April 7, 2009

"But why?" — Werner Herzog.



(Via Bloggingheads.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo said:
That clip makes me think how my own life would seem so much more meaningful and important were I to have a narrator and some choral music in the background.

"Shortly before 6 a.m., we saw Pogo heading straight for the downtown buildings some 7 miles away.

"Dr. Aingly explained that even if he caught Pogo and returned him to his family, he would immediately head right back for the buildings.

"But Why?"

Encounters At the End of Minnesota
A Werner Herzog Film
MayBee said:
The penguin goes every summer to live alone among the grizzly bears.

80 comments:

John Burgess said...

1. Heading to the sea means a lifetime of Werner Herzog films

2. It's time to evolve!

3. Can't a guy be alone sometimes?

4. I believe I can fly--if I get up high enough

5. "I heard Penguina Jolie was signing autographs"

AlgonquinS said...

Maybe the penguin is acting deranged because he blew a seal.

Meade said...

6. Because that isn't a real penguin... it's Danny DeVito, acting.

dbp said...

I wonder if other deranged pengins wander far out to sea rather than returning to land after feeding.

Maybe having a small propensity to wander helps them find new locations for colonies. Or novel places to perish.

Methadras said...

Madonna and Angelina Jolie have filed papers with the Antartic Wildlife Preservation Society to adopt this wandering and confused penguin.

Paul said...

How sad.

PatCA said...

Poor baby!
:(

Stop making fun of him, you guys!

cardeblu said...

Have they ever followed these wayward penguins to see where they go/what they do (besides die)?

Or, maybe that's why they do it (die, that is), as some kind of innate drive to thin out the population so that others can live.

michaele said...

So, I'm watching and feeling a little abashed at how touched I am esp. when the penguin is shown passing by the human and you see how small it really is. And, then I click on the comments and whoa, the sentimental group were not first in line. You guys are definitely funny but weren't you touched at all by the image of this tiny creature going so determinedly into such unforgiving vastness?

john said...

Did they bring the monks to Anarctica too? Nothing will totally satisfy a narcissist unless there is background chanting.

traditionalguy said...

Angelic choirs sing a requiem while a an anthropomorphic version of a Human commits suicide. Obviously Verner needs to contact some reality in life that will explain to him WHY. It must be a penguins inner need to go each to their own way, or like the character in Catch 22 this penguin alone knows how the joke ends. Sounds a little like Ibsen wrote this piece. Lessons: (1)Behind every glacier is a lonely death, and(2)Two are better than one, and a three fold cord is not easily broken.

john said...

Michaele - Anyone with any science background could see that those penguins were deranged and dying because they had been infected with the human pathogen anthropomorphism.

john said...

Did they follow him? Maybe he just had to take a pee.

Ron said...

That penguin invested with Madoff... the rest knew they would get a federal bailout.

William said...

The fact that so much of behaviour is unexplainable gives life its zest and mystery....Are human beings the only creatures in all of creation that know they are going to die? Do penguins or really smart poodles have an inkling that it all ends badly?..."Behind every glacier is a lonely death" is a fine line. The penguin is acting out a metaphor for the futility and poetry of our (human) aspirations.

steve said...

A penguin is a bird, right? I have always wondered why, with billions of birds in the world, I don't see a lot of dead birds lying around my yard. I mean, like all living things, they have to die eventually. You would think while cutting grass I would come across at least one all the time. Where do birds go to die? When they fly south, do they die then? Do they get eaten by predators? Like that old song says, "where have all the dead birds gone, long time passing"

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john said...

steve -

Cat stomachs.

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

Sorry. I realized I was spoiling that.

SteveR said...

"Heading towards a certain death"

Yeah that's the problem with life.

Tibore said...

"john said...
Michaele - Anyone with any science background could see that those penguins were deranged and dying because they had been infected with the human pathogen anthropomorphism."


ROFLMAO!

Trooper York said...

Shouldn't Whitey Herzog be at the ballpark? I thought he was a scout or something?

Lem said...

Trooper, everybody knows a white rat can’t train a retired penguin.

