Our Weird Perception of What’s New

11 Nov

Check it out – a new species of lizard has been discovered.  It’s a little critter about five inches long, lives in Vietnam, and scientists are amazed by its ability to reproduce through cloning as opposed to sex.  In today’s age of sexually transmitted diseases, that’s some pretty good thinking on the part of the lizards.  Plus, they’re all girls, so no one has to worry about the toilet seat or farts.

The funny thing about this brand new species, if you follow the sticky link up there, is that the Vietnamese have been grilling up and eating the little lizards for ages.  It’s kind of like their chicken wing, I guess, if chicken wings hopped around in the wild and made weird, spontaneous copies of themselves.  That would be a hell of a world, wouldn’t it?

When a Vietnamese scientist, who had never had grilled lizard before, or at least not this particular kind of grilled lizard, saw the little critters wiggling around in a tank the way lobsters do at seafod joints only this was at the local South Vietnamese Hooters, or whatever it was, he said to himself, that’s weird, they’re all female.

I don’t know how you do that, look into a tank full of wiggly lizards and realize such a thing.  That’s why he’s a South Vietnamese scientist, I guess, and I’m a Midwestern writer and Notary Public.  But anyway, the South Vietnamese scientist – who has a name, by the way, Ngo Van Tri – went back to his office and called his California lizard scientist pal Dr. Lee Grismer, who “dropped everything” and grabbed his son and got on a plane.

That seems a little extreme to me.  If it was a new lizard that was two hundred feet high and could breathe fire, sure, throw the siren on top of your car and blast straight out to the airport.  This guy hears about a weird tank full of Snack Lizards and he clears off his whole month.

But okay, I’m not a lizard scientist – he knows what he’s doing.  He and his son land in Hanoi and then engage in a two day (!) motorcycle trip out to the restaurant in question.  That exclamation point is there because I would have thought that you could ride straight across South Vietnam and then all around the perimeter of it (careful on the north side, if you know what I’m saying), and be back in your office in two days, but no, that’s apparently not true.

They undertake the arduous journey with a promise from the owner that he’ll hang onto some of the lizards even though Thursday’s coming and Thursday’s Twenty Cent Lizard Night – it gets sort of crazy.

And it does get crazy.  After the motorcycle ride, the two American scientists arrive to find that things aren’t all that different in South Vietnam from say, South Campus – the owner has become intoxicated, and grilled up all the lizards anyway.  Sorry fellas, he says, we’re out of lizards.  You didn’t come far, did you?

Well, instead of getting back on their motorcycles and heading home, the two scientists talked some kids into going out and rounding up the elusive species, which doesn’t seem to take long, and pretty soon they’ve got sixty of them.  Just look at this quote by the plucky California scientist:

“It’s an entirely new lineage of life that was being eaten and sold in restaurants for food,” says Grismer. “But it’s something that scientists have missed for hundreds of years.”

That’s right out of the article.  That counts as a quote.  Lacking any journalism training at all, I’m not sure if that’s enough to keep me from getting thrown in the slammer for cutting and pasting that out of the article.  Go easy on me, fellas.

But anyway, that’s our Western attitude, isn’t it?  Does anyone else see the obvious contradiction right there in his sentence?  If it was getting served up like jalepeno poppers at a restaurant, if they’ve been eating it for hundreds of years, if you just found it on your plate at lunch time – what on Earth is new about it?

It’s like when we all arrived on this continent with our white dudes and our diseases and our big, funny wigs, and we said “Look!  It’s a brand new continent!  With people on it – new people!”

While the people all kind of looked at each other, people with thousands of years of heritage, people who were pretty sure they weren’t the new ones in this scenario.

Kind of reminds me of Chet from Weird Science, when he finds Anthony Michael Hall making eggs or something, and says, “Hey, that looks pretty good!  Now make yourself some – dickweed!”

Makes you want to roll out to California and discover Dr. Grismer’s office, set up camp in it.  Start heating up his Hot Pockets in his microwave – look everyone, I found a new office!  With a new kind of Hot Pocket in it – Southwest Chipotle!


Posted by on November 11, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag, News/Commentary


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Our Weird Perception of What’s New

  1. ecossie possie

    November 12, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Thease Lizards have been about since before mamals so hardly new.I doubt they are all females though probably asexual like earth worms an fertilise themselfs..Another thing they have in commom with worms is that they are being eaten. Quite a few children look on earthworms as a meal…

    • thomaschalfant

      November 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

      The guy on Bizarre Foods was in Vietnam eating bowls of live crickets last time I saw him. Apparently, being alive and wriggling around is part of the yummy factor.


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