<back to index
| previous letter | next letter
Feb.-Mar. 2012 Message from Dan
Dear Friends, Readers, and Other Visitors:
My friend Steve Charles, editor of Wabash Magazine, has asked me to write a “What’s Next” peek-into-the-future piece. Even though I’ve done similar pieces for the late (and lamented) OMNI Magazine and other print sources, I’m sure that Steve didn’t ask me to write this because I’m a “sci-fi guy”.
Steve probably knows that “sci-fi” is considered an execrable term in the speculative-fiction-writing community. Coined in the 1960’s as it was, “sci-fi” was the brain stone of one Forrest J. Ackerman, former editor of the late (and largely unlamented) Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Ackerman, who died in 2008 at the age of 92, was – by all accounts – a wonderfully likable person. He was also a perennial and permanent eleven-year-old “fan” (he’d attended the first- ever World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 as future citizen “4-E” wearing his homemade “futuristicostume”). Ackerman’s idea of the highest form of wit was some sort of pun on the level of “Hello there, boys and ghouls!” Uncle Forry, as he liked to be called in his later decades, also referred to himself as “the Ackermonster” and, of course, he lived in the “Ackermansion” (which throughout his life was filled with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pieces of science-fiction and fantasy memorabilia, mostly from execrably bad movies, so the late Ackermonster’s Ackermansion is now known, obviously, as the Ackermuseum).
Forry Ackerman was director Ed Wood’s (“Plan 9 From Outer Space”) literary agent. This alone should tell you everything you need to know about the man’s sensibilities.
At some point during his editorship of Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958-83), Uncle Forry was credited with coining the term “sci-fi” to replace the previous term “science fiction” which had, in turn, replaced the early 20th Century Hugo Gernsback term “scientifiction” and which, since science was not always central to this imaginative-fiction genre which often included social or cultural speculation as per Orwell’s 1984, would in turn be replaced in the 1970’s (through the efforts of Harlan Ellison, J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock and other SF stylists) as “speculative fiction.”
But “sci-fi” stuck. It’s an idiot term, rhyming with the now obsolete “hi-fi” as it does (pronounce “fiction” – is there a “fie” sound in there as there is in “fidelity”?) – and “sci-fi” was meant to describe the SF that Uncle Forry the Ackermonster loved: idiotic SF along the lines of the movie “The Green Slime”. Thus the definitive movie/TV/literary image of a reader of “sci-fi” became a garage mechanic, chewing gum, his long-billed ball cap on sideways (not even stylishly backward), reading a slim magazine with a cover showing a nearly naked babe fleeing an alien BEM (Bug-Eyed-Monster) while the mechanic’s lips silently sound out each short syllable.
So I’m certain that my friend Steve Charles didn’t ask me to write a “What’s Next” piece because he thinks of me as a “sci-fi guy”. For one thing, Steve knows that I’ve been friends with Harlan Ellison – someone who still, at the age of 77, frequently manages to be labeled a L'enfant terrible – who has been writing SF for more than 60 years and who, when he hears someone refer to it as “sci-fi” or, most especially, of him as a “sci-fi author” -- has the habit, even in public, of ripping that person’s head off and . . . how do I put this politely? . . . expectorating down the stump of the “sci-fi”-term-user’s neck.
As he mellowed (and after it was explained to him that public decapitation of others followed by non-euphemized expectoration had consequences), Harlan (mostly) eliminated the immediate lethal violence of his response to the term “sci-fi” and turned to legal contracts instead.
I remember some years ago when Harlan came to nearby Boulder to speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) and a female reporter from a rather shabby little university-related “daily” – call it The Daily Blatt -- requested an interview. Harlan agreed to the interview under the single condition that the reporter sign a contract agreeing not to use the term “sci-fi” in relation to him, his work, his readership, his books, or in any other context. There was to be a $500 penalty for each time the obscene two-syllable expression appeared. The reporter screamed and pouted and shouted about the First Amendment over the phone for 24 hours and then – with her editor’s blessing – signed the contract with a smirk. When the article appeared on the day of Harlan’s appearance and reading at CU in front of about 2,000 of his readers and fans, there was no use of the term in her article but the headline in The Daily Blatt read – SCI-FI AUTHOR REFUSES TO BE CALLED SCI-FI WRITER EVEN THOUGH HE WRITES SCI-FI, ALL SCI-FI, AND NOTHING BUT SCI-FI.
Click to Play
Harlan and his lawyer (who looks like a very dissipated Danny de Vito and who has helped Harlan earn more than $5 million in lawsuits against the likes of James Cameron, NBC, and AOL) then contacted Boulder’s seedy daily paper and congratulated them on their unique cleverness. They also drew the Daily Blatt editor’s attention to paragraph three of the simple four-paragraph signed and witnessed contract in which it specified that the term “sci-fi” could also NOT be used in any heading, caption, title, advertising, or outside-the-article reference to Harlan, his work, or the article to be written. The editor screamed loudly about the First Amendment, vowed to have their lawyers deal with this (they had none at the time) and it was almost a full week before their check for $2,500 was in the mail to Harlan.
So, knowing full well that I’ve wildly and endlessly digressed here (and that my good friend Steve Charles will not refer to me as a “sci-fi guy” in any introduction he might consider), here is one sometime-SF-writer’s look at “What’s Next”:
What’s Next in American Politics?
2012 will be the year in which about half of you will see the America You Know and Love Disappear Forever and the other half will see a Resurgence of True American Ideals.
A good percentage of you, after November, may take to the woods and hills with your squirrel guns to join partisan resistance groups.
What’s Next in Europe?
In the last few years, Europeans have discovered two of what I call Dan Simmons’ Three Sad Facts of International Life -- #1 DEMOGRAPHICS IS DESTINY and #2 ALL UTOPIAS FAIL.
As for Truth #3 – well, comedy story-teller Jean Shepherd once had his teenaged “Ralphie” character (actually unnamed in the written fiction, just young Jean Shepherd) look in the mirror after a disastrous date with the Miss Corn Silk Queen and realize to his mounting horror – Holy shit! I was the blind date!
In 2012, the rest of Western Europe and then the United States will stare into the mirror and realize in an equally traumatic moment of horror – Holy shit! We are Greece!
What’s Next with Israel, Iran, and the Middle East?
Trust me, you don’t want to know. (Just don’t plan your Mediterranean Cruise for this 2012 late spring or summer.)
