Everyone will run for public office.
Only through the fear of future elections will we all be able to live the lives of saints.
Religion can be one way to educate and encourage people to lead good lives, guilty of sin. But this approach simply does not scale. What is sin in a world with war, terrorism, and Paris Hilton? Is it eating a second Twinkie? Is it turning Right on Red without stopping first? Is it socking someone in the jaw because you felt like it?
Religion simply cannot cope in the context of modern society with just so darned many ways for us to be Really Bad. Sure, eternity in hellfire sounds pretty awful, but if it's in the next life then it is pretty easy to ignore. Heck, I can't even imagine what my next week is going to be like; how am I supposed to see the afterlife as a motivator? And after all, the good guy always figures out how to escape from certain death between the end of one book and its sequel; maybe the bad guys can too.
But fear of public exposure; now there's an incentive.
If we all lived with the knowledge that some day in the future we would run for public office, that fear would freeze us in place. The publicity, the exposure, the Committees for Congressional Interrogation, the tabloid spreads .... These are all too real, too tangible, too sickening to ignore.
Sure, it might take a couple of years to sink in, but after the humiliating defeat and public undressing of so many normal, basically law-abiding citizens, people would begin to get the hint. Don't you slow down to just above the speed limit when you see someone pulled over on the highway? Only until you're past the scene, I know: but what if there was someone pulled over every 200 yards along the highway? Or what if (trying hard to armwrestle the metaphor back to where it started) someone new was drawn and quartered in the press every day for living a life not too unlike your own?
First, the extra-marital affairs would die down; the combination of the embarassing publicity and easy avenue for betrayal would make these transgressions too much of a liability. Next, the financial kickbacks and petty bribery; again, there would be too many others that knew, and too much certainty of public exposure. Eventually, even the less sensational offenses like hiring undocumented workers, tax evasion, and murder would disappear.
Ours would evolve into such a high state of law-abiding banality that nothing would be done that could ever be called out in future hearings.
The downside is that everyone would become complete recluses, afraid to venture outdoors for fear of being caught in the act of doing anything illegal, immoral, unethical, or otherwise publicly floggable. Nobody would stir outside their home unless completely necessary; restaurants would go out of business, relationships would wither, the birthrate would go down, and we would become a nation of hermits.
Traffic would therefore be drastically improved, which is reason enough for this brave new law.
There will be no wallpaper.
Have you ever moved into a house or apartment with wallpaper in it? Inevitably, it's some horrid floral pattern, or pink abomination, or simply old and cracked. So it has to go.
Paint you can deal with; you just paint over it. It may be the worst color invented since lime Jello, but all you have to do is bear with it long enough to slap another coat or two on top until it stops screaming.
But wallpaper? You gotta take it down.
Now if they'd gotten it right, they would have come up with some simple mechanism to take it down. Velcro strips. Paperclips in the corners. Post-it strength sticky on the back. Zippers on the sides. A wick to set it alight. A fuse to detonate it.
Instead, they came up with a new molecule, just for wallpaper, one that guarantees that you will take your house down along with the paper.
Picture the inventors, sitting in a chemistry lab, with this memo in front of them:
Need simple adhesive for non-permanent attachment of temporary decorations
Only the scientists were newly arrived from nuclear labs in other countries, and had a hard time with the language. They translated the note thusly:
Need strongest adhesive in universe for structural bonding of space ship joints
They created a bond so tight that it's easier to just pry off the drywall than remove the paper.
And of course, there is the mess. The inventors had some extra time on their hands and went overboard creating an adhesive that is also the messiest compound in the universe (barring fresh-ground coffee; that stuff gets everywhere).
The first attack is to simply paint over it; it worked for the pink walls in the bedroom, why not for the baskets-o-fruit montage in the dining room? So you paint, and you paint, and you paint ... and then, just when you've squinted sufficiently and convinced yourself it looks good, your spouse comes in and helpfully chimes in, “What about the seams? And the peeling? And that big crack in the corner?”
So you put the paints away, and you wait for another free weekend, and you get out the scrapers. And the steam iron. And the trash cans. And you try to cover the floor and furniture. And you spend the next 48 hours in hell.
