I cannot stop repeating that phrase, out loud or in my head. Vampire Squid From Hell! I just started watching some of the Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" series (in Discovery HD Theaterbrag) and I had many slackjawed moments where I found myself shouting out the kinds of things one typically shouts when watching Discovery stoned. Things like "holy shit no way" and "that totally looks like outer space and those are space monsters, dude" and "shh...did you hear that? I think someone's trying to break in to my apartment. Hold on let me pause this so we can sit here in 2 minutes of pure silience."
I taped several episodes and it was hard to know which one to watch first. There were obvious pros and cons to all. For instance:
- Deep Ocean - High probability of freakout vis a vis strange and wonderful creatures, with low probability of cute things with pretty, big eyes.
- Rare Desert Creatures - Almost guaranteed to see something furry pop out of a hole in the sand and then do something adorable before being eaten by a hawk or rattlesnake; limited color palette, and probably a lot of blinking lizards doing jackshit.
- Rare Mountain Creatures - I don't even know what mountain creatures are common—goats? cougars? mud rats?—so it's hard to care which ones are rare.
- Penguins & Polar Bears - What am I, a baby? Sure, they're cute but they're also a little trendy, to be frank, and I'm not sure I could take all that sweet without a little bit of savory. (i.e. a polar bear attacking a penguin, which I suspect was not on the filmmakers' agenda)
Decided to go with "Deep Ocean" because A) squids, B) sharks, C) squid fighting sharks? Also, seeing very deep ocean creatures is like a real-life version of the creature cantina from Star Wars, and it's the closest I'll ever come to seeing two prehistoric creatures making love.
After watching a bit I have to confess something: while I'm deeply saddened about the growing number of endangered species in the world (Orangutans, you're on notice!) I wouldn't mind putting a few sea creatures on the extinction list.* (I'm talking to you, 12-inch long prehistoric sea lice!) There's a LOT of ocean, and I just think there are certain (rarely seen) things in it we would not miss so much.
I actually wish there were a barter system, where we could get the fringe fingered lizard off the critically endangered list in exchange for the vomiting turdfish or something. Our deep oceans are loaded with some hideous and lonely sea creatures. Seeing them hanging out, barely moving to conserve energy, without another friendly creature in sight was depressing, but somewhat understandable. They're like the ocean's version of J-Date Long-Timers. Also, monk fish. Are you kidding me? I've eaten that? Seeing a monk fish messing around on the ocean floor, totally sedentary, and occasionally whipping its filament around to attract smaller fish gave me a very uneasy feeling—especially when considering how much I'd previously enjoyed having that in my belly. Imagine eating a whole chicken and, at the very end, discovering a used condom in its cavity. That's how I felt after seeing the monk fish uglying up the screen. Yes, I just totally stuck it to the monk fish.
There, however, is one creature to which I must tip my hat. Vampire squid from hell, you are a hail-fellow-well-met and I wish we could have spent a bit more time together. When I was watching Planet Earth I honestly thought the narrator appended the "FROM HELL!!!!" part for dramatic effect. An odd choice, I thought, but effective. Turns out this is actually a direct translation of the creature's true scientific genus and species: vampyroteuthis infernalis. Fantastic. Here is a picture of a vampire squid from hell enjoying a typical morning of acting creepy:
The best part about this squid, outside of its name, is its glow-in-the-dark tentacle tips and "eyes." (I put that in quotes, not for ironic effect, but because those aren't really it's eyes; they're eye decoys so predators will be tempted to attack a more harmless part of its body.) Since Vinnie Vamparino lives so deep undersea, where it's basically pitch black darkness, it would do no good to emit a cloud of black ink in order to fake out predators. So, instead, Fifi LaVamp illuminates the tips of its tentacles with phosphorescence and then waves them around wildly, creating what marine biologists call "The Razzle Dazzle Effect." It has the same effect a swinging glowstick has on kids who are all crazy on ecstasy—it makes predators confused and horny. What an excellent design.
*For the record, I love all (most) animals and would never really wish for the extinction of any of them. Especially this one.