January 25, 2019

The Turtle House.



That's The Turtle house by Kurt Völtzke at El Gouna (Red Sea, Egypt), which I'm seeing this morning at the Wikipedia article "Cultural depictions of turtles." I got there because, after blogging about the Green Reaper, I went looking for other government-designed mascots. I'd thought of Smokey the Bear on my own, but that's the one that seems to make us think that the government should be in the mascot-designing business. I found a WaPo article from 2014, "It’s (almost) Smokey Bear’s birthday. Here are some other decidedly less iconic government mascots." There I discovered a Federal Trade Commission atrocity called Dewie the E-Turtle, which was supposed to teach us about protecting our privacy on the internet. That got my attention because I believed the green thing in this photograph was Dewey:



I was wrong about that. The green thing is actually BAC, a creation of the Department of Agriculture. He's a bacterium, which explains the other mascot, which is Thermy, who's there to bully you into overcooking your meat. But I'm only figuring that out now, after I've become entranced by "The Cultural Depiction of Turtles." I love Wikipedia.

That article goes on and on with many stories from many different times and places.... including, of course, The "World Turtle," which gets its own Wikipedia article:
The World Turtle (also referred to as the Cosmic Turtle or the World-bearing Turtle) is a mytheme of a giant turtle (or tortoise) supporting or containing the world. The mytheme, which is similar to that of the World Elephant and World Serpent, occurs in Hindu mythology, Chinese mythology, Scientology and the mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.....
And if that makes you want to say "turtles all the way down," I 'm here to tell you that "Turtles All the Way Down" has its own Wikipedia article, and you know what that means? It's Wikipedia articles all the way down.
Stephen Hawking incorporates the saying into the beginning of his 1988 book A Brief History of Time:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court discussed his "favored version" of the saying in a footnote to his plurality opinion in Rapanos v. United States:
In our favored version, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger. When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle. When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies "Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down."
Now, you may be saying, what is this post about? What is Althouse trying to get us to discuss? Is it the architecture in Egypt? Is it mascots again, with even more weirdness and government stupidity? Is it Wikipedia? Is it turtle mythology through the ages? The amusing prose style of the dear departed Supreme Court Justice? Are we supposed to expand galactically into deep discussion of the shallowness of human understanding? Yes!

37 comments:

Lucid-Ideas said...

In Chinese mythology they believed the whole world rested on a giant turtle. Also several native American tribes. None that Nathan Phillips belonged to though...he makes his own myths.

Nonapod said...

It really is turtles all the way down.

BidenFamilyTaxPayerFundedCrackPipe said...

"Thermy, who's there to bully you into overcooking your meat. "

LOL

Carter Wood said...

Turtles hold a central place in Indian mythology in North Dakota. See Turtle Mountains, Turtle Lake and ...

The giant wheel-rim turtle, Dunseith, N.D.

Tommy, the snow-mobile driving turtle, Bottineau, N.D.

It is -12 in Bottineau as I post this.

Lucid-Ideas said...

One of the oft-used - but somewhat relegated now - epithets in Chinese is/was "turtle spawn". Turtles (and reptiles in general) are considered very "low" creatures.

They "slither"
They "crawl"
They "shuffle"

To be one "of" them is quite insulting. I'm happy Mitch McConnell found a new coke dealer. The "Cecil" thing can't work in this era.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In what way can that first picture of a building?? sculpture??? abortion??? possibly be construed as a turtle?

Lucid-Ideas said...

That house looks very sturdy. It could probably withstand quite a beating. Kiloton range only though. Megatons require a different "hide inside your shell" strategy.

Fernandinande said...

I'm almost Smokey Bear, but it's not my birthday.

Turtles (and reptiles in general) are considered very "low" creatures.

They're unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth.

Chicken Church

tcrosse said...

I remember Studs Turtle on the radio.

George Leroy Tirebiter said...

McGruff the Crime Dog?

Lucid-Ideas said...

Where I live there are so many turtles - often trying to cross the road - that I had several as "wild" pets growing up. I even found one 2 years ago and tried my hand at raising one again. It's quite sad and insensitive though to pick them up and take them home because they always die. A vet (and veteran) friend of mine said that it has a lot to do with their natural metabolism. Captivity and confinement limit them substantially, which is weird because you wouldn't think that for such a slow creature. Naming them is always fun though...

"Shelly"
"Marvin"
"Thomas"
"Donatello"
"Erle"
"Raphael"
"Auburn"
"Titan"
"Splinter"

All good boys and girls. All loving lettuce but not captivity. Great memories.

Fernandinande said...

McGruff the Crime Dog?

Wasn't he the mascot for the "Drugs Are Really Epic" campaign?

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

During the first two hundred years of plundering the Aztecs and Incas et al. the Spanish Galleons that had to carry the loot back home first stopped at Las Tortugas which means The the Turtles. The were mangrove covered and home to sea turtles. These were later renamed the Dry Tortugas by the British Navy because they had no fresh spring waters. They had was a store house of turtle meat for sailors to to kill and store in barrels of Turtle meat for the voyage home. The big sea turtles were slow and easy to capture.