So in my kingdom, there will be no wallpaper. It won't be sold, and there will be severe penalties for putting it up; violators will have to take it down again.
There will be no news stories, only news headlines.
With all of the information swirling around the world and all of the demands on our time, who has time to read all this stuff? Much better to just read the headline, get the gist, and move on.
This is already happening to a great extent. Go to the front page of any news site and all you see are headlines. If you want the stories, you can click through, but who has time for that? It's surely much better to spend that time finding out that a boy was rescued from a well in Ohio and that there's another world war starting than to find out the details on the poor Ohioan (Ohian? Ohic? Ohihowareya?).
The current system of headlines and stories is just not sustainable, nor is it good for The People. Give someone a newspaper and they will inevitably spend time reading some of the stories (after the comics, of course). Give someone a headline URL and they may click on it and read the underlying story. Meanwhile, volumes of information are lost as people dive deep into irrelevant stories instead of learning more about the Big Picture by reading more headlines.
Thus I will mandate a headline-only approach to news. News sites such as CNN will consist of only a single page full of headlines, or may opt to have some sub-pages to hold more headlines. Newspapers may come back into popularity as they reduce down from 1,000 page epics to a single page of headlines, plus some for ads and comics. Radio news shows will go from audio essays to sound bytes, as they reel off headline after useful headline. They will be able to both shorten their broadcasts and offer more information. Public radio will finally be able to handle the ongoing drastic funding cuts as shows like All Things Considered go from a two hour show down to 10 minutes (the show will be renamed All Things Mentioned).
We will all become more acquainted with current events since we will have much more time to absorb information. We in the U.S. may even see and hear news about other countries, since there will be space to fill after the latest gripping boy-in-well headlines; no longer will stories like Earthquake Destroys All of Africa go unnoticed by the general populace. We could even find the time to learn more about our world with all of the new information we can absorb. It is not hard to envision headlines such as Portugal is a Country in Europe and Germans Speak Language Called German that would be useful in educating a now more globally-aware public.
My critics are quick to point out the potential downside that noone will know anything beyond the very basic information imparted in the headline. But I remain steadfast in my belief that this is irrelevant. For one thing, I find it unlikely that anyone actually remembers any of the details of these stories beyond the headlines. But perhaps more importantly, we learn about our world through interacting with other people. And what better way to interact than to have a veritable plethora of conversation topics to bring up? Rather than enter a conversation with a deeper understanding of just one or two stories, why not launch into it with a thousand stories you can bring up? No, I must disagree with my detractors; far better to go for quantity.
By learning less, we will know more.
The word "monarch" will be replaced by a more appropriate word.
"Monarchy" is a great word for a kingdom in the Carribean, but it doesn't seem right for me; heck, I don't even know where Carribea is.
What about "manarchy" instead, since the guy at the top (that'd be me) is a man? Or if I want to go for a more casual flair, how about "guyarchy"? If we're sticking to our English roots in this thing, maybe "chaparchy". If the kingdom were California, perhaps "dudearchy" would be good, or if in the Midwest, maybe "neighborarchy".
But I think I like "manarchy"; it has a certain, I don't know, masculine feel to it. And it seems to just fit with the whole governance thing:
Q: What happens if you lose the head of a Manarchy?
It just works.
I can't even imagine that much land, but here's an attempt:
- It's a lawn that's bigger than you could mow with a weedwhacker. By the time you finish mowing it, it's probably time to start again.
- You could actually throw a frisbee from your property and have it land on your property (you can only manage this with a boomarang or a refrigerator in California). Of course, in Kansas they use a pitchfork instead of a frisbee, and the games don't last very long.
- You could have a conversation inside your house with the windows open and your neighbors couldn't hear you.
- You could call your property a "compound" and not "compact".
- You could fit an entire car dealership's worth of vehicles up on blocks in the lawn.
- It's bigger than the spread of a WIFI router.
