Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Floating Operas and Flying Squids

Now there’s an imposing title for you.  Got your attention, didn't it?  Definitely got you over here to see what it was all about.  Sounds like a title for a book Stephen Jay Gould might have written.  Whenever a catchy title occurs to me, I can’t help but use it in some way.  This time in a blog post.  So yes, the title came first, and I had to come up with the actual body of the post after the fact.  I apologize if you find that off-putting.  But if you’ve been reading my blog up till now, you already know that none of my posts are exactly what one would  call profound.  According to my stats, I get quite a few visitors here, but very few leave comments.  I imagine a typical perusal goes something like this:  hmm, this looks interesting, let me take a closer look…hmmm….mmm…ugh…well, this is crap.
So, what’s this post all about?  Well, I recently picked up John Barth’s “The Floating Opera,” (so now we have the origin for the first part of the title)  I’ve only just started it, but am really enjoying it.  I had it in my hand yesterday, while leaving from work.  I always pay my respects to my boss, instead of just sneaking out quietly, like the rest of my workmates.  Why?  Because my boss has had a fascinating life, and tells incredible stories.  And I’ve always been a sucker for a great story.  This penchant of mine for his story-telling has gotten me into some hot water with my wife, as I have often stayed at work late, in rapt attention as he regaled me with a particularly fascinating tale.  I wish he would take my advice, and just write a book already, so I could read them at my leisure. 
As I walked into his office yesterday, he saw the book in my hands, and asked what I was reading.  Despite his erudition (you’d be hard-put to find a subject that he isn’t knowledgeable about,) he hardly ever recognizes anything I happen to be reading, since my taste runs along postmodern lit, and that is one of the few subjects he isn’t interested in.
When I showed him the book, he said, “Barth…Barth… is that the same Barth who wrote “The Sot-Weed Factor?”  I was a little surprised, but then remembered that he was a child of the 60’s, and it was published in 1960.
He went on to tell me that it was one of the funniest books he had ever read.  He and a bunch of his “hippie” friends would sit in a circle and pass the book around taking turns reading from it, and laugh their butts off (he didn’t say, but I’m sure it wasn’t the only thing being passed around.)  He said he could still quote passages from it, after all these years. 
The Floating Opera is damned funny, too.  Barth really does have a killer sense of humor, and I love his phrasing and timing, just perfect.  My wife just shook her head last night while I was reading from it, chuckling and guffawing to myself at regular intervals.
As for the second part of the title, it’s due to my being a member of Mensa.  You might be wondering what a flying squid has to do with a high-IQ “nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah I’m smarter than you are!” society—and just as an aside, I’ve only been to one actual meeting since I joined Mensa back in 1993.  One.  My wife wonders why I continue to pay my yearly dues, when I don’t bother participating.  I’ll tell you why.  Because I get this nifty little card I can put in my wallet that says I’m an official smart guy.  Whenever I’m feeling down, or my self-loathing hits a certain level, I can open my wallet, whip that laminated bad boy out, and make myself feel a little bit better:  “Well, at least I’m pretty smart, right?  I mean I wouldn’t have this card if I weren’t, right?  So, at least I got that going for me.”  
 Still, what the hell do aerial cephalopods (ooh, he really is smart!) have to do with Mensa for crying out loud?  Well, one of the other little perks about Mensa membership is an email I get each week called the MENSA Weekly Brainwave.  Mensa in all caps, because that’s the way they roll, I guess.  Weekly, because like I said, it comes once a week.  And Brainwave, I suppose because it sounds cool.  And in this email are articles culled from the internet, which they assume fellow smartie-mcfarties might find interesting.  Actually, they usually are.  One of the articles in today’s Brainwave was entitled, “Squid can fly to save energy” from nature.com.  Not a very catchy title, I must say.  "FLYING SQUIDS?  WTF?!"  would’ve been better.  Or how about, “Squids Suffering Identity Crises, Think They are Birds.”
I haven’t met many squids in my life.  I do enjoy squid sushi.  By the way, squid is called ika in Japanese.  Did I mention I can speak Japanese? (how long is he going to keep showing off how smart he is?)  I do rather like Squidward from SpongeBob Squarepants.  As a matter of fact, he’s my favorite character on the show.  Probably because he’s the smartest, and we smart guys like to hang together (okay, I've just about had it with this guy...what an asshole.)  Just like Dietrich was my favorite character on Barney Miller.  Ah, I loved that show.
I don’t know if real squid are actually intelligent or not, like Squidward.  If they are, I suppose I shouldn’t be eating them.  They probably aren’t, otherwise PETA would be up in arms (or tentacles.)  But apparently they are intelligent enough to be able to fly, so...
So that’s how I came up with the title.  I had The Floating Opera on my desk, and then I got the email from Mensa, and noticed the article about the squids.  Floating Opera.  Squid can fly.  Flying Squids.  Floating Operas and Flying Squids.  I wish the actual post was as much fun to read as the title.  But, we can’t have our ika and eat it too, can we?


  1. Barth fan here. Fabulous postmodern post that captures that whimsical convoluted spirit of the postmodern books you love so well! Your posts crack me up. I read your blog and am prone more often than not to leave comments, probably too many comments, but I blame you for that, you multi-lingual Mensa you!!

  2. EF, it wouldn't be possible for you to leave too many comments! And if you ever stop (please don't) I'll just have to come over to your blog and bug the hell out of you until you do. Or until you block me!

  3. Being in CAPS is considered a likely sign of being a little backwards around here.
    Perhaps it is a
    sort of mental mufti for
    the hI Q's? Haiku?