The serious art of monkey business
Right now, millions of monkeys are tapping away at typewriters in cyberspace in an effort to prove that an infinite number of monkeys hitting random keys for an infinite amount of time will inevitably reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare.
By contrast, five or six chimps, three hours and a bottle of mandarin-flavoured vodka will get you the entire works of Stephanie Meyer.
To put the Shakespeare theorem to the test, US programmer Jesse Anderson replicated the experiment with a computer program and says his virtual apes have so far stumbled their way through more than 99 per cent of the Bard’s works.
While I congratulate Anderson and his digital chimps on their incredible progress, I have to say he completely missed the point of the whole thing.
As any small child, Tibetan macaque and adult human male will tell you, monkeys are always the point of any ape-related endeavour. Always. No exceptions.
Monkeys, as Shakespeare would say (if you made the “s” look like a little “f”), are pretty much the best thing ever.
I often judge zoos by how many different types of monkeys they have (spider monkeys and chimps at a minimum, cotton top tamarins and orangutans for extra points).
Indeed, I am yet to meet a single person who claims to have zero interest in our distant cousins.
The success of the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes, for example, was hardly surprising, given its strong cast, exploration of the nature/nurture debate and the bit where the monkey wears pants.
Monkeys wearing clothes and doing human things has been a recurring and profitable theme in film literature ever since our ancestors found that giant, charcoal-coloured rectangle thing in the sand.
Monkeys, by their very nature, are comedic in a way that some of the best stand-up acts and Two and a Half Men viewers will never appreciate.
They are the jesters of the jungle, the clowns of the canopy, the funny folk of the forest.
Take, for instance, the baby monkey who has captured the hearts and advertising revenue of millions by riding backwards on a pig on YouTube.
Where most of us would have simply mounted the pig and gripped tight, this particular baby monkey saw the added value in breaking tradition and riding it backwards, thus earning itself a viral video, an iPhone game and its own theme song.
We can only hope for a day when these majestic creatures are welcome in our homes – not as pets, but as friends and allies.
We’ll play Scrabble with gentle, pancake-faced orangutans, watch (sub-titled) Katherine Heigl movies with Bolivian squirrel monkeys and teach chimpanzees and Gorillas to run fashion blogs.
And one day, when they’re the sucking sweet, delicious marrow from our brittle human bones, I can only hope they read this and spare me.
Too much Jason barely enough? Read his column every Thursday in The Courier-Mail.
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