Phone the Three Stooges
by Mad Dog
This doesnt mean we can all go out and buy
a telescope, crack a few jokes about Uranus, and stop on the way home to cash our cushy
government grant checks. But it does mean we can help look for E.T.
|| The search for intelligent life has shifted into high gear. After quickly
eliminating West Virginia, Congress, and whoever decided we need a half-hour re-edited
version of Ally McBeal next year to air along with the full-length one, scientists set
their sights on the one place they might actually have a fighting chance of discovering
intelligence: outer space.
theyve been looking for years, ever since Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, and Galileo
stared into the heavens, each hoping to be the one immortalized in Queens "Bohemian
Rhapsody." Just kidding. Actually they spent those long, thankless nights peering
into the darkness hoping to catch a glimpse of that hot babe down the block wearing her
bloomers as she got ready for bed.
Nowadays, thanks to advances in modern technology, astronomers
spend their time in huge domed observatories gazing through incredibly high-powered
telescopes which give them the unprecedented opportunity of viewing heavenly bodies
thousands of miles away, meaning now none of us are safe and if you were smart youd
draw the blinds and put some clothes on right this minute.
But the days of only select scientists having this fun are
over. No, this doesnt mean we can all go out and buy a telescope, crack a few jokes
about Uranus, and stop on the way home to cash our cushy government grant checks. But it
does mean we can help look for E.T.
This telescope tirelessly scans the skies, recording everything it hears in the hopes that
one day a pattern will emerge which will, of course, be aliens asking us to quit playing
"Livin' La Vida Loca" because even theyre sick of it.
|| Ever alert to
making their life easier, the astronomers at SETI, the Search for ExtraTerrestrial
Intelligence, started a program which, after a lot of thought, they brilliantly named
SETI@Home. What you get if you go to their website (www.setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu)
and download some software is a computer screensaver which replaces the passť South Park
one youve had for ages (the one where Kenny gets killed when Bart Simpson throws a
Beavis and Butthead lunchbox at him) with, well, a bunch of graphs.
Heh-heh-heh, now thats cool.
This really isnt as geeky as it sounds. Okay, yes it is.
But its also popular. Since they kicked it off in May over 450,000 people have
downloaded the screensavers, mostly because they saw Jodi Foster play a SETI scientist in
"Contact" and figured there would be doctored photos of her head on Daisy
Fuentes body on their screen, not boring graphs.
It works like this: When your computers idle and the
screensaver pops up its actually analyzing little chunks of data which were
collected by a 1,000-foot radio telescope in Puerto Rico. This telescope tirelessly scans
the skies, recording everything it hears in the hopes that one day a pattern will emerge
which will, of course, be aliens asking us to quit playing "Livin' La Vida Loca"
because even theyre sick of it.
The idea of the government conning us into
doing their work is ingenious. Its this type of thinking that made our country
great. Well, that and putting cheese in a spray can.
|| The idea is to
harness our personal computer power to help the government. If this is successful you can
look for them to expand the program by using our computers to balance a line in the
federal budget, audit our neighbors tax returns to make sure they declared the
profits from selling counterfeit Beanie Babies on eBay, and sift through years worth of
White House surveillance tapes looking for the shots of Bill and Monica in the Oval Office
which no one seems to want to talk about.
In short, the
government is getting you and me to do their work. This wouldnt be such a bad idea
if we were getting paid for it, or even got to deduct a couple of bucks on our tax return
next year while were laughing at the line that asks if we want to contribute $3 to
the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to help multi-millionaire candidates we
wouldnt vote for in a million years waste a year and a half, well, spending the
money the government gives them to run.
Actually, the idea of the government conning us into doing
their work is ingenious. Its this type of thinking that made our country great.
Well, that and putting cheese in a spray can. But the truth is we wouldnt have to do
things like this if the government took in all the money it could.
Along with the stamps you get a numbered Certificate of Authenticity ("These are real
stamps") and a booklet of "99 Little Known Facts About The Three Stooges".
|| Take stamps. The Postal
Service (Official Motto: "Whats your rush?") has been issuing stamps
commemorating the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and coming soon, the
90s. This is nice, but the truth is, who cares? While were putting out stamps
honoring (True Fact Alert!) disco, The Cosby Show, and Cabbage Patch Kids,
Mongolia, a country with one-third as many people as North Carolina has hogs, has been
busy issuing a series of Three Stooges stamps which arehold onto your change of
address form!actually making money.
According to an ad
for The International Collectors Society of Owings Mill, Maryland, you can buy a
commemorative set of nine Mongolian Three Stooges stamps for $9.95 (plus $3 postage and
handling). Theres a pretty good profit there when you figure the highest
denomination stamp is 450 tughriks, which at the current exchange rate is worth,
well, who knows? Face it, theres no market for Mongolian currency outside of
Along with the stamps you get a numbered Certificate of
Authenticity ("These are real stamps") and a booklet of "99 Little Known
Facts About The Three Stooges". You know, things like the Beatles stole their
haircuts from Moe without paying royalties. And Steven Wright is actually Larry
reincarnated. Or at least his hair is. Best of all, the ad says the stamps are authorized
by The Three Stooges!
"Hey, Curly. If its okay with you to release these
stamps, dim the lights three times and make the table float."
So how is it Mongolia gets to make money by putting out Three
Stooges stamps while we have to support our government by staring at graphs on a computer
screen when we could be using that time to search the net for doctored photos of
Jodie Fosters head on Daisy Fuentes body? I guess its just the price we
pay for living in America.
©1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them instead of staring at your SETI screensaver.