September 7, 2012

"The enormity of their flat brain, the enormity of their stupidity, is just overwhelming."

"You have to do yourself a favor when you’re out in the countryside and you see a chicken: Try to look a chicken in the eye with great intensity, and the intensity of stupidity that is looking back at you is just amazing. By the way, it’s very easy to hypnotize a chicken; they are very prone to hypnosis, and in one or two films I have actually shown that."

Says Werner Herzog. One of the films, Strozek, is the first Werner Herzog film I ever saw. It was a double feature with Aguirre, Wrath of God, which was (obviously) the second Werner Herzog film I saw. I raved about these films to my (then) husband and I saw the double feature again, with him, the next day. For many years I called Aguirre, Wrath of God my favorite movie, but I love Strozek too, and not only does it have a chicken in it; it takes place mostly in Wisconsin. Here's the chicken:


53 comments:

Nonapod said...

Though it's colorful, I don't know if I agree with the use of "enormity" in that context. I usually associate enormity with some horrible act on a grand scale.

MadisonMan said...

Are you thinking of keeping chickens in your yard?

We have neighbors who do that. I find the chickens' clucking in the early morning soothing, but other neighbors might be annoyed by the noise.

BarryD said...

Oh, when I started reading the quote, I thought it was about the audience at the DNC Convention.

Freeman Hunt said...

Heh. It's true.

Bald eagles look like that too but with vicious pitilessness thrown in. (Maybe chickens would be the same, but they lack the power.)

rehajm said...

the intensity of stupidity that is looking back at you is just amazing

They don't square up their head to look at something, they cock their head to one side and look with one eye. So most of the time you can't tell what they're trying to look at...and I'd say their eye is no more vacant than other birds (even the smart ones), fish, or your standard bulldog...

Rabel said...

Is the video meant to be a comment on Obama's convention speech?

Rocketeer said...

Freeman, I absolutely beleive you, but I am compelled to ask when you've had the opportunity to play "blink" with a bald eagle!

Paul said...

Same thinking here BarryD....

But as for the chickens... aw lay off them.

They are just one of God's Creatures, and a creature that didn't deny Him three times at the DNC.

Tibore said...

Herzog may be a tiny bit woo prone as far as hypnosis goes, but he's sure right about chickens: They're freakin' stupid. Massively stupid. I think the real answer to why the chicken crossed the road was because he was freakin' stupid.

ricpic said...

All beasts are stupid but some beasts are stupider,
Like humans who threw out July for Thermidor.

Tibore said...

And as far as Aguirre, Wrath of God: Man, I think only Herzog could've made that movie. I don't know if anyone could've properly coached the brooding insanity necessary for Kinski to make that character what it was.

Paddy O said...

When you look a raven in the eye, you can tell that 1) the raven is smart 2) the raven thinks it is smarter than you are 3) it's judging you because you don't know how to fly.

Saint Croix said...

That dancing chicken is rocking.

Aguirre the Wrath of God is some of the coolest filmmaking ever. What's so cool about that movie is how epic and insane it is. Apocalypse Now has the same vibe. Just crazy damn filmmakers in the jungle, making some art.

There's a cool doc about both of those movies, by the way.

Hearts of Darkness about the making of Apocalypse Now.

And My Best Fiend, about the collaboration between Herzog and Klaus Kinski. I'm not sure who's crazier, Kinski or Herzog. Kinski seems insane. Herzog seems totally in control, and you think he's normal, and then you realize he's crazier than Kinski.

He ate a shoe one time. Lost a bet, had to eat a shoe.

Made a movie out of it.

Shouting Thomas said...

All well and good, but here's a TED's video, discussing the Coolidge Effect, and its relationship to porn viewing.

We males are hard wired to always be running after another hen. The Coolidge Effect was named after this apocryphal exchange between President Coolidge and a chicken farmer:

The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

Caedmon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyrone Slothrop said...

From Wiktionary:

enormity (plural enormities)

(uncountable) Extreme wickedness, nefariousness. [from 15th c.]

Not until the war ended and journalists were able to enter Cambodia did the world really become aware of the enormity of Pol Pot's oppression.

(countable) An act of extreme evil or wickedness. [from 15th c.]
(uncountable) Hugeness, enormousness, immenseness. [from 18th c.]  [quotations ▼]

Usage notes

Enormity is frequently used as a synonym for "enormousness," rather than "invidiousness." This is frequently considered an error; the words have different roots in French, and radically different accepted meanings, although both trace back to the same Latin source word.


Quoting Jay Nordlinger on Joe Biden:

He spoke of the “enormity” of Obama’s heart — a harsher judgment on this president than any I heard in Tampa.

A question I'd like to ask Herzog-- what is it about a chicken's brain that is so wicked?

