Thursday, January 23, 2003

Your Virtual Prozac

Lately yours truly has been in a lousy mood. This may have something to do with the fact that I can't afford the anti-depressants anymore, or it may be because the airing of Joe Millionaire has shown me that trust and honesty are no longer valued, or it may be because I'm writing this in Microsoft Word and I resent the hold Microsoft has on my life. Whatever it is, I need something to lift my mood. That's why I want to talk about death, destruction, and the end of the world. Nothing cheers me up more than contemplating apocalypse. It must be a misery-loves-company thing.

I speak of apocalypse with a small "a" because I am not one of those Apocalypse-enthusiasts who cares only about identifying the Beast or the Whore of Babylon or speculating about the nature of New Jerusalem. Those sorts of things are very good, but any end of the world interests me, not just that one.

It doesn't even have to be the end of the whole world. It could just be the end of this little part of it. That would be fine. For example the other day I learned that the Australian continent is on target to collide with us here in the Pacific Northwest sometime in the next couple hundred million years. That should pretty much finish the Space Needle, once and for all, and not a million years too soon. When you're in a bad mood, who needs revolving restaurants?

Don't get me wrong. I don't actually want global warming to melt the polar icecaps and inundate the coasts, for example. I want global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer and all those other slow-moving disasters to reverse themselves, like any good liberal should. But there's something exhilarating about being in a train wreck, even one that takes a century or millions of years to happen.

Of course, faster disasters are more compelling. I think a lot of the appeal of Revelations is that the disasters are so dramatic and sudden. One minute everyone is all right and then – BAM – locusts. (Like you can't eat locusts.) This represents a challenge to those of us who would like to visualize world destruction but don't want to be constrained to the Biblical model. Can we top John?

I believe that if we apply ourselves, we can. Pestilence and famine are great, but modern life has so much more to offer.

We could start with nuclear weapons. Suppose for instance that North Korea has those two A-bombs everybody has been saying they could have. And suppose that they really do have an ICBM capable of hitting San Francisco, like some people say they do. Well, we here in Seattle are much closer to North Korea than San Francisco, and we are a hell of a target. Whee, we could be a fireball! Now that's dramatic!

But, I'm a baby boomer, and consequently nuclear weapons are pretty much played out for me. I need new possibilities of annihilation, new reasons to duck and cover.

Smallpox is pretty good. It beats anthrax, as there is no way anyone is going to cover more than a city block with anthrax, but with smallpox you could wipe out millions. In theory. Better would be a brand new genetically engineered disease, one that no one is expecting. Something with the symptoms of ebola but with the contagion of the common cold. Don't think nobody is working on this. Good old American know-how will always find a way.

Look out for nano-robots. They're the next thing. You know all those bastards creating computer viruses now? In twenty years the exact same people will be making microscopic robots that fly through the air and up your nose to take up residence in your lungs for the purpose of deleting all your files, figuratively speaking. Just because they can.

One of the great things about dwelling on possible ends of the world is that it makes Saddam Hussein look like a fly on the wall. I hope that reading this column has cheered one or two of you up in that way. For the rest of you, I recommend anti-depressants.

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Dumbest Bubble in the Fizz

Today I want to talk about ignorance.

A lot of people are going to read that and get entirely the wrong idea. They're going to think, "Uh-oh, here goes, the smart-mouthed columnist is going to go making fun of our president again. Hasn't our poor president suffered enough from being called a moron by that Canadian woman? Who does this guy think he is, thinking he's so much smarter than our elected president?"

No, really, I don't care about George Bush's ignorance. It's my own that interests me. As 5 out of 6 girlfriends have put it, I only care about myself. This is in fact the source and substance of my ignorance. If it isn't about me, it must not be important enough to know.

At this point it is entertaining for me to reflect that I am ignorant as hell, and yet I write this column. Ha. I know incredibly little about everything but I write these tiny mini-treatises every other week and some of you actually read them all the way to the end. I know because three of you have told me so. What gives?

I like to think that my ignorance is a light, a shining beacon, for others. Because if I can turn my affliction into a proud asset, what else is not possible? Cannot then the blind lead us to greener pastures? Cannot then the lame trample our foes? Cannot then the Honda total the SUV instead of vice versa?

This is my promise to America. I will remain ignorant as long as it takes to achieve my dream in which everyone, not just the rich, can live their lives without having to know what it's like to have to know too much. We should all be able to say, "My tuition is paid for; you have to give me an A." Let me show the way.

The most important thing I ever learned in life, I learned in kindergarten. No, I'm kidding, I learned it in graduate school. But I could have learned it in kindergarten. It was that stupid. The stupid thing I learned was: if you need to know something, ask.

You might think, "That is counterproductive. If I ask questions, pretty soon I'll start knowing too much and then I won't be ignorant anymore. I will lose my identity. The next thing I know I'll start speaking with a foreign accent and wearing purple scarves, if I don't already."

No you won't. You only have to pay attention to the answers you receive long enough get things done. Then you can forget them and go back to being yourself.

Isn't that what it's all about? It's about being yourself and nobody else. If you learn a lot of stuff that doesn't have anything to do with you then you won't be you anymore. You'll be one of those pinheads that gets interviewed whenever Jim Lehrer doesn't know why Americans are too fat. The trick is: be Jim Lehrer, and you won't have to be the pinhead.

In the meantime, you may be surprised at how much you can learn just by thinking solely about yourself. For example, I like to sit on my butt and stare at the ceiling. Because of this, and because of the delight that I take in contemplating this fact, and because I am alert and receptive to sympathetic delights, I have learned in time that G. K. Chesterton once wrote 20 pages about a ceiling. Some day, or in another life, I may read those 20 pages. Later, I may learn who or what G. K. Chesterton was. Likewise, I once had sex in the front seat of a Dodge Omni, so I know what a pain parking brakes can be.

The thing that's annoying about George Bush isn't that he's the dumbest bubble in the fizz. What's annoying about him is that he's defensive about it. Like Clinton with his "I didn't have sex with that woman," Bush could benefit from outing himself. He could admit that he never wanted to speak to Gore because he was afraid Gore would know something he didn't. If Bush would publicly admit that he was ignorant he could prove himself to be the great leader that he so far has only pretended to be.