Sorry, was just thinking about how I spent all my elementary and middle and high school education in special magnet programs for the unusually special-magnet-program-bound, and yet it took me like three years to realize that G.I.Joe nemesis Cobra Commander and the same voice as the Starscream the Transformer.
Part of my recurring series, On Reflection I Don’t Understand My Childhood At All.
- Mary Had A Little Lamb
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Jingle Bells
- Memory (from the musical Cats)
- Tomorrow (from the musical Annie)
- Theme from Masterpiece Theater (from the not-necessarily-musical Masterpiece Theater)
- I Love Rock and Roll
- Daisy, Daisy
I think it was even in that order in the music instruction book too.
Reference: Asimov’s Chronology of the World: The Story of the World From the Big Bang to Modern Times, Isaac Asimov.
I got to thinking about a particular 1982 installment of the comic strip Frank and Ernest. If you’re wondering why I was thinking about a particular 1982 installment of the comic strip Frank and Ernest? Then, hi there. It’s nice to meet you for the first time ever. In your journey to someday not interacting with me anymore you’ll find I have thoughts like, “is there a 4X-style game to be made out of the story of time zones?”. Or, “are there any good pop-history books about the origins of standardized paper? How about bricks?”. Maybe, “who was the first person to propose the flush being a valuable hand in poker, and how did they convince other people to agree?”. This is why I have two friends who’ve put up with me for longer than ten years, and one of them is my wife.
Anyway the particular Frank and Ernest had them walking past a movie theater, remarking how there was already a sequel to the heartwarming summer sci-fi blockbuster: ETC. This strip I remember annoyed me. I somehow knew that Steven Spielberg had declared there would never be a sequel to E.T. You might think this is a reason they treated me like that in middle school, but, no. I wasn’t yet in middle school. This was a warning sign that they would treat me like that.
But you know why that particular strip is seared into my memory? Other than that I have the sort of memory that latches onto, say, the theme song to the 1984 sitcom It’s Your Move starring Jason Bateman and Garrett Morris? It’s because this comic got used as a project in school. We were assigned the task of writing titles for a sequel to E.T. even though, as noted, I was aware there would never be such a thing. I don’t remember that we were being graded on quality or quantity of titles. I do remember getting competitive about it. Also, please remember that this was 1982. While it was not literally impossible, it would be difficult for any of us to submit E.T. II: The Secret Of Curly’s Ooze. I want to say I got up into sixty-plus sequel titles before running out of ideas. I also want to not say I got up into sixty-plus sequel titles. It is thoroughly daft to have come up with sixty-plus possible sequel titles for E.T., even under the direction of a teacher.
It’s one of the most baffling school experiences I remember. It’s up there with the time they took us to the Garden State Arts Center and instructed us to clap with our hands cupped. I think we were also there to have music played at us, but I remember the clapping instruction.
But one further reason I remember this so well is that this was no ordinary class project that got us writing out imaginary E.T. sequel titles. This was something we did for the school district’s magnet program for gifted students. The Education Through Challenge program. You see how we had to think about this Frank and Ernest. The program had the educational philosophy that students who test well should do things for school that are fun and creative and maybe a bit weird. Everyone else can … I don’t know. I would say diagram sentences, except I thought that was fun too. If that hasn’t shaken you off knowing me I don’t know what will. Also I guess we had days the teachers didn’t feel up to challenges.
What the program mostly did, though, was take a couple students from each grade and from each school in the district, and bus them to a different school for a half-day each week. You can see why I clung to participation in this program. Who would turn down a built-in field trip every week of the school year? It gets better: the last year and a half I was there, they didn’t take us to a different school in use in the district. They took us to a whole separate school that was completely closed except for administration needs and our program. That’s right. I was part of an elite cadre of students who once a week got to go to school in an ex-school and, one time, do a list-writing project based on Frank and Ernest.
This is the value of a good education. It gives you thoughts to enrich the rest of your days.
In July 1982 E.T.‘s director Steven Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison wrote a treatment for E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears.
