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Friday! October 16 | The Bleat.

barbieDaughter today on the way as we got in the car:

“Hey Dad have you heard that in 2012-”

“It’s nonsense.”

“It is?” She was relieved. “But the Mayans say it’s the end of the world.”

“How would they know?”

“They had a calendar and everything and it doesn’t go after 2012.”

“I got your school calendar today in the mail, and it ends in June. That doesn’t mean the world ends.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway, there aren’t any Mayans. I mean there’s no Mayan civilization. Or Aztec. Or Toltec.”

“What happened to them all?”

“Too much war, and a bunch of guys in tin suits with magic weapons showed up. Germs and politics.”

“Oh.” Pause. “They cut out hearts.”

“Some of them. Where you’d learn that?”

“A book in media class. They were like . . . Nazis or something. Hey can I see that game where you fight Nazis again?”

“Sure.”

“It was funny when I asked ‘Can I play, Daddy.’”

It was amusing: I’d been setting up the game, and she’d come into my studio. She asked if she could play, Daddy, then burst into laughter: the first option for the difficulty setting was “Can I play, Daddy.”

It’s all a variant of Doom. Ask a guy of a certain age how he wants his gaming, and he’ll tell you: Hurt Me Plenty.

The matter of the 2012 issue solved, we drove to her friend’s house.

A day at home, working. I’d hoped for a day with my daughter, but in the afternoon she got a call to see a friend, so I was on my oddy-knocky after lunch. Didn’t even get to make her mac and cheese. Not that she’d know, but: we used to have that for lunch every day. At first it was this . . . stuff that came in a microwavable tin, for pre-toddlers. The great thrill: spreading it over the high-chair table in a sticky paste, jamming fistfuls in the maw, grinning, slapping the hands on the high-chair table to send undetectable molecules to adhere to the woodwork, the wall, the dog. This was followed by Easy Mac, which was slightly less gag-provoking. I’d pick up the chair and fly her over to the microwave, and she’d punch in the numbers, giggling. Just the two of us, at home, on a winter noon. It was like that for a long time. I’m certain that winter lasted two years.

It would be sad to say it seemed like yesterday. Doesn’t. Seems like a very long time ago. But I can still imagine her sitting at the tiny table, playing the annual Barbie game on the computer. We slipped out of the Barbiestream long ago, so I’m not sure what this Christmas’ brand-extension is; she lost interest around Unicornia, or whatever it was called. No: Pegasus. The toy of the season was a Pegasus, noted for having one wing fall off in mid-flight all the time. I named her Icarus. Each year there was a new toy, a new DVD, a new game. They never hit three-for-three. “Princess and the Pauper” was the best movie, at least from the standpoint of a dad who had to hear the soundtrack six time a day, and it was competently animated; the rest looked like Claymation made by people wearing oven mitts. The game was difficult, though. The dolls were duplicate Barbies who had conversations, mostly of the empowering sort. After that, though, it was all flying horses and fairy-tale nonsense.

But that’s where she got her start as a gamer: Barbie. There was a first-person shooter portion in one game. You had to walk through a maze and break through barriers. Doom for kindergarten girls. The point of the game was to rescue Prince Stefan, not be rescued by him. As far as I can tell in the Barbieverse, the prices just stand around and look gallant, and the women do all the work.

So, yes, one of those days, notable for the absences and deletions and other inevitable side-effects of rolling around the sun and passing through time. Although that doesn’t sound right; time isn’t waiting for us to arrive, and it doesn’t exist after we’ve passed through. Time, like Indiana Jones, is just making it up as it goes along.

Did a Newsbreak interview yesterday about a new galaxy discovered by some Minnesotans. Lots of gas but no stars. “You might think that’s a definition of Joan Rivers on Oscar night before the limos arrive,” I said, hardy har. (If you hit the link, wait for the peculiar George Lucas detail.) I love new galaxy stories. I love learning that someone pointed a telescope at an empty patch and found 1000 new spiral galaxies, each of which no doubt teems with life. Yes, I think that’s so, and no, I’ve no good explanation for why we haven’t been visited by Vulcans. I’m a fan of the multiverse theory, and I’d also be comfy with the notion that this is one of an infinite number of iteration of the universe, each with their own laws. It would be a pity if we ended up in the one whose laws were A) everything’s far apart, and B) you can’t get there, but them’s the breaks. Some galaxies, however, have it worse off. You get those peculiar ones with enormous rapacious black holes in the middle and just a smattering of stars, you think: bad neighborhood. Imagine being a sentient being in a system that evolves sufficiently to figure out it’s going to be eaten by a black hole in a few thousand years, and how this would affect society. If you knew it would be all over in 2000 years, who would build? Would anyone try to escape if there were no systems to which you could flee? Futility would be the handmaiden at every act of creation. Or it might make everything precious. Or, most likely, both, and neither. Some people would still live their lives, go to work, make what they could for their ration of time. A great many would use the expiration date as the validation of the standard-issue nihilism that affects those with attenuated adolescence, and clothe their selfishness in philosophy.

