Why 2005 made my brain hurt
AS I write this, my final column of 2005, I realize that I end the year as completely baffled about certain things as I was when the year started.
For instance, why is it that the Egyptians still don't know why the Sphinx was built? I'm not real bright, but how does the history of a gigantic sculpture that is apparently part cat and part gay guy get lost? (Before you start sending angry mail, the head on the Sphinx is obviously a gay guy, or the builder wouldn't have made him look like Elizabeth Taylor.) So at some point in history, the Pharaoh Bruce commissioned this gigantic statue. Every day, Egyptians wake up and see this thing staring at them from the desert. Every day, they say, "Hey, there's that weird Sphinx thing commissioned by the Pharaoh Bruce to honor cats and guys who dress up to look like Elizabeth Taylor." This goes on for thousands of years. Then suddenly, one day, the Egyptians wake up, look at the Sphinx and say, "What the hell is that? Where'd that thing come from? Who made it? Who is Elizabeth Taylor?"
I just don't get it.
ANOTHER thing I don't get is why when one country invents something and gives it a name, other countries feel they have to change the name of the thing. For instance, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. He called it a "telephone." He invented it, he gets to name it. But why do Spanish-speaking countries call it "telefono"? How hard is it to call it what it is, a telephone? Taking the "ph" out and adding an "o" instead of an "e" seems not only pointless, but argumentative.
We don't do that to their inventions. When they invented San Diego and San Francisco, we kept the names, even after we seized the cities. We didn't change San Francisco to Saint Frankie. When our friends to the south invented the taco, we didn't rename it. It's still a taco. We can live with that. Apparently the French can't. The French call a taco a "crepe de mais farcie." That means "stuffed pancake of corn." Why the French just couldn't call a taco a taco is unclear, other than they want all words in France to sound Frenchy. I'd tell you what they call enchiladas in France, but it would take up the rest of this column.
I just don't get these things. Like, why, when some crazy person kills his whole family, does he say his dog told him to do it?
How come when dogs decide to talk to crazy people, they never say, "Feed the children" or "Save the whales"? Or even "Do the dishes"? I don't get it. A dog speaks up and homicide ensues.
You notice cats never tell anyone to kill their families. If cats could talk they'd say, "Just feed me and leave me the hell alone. If I had thumbs I wouldn't even be living here."
The last thing I haven't been able to figure out is why when actual Hawaiians manage to get their hands on actual Hawaiian artifacts and return them to a burial cave where they belong, they are ordered by the federal courts to turn them back over to total strangers.
That's what is happening right now to the Hawaiian group Hui Malama i na Kupuna o Hawaii Nei. They were "loaned" some artifacts from Bishop Museum which they then secretly repatriated to a Hawaiian burial cave.
I'M NOT real bright, but it seems to me that before you order Hawaiians to give back Hawaiian artifacts, all the non-Hawaiians who looted Hawaiian artifacts from burial sites and fishing villages for the past hundreds of years should be forced to send those items back to Hawaii. They are easy to find. Just go on eBay where stolen Hawaiian artifacts are regularly up for sale. Or look anywhere on the Internet. One Web site actually says, "Collecting Hawaiian artifacts enables the collector to be in touch with the past. To handle stones and artifacts that may have pre-dated Cook is to gain an understanding of the culture of Hawaii." Yeah, it's a way of getting in touch with the past. Just not YOUR past. And the first thing to understand about understanding Hawaiian culture is that Hawaiians would rather their cultural artifacts stay where they were put in the first place.
Why doesn't the federal government put as much effort into retrieving Hawaiian artifacts from haole "collectors" on the mainland? If it did, the Bishop Museum would have to build a couple of new wings to house the wayward collection.
Maybe I'll figure out the answers to these questions in 2006. But I doubt it.
Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org