February 3, 2018

Like the men who prefer robot women, Nigel the Gannet wanted only the concrete bird.



Articles about Nigel — like this one at The Guardian — stress his popularity with humans as he seemed to embody loneliness. There were 80 concrete decoy gannets on the New Zealand island of Mana, and for years Nigel was the only live gannet. Nigel had his one decoy love. He groomed "her." He built nests for her for years. This was deemed tragic.

Then 3 other real gannets came to Mana.
But [Nigel] never showed any interest in the real-life birds, said [Department of Conservation ranger Chris Bell], instead remaining “aloof”, chattering to his concrete mate while the real-life birds got on with business in a different part of the colony.
Within 3 weeks, Nigel died. Bell found his body in the midst of the concrete birds.

Now, what lesson do we learn? If this were a children's book story, it would be saying something about human beings, but what?

1. True love is what really matters. Nigel loved. He loved when he needed love, and no matter how little love he received in return, he remained loyal to the end.

2. Some individuals commit so hard to a mistake that they'd rather die than admit they are wrong.

3. Some individuals are oriented toward things that you cannot understand. Maybe you should respect their difference rather than deploring their inability to get with the crowd.

4. If you allow yourself to become fixated on something that is not a real fellow creature, you will lose your capacity to see real fellow creatures and you will die in your ignorance. Tragic!

78 comments:

exhelodrvr1 said...

5. Don't do what gannets do.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Wasn't there similar story about island off Canada last year or so?

Henry said...

It was an inside job.

Tim in Vermont said...

2. Some individuals commit so hard to a mistake that they’d rather die that admit they are wrong.

LOL!

Henry said...

5. Don't make plans for Nigel

We're only making plans for Nigel
We only want what's best for him
We're only making plans for Nigel
Nigel just needs this helping hand

And if young Nigel says he's happy
He must be happy
He must be happy in his work

Bob Boyd said...

If loving you is wrong I don't wanna be right

Henry said...

LOL Bob Boyd.

Big Mike said...

#2 surely does describe Toothless and Chuck and ARM and Inga pretty well, does it not?

stlcdr said...

Gannets are not people?

Bad Lieutenant said...

Harry F. Harlow, Monkey Love Experiments

http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/studies/HarlowMLE.htm

Bob Boyd said...

What's different about her I don't really know
No matter how I try, I just can't make her cry
'Cause you'll never break, never break, never break, never break
This heart of stone, oh no, no, this heart of stone

Curious George said...

"2. Some individuals commit so hard to a mistake that they'd rather die that admit they are wrong."

Or just change they're blogger profile. Like to "Unknown."

Carol said...

Hell is other gannets.

Fritz said...

He died doing what he loved.

Gannets are great birds for finding big masses of feeding fish. I was fishing in a gannet storm in late December. Awesome stuff.

Freeman Hunt said...

I thought the lesson might be that birds are so stupid.

Fernandistein said...

Now, what lesson do we learn?

That, just as a monogamous but stupid ("morus") bird was compelled to stay with what he thought was his mate, humans are compelled to anthropomorphize and inappropriately seek out moral lessons.

dustbunny said...

The heart wants what it wants

anti-de Sitter space said...

Tesla

buwaya said...

Both gannets and humans can have destructive habits forced on them, by circumstance. There are limits to free will. There are such things as imprinting and socialization that can twist personalities in unhealthy ways.

In this case the poor bird was made quite insane by its circumstances, loneliness and likely imprinting. He had no way to admit he was wrong, the concept of being wrong being inconceivable. This works for humans too.

Modernity offers an infinity of ways whereby human minds can be twisted. The natural state of humanity, as it evolved in nature, did not provide defenses against these as the changes are far too recent, and they keep on changing far too rapidly for evolution to keep up. There are an awful lot of victims.

Clyde said...

It has kind of an "A Rose For Emily" vibe to it.

Curious George said...

"Freeman Hunt said...
I thought the lesson might be that birds are so stupid."

There's a reason the ancients called them "Ingas."

Leland said...

Birds don't create governments, so why do we?

buwaya said...

In these matters humans can be just as wrong as birds.

They just rationalize it in ways that can impress other humans. Birds don't bother with that.

buwaya said...

In the natural state of humanity humans didn't have governments either. They had organization, being social pack animals, but not "governments".

Governments grew out of technology. An attempt to deal with the consequences of technology.

tcrosse said...

He loved with a love that was more than a love in that kingdom by the sea.

james james said...

Is Nigel's relationship akin to a commenter's relationship with Althouse?

Are pixels that different from concrete?

There is a world of in-the-flesh people around us, but we gravitate to a figure that only approximates an in-the-flesh being to those on the other side of the screen.

