At long last, I’m finished with the spring semester. Granted, I’m hoping to take two nighttime summer courses over the next few months (provided I can acquire enough money to do so) in addition to working full time, but it’s hard to be down when it’s been beautiful out for the past few days. I did attempt to blog over the weekend about the thecodont Ornithosuchus, but when I was 90% of the way done I realized what I wrote was crap without any real insight, so I put it on the shelf for later. I also visited to Bronx Zoo yesterday with some friends (photos will be forthcoming) and I had an interesting little exchange with one of my friends. While we were walking through the Jungle World exhibit, we passed by a small glass cage containing several Common Treeshrews (Tupaia glis). I can never seem to get a good photo of the little guys, given their enclosure is a bit dim and they move so fast, but while my friend and I were watching them dart about I pointed out that the little treeshrews are relatives of ours. This seemed to surprise him a little, and I explained how if you go back far enough in time, you find that primates evolved from such creatures.
I could only help but wonder how many people passed by the inconspicuous case, never realizing that they were looking at a relative. As I’ve discussed before, zoos are places were people primarily come to look (even gawk), but actual learning seems to be a secondary objective. I wonder if small-group guided tours with an evolution theme would garner any interest, leading a small group of people on a tour in order to explain how the animals in the zoo are related and how we are related to them. Such small tours could be extended to conservation as well, and of course you could always throw in a little behind-the-scenes stuff if you wanted to garner some more interest (or make some more money), but I often get frustrated when people see something like a binturong and make wild guesses as to what it is, only to eventually see the signs nearby and say “Oh, it says it’s a bear-cat” and then move on. Such a mentality is also why the Planet Earth series was such a success, I think; actually learning something was secondary to the pretty pictures. I’m not trying to suggest the BBC didn’t try or left out all scientific content, but by the same token the series was not as in-depth as Life in the Undergrowth or other series, and most reviews focused on how beautiful the show was rather than what could be learned from it. Maybe it just me, but I find it hard to comprehend such mentalities; why don’t people care? I recognize that many people spend more waking hours at work than they do at home, and when they finally get home they want to relax and be entertained more than they want to think, but I can’t understand why people don’t want to know more about the world they live in.
On Friday night I saw Spider-Man 3 with my wife and while I certainly enjoyed the film, I was a little unsettled by people’s reactions. Yes, some of the close-up crying scenes were a little over-the-top, but during some of the saddest parts of the film lots of people were laughing. The same thing happened when I saw the remake of War of the Worlds a few years ago and people were hysterical with laughter when Dakota Fanning looked out onto a river flooded with bodies. Are we that insensitive and uncaring? Sometimes I really do wonder if we’re on the road to a world as seen in the film Idiocracy where a show entitled “Ow, my balls!” is #1 (and from what I’ve been told by others MTV already has such a show). Indeed, sometimes I feel like the Sideshow Bob, the sometimes hero, sometimes villain from the Simpsons. In one particular episode, in reference to an upcoming air show, Bob says “Buzz-cut Alabamians spewing colored smoke from their whiz jets to the strains of “Rock You Like A Hurricane?” What kind of country-fried rube is still impressed by that?” You can guess the answer to his rhetorical question.
I don’t expect everyone to think what I think and like what I like (nor would I want that to be the case; just one of me is enough), but I tire of people caring more about the latest episode of Lost or what Paris Hilton is up to than issues that really matter, i.e. worldwide poverty, AIDS in Africa, global climate change, pollution, etc. Sure, some efforts are made here and there, but what nearly everyone has failed to do is actually commit to make any kind of change. A few weeks ago my in-laws put on American Idol, and I was surprised to see that they were attempting to raise money for the poor in Africa. What my wife and I found startling was that AIDS was not mentioned even once, as well as the fact that I’m sure plenty of people called-in but how many actually were moved enough by the show to make any kind of larger commitment to helping the poor? This way everyone could sit on their asses, call in, and feel like they were a good person when really made the least amount of effort to help someone who doesn’t have the luxury of going back to eating popcorn and watching people vie for a record deal to become a rock star. To tell you the truth, I’m glad I don’t have television anymore.