Science Fiction No Longer, Chapter Whatever-We're-Up-To
Posted Last Week
Do you remember this, from 'The Twilight Zone'?
The 'Twilight Zone' people were probably inspired by Chatty Cathy, the obnoxious talking doll from the 1960s. Fortunately, Cathy had a *script*. She could only say prerecorded, happy things.
Serling and crew imagined what would happen if Cathy was off the leash. What if she became sentient? They were thinking paranormal, not cyberhorror. But our worst fears are no long science fiction. Talking Tina may be in your neighbour's kid's playroom at this very moment. She may also be saying things like this:
Just what genius thought this was a good idea? Obviously, one who's never heard of Rod Serling. And who thinks anything is better if attached to the internet. 'What? Your coffee machine can't order exotic blends from Amazon? What century are you living in, dude?'
The Germans aren't happy about this mechanical chatterbox. Because Cayla doesn't just say naughty things. She *listens*. What might she be asking the kids? 'Do your parents pay their TV tax?'
What do we say to this spy doll? How about 'shut up'? We have ways of making this doll stop talking. Turn off its Bluetooth. Or take it back for a refund. Or even better: repurpose it as a cat toy.
An Immodest Proposal
Posted Last Week
I've been working on legislation. What do you think of this proposal?
An informed legislature and executive being vital to the health of any democracy, the following CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT is offered as a protection against ill-informed government.
Proposed 28th Amendment to the US Constitution, to be known as the OFFICEHOLDER COMPETENCY AMENDMENT (OCA):
The United States Constitution states:
Article I, Section 2.
'No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.'
Article I, Section 3.
'No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.'
Article II, Section 1.
'No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.'
BE IT HEREBY ENACTED, that no person shall be permitted to run for these national offices, nor have their names entered upon official ballots, without proof of their having fulfilled the following ADDITIONAL requirements:
1. Submission of their federal income tax returns for the previous five years.
2. Submission of the background check usually required for employment in a place of trust, such as a public school, including information on previous arrests and/or convictions. (RATIONALE: Voters should know at least as much about candidates as their parole officers.)
3. Submission of satisfactory results of a drug test, such as is administered for public school employment in many states. (RATIONALE: If they are passing legislation while high, we at least want to know about it.)
4. Achievement of a satisfactory grade (85% or higher) on a standardized achievement test in the following subjects:
a. United States History
c. World Geography
d. General Science
e. General Mathematics
(RATIONALE: Do we seriously want C students running our government?)
In regard to requirement (4), be it FURTHER ENACTED that:
a. Qualifications testing will be administered by a board composed of leading educational authorities appointed by the fifty states, and will assess a standard equivalent to a high school diploma knowledge in each subject tested.
(RATIONALE: No leader should be allowed to vote for a declaration of war against a country he or she cannot locate on a map. Legislators may reject scientific findings on climate change or evolution, but they should be able to refute those findings in an eight-page paper, double-spaced, with proper Chicago-style footnotes. And they should not be allowed to run for public office until they understand the process by which elections are held.)
b. In preparation for each Officeholder Examination, courses will be offered FREE OF CHARGE at designated community colleges throughout the United States. Courses will be open to all residents of the state.
c. Officeholder Examination courses will be taught by qualified individuals holding state teaching certification in their subjects.
That will do it for now. Later, we need a law about Cabinet members. The Interior Secretary's test should involve being left for a week in a remote National Park armed with only a Swiss Army knife and a compass, but that might be negotiable...
Annoying the Establishment: 50 Years On
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
Yesterday's New York Times Opinion Page has a timely reminder for us about the anniversary of the first appearance of the 'Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', which premiered 50 years ago tomorrow.
As the article points out, the Smothers Brothers got their own show because the network (CBS):
- thought nobody could take on the opposition, namely the anodyne 'Bonanza', in that time slot, and
- like most grownups, they were fooled by the Smothers Brothers' deceptively clean-cut facade as goofy folk singers.
Also, the Smothers Brothers lulled our parents into complacency by boring them with their standard routine. This involved singing a folk song (or something that sounded like a folk song), and then constantly interrupting the singing to argue about everything from the plot of the song to whether their mom liked Dick best.
Of course, once the grownups had gone away, bored, they put stuff like this on:
Too much thinking for a Sunday evening. The grownups were now fully committed to ice cream, and we could watch the protest singers.
Of course, the show got wildly popular with us younger folk. And of course, the network managed to get rid of it after three seasons. Largely because it made important people feel uncomfortable. But as Lyndon Johnson wrote to them, after he'd got over being miffed at the jokes at his expense, 'May we never grow so somber or self-important that we fail to appreciate the humor in our lives.'
Fast forward to 2017. Fifty years later. I am just about to become officially Old. My Saturday morning is interrupted by teenagers at my door trying to peddle 'Awake!' and asking my opinion about teenage depression. No, I am not awake. I do not wish to be on Saturday morning. There are no depressed teenagers at my house. Go away and Witness elsewhere, please.
And I notice the story about the Smothers Brothers. And it takes me back again and forward. And I think: Maybe the teenagers are depressed because we're protesting the same problems in 2017 as we did in 1967?
Go Away, Suzy Snowflake
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
It will *not* quit snowing around here. We've had a bait of it: especially Lola, who keeps looking hopeful about walkies, then running back inside. The snow's going to be over her little head soon.
I refuse to go over and practice the organ. I'll wing it on Sunday, if need be.
When I started humming this song, Elektra was outraged. At first, she claimed not to remember Suzy Snowflake. But when I sang a few bars, she remembered the song.
Elektra thinks this video, which was shown to kiddies in the Chicago area, looks like it was designed by Salvador Dali. Me, I think it's sort of Expressionist. See what you think.
That Suzy Snowflake is mischievous. I wish she'd go away.
You Think I Make This Stuff Up
Posted 5 Weeks Ago
You thought I was crazy for writing this in the first issue of the Post this month: A87883168
HA! I have just been over to my twitter account and signed up to 'follow' the following accounts:
This is not a joke. NASA's asking people to help BACK UP their pages by storing them on archive.org.
NASA, a world organisation, is asking people to samizdat their Stuff using the same search engine the Post Editor uses to hunt for fun titbits to titillate readers...
O tempora. O mores. (Go look it up while you still have an internet.)
And pay attention: The Doomsday Clock has been set forward by thirty seconds. That means it's back to where it was when I began talking. Maybe that means I should shut up. Anyway...go follow the rogue scientists. When they go low, we go high...how about orbit?
Philip K Dick, oh, how we need you...