The Human Zoo

I received a funny email today. The friend who sent it informed me that he was reading an online text of H.L. Mencken to ward off work boredom. I found this funny because I was forced to read Mencken's Chrestomathy as a part of sixth-grade literature.

So I find it difficult, again funny, to think that someone was reading Mencken to stave off boredom. I jotted off a note that maybe he might want to consider Dante's Inferno for his next bit of light reading, then thought about my own knee-jerk response.

(A brief sidenote: I highly recommend clicking on the Inferno link. Sit through the flash intro and all to see the product of a truly twisted mind. I almost revoked my loathing for this novel, until I was reminded that "There are four rings of the frozen lake of Cocytus: 1)Caina, 2)Antenora, 3)Ptolomea, 4)Judecca." Ugh...it's an eigth-grade blue book test all over again.)

Looking back there is certainly a danger in having young people read advanced topics as a basis for education. Certainly, texts such as this helped develop my reasoning and logic, but I surely never understood anything other than the mechanics of the writing back then. Consuming an author like Mencken for content could only come later; but to folks who were force-fed the rants at an early age, the likelihood of revisiting such authors at a later stage is severely diminished.

So I took a few precious minutes out of my day to read the link my friend had included in his email. It proved to be a timely topic, as you will see. I was mildly surprised to be amused by this selection from "Damn!" and believe I will have to rethink the lifetime ban on Mencken.

I often wonder how much sound and nourishing food is fed to the animals in the zoological gardens of America every week, and try to figure out what the public gets in return for the cost thereof. The annual bill must surely run into millions; one is constantly hearing how much beef a lion downs at a meal, and how many tons of hay an elephant dispatches in a month. And to what end? To the end, principally, that a horde of superintendents and keepers may be kept in easy jobs. To the end, secondarily, that the least intelligent minority of the population may have an idiotic show to gape at on Sunday afternoons, and that the young of the species may be instructed in the methods of amour prevailing among chimpanzees and become privy to the technic employed by jaguars, hyenas and polar bears in ridding themselves of ice.

So far as I can make out, after laborious visits to all the chief zoos of the nation, no other imaginable purpose is served by their existence. One hears constantly, true enough (mainly from the gentlemen they support) that they are educational. But how? Just what sort of instruction do they radiate, and what is its value? I have never been able to find out. The sober truth is that they are no more educational than so many firemen's parades or displays of sky-rockets, and that all they actually offer to the public in return for the taxes wasted upon them is a form of idle
and witless amusement, compared to which a visit to a penitentiary, or even to Congress or a state legislature in session, is informing, stimulating and ennobling.

Education your grandmother! Show me a schoolboy who has ever learned anything valuable or important by watching a mangy old lion snoring away in its cage or a family of monkeys fighting for peanuts. To get any useful instruction out of such a spectacle is palpably impossible; not even a college professor is improved by it. The most it can imaginably impart is that the stripes of a certain sort of tiger run one way and the stripes of another sort some other way, that hyenas and polecats smell worse than Greek 'bus boys, that the Latin name of the raccoon (who was unheard of by the Romans) is _Procyon lotor_. For the dissemination of such banal knowledge, absurdly emitted and defectively taken in, the taxpayers of the United States are mulcted in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. As well make them pay for teaching policemen the theory of least squares, or for instructing roosters in the laying of eggs.
As I mentioned, I found this timely. Because the immediate parallel that I drew was to Casey Serin. As taxpayers, we will pay for the care and feeding of Casey Serin in one way or another for years to come.

As for the educational benefit of watching the Casey Serin trainwreck from the sidelines, what benefit is there, really? Who can learn anything from Casey Serin? Much in the same way that Mencken points out the tiger's stripes, so too have we determined the shallow value of the Casey Serin.

Really...re-read the above paragraphs, and in lieu of 'zoo' or 'animals', insert "Casey Serin" or "Galina Serin." It's amazing how accurate the text becomes.


Akubi said...

Hilarious analogy!

Aspeth said...

Isn't that bizarre?! I tell you, some days it just falls in your lap!

Anonymous said...

You ARE the girl who read all the books you were SUPPOSED to.
(I am the one that did it AFTER college when my "fruit" babies were sleeping. The good ole days before cable and internet.)

I usually take my Mencken like I take my steaks...RARE.