- If this parcel were in California, you would probably get in your car to drive from one end to the other. During that drive, you would pass at least 5 cafes (3 Starbucks, 1 Peet's, and one local joint)
There will be government grants for any TV series that gets canceled. In the event that a series (at least a good one, like most of those canceled by Fox) gets canceled mid-storyline, there will be a government grant to cover the cost of one final episode that ties everything together. The current state of unsatisfied suspense is killing our society; we need closure on so many shows.
Let's face it; in this world of so many channels and so few real people that we actually care about, the characters on TV are actually more family and friends than the people outside the television box. And they're way better in some ways because you only have to deal with them a little bit at a time. You can turn them off any time you want. If you feel like having a sandwich and they're in the middle of talking to you, you can feel free to walk out on them (plus you don't have to share your food with them). Sure, they don't listen to you or care about your problems, but is that any worse than your current family and friends?
So when one of our favorite shows with our greatest friends gets canceled, it's as if terrorists came and killed our entire community instantaneously, and we didn't even get to go to the funerals. As human beings, we just cannot continue taking this kind of emotional torture.
So let us see our friends buried properly; all deserving shows will get a final show to send everyone off in style. All that the studios need to do is tie off all of the loose ends; no cliff-hangers are allowed.
This law will be retroactive to all shows from the mid-80s onward (it may be physically impossible to mimic hairstyles prior to those years); any show that got canceled mid-season may apply for the grant. This should help many of us clear up emotional baggage that has plagued us since childhood.
Of course, I'm all for shows being canceled as a rule. In fact, I prefer it when shows are canceled; this is when I start watching them.
I have a deep-rooted fear of getting attached to TV shows, related to my fear of dependency; I don't want to become dependent on the show and the people, and start seeing my life revolve around them (“Gotta go; gotta watch Phylli's Fillies”, “Ran out of disk space on my DVR; gotta watch some of the Phylli's Fillies backlog”). And just perhaps I grew up with so much rejection that I've extended that fear to TV characters; how can I get attached to them and then watch them dump me?
So I've found a fix: wait until the show is canceled, and then join in. For one thing, I can watch all of the episodes quickly, instead of drawing it out once a week over months and years. (assuming the show was actually popular before the network dumped it, and makes it to DVD). Better still, I get the pleasure of dumping these friends when it's over. Sure, it's sad to lose that friendship, but since I can see it coming right from the beginning, it's easier to take. It's like being friends with someone that has a terminal disease; it's heart-wrenching, but at least it's not a surprise when it takes them.
Failure to indicate turns by signaling will be punishable by death, or by having to watch Dora the Explorer for 72 hours straight, as chosen by the accused (I will be a benevolent ruler).
When did turn signals become optional? When did it become more important for that guy to hang his arm out the window than to move his hand inside the car, behind the steering wheel, and actually flick the turn signal to tell me that he's going to turn at the corner and I don't need to wait for his car to go through the intersection? When did it become optional for the woman on the cell phone to keep talking to her friend instead of simply moving the turn signal to actually inform me that she's going to move into my lane, so that I don't have to wait until her rear bumper nearly scrapes my front bumper for me to get her drift?
What do people think the turn signal lights are there for? Color detail on bumpers? Extra highlight colors to accentuate the lights they actually do use? And how about that awkwardly huge rod sticking out of the steering column? Do they use it for hanging sunglasses on? Or maybe dangling the cell phone on between critical calls from chatty friends?
And what do they think I'm doing when I use my signals? Do they wonder what that strange blinking light is below my headlight?
Or perhaps they think it all happens by magic; they'd like to turn, so I must know they want to turn, and I'll expect it. It must be that I continue to wait at the intersection because I'm too busy thinking about stuff. Or maybe I'm on a call to my friends and can't be bothered to actually step on the gas. Or maybe they think I just love to tailgate and wanted to almost brush their bumper with mine out of some playful game of tag.
Dora is too good for these people. Maybe Barney reruns. That dinosaur could teach them a thing or two about manners.
Pluto Tossed on his Asteroid
Chet Haase, 8/24/06
Scientists today decided that Pluto is no longer a planet. After billions of years of galactic harmony, this distant rock was summarily chucked out of our solar system.
"So it's over. We're still good friends, of course. And we still run in the same circles so we'll pass each other by now and then.
Copyright 2006, Chet Haase. All Rights