Curious George said...

Chickens may be stupid but the can do this.

traditionalguy said...

South Carolina is not amused.

chickelit said...

Herzog sounds like a real geek--not in the original germanic sense, but the US carnival slang variety.

Ironclad said...

And never forget Magic Mike - the chicken (a botched dinner chopping) who lived 2 years without a head. (Sept 1945-March 1947). Talk about stupid! (but it shows how little is required to actually run their nervous systems - it actually tried to preen itself after its unfortunate "accident")

ricpic said...

That's a great Coolidge anecdote. Coolidge had a dry sense of humor. And he could govern good too. Never mind Joe Dimaggio, where have you gone, Cal?

The Crack Emcee said...

"Somethin' 'bout love
Yeah, somethin' 'bout love - that's like hypnotizin' chickens!"


- Iggy Pop, Lust For Life

Which is precisely why I can't fall for anything being said anymore

steve l said...

love Herzog's films, but once I saw him eat his shoe realized the man himself was even more entertaining

mojavehicular said...

I understand Flannery O'Connor was in a Movietone newsreel as a child. Her claim to fame? She'd taught one of the family chickens to walk backward.

Freeman Hunt said...

We went to the release of a rehabilitated bald eagle and got a very close look.

Larry J said...

"The enormity of their flat brain, the enormity of their stupidity, is just overwhelming."

That's what I think everytime I see an Obama 2012 bumpersticker. If there were truth in political advertising laws, those bumperstickers would read:

Obama 2012: Because 4 years of failure and corruption aren't enough!

Chip Ahoy said...

This was hard, with one foot stuck in the first clause of the first sentence. Those words don't go together. Try interpreting that. Go on, pick a language and try to have that first clause make sense.

But chickens are easily hypnotized so are turkeys. They snap out of it soon enough, but it sure does make a twelve year old feel like Svengali. What did we do with them? We lined them up. Duh.

Amexpat said...

We shouldn't get too cocky. For all we know, we may be in a cage doing silly dances for a more intelligent being.

prairie wind said...

Herzog, schmerzog. If you want chickens in a movie, get the really good stuff.

Ambrose said...

I saw the headline and expected another article about what MSNBC said about the Tea Party

Chip Ahoy said...

That actually was a lesson for two little white kids.

The house belonged to a fat old black woman. Very old. We passed her house on the way to our tree house located on the edge of a played out pecan orchard on the inside of a levee, Red River on the other side. Her house was the only thing between the river and a convenience store at the highway. So a tiny wooden house between a river and a highway and on the edge of an orchard and a field. I think this would have been a sharecropper. I think this is what happened immediately after slaves were freed. The tiny house is a teen-tiny farm, a little chunk of land cut out of another's larger chunk isolated and surrounded, nearly gobbled up, a fragile vignette momentarily arrested in time.

She lived alone. Late afternoon, chickens were fucking noisily right in front of us between the path to the river and her house, Eddie Stotko and I knew what they were doing but we asked the old woman anyway because we thought it was funny. "What are those chickens doing?" we asked incredulously. "I don't know what days doing, but days sure is doing it!" And we all three laughed at the silliness. Well that broke the ice and thereafter on each pass by her house we became more and more curious and daring, eventually she invited us in and we walked through and saw for ourselves how she lived. The things I see in movies do not quite approach what Eddie and I saw in that house, how she got on. We asked her a lot of questions and she patiently answered them all.

Naturally we were curious about her other animals. Pigs, rabbits in a hutch, and of course the chickens and turkeys running all around. We were brats, and I'm fairly sure she was glad to have us gone. Had I know then, I'd have appreciated their free range aspect over their hypnotizability.

kentuckyliz said...

My sister and/or her kids occasionally raise chickens on their farm and have them custom butchered. Organic free range chickens = sell to the city yuppies at premium prices = cash bonanza. I told her to do pasture fed next time--high in Omega 3, low in Omega 6. What good is free range if they're cornfed and high in Omega 6? Pasture fed is super premium, and you don't even have to buy any feed. Super cash bonanza.

kentuckyliz said...

White rooster = symbol of the Democrat Party.

Bill Clinton fucking the hens several times a day.

Bill Clinton is the White Rooster.

Chip Ahoy said...

I just now watched the video. That's some crazy shit, there. Whoop Wooo Woo Woot

CWJ said...

@amexpat

Yes, but he loves us (not pities us) just the same.

Chip Ahoy said...

That old woman's little area could not properly be called pasture. It was too stomped down. All compacted dirt. It has a dry chicken poop smell to the whole place. The chickens lay eggs in the bushes at the edges and she goes around and finds them, but it's all very closed and hard dirt ground. Pasture is nearby but too lush a word for that dry little spot, but they're still free ranging in the pure sense, not fed corn, but rather scrounging all day for bugs, grubs whatever those are, creepy things, things that move, inert things, junk, compost, other chickens' eggs, seeds, cigarette butts, bits of styrofoam cups, etc., so a broad variety.

edutcher said...

