An online education

A recent piece in the New Yorker drew my attention to the blog of Rachel Abrams, and something she wrote after Gilad Shalit was released in October:

Then round up his captors, the slaughtering, death-worshiping, innocent-butchering, child-sacrificing savages who dip their hands in blood and use women—those who aren’t strapping bombs to their own devils’ spawn and sending them out to meet their seventy-two virgins by taking the lives of the school-bus-riding, heart-drawing, Transformer-doodling, homework-losing children of Others—and their offspring—those who haven’t already been pimped out by their mothers to the murder god—as shields, hiding behind their burkas and cradles like the unmanned animals they are, and throw them not into your prisons, where they can bide until they’re traded by the thousands for another child of Israel, but into the sea, to float there, food for sharks, stargazers, and whatever other oceanic carnivores God has put there for the purpose.

Since I don’t really want to dwell on this excerpt – let’s say it’s perhaps a drop over the top – I would instead like to refocus your attention on the sort of educational opportunities even the lowest-common-denominator internet content can provide. Specifically, let’s take one more look at that last line [bold is mine]:

…into the sea, to float there, food for sharks, stargazers, and whatever other oceanic carnivores God has put there for the purpose.

At first, Abrams’ inclusion of stargazers in a list of oceanic carnivores baffled me. But before I moved on from the passage entirely, I decided to give it a google – and discovered, to my delight, that in a paragraph packed with inventive epithets and innovative appellations, she saved her most original creation for the final line.

This is a stargazer, courtesy of google images:

Wikipedia tells us more:

In addition to the top-mounted eyes, stargazers also have a large upward-facing mouth in a large head. Their usual habit is to bury themselves in sand, and leap upwards to ambush prey… that pass overhead.

So the name, I suppose, makes a lot of sense. But Wikipedia also specifies the stargazer’s usual prey: ‘benthic fish and invertebrates’ – in other words, not humans (as was implied by ‘for the purpose’). The article mentions no fatal attacks on people, unlike its treatment of, say, sharks – also listed as an oceanic carnivore – for whom the relationship with humans merits extensive treatment.

So now, a more academic question: stargazers are not known to attack people, but who would win a cage match?* Let’s see what else we can glean from Wikipedia’s three brief paragraphs on the fish:

Some species have a worm-shaped lure growing out of the floor of the mouth, which they can wiggle to attract prey’s attention.

Stargazers are venomous; they have two large poison spines situated behind the opercle and above the pectoral fins.

They have an electric organ consisting of modified eye muscles.

Those terrorists are in trouble.


*Certain readers may be familiar with variants of this game, e.g. ‘Kill or be killed’ or ‘eagle vs. octopus’


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