ElcubanitoKC said...

That penguin was obviously born and raised in California. He/she felt entitled to his/her own reality show. And what better way to ensure that he/she would get one that acting like Lyndsay Lohan et al in front of a camera.

Jeremy said...

You'd wonder, after 80 kilometers, how it could even sustain itself much less continue walking.

ElcubanitoKC said...

Add the "?" at the end.

Trooper York said...

Hey I just saw a commercial with Donald Trump and the Joker. He was always a lot scarier than the Penguin.

Oh wait that's not the Joker. That's Joan Rivers.

Nevermind.

rhhardin said...

I occasionally interfere and take in a baby bird.

The case for anthropomorphism is made here.

What psych 101 tells you is the fatal interior of the continent, if you work with animals.

Lem said...

I think cuba is onto something.

This penguin was promised a movie contract to make Happy feet 2.

But when the economy went south Hollywood reneged and they try to strand the penguin in the middle of nowhere.

But as we all know nothing remains a secret forever.

The lawyers have the real tapes ;)

Chip Ahoy said...

This video made me sad.

Down there at magnetic South the fluctuating field caused a misfiring inside a tiny brain that initiated a behavior that is acted upon with all the power of instinctual certainty. The penguin is off to achieve its penguinness, it genuineness and it'll know what that is when its in it, or die trying.

Don't tell Gore or his followers. They act on a similar instinctual certainty.

Why do whales beach? Does the whole pod get stranded? This is the indifferent hand of evolutionary culling at work right before your very eyes.

Birds do die in large numbers and we do see them. I recall finding my first dead bird at four years of age. Memorable precisely because it was such a spectacular find. But that happened within the first hours of roaming around outside on my own. "PUT THAT THING DOWN!" My mother screamed when I brought it back, so the event was doubly memorable. They drop from exhaustion over water masses. They're taken by predators, often other birds. Last year I saw a crow killed by its own parent, harassed out of the nest and pecked all the way down the layers of pine branches finally pecked to death on the ground. This confounded me tremendously and troubled my amazed and aching heart. Children find them because children go inside bushes and other places adults avoid or cannot fit. But adults do see them as smudges on highways and smears on city roads but have learned to quickly turn away and overwrite the site with the relative importance of the next road sign. Birds don't seem to bother perishing conveniently by public sidewalks although that does happen. Their fragile hollow bones decompose rapidly. They bash into windows. They fry on electric power lines. Storms take them. Insects carry them off or converge and devour them on the spot. They become embedded in the grilles of automobiles. They're overtaken by volcanic ash, suffocated by pollution, destroyed by accumulated chemicals, covered with oil, poisoned outright. They die in cages. They're taken in large numbers by avian influenza H5N1. They flock into jet turbines. They land on tar. They're hunted. And finally, as the video shows, they do things on their own perplexing utterly counter instinctual. Beyond all of that birds have completely failed to provide for themselves bird health clinics, bird hospitals, bird emergency services, bird nursing homes, bird hospices, bird crematoriums, or bird funeral homes or bird cemeteries. Apparently, when it comes to life-planning, birds generally just wing it.

rhhardin said...

As a bike commuter, I see birds on the roadside all the time.

The interesting thing is that they're never there the next day.

They get eaten, obviously.

If you watch a dog when there's some animal hiding in the bushes, the dog goes right to them, just from the air the animal exhales, I imagine. Scent is astoundingly sharp, and certainly suffices to find available birds among regular predators.

So anyway they're always gone.

Trooper York said...

rh you freak me out man.

T Mack said...

Maybe the penguin just received e:mail the he/she found insightful, funny, thoughtful, sensitivive, and inviting.
He/she finally gave and went out to search for her/his soulmate.

Impossible to develop a loving, lustful relationship through just e:mail?
It has been done by bird brains before and still is.

Jeremy said...

Do penguins Twitter?

Eli Blake said...

Wow. They even have blooper reels in "March of the Penguins."

Lem said...

Didn’t somebody request a minute of silence for all the dead birds that died everyday before the towers fell?