What’s Next in Higher Education?
In 2012, “English majors” become extinct in the United States as former English Departments in all “quality” colleges and universities come out of the closet and publicly declare themselves as subsets of the Cultural Studies Department. A young man or woman who comes to any university under the provincial misunderstanding that he or she is there to love books and to learn about their favorite authors’ and poets’ intentions, will be disabused of their naïveté after four years of rigorous exposure to Cultural Criticism, Structuralist Criticism, New Historicism, Marxist Criticism, Post-Marxist Criticism, Feminist Criticism, Queer Theory and L/G/B/T Criticism, Postcolonial Criticism, African American Criticism, Deconstructive Theory, Reader-Response Criticism, Captivity Theory, and Post-Psychoanalytical Anti-Imperialist Fairness Über-alles Occupy-This-Book- and-Poop-On-It Criticism.
By the time she is a sophomore, our young provincial who spent $92,000 of her borrowed family’s and taxpayer’s money to come to the college for three semesters, will – in the words of the author of the Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide textbook, Lois Tyson – describe The Great Gatsby (which the pitiful provincial student had thought she loved) by saying – “The Great Gatsby is a classist, sexist, homophobic, racist, colonialist novel that romanticizes the evils of capitalism, glorifies dysfunctional love, and as if that weren’t enough, creates an indeterminate reading experience that invites us to project our own beliefs and desires onto the text.” (Critical Theory Today, p 428)
A few thousand of the would-have-been “English majors” will drop out of their quality colleges and universities rather than have all their reading and thinking thus politicized, and then take to the woods and hills to read poems and novels in peace, while trying both solo and in small groups to understand their favorite authors’ meanings within the contexts of other minds and eras. Sadly, the majority of these go-it-alone woods and hills “English majors” are shot and eaten by the squirrel-gun-toting, society-renouncing members of the political party that loses the 2012 presidential election. The loser-voters are starving with real winter coming on and although – after skinning and skewering -- it takes four English majors to make a decent entreé for one cannibal, it does help get the loser-voters through the holidays. (But, as they explain to the perplexed families of the devoured woods-and-hills-English majors when the parents come to claim their children’s slashed and sauce-stained clothing: “It was an accident; it shan’t happen again.”)
What’s Next with Public Education?
In 2012, K-12 public education will – to mix metaphors – throw in the towel and go belly-up.
The reasons are simple – A) the taxpayers will discover that we’re now paying, on average, $73,699 per student and our students score 132nd on international tests -- just below Nigeria and just above Uzbekistan (and these are tests of writing and comprehending in English). B) Educators will finally acknowledge that spending the school year teaching to legislature-designed tests was the final straw that broke the dromedary’s back. C) the nation will realize that aiming the vast majority of moneys and all curriculum at the dumbest kids in the nation was a mistake – that the kids can always flank the school system by getting even dumber and D) looking around the classroom, the parents will realize that the classrooms are filled with Glass Teats, which make the students happy, but that the students haven’t learned a damn thing through all that investment of billions of $$ for now-obsolete “information technology”.
It will become apparent by Sept. 2012 that the No Child Left Behind national initiative, which has swallowed up enough funding to have sent 1,000 American scientists to Mars for a year, should really have been called No Child Shall Be Allowed to Get Ahead. It was a case of bureaucratic egalitarianism run rampant: a race to the bottom led by mediocre instructors following ideological guidelines.
In the autumn of 2012, as the American public school system lies smoldering in the Mayans-were-right ruins, a new form of “public school” will arise: the Peripatetic School.
The name for the first Peripatetic School, begun in Athens in the 5th Century BC, derived from the Greek term περιπατητικός or peripatêtikos, which means "of walking" or "given to walking about”. Philsophers from Aristotle through Socrates would be chosen by their students, paid per day of instruction, and would walk about the streets of Athens and into its parks and surrounding olive groves, discussing important topics. The discussions were based on questions from the students and teachers. The phrase also comes from περίπατοι or peripatoi , referring to the colonnades of the Lyceum gymnasium in Athens where teachers waited for students to choose them.
The New Peripatetic School, beginning amidst the rubble of the old (and failed American public school system) in 2012, will do away with all teacher training and teacher certification. There will be no school buildings (libraries, museums of all sorts, and businesses themselves will serve for indoor peripatêtikos during cold winter months) and no local or national curriculum. The questions will be the curricula.
The only “educational technology” Glass Teats involved will be twofold: first, an online parent/student-rating system, constantly updated, for the teachers who offer their services by showing up at the steps of local churches, county courthouses, city centers, etc.. It will somewhat resemble the current morning lineup of gardeners and other unskilled (and illegal immigrant) labor in early-morning parking lots throughout southern California and the Southwest. (The New Peripatetic teachers will be notable by their white robes (and beards, if male.) The online rating service is scored 1-10, with “10” being considered in the Socrates and Aristotle level, and includes an exhaustive review of the teacher-candidate’s life. Pedophiles, felons, and repeated sex offenders will tend to score low on the national RATES (Rating of Teacher Excellence Service). Second, each student walking with the peripatetic teacher will have to provide a simple, flexible-flatscreen, folding into a scroll equivalent of today’s i-Pad with G4. Students will use their data devices – known as “ansibles” – only to look up information in support of their own arguments or in refutation of others’ arguments, including the teacher’s. The ansibles will also be used outside strolling hours to ask the teacher questions or to continue debates when the peripatêtikos are not formally walking and talking together.
The New Peripatetic School will be highly competitive for both teachers and students – this competition being part of what the students learn to call the “agon” (i.e. the sorting of everything – scholarship, reasoning, athletic competition, beauty, arguments, and elements of the world around them) into “equal to”, “less than”, or “better than”. Students who wish to continue their peripatêtikos with a worthy instructor must achieve “better than” in most discussions and agonistic encounters. The alternative – since all are welcomed to this New Peripatetic School but few are chosen – is to be lobotomized and used for the much-needed slave labor the nation requires. (The lobotomies are free and painless and will be carried out in the few remnants of the current national public school system; no surgeries required.)
Payments for the teachers in the New Peripatetic School are also fiercely involved in the agon. A young Plato, for instance, out of Socrates by way of Aristotle, will have an annual salary based on the average income of the top five NFL quarterbacks – around $20,000,000 per year (see far below). An average decent teacher will be able to earn deep into six figures, but he or she will always have to be honing Socratic questioning skills if students are to continue choosing him or her.
