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‘Stepped on a Pop Top, Cut my…’ Stepped on a What?

28 Feb

by Roger White

 

There is a narrow greenbelt that runs behind our back yard, and in my meager efforts to keep fit—which involve a weekly tennis match followed immediately by heavy beer intake—I must cross this swath of forest to gain access to our neighborhood tennis courts. In one of my recent forays into the foliage I kicked over a large rock by accident and promptly fell on my keister. Whilst sitting upon my keister there in the wilds, I noticed something shiny and silver glinting from where the rock had been stealthily perched. Ho, I thought, buried treasure perhaps. Have I oafishly unearthed ancient coinage, precious metals, or long-lost jewelry? No? Yes? No?

No. No such luck. It was a pop top.

ye olde poppe toppeBut as I sat there, still on my ample keister, I contemplated this little doohickey. I realized this was buried treasure, in a demented time-capsule sort of way. A pop top! When was the last time you saw a genuine, throw-away pop top? In fact, I’ll bet you that 99.34 percent of the people born after 1980 don’t even know what a pop top is.

Called a “pull tab” by the beverage can industry, the pop top, for you whippersnappers, was how we opened our cans in ye olden days. You pulled the ring, the pop top opened the top of the can, and you promptly tossed the pop top on the ground. I don’t think that’s what the inventor had in mind, but we all did it. Did you know that if you google “beverage can history,” you’ll find that one Ermal Fraze invented the pop top in 1959? You can google just about anything, I believe. Anyway, I should sue Mr. Fraze for damage to my foot—and mental anguish.

Yep, just like the pirate himself sings, “stepped on a pop top, cut my heel etc. etc.,” I did the same as Jimmy Buffet out at Lake Benbrook when I was a teenager in the ’70s. Those little damn things were everywhere, and, yes, if you stepped on one just the right way, it would slice through your bare foot like an angry weasel. Had to have stitches and everything.

Now, it is at this point in my musings that I must make a choice. Do I ramble on about pop tops and my misspent youth, or do I take the course less traveled and hold court about outdated lyrics? Or do I abandon this train of thought altogether and snag a cold Shiner?

Decisions. Let’s go with lyrics that don’t make much sense these days. We’ll liken it unto a symposium for the youngsters who actually enjoy old songs but don’t always understand them. Here’s one, for example:

In the song “Happy Together” by the Turtles, they opine, “If I should call you up, invest a dime…” Yes, kids, it’s true. There used to be things such as pay phones, and they did, long ago, cost only a dime to use. Jim Croce also attests to this in “Operator,” a song whose title also harkens to the ancient past, when actual, real-live people, called “operators,” helped you—in English—to place your call. Anyhow, Jim tells the operator, “you can keep the dime” in his tale of unrequited love. Similarly, Joan Jett belts out, “Put another dime in the jukebox, baby” in “I Love Rock and Roll,” reminding us that you once could use dimes for many purposes other than collecting them in old mayonnaise jars.

ye olde pinne balleThen there’s this from The Who: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball…” Plays a mean what? Pinball! “Pinball Wizard!” The Dairy Twin in Burleson had a great pinball game, Bobby Bewley was killer at it, and we were in middle school. It didn’t involve a video screen, or blasting mutant zombies—the entire game revolved around keeping a very cool, very real metal ball from rolling past your flippers. There was much tilting, and there was much being yelled at by the Dairy Twin manager.

In “Sweet Emotion,” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler hightails it out of town because “the rabbit done died.” Yes, it did. Ya see, they didn’t have reliable EPT tests then. A poor widdle wabbit had to give his life to see if your girl had a bun in the oven. So to speak.

How ’bout this: Do you remember the Five Americans? “Western Union”? Dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-dah…. No? They complained about having to fork over “fifteen cents a word to read a telegram I didn’t need…” Man, I loved that song. Still do. See, the guy in the song ye olde telegrammejust received a telegram (again, a communications method from the dark ages) informing him that his girl has dumped him. Again, a dumping song. It was a double whammy because not only did he get bum news, he had to pay the guy who delivered it.

