April 28, 2009

Jungle booked

Recent (and prehistoric) events suggest that you can run from the past, but you can’t hide.

Last month a team of scientists in Norway announced the discovery of a 50-foot-long prehistoric sea monster named “Predator X.” According to researchers, the creature had a bite 11 times more powerful than that of the Tyrannosaurus rex, and 10-foot-long jaws that could turn a Chevy Impala into a tiny brick of aluminum. A computer simulation depicts the petrified Pilosaur as a cross between Michael Phelps and the Sarlacc.The discovery came roughly one year after scientists unearthed another water terror known as “The Monster” (paleontologists, apparently, have better things to do than pore over Latin dictionaries). Both creatures were uncovered in the Scandinavian Arctic, which is perhaps another reason for the U.S. to avoid turning into Sweden at all costs. Even in a fossilized, frozen, and fragmented state, Predator X cast a spell over his finders. Jørn Hurum (pronounced “ho-hum”), the Norwegian scientist who announced the discovery, called Predator X “the most ferocious hunter ever.” Another researcher put it more bluntly: “This monster makes the T. rex look like a puppy dog.”The good news, though, is that as far as we can tell, Predator X and The Monster are both completely and inexplicably extinct. And while the obvious question still remains as to how two species with such large teeth could possibly share the same fate as the Passenger Pigeon, we’ll leave that one to the Norwegians. As America descends into a swine flu–infested swamp of tea parties, Ponzi schemes, and Twitter rants, we’ll take encouragement where we can get it.But the discovery of Predator X is relevant not just for the vast cinematic opportunities it affords (working title: The Creature That Ate The Creature from the Black Lagoon), but for the message it sends amid admittedly more pressing current events—you can run from the past, but you can’t hide. Take, for example, the twin political conflicts of the past week: President Obama’s release of the CIA torture memos and the decision from a federal judge in Chicago not to allow former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to participate in a reality TV show in Costa Rica called I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.Both events have been met, predictably, with frustration from critics reticent to relive our long national nightmares. On ABC’s “This Week” this past Sunday, for example, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan typified this viewpoint when she called on Americans to simply “keep walking” past the new revelations on torture. “Some things in life need to be mysterious,” Noonan explained.In denying the ex-governor’s appeal to go to Costa Rica to tape the show, U.S. District Judge James Zagel took a similar tack. Zagel lectured Blagojevich, suggesting that the would-be Richard Hatch did not understand the seriousness of his predicament, and reiterated prosecutors’ concerns that the man famously arrested in his jogging suit might take the opportunity to, well, R-U-N-N-O-F-T. In short, the time for talk-show antics and publicity stunts is over; it’s time for the defendant to keep walking.In both situations, ignoring the recent past is a troubling step. Fortunately, Blagojevich’s situation presents a real solution to both problems, allowing a natural resolution to two troubling chapters in American history: Send them all to Costa Rica.I’m A Celebrity… reaches a worldwide audience (it’s huge in, of all places, Hungary, where a version of the show airs under the sobriquet Celeb vagyok... ments ki innen!), which is perfect for a nation looking to make good with the rest of the world. Better yet, it puts its contestants through conditions roughly analogous to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Imagine torture memo author John Yoo, joined perhaps by that couple from The Hills and a few of the Baldwins, forced to ingest cockroaches, locusts, and grub worms, seemingly on end. It might not hold the same stigma as outright prosecution, but it might at least cause him to rethink his shoddy legal reasoning about what constitutes humane treatment of prisoners.Blagojevich, meanwhile, would fit in among the cast members, and most importantly, could use the opportunity not just to raise funds for his legal defense (as is his purported intention), but also to undergo a personal rehabilitation process. As one competitor on the British version of the show confessed to the camera, “Just being in the jungle made me a better, more well rounded person.” What more could we ask for from reality?

Tim Murphy is a fourth-year in the College majoring in history. He is a member of the Editorial Board.