Sometimes studying the past gives me a unique perspective on current events. Consider the Thames whale story. The latest update is that the whale, sadly, died.
LONDON - The northern bottle-nosed whale that made world headlines when it strayed into the River Thames in central London two days ago died on Saturday as rescuers were trying to rush it to safety aboard a barge.
Rescue teams had hoped the adolescent 18-foot whale could be returned to the open seas but it died suddenly after its health took a turn for the worse.
This story has gotten incredible traction:
The whale captured the hearts of the nation during live television coverage of every twist and turn in the saga, and huge crowds lining the river banks burst into applause as the elaborate rescue operation got under way on Saturday afternoon.
It's dominating Technorati. Admittedly, I'm contributing to it. I always try to avoid complaining about panda stories for that reason -- it seems like we have to hear about the intimate details of every panda on the planet.
Now, please understand I have nothing at all against attempts to keep whales safe in the open ocean.
But for 99.99 percent of human existence, the rational reaction to this story would have been, "GREAT! LIGHT UP THE GRILL!"
Instead, we have a bunch of guys chasing the whale around on Zodiacs trying to club it back to the ocean. And then they pick it up out of the water, load it on a barge, and have a bunch of people riding along pouring water on it to keep it from drying out.
Future anthropologists would think it was a religious ritual. I guess maybe it is.
All I'm saying is, it's a strange, strange world we've created.