And, of course, you have Paul Simon noting how “Kodachrome gives the night bright colors…” Ya see, kids, cameras used to have what we call “film.” And this film had to be (air quotes here) “de-vel-oped.” Digital cameras were not built into our foreheads then.

There’s plenty more, I’m sure. If you can think of any, write me at rogdude@mail.com , and I’ll send you a pop top. Or maybe a Mercury dime.

 

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 oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Are We Fiddling Around Like Nero?

25 Sep

by Roger White

“The decline . . . was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. . . .”

—Historian Edward Gibbon on the decay and fall of Rome

“Why Bieber’s mom won’t have sex”

—CNN web site headline dated September 19, 2012

At first blush it may appear that these two quotes have about as much to do with each other as atomic theory and bacon grease, but to the keen observer inhabiting the proper frame of mind and sipping the necessary amount of espresso, the connection is readily apparent. The former is an explanation of one of an interconnected tangle of reasons for the decline of a great civilization. The latter is a symptom of same.

Ancient Rome didn’t have the internet, but you can be sure that at the height of the empire’s power, with little to challenge Romans but their own idleness, the scuttlebutt among the average corpulent, indolent citizens lounging about their atriums had much to do with which senator’s wife had been seen with a certain centurion after hours near the Pantheon. Or perhaps who would be featured next weekend at the Colosseum in “Gladiating with the Stars.”

Throughout America’s rise to power, particularly after World War II and again with the fall of the Soviet Union, many casual historians likened the U.S. to ancient Rome, both as a comparative study and a cautionary tale. From many of these same armchair history buffs came the postulate-cum-warning that Rome fell from within. Both statements are greatly oversimplified—America is certainly not the Roman Empire; and the decline of Rome occurred for many complex reasons—however, the tantalizing prospect of a circumstantial connection between the two is too intriguing to ignore.

By the time the Huns and Vandals were threatening the very walls of Rome herself in the 5th century A.D., the empire had been degraded through years and years of decay, corruption, internal strife, and general malaise. The culture that had built the world’s mightiest civilization had stagnated. In other words, Rome had grown lazy and fat. Its armies were so far-flung across the known globe that the once invincible legions could not defend even the capital city.

I’m not holding forth that the descendants of Attila will come rampaging up Pennsylvania Avenue anytime soon, but you must admit that events and trends from within and without our great country give any thinking person pause. We, as a nation, are fat and lazy. Most Americans don’t do much physical labor on a daily basis anymore. We are at our most overweight and short of breath than we’ve ever been. We don’t save anymore; the average American family carries about $5,000 in credit card debt—at a time when job security is at its worst in decades. We used to buy only when we had the money. Our national economy, anchored by financial institutions with questionable lending practices and regulated by insiders with personal interests at stake, teeters like a house of cards. Our arts—literature, music, film and television—are in a state of upheaval as publishers, producers, and purveyors of entertainment chart confused courses in their attempts to grasp new media, often leading to drastic actions such bookstore and music outlet closings, the demise of longtime news and publishing houses, and frustration and despair for many promising artists and writers. With more channels to choose from than ever before, TV now offers arguably the worst product in its history. Ironically, the great many cable choices chopped up major advertising dollars, which has prompted producers to grind out lower- and lower-budget shows in a pathetic race to the bottom. And perhaps most telling, news isn’t news anymore. It’s gossip. With an unlimited number of outlets, through practically boundless media technology, the goal is not to inform anymore—the bottom line is to attract the most viewers with the most lurid headlines; thus, to nab the precious advertising dollars. Hence, you have an intrepid reporter telling you why Bieber’s mom won’t have sex.

Last but least, our self-seeking politicians have abandoned any semblance of civil discourse to rabidly defend their respective party lines to the complete detriment of any action toward the advance of our society. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, yet no one among them stands to say so. And nothing gets done.

There are those historians who argue that Rome never really fell. It simply degenerated into irrelevance. Sure sounds like a cautionary tale to me.

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 oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Football Tonight: Ursine Mammals vs. Midpriced Sedans!

