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The View From the Future
by Mad Dog


On the other hand, there are things which all the perspective in the world won’t help, like airline food, Waterworld, or caffeinated water. Hey, even perspective has it’s limitations.
     Perspective is a wonderful thing. After all, if it wasn’t for having a few years as a buffer we wouldn’t be coveting a car patterned after the rattletrap VW Beetle, consider the Brady Bunch to be high comedy worthy of innumerable sequels, or have forgiven Richard Nixon his sins when he died, though the truth is that might have been done purely out of regret that we wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore.

     This human trait is good. It means that a lot of things going on these days will look better somewhere down the road. The Viagra craze, Kosovo, and Adam Sandler come to mind. Not to mention the Y2K problem, which will look a whole lot better sometime after the first of January. That is if anything’s left standing. On the other hand, there are things which all the perspective in the world won’t help, like airline food, Waterworld, or caffeinated water. Hey, even perspective has it’s limitations.

     So how long do we need to wait before we gain the proper perspective on an event? In the case of something like, say, the Bill and Monica Show, a number of factors come into play, from how soon the media finds another Big Story Worth Going Nuts Over to whether President Clinton can manage to keep his executive zipper in the closed and upright position. On the other hand, there’s the plan being hatched by David Hasselhoff and a group of investors to open a chain of Baywatch restaurants, an idea which needs about as long as it takes to finish this sentence to receive unanimous agreement that it’s the last thing in the world we need. Well, other than the Jerry Springer School of Etiquette and Self-Restraint.



For a couple of years now the Postal Service has been putting out a series of stamps honoring different periods in American history as a part of their "We’ve Run Out of Ideas" series. Since they’ve already done the ‘60s and the ‘70s, it’s time to dig all the way back to the ‘80s
     Being the end of the decade, century, and millennium all rolled into one is bringing the perspectivists out in full force. If you thought the end of the year wrap-ups get obnoxious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Newseum, a museum of news gathering in Virginia that tried to find a cuter, more sickening name but couldn’t, decided to get the jump on things by releasing their list of the Top 100 news events of the past 100 years. Voted on by a panel of journalists and scholars who were selected because, well, they answered the phone and you didn’t, the list begins with the United States dropping the atomic bomb on Japan and ends with the surgeon general warning that smoking cigarettes may stunt your growth, make your clothes smell bad, and end up illegal in restaurants in California, but you’ll still look cool to your friends.

     In between those events are such things as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, the transistor being invented, and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. You can argue the order—as well as what’s included and what’s not—until you’re blue in the face (which is #27 on the list), but why Pee Wee Herman being caught masturbating in a movie theater, the release of Skittles, and Menudo aren’t on there is beyond me. Hell, Clinton being impeached made #53, which is pretty good since it was still going on while the voting was taking place. Someone should tell these scholars that perspective and instant gratification shouldn’t go hand in hand.

     If you’re pouting because they didn’t invite you to rank the top stories, the United States Postal Service (motto: "We go postal so you don’t have to") is giving you a chance to join in the fun. For a couple of years now they’ve been putting out a series of stamps honoring different periods in American history as a part of their "We’ve Run Out of Ideas" series. Just kidding, actually it’s called "Celebrate the Century™", and you know they’re serious because they put a ™ after it.



How about the Cosby Show stamp, the minivan stamp, or the aerobics stamp? And before you accuse me of making these up, they were actual choices. Hey, even I couldn’t have thought of any ideas dumber than those.
     Since they’ve already done the ‘60s and the ‘70s, it’s time to dig all the way back to the ‘80s. They distributed ballots at post offices and, to prove they’re techno-hip even though they missed the whole email thing, posted a web site so we, the American people, could choose what we think are the most unforgettable aspects of the ‘80s.

     Among the choices for stamps were the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Space Shuttle program, and the 1987 Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. But if for some reason you didn’t think these were worthy of being honored, they also included E.T., beach volleyball, the Cabbage Patch Kids, and the musical play that gave T.S. Eliot a bad case of postmortem embarrassment, Cats. Don’t like those either? How about the Cosby Show stamp, the minivan stamp, or the aerobics stamp? And before you accuse me of making these up, they were actual choices. Hey, even I couldn’t have thought of any ideas dumber than those.

     At the rate things are going, come January 15th we should have enough perspective on the ‘90s to vote on the stamps for that series, which will be good, since the post office will be needing some new stamps to make up for the losses they’ll incur when they issue the Talk Shows of the ‘80s stamp they suggested. You know, it seems like just yesterday people claimed nostalgia wasn’t what it used to be. Now it turns out it may not be as long ago as it used to be either.  

1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them while waiting for your Top 100 stories of Last Week ballot to arrive.

 

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