The Future That Never Happened, Pt. 2

Time for a fresh installment in our exploration of the future we were supposed to be enjoying right now, but were heartlessly cheated out of by capricious trivialities like the laws of physics. (Stupid physical properties of the universe. Stupid quantum mechanics.)

In our unrealized present many of our airports have been replaced by “spaceports,” since we’ve colonized most of the solar system by now. Oh, look. Here’s one now:


Back in the 1950s, commercial air travelers boarded airliners by walking out onto a tarmac and climbing up a set of removable stairs. Naturally in the year 2000 and beyond, we will be commuting in rocket-liners but will not have figured out how to get passengers on them without exposing them to wind, rain and snow. Of course the sky glows a lovely post-apocalyptic red all the time these days and it rains blood and ash if it rains at all. 

The good news is, your wife can drive your nuclear-powered Ford Fairlane right onto the launching pad to drop you off for a business trip to Europa as you sport chafe-free short shorts and calf-hugging Superman boots.

And best of all. . .


 . . .you can enjoy a refreshing smoke before boarding. Lighting up while wearing oxygen tanks on your back? Why certainly! Firing up a Lucky Strike while a rocket is being fueled nearby. Have two! Here in the future, we’re idiots.


Been in NYC for a couple of days. Heading home today. Almost all work and no play, but I did sqeeze in a chance to eat here.

It was my  second opportunity and, like my first time, it was special. I was in a car on a freeway through Flushing Meadows in Queens last night, looked to my left and caught a glimpse of this:


Younger folks will recognize it primarily as the setting for the climactic scene in the Men In Black movie. It is the remnants of the pavillion of the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Off to the airport now…

"The War" Begins


It is a sign of how politically polarized our times have become AND of how coo-coo for cocoa puffs most of the anti-war, anti-Bush mob now is, that Ken Burns, darling of the PBS crowd is being criticized from the left in the pages of the New York Times.

Yes, that’s right. New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley reviewed the latest Ken Burns documentary in advance and she found the multi-part epic about what Americans experienced during World War II to be . . . well . . . way too focused on what Americans experienced during World War II.

I wish I were kidding. Here are the opening lines of Stanley’s review:

 World War II didn’t happen just to us.

But it would be hard to glean that from Ken Burns’ 7-night, 15-hour tribute to the greatest generation that ever bought war bonds, joined the Marines or tightened rivets on a B-17 Flying Fortress.

We’re fewer than 50 words into the review and we’re already ankle deep in snarky derision for the admiration most of us feel for those who pulled the country through those years. I’ll wager Stanley wrestled with whether or not to put the phrase greatest generation in quotes.  

As you may know Ken Burns became a nerd-celebrity for nerds like me back in the 1990 when he released his groundbreaking PBS documentary, “The Civil War.” The monumental work pioneered a new way to communicate history—in fact it elevated history-telling as an art form. A few years later, Burns’ series on the history of Jazz had me riveted to my television set every night for its entire original run. It remains, to this day, one of the most fascinating and well-crafted pieces of story telling I’ve ever experienced.

One of the things that made Burns an icon on the left was his passionate commitment to telling the story of blacks in America–their struggles and their progress. This comes through naturally in his histories of the Civil War and jazz but is especially prominent in his series on the history of baseball, where he devotes a significant percentage of the work to chronicling the “Negro Leagues.”

Thus, it is all the more striking to find Allesandra Stanley painting Burns as not quite a jingo-istic flag-waver who might show up at a Sean Hannity “support the troops” rally. Just what is eating Stanley? We don’t have to wade very deeply into her piece to find out:

The tone and look of Mr. Burns’s series, which begins Sunday on PBS, is as elegiac and compelling as any of his previous works, but particularly now, as the conflict in Iraq unravels, this degree of insularity — at such length and detail — is disconcerting.

 Ahhh, so there it is. The “conflict in Iraq,” which “unravels” apparently rather than unfolds or continues or, heaven-forbid, progresses. 

I keep forgetting that right now everything has to be about Iraq/Bush. For the Left, it is the dark, coke-bottle-thick lens through which every subject must be viewed:

“Hey, how ’bout them Cowboys?”

