22 September 2009

Where Are the Wild Things?

Listening to: The Blow, "True Affection."

I stole a book from the library once. Just once. I won't say where or when but let's just say I had to do it. This was pre-Internet and pre-Amazon so I didn't think I'd ever find such a wonderful book again. I felt terribly guilty for awhile but justified the crime by saying that with this book in my possession, my life would be forever changed. What was the book? A field guide about whales, dolphins, and porpoises. I think it was this one. It was truly a marvelous book with incredible illustrations, detailed descriptions, and good maps and facts. I had to have it. So I took it and ran (not literally), and it's still in my collection somewhere.

Three things I hope to live long enough to see: teleportation (for people), a shrinking ray (for luggage and furniture), and someone finding an undiscovered giant animal (at least fifty feet long/tall). A previously disputed legendary creature would be a big bonus. The chances of the first two happening are pretty slim. I can barely get consistent iPhone coverage so I'm not sure I'd trust technology to teleport anything anywhere. And the whole shrinking ray thing is obviously a long shot. So I'm left with unearthing gigantic animals. The closest I've come to realizing that dream was learning about the basking shark, which is the second largest living shark. It's so cool and alien looking isn't it? See why I had to steal that damn book?

Do you remember a few years ago when Cornell researchers proposed importing lions, elephants, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals over to the Midwest and then letting them roam? It was kind of a stupid -- yet undeniably intriguing -- idea. I wonder if that would have put a dent in African safari tourism. Or would people still clamor to see "the real thing." I guess we'll never know now, will we? Alternately, I'd settle for a shrinking ray that works on animals, so we could all have cat sized giraffes and rhinos as pets.

At the California Academy of Sciences History Museum (CAS) here in San Francisco, they have a preserved coelacanth in their aquarium section. This fish was thought to be extinct but was discovered alive and well in 1938. Now one of them sits in this little water box as kids tap on the window asking, "Why isn't he moving? Is he dead?" How inglorious.

The other day I had a conversation with someone and "selkie" came up. I didn't know anyone else knew what one was and was surprised to hear the word said out loud. Like just thrown into a normal conversation. It was kind of delightfully jarring. Basically a selkie is a seal that can turn into a human. It's a strange combination. I can understand how sharp fanged werewolves or beautiful mermaids capture the human imagination but having morphing mythology centered around a seal is very strange. Until you realize that the stories come mainly from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, or places way up north and probably lacking in a menagerie of cool animals to myth about.

I guess what I'm saying with all this animal stuff is that it's good to dream.