Over twelve percent of the population has noticed this phenomenon. You suddenly turn your eyes to pay attention to clock of some kind. Preferably one one of those fancy non-invisible clocks. The important thing is it shows time to the second. And the clock takes its sweet time getting around to advancing that second. It can take as much as a half minute to start, and then it goes puttering on at about one second per second. But flick your eyes away and back and you can have it go back to not moving.
So what’s going on here? And what’s with the people who aren’t always checking that their clocks are counting out seconds? Do they not worry about their clocks getting lazy? Do they not worry their clocks are just wrong when nobody’s looking at them? Do they figure it’s all right for clocks to slack off? Would you slack off if you were a clock? I have no idea how to get from this point to where I meant to go. Give me a second. This could take as many as eighteen minutes.
OK, I think I’ve got it now. Consider something else that we’ve all done. You go to Wikipedia to look up germanium. A couple seconds pass. You’re reading about Saul Wahl, who may have been King of Poland for the 18th of August, 1587. The important thing is after this you look up and it’s twelve days later. You’ve missed, like, four Kings of Poland, three Hapsburg Emperors, and the odd Apostolic King of Hungary. How did all that much time pass without your noticing even a little bit?
Consider another phenomenon. Remember as a child being able to finish watching the cartoons at 9 am, then spend about eight hours on experiments like lying on the floor trying to breathe so that a tennis ball rolls out of and back into your belly button before a sibling comes over and sits on your face? And when you were done with that it was still fifteen minutes until Password Plus started at 10 am?
And think of being a kid. Back then you didn’t have a clock. All you had was the inaccurate clock on you parents’ car dashboard. This is why you had the greatest accumulation of time when you were being driven somewhere. If you did have a clock it’s because you were one of those freak kids who was really really really into clocks. You had a watch that you had to wind, because that made it even more clock, and you forgot to wind it after three days. Which was fine because it had that little panel that showed the day of the month, from 1 to 31. You couldn’t imagine how it would handle the problem of February. No one has ever found out.
So what practical applications does this have? Well, for one, it means that if someone asks you to do something for just a couple seconds? If you don’t have your eye on some kind of timepiece, then there is no guessing how much time their project will consume. It might be half a second. It might be a four-year expedition that takes you to a foreign planet such as Mars. More often it’s having a meeting about coffee mug policy. But if you keep your eye on a timepiece and are clear about when a “couple seconds” have passed, you won’t have such unpredictable demands on your schedule. This will be because people will sigh and roll their eyes several times, and then finally stop talking to you altogether. This is what you wanted? Well, it’s your time, if you do it right.
Over twelve of you have noticed this phenomenon. It’s actually over twelve percent of you, but I’m supposing there’s more than a cent of you out there. There will be anyway. But you’ve seen this. You look at a clock. It’s got seconds on it. That second just doesn’t change. It sticks to whatever time it currently is (let’s say … 8:49:46) for a good long while. More than a second, as you figure it. Maybe five seconds. Maybe as long as fourth grade took. Finally as you’re about to get up and give the thing a good nudge it moves again, going back to about one second per second. Even then, though, look away and snap your eyes back and you might get the second frozen there again. What’s going on here, and why are clocks messing with us to see if we’re watching? Well, wouldn’t you mess with people like that, if you were a clock? What else would you have to do?
What’s important her is a fundamental principle of time. We only know time passes because we see something happen. Like, we see the time that a clock shows changing. This is a good one because we’ve put all our time sense into clocks. If we need to rely on ourselves we just guess that the time feels like three-ish, maybe, or that it might be a Thursday but it sure feels like when you’re at the zoo and get some hay or something stuck in your shoe just outside the camel enclosure. We use the clock to let us know that time is even moving.
Think back to childhood, if you have one. Remember how experiments like lying on your back seeing if you could breathe just right to make a tennis ball roll into and out of your belly button before a sibling came over and sat on your face? And you had to turn to biting? Remember how you could spend as much as four days straight at that between the last cartoon of the morning and the start of Password Plus on channel 4 and still have time to punch another sibling? Well, the last cartoon finished at 9 am, and Password Plus came on at 10. All that time was squeezed into under a single hour.