There is a reason the word birdbrain is in our lexicon.

William said...

In comparison to the Siberian crane and the Golden Eagle, the chicken is not such an impressive bird. However, it is in no danger of going extinct. In fact, for all its stupidity its numbers have increased dramatically in recent years. The chicken has mastered one key evolutionary skill: it tastes good. If the dodo bird had mastered the art of being fried, they would still be with us.

ken in sc said...

A large rooster has the same pitiless look in its eyes that an eagle might have. If you turn your back on one, he may run up your legs and back stabbing his spurs into your hide. It's no stretch for me to imagine them being descended from dinosaurs.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Pitiless look or not, I've never been too scared of chickens

You know what scares me? A full-grown goose with goslings. When those suckers nip you, it hurts.

creeley23 said...

It turns out that chickens have a measurable pleasure response to music and the music they love the most, according to a scientist name Pankepp, is ... Pink Floyd:

[Pankepp] played dozens of records to chickens attached to equipment designed to record their shivers of pleasure. The chickens turned out to have the strongest positive response to the late-era Pink Floyd record "The Final Cut." This is important information since, from an evolutionary perspective, if spirituality really is biological, that biology should be found not just in human beings but lower orders as well.

Donald said...

Chip--I am pretty sure that is Sonny Terry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaQnXd0e178

Amexpat said...

@CWJ
I'm agnostic, but if there is a God, he's got to have a sense of humor. Not sure about the love thing.

Calypso Facto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calypso Facto said...

By the way, it’s very easy to hypnotize a chicken

And you can buy your very own How to Hypnotize a Chicken t-shirt from Wisconsin author, Michael Perry. Go ahead and read his books, too. Funny, poignant, excellent.

sleepless nights said...

Can you imagine what torture it would be to be in a chicken body and be smart?



CWJ said...

@amexpat

Funny. I didn't mention God, and neither did you. But now that you mention it, a sense of humor is essential to love.

Quaestor said...

I understand Werzog is a big Obama supporter, and well he should be... Before BHO came to international prominence Werner Herzog was a lead pipe cinch for the uncoveted "World's Most Over-Rated Person" award.

jimbino said...

It's also easy to hypnotize a kid, including a teenager.

The un-denazified German nazis at the Bavarian school where I taught tried to throw me in prison for hypnotizing a 10-year old.

Fortunately, the kid's dad didn't like neo-nazis and thought that Germany sorely needed some Ami influence.

Quaestor said...

Trying to assess an animal's intelligence (particularly a bird's) by the "look" in it's eye is an example of human stupidity.

We are primates. Many primates play the starring game (if you ever get a chance to visit the Mgahinga Gorilla Reserve in Rawanda, you'll get a long lecture about how NOT to stare at a silverback, and why it's extraordinarily dangerous to do so) it is one of our many non-verbal means of social communication. And like most other primates we also have facial muscles which give us expressions which link with our emotional and mental states.

Birds don't have much in the way of facial expressions -- some will open the beak as a threat display but this is more often not the case, an open beak most often means the bird is excited, agitated or just overheated (many birds pant like dogs). Birds communicate their emotions and social status very effectively by means of body postures, vocalizations and, unique to Aves, the state of the feathers.

As a falconer I learned to observe and interpret avian communication. Among the hawks and falcons the lie of the feathers and posture is key to this understanding. A bird who stands one-legged on your fist with her feathers roused, and who looks around with curiosity is content and at peace with her relationship to her human partner. One who stands equally on both legs with the feathers sleeked down, and who either stares back at you or follows your every motion with her gaze is not content, not at peace, and likely to foot you if given the opportunity.

yashu said...

Ian Curtis (of Joy Division) watched Stroszek before committing suicide.

I love Joy Division and I love Herzog.

Saint Croix is right about My Best Fiend. There's also Burden of Dreams by Les Blank, a documentary on the making of Fitzcarraldo. From Burden of Dreams, here is Herzog's wonderfully dark views on nature and the jungle.

There's also that great moment in Grizzly Man (which I haven't found on youtube, but I'm sure it's there somewhere) when Herzog the narrator contrasts his view of nature and the bears with Treadwell's:

“What haunts me is that, in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food.”

Paddy O said...

"For all we know, we may be in a cage doing silly dances for a more intelligent being."

The mice. Who are merely the protrusion into our dimension of hyper-intelligent pan-dimension beings

yashu said...

Can you imagine what torture it would be to be in a chicken body and be smart?

Love this. It's like a Jack Handey deep thought.