And other signs of the coming apocalypse
Read this article as it appears in the Jan-Feb 2011 issue by clicking on the image to the left.
I was at this get-together where some kids were talking about iPads and Lady Gaga, which is something they like to do. I’m pretty sure somebody said he had an “app” he could point at a group of stars and the “app” would tell the name of the constellation.
“Or you could just look at the stars,” I said. I had had a few drinks and thought I was Walt Whitman. Lady Gaga had been on Larry King the night before talking about lupus and Michael Jackson. And I’m afraid I said something like, “Don’t you get it? Larry King and Lady Gaga are the same! The same!” Then I said some more stuff about “apps,” the kind of stuff a really boring old drunk would say. My point was summarized by one wag as “Tetris is evil.” Then everyone took turns scoffing at me, and rightly so. Why don’t I ever shut my blowhole?
You know what the worst kind of column in the world is? One where an old man yammers about how old he is. Enjoy.
In the year 2050, I will have been dead for 35 years. But for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m alive, 87, and on Twitter every day, telling acquaintances in Wisconsin what I had for breakfast. Larry King is on Twitter. He recently went to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner with Seth MacFarlane. How do I know? Twitter.
Seth MacFarlane created Family Guy, which I have hardly seen any part of since the first season or so when, if memory serves, the Lindbergh baby was flushed down a toilet, after which he presumably drowned in sewage, and then I changed the channel because a baby drowning in sewage was just too hilarious and subversive. In his spare time, Seth MacFarlane hangs out with Larry King and the president. Don’t you get what I’m trying to tell you? Soylent Green is people!
Look, everybody I know loves Family Guy. Many of them are my age. I realize I’m in the wrong. Maybe it’s just my heart that’s withered. Maybe I need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Who are you really disgusted with, Jack? Could it be yourself?
In 2050, Larry King will be 117 years young.
Hold that thought.
Why am I seized with the sudden conviction that Larry King will die sometime between this writing and a few months from now, when the magazine comes out? Then I’ll seem like a real jerk. I like Larry King, or the idea of him. I like thinking of him with his little Twitter account and how excited he gets. He wrote one tweet that was almost like a whole Lydia Davis short story: “Irwin is a guy who comes to breakfast on occasion, and asks real questions that make us laugh. He is a retired businessman.” I put that one on my blog, because I’m futuristic.
Hey, at that get-together, when I was talking about Larry King and Twitter, the extremely talented young musician Dent May suggested that Larry King must have a youthful helper who writes his tweets. But first of all, Larry King’s sprightlier assistant is probably 75. According to some extremely accurate statistics I am making up right now, only old people use Twitter. Plus, no assistant could come up with that beauty about Irwin. You say you want to hear about the future, but do you really? Larry King is the future.
Dent once tweeted, “wish i was a middle-aged white dude w/ a hawaiian shirt & a beard.” I’m not sure where his comment fell on the scale between irony and sincerity. He is creative and funny and could conceivably envision the upside of being a middle-aged white dude with a Hawaiian shirt and a beard. All I know is that he will be one eventually, and it’s not his choice to make. In the future, everyone will be a middle-aged dude with a Hawaiian shirt and a beard, yes, even the women. And then we will be Larry King. And then nothing.
You want to talk about the future? My mom saw herself on Entertainment Tonight. She just happened to be watching at the right time. In the future, everybody’s mom will see herself on Entertainment Tonight. It was during the Larry King scandal. Supposedly, Larry King was having an affair with his wife’s sister and his wife was having an affair with the Little League coach, or something. So there is footage of Larry King and his wife and the coach at a game, and my mom, by a very weird coincidence, is standing in the background, pacing.
You want to talk about the future? Your mother is on Facebook. So is mine. So now I am “friends” with all my mother’s friends. Now I have to know that one old man “likes” Victoria’s Secret and Auburn football. Good for him! That made me feel young, at least. Like, able to shudder judgmentally at old people again. When I told Mom about it, she actually said, “Oh, that’s your cousin who had two sets of teeth.”
The future belongs to your cousin with two sets of teeth.
I like Lady Gaga. She is just about the most fun we have going in the way of celebrities. In fact, she is so much fun that she, like Larry King, will be dead by the time this magazine hits the stands—not dead dead, just celebrity dead. Even by writing this, I am making it happen. She will be so entrenched in bourgeois culture that your grandpa will write about her in his stuffy little column in his dead medium.
I can’t write this column fast enough. The future keeps eating it. Just last week, I heard the great cultural historian Peter Guralnick mention Lady Gaga in a talk at the Delta Blues Museum. I need to finish this draft before they induct her.
At this very moment, Jay Leno’s writers, with their soulless eyes, are dutifully honing a quip about her latest wacky outfit for your eager Aunt Matilda with her however many sets of teeth.
Jay Leno has told monologue jokes about more than a couple of horrific murders. He’s the same soup as Family Guy, only in a different can, made from the same inspected and approved ingredients, just like Lady Gaga and Larry King. That’s the future: a wider variety of brightly labeled soup cans to make you feel special when you eat the same soup as everybody else. Murder soup!
“I like Lady Gaga.” Isn’t that just what a certain kind of petrified fossil would say in a desperate attempt to stay relevant? Who is the better breed of crank: the one who gives in to honest, petty despair (“These kids play their bip-bop music so loud in their souped-up automobiles!”) or the one who tries to be “hip” and “with it” like the worst Sunday-school youth minister ever? You’ll notice that those of us in the second category often put our musty slang in quotation marks to achieve ironic distance. We’re so horrible. But we like Lady Gaga, you have to give us that.
In 2050, Larry King will be 117 years young. He will outlive Twitter. And CNN, which goes without saying, even though they dropped him. And there will be some worn-down old robot who writes a column about how everything is terrible now because the robot children have their caps on backwards and say bleep bleep blort. They’re losing what makes them special! And then a fireball will consume the earth, which will be a huge relief for everybody.
Jack Pendarvis is a regular columnist for The Oxford American and The Believer. His blog is at http://jackpendarvis.blogspot.com. Excerpted from the August 2010 Oxford American (“The Future Issue”).www.oxfordamerican.org
This article first appeared in the January-February 2011 issue of Utne Reader.