And now, some aspirin.

Yes, over the years people have sent me many things, including old aspirin tins. This might give you an indication of the quantity of stuff yet to be scanned and posted. If I waited a few more years we’d have holographic scanners, and you could see these in 3D, but I’m just an impatient sort.

All that’s left of the brand these days is the children’s version, it seems:
aspirin1
One dime for 12 pellets of willow-bark, as the Romans would have called it.

Nyal:
aspirin2

The brand, like Woolworth’s, has assumed a new life in Australia.

This color can only be described as mid-century medical:
aspirin3
Ever heard of McKesson? No? Largest health care company in the world – now. According to this entry in wikipedia, anyway.

They’ve come a long way from the scandal that followed when a bootlegger bought the joint and ran some funny-paper scams.

Later today: the start of the 1934 Sears Catalog site. And of course 100 Mysteries! See you soon. Also, column up at startribune.com – don’t have the link at the moment, but just scroll yourself down and it’s there, by my face. Or my name. Either will do.

 

41 Responses to Friday! October 16

  1. Scott P says:

    Whew. The Bleat’s up, and all’s well with the world.

  2. Marjorie J. Birch says:

    there was me, that is, Lileks, and my three droogs, that is Jasper, (G)nat, and… oh rats, not enough droogs. Unless you count aspirin.

    I believe that “aspirin” was once a brand name of powdered willow bark, but it became a generic name — a brand-name’s fate worse than death.

  3. GardenStater says:

    Marjorie J. Birch :I believe that “aspirin” was once a brand name of powdered willow bark, but it became a generic name — a brand-name’s fate worse than death.

    Yep. According to Wikipedia:

    “As part of war reparations specified in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles following Germany’s surrender after World War I, Aspirin (along with Heroin) lost its status as a registered trademark in France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where it became a generic name and can be spelled in lower case.”

    Haven’t seen any OTC heroin lately, though.

  4. JamesS says:

    My take on the “2012″ thing is to ask folks to consider a Chinese restaurant’s placemat: they show the Years of the Rat, the Tiger, etc, and they stop at 2007. Does that mean the Chinese, that ancient civilization, knew that the world would end then?

    Well, now the placemats go out to 2019. Whew, a reprieve!

  5. Grebmar says:

    “Aspirin” was indeed a trademark of Bayer, who for unfathomable reasons, let it lapse. I’m sure the story is somewhere out in the wilds of the internet, but I’m too lazy to find it now.

    Powdered willow bark, I’m not so sure. Aspirin is an artificial compound and not found in nature.

  6. Grebmar says:

    Well, Garden State beat me to it.

  7. Jennifer says:

    “As far as I can tell in the Barbieverse, the princes just stand around and look gallant, and the women do all the work.”

    Please. That’s my life in this world!

  8. Spud says:

    I wonder how sales would have done if instead of aspirin you took the generic salicylic acid for a headache?

    The best gift a dad can give himself is to be the primary caregiver for a toddler/infant for a year (six months?). I was out of work and job-hunting in the late 90′s. In what would be sad and difficult times for some turned out to be some of the best months in my life, when I got the privilege of caring for my year old son. He may not remember it but I surely do.

    Re: Barbie
    “Princess and the Pauper” is one of the better video’s in the series. My five y.o. daughter got “Pegasus” a few months ago but it did not make her heavy rotation. The Swan Lake video was “awright” too.

  9. DNewlander says:

    By the way, the Woolworth’s in Australia is not related to the former discount retailer in the US. The founder liked the name, found it wasn’t trademarked Down Under and that’s all she wrote.

    I’ll leave it to someone else to tell us what Woolworth’s has turned into up here. :)

  10. Spud says:

    Hold the presses. Breaking news … totally unrelated to the Bleat.

    The new Taco Bell offering, Blackjack Taco, has been secretly doctored with some type of substance resembling mayonnaise. Be warned that your first bite may feel “funny”.

  11. When our sons were small and home sick from school, they had two “sick movies” they invariably called for: The Last Starfighter and The Running Man. I have no idea if that speaks to their iffy taste in films, or to my bad parenting skills.

  12. Gary says:

    “just scroll yourself down and it’s there, by my face. Or my name. ”

    Sorry, James, but it isn’t, at least not for my office or home browsers. And tell your employers the page is much too crowded. One of those get-me-outta-here sites.

  13. Will says:

    There are plenty of Mayans around, you know. They’re no longer dominant, of course, but saying there are no Mayans is like saying there are no Sioux or Hopi around.
    In fact, there’s an article floating around that interviews a Mayan elder who says the doomsday predictions are bunk, and that the calendar will turn over and start again.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/10/11/MN0D1A1RL9.DTL

  14. Chris says:

    Wolfenstein begat Doom, not the other way around.

