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10.3.2003 by Sarah.

[Author''s note: Our heroine revealed this conspiracy to me at an Asian-inspired cocktail party about three weeks ago. She wore a kimono and a hat made out of newspapers. When I found her she was humming a snippet from Wagner's Die Meistersinger Von Nuremburg.]

Sushi? I'd love some. You know, this reminds me of a poem I came across the other day by Ogden Nash, author of such works as "Everything's Haggis in Hoboken, or, Scots Wha Hae Hae," and "What, No Sheep?" The poem in question was entitled "The Eel" and went as follows:

I don't mind eels
Except as meals.

I'll leave it to scholars of modern poetry to determine the poem's function qua reflection of the mid-century American zeitgeist; it is the poem's subject, the eel, that interests me. I'd bet you didn't know that the eel features in a legacy that combines myth and biology, spanning millennia;.

Consider, for example, the illustrious place of the eel (or anguilliforme) in human history. The ancient god of Lower Egypt, Atum, assumed the shape of an eel and purportedly formed himself and the human female by masturbating into his hand. A quick Google® search of "eel+masturbation" reveals thousands of sites touting "free eel sex," and "eel foot latex farmsex"--suggestive of a large religious cult promoting and protecting an ancient secret involving regeneration.

The electric eel, or Electrophorus electricus, long ago established itself in the field of medicine. As far back as 47AD Scribonius Largus, physician to the Emperor Claudius, discovered that the numbness incurred from standing on wet sand within fifteen feet from an electric eel provided satisfactory relief for a gouty toe. In 1789 the Prussian engineer Baron Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt reported severe lack of feeling in his joints for the better part of a day after standing directly on an electric eel in South America. Experimentation into electro-shock treatment followed swiftly on his anesthetic heels.

Curiously--and here's where the truth emerges from these eel-infested waters--Baron Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt shares his birthday (September 14) with Sir Peter Scott, twentieth-century British conservationist and artist, who gave the scientific name Nessiteras rhombopteryx to the Lock Ness Monster in 1978. A Scottish Member of Parliament anagrammed the new name as "Monster Hoax by Sir Peter S."

But is it a hoax? Though scientists have long disputed the reality of the Loch Ness Monster, many agree that if Nessie existed he would probably be...A Giant Eel. Is it a mere coincidence that the namer of this outsized anguilliforme shares his birthday with Humboldt, known for his experimentation with eels?

Yes. Yes it is.

Or is it? Contemporary chroniclers believed that the sudden death of England's King Henry in 1135 was due to a "surfeit of lampreys." Murder by eels? What clandestine society had the King uncovered? The words of Ogden Nash ring true to my ears as a warning of this greater conspiracy.... I don't mind eels, except as meals, says he. I would suspect, then, that the secret lies with the Japanese.

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