Register Monday | December 9 | 2019

The Winter of Our Discontent

Can crustaceans and rat-squirrel see us through to spring?

It's mid-March, and things are not looking good. The cold, dark slog of winter continues to take its toll and there's at least another month of freezing temperatures before the heavy coats can go back in the closet. Iraq is on the brink of civil war, Iran is pushing for World War III and global warming has been upgraded from a "distinct possibility" to "Here's how many breeding pairs we'll need to repopulate the Earth." Israel's fucked-again. No abortions in South Dakota. Bird flu, AIDS, Sudan, Eritrea, Guantanamo. The news is worse than usual.

Apparently, though, things aren't all that bad. My favourite star of free-form comedy radio, the host of The Best Show on WFMU and Monkwriter Tom Scharpling has adopted a mantra on his broadcasts: the good guys are going to win in 2006. Doesn't that sound alluring? Don't you want it to be true? I do. The news has been so bad for so long (going on six years now), that I think we've forgotten that the good guys do sometimes win. Not to get all hippy-shit on you, but it's going to take some positive thinking to turn things around, so I'd like to share some genuine, un-sarcastic reasons why I can see the good guys winning in 2006:

Blind furry lobsters. How rad is it that? In a world where twelve forty-sevenths of former old-growth forests are now occupied by Old Navys, there are entire species that we've never even seen before? I mean, sure, scientists are always talking about how many undiscovered organisms there are in the rainforests and the deep sea, but I sort of thought they meant that in a "Wow-this-Anopheles gambiae-is-like-1.5 mm-bigger-than-any-of-the-ones-we-found-last-time-maybe-it's-a-new-species!" sense; not in the crazy-albino-hirsute-crustacean sense. Who knows what else we're sharing our planet with? There could be some kind of gnarly money with pincers and stalk eyes that can read your mind out there. You never know.

Ok, here's the biggie: liquid water on Enceladus. There's no more appropriate reaction to hearing that we've found liquid water on one of Saturn's moons than to let fly an excited string of expletives. The next logical step is to find a super-race of Aquamen living below the surface of the moon, right? Or maybe super-virulent bacteria? Either way, this is pretty much the find of the century. I've always been of the mind that whatever money space programs get, it isn't enough, and this is why: extra-terrestrial water! We might not be the only living organisms in our solar system! That's the moon landing times twelve, only without all the dramatic flag-planting. It's kind of amazing to be alive to hear that news.

And then there's the noble rat-squirrel. All these years I've been thinking that man and rattish squirrels would only meet face-to-face in Michael Crichton novels, but it turns out that the rat-squirrel wasn't extinct after all-he was just hanging out in Laos. As touching as the story of the rediscovery, a few months back, of the ivory-billed woodpecker is, it's infinitely cooler to find an eleven-million-year-old mammal. That's practically Fred Flintstone territory.

Lastly, there's the fact that Bush is hitting new lows in his approval numbers. I'm trying not to get excited about the political stuff; the science is the big news since, no matter how badly we're fucking up elsewhere, it's deeply comforting to know that human beings still have the ability to find new things on the planet they've inhabited this whole time (as well as the planets that we can send Cassinis to). Not to mention the fact that every time I start to feel a little bit better about world politics, the US decides to start bombing somebody. But it's hard not to get some small satisfaction from comeuppance (however temporary) given to the people who deserve it.

Kids, we're going to turn this thing around. Me, you, Tom Scharpling, the furry lobster, the rat-squirrel and the midterm elections are going to take it home this year, and the Aquamen are going to bring their hot mermaid girlfriends to our victory party. I believe that the good guys will run the table in 2006. Who's with me?