  15. Moishe3rd says:

    Just to repeat and reiterate… As Gary noted – scrolled and saw no friendly Lileks; neither face nor name. I mean, Sid Hartman was there for crimney’s sake! Shudder… Sighed and searched for James Lileks – got all sorts of hits, but not today’s column…
    I really do not like the Strib, James. Please, please, pretty please… don’t make me go there… Please?

  16. Mxymaster says:

    St. Joseph’s is still around, and I’m told it still has that great orange taste I associate with being home sick and catered to, but it’s no longer sold as children’s aspirin. Because of Reye’s Syndrome, children shouldn’t take aspirin. Because of the low dose it’s mainly sold as an anti-clotting med (i.e., heart attack prevention). But people still commonly call those children’s or even baby aspirin.

    This has been your Bleat Health Moment.

  17. Bob Schwartz says:

    Great column! Downright philosophical. I loved the “Pegasus-Icarus” meme.

  18. hpoulter says:

    Aspirin – well, any gardener (or crossword puzzle buff) knows that Salix is the Latin word for Willow. In the Boy Scouts, they told us that chewing willow twigs was a specific for headache (it tastes like Aspirin, too). The acetylsalycilic acid in aspirin is obviously derived from salycylic acid, which is found in willows. But I agree, “Aspirin” like “Heroin”, was a trademark of I.G Farben Bayer. Pynchon readers take note.

  19. hpoulter says:

    @Mxymaster

    Now that I am getting older, I find myself using baby aspirin and baby shaampoo (for blepharitis). I hope it’s a long time before I get to baby food.

  20. John Robinson :
    When our sons were small and home sick from school, they had two “sick movies” they invariably called for: The Last Starfighter and The Running Man. I have no idea if that speaks to their iffy taste in films, or to my bad parenting skills.

    Funny, I refer to California Lt. Governor John Garamendi as The Running Man.

    Barbie movies are back in vogue at our Casa de Estrogen, as my 5 yr old and 8 yr old will both watch them. The 5 yr old got a Fairy Barbie with Butterfly Wings for her birthday in September. One wing or the other repeated falls off. I end up having to stitch them back on twice a week. Bleh.

  21. Lars Walker says:

    The column can be accessed by clicking on “Lifestyle” and “Blogs,” then scrolling down. I found it by banging around the site at random.

  22. Lars Walker says:

    @Lars Walker
    Nope. I was wrong. That just takes you to the Blog o’ Things.

  23. I thought (G)Nat’s favorite Equine playmates were the My Little Ponies? What is this Pegasus you speak of?

    It’s funny – I’ve never even met Natalie, but I have memories of her childhood. This is what I get for having two sons & no daughters…

    …and from reading the Bleat consistently for 5+ years!

  24. swschrad says:

    Why no Vulcan visits? they are seeking Oneness and intelligence. little of that here.

    Aspirin (tm.) Bayer has been buying the “interlopers” back, bought Sterling Drug in the US about ten years ago, and has now unified the copyright portfolio again. if you go Great White North, eh, it’s all ASA on the shelf, excepting one familiar yellow and brown label.

    as for OTC heroin… there ain’t no other kind. Schedule C with “no known medical use,” and if you want some at Walgreens, you’ll have to score in the dark corner of the parking lot.

  25. Al Federber says:

    Futility IS the handmaiden at every act of creation, if you look far enough ahead. Doesn’t stop most of us from creating, though. We must occupy our time somehow.

  26. Bill McNutt says:

    James –
    Don’t fool yourself. You KNOW that as soon as we get holographic scanners, you’re going to go back and re-scan everything in 3D. ‘Cause I know you got all that stuff carefully sorted, filed, and stored in low-acid ziplocs.

    You don’t think we believe you’re discarding stuff after scanning it, do you?

    Bill

  27. OK here is my IIRC for aspirin.

    What Bayer did was buffer salicylic acid so that it did not burn a hole in your stomach (something that would probably make you forget your headache).

    Bayer was a dye company and the salicylic acid was an industrial by-product to the dye making process they were eager to unload but, had no market. A clever chemist knew it could be used as a fever breaker or pain reliever but, in its present form was a dangerous cure. The acetyl group added to the formulation buffered the acid while it was in your stomach until the medicine was absorbed.

    Alka-seltzer produces sodium salicylate in water and is also a buffered form of salicylic acid.

    (like I said, from memory, probably full of errors)

  28. Wramblin' Wreck says:

    Genuine Pure Aspirin? Isn’t the “Genuine” somewhat redundant? What would “Ungenuine Pure Aspirin” be? Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid no matter what the source; willow bark, mullein leaves or chemical reactor. It is still aspirin.