Fernandinande said...

because they always die

My parents had a tortoise live in their backyard for almost 40 years, then when they croaked (ha ha, get it?) a tortoise-rescue outfit took it in.

gspencer said...

Looks similar to one of the buildings from the Star Wars set.

Wince said...

When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies "Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down."

"Like when a man goes swimming, afterwards..."

bagoh20 said...

I don't see turtles. I see octopuses. Turtles have sleepier eyes.

TerriW said...

It's hard to beat IL's Squeezy the Pension Python.

Wince said...

Fernandistein said...
My parents had a tortoise live in their backyard for almost 40 years, then when they croaked (ha ha, get it?) a tortoise-rescue outfit took it in.

"You're living in the past, man. You're hung up on some turtle from the 60s, man!"

JohnAnnArbor said...

I like turtles.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Here in the South, folks generally feel kindly towards turtles, and when one is in the middle of the road, will stop, pick it up, and move it to one side or the other.

One time I ran across a stopped car and was informed the turtle had run under it. While I was trying to help, the turtle ran under my car. This was a huge Slider, probably a yard from tail to head. The other car, having transferred the problem apolegetically drove on. I couldn't move lest he get under a wheel, a standoff that lasted possibly ten minutes before he decided lying in the sun was the better gig..

Molly said...

In Maryland (U of MD Terrapins) we get a lot of cultural turtlisms: notably the current University motto: "Fear the Turtle".

BarrySanders20 said...

Maybe the high school in Hurley, WI can switch to the Turtles. This is top news in the winter in northern Wisconsin:

“The Hurley School Board has been wrestling for some time with the future of the Hurley Midget mascot. To be sure, this is the most difficult decision any of us have ever made as board members. The mascot is a proud symbol of this community and our school district. Generations of Hurley students, parents and community members proudly wore the mascot in support of the great tradition of our schools.

“Ultimately, our decision to make this change comes as a result of great deliberation. As a board, we felt that even though the use of Midgets as our mascot was one of respect and tradition, it would increasingly become a distraction for our students and community."

https://www.yourdailyglobe.com/story/2019/01/23/news/hurley-school-board-issues-statement-after-voting-to-discontinue-midget-mascot/11590.html

Sigivald said...

160? For 15 seconds, for ServSafe requirements for poultry, sure.

Anything's food safe if you hold it at 135 or higher for a decently long time; thus the power of sous vide.

(They publish high temps for low times mostly because they know people are lazy and don't think about food safety, and will see "okay, it hit X, it's done", not "it has to soak at Y for some time to be safe".

Your pork chop, from a commercial pork farm, is safe at medium-rare. It's fine.)

John said...

Government mascots probably reached their zenith in WW II when Disney and the other animation studios put their art departments on a wartime footing. It's been all downhill since then.

tim maguire said...

We all live on Turtle Island

Rooke said...

I can't believe no one has mentioned the Great A'Tuin from Terry Pratchett's Discworld! Just another example of your usual giant turtle carrying 4 elephants carrying a universe.

sinz52 said...

Private enterprise has them beat.

GIANT Microbes sells a line of plush dolls, each in the shape of a particular microorganism.

https://www.giantmicrobes.com/us/products/taintedlove.html

For Valentine's Day, they offer a gift assortment of dolls for your Significant Other: Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, etc.

Makes a great gag gift for your Significant Other. You tell your Significant Other: "Honey, guess what? I just gave you Gonorrhea!" And then you hand her the gift box.

Carter Wood said...

Turtles, Happy Together.

Rosalyn C. said...

My first pet was a turtle I named Jasper. I have no idea why or where I had heard the name Jasper before that. I've learned since that jasper as a crystal has been used as a healing and protective talisman allegedly manifesting strength, courage and wisdom, dating all the way to biblical times. Turtles all the way back.

tommyesq said...

How the hell much money does the government waste on this kind of crap???

Ann Althouse said...

"My first pet was a turtle I named Jasper. I have no idea why or where I had heard the name Jasper before that."

I had a cat named Jasper. The name "Jasper" just came to me as the perfect name for a dog... and then I got a cat. So... good enough name, good enough cat.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

I believe "Jasper" was the original name for the cat we now know as "Tom" of "Tom & Jerry" fame.

Lem said...

Destroying a turtle egg might be illegal in NY.
But killing a baby up to 9 months is now legal in that state.

Unknown said...

Bac look a lot like the infamous Pepe.

ken in tx said...

Jasper was supposed to be the name of one of the Three Wise Men. Sometimes presented as Gaspar. A Sergeant Jasper performed heroically in a battle during the American Revolution, in South Carolina. As a result, there is a Jasper county, or town, in every Southern state from South Carolina to Texas. I was born in Jasper, Alabama.