Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Koi v. Peppermint Swords

Some months ago I noticed that my feeder guppy advocacy group, the Feeder Guppy Rescue League, experienced a great growth in membership. This League, you may recall, began largely as a prop on a post in my weblog, but somehow took on a life of its own, to my delight and amusement. It always draws in members on a steady basis, and we all post about important topics on a rather irregular basis, along the general plot theme of "guppies are good". But the next influx was quite breathtaking, jumping from the fifteen-ish range to the thirty-ish range.

I wondered why our membership had begun to grow, until I noticed that we had been linked to and endorsed by one of the livebearing fish sites. My yahoo group had ceased being a whisper, and turned into a solid rock upon which something was built--not quite a church, certainly not a tabernacle in the desert, but a thing unto itself--a tangible force, a natural commodity.

Today as I examined the Ortho illustrated color guide to houseplants, I pondered the Guppy Plant, and imagined to myself what a whimsical post it would make to my message group, to interconnect guppy fish with guppy plantts. The guppy plant, by the way, appears from the picture rather like someone took a pepper plant and hung from it little goldfish crackers. An imaginative wag saw golden guppies in them thar blossoms (you say potato, I say po--tah---toe, but then a third fellow says "osage orange", and let's call the whole thing off), and
the name was off to the races, albeit perhaps a first race claiming prize, five hundred dollars buys the

Although the Feeder Guppy Rescue League has given me hours of endless joy, as a kind of experiment in small groups made good, I did not and do not confuse its existence with the real enchiladas of the great livebearer
all you can eat buffet. This honor is accorded to the American Livebearer Association, which has it all wired, from a long-standing group to the best URL. The ALA has had the market cornered on livebearer advocacy in this country, rivaled perhaps only by the awesomely admirable North American Native Fish Association, or NANFA, which promotes neglected species preservation and education.

The American Livebearer Association had it all--from the snappy website to the cool fish sales site right down to the monthly magazine and advertising budget. To feeder? human. To Livebearer? divine.

For some years, I have meant to join the American Livebearer Association. But when it turned out that one of their sites or related members' sites had given my message group the immense "thumbs up", I could no longer in good conscience resist. I plunked down my modest coin via this service called "Pay all your spare savingss" dot Pal, and signed right up.

Recently, I got the first of its magazines, and tonight, the second. The first magazine portrayed the "national convention", a fascinating affair which sounded like a really cool gathering of fraternal and sororal moose,who had in-jokes about one another and the combination of wisdom and over-familiarity that only long participation in a club setting can bring. I was particularly intrigued by the national fish judging show, which featured lots of obscure categories for remarkably unheralded non-poecilid livebearers, sone of which categories drew a total of one entrant. In short, the American Livebearer sounded cool and hip and "with it", but rather small, really.

I thought I had met Atlas, but then he shrugged, and said "what, me worry?". They don't make Atlas as large as he used to seem to me anymore. Granted, the first issue had a feature on my second favorite livebearer, heterandria formosa, the midget livebearer, which grows in remarkably small spaces, rather like one of marstokyo's teeny theaters. I have never owned a midget livebearer, but I am captivated by the very idea of them. The first issue, overall, could have been the magazine of the North Texas Blitz Hegemony. It was about the same size as my chess poem book, and also bound like a chapbook.

Tonight's magazine is more article-driven. The cover photo is a rather cool customer called a "characodon audax", which is probably Latin for "charcoal where his ears should be", who loses something in a midly cubist black and white digiphoto that I am sure he would gain in his native green or silver or blue or red or dappled splendor.

The best article is called "Koi v. Peppermint Swords--and other Misuses of Common Names", which waxes eloquent about the problem of fish sellers just inventing new varietals from heritage stocks, which could never happen with roses, but is perfectly plausible with livebearing tropicals. I'll grant you, to my taste a keynote article should be instead on a topic such as "anableps--is something so practical and yet so weird a reflection on the concept of evolutionary progress or of karma?", but that is merely because I am being silly tonight. I do like the way that anableps can put its eyes above water while its body is below. It looks like a Don Knotts movie, a bit, but I cannot remember which one, perhaps the one about the limpet, to which I say "how appropriate".

I have never lost my faith in a Supreme Being, although I must admit that I rarely define that as the key question. I like the idea sometimes that the reasons we get so hung up on answers is that we often ask the wrong questions. Ask that fellow Newton--he would tell you about how if he only had known, he would have posed gravity all differently. Newtonian gravity works quite well, of course, so long as one is not dealing in distances so long or so short as to prove it a "speical case" and not "the meaning of life".