But I tell ya, I have really been against the "zoo" thing for a long time. I am a "dog" person and cannot IMAGINE one being in a cage all the time. I always found the field trips to the zoo a little pointless, even as a young child. I did my "learnin" about animals watching "Wild Kingdom". But I never related Fucktard to that. He is our zoo, isn't he? A great find, a great read, and a great parallel. I might just have to take him off my "I am too stupid to get this"

Wow, you are lucky. My friend just emailed me a video of a guy running into a brick wall. (And I LAUGHED MY ASS OFF) Is that wrong? I guess THAT could remind me of Casey, too.

I think my I.Q. just dropped 20 points, and yours did 10 just for READING this.

Keep it coming!
Your buddy,

Schnapps said...

I am obviously a heathen as I have never read Inferno and have not heard of the other. Canadian heathen, mind you (and its the first night of the playoffs, rapid transit construction outside my office, three rights needed in order to go left, don't get me started on traffic).

However, the passage was amusing. And it sort of inspired me for a post which will end up at Red Schnapper - "The Care and Feeding of Casey Serin: A How-not-to Manual for Investors"

Aspeth said...

leigh said...
You ARE the girl who read all the books you were SUPPOSED to.

Shit. I'd forgotten about that. LMAO...

You're a riot, Leigh. Yeah, Wild Kingdom was way better than a hot sweaty day at the zoo. It is always depressing to see the animals penned up like that. It's not my cup of tea, certainly.

I'm going to have to look up this video...

Aspeth said...

Schnapps, consider yourself veeery lucky to have never been subjected to the Inferno. I hope Dante found his own personal circle of hell after writing that horrid piece of tripe.

That post sounds *hysterical*...definitely come back and post a link when it's done. I'm sure the haterz will love it! Sorry about the traffic...take it out on the fucktard ;-)

Schnapps said...

Oh no. I know the guy who set up the traffic patterns around work during construction. Since I will be carpooling with him shortly, he will be getting an earful.

All tied up 10 minutes into the first. This should be a good series :>

Will definitely post a link when I get that post up. :>

Aspeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If Dante were alive today, he'd make an addendum to Inferno, adding a 10th circle of hell for Casey Serin. :-)

Schnapps said...


ha. I nearly forgot I blogged that - either that or I blocked it :> He was scary. :>

No, its not that guy. This guy works for a different department in my organization. And he will be getting an earful.

Picture it: can't turn left out of the parking lot; can't turn left at the next intersection (which is the road I want to get on). I can go right a block, then right two blocks to a major road which is down to one lane in every direction at a major intersection. Traffic backs up for miles during rush hour. If I keep going straight, I have to go four blocks before I can turn left (or right)at a major intersection and there's no turn arrow with massive amounts of construction so it takes a couple of lights to get through that. Go 3 blocks, hang another left at another major intersection with no turn arrow, only to find that they are building some high-density building and have parked a mini-crane in the turn lane next to the road I want to get onto (yes, that first road). It takes me 15 minutes just to get headed in the right direction.

Oh, and because this major road is shut down except for one lane in each direction, I will miss my train if I take the bus to the station from work. And there's no train for an hour after that.

And you wonder why I needed that case of wine. :)

Aspeth said...

Hi Benoit...No worries...Casey's covered under Dante's diatribes about Gluttony, Hoarders & Wasters, the Fraudulent, and the Treacherous. Ironically, Dante reserved this ninth circle of hell for the Treacherous, classifying them as treacherous to their kin, country, guests, and masters.

"The final circle is the coldest place in Hell. Everything from the rivers, to the blood, to the guilt, all drain here and solidify into a terrible sheet of ice that encases the wrost sinners of all, including Satan himself. Treachery lacks all love, and therefore, these sinners are denied any warmth."

So, Casey, you've got that to look forward to.

Aspeth said...

Hey Schnapps, Yeah, I almost sprayed coffee all over my screen when I read that today. That guy totally danced on the line of creepy/hysterical. Although I don't think anyone needs to be taking any rides from him.

That is one major clusterfuck of a commute. You're right...that was damn good timing on stocking up on the wine!

Schnapps said...

Yeah. Yay for the Olympics and progress. :>

Aspeth said...

Yes, will probably get worse before it gets better. Strange how cities become completely transformed in preparation for the Olympics. Wait 'til all of the newcomers start flocking to your area...

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