By 2015, students in the New Peripatetic School will also begin wearing togas.
What’s Next with Your Glass Teats?
For Christmas – just a little more than a month ago as I write this – my family gave me a brand new, cutting edge i-Pad 2. The thing is still in its shrink-wrapped box. I mean, what’s the use of opening it? Right after Christmas, word came out that a much-more-advanced i-Pad3 was in the works, but anyone buying that cutting-edge version will be just as disappointed as I am now because – a surely as the sun rises in the east – a few months or weeks later, the i-Pad4 with SG9X or whatever will be driving the Apple-devotees over their purchase cliffs like so many white-ear-budded lemmings.
My overly mentioned-above pal Harlan Ellison had an alleged TV-criticism column in the Los Angeles Free Press from 1968 into the early 1970’s. I say “alleged TV-criticism column” because – as has been everything Harlan has ever written – the column was actually a cry of outrage at cultural trends and pretensions of the day. He gathered his early columns of TV/cultural criticism into a non-fiction book which he titled The Glass Teat. His second collection of such columns was titled – of course – The Other Glass Teat.
Born in 1934, Harlan wasn’t raised on any Glass Teat – his daemons of choice were imagination-stimulating radio and motion pictures – but my generation (Wabash, ’70), while not born with the Glass Teat of television already in our mouths and brains, connected to it soon enough. By the time most of us were 7 or 8, on those Friday evenings when Dad was traveling on business, Mom would let us eat dinner on TV trays in front of Cheyenne and Rin Tin Tin.
Most of my generation was never weaned from the Glass Teat of TV, but in later years – even during college where Martindale Dorm had one lousy b&w TV in the basement, and it hauling in only 2 ½ channels – the demands of growing up, earning a living, graduate school, earning a living, marriage, earning a living, parenting, and earning a living, all combined to keep us away from our favorite and only Glass Teat of choice for days, months, or even years at a time.
Today, no one need ever to leave his or her Glass Teat behind for so much as a single moment of waking hours.
We commute to work chatting and texting on our cell phones with their increasingly busy screens that can stream TV so that our connection to this all-essential Ur-Glass-Teat not be interrupted, move to our desktop computer at work to check our Facebook page where we have hundreds of friends whom we’ve never met, haul our multiple laptops and now even more portable tablets when we need to be mobile (but still connected), and now we’ve begun getting our “books” almost solely via cheap little e-readers that have far more basic disadvantages – needing electricity, most aren’t readable in the dark, making marginal comments is difficult, older marginal comments by the book’s previous owners aren’t there – and very few of the advantages of even a modest paperback book.
Social critic Neil Postman died in 2003, but his predictions from even decades earlier of a truly technopolized society are no longer predictions; they’re our daily reality (sic). Excuse me while I leap to Wikipedia –ah, here’s the information I wanted, elapsed search time 1.9 seconds – and I quote from the least-reliable quotable source on the planet (next to the Huffington Post):
In his 1992 book Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology, Postman defines “Technopoly” as a society which believes “the primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and thought is efficiency, that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment ... and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.”
Sound familiar in any way?
Postman was one of the few educational theorists or social critics who realized how profoundly undemocratic runaway technology combined with unrestricted capitalism can be. Who was it, exactly, who voted to make all our LP vinyl record collections obsolete --- not to mention the expensive turntables and “sound systems” we’d invested in to play those records? When was the democratic referendum held in which the majority of us voted to begin our lifelong music acquisition efforts from scratch again, first for CDs, then for burnable singles from i-Tunes (or someplace where we pay nothing because the artist’s work is stolen), now to stream to and through and from all our Glass Teats?
Postman understood the need for the “creative destruction” element of capitalism, augmented as it is through dizzying technological change, but he wasn’t ashamed to call himself a Luddite. That group fought to preserve their culture and the value of their (non-industrialized) work. And yes, it’s true that the etymology of sabotage leads back to the French word sabot (wooden shoe), but the story that it was skilled textile workers in France and the Low Countries throwing their wooden shoes to gum up the works of the automated looms that had replaced them which gave us “sabotage” just doesn’t hold up under etymological scrutiny. I wish it did. Rather, it goes back to sabot as in “walking loudly” or clumsily which leads to the real source for sabotage – saboter (to bungle something, to screw it up through clumsiness).
Postman’s identification with Lord Byron as a supporter of the doomed skilled textile-worker Luddites – the followers of a mythical, Robinhood-like Ned Ludd, who did sabotage their new automated, early- industrial-age looms – is an acknowledgment that each new technology, however ill-conceived or temporary, may bring a greater reality of damage to a culture than the technology might be worth. Neil Postman realized that the headlong rush to more and faster and shinier and more omnipresent Glass Teats in our lives would have dark consequences.
“Give us the name,” thousands of American parents might shout, “of the man or woman who put texting capabilities on a cell phone and then sold these machines to our sons and daughters who’ve just received their drivers’ licenses!”
If you invent and sell a non-osmotic semi-permeable crunch-enhancer for cereal (ala Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation”) and it poisons and kills thousands or tens of thousands of people, largely those under 21, someone or some corporation is going to be held responsible. There’s going to be hell to pay and that payment will begin in the tens of billions of dollars to the parents of the dead kids.
But cell phones alone used by drivers of cars – much less cell phones with texting capabilities – have already killed thousands of young people (and those of all ages whom they plow into on the highways) and will, despite draconian laws and punishments being proposed in all states, kill hundreds of thousands more. Couldn’t someone designing cell phones (especially with text capabilities ) have foreseen this highway carnage as young people and stupid people, already suffering from the human race’s worst Age of Constant Attention Deficits, lose what little driving attention they were able to muster in the first place? Oh, give us a name –we’ll take the whole design committee if you give us their names –and give us a gibbet!
Postman understood that Glass Teats – all Glass Teats – are not only the drug of choice for shallow people, but they are deadly treacherous as well. Like the 1207 “friends” I’ve accepted after being on Facebook for less than two months – about 7 of whom I’d recognize in person – context-free information flowing like botulized milk from all these Glass Teats creates a “comprehension field” that’s twenty-five thousand miles wide and one-millimeter deep.
Mostly, the gorilla-glass myriad of Glass Teats in 2012 will do what the Mother of All Glass Teats did in 1955; mostly, it will distract us from more important and more human thoughts and interactions.
What’s Next With Childhood?