There was some controversy about the WTC towers and the birds.

joewxman said...

Of course the penguin could be heading for a television set near you! It follows episode 2 of the death of Mary Queen of Scots.

David said...

"Heading to the sea means a lifetime of Werner Herzog films."

This whole post could have stopped right there and been in the top 10 ever.

mcg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mcg said...

If I were the guy standing there I'd probably say to myself "screw this artificial prime directive bullshit" and turn the little guy around. I know the video says it would probably turn around yet again as soon as he had the chance, but who knows maybe I could scare some sense into the guy.

I know I'm being a bit flippant but I think the idea of not even *trying* is what I'm struggling with.

Methadras said...

My joking aside. I watched this video again and I'm with mcg on this. I would have intervened. I know this is life and this is nature and you can't save every innocent creature, but if I could intervene on behalf of that little penguin, I would have.

molly said...

Godspeed, little penguin.

joewxman said...

For many years we had very few robins n my area. I;m not sure why but then a few years ago my wife found a baby robin who fell out of the nest. It was maybe a week old at best. We placed it a small box and fed it soaked dog food with a tweezer. Well the bird grew to adulthood; learned to fly and would fly to my wife every morning for 3 weeks to get fed by her. It would land on her head sometimes and i would feed it with a tweezer. It eventually flew away but ever since then robins have pretty much taken over my property. Word got around that it was a good safe place to hang around and raise a family i guess. Im glad we interviened here.

Joe said...

Does penguin taste okay? If so, letting him go was a waste of some good penguin stakes. If not, screw the little bugger.

SMGalbraith said...

I know this is life and this is nature and you can't save every innocent creature, but if I could intervene on behalf of that little penguin, I would have.

Yes, me too.

What, humans aren't part of nature?

Don't we try to save endangered species? Or a dog/cat that is stray?

Of course. You turn the penguin around and push it, if you have to, in the right direction.

PatCA said...

"I know I'm being a bit flippant but I think the idea of not even *trying* is what I'm struggling with."

That's part of the big debate on animals, isn't it? If my cat, for instance, lived a "natural" life, he would have been eaten by a predator years ago. Did you ever see a cat try to hide? Hopeless. Coyote fodder.

JAL said...

I suppose the penquin scientists would object to Althouse commenters intervening -- you know -- not letting that awful human footprint get in the way of Nature, for good (who can say?) or evil (what we're always up to, according to some...)

A similar situation occurred in the March of the Penquins, although not so obviously whacky. (I say there was a brain wiring malfunction in the instinct compass for the water / food locations.)

In MotP a whole bunch of them marched into a bank of ice that had gotten in the way to their march to the sea. IIRC it was the humans' fault because of global warming, or something like that.

Rather than lift them over, or make a way, the humans inhumanely left them there to die.

Survival of the fittest and all that.

Chip Ahoy said...

The tragedy of this misguided demented penguin and apparent human indifference to avian disorder has caused me to rechannel my sorrow into contriving a batch of handmade fast and easy puff pastry cheese and bacon biscuits with chipotle in adobo.

john said...

Chip - made with a puffin?

Chip Ahoy said...

Ha ha ha. You're hilarious. No puffins were harmed in the making of that pastry, althought a cow gave up a good deal of butter.

Chip Ahoy said...

I just heard something ridiculous, non-bird related but still flight-related. Dobbs said "More on that Cessna 172 pursued by us jets." Ha ha ha. Pursued. Not possible. A jet would drop out of the sky if they went that slow. They can, however, track it, but at much greater speed.

Jason (the commenter) said...

SMGalbraith : You turn the penguin around and push it, if you have to, in the right direction.

But the penguin has a gene that will not only kill it, but all the children it might have. If you save this penguin and all the other penguins with the problem, eventually you'll have to save ALL the penguins and no penguin will be able to survive by itself.

It's like Obama and the economy, only in penguin form

joewxman said...

"I know I'm being a bit flippant but I think the idea of not even *trying* is what I'm struggling with."

i don't think your being flippant at all. By not trying to save the penguin its a re-enforcement of not interfering with nature. How much more of a stretch is taking that concept and applying it to humans. Oregon and Holland ring a bell???