As kids we didn’t need clocks. We could just have experiences. The most we needed was the clock in school, and the clock in our parents’ car’s dashboard that was set to the wrong time. We would only feel time accumulating during social studies and while being driven somewhere you don’t want to go, probably in another state on a trip that would be fun if you weren’t stopping at educational spots and scenic overlooks where the picnic tables are all like two inches two high for where the bench seats are.
As adults we fill our lives with more clocks. Clocks on the nightstand, on your watch, on your phone, on your computer, on your other phone, on the wall, on the TV, the thing on the DVR that looks like it’s the time but actually is the channel number, on the toaster oven, on the other end of your computer’s screen, on a web page, on your Internet-connected Smart Towels, and on the car dashboard where it’s satellite-tuned to the right time. Every single one of these things is ticking off seconds and of course they add up. These days you can’t have one second of time pass without it being at least twelve seconds all at once.
If you’ve got a proper modern lifestyle you can get all your clock-ready things going and then notice that as best you can tell, 2010 was at most forty minutes ago. This is a sign that you have too many clocks in your life, multiply-counting all your time and slurping it up before you can tell it’s gone. Try de-clocking your surroundings; see how well you do if you get back to the basics of time, the way you did as a child. Then you had the inaccurate car dashboard clock, and a calendar to make sure you didn’t miss Christmas or your birthday, neither of which could ever happen. Maybe it won’t work, but if you do want to give it a try, I recommend you hurry.
Password Plus was never scheduled to air earlier than 11:30 Eastern/Pacific. You were thinking, believe it or not, of Card Sharks.
I stand in the midst of the Halloween store, trapped.
It’s one of those temporary stores, of course. What strip mall, however luxurious, could support having a Halloween store all the year round? With the collapse in the costume rental industry after that time in 2011 someone spread a rumor Netflix was opening a line of costume distribution by mail, anyway? OK, there was that spot in Worthington, Ohio, that had one going in May. But that was probably a fluke. They weren’t there the next year. Maybe they were just having too much fun selling fangs to stop that one time.
But what to buy? What to wear? What to go as for Halloween?
Halloween should be a great Halloween for me. There’s all kinds of things it’d be more fun to be than me. Someone who knows what to dress as for Halloween, for example. Or someone really confident wearing costumes for the sort of stuff I might be doing on a Monday, like going to the bagel place for lunch and reading the alt-weekly there.
My unsureness about what to dress as for Halloween goes way back. I think it does. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember a lot of the costumes I wore for Halloween as a kid. I don’t think we made very many of them ourselves, because there were four kids in the household and my parents had a limit to how much time they were willing to spend collecting parts and sewing stuff so that we could dress up as something called an “Artoo” for three hours. Even if they got pictures.
I should explain this was the late 70s and early 80s, when photographs were something that took effort. You had to find that weird little camera that looked like a harmonica, and find where that flash bulb plug-in was, and find that it was totally spent. Then you had to wait to get to the store and buy a replacement. That would give you four or maybe eight flashes, good for up to six pictures. And then you could get the photos developed by driving around until you saw a teeny tiny little bitty house sitting in the middle of a parking lot. Then Mom drives up next to it, gives a roll of film, and then sometime later gets back dark, blurry pictures out of focus that clearly show some figures in the state’s fourth-place finalist, Most 1974 Kitchen Ever Contest. The one wearing the worst imaginable outfit in the picture? That’s me. And then we lose the photos in a minor basement flood. So it’s hard to tell what I was wearing back then.
At least a couple years we went to the Toys R Us and bought those licensed figure packages. You know the ones. You get a plastic face mask with eyes that don’t line up for some figure like The Incredible Hulk and then a T-shirt showing The Incredible Hulk going off and lacking credibility. It’s a surprisingly old model of costume, going back to the ancient Greeks and the year everyone went as Narcissus. People loved that outfit, especially Narcissus. But the costume industry learned the wrong lesson from that and figured we wanted to go as people who were fans of themselves. That breaks down when you’re someone like me who isn’t sure he can even be a fan of someone with enough self-esteem to be a fan of themselves. What you’d get is maybe me going out as The Incredible Hulk I Guess, if he wanted people to think he was always thinking about The Incredible Hulk while being confused and faintly disappointed in what I’m doing. I’m confused and faintly disappointed in what I’m doing all year anyway, so the costume always felt a bit hollow.