Childhood – as a separate time and place in one’s life – is gone. Dead. Finished.
Childhood was ‘born’ in the late 1840’s, largely due to the work of its midwife Charles Dickens, and it died in the mid-1990’s (largely due to the indifference to it from all of us.)
Look at paintings of children pre-1840’s. They look bizarre because the dimensions – the ratio of head size to body size – are all wrong. They’re the proportions of shrunken adults. They’re bizarre. A Charlie Brown cartoon is closer to the head-body ratio of children than the portraits of some of the finest artists of the 15th-through-19th Centuries. The reason is that no one really paid attention to “children”; they were thought of and even visualized as miniature adults.
Through his books, Dickens helped created childhood as a protected and sentimentalized new period in a human’s life.
But it’s dead now. As Neil Postman pointed out decades ago, what separates the adult from the child is a restriction of information (and responsibilities and behaviors) for children. But when children and adults get all their information from the same source – today TV and the Internet – childhood, as a viable concept, is dead. By doing this, parents have helped remove the door to their bedroom – everything from sexual details to worries about money and mortgages now flow over the “child.”
When the cultural deliberately sexualizes the child, childhood is dead.
When children are targeted for hundreds-of-billions -of-$$$ as little consumers, childhood is dead.
In 2012, the culture will notice that we’ve killed childhood forever. The headstone might read
What’s Next with The Book?
“The Book” being not some group’s idea of sacred Scripture, but the very bookness of a physical book, whole and entire unto its own self.
In my Colorado Front Range community of some 90,000 souls, the only bookstore that carried new books (although for years it had seemed embarrassed to be selling books) was Borders Bookstore, part of the chain. As a writer, I’m supposed to praise only independent book stores, but the truth is that our Borders was a clean, well-lighted, coffee-smelling place, filled with thousands of books in spite of their wish for more “diversified” inventory, and it was one of the few places open after 9 p.m. on any given night. It folded up literally over night. The same was true in 2011 in mid-sized towns all across America – good towns and cities that could never support a large independent bookstore like Portland’s Powells or Seattle’s Elliot Bay or Denver’s the Tattered Cover – but which offered an oasis for readers in the night with their Borders and Barnes & Nobles. The latter is now our last national chain of physical bookstores and its success or extinction, one reads in the Wall Street Journal, will depend on how well B&N sells their proprietary e-reader, the NOOK®, to their patrons.
Why do I imagine a cartoon of dinosaurs designing an asteroid to drop on themselves?
I recommend that if you read two books in 2012, one of them should be THE SWERVE: How the World Became Modern by the fine Shakespearean scholar Stephen Greenblatt. On page 248 of the hardcover version you will encounter this:
In 1989, Paul Quarrie, then the librarian at Eton College, bought a copy of the splendid 1563 De rerum natura, edited by Denys Lambin, at auction for £250. The catalogue entry noted that the endpapers of the copy were covered with notes and that there were many marginalia in both Latin and French, but the owner’s name was lost. Scholars quickly confirmed what Quarrie suspected, as soon as he had the book in his hands: this was Montaigne’s personal copy of Lucretius, bearing the direct marks of the essayist’s passionate engagement with the poem.
Greenblatt’s THE SWERVE is not primarily about the rediscovery of a Montaigne-annotated copy of Lucretius’ more-than-thousand-year-old poem, but rather about the original rediscovery of Lucretius’ work by one Poggio Bracciolini in the winter of 1417. Bracciolini was the perfect man for the job – master of ancient Greek and Latin, former head scriptor (copyist and document expert) for Pope John XXIII. Or, rather, for AntiPope John XXIII since John was the first pope to have his staff broken, to be stripped of all papal powers for crimes of corruption, and to be jailed; so Poggio Bracciolini was the perfect Renaissance man for such a search for ancient lost documents and he now had time on his hands. But early 15th-Century north-central Europe – where the best searching lay – was a dangerous place for any armed man, much less a former scriptor with no weapons, no connection to an important guild or great man of power, and with only one man-servant traveling with him.
THE SWERVE reads like a novel, but a novel that leaps with perfect ease backward and forward across more than two thousand years in time: from the Epicurean forces that shaped Lucretius to the effect of De rerum natura – a testimony to materialism, non-militant disdain for all gods, reverence for truth, and the essence of atoms as the beginning of all things – on such world-historical figures as Galileo, Freud, Darwin, and Einstein. It also includes the effect of De rerum natura – a physical book, an object that could be read more than a thousand years after its first writing – on the form and argument of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
[Note: THE SWERVE, by itself, lives up to its subtitle brag of explaining How the World Became Modern, but mostly in terms of science, reason, art, philosophy and politics. To get the full spectrum of Lucretius’ effect on poetry and drama, one must – as I did by sheer accident – follow the reading of Greenblatt’s book with Harold Bloom’s very technical THE ANATOMY OF INFLUENCE: Literature as a Way of Life. Serious literary criticism – not written for the layman in the way Bloom’s other recent books on Shakespeare and reading have been –THE ANATOMY OF INFLUENCE is presumably Harold Bloom’s final word on fifty years of development of his own theory of literary criticism – “the Anxiety of Influence”. (Not great poets and authors being influenced by previous great poets and authors, but by more modern poems and books being influenced, as if by Lucretius’ swerve of falling atoms, by previous great poems and books.) Lucretius’ footprints are everywhere in the formation of modern poetic imagery and theory.]
The synergy of Bloom’s and Greenblatt’s books is the kind of rare peak experience that only serious lifelong readers are allowed to have and to enjoy.
One finds in Catherine Duncan-Jones’s SHAKESPEARE: An Ungentle Life (a 2010 revision of her 2001 book UNGENTLE SHAKESPEARE) that in 1611, Oxford’s Bodeleian Library entered into “a groundbreaking agreement” with the Stationers’ Company which insured that ‘one perfect copy’ of every book published and under their jurisdiction should given to the Bodleian. It turns out that neither the library’s founder, Sir Thomas Bodley, nor its first Librarian, Thomas James, were “at all well-disposed” toward mere ‘play books’ such as the 1623 Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays, but the Bodleian grumblingly accepted the book. And because the book was a physical thing – not merely a deck of electrons that can be shuffled and reshuffled in near-infinite arrangements – it tells its own story.