Will Althouse have any more awareness of when we die than us laying prostrate like Nigel at the foot of our own metaphorical concrete bird?

Because we all die alone, our pixels left behind us like the drab concrete of some 50s Soviet housing block that stands in disrepair, gray, with broken windows never to be repaired.

Enjoy the day.

- james james

dustbunny said...

Bravo james james!

james james said...

Galaxie 500 - Plastic Bird.

And when I left your place
Gave me your plastic bird
You won it at the festival
Well I broke both legs off
And then I smashed its nose
And left it on First Avenue

- james james

Unknown said...

No-brainer. The concrete birds didn't nag.

Ann Althouse said...

"Will Althouse have any more awareness of when we die than us laying prostrate like Nigel at the foot of our own metaphorical concrete bird?"

Assuming a gannet mates with one other gannet, then Meade is my one bird.

buwaya said...

James james is right, of course.

But nearly all of us are quite old, past childbearing, and irrelevant as far as natural processes.

There are, however, those billions of kids staring at screens all day. That matters.

james james said...

As we progress to the Perfect Society the Past will no longer matter.

There will be no need of a Future.

There will only be the Perfected Present.

In the Perfected Present there will be no need for context or metaphor.

In the Perfected Present the concrete bird will mean nothing to anyone.

- james james

Big Mike said...

Birds don't create governments, so why do we?

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

That still looks like a good enough list of reasons to me.

Leslie Graves said...

All of the above.

Simplefriend7 said...

Ann: You're always so insightful. Thank you for sharing, educating and enlightening! God Bless You good woman.

William Chadwick said...

I'll take #3. Story of my life.

Shane said...

"The Concrete Bird" was the anticipated follow-up to Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House." The Beatles had considered "A Doll's House" as the title for what became "The Beatles (The White Album)" but this had to be rejected when the British band Family released 'Music In a Doll's House,' in July 1968. Similarly, had Ibsen ever written "The Concrete Bird" there is some likelihood that what we have come to know as "Abbey Road" may have been titled "The Concrete Bird." Thus, we see why its obvious that George Harrison's "Circles" had to be left off The White Album.

robother said...

byway: "There are limits to free will. There are such things as imprinting and socialization that can twist personalities in unhealthy ways." This. Especially as applied to the male sexual response, which seems to be linked to the addiction nodes of the brainl. Scary how many young men in our culture are being imprinted with sexual patterns that can lead to a life of loneliness and even criminality.


mockturtle said...

This is easy: The concrete bird was quieter.

mockturtle said...

[Unknown kinda beat me to it].

Bob Boyd said...

Nigel committed suicide after accusations of sexual misconduct.

traditionalguy said...

Gannet loyalty is right up there with Blackfriars Bobby loyalty. Maybe it was a Scots Gannet?

traditionalguy said...

Oops, that was Greyfriars Bobby loyalty.

Bob Boyd said...

Sad and senseless because there was nothing concrete. It was just a flap really.

Paul said...

What did we learn? Nigel was an idiot.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dustbunny said...

So far this is the best post and comment thread of February, Althouse recognizes Nigel as a metaphorical gift to all

EDH said...

Hazard

Have you ever felt like love's just like concrete
Poured out and left to harden, to be walked all over
Sometimes you can leave your handprints in love
Watch out, don't get stuck
Oh, this dubious life.
It's laid out in front of us.

Warren Fahy said...

Nigel was gullible.

William Chadwick said...

Robother: could you provide some details on those patterns you see young men being imprinted with that you believe lead to lives of loneliness and criminality?

Inga said...

Trump is your stone bird. There’s still time to realize he’s not for real.

FIDO said...

1) Maybe the new birds were already in a relationship

2) Maybe they 'smelled wrong'.

3) Maybe they were gay.

4) Maybe he was beyond mating age and it was irrelevant.

5) Maybe they had already told him, in gannet, that he was too ugly, lame, weird to POSSIBLY mate with any of them...which is why he went for Rockette in the first place.

Lot of projection here. Women disparaging men who might be interested in sex dolls...but are unwilling to date/mate with them.

Mirrors can be useful things.

Seeing Red said...

Bird brain.

Seeing Red said...

She was his perfect mate.

She didn't talk back. (She wasn't a harpy)

Never butted in

Never nagged

Never scolded

Never looked at another

Non judgmental

And was always appreciative of everything he did

And he might have done very little.

glenn said...

Does this mean I can’t have a robot 22 year old Gene Tierney?

William Chadwick said...