2 Apr

by Roger White

 

This here story, which you may have heard about already, falls squarely under the “you gotta be kiddin’ me” category, because when I read it, I said, “What the f— … er, you gotta be kiddin’ me.” Yeah, that’s what I said.

Here ’tis, and I quote:

“A Utah school district has decided against using Cougars as a mascot for a new high school in part because of the negative connotation of the word in popular culture. Canyons School District Superintendent David S. Doty said the selection of Chargers as the school’s mascot was driven by the desire for originality, despite a poll of some future students that showed 26 percent in favor of using the Cougar mascot.

“Doty said that although Brigham Young University, as well as several Utah high schools (including one in a nearby district), use Cougars as a mascot, public comments they received reflect a desire to be different—and he noted that some see the word ‘cougar’ as carrying a ‘negative double entendre.’ Spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook said the power of social media has brought the district more attention than desired, referring to articles like this Huffington Post story, ‘Cougar Mascot Vetoed for Corner Canyon High School for Being Offensive toward Women,’ or this Yahoo sports story, ‘New School Can’t Be Cougars Because Middle-Aged Women Might Be Offended.'” Or this here social media story that I’m about to write. Har. Woah, hey, I’m actually writing it right now. AAH! One of those space-time continuum moments. How can I be writing it now if you’re already reading it? Hello! hello! Echo! echo! Scary.

So anyway, yeah, all ol’ Superintendent Doty had to say was that the school wanted to be different. By bringing up the negative double entendre thing, he opened himself up a big ol’ can o’ media worms. I like that. Media worms. Kinda fits.

This, of course, got me thinking about what other teams might have to re-ponder their mascot choices, given today’s milieu of ultra-hyper-crikey-sensitivity. Let us ponder. And re-ponder. Take the NFL (please):

Chicago Bears. Sorry, gay connotation. If you are unaware, a “bear” in the gay world, and I quote from a popular social media source, refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and often facial hair. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, lest we offend our hairy homosexual brethren, let’s change it to the Chicago Ursine Mammals.

Buffalo Bills. Mmm, negative emotional impact on the financially strapped in our society. Bills, bills, bills. We can’t have that. This needs to be something gentler, something along the lines of Buffalo Payment Restructuring Reminders.

New York Jets. Nope; this offends those of us who can’t afford to fly. From now on, you are the New York Midpriced Sedans.

New England Patriots. This is borderline, but I see possible political overtones here. Just to be on the safe side, let’s go with the New England Citizens of No Political Affiliation.

Washington Redskins. This one’s obvious. New name – Washington Human Race Members. (Same with the Kansas City Chiefs. Come on, fellahs, that’s just rude. From here on out, the Kansas City Regular Decent People of Vague Ethnic Persuasion.)

Tennessee Titans. Sorry, too reflective of the Titan Missiles, the Space Race, the Cold War, Kruschchev, shoe-pounding and all that. Your new name is the Tennessee World Peace Initiative.

 

Oakland Raiders. Please, this conjures up images of thieves and thugs and other ne’er-do-wells. Try on the Bay Area Working-Class Magnanimous Helper Types.

Cleveland Browns. This is downright color elitist. You will from here on take the field as the Cleveland All-Inclusive Hues. The helmet, of course, will be white but will change color depending on ambient temperature.

Philadelphia Eagles. Mmmm, too nationalistic. I like the Philadelphia Countries in Harmony.

New York Giants. Honestly, this is simply humiliating to short people. The Big Apple’s team should now and forever be the New York Average-Height Folks. And scratch the Big in front of Apple, while you’re at it. Let’s just say The Apple. Well, now, wait—that also discriminates, doesn’t it? The Fruit. There you go. New York the city its own self is now known as The Fruit.

New Orleans Saints. Really, way too pious and religiously selective. See if this fits: The New Orleans Non-Proselytizing Spiritually Uplifted Cadre.

Roger White All Colors is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat lovingly large-boned dachshund, and a self-absorbed healthily self-aware cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Why Civility Matters

9 Mar

Editor’s Note: I rarely if ever post other authors’ material here. The many interesting voices in my head provide enough material to keep me sending missives to you, my demented following, for many years to come.