We know from the wear and tear on the book which of Shakespeare’s plays most appealed to Oxford’s young men during the books residence at Oxford during the reign of Charles I. Although the Folio’s paper was of the highest quality of the kind usually reserved for Bibles – the ink on some pages was almost entirely worn away by the friction of hands and elbows and forearms propped against one page while the facing page was being read and enjoyed. As Duncan-Jones says of these Oxford students – “they voted with their elbows for Romeo and Juliet as far and away their favourite play, and the ‘balcony scene’ as far and away their favourite passage.”
Ah, love! Ah, male undergraduates! Ah, all-men’s colleges!
When the Third Folio was released in 1663-64, the Curators of the Bodleian voted unanimously to sell the library’s much read and well-worn First Folio (evidently under the mistaken idea that the Third Folio replaced the First with a superior edition.) Duncan-Jones reports that no trace of the Second Folio having been in the Bodleian has ever been found, suggesting that the Library had immediately sold the volume rather than have the valuable time of Oxford’s students wasted by what Sir Thomas Bodley had called mere “baggage books”. And thus, in 1664, after only 40 years at the Bodleian, the much-read First Folio disappeared into the fogs of history . . .
. . . Until! . . .
. . . in 1905, a gentleman from Derbyshire named Mr. G.M.R. Turbutt brought a badly damaged copy of the First Folio to the Bodleian to get a general estimate of the volume’s worth. The Library experts immediately recognized the Folio – primarily by its exclusive Oxford binding and by the site on its spine where a huge metal clamp had attached the Folio on its reading stand by chain to the stone wall behind it -- as being the one that had once been in the Library. Oxford offered to buy the Folio back from Mr. Turbutt, only to have the American Shakespeare collector Henry Clay Folger outbid them by a large amount.
Oxford launched a crazed fund-raising campaign among alumni to buy the book back and although they only managed to match Folger’s offer -- £3,000 – Turbutt chose the Bodleian’s bid and the book remains at Oxford to this day.
The point is simply that Poggio Bracciolini’s deliberate search for old scrolls and copied manuscripts led to the rediscovery of Lucretius’ De rerum natura and the eventual transformation of the world; in 1989, Eton librarian Paul Quarrie’s hunch that the marginalia in the splendid 1563 De rerum natura for which he’d spent all of £250 was actually that of Michel de Montaigne showed us the direct line of thought connecting Lucretius’ writings, Montaigne’s musings on Lucretius’ writings, and Shakespeare’s extraordinary soliloquies for his character Hamlet -- Shakespeare’s efforts to express a theatrical character’s thoughts in a form equal to the essays of Montaigne which he, Shakespeare, had recently read.)
No, no – the point is simple: only physical books can survive across time to tell such tales, not only in their text but in and by their physical form.
Oh, and yes – in their marginalia. Besides Montaigne’s scribblings on Paul Quarrie’s De rerum natura and the “voting with their elbows” of the Bodleian’s First Folio there’s revealing scribbling in most of the First Folios: in an “unlovely concrete box” tucked in behind an Orange Julius stand and the Stonestown Galleria mall in San Francisco, there’s an equally unlovely corporate library consisting of Formica tabletops, sheet-metal cabinets, and wedge-shaped “bookholders” made of duct-taped-together fragments of cardboard shipping boxes. This is the dusty library of the Sutro Corporation, watched over by an equally dusty marble bust of the company’s Victorian founder, old mutton-chopped mining baron Adolph Sutro.
And yet this unlikely library (and even more unlikely late mining baron) has a Folio. Open the Sutro First Folio at random and one tends to find scribblings from more than 400 years ago; my favorite is –
y y y y y
your your your your
The script is mid-17th century in form, and is identified * as “some Jacobean brat had been practicing his penmanship exercises on a Shakespearean Folio”. (* THE BOOK OF WILLIAM: How Shakespeare’s First Folio Conquered the World ©2009 by Paul Collins.)
But most loved of all for marginalia was the First Folio from Dr. Williams Library which sold at Sotheby’s Auction in 2008 for $2,500,000 ( exactly fifty-five times the heavy volume’s weight in gold at the time). Scrawled (again in mid-1600’s hand) on a page of Hamlet in the Williams Folio is the beloved (by First-Folioites) marginal comment:
But I desier the readeres mought to kiss the wrighterres arse.
(Oh, but that this were a final comment to future readers in Shakespeare’s own hand, but – alas! – the Bard had been dead some 60 years or more when this marginal note was scrawled. So . . . another Jacobean brat in action.)
In the May 2003 edition of D-Lib Magazine –a librarian’s journal dedicated to the digital preservation of print materials – librarian-authors Deanna Marcum and Amy Friedlander made the following point:
Electronic storage media degrade, just as paper does, only perhaps more quickly. Signals stored on electronic media also degrade, and not at a consistent rate, and hardware and software become obsolete. Data must therefore be transferred to new media or migrated to newer platforms, operating systems, and program applications. An alternate strategy is to emulate the original; that is, to provide a way through software to mimic the hardware on which a given system ran. Either way, each item in a digital archive requires active management. Discs, tapes, and other electronic media, like print, must be maintained in controlled environments, but may take more labor than print to preserve. Finally, metadata is vital for information management but is labor-intensive and hence expensive to create.
From the 1960-s through mid-1980’s, the Library of Congress attempted to “save” their non-acid-free-paper books by transferring to microfilm and then onto analog tapes electronic codes that could be reconstructed by special “reading machines”which turned them back into pages projected in spool-and-sprocket microfilm format. By the late ‘80’s the Library realized (along with Sony Corporation and the entire technology front of Japan, which had been seeking an analog form of high-definition TV) that the future was digital. The Library of Congress also realized that the analog electronic “reading machines” were no longer being manufactured: 20 years of sloppy, murky, scratched, page-to-microfilm-to-analog-tape copying was now worthless. (Less than worthless when one factors in the expense and human work hours it had taken to amass some 20 years of now totally unreadable nothingness.) Meanwhile, the original books continued to slowly deteriorate – save for those which had been tossed out after being “saved” by the wizard analog transcription machines.
By the late 1980’s the Library then started over, digitally copying books and putting the digitized pages and books on CD-ROM. (Question: does your new Apple i-Pad or newest computer have a CD-ROM player or burner? It’s the day-before-yesterday’s technology. So are the 1080p high-def TV in your living room and the Blu-ray player supplying it with high-def digital data. “Streaming data” is cutting edge today but will be obsolete – players and streaming decoders impossible to find –in 10 years or less.)
