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I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s Full of Zebra/Ostriches and Couchmallows

5 Oct

by Roger White 

If you’re like me, you have these nebulous questions in your head about what you might call life’s little givens. And, if you’re even more like me, you ponder on whether these questions are substantial enough to bring up in public or simply leave unanswered for fear that said public will back away slowly from you and call for psychiatric assistance on your behalf.

Here’s an example of one of life’s little givens that I’ve been contemplating for many years—well, mainly since I was a little kid and personally watched Bobby Hayes run down a football field faster than anything I’d ever seen before. Is it a given that humans will continue to become faster, stronger, and more athletically refined indefinitely on into the endless future, or at least until our sun goes supernova and we all die a horrible, fiery death and cockroaches rule the planet? And even then, will cockroaches evolve into ever swifter, hairier, and more repugnant strains of roaches than their forefathers?

I mean, when I was a tyke, Hayes was earth’s fastest human, and at the time I thought there was no way anyone anywhere, with the possible exception of the dolphin people of the Andromeda Galaxy, would ever cover 100 meters faster than Bullet Bob. His world-record time of 10.06 at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 was topped only by his come-from-behind anchor leg in the 4 x 100 relay in those games, during which he ran so fast that several timers’ watches liquefied and Hayes’ track shoes actually disintegrated into smoke and dust. Surely, I reasoned, Bob Hayes epitomized the zenith of man’s quest for footspeed. Of course, I was wrong. Not only has that record been lowered time and again over the years, today (at least as of this writing) Usain Bolt of Jamaica currently holds the world record in the 100 meters at a genuinely insane time of 9.58 seconds. A two-ton station wagon dropped from the Empire State Building can’t fall that fast.

I guess my burning question is when do we reach a point of critical mass, or do we ever reach such a point? Will there be a moment in history when scientist types say, “Okay, 5.3 seconds is the fastest any human will ever run the 100 meters, ever. So stop trying, people. It’s over.” Or—and this is the scary part—will we humanoids keep stubbornly developing until some mutant guy built like a two-legged zebra/ostrich runs the 100 meters in 0.25 seconds in the year 2107?

Same goes for other sports. Do you remember the classic old tennis matches from the days of yore? Say, for example, those terrific Borg versus McEnroe battles. I recall being glued to the set during those epic bouts: Borg the automatic baseliner against McEnroe the tempestuous serve-and-volley master. Such exquisite tennis. Such creative expletives. Such objectionable hair.

Have you tuned into those old matches lately? Yesterday’s heroes, the very best in the world for their time, now look like juniors playing on a court of molasses. The ball moves so s-s-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-l-l-y. After years of exposure to today’s ever-cyborg-like game of one-shot points and 150-miles-per-hour serves, it’s difficult to watch the tennis of even a decade or two ago and not think, heck, I could beat those guys. (Well, not me personally, but  . . . ) Today’s top players are fashioned like Kareem Abdul Jabbar with Schwarzenegger arms, and they play with rackets designed by Lockheed Martin. In a few years, we may not have to actually play any matches at all. Each player in a tournament will simply e-mail his or her top service speed into a central computer, and winners will be determined scientifically. Headlines will read something like “McEnborger to Win Wimbledon Next Week.”

Ditto for football. Dipping into my childhood personal reference bag once again, when I was 12 I met Dallas Cowboys legend Bob Lilly at a savings and loan grand opening in my tiny hometown. It was 1972; the Pokes had just won Super Bowl VI a few months earlier. Here was big Bob, the All-Pro defensive tackle, six foot five and 260 pounds of gridiron god. To me, he was a human mountain. Today, you have high school and even junior high players weighing in at more than 350 pounds. Some pro teams charter a team plane just for the linemen and another plane for everybody else. Lilly might qualify as a running back these days, or maybe even a trainer. No offense, Mr. Lilly, please don’t hurt me.

Same applies to basketball. The real reason the NBA went on strike this year was to give basketball arenas around the country time to refit the goals to 18 feet high. This just might make dunking a trifle harder, but they’re not sure. They are also contemplating redesigning the hoop to be one inch smaller than the physical dimensions of the ball, just for fun.

