. Octopods have extraordinarily good vision. If a stranger entered, he would quietly ease himself up and slightly over the edge of the tank (it was open at the top) and wait for his opportunity. Then he would use his siphon to jet a stream of cold seawater 15-20 feet to douse the unwary intruder. Then he'd dropped back into his tank and display the strong colors and hornlike skin protruberances that were his equivalent of giggling.


"American Idol"


Keith Chaffee - 10:19 pm Pacific Time - May 25, 2004 - #1695 of 1741

My recap for the night (as if any of you weren't watching): Diana opens with this year's Official American Idol Anthem, "I Believe." The OAIA returns after having been absent in Season 2, and while I'm not happy to see it back, this is a harmless enough song (it's certainly better than Season 1's OAIA, "A Moment Like This"). Diana sings it well, and it's full of the sort of big, loud, bombastic moments that she's so good at. My first reaction is that the song seems to be better suited to her voice and style than to Fantasia's, and I start to worry a bit.


Fantasia begins with "All My Life." I've never heard the song before, and it's not much of a song, or much of an arrangement either. But as the judges correctly note, Fantasia wraps the audience around her little finger anyway, even with crappy material. Diana, Round 2, and it's a reprise of "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)." It's a good solid performance, better sung than the first time she did it on disco night; she's actually singing the notes instead of barking them.

Fantasia, Round 2, also trots out one of her finest moments from earlier weeks and gives us another "Summertime." It's every bit as good as, if not better than, the earlier version. Diana closes with another repeat, "Don't Cry Out Loud." The opening is weak, and her pitch is wandering a bit, but we expect that from Diana on the lower-pitched, quieter passages. Surely once she gets to the big chorus, things will be fine. And they are, at first, but then somewhere around the key change something weird happens, and an entire phrase goes completely south; the pitch is wildly off, and Diana seems to have lost her place. She recovers reasonably well, and finishes nicely, though the big note at the end is noticably shorter and weaker than when she sang the song last week.

Fantasia closes with her version of "I Believe." The opening verse, which had been the weakest part of Diana's version (that low and quiet thing again), is spellbinding; I literally have goose bumps. And she goes into the chorus, and suddenly what had seemed like a standard-issue Celine Dion belter's inspirational anthem is turned into a fabulous joyful gospel hymn. None of the arrangement has changed a note; the backup singers and orchestra are doing exactly what they did before. The difference is Fantasia; it's the difference between a good singer and a great one. She is so thoroughly connected to the song, and communicating it so completely to the audience, that for a few brief moments, it seems like a better song than it is. Simon puts it best when he tells Fantasia, "That was your acceptance speech."


White House

BushSpeak -- seven speeches in six weeks: Discuss here

Karl Northman - 06:09 pm Pacific Time - May 24, 2004 - #282 of 388

Bush has a plan. Whoopee.

I have a plan, also. First, I'm going to get a job next month in local radio. By January, with the reviews I'll be getting, I will become a commentator on one of the local television stations. Within the next two years, I'll move from here to Chicago, and then to New York, where I will be making 3.5 million dollars a year. I will befriend the ambassador to the U.N. from Costa Rica, and his grateful government will deed me 60 square miles of mixed terrain with two miles of sandy beaches, on which I will build my retirement home. With my charitable contributions to the Costa Rican National Trust, they will gratefully confer citizenship on me, and by 2009 I will retire as a shaken nation begs me to stay on and explain things to them -- in the end, I will break down and offer to do monthly commentaries from the veranda of my new home. Yes, just like Bush, I've got a plan.


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