“Yes, Romo made the Bears’ defense look as inept as the Bush administration’s handling of the post-9/11 milieu.”

“Uh. Yeah. They managed to score some points, there. . .”

“Just like Barbara Boxer scored points when she pointed out what shill Betrayus was for the failed Bush policy in Iraq.”


But Ms. Stanley is only getting warmed up:

Many a “Frontline” documentary has made a convincing case that the Bush administration’s mistakes were compounded by the blinkered thinking of leaders who rushed to war without sufficient support around the world or understanding of the religious and sectarian strains on the ground. Examining a global war from the perspective of only one belligerent is rarely a good idea.

Let’s set aside Stanley’s childlike faith that the testimony of a preponderance of Frontline documentaries constitutes irrefutable truth. . .

What she is declaring here is that Ken Burns, who has built an astonishing reputation chronicling the American experience; whose singular genius is telling the stories of individual Americans, and whose passion is to communicate the reality of American history through the photos, home movies, letters and spoken words of Americans—should have laid all that aside in the service of both the liberal war on the Bush administration and  of general global awareness raising.


By all means do read the whole thing, especially if you’re of a mind to see how completely around the bend the media elites have careened. Even better, watch the series if you can. I caught part of it last night and am recording every episode.

From what I saw, this review in the Wall Street Journal was much closer to the mark. In it, Dorothy Rabinowitz knocks Burns for going out of his way to avoid any hint of triumphalism or glory in the Allied victory. She writes:

The result is a war documentary whose tone of unyielding glumness is, itself, at war much of the time with the story it tells — with, indeed, the character of the Americans who come so vividly to life in it.

Even so, I’ll watch every frame—each one of which will remind me what a country serious about winning a war looks and acts like. Then I’ll look our nation and weep.

Book Blogging World War IV; pt. 1

As blogmised below, I will be providing some thoughts and excerpts as I (slowly) read through Norman Podhoretz new book World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofasicm. I say slowly because my current schedule doesn’t allow for much in the way of recreational reading time.

“This is your idea of recreation?” you may be thinking. “You must be a real gas at parties.”  Yes, I am. Chloroform to be specific.

The underlying premise of NorPod’s book is that 9/11 marked the beginning or World War IV much as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand triggered World War I and the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 set World War II in motion.

Yes, we Americans tend to view the attack on Pearl Harbor as the trigger, but there had been just a wee bit of fighting and dying going on while Lindbergh and the “America First” crowd were parading around shouting that we shouldn’t take sides between Britain and Germany; that the Germans were misunderstood; that we were partly to blame—”root causes” and all that. Sound familiar?

NorPod labels the current conflict, “IV” because he argues that the Cold War genuinely represented World War III, and he make a strong case for that in the opening chapter of the book.

Also in the early pages he addresses the arguments of those who claim that a nuclear-armed Iran isn’t such a big deal–nothing to get too worked up about. He quotes some academic and public policy types who assert that Ahmadinajad’s Iran will be deterred by our nuclear weapons just as Mutually Assured Destruction prevented the Soviets from attacking us.

NorPod gives those heartbreakingly naive assertions the treatment they deserves. First he points out that because of Shiite eschatology, MAD isn’t a deterrent. It’s an “inducement.” The he quotes the late Ayatollah Khomeini:

We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is an other name for paganism. I say let the land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.

 Here in the West, it is clear that the gravest challenge to our civilization is the inability of most people—from Sally Field to Sen. Harry Ried to Keith Olbermann to Barak Obama—to understand the nature of the enemy.

The Future That Never Happened


A large print of the above picture hangs on the wall of my office. (click image for larger view) It is an image of the world we are supposed to be living in right now—or so I was led to believe as a child in the early sixties. I notice some enterprising soul has opened an online store selling t-shirts which proclaim, “I want my flying car.”

I love these depictions of the future as it was envisioned in the 50s and 60s. Today they seem naive and quaint, but back then we believed them. They are a result of one of the most tempting and common logical fallacies: namely, taking a look at past trends and extrapolating them forward in a straight line in order to determine what the future will look like.

