Moonday, Jesterary 10, 40 A.B.

"What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, although puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture."

- Sir Thomas Browne, quoted by Poe at the very beginning of his 
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" 


     In my idle moments I sometimes enjoy contemplating those aspects of reality which are impossible to ever really know for sure.  You know, things like how many people might be eating spaghetti at this very moment, whether or not Martin Luther ever woke his wife up with deliberate pig noises, who's the oldest person in China alive today who has ever yelled "Yo Momma!" at a passing babe - things like that.  There are definite answers to these questions, we'll just probably never know what they are.
     Somehow I manage to live on in my ignorance.

     In my more whimsical moments, my thoughts turn to advanced alien civilizations and what one-word term they might have for the entire body of knowledge we mere humans have managed to accumulate up to this point.  I'm betting it's something that more or less translates as "Erm" even though part of me is convinced that it really translates as "Puke!"
     Yes, I probably do have too much time on my hands.

     Although I realize that I'll never achieve the status of a small Latin American country let alone the status of an entire advanced alien civilization, I recently took a stab at reducing 20th century America to as brief a set of typographical characters as my little mind could manage.  Here's what I came up with:


     That's it.  Just 32 characters in all - one set for each decade.
     TR, of course, stands for Teddy Roosevelt.  The first president known by his initials, a charismatic celebrity who used his office as a Bully Pulpit, the youngest president until JFK, he not only dominated the first decade of the 20th century but  foreshadowed much of what followed up to and including Tom Selleck's mustache.
     WWI - "The War To End All Wars."  Which of course gave rise to one of the hallmark phrases of the entire last hundred years: "Never mind." 
     KDKA - The call letters of the first radio station and a symbol of our explosive love affair with technology.  In 1922, only 60,000 families had radios.  By 1930 no fewer than 13,750,000 did.  It was a story repeated between 1950 and 1960 when TVs invaded every home and again in the '90s when computers did the same.  If home security systems had been invented first, all of these appliances would still be out on the street begging passers-by for any attention they might be able to spare in between phone calls.
     WPA - The Works Progress Administration.  A symbol of The Great Depression, the federal government's rapid expansion in response, and the beginning of our national addiction to acronyms (which many experts now say serve as gateway figures of speech inevitably leading to abbreviation abuse, career-killing clipped phrasing, and the final horror of Reader's Digest Books). 
     WWII - You know, Pearl Harbor, Hitler, the discovery of the concentration camps, the atomic bombings.  It was mentioned at least once in all the better papers.
     ICBM - Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.  The most terrible weapon of the Cold War, it cut the time between now and Doomsday from six weeks on a slow boat to twenty minutes sitting in the comfort of your own self-righteous nationalism.  Although in the end it wasn't used for anything more terrible than sending the ashes of Gene Roddenberry into outer space, few kids realized that yet in the late '50s as they practiced ducking under their desks to protect themselves from 20 megaton warheads.
     LSD - Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, which many people in the '60s attempted to use to expand their minds.  Gary Grant was one of them.  Really.  Which just goes to show, words alone can blow your mind if you know what order in which to apply the letters to your eyes.  
     WIN - Whip Inflation Now, President Ford's utterly inane attempt to solve a genuine national problem with a would-be catchy slogan printed up on buttons.  That's really what the '70s were all about. 
     BMW - The star Yuppiemobile in a decade-long parade of greed.  More sensitive souls should feel free to cut out the letters "MTV" and paste 'em over these if that's what it takes to avoid suffering a permanent blush.
     WWW - World Wide Wait.  Opps, sorry - I mean World Wide Web, of course.  Whatever could I have been thinking?

     So that's it.  The entire American Century summed up in just 32 characters.  Not quite equal to what even the most developmentally handicapped alien could do, I'm sure, but until he, she, or it commits his, her, or its wisdom to an online journal, you'd do well to shut-up and take what you can get.
     Maybe tomorrow I'll share my thoughts on what song the Syrens sang, or maybe what name Achilles assumed as he hid among the women. 
     Can't wait?  Here's a hint: It sure wasn't "Satisfaction" or "Howard Stern."


Back To Something Marginally Less Icky


Forward To Something That Just Might
Wash The Bad Taste Of This Entry
Out Of Your Mind


(©Now by Dan Birtcher - soon to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner)