Honolulu Lite


Animal kingdom agrees
that humans have good taste

Set aside your $39 Zino cigar, your glass of La Gitana Manzanilla sherry, your first edition of "On the Origin of Moral Feelings" by Friedrich Nietzsche -- as well as all the other sophisticated diversions that make you feel superior -- and consider for a moment that human beings basically are large bipedal chunks of meat that other species find quite tasty.

It's no fun thinking of yourself as another critter's entree, which is why humans spend so much time trying not to look like animals. We are animals. We're just the animals who shave, walk upright and wear shoes and hats. What kind of creature would want to eat something that looks like Michael Jackson?

Lions, for one thing. And sharks, for another. Actually, there are lots of animals that would eat a person if that person were already dead. But lions and sharks are about the only animals in the wild who will kill you and eat you, though not necessarily in that order. Bears, for instance, might kill you just because you happen to be in a place where you shouldn't be, like Alaska. But a bear wouldn't eat you. A bear will kill you and then go to see what kind of goodies you packed in your car.

BUT LIONS ARE another matter. Scientists have figured out -- and I'm not sure I want to know how that lions actually like the taste of people.

According to a magazine called New Scientist, all humans make an attractive meal to lions, not just the old and infirm as previously believed. Scientists and many people forced to live around lions believed that as lions got older and less able to chase fleet-footed gazelles and such, they would resort to pursuing less ambulatory humans. If you lived anywhere near lions, this theory made you feel pretty good, especially if you weren't the oldest codger in the camp.

But scientists found that lions enjoy the entire smorgasbord of humankind, from those who can run a mile in under four minutes to those who can't, like Walter Matthau. I'm not sure what you can do with this information other than, if you find yourself in Africa, order room service.

In Hawaii we know what sharks are capable of. We also know what they are not capable of: getting around on land. That's why if you haven't mastered the art of running across the surface of the ocean, it's better to swim laps in the parking lot. Scientists, new and old, will tell you that people kill and eat more sharks than sharks kill and eat people. Why this should bother the scientists, I don't know. Personally, I can live with it.

But researchers have discovered something weird about sharks: Shark attacks go down when the stock market drops. No kidding.

According to the University of Florida, when the economy is weak, shark attacks decrease. They think it's because in a bad economy people don't have money to spend on vacations to shark-infested waters.

I think the sharks are just depressed about their portfolios. I know when my stocks sunk 98 percent, I lost my appetite. I imagine all those sharks that overinvested in tech stocks felt the same way. A shark sees some sunburned guy splashing in the shallows and sure, he looks delicious. But the shark's worried. Is Oracle Corp. ever going to regain its pre-2002 highs? So he settles for sherry, a cigar and a small taste of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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