  29. raf says:

    There might be a high-margin market opportunity for someone to package willow twigs/bark as “organic” aspirin. Some of that other stuff is made from coal tar derivitives — that just has to be bad, doesn’t it? In mad-land, I mean.

  30. KAT23 says:

    So if packaged will twigs is aspirin what is SNUFF?

  31. gmann63 says:

    Huh. I used to work for McKesson, although it was called McKesson-HBOC at the time. Easiest job I ever had, which may be why my job was outsourced to CompUSA in Dallas.

  32. Ed Singel says:

    I get to the Strib column by clicking on “columnists” under the opinion menu item at the top, then scrolling down to our host’s smiling face, which is quite far down.

  33. Kev says:

    I’ll leave it to someone else to tell us what Woolworth’s has turned into up here.

    I’ll field that one; Woolworth’s is now Foot Locker. I ran across this a few years ago when I was off on a tangent about “dead malls,” which led me to “dead retailers” (or at least ones which don’t operate under their original names anymore).

    It’s hard to imagine anything even resembling a Woolworth’s when walking into a Foot Locker, of course; imagine one of them going retro and adding a soda fountain or a record* department, just for old times’ sake.

    *For the kids: “Records” are best known to you as either “those big black CDs that skip” or “the things that club DJs use for scratching.” ;-)

  34. HelloBall says:

    The years when the Loves of My Life were growing up from toddlers to first or second graders were horrible from a financial perspective (I was inexorably failing at self-employment) but eternally rewarding from a Dad perspective. The best memories I will take out of this existence are lying on the living room floor sharing crayons with my daughter or being wrestled into submission by two sweaty, giggling siblings and our dog, with Misterogers singing in the background.

  35. Tom Gordon says:

    Assuming they were technologically comparable to us, I should think 2000 years would be a comfortable span of time in which to locate a safe neighboring galaxy, and build a fleet of nuke-propelled starships for escaping the catastrophe. Obviously they’d raise their families/hives/whatever during the millennia-long trip, within habitats on the vessels that replicate their native ecologies.

    I guess the real question (as Niven once observed) is just WHEN they’d set to work developing all the infrastructure — O’Neill-style colonies and whatnot — necessary for the exodus. Immediately after they’d verified the black hole was going to swallow their world? Or would they all just go about their business, and not sweat the matter until the final century or so, when their descendents began to see light bending in the night sky?

  36. Good Grief says:

    I always wondered how the Mayans could know with certainty of the “end of the world” (Definition, please: End of man kind? The physical world? Culture? …what exactly?), but they couldn’t see the end of their own civilization coming.

    Imagine being so dialed into the universe that you could predict with certainty when the calendar should end, and life as you know it would cease (including parts of the world and cultures unknown). …but that you couldn’t see that the Men in Giant Floating Wooden Fish, brandishing Sticks of Fire and breathing sickness would kill you off well before that. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.

    I am sure there exist folks who fervently deride any talk about global warming, (or evolution, or anything similar…), yet who would go on at length, cornering you near the mantelpiece at a party, describing how the end times will come in 2012, and ho-my-gawd-just-you-wait-n-see.

  37. Emily says:

    Rules of thumb for adventure games:

    If you can pick it up, pick it up. There is no such thing as theft in an adventure game. I’m giving bonus points to the first one that rqeuires me to pick up the kitchen sink and cart it around.

    Yes, everything is your job. That’s why you bought the game.

    Has Gnat started playing the Nancy Drew games yet?

  38. jamcool says:

    @gmann63

    Before that it was called Foremost-Mckesson, whose product lines included Foremost milk and Sparkletts water.

  39. Jose says:

    And in any case the Mayans did not foretell the end of the World — just the end of the Age. Mesoamerican calendrics were based on nested cycles so it was not unexpected for one or another of the cycles to regularly hit the end and roll back to 0 on the cosmic trip odometer; the top-level “Long Count” simply runs out of digit places some time in 2012 in a sort of cosmological Y2K Bug (and probably with about as much an impact). The old Maya would have probably done a lot of sacrifices, and then announced that thanks to that it was all fixed and it was 00000.0 all over again.

    BTW the Aztecs were the ones that cut out hearts on a mass scale. The original Maya threw people down sinkholes. Later they got into the heart-cutting, under influence from the neighbors, but never to the same scale.

  40. bgates says:

    Imagine being so dialed into the universe that you could predict with certainty when the calendar should end, and life as you know it would cease (including parts of the world and cultures unknown). …but that you couldn’t see that the Men in Giant Floating Wooden Fish, brandishing Sticks of Fire and breathing sickness would kill you off well before that.

    Yes, it seems odd to be so confident in one’s ability to predict a final end state in the far-off future when short term events are such a surprise.

    Now, what’s that about global warming again?

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