One year we got a new washing machine, and I seized on my rights as the eldest to claim it for myself. And I also grabbed as much aluminum foil as I felt like I could get away with. So I know one year I went as the ever-popular Kid In A New Washing Machine’s Box Wrapped In Aluminum Foil. I think it technically qualified as a robot costume. It taught me many things, like how I should have cut arm holes, and that absolutely nobody in the neighborhood would get that they would “input” candy to the big slot labelled “input candy”.
Then we moved, to a new neighborhood where they didn’t much like kids, and even if they did the neighbors didn’t much like us. And then I got into high school and even if I were invited to costume parties it was very important I spend every night watching The Wrath of Khan on videotape. In college it was more important I write incredibly detailed reports of what the student government was up to for the unread leftist weekly paper. It’s only the last few years I’ve tried getting into costumes again.
I grab a $4 raccoon mask and hope things will work out all right.
Spotted a bit of science news the other day. According to the journal Science Advances some physicists have made the hardest-known metallic substance compatible with living tissue. It should be good for implants because it’s tough having that stuff in the body.
They did it by making an alloy of titanium and gold. That’s exciting. I had not realized materials scientists had been working from our fourth-grade secret lair designs. I’m looking forward to results in laser-giraffe, pizza-wallpaper, and force-field-silverware technology. I admit I added the last to my plans in sixth grade. Other kids might have been more advanced, though.
The researchers say there might be applications in the drilling and sporting goods industries. I’m sure they mean it and aren’t just trying to get free drilling and sporting goods equipment for the mention. They don’t need goltanium that much.
Mostly I’m glad to know there’s still good work being done by our ninja turtle princess scientists. The movie-star pirate astronaut bajillionaires are going to have to work hard to match this accomplishment.
One of the essays I’m happiest with was Working Out The World. That’s from May 2015. It was inspired by some of the baffling things we were asked to do as students. And it got into some mulling over what jobs are, and what kids understand jobs are. I grant that in many ways I was a nerdy, oblivious child, but I never really quite understood what grown-ups did all day. A couple tasks I understood but they didn’t seem to quite fill a whole job, much less a career. Decades on, I’m still not really good about it. I don’t think I’m alone, but, maybe other people do.
I think the line about “what’s a job to a kid? It’s just a place adults go to become tired and unhappy somehow” is maybe the most Ian Shoalesian thing I’ve written. If it isn’t, it’s only because identifying corporations as the imaginary friends of an adult who had money edged it out. I don’t think I quite manage the transition to the closing paragraph right, but the closing paragraph is where everything falls apart.
We were at this event with some friends, one of whom brought kids. That’s all right. The odd thing is the kids vanished now and then, but came back later. Where did they go? I don’t know. I’m inclined to suppose that any kids not being observed are off doing what kids do at that age. I believe this to be “climbing trees” or “having impossibly complicated adventures to explain why they returned from the gumball machine you watched them walk to and from with neither a gumball nor the quarter you gave them to buy one” or maybe “gathering alarmingly huge piles of yellow dandelions to tie into knots and drop on the table. I mean, we’re in the middle of the Tri-County Expo Center. We’re inside Meeting Halls C-through-E. There’s like a twenty-foot patch of lawn outside the far side of the complex, in the middle of forty acres of parking lot. Where are you even finding dandelions? How are you doing this? How?”.
My figuring is the kids eventually come back if you leave them alone, although crying, and passing every cold going around North and South America to you. My love tells me that while kids vanished like that when our, Generation X, cohort was raised parents don’t do things like that anymore. I don’t see why they don’t. It isn’t like before our generation was eight we were all dragged off by binturongs to their bintur-lairs to become the victims of unspeakable acts of giant Southeast-Asian-civet-ness. Or buried under a mountain of pine cones.
