Mad Dog: Blame It on El Nino
As a nation, one of our most cherished traditions is to discover, nurture, and grossly abuse a different scapegoat each year. As if it's not enough that this is the Year of the Child, the Year of the Ox, and the Year of the Political Contribution That Wasn't Really a Political Contribution Because We Didn't Call It a Political Contribution, the U.N. General Assembly popped up and officially designated this as the Year of El Nino. Or so it seems.Not a newspaper is written, a news show broadcast, or a magazine cover printed that doesn't include El Nino. That's either because the American Publisher's Association (motto: "Better living through corporate take-overs") requires it, or the editors are just too lazy to come up with a new angle tying Princess Diana's death to Elvis. Don't be surprised if you wake up one day soon to find out that El Nino has been named Time's Man of the Year. El Nino, for those of you who have been asleep for the past six months waiting for the new TV season to begin so your life has meaning again, is a weather pattern of global proportion that occurs every few years. Scientists say they are just beginning to understand the far-reaching effects of El Nino. That's what's called an understatement. After all, these are the same scientists that have trouble predicting whether it will rain this afternoon, be cloudy tomorrow morning, or even get dark tonight. And now we're supposed to believe them when they tell us the meteorological sky is falling? El Nino means "The Little Child" in Spanish. It was named by South American fishermen who first noticed the phenomenon and thought it would be funny to hear the gringos try to pronounce the words properly, much like the tittering you hear when you try to order Chile Rellenos. For the record, the proper way to say Chile Rellenos is, "Dinner combo number five."What happens during El Nino is that the waters along South America start to warm up for reasons researchers are still trying to figure out, though they suspect the chief culprit is too many preschoolers swimming in the ocean during the summer months who don't use the bathrooms along the beach. This warming wouldn't be such a big problem except the fish which like cold water leave, the ones that prefer warm water take their place, the air above the water heats up, weather patterns change all over the globe, and before you know it the people trying to raise money to fight global warming and the holes in the ozone layer can't attract flies to a bake sale. So far the results of El Nino have been wide-ranging. The anchovies have left South America. Marlins are being caught near San Francisco. And rad dudes all up and down the west coast are surfing without wet suits, dry suits, or any sign of making a living.But this is only the beginning. Experts say that before long there will be ungodly amounts of rain in Peru and Ecuador, drought and famine in South Africa and Indonesia, devastating brush fires in Australia, and more air time for meteorologists worldwide, which may help justify their high salaries and even higher hair spray budgets.Hurricanes in the Pacific? Blame it on El Nino. Volcanic eruptions in Montserrat? El Nino. Janet Reno breaking down and starting an investigation into campaign financing? El Nino again! You might as well brace yourself -- everything that happens during the next ten months will be blamed on El Nino.Actually, this is a good thing. Ever since Russia started acting like spoil sports and ended the Cold War we've been left with a huge gaping scapegoat hole that's been very hard to fill. As Americans, we need our scapegoats. Think about it. Nothing's been right since we landed on the moon. Disco brought the end of western civilization as we know it. For a while there everything -- and I mean everything -- was Muammar Khadaffy's fault. And most recently Generation X has been blamed for everything from the rise of email to the demise of movies.That's why it's so good to have a new scapegoat. Afghan police are arresting men because their beards aren't long enough. Blame it on El Nino. Steven Segal is now a card carrying Buddhist lama. It must be El Nino. The Gdansk shipyard where the Polish Solidarity movement started has been turned into a dance club. El Nino, of course! How else to explain how Miller Beer was issued a registered trademark for the phrase, "Official Sponsor of the Millennium"? Greed. Okay, so not everything's El Nino's fault.Try using it in your personal life. The next time youre late for work just look the boss in the eye and say, "El Nino." When you forget your spouse's birthday for the fourth year in a row you can shrug your shoulders and say, "El Nino." And if you climb to the top of the tallest building in town and snipe 24 innocent people -- hey, it's El Nino! You'll probably never find a more useful weather pattern.