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Nearly everything has changed in Century 21, none of it for the better.
Sitting out of an evening, watching the summer twilight, thinking how the sky has changed. Once it had bats and chimney swifts. Now it has more telephone messages than the mind can conceive, and behind the cloaking device, the All-Seeing Eye of Google Earth, which can count the hairs on my big toes atop the soles of my geezer flip-flops here on the chaise.
There's not serenity in the sky's return gaze. It's as if it wonders what the devil is going on down here, whether allowing all this to happen was such a good idea. A while ago, I thought I saw a pterodactyl flap by.
A noticeable change in the weather. This is not the rain I knew back in the century previous. It musters no frogs, nor impels music from the lower orders. It merely hammers, then absconds. Clouds look like Roman conspirators. The wind is not the artist wind that bore Crowley's Ridge here off the ancient prairie one mote at a time. It's no longer something you'd want to put a kite into, unless you were mad at the kite. The one yesterday was a straight-line so strong that here in the yard it hailed squirrels.
Youth is different, taking all the marvelous for granted, unimpressed. Gaffers are different, if no less addled, which you will know if lately you've had a walker swung at you with serious intent.
Fishing is different, a case simply can't be made for it now, trashy people who don't know nuance and are strangers to romance having taken it over. Tournament fishing, my foot. Characters like Mike Huckabee out fishing!
Bowling is different, e.g. Obama. Stand-up comedy is different, perhaps from the competition with televangelism. Cows are different, there's a whole different cow mindset, ruminating on the capriciousness of fate vis-à-vis beef vs. dairy.
The press is so different it makes you want to throw things, including up. There were as many giants in the profession in the recent yore as there are twerps now. The pyramid was inverted then, with the twerps at the bottom. No longer. In the local press, in living memory, there were at least 15 people — well, all right, at least a dozen people — who weren't in dire need of a good running off.
TV commercials are different, intended to annoy you into buying the product advertised, or perplex you into it. Clothes are different, designed to show off drawers, butt cracks, camels' feet.
Cats are different. They're up to something — I mean something different — but who knows what? For one thing, they've become as apathetic to grooming as the perps on COPS. Birds are different, too, and it's not a sinister difference like in the movie. Nothing so drastic as that. But moody woodpeckers? And bluebirds — bluebirds! — with a haunted look about them that bespeaks either chronic insomnia or abject despair. Gloom in ravens I can understand, but bluebirds?
In insects, the difference is apparent to the naked eye, don't even need the magnifying glass. The ants yonder, for instance — see them studying the resident colossus, stroking mandibles, obviously making the mathematical calculations necessary to amass enough bearers to spirit the ol'moi corpus off to a subterranean pismire version of the Gillett Coon Supper, with chemical shouts of triumph as when comparable trogdolytic pygmy hordes used to bring home pachyderm.
Dust bunnies are different. Mulch is different. Nematodes. Oak gall. Thrift store merchandise. Deer hunting is different, trending now toward roping and saddling them and taking them home as pets replacing the goats in keeping the yard cropped. Lizards are different, much less ripped, a sure omen as far as I'm concerned.
Chairs are mysteriously different, having mostly become too small or narrow for what seems to me a very normal-sized and even svelte glute max. Baseball is different and baseball bats sure are. Books are different, shoddier all the time. Houses are different in a vinylized way that robs them of their most important quality.
Money is different, and different in a way more abstract and more fundamental than the big purple 5s. Having money is different, and not having it is bad different. Horserace betting is so different from back in the Second Millennium that you can win every race now and not only lose money but lose a lot of money. Superfecta has become another word for whatever you've got on you, you might as well just hand it over.
These are only a few examples of the new century's baleful influence. It wasn't 9/11 or the moron's ascendancy or global warming or biblical prophesy or astrological alignment that caused these changes, this great turnabout and regression. It was the arrival of Century 21, with 90 crummy years still ahead of us.
Or you can go with Blaise Pascal's pensee: “We say in vain, ‘He is different. He is changed.' He is also the same.” Maybe his way of telling us it's a wash in the long run. And maybe that longer view is the wiser one. True enough that I can't tell a lot of difference from the last century in fundamentalists, Republicans, or purplehull peas.
Or Spam, the kind you eat.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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