It’s the same kind of logic that had Malthusian leftists in the 60s and 70s predicting that the world would be overcrowded, starving and post-apocalyptic by now. And it is behind much of the nonsense coming out of  the mouths of Al Gore and friends today (but that’s another rant.)

Let’s examine some of the detail of this depiction. First there are the cars. . .


Apparently in this unrealized present, we have developed some sort of anti-gravity-field propulsion technology for our flying cars, and yet some poor schmoes still drive little golf carts powered by 1950s-era helicopter rotors. If such is your fate, you bravely force a smile and wave to your wealthy friend as he levitates away with his beautiful, late-model robotwife beside him.

You contemplate jumping but realize you’re way too close to the water for suicide and everyone would just think you had muffed one of your signature third-Martini “cannonballs.” Again.

“Well at least I have my manly short-shorts,” you muse as you notice that the Lucite safety wall only comes up to the middle of your thighs. “Here in the 21st Century you are either very tall or our local building safety codes are appallingly lax,” you say to yourself.


In this alternate future, the wise soccer moms apparently eschewed the migration to minivans then to SUVs then to crossovers and just stuck with the good old station wagon. In fact, these family trucksters will drive themselves and respond to voice commands and yet bear an astonishing resemblance to a ’58 Edsel.

Finally there are the clothes:


For men, the form-fitting, stretchy one-piece zip front with poke-someone’s-eye-out shoulder peaks is standard for casual days. Now picture the typical doughy American male with a protruding middle wearing one of these. Or to save time, picture me wearing it. I’ll now wait while you thank God this future didn’t materialize. . . Back? Let’s continue.

Notice the gentleman above instinctively attempting to put his hand in his pocket before realizing, “Oh yeah, we don’t have pockets here in the future. Don’t need ’em. Money is obsolete like on Star Trek and my flying car responds by voice-print analysis rendering keys superflous. Still, being able to grab a breath mint when a babe walks by would be nice. Dang.”

My youngest daughter asked me the other day if I thought we would ever have flying cars. I said, “Sure, honey. As soon as humans stop driving like imbeciles in two axes, we’ll allow everyone to jet around in all three.” She gave me that look I get a lot. “That would be a ‘no’ then,” she ventured.

“Don’t hold your breath, sweetie.”

The Columbia School of Madness

Fact 1: The government of Iran is providing the IEDs (bombs) that are killing American soldiers in Iraq.

Fact 2: Military recruiters and the ROTC are not welcome on the campus of of Columbia University.

Fact 3: Columbia University has extended an invitation to the head of the Iranian government (see Fact 1) to speak to the students.

 Now discuss.

Here’s William Kristol doing just that: Columbia University: Ahmadinejad Yes, ROTC No

And thr Wall Street Journal: Lee Bollinger: Tough Guy

And Michelle Malkin has a round up of many, many others.

For I have blogmises to keep. . . and miles to go before I sleep.

I’m off on an early flight in the morning to Washington, D.C. for a few days of meetings.  Fortunately, I don’t think I will be getting close enough to the Capitol building to be at risk of being irradiated by the toxic waves of bloviation still emanating from Senate Armed Service Committee hearing room.

The residue from Barbara Boxer’s speechifying alone probably has a half-life of more than 50,000 years. 

My apologies dear readers. I haven’t been very good at keeping my blog promises. (blogmises?)   Early on the 11th I promised some “deep thoughts about big things” later on in the day. Never happened. Well, I meant well. And like most Christians, though I judge others by their actions, I judge myself by my intentions. So, how about some shallow thoughts about trivialities instead? 

 I came across a great quote the other day that I thought was apropos of the types and all the new 9/11 experts on what will and won’t melt steel: 

 “In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or in principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe and the opinions on which they will act.” 

That was Thomas Jefferson. Here’s another for you: 

“Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.” 

That was John W. Gardner, a cabinet member in the Johnson administration referring to the anti-war protesters of that day. Speaking of war. . .  I have already set my DVR to record Ken Burns new documentary in glorious Hi-Def. I am a huge fan Burns previous documentary work—particularly The Civil War and his series on the History of Jazz.  The subject of his new work is World War II. First episode of “The War” airs 9/23. Can’t wait.