December 14, 2001
At the end of each year I like to look back on some of the events that made it interesting. Most of them have slipped "under the radar", and been drowned out by bigger, seemingly more important stories, but I like to think that while the bigger stories are the stuff of our lives, it’s the small, strange stories that make our lives worth living. So, here’s 2001 in review:
January, 2001: One of the most haunting images from the 100-year old art of movies is the enormous black monolith from Kubrick’s "2001"–the big black box that taught apes to hit each other with femurs, thus not only assuring the survival of the human race, but also leading to the invention of baseball. So it was fitting that some pranksters–obviously well-funded and artistically gifted pranksters–would install a similar monolith in Seattle’s Magnuson Park on New Year’s Eve. The monolith then disappeared a few days later and reappeared on a Green Lake island (also in Seattle). After the pranksters–a group of artists called Some People–came clean, the park directors came up with a surprise of their own: they asked to have the monolith back as a park decoration. One of the artists was reportedly so pleased he threw a bleached animal bone up in the air, where it mysteriously turned into a satellite.
February, 2001: Police in Toronto, Canada, arrested two men who tried to sell $25 billion worth of forged government bonds. The bonds, printed with the date "1934", had a face value of $100 million. (Interestingly, the highest U.S. currency note printed is the $100,000, bearing a portrait of Woodrow Wilson, but I believe bonds can have much higher values.) The bonds were described as almost perfect, except for the zip code included in the address for the U.S. Treasury. Zip codes weren’t introduced until 1963.
March, 2001: A replica of Michelangelo’s David in front of a hair salon in rural Florida had its middle covered with a towel after a woman complained that her pre-teenage daughters and their friends had seen the statue on their way to school. Neither the woman nor the girls recognized the statue as one of the great works of Western art. The woman stated that she worked six days a week and didn’t have time to be culturally literate. She then added that, in her neighborhood, the only male genitals pre-teenage girls usually see are those of their fathers.
April, 2001: A Japanese scientist at Keio University trained pigeons to "distinguish" between the works of painters Vincent Van Gogh and Marc Chagall by feeding them when they pecked at Van Gogh. The birds got nothing when they pecked a Chagall. Although this is considered to be an important breakthrough in cognitive science, determining the level of visual cognition in birds, the scientist is already at work on his next project: teaching pigeons to crap selectively on the works of certain painters but not others. At that point they will have developed exactly the same skills as art critics.
May, 2001: After the objections to "space tourist" Dennis Tito, you’d think it would have raised a few eyebrows, but the first pizza delivered to space was barely mentioned in the news. An international pizza chain (which shall remain nameless, but you’ve probably eaten there, or had one of their pizzas delivered to you) made its first space delivery to Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. And since it took longer than 30 minutes, the pizza was free. One of the effects of weightlesness is a deadening of taste buds, which explains why the astronauts described the pizza as "better than usual." Although some complain about the commercialization of the space program, others say this could lead to new and exciting innovations–such as improvements in those thermal pizza delivery bags.
June 2001: The literary and science fiction convention worlds were rocked at reports about the sudden death of "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" author Douglas Adams on May 11th, 2001. In June, however, conspiracy theorists discovered that Adams had in fact been beamed off Earth by a passing Vogon spaceship. After landing on Zorblunax 7, he got a lucrative job writing snappy answers to complaints for the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. Unfortunately his current whereabouts are unknown; he had moved into a fashionable condo in the Zarquon Nebula, but shortly afterward it was destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. It’s typical of a man who–I’m not making this up–once left his car at an auto repair shop to be fixed. The repair shop burned down, destroying Adams’ car, but he was billed for the repairs anyway because the owners claimed they’d done the work. Adams was also an avid proponent of computers, and crusaded on the behalf of endangered species worlwide. Finally, Mr. Adams provided the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything, which, as most of you know, is 42. Unfortunately he left just seconds before he was going to tell us what the question was. So long, Mr. Adams, and thanks for all the books.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
AN ARKANSAS CHRISTMAS
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the shack,
not a darn thing was a movin’, from the front to the back.
The kids were in bed, We had nine at the time,
The wife in her curlers, was lookin’ real fine.
A cold wind was blowin’, up the holler it moaned,
All ten dogs on the porch howled and groaned.
The boys were all dreamin’ of weapons and guns,
for killin’ God’s creatures, ……there’s no better fun!
The girls in their feminine dreams were attuned,
to getting those gallons of Wal-Mart perfume.
The wife wanted jewelry, like rings with big rocks,
I just wanted my Chevy down off the blocks.
Then out in the yard, such a noise did commence,
like something was caught in our new bob-war fence.
I ran to the window, and saw pretty quick,
the man makin’ that racket, was Good Ol’ St. Nick.
You may think of Santa in your own mind’s eye,
dressed in a red and white suit, But I’ve got a surprise.
That old boy’s an Arkie, from up near Mt. Gaylor;
He married his cousin, and they live in a trailer.
On Christmas, of course, a sleigh for his rig,
He hooks the thing up to a Razorback pig!
He climbed on the roof, with his bag full of goodies,
He backed down the fireplace, all dirty and sooty.
Fat legs in his britches, chubby hands in his mittens,
I must admit from the back, he looked lots like Bill Clinton.
He turned toward the tree, His eyes all aglow,
He was an Arkansas boy from his head to his toe.
His neck was a red one, His shirt said "Lite Beer",
he had no red hat on, but his cap read "John Deere".
He left all the presents, with an air of delight,
Then it was back to the chimney, and into the night.
He ran into the yard, threw his bag in the sleigh,
Then he yelled at the dogs, "Get the hell out th’ way!"
I ran out to ask him Why he brought such good cheer;
But instead he just asked me "You get you a deer?"
Then I heard him exclaim, as those pigs took to flight,
"Merry Christmas to all….. I need a Bud Lite!"