PPA 9: Halloweenscapes »« Why I’m Voting No

PPA 8 Reveal: Jack Shellington?

This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger.

In this installment, Ellen reveals the answer to Pareidolia Play Along 8.

Last Light and Shells

Last Light and Shells © Ellen Bulger

“Crassostrea virginica” while otherwise drab (and delicious) gets a little nuts when it makes a shell. This is a quiet beast, hiding under sediments so as to avoid the attention of carpenters and their tusked pinniped companions. It has the same dreary daily schedule filtering the water as the tide rises and falls. But while most other mollusks follow a set of blueprints very carefully when they grow their shells, the eastern oyster does some freestylin’ and expresses some personality. This bivalve tells you, “I would have been the belle of the ball, given the chance.” or “I am indeed a quiet sort.” or “I can’t possible have enough ruffles” or even “I don’t give a fuck all for your aesthetics, for your symmetry because I am a wild and crazy guy if only, only, only I had legs or fins or wings, damn it all!”

Oh, I suppose it’s a matter of more mundane things, local conditions: available nutrients, water temperature, salinity, wave action, nature of the substrate, et cetera, et cetera. And I don’t imagine that the oysters that clump together do so because they feel a sense of camaraderie with their fellow bivalves. It’s just where they settled. Let the spat fall where it may.

But beachcombing is nothing if not a chance to delight in the puzzles that are laid at your feet. Every wave deposits mysteries. Every tideline is a salty sandy gallery show. And when you look at the flotsam, sometimes it looks back at you.

Oyster with Barnacle Crust

Oyster with Barnacle Crust © Ellen Bulger

michaeld: You say it wants to gnaw on your soul? But this is dreadful. We must prevent it at all costs! Perhaps we can concoct a prevention? When puppies start nibbling on electric cords, when horses crib at their stalls, when the anxious citizenry are chewing at their nails, a bitter-tasting tincture is applied to the gnawed surface. But I’m not sure what would taste bitter to this monster, so lets use a homeopathic cure. As these medicines are at their strongest when the active ingredient is most dilute, I suggest you add 343,423,668,428,484,681,262 gallons of water to an oyster shell and dip your soul in the resulting homeopathic tonic. Or, you could just go for a swim in the sea.

maxdwolf – I’m not familiar with the reverse aging story, unless you mean “Howl’s Moving Castle”? But I know Sesame Street! Oscar may well be the coolest muppet of all time. He has never sold out, has always stayed true to himself. And that his likeness adorns diaper wipe boxes and sippy cups speaks more to his sense of loyalty to his fellow muppets than anything else. He lives modestly, in his trash can. But he understands that you can’t keep six feet of bright yellow plumage in shape, nor manage a regular urban supply of year-round dragonflies without a steady income. Living as humbly as Oscar does, money is of no concern to him. But despite his lack of effusiveness, he does care about his coworkers. Mitt could learn a thing or two from Oscar.

Frankybebe – I don’t think it’s Jebus, but maybe what I thought was red seaweed is indeed a soggy crown of flabby thorns. Your mention of Farscape’s pilot sent me to Google and he is adorable but, I think, more mycological than molluscan. I could be wrong about that. My taxonomy is far from perfect! Then I had to Google Rygel and ended up watching clips of him farting helium. Looks like something out of Pratchett. I might just have to watch this show. Thanks!

Shellage © Ellen Bulger


Susannah – Mostly, it’s apples. No, I mean mostly it’s oyster shells festooned with various members of the fouling community. So you get the win for accuracy. Dr. Frankenstein’s nephew couldn’t get the sparks to work underwater, so he quit and switched over into maritime law.

Akheloios – Oh man! I thought I could sneak it in, could get away with it. And here you are calling me out! Only it’s actually a self portrait of me that time I got stuck in traffic on the Jersey Turnpike and ended up listening to a Libertarian talk radio program and just could not turn the dial. I went all intellectual-deer-in-the-headlights. When they started talking about selfishness like it was a virtue, my head damn near exploded. Thankfully I kept it together because, you know, it’s so hard to see the road when your brains are splattered all over the windshield.

Emu Sam – There are many worlds, many possible futures… You’re having a vision. Could this be the future? This would be a bad future. Nukes are bad, m’kay? Nukes are bad, even when dealing with giant monsters from the deep, be they Kraken or Cthulhu. Have we learned no lessons from Godzilla? So here’s what we’ll do instead, we’ll leave 50 gallon drums of marinara sauce along the beaches, especially near populated areas. It’s a very good deterrent against Calamari diavolo monsters.

Oyster with Gravitas

Oyster with Gravitas © Ellen Bulger

peicurmudgeon – I don’t see the nudibranch, but if I was a nudibranch and I was going to hitch a ride, where better to sit than on the tarsals(!?). When you mention a decomposing foot I’m reminded of NBX when Jack is trying to explain about hanging stockings. Big Mr. Hyde wants to know if there is a foot inside. Little Mr. Hyde demands “Let me see, let me look! Is it rotted and covered with gook?” (I’m getting in the mood for the season. J)

Stevarious, Public Health Problem – OMFFSM! I’m flabbergasted! I saw your tale in my mind’s eye done as a vintage Barry Windsor-Smith comic. That was a blast! Now I’m in the mood to go find copies of all those sword & sorcery tales I read back in the day. Thank you!


  1. maxdwolf says

    I totally agree about Oscar, though it was always his curmudgeonly attitude that I associated with. Also, his can being larger on the inside was T.A.R.D.I.S cool.

    I’m sorry I didn’t communicate well in my earlier post. I wasn’t referring to a story but an optical illusion.

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