Imagine a future Poggio Bracciolini – say some 1200 years after the thermonuclear conflagration and deliberate electromagnetic –pulse attacks wipe all digital content clean from our machines (and shut down all solid-state circuitry forever) – coming across the Kindle Fire or NOOK or i-Pad or other modern “e-reader” that once held the future Dark Ages equivalent of De rerum natura – perhaps an illustrated children’s book version of How Things Are Made. Only the “book” this future Bracciolini encounters is just so much broken plastic and gorilla glass melted into fused solid-state circuits. (Even if he found an intact e-reader, our future Bracciolini – capable of speaking and reading in the dead language of English so as to speed along his search for ancient wisdom – will have no batteries or other forms of electric current with which to activate the dead lumps of plastic and silicon.)
To paraphrase William H. Gass, books – books in their classical physical form – are minded things. They share the contents of long-dead human minds with the yet-unborn future human minds, but books – as opposed to temporary electronic squiggles – also seem to have a mind and will of their own. Read Greenblatt’s THE SWERVE and you’ll be sorely tempted to believe that Lucretius’ De rereum natura was willing itself to be found.
And real books are disappearing from our world.
What’s Next with Occupy 3.0?
By April of 2012, with weather warming all over the country, the courageous Occupy _______ (fill in the blank) people will begin emerging from their parents’ basements. With Occupy 2.0 having spent the winter, mostly in California where the weather was warm, burning the interiors of Oakland courthouses (starting with their American flags) and shutting down work for Teamsters on the docks, the whole Occupy national family will be reunited by May.
And – showing their right-wing skeptics were wrong in saying that the Movement has no clarity – the Occupiers will spend part of the spring months clearly articulating their demands. This will break the Occupy Movement into two factions.
The larger faction, occupying (no pun intended) major cities in the Midwestern and Western states, will come up with 8 clear demands:
This faction will become know as the G-8ers.
The smaller but fiercer faction, headquartered mostly in the Northeast and Chicago regions – and the faction containing the largest number of Harvard Business School dropouts (the average student loan there amounting to $93,826.45) – will air demands that are more succinct:
This faction will become known as the GMsters.
In early June, the G-8ers in twenty cities across the west will embark upon an unwise course of action. Irritated at the rising cost of illicit drugs in their Perfect Future encampments, the G-8 Occupy faction will rise up under the banner – “Occupy your nearest Bikers’ bar or clubhouse!”
The G-8 survivors, many still hospitalized, are then set upon with clubs, wrenches, and fists by Teamsters and longshoremen sick of having their paychecks cut short by Occupy blockades. President of the Teamsters, James. P. Hoffa will release the statement --“We Teamsters fully support all of the goals and high ideals of America’s Occupy Wall Street movement, but if we ever again catch those little peckerwood sparrowfarts within half a mile of our docks or blocking so much as a single truck leaving those docks, their mama’s-boy asses will be buried deep beneath the grasses.”
The GMsters faction will do well in their park-seizing and public-property crapping until September when, upon learning that the average NFL football player earns more than $1.8 million (with median NFL salaries, including injured and benchwarmer non-players, easily topping $800,000) with the top five quarterback salaries averaging $20,000,000 a piece, the GMster leaders will declare September 6, 2012 – the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and the first regular season NFL game at the home of the defending Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants – as OCCUPY NFL LOCKER ROOMS DAY! The Occupy Kick-Off Day official motto will be “You stupid, preliterate 1%-er jocks can keep your jock straps but have to share the money!”
More than half the GMster Occupiers will survive the locker room brawls with only broken bones and pulverized faces to show for their efforts, but more than two-thirds of all the retreating GMsters will be torn limb from limb by NFL fans – outraged that the first game was delayed by an hour -- before they can escape the stadium’s parking lot.
In early October, survivors of both Occupy factions will declare their unified Occupy 4.0 goal as “Re-Occupy Mom and Dad’s Basement!”. This will be the first fully achieved goal for the 2012 Occupy protesters, but it is one that brings some embarrassment for those Occupiers over 55 years of age.
What’s Next With America’s Space Program:
Okay, since I am a sci-fi guy, I thought I’d ask a sci-fi sorta question. But I decided that the best way to deal with this issue was to have a dialogue between the 1969 Dan Simmons – say in the autumn of his senior year at Wabash – and the 2012 Dan Simmons in the autumn of his . . . well, everything.
1969DS: Wow, I’m really excited to get to talk to you through this chronosynclasticinfindibulator trans-continuum telephone that my classmate Bill Placher invented in his spare time. You’ll have so much to tell me about the future!!
2012DS: You may not like some of the answers. But go ahead, shoot.
1969DS: Let’s talk about American space stuff first. After this past summer’s moon landing and last year’s Kubrick and Clarke movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’m really buzzed about space – not that I haven’t been for years. I’ve been a sci-fi guy since before I came go Wabash. Since I was six, actually.
1969DS: Beg your pardon?
2012DS: “Skiffy.” That’s how I pronounce your s. . . c . . . i . . .dash . . . f. . . i . . . word. “Skiffy.”
1969DS: . . . mmm. . . well, Okay . . . but how about moonbases? Do we and the Soviets have a bunch of bases up there fifty-two years in my future? Like the Clavius Base in 2001? Thousands of scientists and colonists living up there?
1969DS: No? No what? No giant moon bases? Small ones then?
2012DS: I mean no moon bases. Zilch. Zero. Nada. No human has set foot on the moon since Apollo 17 left the moon on December 14, 1972. There was never a Soviet base on the moon – nor are there any Soviets.
1969DS: . . . (silence) . . . What happened? A nuclear war? You killed ‘em all?
2012DS: Naw. The Soviet Union just imploded of its own economic insanity one day in December of 1991 – split into 15 separate republics and gave up on Communism. Now it’s sort of a crony-capitalist thugocracy.
1969DS: I don’t give a damn about the Soviets . . . I meant what happened to the Apollo landings? We’d budgeted up to Apollo 20, deep into the middle of the 1970’s.
2012DS: Oh, that. People and politicians just lost interest. “Seen one moon landing and you’ve seen them all,” was the common saying. The government and President Nixon just cancelled the last three lunar missions and NASA sold the huge Saturn V rockets and other stuff for scrap.
1969DS: I sort of wish it’d been a nuclear war instead.
2012 DS: Me, too.
1969DS: (brightening) But we do have a space station, right? Don’t we?
2012DS: Oh, yeah, We have a space station here in 2012. Although most Americans have forgotten about it and it may not be up there too much longer.
1969DS: Forgotten about an American space station! You can’t be serious!
2012DS: I can be serious and I am serious. The station’s up there. We just forget about it.
1969DS: (still excited) After seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey last year when it came out ’68 – in ‘Naptown’s big Cinerama theater – I can just imagine your space station. First the 86-passenger Pan Am spaceplane matching orbital velocities with the Station . . . .
2012DS: Yeah, well, we had a sort of fleet of four spaceplanes, the shuttle, until a couple of them exploded and burned up and eventually we had to ground it and we retired the three surviving shuttles a few months ago. No Pan Am though. The company went belly up on December 4, 1991. The space shuttle was strictly a government project. No commercial spaceflights – although the Russians give rich tourists rides up to the station if the rock star or media mogul or rich Arab or whomever can come up with the $20-$40 million ticket price.
1969DS: (shocked) The Soviets .. . uh . . . Russians . . . give tourist rides up to our space station?
2012DS: Well, it’s not exactly our station, not an American station, that is. We call it the ISS – the International Space Station – and a lot of countries helped build it. Well, actually, we loaned Canada, a couple of European countries, and Russia tons of our own money to help us with little parts of it.
1969DS: (suspicious sounding) What part of OUR space station did these foreigners build?
2012DS: Well, the Russians gave us an empty habitation cylinder and a zero-g toilet or something to launch. We paid for it. Oh, and the Canadians built a truly crackerjack remote-handling “arm” for both the shuttle and the station. It’s a big version of the claw-toy you use to grab a prize. You can’t see any American flags from the payload bay camera when its doors are open in space, but we could always see the Canadian maple leaf flag on the “arm”. We paid for it.
1969DS: Well, that’s something, I guess . . . but, still, the space station itself. Is it just like in 2001 – the giant revolving double-torus, the spin giving one-third earth’s gravity on the outside ring to the thousands of scientists, researchers, vacationers, and folks transferring to their round moonship for the lunar voyage to Clavius Base . . . oh, forgot. No moon base. Well, is the space station itself as glorious as in Kubrick’s movie?
2012DS: Not exactly. Our space station looks more like a septic tank with a bunch of solar-panel wings coming out in every direction. Oh, and a Soyuz “escape craft” stuck to one cylinder like a blood tuck hanging off the butt of a sad old hound dog.
1969DS: And no thousands of researchers and vacationers? No Howard Johnson Earthlight Room restaurant like in the movie – no video phones to call home with and get the price in the Ma Bell logo at the end of the call? No Soviet scientists going up to . . . no, no Soviets. Jeez, that’s a hard concept to get used to.
2012DS: Look, younger and naiver me, there’s no Pan Am today, the Ma Bell logo was changed shortly after 2001 came out and Ma Bell was broken up not long after that . As for video-phones . . . never happened kid. Although we do have Skype – a sort of fuzzy, scratchy way to see each other through computers. I think Skype was invented by two teenagers in Azerbaijan or somewhere.
1969DS: (interjecting in horror) Wait! No Ma Bell!? Who provides your telephone? And the service?
2012DS: You have to buy your own phones in this Brave New World, Danny boy. And your phone service. From hundreds of vendors. Oh, most of them are cell phones today . . . only old farts like my, your, wife and I keep old-style land lines with, ugh, wires and wall connections and all that.
1969DS: What’s a “cell phone”?
2012DS: Never mind the details. Just accept that almost everyone is carrying at least one around in your future, kid. When Wabash kids come out of old Center Hall, they’re all on their cell phones telling Mommy or their girlfriends how they did on their Chaucer exam. Or they use the phone to text a hundred people at once. The point is, no one’s ever out of touch with anyone in this Brave New World that hath such people in it. The best cell phones aren’t much thicker than a credit card and . . . hey, I forget – did you guys have credit cards in 1969?
1969DS: Gasoline company cards. Diner’s Club. I cut all my parents’ cards up when they died two years ago. I never want to go in debt again in my life.
2012 DS: Well . . . . I don’t’ know if Howard Johnson’s is gone as well, but I sure haven’t seen one in years. 2001: A Space Odyssey’s future sure ain’t our future-of-today, kiddo.
1969DS: Not thousands of researchers in the space station 25,250 miles up? Only . . . what . . . hundreds? Scores? . . .. A few dozen?
2012DS: Try three at any given time. Either two bored Russians and a surly, lonely American or two bored Americans and a surly, lonely Russian. Oh, and the station’s only a couple of hundred miles up, not in a geosynchronous orbit 25,250 miles high. We couldn’t get that high with the shuttle.
1969DS: (voice almost breaking) But surely the space research breakthroughs must have been breathtaking by now. Perfect ball bearings formed in zero-g? Lattice crystals grown in micro-gravity?
2012DS: To be truthful, our three space station guys or gals – two bored, one surly – don’t have time to do any real scientific research. They’re too busy fixing broken things on the station.
1969DS: No research? You’re kidding me. I mean, even Robert Falcon Scott and his men, after so many months getting to the South Pole second by a few weeks, dying of exhaustion, starvation, and scurvy, spent their final days doing research during their doomed attempt to get back.
2012DS: I continue to kid thee not, Little Danny from 1969. Oh, one bright thing about the space station. After all the years it’s been up there, in one form or another, we finally got a teeny-tiny washer-dryer combination up to them. The men and women are up there for six months to a year at a time, you know.
1969DS: (warily) What’d they do to clean their clothes before the washer/dryer was launched up to them?
2012DS: Nothing. They just wore the same jumpsuits – sort of a combination jump suit and pair of long underwear -- until the stench got so bad nobody aboard could stand it, and they jettisoned it to let it burn up in the atmosphere.
1969DS: (almost wearily) So you’re saying that young lovers wishing upon a bright shooting star may have been wishing on some surly cosmonaut’s soiled long undies going up in flames?
2012DS: (silence) Finally, look, kid, you’re the one who made the chronosynclasticinfindibulator trans-continuum phonecall.
1969DS: Well, at least the American booster rockets in your future must be cool. Tell me about them.