Although, come to think of it, our generation cohort is a small one. There’s about 960 people in Generation X. There are more living former members of the United States Congress than there are Generation Xers. This is much smaller than the Baby Boomers, who numbered about 144,823,002,038 million all told. And it’s smaller than the Millennials, whose numbers are large but can’t be counted because the Baby Boomer and Generation X researchers can’t stand to talk to them long enough to count one. There’s got to be as many of them as there were Baby Boomers, though, based on IP address usage. Looking over the numbers now … my generation’s count is pretty low. Maybe most of our cohort was dragged off by binturongs etc etc while out dandelion-gathering. Well, you know whose fault that was? The Baby Boomers’.
We’re happy to blame the Baby Boomers. Everyone is. I’d say the Baby Boomers themselves started that, but their parents were blaming them before even the Baby Boomers were. And it’s a safe bet, too, like blaming something on “historical factors”. As if there were anything that weren’t a “historical factor”. They’re just this big, irresistible demographic target. Some Baby Boomers will defend their generation. They can point out how their generation saw transcendent artists like the Beatles, civil rights greats like Gloria Steinem and Dr Martin Luther King, inspirational heroes like the Apollo astronauts, or transformational political figures like Lyndon Johnson, not a single one of whom was a Baby Boomer. But the Baby Boomers were looking very hard and saw some or all of these figures, so that’s something. But for the most part, if you want to say something bad about a generation, say it about the Baby Boomers, and everybody will go along with you.
It’s hating on the Millennials that takes some explaining. For the most part the only thing they’ve done that’s really awful is not put their cell phones away. I’m not saying that isn’t bad. But when you compare it to, like, the time in 1983 when the Baby Boomers laughed Manimal and Automan off the air despite their being the coolest TV shows ever, the cell phone business is nothing.
My hypothesis is that we Generation Xers hate on Millennials because of water pistols. When we were kids, water pistols were water pistols: small, hand-sized things made of translucent yet kind of pink plastic. You filled them with water, then got ready to shoot someone, and then the stopper in the back fell out and most of the reservoir spilled on your wrist. Then you pulled the trigger and the rest dribbled down your finger. Your target remained the dryest thing to have ever existed, what with being outside the maximum six-inch range anyway. Millennials have real water guns. They’re capable of holding enough water to douse the Great Fire Of New York, 1835, each. And they can spray them far enough to threaten Panama Canal shipping all the way from Grand Rapids, Michigan. And if that weren’t enough some of the soakers are made to look like dinosaurs even though there’s no way they can tastefully shoot a fluid stream like that.
I’m not saying the Generation X/Millennials thing is entirely caused by envy. For one thing, who invented water pistols that actually work? Baby Boomers. For another, my generation can actually afford to buy them. The only Millennials who’ve been hired are there so Baby Boomers would have someone to call the worst. They tried sticking Generation X with that label two decades ago, you know. But there were too few of us, and we were too hard to find, up in the trees, gathering dandelions, and talking over intergenerational politics with the binturongs.
My love and I were reminiscing things we did in elementary school for reasons we couldn’t figure. I don’t mean stuff like declaring someone who was busy with not playing kickball “The Kissing Bandit”. I mean stuff that doesn’t make sense, like the time my class got taken to the Garden State Arts Center and was taught how to clap with our hands curled. I guess we did other stuff there too, but the cupped hands was the lesson that stuck.
But the thing we shared was the class exercise thing about telling everyone else what our parents did for a living. I realize now I don’t know what the project was supposed to prove. That we could ask our parents what they did for a living, I guess. Maybe be able to tell our peers that our parents are shift supervisors. As skills I suppose that’s up there with cursive and being able to name vice-presidents who resigned, since you can test it. I don’t know how the teacher’s supposed to know if the kid was right, though.