Now for you astute readers with long memories and grudge-type personalities, this column does not contradict what I opined some time back about us all morphing into atrophied mushbrains due to our chronic over-exposure to computers and acute lack of physical movement. This is a two-pronged evolution. Just as there will be no middle class by the year 2107, there will also be no “normal, average humans.” You will be either a mutantly gifted zebra/ostrich or a mushbrained couchmallow. There will be no middle ground. Kind of like today’s political scene.

Fortunately for me personally, my best predictions show me not quite making it to 2107, so I don’t have to choose. But you whippersnappers out there best be thinking: zebra/ostrich or couchmallow? Either way, you’re probably going to need a new wardrobe.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit

Taxes Repel Aliens. Here’s Why.

7 Mar

by Roger White

Take off the tin-foil hats, stop stockpiling Clark bars and juice, cancel the ham radio lessons. I know for a fact that aliens will never take over the world, at least not by subterfuge. You’ve seen the movies. You know, like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” where the devious Martians spring from overgrown green pea pods and disguise themselves as everyday people, except that they never can get the recipe for human expression down quite right. They always end up with all the charm, personality and emotional sincerity of a Bjorn Borg or a Keanu Reeves. Why is this man an actor, by the way? Name me one movie in which Keanu Reeves shows one iota of acting skill. He’s only up there on the big screen because he’s cute and has nice hair. It is not the American way to put people in positions of power merely because they’re cute and have nice hair, is it? Um, never mind.

Anyway, in real life, lack of sincere emotion wouldn’t be the giveaway for the alien hordes. Before it ever came down to a clash between our puny weapons and their ultra-cool technology, before they ever began shedding their human cloaks and herding us like Nike-shod cattle into those sleek, gray rooms for horrifying experimentation (why are aliens so obsessed with probing our backsides, anyway? the pervs), the aliens would be exposed because of one aspect of the human condition that we all take for granted living on planet earth. And no, I’m not talking about germs. You think aliens don’t know about germs? Please. Look at them, they’re crawling with germs—they even look like germs, for crying out loud.

No, what will trip up our outer-space adversaries in their quest for domination of our cozy little blue marble will be the tax code. No living being, even those with brains the size of washing machines, can sit at a table with a tax booklet, paper, and pencil and rationally decipher the 1040 form. I tried to fill out our taxes last weekend, and after five hours of earnest weeping, two forests of crumpled papers, eight cups of jet-black coffee, six screaming tirades, and one rather unsettling episode of giggling, I gave up because one of my ears started bleeding.

I truly believe that the people who concoct the questions on the 1040 form are sadistic former psychology majors. Remember when you were in college, and you volunteered for that study where the psychology major put you alone in a room (with the two-way mirror) and told you to jump up and down on one foot while tossing a tennis ball in the air until he came back to tell you to stop? The study is not about manual dexterity; it’s about how gullible you are. (I was the guy who kept jumping and tossing. I don’t like to make waves. I was afraid of some sort of punishment if I stopped.)

Anyway, it’s the same principle with the tax forms. I mean, come on:

48. Go back to line 7. Now, if the total of Line 7 and Line 9 equals the square root of your 1974 tax return’s weight in metric grams, then fold Form 299A (see instructions) at right angles and multiply the hypotenuse of the resulting triangle by the total exhaust emissions from your spouse’s vehicle during the previous year’s cloudiest week (not counting June and September in Arizona and/or Cincinnati). If not, then enter zero unless you are claiming the $2,000 patriot provision as found in Form S81 Subform 32xL (see the man in the coat). Now, …

If you look really hard, you’ll notice some squiggly lines on some of these questions on the 1040 form. You know what that’s from? The IRS guys laughing so hard that they fell over on the copying machine, which smudged the form. You know and I know it doesn’t have to be this hard.

Then again, maybe it does. This is what keeps us safe from the aliens. Any time an alien advance force takes human shape and tries to blend in with us, they are always outed, without fail, when their heads explode as they attempt to do their taxes.

God bless America.


Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit