I’ve finally decided to delete their previous holding place, so all these blogs need a home! Mainly because I don’t feel like putting them on my computer, here you go!
Arching and burning through the vast, dark night
Leaving willow trees of smoke—
All that is left to remind us
That once they blazed defiantly across the empty void.
Some gleam, some sputter.
Some thunder, some whisper.
Yet all leave flashes in the dark that may fade
But are never forgotten.
They leave pealing echoes,
Ripples through the night,
So that a nation
Or a family
Or a friend
Can always remember the brilliance of the flight
When the pyrotechnics fall,
Cold and lifeless,
Back to Earth.
It’s a thing most people take for granted. But it’s something I had to confront today.
Okay, you know the story. Every Fifteen Minutes. Car crash. Fake-bleeding on the asphalt. Blah blah epiphany about the ephemeral nature of life, blah blah never drink and drive, blah blah trite (yet powerful and meaningful) lessons we can all learn from a friend’s trip in an ambulance.
But seriously. I feared for my life today.
Not because of the stage blood and ersatz scars, but because I was sitting in a car that was literally torn apart around me. I had no idea what to expect from the demonstration, and all of a sudden a men in intimidating yellow suits pull up in a giant red behemoth of a car, take out the JAWS OF LIFE—the largest (and only) mechanical pliers I’ve ever seen—and throw a blanket over my head. Next thing I know, the window behind me is smashed open with a hammer, there are glass shards all over me, and I start hearing an electric saw rev up about six inches from my head—which I’m suddenly reminded is rather soft and fleshy when compared to steel bars the firefighters just tore through.
To make it worse, the blanket was over my face, so I couldn’t exactly see what was going on. I had the vague impression I was the last one in the car—until I realized I was feeling a breeze, and there really wasn’t much car left.
So… really wasn’t thinking about saving anyone else’s life. Just my own.
Once my mock-death/near-death experience was over, though, it hit me. It hit me when I stepped out of the ambulance. Because I stepped out of the ambulance. How many people can say that?
The act was over, I was dropped off in front of school like a soccer mom does to her freshman son, and I simply walked back onto campus. I got my backpack, went to my car, came home, took a shower, ate lunch, and went to my sixth period.
Like nothing happened.
Because nothing happened.
It’s a surreal feeling—to be trapped in a wrecked car one minute, to be pulled from the wreckage the next, and to be eating microwaved pasta and watching TV two minutes later.
(On the other hand, if I did die, and heaven is macaroni and cheese and “Harvey Birdman” reruns, I’m okay with that.)
I came back to school, I hugged my friends, and I made fun of the new editing staff of the Smoke Signal. In short, it was a normal day—and hard to believe that an hour earlier I had been forcibly torn out of a wrecked car and taken off campus on a stretcher aboard an ambulance.
The Every Fifteen Minutes program may be a tad heavy-handed (even without the Reaper standing around like a bad imitation of a Blue Öyster Cult album), but it has some truly powerful messages: 1) don’t drink and drive; 2) duh; 3) most importantly, don’t dwell on death—celebrate life. In the full version of Every Fifteen Minutes, it lasts for three days—three days out of every two years. That is our time to grieve. The other seven hundred and twenty-seven days are to live.
I know I’m going to. And I want you to do it with me.
Two thousand and six.
It sounds majestic, royal, like something worthy of a trumpet fanfare. It sounds like something awe-inspiring, something amazing. It sounds like something that drives the minds of lesser men insane.
But what does it mean?
What really lies behind the mere knowledge that it’s been 2,006 years since a nice Jewish boy was nailed onto a Roman cross? What hides in the depths of the alluring, serpentine two, the plaintive eyes of the double zeros, and that calligraphic six?
For a year is but a number. And often times, those numbers deceive us.
Consider, for example, Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, a book written thirty-eight years ago about the future which is now five years in the past, since we’re in the present. Many of Clarke’s haunting predictions have not come true—we do not have a spaceship today that can take several men and a murderous supercomputer to Jupiter (we can’t even create a murderous desktop computer).
George Orwell’s 1984 was written in 1949, and it was—at the time—a nightmarish view of the future set twenty-two years in the past, but nothing came true—not in 1984, and not in 2004. Today, there is no omnipresent sibling constantly watching your every action, no thought Gestapo hauling people away for mental heresies, and there are definitely no preconceived notions based on race, religion, occupation, pet choice, or political affiliation at all.
(At least, that’s what He wanted me to tell you.)
But by far my favorite snatches of time gone awry come from old cartoons. It’s hard to tell where the anachronistic antics of the Flintstones come in, but they are, after all, the “modern stone-age family”—an oxymoron older than bedrock (or Bedrock) itself. And the Flintstones’ prehistoric innovations work—from the woolly-mammoth-vacuum-cleaner to the pterosaur-remote-control, they seem more ingenious and far more reliable than modern electronics.
Nothing, however, is more modern than the gadgets in the Jetsons’ home, resting neatly on top of a thin spire hundreds of feet in the air. The futuristic Jetsons, with their robot maid and spiffy, space-age outfits, make the comforts of 2006 seem antediluvian. Created in 1962, the Jetsons was supposed to portray the world 100 years in the future, which means (I’ll wait for you to pull out your calculators)… all this advanced technology is possible by 2062.
So we have exactly fifty-six years to conquer space, make flying cars, invent artificial intelligence, develop a method to fold our flying cars into suitcases, turn food into pill form, enslave the artificially intelligent beings, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
These aren’t the only times time has failed us. We were invaded by Martians in 1905, hit by a comet in 1910, contacted by talking apes in 1973, and don’t forget one of Goovuhrnaytöhr Schwarzenegger’s less popular government projects, Skynet (the creator of the Terminator robots), started in 1997. Oh, wait—that actually turned out better than his school budget cuts.
Yet, we continue to give fictional events precise dates, perhaps to make them more realistic, or maybe to confuse future anthropologists (or, as they’ll be known in five hundred years, techno-necromancers).
Imagination is the secret. Wonder about what the world will be like in 100 years, in 1,000 years, or even next week. Without bird entrails and a Greek oracle, we have no idea what the future holds, but we want to guess. We want to inform the present—whether it be a warning, entertainment, or simply a hope that everything will turn out just fine.
Two thousand and six. That’s 2,006 years of history. 2,006 years of knowledge. 2,006 years of wonder.
I could say something at this point about how all we can create is god-awful reality television with all those years of imagination, but I’m not going to. Instead, let’s think of where the next 2,006 years will take us.
Nero and Neuroses
Henry Kissinger said that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” But is that its only mutagenic property? If history has shown us anything, it’s that power is also a cause of (or results from) insanity. Need proof? I thought as much…
- 1780 BC: Babylonian king Hammurabi writes law code instituting death penalty for all crimes, felonies, and misdemeanors, from murder to cow tipping.
- 1500 BC: Moses sends Israelites on forty-year trek through desert, proving the age-old adage that men won’t ask for directions. Ever. As a reward for their loyalty and because of their status as the “Chosen People,” Jews are exempted from all future persecution.
- 500 BC: Cleisthenes institutes first democracy in the city-state of Athens, giving white, male, landed citizens over twenty who have completed military training and are not criminals or slaves a vote. Cleisthenes wins the next election in a landslide with a total of 34 votes to his opponent’s seven.
- 39 AD: Megalomaniacal Roman emperor Caligula makes his horse, Incitatus, a senator. Caligula rightly believed Incitatus could serve better than the incumbent senator.
- 64 AD: Roman emperor Nero plays his lyre, sings, and dances on rooftops while Rome burns. Rumor says he fiddled, though this is impossible since the fiddle hadn’t been invented yet and–if he had–Fiddler on the Roof would have sued his ass for anachronistic copyright infringement.
- 450 AD: Attila the Hun attempts to take half of Western Europe as dowry in his marriage to the Visigoth Honoria. Goths are upset and write macabre, unintelligible music about Satan and broadaxes for the next 1,600 years. Also, have weird hair styles.
- 1368 AD: Zhu Yuanzhang, the Hongwu Emperor, begins construction of the Great Wall of China to defend China from Mongol attacks and illegal Mexican immigrants.
- 1487 AD: Aztec Chief Speaker Auítzotl sacrifices 84,000 prisoners in four days to finish the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Aztecs dismayed by news that Quetzalcoatl is actually Jewish and human flesh is treif.
- 1650 AD: Oliver Cromwell welcomes exiled Jews back to Britain. Movie and banking industries quickly overrun by masses of avaricious Semites.
- 1841 AD: President William Henry Harrison gives two-hour inaugural address in pouring rain without a coat and dies of pneumonia within a month. The epitaph on his tombstone reads “Duh.”
- 1867 AD: President Andrew Johnson allows purchase of Alaska for $7,200,000. Johnson later impeached for a) violating the Tenure of Office Act and b) being dumb enough to purchase Alaska for $7,200,000.
- 1890 AD: Kaiser Wilhelm II wears four ceremonial uniforms in one day, prompting humorists to create a play portraying the ruler of Germany as homosexual. After the executions, Springtime for Wilhelm is not performed again until discovered by Mel Brooks.
- 1980 AD: President Ronald Reagan begins his policy of Reaganomics. ‘Nuff said.
- 2000 AD: President George W. Bush claims he is “misunderestimated,” a neologism formed by a portmanteau of “misunderstood” and “underestimated.”
- 2006 AD: Kim Jong-il is still weird.
In the immortal words of Emeril, “Bam!”
Star Trek: Dubai — an Allegory
It seemed like a normal day for the crew of the starship USS Enterprise. After defeating hordes of evil aliens intent on the galaxy’s destruction, the Enterprise and her crew returned to the space station Deep Space Nine, hoping to relax and talk about their myriad of adventures.
But it was not to be. Klaxons rang out throughout the Enterprise‘s halls.
“Captain!” yelled Lieutenant Geordi LaForge. “There are Klingons aboard Deep Space Nine!”
“Uh-huh,” replied Captain James W. Kirk.
“Sir, how could you let this happen?!” exclaimed LaForge.
“Well, we’ve made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don’t have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action.” (1)
“That doesn’t make any sense, sir. The Klingons are in Deep Space Nine. It looks like they’re running the space station.”
“Y’know, I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves.” (2)
“You cant be serious. You didn’t know this was going on?” LaForge was dumbfounded.
At this point, Vice Captain Spock walked over and whispered something into Kirk’s ear.
“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” (3) said Kirk.
“I — what? Sir, my name’s LaForge! Lieutenant Geordi LaForge! Are you saying that because I’m black?!”
“Uh… yes,” said Kirk.
Spock quickly slapped the Captain upside the head.
“I mean no!” sputtered Kirk. Spock patted him on the head and gave him a treat.
“James Kirk doesn’t care about black people!” (4) yelled LaForge, and promptly rolled up into a fetal position and rocked back and forth, sobbing.
“Captain,” said a deep, enigmatic voice.
“Yes, Lieutenant Sulu?” said Kirk
“It’s the Klingons, sir. They appear to be firing on us.” Sulu looked as distraught as his tight facial features would allow.
“No question that the enemy has tried to spread sectarian violence. They use violence as a tool to do that,” (5) said Kirk.
“Dammit, Sulu!” yelled Kirk. “You took an oath to defend our flag and our freedom, and you kept that oath undersea and under fire.” (6) Kirk looked confused and exasperated.
Sulu did too.
“I’ll get you some more redshirts, sir,” said Spock. “You really should only give orders to those who support you, like Ensign Chekov here.”
“Repohting fo’ duty, suh!” said Pavel Chekov. “Does the enemy haff nucwear wessels?”
“You mean ‘nucular (7) vessels,’ son,” said Kirk.
“No, it’s ‘nucwear,’ sir.”
“GAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!” screamed Sulu. “It’s ‘nuclear’! NUC-LE-AR!”