But adult jobs are baffling concepts for a kid, anyway. What do adults need supervision for? They’re adults. Kids need supervision, because if you tell a kid, “stand right here, by the school bus stop, for five minutes and don’t wander away”, there’s an excellent chance before you even get to the second comma they’ve wandered off and got a beehive stuck in a nostril. All a kid knows is that their parents go months without unintentionally ingesting beehives, or they would know if they asked their parents.
For that matter, what’s a job to a kid? It’s just a place adults go to become tired and unhappy somehow. There are maybe five adult jobs a kid understands. There’s being an astronaut, there’s fighting stuff (fires, supervillains, crime, wrestlers [other]), there’s being a nurse, there’s being a teacher, and there’s driving a snowplow. Everything else is a bit shaky. For example, when I was a kid all I quite grasped about my father’s job was that he worked in a chemical factory in the parts that normally didn’t explode. He had to go in for eight or sometimes sixteen-hours shifts and I understood that most of the time things didn’t explode. But that leaves a gap in the imagination about just how he filled his working days. Come in, check that things hadn’t exploded, sure, and then it’s four hours, 56 minutes until lunch.
A kid might understand what someone in a service job does, because they could see a person bringing them food or taking clothes to clean or so. It’s why someone would be hired that’s the mystery, because getting that service means giving someone else money. Money’s hard stuff to come by, what with birthday cards arriving only for a one- or two-week stretch of the year, and maybe a bonus at Christmas if they’re lucky. The tooth fairy can help cover a little capital shortage, but that’s too erratic stuff for a real economy.
But non-service jobs are harder to understand. What is an office job anymore except fiddling with a computer? And a computer job is a matter of pressing buttons so that electrons will go into different places than they otherwise might have. A bad day at that sort of job is one where the electrons have come back for later review. On a good day the electrons all go somewhere you don’t have to think about them again. But the electrons aren’t getting anything out of this. They’re not happy, or sad, or anything at all based on where they’re sent. And they’re not the one getting paid for it anyway. They’d be fine if we just left them alone. All we do by getting involved in their fates is make ourselves unhappy but paid, and we get tired along the way.
The jobs might be leaving us alone soon anyway. Capitalism interprets a salary as a constant drain of capital, and does its level best to eliminate that. For service jobs this means doing less service, making the customers unhappy and making the remaining staff tired and unhappy. For office jobs this means never getting electrons to where they’re supposed to be, because otherwise you’d be an obvious mark for layoffs.
I know my father eventually moved to a job as an ISO 9000 consultant. In that role he ordered companies to put together a list of every word they had ever used for everything they had ever done. Then they put that into a cross-referenced volume of every document every word had ever appeared in. By the time that was done, the company might qualify for a certificate. Or my father had to explain what they had to do again, using different words and Happy Meal toys to get the point across. As a kid, I’d have been better off if he just told me he taught companies how to clap. Sometimes he probably did.
Gocomics.com recently starting running Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, that early-20th-century comic that gives you that image of a kid in pajamas racing a bunch of giant green kangaroos in space, and that you don’t really see much else of. There’s fair reason for that; the strip is over a century old, for one, and it’s plodding in the way comic strips from before the Great Depression tended to be, and the comic strip’s real appeal is in its powerful graphic design, best appreciated by seeing the strips in large form. And Gocomics.com happily offers that: you can zoom the strip in to a pretty good 1400 by 1824 pixels, big enough to really read.
So here’s the strip they reran on December 14, showing Nemo trying to get into the palace in Slumberland, something it’s taking an awfully long time to get around to because stuff keeps turning up. And it’s cute. And then look at the last panel, where — as in every Little Nemo strip (comic strips in that era were apparently required to pick a joke and use it every single installment) — Nemo wakes up, which is part of why it takes him so long to get anywhere in slumberland.
“You’ll have to fetch that boy another dose of turpentine and sugar”?!
I realize this strip is from 1906, back when society’s major concern was that childhood mortality wasn’t sufficiently high as to keep weaklings from reaching adulthood, and that it wouldn’t be until 1915 that President Wilson would push through legislation approving the existence of childhood, as a concept, for up to eight hours per week. But, still, turpentine and sugar? Nemo can be a bit annoying, mostly because he takes stuff so passively (although a couple strips back when he was a giant he saved a guy who’d been menacing him, which is likable), but I don’t think he deserves drinking turpentine till he passes out.
