Spoofs & Satire

Photograph by ONUR KAFALI

And Now a Few Minutes With Andy Rooney’s Homo Erectus Ancestor

What the kids call “Acheulean,” others call pretentious nonsense. And what’s up with fire?

I’m always on the lookout for major changes in our way of life here in Olduvai Gorge and I’ve noticed one disturbing change in what people are doing lately. It is my observation that early hominids are innovating far more than they used to.

I don’t like most of the stuff that passes for stone tools nowadays, and it’s everywhere. You just don’t see anyone carrying primitively hammered lumps of rock anymore. No, today’s youth would rather spend all their time making silly hand axes and large stone-flake tools. I hear the kids are calling it “Acheulean.” I call it nonsense. And since when did nonsense become a good way to carve up a zebra carcass?

I just don’t care for all the symmetry in today’s lithic technology. Why do we need tools with two faces when one works just fine? A million years of Oldowan tradition surely can’t be wrong. But if racking your brain to make a stone tool is your idea of a good time, be my guest. I’ll stick to stone choppers.

When I was about 10 years old I remember seeing fire once and being ashamed of how much I enjoyed it because it was pretty and bright. It was a fairly complicated thought for a Homo Erectus, but I had it. As an adult, though, I’ve always hated fire. And for good reason—it’s terrifying. But, I’ve noticed a trend recently that concerns me. Everyone’s got a fire going these days.

Hominids I know insist that fire is a good thing for us. I’m more inclined to consider such statements as fiction, unsupported by facts.Hominids I know insist that fire is a good thing for us. Food will be safer to eat, and allegedly tastier too. I’m also told that fire will protect us from large predators; keep us warm in this cold, dry weather; and allow us to socialize well into the night. I’m more inclined to consider such statements as fiction, unsupported by facts.

Personally, I don’t care for all the palatable flavors fire produces. And I find the chewing much easier than it need be. I can’t tell if I’m really consuming the bloated elephant I just found or hallucinating from those colorful plants I nibbled on again. I never had this problem when chewing meat meant painfully sore jaws the next morning.

Could someone please explain to me why we need to be staying up at all hours after the magic ball of light falls out of the sky? What’s so wrong with blindly stumbling through camp and shivering ourselves to sleep—the way my parents’ generation did it? I was doing perfectly fine without a “night life,” thank you very much. And I’ve managed to keep from being eaten just fine. At least when saber-toothed cats prowled through the camp picking off people, decent real estate next to the streambeds was easy to come by.

I grunt at a lot of people and what I’ve been hearing lately is that there’s talk of leaving Africa. Next time you’re wandering through the Rift Valley, ask around. Lake Turkana is full of people going ape for this migration idea. I suppose it makes sense. Consider for a moment what a beacon of culture Turkana is and it’s no wonder they’re so eager to leave.

I may not understand geography or progress, but I know enough to realize that this migration business is pretentious nonsense. I don’t understand why I’d want to leave what I’m already familiar with for the unknown. I don’t think I ever will. But if a bunch of restless hooligans want to walk off the face of the earth, I say good riddance. Send me a postcard from the monster-filled void when you get a chance.

I’m left with these inescapable conclusions: Fire is strange and confusing and I don’t like it. My guess is that it’s just an irritating phase that will go out of fashion in time. As for whoever made these bifacial handaxes and large flake tools, I’m willing to bet he was either mentally deranged or he’s putting us on. Is Acheulean really better than Oldowan? I don’t think so. A hominid ought to stick to simple tools and shivering in the dark before he ends up changing the course of evolution. Or worse. I say give me something traditional, something I can understand.

I know perfectly well that good cultural innovations are always ahead of public taste. Most of this stuff is certainly ahead of mine. I don’t like them. And if I’m wrong, you all can just leave me here at Olduvai on your way out.