But I find as the years go on that I lose my faith in supreme institutions. When I was young, in small town Arkansas, I assumed that in places east, west and Chicago-ish, great teams of people, like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz only more aristocratically accented, knew and understood everything. I thought that foundations and associations like the American Livebearer Association had all the facts down right. Only perfect poems were published in Poetry or Paris Review, only learned theologians graduated the Harvard Divinity School, and the Jet Propulsion Lab never launched a dud.

But then I got older. I came to realize a lot of hard home truths, although, to be honest with you, they are things my father would have accurately told me had I but asked him. It turns out, you see, that sometimes rockets fall to earth. Poetry is sometimes published based on a kind of real "circle of friends" nepotism, but also based upon a kind of academic cross-back-scratching. Don't look so shocked. A lot of the poems are good anyway. They grade law school exams anonymously by the way, and judge poetry contests that way. If all poetry submissions were judged anonymously, then we would not worry so much about Lance Armstrong and his body-fiber. We'd greet new Walt Whitmans every month, bodylectric singing like sNorelco-framed wonder. Professors who write criticism are not the Great Recoding Angel, and Pauline Kael hated some awfully good films.

It can all get a bit sad, sometimes. During the week of August 20 through 27, I visited our nation's capital in Washington, District of Columbia, for a day or two. I saw boomtown conditions, fueled by fascinatingly extravagant outpourings of governement spending on consultants, contractors and thinkers on homeland security.
On the next week, I watched a bipartisan assortment of folks prove unable to secure a gymnasium. Pardon me if I don't take the time to tell you my long and elaborate theory of what this shows about our federal government and what it means. I am posting now about poecilids and not poignancy. Suffice it to say that I no longer see
government in the same light I did before, sadly.

But to strike another eastern theme, there is a Jeffersonian virtue to it all. Upon finding that the emperor has no clothes, one must begin immediately learning to knit one's own. One must extend quilts and even
a mackinaw, if one can only figure out how to spell mackinaw and also why it is Mackinac Island. is the Amerian Livebearer Association just another smallish group, which turns out to have longevity and a cool website?
Then one joins in humility anyway, and keeps posting about feeder guppies.

This helps one to leaven one's attitude. When they don't mic Alanis Morisette correctly on an awards show, one does not wonder at the perfidy of sound engineers who Should Know Better, but instead thinks how a decrease in volume lets the camera highlight her accoutrements and accessories, from the cool mascara to the dense and lovable eye shadow to the curious "Joan Jett has left the Runaways" leather outfit. Alanis, by the way, grows on one as one gets older, because somehow we all get a little gauzier and less full of ourselves as time matures us. In another ten years, she'll positively be Loreena McKennit, or she'll own a chain of healthy breakfast pastries, and it's all good. Unlike the Alanis of 20something, the current Alanis is someone you could imagine playing bridge against, if only you actually played bridge anymore. I'll be she doesn't either, but she probably plays cribbage or darts or something similarly cool. If I designed a Tarot, by the way, it would be a Guppy Tarot, and I'd use fantails where the cups would be, and Alanis' fortune would involve the
Guppymancer, and I'd predict she was going on a long trip to Manitoba.

So in the long run, there is no relief for eternal questions like "koi or peppermint swords". You have to take your expertise where you find it, in pages of 1930s self-help books, and in the eyes of smart people who know scence. People with skills say, sometimes, "I could help you with that", a bit wistfullly, as if you're going to tell them "no, I'm a Maytag". But we aren't, really. We're none of us Maytags.

But we can weave and knit. We can build communities. We can give birds seed, and people bread. We can hit the delete key on what does not work, and gas our cars with ethanol or hydrogen or some other worthy thing.
We can accept that we know less than there is to know, and that others know more. But we can stop acceding them godhood on a theory that their have knowledge is like unto the gods.

What profits it to somebody if she can recite all the rules of relativity, but has not love? What do we gain when we buy the myth that others are infallible? Perhaps we get relief, from our own meager duty to do. But school's out. The academy burned down.

We are up to 39 members at the Feeder Guppy Rescue League, as my flat-keyed a capella song, whose production values make me blush, seems to attract new members ever since it got on Goo Radio's internet station. We rescue guppies. I want a guppy plant. We muddle on. It's what we know to do. We hope for the best, and some days, I think we are the best.

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