Well, if you’re all satisfied with that, my mathematics blog reviews another bunch of comic strips that mention mathematics themes, and don’t you worry: I do some actual calculus in it. If you read, you’ll learn how to evaluate and it may surprise you to learn just how easy it is.
Oh, also, I could really use some help having a reaction to Nancy today. Thank you.
I remember my childhood, when the major problem was “He-Man is a cartoon”. We would have been doomed if it were animated.
I learned a number of things in fifth grade. The number’s surely no smaller than 28, just based on how many days I went and that it was a pretty respectable school and all. But to summarize what I’ve most retained from fifth grade I must say it’s: glacial moraines.
Glacial moraines are this feature of fifth-grade education which, at least back in my day, appeared prominently in the form of little silent filmstrips which we were supposed to look at during our personal learning times in science class, which they had these little Bakelite individual projectors you could slide a filmstrip through and look at without bothering anyone. I especially liked the part where you didn’t bother anyone. I think my happiest moments even today are the ones where I don’t bother anyone, and I can pretty much tell my day is going downhill when I realize there’s a person in it and that I’ll have to be a bother, like by interacting with this person in some way. Oh, people may smile and say they’re it’s nice to see me and they hope I enjoy my day, but I know what they really mean: “Oh, I suppose it’s marginally less revoltingly unpleasant to have you buying a Boston creme and diet Vernor’s from me than it is to be trapped in an earthquake that sends me hurtling between walls of exposed, jagged shards of broken glass and rusty knife blades, but only as long as you aren’t paying for this with a twenty — oh, you are, then? Too bad.”
Science filmstrips on a tiny Bakelite individual projector don’t bother anyone, except, I suppose, whoever it was actually did the inventing of Bakelite and surely got ripped off when he tried to patent it. But he was probably dead by then anyway, what with me not being all that old, considering, and his bother would be more directed at the mighty Science Filmstrips Corporation than me particularly. Of course that left me participant in a corrupt system, but come on, I was ten. I couldn’t very well promote moral capitalism at an age when I was still working out kickball.
Anyway, what I’ve retained from glacial moraines is, first of all, that this is just one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. Let its syllables wash over you: glacial moraines. All the tension the world might inflict on you, by having people who have to be interacted with, washes away in consideration of these words. I don’t even care how you pronounce the “glacial” part of this, because put it in two syllables, three, even go a little fancy and stick a fourth syllable in there, and you still have a heavenly music going on.
Ah, but what are glacial moraines? As I remember glacial moraines involve a process of four or maybe even five pictures of those nice 60s-style science book illustrations. In them, nearly all the color drains from the world, leaving behind that red that looks like when you stretch the last dust in a Kool-Aid jar for a whole glass, plus some blue. In the early stages there are fields of snow and I’m pretty sure they come from Wisconsin, or at least they come from the same era when there were glaciers in Wisconsin, or at least one of the ages when there were. The glaciers get formed where there’s a preexisting moraine that gets to be more glacial, or maybe it’s the glaciers getting together that forms a moraine. I believe the moraine is checked against the master reference glacial moraine found somewhere in Wisconsin, but I don’t believe the Science Filmstrips Corporation mentioned what town when we were in the fifth grade. So it can’t be from Madison, because we’d know what that was, because we did state capitals in fourth grade. Maybe it’s Eau Clair. I know it’s not Menominee, because that’s in Michigan. In the end, the glaciers leave, and the moraines remain.
I’m pretty sure there were no glacial moraines in New Jersey, where I was in fifth grade, because I’m sure I would have insisted we go to see one. And now as a grown-up I could go to any moraines I wanted, glacial or otherwise, but I’ve never dared risk it. What if they aren’t as fabulous as fifth grade taught me they were? No, I’m satisfied with what I know of them, which is, that there is a thing called a glacial moraine, and as long as there is, some of the world is going to be just fine.