Pogo said...

A sweet and beautiful clip. (...though the rest of the film is good, parts are very strange, mostly how weird humans become there.)

That clip makes me think how my own life would seem so much more meaningful and important were I to have a narrator and some choral music in the background.

"Shortly before 6 a.m., we saw Pogo heading straight for the downtown buildings some 7 miles away.

Dr. Aingly explained that even if he caught Pogo and returned him to his family, he would immediately head right back for the buildings.

But Why?"


Encounters At the End of Minnesota
A Werner Herzog Film

Methadras said...

SMGalbraith said...

Yes, me too.

What, humans aren't part of nature?


You know I was going to mention in my post about how human beings are also part of the natural landscape and how in our supremacy as a species over a whole host things in nature, we too are a part of the natural fabric too.

Don't we try to save endangered species? Or a dog/cat that is stray?

Of course. You turn the penguin around and push it, if you have to, in the right direction.


Exactly. But oddly enough, I have developed a repulsion to zoo's. I think it's because I know that the animals housed within are there for the sole benefit of a profit motive while they are essentially penned in for life. Zoology should be conducted in nature, not shunted into an artificial construct like a zoo. But that's just me.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

The post header caused me to try to think of this all day, and I had to call my daughter to get it:

S was the Sun which went under a cloud
T was a Thunderclap horribly loud
U was the Urn it dislodged from the sky
V was its Victim who cried out "But why?"
W was the Wagon in which his life ended
X was the Exequies sparsely attended
Y was the Yew beneath which he was laid
Z was the Zither he left to the maid

-Edward Gorey, of course

Pogo said...

Re: Gorey

My favorite is the Beastly Baby.

Methadras said...

PatCA said...

That's part of the big debate on animals, isn't it? If my cat, for instance, lived a "natural" life, he would have been eaten by a predator years ago. Did you ever see a cat try to hide? Hopeless. Coyote fodder.


Same with my dog. She has cancer. She is now 12 and in remission and has been for 2 years. She's a Boxer and has outlived her average life span and she's still going strong. The natural order of things would have been that given extreme luck, she would have meandered in nature without a problem, developed the cancer due to her sheer age and she would have gone of somewhere quiet/peaceful, curled up in pretzel and went to that permanent blissful sleep without anyone knowing. But I've intervened in what normally would have happened, not because I disturbed the natural order of things, but because in my world, having her with me for as long as possible is my natural order of things. She is none the wiser, is happy as a clam doing twirlies, chasing her stub endlessly, and doing her happy floor contortion in absolute happiness and a carefree way. It makes us happy to see her happy and there is absolutely no price that I can put on that. I don't know how much money I've spent on her treatments, but I don't care because she is my buddy, she is a family member, and having her with us is what is most natural.

Oh, I know her time is coming hopefully later than sooner, but it's creeping towards that time and when it happens I will be one of the saddest men on earth.

Methadras said...

joewxman said...

i don't think your being flippant at all. By not trying to save the penguin its a re-enforcement of not interfering with nature. How much more of a stretch is taking that concept and applying it to humans. Oregon and Holland ring a bell???


Nature doesn't exist in a vacuum. Nature is about interference and non-interference. It can be both or none all at the same time. The choice to interfere with the path of the penguin was a decision that was made under the pretense that leaving it alone is nature, but what is lost on this premise is that the mere presence of these researchers/people affects the natural order of things and is natural at the same time. I know I've gone off into existential land, but to me everything is natural.

William said...

It's the way they walk. Penguins have the clumsy, hesitant step of toddlers first learning to walk. It inspires something protective in us. When we see a penguin wandering into emptiness, it's like looking at an abandoned child.

commenter said...

My sound was off when I watched this video and I could not understand amy of your comments.

I was reminded of an essay about ants which Feynman wrote about the any which does not follow and finds a new path.
I turned om my sound and watched the video and was reminded immediately of the time i was admitted to the emergency room and they sent me to the mental health ward.