2012DS: We don’t have any anymore. The last president – a Republican – set the goal for a new booster, called the Constellation, to get us to the ISS in a new wingless module – almost exactly like the old Apollo command module but built for six astronauts rather than for three – and then use the powerful Constellation and Orion with a new lunar lander – big enough for all six to go down to the surface -- to get back to the moon to resume exploration and eventually to put parts in orbit to build a ship to go to Mars, but the new president – a Democrat – set up a panel that cancelled the Constellation, even after billions spent on it, and cancelled the moon missions and the lander, and slowed down building the Orion command module, agreeing, begrudgingly, to build it only as an “escape module” for the station.
1969DS: That’s pathetic. How do you get your American astronauts up to the station now that your shuttle fleet is gone?
2012DS: We pay the Russians to get us there.
1969DS: (with something like outrage . . . or outright nausea in his voice) Pay . . . the . . . Russians?
2012DS: Yeah. The day after we grounded our shuttle fleet and sent the shuttles off to museums, the Russians doubled the price – from $20 million per person to the ISS to $40 million each. They also announced that they might “de-orbit” the space station years earlier than NASA had planned to . . . just to let us know that they were in charge.
1969DS: At least tell me that the Russian space technology has advanced dramatically.
2012DS: Not exactly. They’re using the same Soyuz capsule and boosters they used in the ‘sixties and real-early ‘seventies.
1969DS: But Soyuz was a two-man capsule!
2012DS: Still is. But they ripped out some stuff they figured they might not need and squeezed in a third acceleration couch. Astronauts who’ve gone up in it –and some rock stars – say it’s like squeezing three fat men into the front seat of an old VW Bug. And the cosmonaut-pilots still have to use the Stick.
1969DS: The . . . Stick?
2012DS: Yeah. Ergonomics was never the Russians’ strong suite. When they designed and built the Soyuz capsules in the early ‘sixties, they figured that their cosmonauts wouldn’t be – and shouldn’t be – doing much flying themselves. Everything was to be controlled from Moscow, you know. So the way they designed it, the cosmonaut-pilot can’t reach the control panel to throw a lever or switch a switch or push a button. He has to use the Stick.
1969DS: What if the fuggin’ stick breaks?
2012DS: Everyone dies, I guess. Look it’s hard enough just getting back through the atmosphere alive in a Soyuz. A few weeks ago they overpressurized a Soyuz capsule in a test – someone not paying attention – and blew every rivet and panel out of it. The last bunch of missions, the re-entering capsule has missed its target point and been lost for a while.
1969DS: What’s its target point?
1969DS: OK, OK, OK. Things are a mess, space-wise now. At least for America. But NASA must have some long term plan. Some goal articulated by your president and his administration.
2012DS: They do. There is.
1969DS: So what is it, return to the moon?
1969DS: Ahh . . . Mars!
2012 DS: Nope.
1969DS: The asteroid belt then! Or an orbit-Venus mission? Jupiter space?
2012DS: Ixnay to all of the above.
1969DS: If you’re not going to the moon or interplanetary space, where do you folks in 2012 go for adventure?
1969DS: “Cyberspace”? What the hell’s that? Where is it?
2012DS: Everywhere . . . and nowhere.
1969DS: Sounds like God.
2012DS: It pretty much is up here in the future.
1969DS: What can people do in this cyberspace place?
2012DS: Cyberspace is the font of all knowledge and – increasingly – all experience for us. One can even have sex in cyberspace.
1969DS: So you’re saying that cyberspace is half God, half brothel?
2012DS: That about covers it.
1969DS: Look, let’s get serious. You say that NASA still exists. It must have a misson statement. What has the President charged the top NASA administrator with doing? With achieving? What’s NASA’s goal in 2012 and beyond?
2012DS: (taking a long breath) The President ordered the current head of NASA to travel and send NASA celebrities and emissaries to Islamic countries to . . . and I quote . . . “Make Muslim nations and their cultures feel good about their contributions to the space program and to science in general.”
1969DS: I won’t ask if you’re BS-ing me, Future Me. But there is a lot of BS piling up on this particular chronosynclasticinfindibulator line. Have the Moslems . . .”
2012DS: (interrupting) ‘Muslims”. We call them “Muslims” now . . .
1969DS: Moslems, Muslims, Mohammedans, whatever. Have they contributed to science in general and to the world’s space science in particular? If so . . . how?
2012DS: There are more scientists -- more Nobel Award-winning scientists – in the tiny state of Israel than there are in more than fifty Muslim-majority nations around the world combined. And most of the “scientists” Islamic countries do have are essentially weapons’ technicians.
1969DS: So they haven’t contributed squat.
2012DS: No, they haven’t. But we can’t say that, Young Me. And speak more softly. I mean, after all . . . the Arabs did invent the zero.
1969DS: No, they didn’t. The Babylonians around 300 BC and the Mayans around 350 A.D. used the zero. And whatshisname – the guy from India – Pingala, used the zero and the Sanskrit word for it, śunyā to refer to void in computation before the birth of Christ. Why use NASA’s budget to go around thanking these camel-riding Moslems for something they’re not doing and never did?
2012DS: (urgently) Sshhhhhh! We don’t know that this line is secure.
1969DS: You sound scared, Future Dan. Why would you be afraid of Moslems? Why would we surrender the dream of the moon and Mars and our own space station in exchange for . . .what? . . . pandering to some backward Moslem countries? Has something bad happened up there 43 years in my future? You’re sounding like a whipped dog.
2012DS: (whispering) I’d better go now. Enjoy the next four moon landings and . . .
1969DS: (interrupting loudly) Hey! Wait! You said they’re gonna drop Apollo 18, 19, and 20 and leave the moon for good in 1972. That still leaves five moon landings in my future over the next three years! Al Bean and those guys just got back from Apollo12, so that leaves Apollo 13, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo . . ..”
2012DS: Apollo 13’s not going to land on the moon. Look, that’s all, 1969Dan. If I say anymore I may change the future . . . your future. It was . . . interesting . . . talking to you. Good luck with things. And give Bill Placher a big hug for me, would you?
1969DS: Give him a big hug up there in your icky 2012. I’d bet anything that Bill’s teaching religion – probably here at Wabash. Hug him yourself.
2012DS: Just shut up and find Bill and thank him for inventing the chronosynclasticinfindibulator phone and . . . most important . . . give him a big hug from me in the future, OK? Tell him . . . I miss him.
1969DS: Look, Bill’s right here and he says that this infindibula phone thingee can only be used once, and I still have a lot of questions I need to have answered. Like – are the Beatles still together and singing and . . .
2012DS: (breaks the connection.)