US Government Denies Existence Of Mermaids

The U.S. National Ocean Service has released a statement confirming there is no scientific evidence for mermaids.

Interesting – I didn’t realize this was a subject of debate.

Apparently it wasn’t until Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet network ran a spoof documentary titled “Mermaids: The Body Found.” The channel’s own press release labels the show “science fiction.” This wasn’t enough for some viewers and according to the BBC, the National Ocean Service received a couple of inquiries about the fishy folk. To keep the public from reviving the superstitions of illiterate 19th century sailors, they made a public denial of something they never thought they’d have to deny.

When I read this I went through the predictable range of reactions. First I laughed, then I felt smugly superior, then I said, “Hey, I need to write this up for Gadling!” Then I did something I didn’t expect.

I got very, very afraid.

The public dialogue is awash with ridiculous assertions: Obama is a Muslim, the Moon landings were faked, all foreigners hate America, aliens regularly visit Earth to anally probe drunk farmers, etc., etc. Last week we even learned that some radical ultra-Orthodox Jews believe Hitler and top Zionists plotted to create the Holocaust so the Jews could create Israel. I’m still shaking my head over that one.

This level of ignorance is the result of many factors, but one cause rules over them all: a complete lack of context. Our schools teach us so little about the world that it’s easy to believe anything. Even the most basic knowledge of history, biology, evolution, oceanography, or folklore would guarantee that someone wouldn’t believe in mermaids, yet some people who went through the educational system of the most powerful country in the world lack this knowledge.It’s easy to laugh this off when it’s about mermaids. It’s not so funny when educated people seriously ask me if I had to pack a two-month supply of food to live in Ethiopia, or if Spain still has roving gangs of bandidos.

And if you think nobody is encouraging and profiting off this rampant ignorance, think again. The Republican Party of Texas included as part of its 2012 platform that it opposes the teaching of critical thinking in schools. And no, I’m not picking on the GOP. All politicians manipulate public ignorance to further their own ends. With elections coming up, it’s time to get educated.

This is why I love travel. It gets rid of my ignorance and teaches me that I’m ignorant about things I didn’t even know I was clueless about. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, it changes unknown unknowns into known knowns. Example: five years ago I thought all of Somalia was in chaos – then I learned about Somaliland. OK, I thought, it’s safe for Somalis. I still assumed that it was too dangerous for foreigners. Then I actually went there and checked. Guess what? I’m still alive!

Knowledge is the great weapon of national freedom and personal liberation. If more people got out of their comfort zones and investigated their assumptions, maybe the American public would never have been convinced that one group of people were ignorant savages and needed to be pushed off their land, or another group of people were too stupid to take care of themselves and needed to be enslaved, or that another group of people had more loyalty to the old country than America and needed to be forced into internment camps for the duration of World War II.

This ignorance of “the other” is still rampant today and can turn ugly at any time. It’s in our own best interest to get out of our comfort zones. We don’t have to leave the country to travel. Our comfort zone ends at the other side of the tracks.

Always question, always be suspicious of an authority’s motives, and keep exploring.

Photo of the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana, courtesy Flickr user vsmoothe. That woman is a human actress in a mermaid suit, in case you’re wondering. And yes, I totally want to go swimming with her.

That island dream job in Australia? Osama bin Laden wants it along with 9000 others

When the dream job to work as a caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef islands in Queensland, Australia was announced, more than 9,000 people applied–including Osama bin Laden. At least from the video posted in the article in The Sydney Morning Herald, it looks like Osama bin Laden applied.

Full, scraggly beard? Check. White robe with matching hat? Check. A certain droning quality to the voice? Check. The video, though, as real as it seems, is dubbed.

The guy saying that he is versed in “sandy areas” and is experienced in “large scale event coordination” is not really bin Laden. Instead, the application was sent in as a joke. The dubbed voice also claims to have interests in the arts, crafts and renovating. The people collecting the applications did toss this one out. There are loads of legitimate contenders, however.

At this point, people from 162 countries have applied. If you’re one of them, your competition is fierce. As Scott stated in Gadling’s original post that announced this job, the application period closes on February 22. Eleven candidates will be chosen to be flown to Hamilton Island for an interview.

To see the video, go to the article and scroll down. Supposedly, the video is posted on YouTube, but I couldn’t find it. The video reminded me of the video spoofs that David Letterman does on bin Laden from time to time.

A Summer project to celebrate where you live

Using Matt Harding’s concept of dancing as a way to unify the world in his “Where the Hell is Matt?” videos, Jeff Hoskinson highlighted his home state, Iowa in a spoof of sorts.

He kind of looks like Matt, but he’s not Matt. Matt does appear in the video in the “Inspiration” by section. There is a handy reference guide in the YouTube description that lists everywhere featured in the video. As Hoskingson states, this was one way to have a reason to head to all the places he’s heard about since he was a kid.

If you can’t make it to EVERYWHERE in a state or a country, why not just pick your county or province? How about just your city, village or town? Pick a neat song and go for it. All you need is a camera and a person to film you. It’s doable. I’m not doing it yet–but you go for it and let me know if you’ve posted the results on YouTube. I’m enamored with the idea. Whatever you do, just keep dancing.

One thing this video does make me cognizant of is Iowa’s flooding problems. I wonder which of these sites were affected and wish the good folks in Iowa well.

Londoner fired for telling it like it is

There’s been a surprising amount of press over the news that woman who recorded the announcements you hear on the London Underground has been fired for posting spoof messages on her website. The voice-over artist, 36-year-old Emma Clarke, has all of a sudden gained worldwide notoriety, with her website brought down by the sheer amount of traffic from people wanting to download the hilarious spoofs.

You can still find some recordings here. Here are some excerpts:

  • “We would like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loudly.”
  • “Would the passenger in the red shirt pretending to read the paper but who is actually staring at that woman’s chest please stop. You are not fooling anyone, you filthy pervert.”
  • “Would passengers filling in answers on their Sudokus please accept that they are just crosswords for the unimaginative and are not in any way more impressive just because they contain numbers.

As if to reaffirm her funny take on London stereotypes, the transport administration was too staid to keep her on. Well, ok their statement was surprisingly amusing: “London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Miss Clarke are experiencing severe delays,” a spokesman said.