I later read all the commentary of my actions.

My divorce lawyer and his psychologist wife and friend "obtained" a sig from me to do whatever with my records.

I now would do almost anything to avoid institutions of health and justice. Hahahaha! what words!

After this I inderstamd this bird , admire thos bird and the freedom full of joy and pain but at the very least the truth to its own nature.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Inevitably, a policeman was looking on whenever it was just about to be momentarily set down on a doorstep."

Ha!

I think my favorite is "The Doubtful Guest", which I think is either a toddler or a teenager, "subject to fits of bewildering wrath".

But at odd moments I find myself quoting "a bat, or possibly an umbrella".

MayBee said...

The penguin goes every summer to live alone among the grizzly bears.

MayBee said...

pogo- hilarious and true!

joewxman said...

"I know I've gone off into existential land, but to me everything is natural."

your point reminded me that just because something is natural doesn't mean its good. Arsenic is natural and so is mercury and we know what happens if we eat either one. At best you will be a walking human thermometer for a few days at most!

Pogo said...

Ghastly Crumb Tinies
E. Gorey

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs

B is for Basil assaulted by bears

C is for Clara who wasted away

D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh

E is for Ernest who choked on a peach

F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech

G is for George smothered under a rug

H is for Hector done in by a thug

I is for Ira who drowned in a lake

J is for James who took lye by mistake

PatCA said...

Ah, Methadras, I know!

Why does God give us stewardship of these wonderful creatures? They always die too soon.

Mom said...

Pogo wins the thread! I'm still laughing. Tomorrow as I drive toward the tall buildings 16 miles away, with nobody to turn me around, I'll be thinking, "But why?"

Methadras said...

joewxman said...

your point reminded me that just because something is natural doesn't mean its good. Arsenic is natural and so is mercury and we know what happens if we eat either one. At best you will be a walking human thermometer for a few days at most!


I never equated natural with good. Infact, I deliberately went out of my way not to equate natural with good because I do agree with what you've said. Not everything natural is good. However, if you have the power to do good and/or exert some good, I'm going to side on that end and not the other. If I can help a poor creature that looks like it is headed towards it's doom I will. If I can't, I can't. It's that simple for me.

XWL said...

If this happens often enough that the naturalist warns the crew not to interfere, and given the lack of scavengers (or much of anything) in the interior of Antarctica, there must be some mummified penguins just waiting to be found (and some could be thousands or tens of thousands of years old).

(and a quick google search confirms that an approximately 1000 year old penguin has been found and studied)

Meade said...

Jason (the commenter) said....

It's like Obama and the economy, only in penguin form

Perceptive observation.

Deana said...

That just made me sad!

It makes me think of sad things humans do.

Poor baby!

Penny said...

The road less traveled...

Jeff said...

"Deranged Penguins" would be a good name for a rock band.

Joan said...

If Althouse had a "best comment threads" category, I would nominate this one.

I enjoy Herzog's films, perhaps disproportionate to their quality, with no apology. Grizzly Man is amazing, and while Pogo's observations on this film are entirely accurate, I enjoyed it, too. (This is an extraordinarily powerful self-contained clip. The rest of the movie isn't this good, but it is worth watching IMO.)

Anyway -- thanks, guys. You made my evening.

Methadras said...

Jeff said...

"Deranged Penguins" would be a good name for a rock band.


Oh man. I was just talking to a buddy about this file I created that has nothing but weird names for bands and I was trying to remember a few of them when we were talking on the phone. I have to find that file and I'll post it here, but one of the weird band names was Super Snot & The Cave-ins.

Revenant said...

You know, I have liked several Herzog films, and he earns extra brownie points for indirectly encouraging Errol Morris to make documentaries.

But he still reminds me of the Dieter character from SNL's "Sprockets" skit.

Jason said...

This is madness!!!

http://www.break.com/usercontent/2007/4/300-Happy-Feet-263638.html

PatCA said...

I also like his films. I really liked Grizzly Man because he had the guts to call the GM pretty much an idiot, which he was.