However, I couldn’t resist on this one. This is a topic vitally important, in my humble opinion. It’s quite serious, and I couldn’t have said it better than one Sara Hacala, so I sought her permission and the permission of AARP Bulletin to reprint it here.

It’s about how we have lost all sense of civility in public discourse today. I wholeheartedly agree, and I hope you’ll help me spread the word. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, Marxist, Atheist, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Jewish, Pagan, Tree-Hugger Party, Ted Nugent Bow-and-Arrow Party–whatever. We need to stop shouting at each other. When, for example, did it become OK to scream out “You lie!” to the president during his address? And remember when the word “sucks” was not an acceptable catch-all for something that is less than par? My eighth-grade teacher sent us to the principal’s office whenever she heard that vulgar word. (This was 1972, mind you.) But you get the idea. Today’s social milieu sucks! oop… well, here’s Sara’s column:

by Sara Hacala

“Whatever happened to civility?” is an oft-heard lament, particularly among those of us over 50 who recognize civility’s increasing absence in a world changing at warp speed. Technology has forever altered the style, speed, and reach of our decidedly less personal communication. Escalating vulgarity, lax standards, sensational media, and polarized politics reign. Society today is far different than it was when we were young.

While rudeness is pervasive and rising (one recent report concluded that bad behavior may be the “new normal”), the societal and financial costs of incivility are astronomical–impacting our homes and relationships, schools, economy, health care, and government.

Civility is more than polite courtesies. Derived from the Old French and Latin term for “good citizen,” civility enables us to live respectfully in communities; it is the glue that binds our society. It can be the difference between life and death–as, for example, when health care professionals bully subordinates, cover mistakes, and create mistrust. It is an essential component of our human sustainability, enabling us not only to survive but thrive.

Reversing the current course of incivility is a challenge for our times. Until a rudeness vaccine is developed, we must dig into our civility tool kit. There are compelling reasons why we should. A life is not defined by a single act, and few of us will ever achieve national acclaim or perform deeds that change the course of history. However, there is a “greatness” in treating others with respect, compassion, kindness, and generosity. With this, we can make a difference in the lives of many.

Here are five tools:

1. Regardless of your age, make a habit of practicing kindness, generosity, and gratitude. Substantial research shows that people who regularly engage in those acts live longer, healthier, and happier lives. It’s never too late to start.

2. Nurture your social relationships, which, scientists say, have the capacity to generate our greatest happiness. Enrich your connections by balancing Internet contact with phone calls and face-to-face visits, which are more personal forms of communication.

3. Establish meaningful dialogue with medical providers, asserting your right to respectful and compassionate treatment. As a patient, you have the opportunity to evaluate hospital care; hospitals with extensive negative evaluations can lose Medicare subsidies.

4. Seize “teachable moments” with your children and grandchildren if you love them but not their behavior. Child development experts say we’re no longer teaching our kids manners–or respect and empathy for others. By contrast, a major study reported that social skills are a more accurate predictor of future success than test scores. So step up your game with your children and grandchildren. Enlighten your progeny about the importance of developing interpersonal skills and relationships by engaging them in conversations without small screens and buttons. That may be your enduring legacy.

5. Promote decency and decorum among elected officials. Hold them accountable for behavior during campaigns and, more importantly, once they’re in office. Urge civil discourse and bipartisanship to avoid gridlock. You and your country’s livelihood are at stake.

Given our sheer numbers as older people, we can have an impact on transformation. At the very least, we can set an example. It may take a generation to create a positive cultural shift, but we have to start somewhere. These are the seeds we can all plant. One at a time.

Reprinted with permission from the March 2012 AARP Bulletin. Copyright (c) 2012 AARP. All rights reserved. For more information, visit www.savingcivility.com.

 

Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.

 

Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle

 

Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near

Flagstaff.

 

Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick

Again.

Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.

 

Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s

Mortgage.

 

 

 

Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four

Hundred.

 

Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and

Sorrow.

Dear Julia. I’m trading it

In.

 

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 oldspouse.wordpress.com.

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 oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Whatever Happened to Yesterday’s Tomorrow?