Spock calmly pulled out his laser blaster and shot Sulu in the face.
“Nice shooting, Tex,” said Kirk. “You ever go quail hunting?”
“They greet me as a liberator, sir. (8) Then I blow their adorable little heads off.”
“As you can possibly see,” said Kirk, “I have an injury myself — got it in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little scratch. As a matter of fact, the Colonel asked if I needed first aid when he first saw me. I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here, but thanks for your compassion, Colonel.” (9)
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy beamed as the captain praised him, and then returned to dissecting government surpluses on Kirk’s orders.
“Now,” said Kirk, “I can only speak to myself, (10) but I believe it’s time for action. You see, what I mean is it’s action time. Heh-heh.”
Dozens of nondescript redshirts nodded vigorously behind him.
“Scottie!” bellowed Kirk. “Full power to the engines!”
“Aye, laddie,” said Scottie. “Ah’d love to, but ya see, Ah cahn’t doo it. Ah joost cahn’t doo it. She ain’t got anyting left in ‘er, not seence gahs prices went oop agin.”
“Can’t we just invade some planet to get oil?”
“Laddie, ya tried dat once already.”
“What about that big natural forest ten galactic clicks north? Whats it called… Cannes? Croatia?”
“Canadion VII, sir,” said Spock.
“Right! Canadion! What about that?” asked Kirk, looking around for support. The redshirts kept nodding excitedly.
“Sir, ya cahn’t joost invade Cahnadion,” said Scottie. “Der’s, y’know, laws und stooff aginst it.”
Kirk paused for a second, then laughed. And laughed. And laughed. “I was going to say youre a piece of work, but that might not translate too well. Is that all right, if I call you a ‘piece of work’?” (11)
“Ach, never mind, sir,” sighed Scottie. “Ah’ll joost buy me one uv dem ‘high-bred’ starships.”
“Good,” said Kirk.
“If I may so ask, sir,” said the ships android, Data, “why have you not destroyed the Klingon leader and ended the alien threat?”
“Because, Robocop,” said Kirk.
“Because why, sir?”
“Because he’s hiding.” (12)
“Oh. I see, sir.”
“Now,” said Kirk, “the data all –”
“I what, sir?” asked Data.
“Not you. The data.”
“I am the Data, sir.”
“No, you’re Data. What Spock tells me is the data.”
“But I’m the only ‘Data’ on the ship, sir. Doesn’t that make me the Data?”
Kirk looked extremely confused as he began to think about what the android had said, so Spock calmly pulled out his laser blaster and shot Data in the face.
“Nice shooting, Tex,” said Kirk. “You ever go quail hunting? Anyway, what I was saying is that the data all points to Deep Space Eight as the root of all the Klingons onboard Deep Space Nine. That is to say, all the Klingons are coming from Deep Space Eight.”
“Really, sir? That’s amazing,” said Lieutenant Uhura. “What do you think we should do about it?”
“I’m not very analytical. You know I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things,” (13) said Kirk. “Let’s just do it! Heh-heh.”
The redstates — errr, shirts — nodded.
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we,” (14) said Kirk.
“Sir, good news!” said Spock. “The Klingons have abandoned their offer to buy Deep Space Nine. They think they cant mess it up more than we already have.”
“Great,” said Kirk. “Boy, am I tired. Being Captain is hard work, you know. What I mean is it’s hard work to be Captain.”
1. George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2005
2. Bush, Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2003
3. Bush, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005
4. Kanye West (mostly), NBC telethon, Sept. 3, 2005
5. Bush, Washington, D.C., March 22, 2006
6. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2006
7. Bush, everywhere, all the time
8. Dick Cheney’s thought on how the Iraqi people would welcome US soldiers
9. Bush, Amputee Care Center, San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 1, 2006
10. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2005
11. Bush to prime minister of Luxembourg, Washington, D.C., June 20, 2005
12. Bush, on why bin Laden hasnt been caught, aboard Air Force One, Jan. 14, 2005
13. Bush, aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003
14. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004