Mad Teddy's website - Awkward "Fishy" Poem

Mad Teddy's web-pages


Awkward "Fishy" Poem

( a.k.a. "Squid Pro Quo" )

Copyright 2012 by Mad Teddy

This page added Tuesday, 24th July 2012
(my first new web-page for the year - shame on me!)


A few days ago, I was going through some boxes of old stuff I hadn't looked at for quite a while - and I found a small piece of yellow paper with a few lines scrawled upon it by my own hand. I immediately realized that I had stumbled upon a masterpiece which was far too good to be consigned to oblivion.

Those few lines (five of them, actually) were a poem in limerick form. Inspired, I made a few very minor modifications (to tighten up the metre, basically, and thus make it scan properly), and added two more verses. The result is as you see below:


The distinction 'tween fish which are cuttle
And the squid, may appear to be subtle;
But a malacol'gist
Will quite likely insist
That it's not, and thus give a rebuttal.

Now, the main point of diff'rence, you see
(Less well-known to folks like you and me),
Is that cuttles - not squid -
Have a cuttlebone, kid,
Which they use to adjust buoyancy.

The fact of the matter withal
(Which, with effort, you may well recall),
Is that like nautili,
And also octo3.1415926535897932...,
They're both molluscs - they're not fish at all!


I've no idea what inspired me to write that first verse, or when I wrote it. Perhaps there had been a story on television about the final space shuttle flight, and I was thinking: "I wonder what rhymes with..." - but I'm not sure. So it will have to remain a mystery. Of such is life made up, thus lending it its everlasting intrigue.

(Actually, if the truth be told, one of the corrections I made to the first verse was to change "ichthyol'gist" to "malacol'gist". This was only after I started to wonder whether the study of ichthyology covered molluscs - and found, via a bit of careful Googling, that it doesn't! That particular field of interest is known as "malacology". So I've learned something - and perhaps you have too, if you didn't know that before either! Aren't we all getting educated?   )

Anyway, having resurrected that first verse, I decided to have a bit of a hunt around on the web to see what I could find out about squids, cuttlefish, and related beasties. That's how verses 2 and 3 came into being.

One of the first web-pages I found had a quite neat animated gif featuring a somewhat hyperactive-looking squid:


That page is here, if you'd like to have a look. Also, if you'd like to see a page containing some good general information about squids, of course there's this Wikipedia page. (Note: that page contains some quite surprising information! )

I also found some quite interesting YouTube videos, one of which - about flamboyant cuttlefish - appealed to me to the point where I decided to try my hand at embedding it in this page (my first such attempt, in any of my pages):

(There you go - now I know how to do it!    Clever old me!)

Cute little things, aren't they? Apparently the amazing rippling-stripes routine is intended to warn potential predators that these creatures are poisonous, and best left alone. This Wikipedia page provides a good description of how it "works".

On a similar theme, have a look at this page. Spooky...

While other related creatures may not have this facility, some of them can change colour to blend in with their surroundings, thus effectively becoming invisible, in an attempt to avoid becoming someone else's next meal.

This Royal Society web-page goes into considerable detail about the "mechanics" of how these colour-changing systems work. Also, can I ask you to keep an open mind while you read this article, which puts a very interesting slant on the phenomenon?

As a means of summing this matter up, this YouTube video, which features the work of a researcher in the field, presents some graphic detail as to how the effect is achieved, along with some quite eye-popping examples. Well worth a look.

Here's a page which features, amomg other things, a simple but effective cut-away diagram of the anatomy of a cuttlefish, which goes a long way to explaining how these quite confusing-looking creatures function - not only with regard to the colour-changing phenomenon, but in other ways also (as well as emphasizing the point that they are not fish). Finally, also on the specific topic of cuttlefish, here's a short but interesting page which gives some detail about the cuttlebone, as well as mentioning (among other things) the surprising fact that the blood of these creatures is bluish-green, rather than red, because it contains a copper-containing protein instead of the iron-containing haemoglobin, which we mammals use.

Many copper compounds are blue or bluish-green. 20 years ago, I grew some high-quality copper sulphate crystals - still in good condition (bright blue) because I've kept them in an airtight container in a cool place, so that they've retained their water of crystallization. (This page introduces the topic of crystal-growing quite well.)

Of the four creatures mentioned in my nerdy little poem (above), the nautilus is the only one that doesn't have any colour-changing ability. However, they definitely do have other points of interest. Have a look at this Wikipedia page.

Quite fearsome-looking little brutes, aren't they?! (If you'd like to see a BBC video clip of one in action, click here. You might also like to have a look at this YouTube video, which features quite a surprise about 40 seconds into it!)

However, as a person interested in mathematics, I find that the most interesting thing about the nautilus is its shell. As these creatures grow, they build increasingly large compartments in which to live; the end result is an attractive shell in the form of a good approximation to a logarithmic (or equiangular) spiral. See the Wikipedia article about it here. (Note, in that page, a graphic showing part of the mathematical object known as the Mandelbrot Set. I have several pages about the "M-set" within this site; click here to see one of my pages which features a somewhat similar graphic to the one on that Wikipedia page just mentioned.)

I haven't yet had much to say about the octopus, the last of the four creatures mentioned in my poem. Read on.

Like the cuttlefish and the squid, the octopus has the ability to change colour in order to camouflage itself. (From what I've read, it's only the flamboyant cuttlefish that can (or wants to, perhaps?) do the rippling-stripes effect; the squid and the octopus are less ostentatious, it seems, preferring to settle for a simple "disappearing act" - along with most "ordinary" cuttlefish.) Here's a short but spectacular YouTube video about how an octopus can blend into its surroundings; and here's a link to the Wikipedia page about these slippery-looking creatures.

- - - - - - - - - -

Now, I know you're just busting for me to have something to say about the 3.1415926535897932... bit in the penultimate line of the third and final verse of my poem. (Aren't you...?) So here we go:

Of course, it's an approximation (to seventeen significant figures) to that well known transcendental number known as "pi", which is the ratio of the length of the circumference (C) of a circle to its diameter (d):

(In case you're really not familiar with this, or haven't thought about it for a long time so that you've forgotten the details, here's a link to the excellent Wikipedia page about it - and lots of other intriguing facts about pi also.) So - what's it doing in my poem?

Well, if you've just visited the Wikipedia "octopus" page (I presented the link two paragraphs back), and read down toward the end, you'll know that the plural of the word "octopus" is a vexed issue. (Rather than go into the quite complex details here, may I instead implore you to visit that page and read all about it, if you haven't already.) So: ever the nerd, I thought it would be amusing to draw attention to the fact that the word "octopi" is at least one aspect of the perceived problem by substituting the first several digits of the decimal expansion of pi into the word. As justification for doing so (i.e. deliberately using a technically-incorrect plural for "octopus", as well as inserting some numerical representation into the proceedings) - if any such justification is actually needed - I suppose you could say that I'm indulging in a bit of poetic license.

So now you know! (if you hadn't figured it out already).

(Incidentally, if you didn't click on that representation of pi within the poem on your way here, may I urge you to do so now. If you're anything at all like me, it will bring a smile to your face. If you'd like to read the lyrics of the song while you listen to it - and perhaps sing along with them yourself - you'll find them here.

Also, please note that at the end of this page, you'll find two graphics in which I've presented a couple of the many known formulas which involve pi in some way; I find these two particularly fascinating. Clicking on them will take you to further very interesting web-pages on the subject. I just thought I'd better give you prior warning - otherwise, when you get there, you may well find yourself thinking: "Here we go again - what's nerdy old Teddy up to this time?"

Go ahead - allow yourself to be caught up in the mystique of it all!)

To close off this page in a suitably offbeat manner, let's recapitulate a bit. By way of setting the mood, I've decided to again present a graphic from near the top of this page:


How would you describe our somewhat nervous-looking red friend? What's the best adjective we might find in an attempt give an reasonably accurate description of this character's je ne sais quoi?

Does the word "squidgy" come to mind, perhaps...?  

(To be even further disorientated, click here and here...)

- - - - - - - - - -

I must have been about nine or ten years old when our family went to the cinema one evening to see some major film or other. In those days (the early 1960's), generally there would be a series of short pieces on first - perhaps including a cartoon, a newsreel, and an episode of Batman (these used to terrify me!); then there'd be a short interval before the lights went down again for the main feature, which would conclude the evening's entertainment.

Well, I've no idea what the main feature was that night, or whether or not I was freaked out by a particularly scary Batman episode on that occasion - but there was one short film which stuck in my mind, just because it was quirky, odd, and amusing (even, perhaps, just a bit disturbing). In fact, it's stayed with me over this last half a century or so.

It was a sort of cartoon, with the pictures drawn somewhat roughly on a white background. The whole thing was narrated by English comic actor Kenneth Williams (who had a very recognizable, highly characteristic "funny voice"; he was was regularly featured in several comedy radio shows of the time, such as "Hancock's Half-Hour", in addition to his appearances in many movies of that era).

This film told the story of two quite different characters: one, a disorganized fellow who couldn't do anything right, but whom everybody loved; and the other, a very tidy and correct chap whom nobody liked. The name of the first was Squidgy Bod (a-ha!), and the name of the second was Thermus Fortitude.

(I won't give away any more details of the plot here, because I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that there was a moral at the end...)

- - - - - - - - - -

After our household first got onto the internet about fourteen years ago, I occasionally hunted for any information about this strange, oddly compelling little film. Occasionally, something might pop up - but rarely enough to help me to track down much in the way of detail. All very frustrating...

... Until (I think) about a year or so ago, when I found - to my huge delight - that the film itself had appeared on YouTube! (How good is that?) Thus, after all these intervening decades, I was again able to view this remarkable little objet d'art.

So: without further ado, here's the direct YouTube link to "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me" by Richard Williams, and narrated by Kenneth Williams. Or, if you'd like to see a discussion page about the film with that YouTube link embedded within it, click here. (The link to the film itself is about halfway down the page.) Either way - enjoy!

UPDATE, Wednesday, 25th July 2012

The more I think about it, the more I think that the droll, somewhat dark humour of "Love Me (3)" is very similar to that of the Cream song Pressed Rat and Warthog, which appeared on the album Wheels of Fire... In The Studio just a few years later (1968). [Click here for a YouTube link, and here for another YouTube link which features (I believe) the only live version of the song ever performed by the group - correct me if I'm wrong.] Good for a chuckle - and sort of in keeping with the "wildlife" ethos of the poems in this part of my website!

UPDATE, Friday, 19th April 2013

Just last night, while idly browsing through a few YouTube videos, I found another one by Richard Williams - in some ways reminiscent of "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me", with a somewhat similar ever-so-slightly cynical take on life. Entiltled "A Lecture On Man", it was released in 1962 - around the same time as "Love Me...". Its style is somewhat similar to that of some early Monty Python material which it perhaps foreshadowed. (It even borrows a bit of the music from "Love Me..."!) Even though the sound quality is not great (perhaps due to the film's age), this is well worth a look, while we're in vaguely satirical mode. Here's the link - enjoy!

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As promised above, these two "pi-graphics" are links to
other pages about this fascinating number. Be intrigued...

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