Inga, I've had such doubts about Trump myself (I was once half convinced that he was a kind of stalking horse for Queen Cacklepants); but if Trump as we know him turns out to be a mere simulacrum as you suggest, what do you think the reality would be? Would he be more statist or more libertarian? If the former, wouldn't "liberals" (i. e., "tax-happy, coercion-addicted, power-tripping government sniffers and State bumpers") like him better? Just wondering.

John Lynch said...

Humans trying to help his species ruined the life of an individual bird.

HMM

Bob Boyd said...

glenn said...
"Does this mean I can’t have a robot 22 year old Gene Tierney?"

You'll have to settle for a concrete blonde.

Robert Cook said...

"I thought the lesson might be that birds are so stupid."

Actually, many birds are very smart, and social. I feel sad for Nigel.

n.n said...

Clump of metal and sand.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Actually, many birds are very smart, and social."

Smart compared to what?

Howard said...

The lesson is that most people are superstitious, ignorant and frightened of the real world, therefore anthropomorphize everything to seek comfort across the vast loneliness of their short, confused lives.

Howard said...

Crows are smart. They use tools, harass people, celebrate the sunset, fly around chasing their sex partners, eat dead squirrels.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/crows-may-be-as-intelligent-as-apes-scientists-say-20150624-ghw6zy.html

mockturtle said...

Howard, I think crows have been shown to be more intelligent than chimpanzees.

mockturtle said...

She was his perfect mate.

She didn't talk back. (She wasn't a harpy)

Never butted in

Never nagged

Never scolded

Never looked at another

Non judgmental

And was always appreciative of everything he did

And he might have done very little.


Not so great in the sack, though...

rhhardin said...

i had cement for her / merrily / we became each / other humped to tumbling / garble when / a / minute / pulled the sluice / cement

e.e.cummings

robother said...

Child porn and bondage and torture porn can associate sexual gratification with a need to inflict pain or domination. Even constant internet porn, as the only or easiest sexual outlet can encourage a life of self-absorption, not seeing any point to the risks and demands of dating and courtship.

William Chadwick said...

Thanks, robother. Never into child porn, or in any way associating sex and pain (beyond the occasional spanking, if she's into it). MILF porn is the best porn.

lemondog said...

What was Nigels' background? Was he deserted by his parents, abused by other gannets, forced out of a colony of gannets? Was his only security found in the midst of the accepting and silent concrete gannets?

Robert Cook said...

"Child porn and bondage and torture porn can associate sexual gratification with a need to inflict pain or domination."

My guess is the interest in sexual gratification using children or from inflicting pain precedes the interest in viewing such material. Which is to say, I don't think porn creates sex criminals, I think sex criminals who use porn are drawn to porn that depicts that which they're already turned on by.

fivewheels said...

"Nigel committed suicide after accusations of sexual misconduct."

You joke, but the feminists never joke.


"It's not going too far to actually use this as an example of rape culture. This concrete bird did not owe Nigel her (or his) affection.


mockturtle said...

My guess is the interest in sexual gratification using children or from inflicting pain precedes the interest in viewing such material. Which is to say, I don't think porn creates sex criminals, I think sex criminals who use porn are drawn to porn that depicts that which they're already turned on by.

You don't think porn adds fuel to the fire?

William Chadwick said...

For the first and probably last time ever, I am inclined to agree with Cookie.

buwaya said...

Hikikomori

There are many equivalents in western societies, of asocial people, or rather people who are unwilling or unable to interact socially IRL. Its become demographically significant in Japan, but I suspect it would show up here, too, if it is looked for in the same way.

There are many explanations for hikikomori, but one thats missed is the massive availability of entertainment media, providing an ersatz social experience, like those concrete birds.

Leland said...

Big Mike; you missed the joke a bit.

The reality of these observations of nature is they are most often not science but rather art. What they tell us is whatever we want to make of them. In this case, a bird associating with concrete birds becomes an equivalent of humans associating with robots. That observation was made by an individual watching the same screen as me, but seeing a different movie.

What I see is nobody assisting this crackpot bird and its desire to associate with the inanimate. The other birds give him the freedom to do so, but they also that provide social welfare, tax the behavior, and demand other birds engage in the one bird's fantasy that the concrete birds are his real family. All those things are a construct of modern western governments.

mockturtle said...

There are many explanations for hikikomori, but one thats missed is the massive availability of entertainment media, providing an ersatz social experience, like those concrete birds.

True, buwaya. Some of us would rather read a book than socialize--at least most of the time. While it would seem more edifying than watching television, it is still a solitary pleasure.

Jose_K said...

And the Darwin award winner is : Nigel

Jose_K said...

BTW;they could have destroyed the decoys when he came back the first time