31 Aug

by Roger White 

It sideswiped me as I was watching the movie “Blade Runner” the other day: We, as human types, tend to either fantastically overestimate ourselves or woefully underestimate ourselves. We don’t have what you would call a crystalline view of just who we are. Or maybe we do, and we simply don’t like what we see. So we embellish a bit.

Let me splain, Lucy. If you recall the premise of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film noir, Harrison Ford was a Los Angeles cop in the year 2019, tasked with tracking down rebellious human replicants who had escaped the offworld colonies and were terrorizing people, spraying graffiti everywhere, and generally wreaking futuristic havoc. LA was a rainy, crowded, grimy mess, but we did have nifty gravity-defying Jetson cars, all sorts of cool robot toys, and apparently four-bedroom villas on the moon. And Darryl Hannah had great legs. For a replicant.

Kids, 2019 is only about seven years down the road (assuming the Mayans simply ran out of writing utensils and 2012 is not the ultimate calendar), and I really don’t see a gravity-defying Honda Civic hovering over my driveway anytime soon. Interesting, isn’t it, how badly we miss the mark when conjuring the future? We either envision that we’ve made such tremendous advances that we have a Wal-Mart on Neptune in a few decades or we’ve somehow erased ourselves from the cosmos entirely with (pick your poison) nuclear war, mutant avian flu, ozone layer neglect, overpopulation, underpopulation, zombie attack, alien invasion, bedbug pandemic, or End of Days Wrath incurred from The Big Guy. The one thing many religious texts and Hollywood have in common is the opinion that we’re not quite measuring up to The Head Honcho’s standards, if ya know what I mean. Personally, I think we’re being a little hard on ourselves, but that’s just me.

Let me give you some more examples. The Twilight Zone episode “The Long Morrow,” which aired in 1964, presented the dilemma of an astronaut in 1987 who was deliberating on whether he should be placed in suspended animation for his 40-year voyage to a star system 141 light years away. In reality, do you remember where we were technology-wise, as a civilization, in 1987? The only significant events I could dredge up from that year were the invention of the disposable contact lens, the launching of the Fox network on primetime television (oh, joy), and the world land speed record set by a diesel-powered locomotive at a mind-boggling 147 miles per hour. Oh, I almost forgot, “The Simpsons” debuted that year as a short film on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” And there was much rejoicing.

On the flip side of this—again using Mr. Serling’s master work for reference—the Zone episode entitled “The Old Man in the Cave,” which aired in 1963, gave us a post-apocalyptic view of an American wasteland, burned to dust after a nuclear holocaust that occurred in 1974. Everyone was going hungry; even the canned goods were irradiated. Then James Coburn came along and told them all it was okay to eat the food. No!!! Don’t do it!! Anyway, let’s compare to the reality. My research shows that there was a soccer stampede in Cairo in 1974 that killed 49 people, but I wouldn’t term that an apocalypse. A Hungarian guy invented the Rubik’s Cube that year, which is pretty horrible (you’ll concur if you’ve ever tried to solve one of these devils), but still, this doesn’t stack up to nuclear holocaust.

What I’m getting at, people, is that we’re all just regular guys, doing regular stuff, putting the cat out, brushing our teeth, going to bed, and doing it all over again the next day. And we will go on like this, our lives a gradual bell curve of existence, until the one that left us here returns for us at last. (Tip o’ the hat to The Youngbloods.)

Sorry, Rod. Our apologies, Mr. Wells. Condolences, Ridley. We’re not sinking foundations into the soil of Venus for residential development and neighborhood Starbucks franchises in the near future; but then again, we haven’t allowed our nasty little cockroach cousins to take over Wall Street by extinguishing ourselves, either. Maybe I should rephrase that. Anyway, we’re just muddling along, still waiting for the green left-turn arrow, still raising chickens for food, still tunneling into our planet for energy and treasure. Guess it is a tad boring, going by yesterday’s prognosticators.

Perhaps 50 years from now, when future types look back on us from the helms of their intergalactic starships, they’ll laugh at how silly we were. Then again, laughter may have been abolished by then. Who knows? (Insert Twilight Zone theme music here.)

 

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 oldspouse.wordpress.com.