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January 22nd, 2011

Some things change, some things don’t

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. Please leave any comments there.

One of the truly great pleasures of growing up in the 1980s was a comic strip called Bloom County.  While several of the greats from that age have proved timeless – Calvin and Hobbes are as funny now as they ever were then, and my kids laugh as hard as I did at them – much of Bloom County’s brilliance was topical, specific to its age, and does not evoke the same reaction from those who didn’t live through it.  One of my all time favorites was a bit with Oliver Wendell Jones, after he had some bit of hacking go badly wrong.  His father was lecturing him that “London, Paris, and New York are burning,” and that he was going to be grounded pretty much forever.  Oliver’s reaction:  “Well, I suppose I couldn’t very well have expected the ‘I did the same thing when I was your age’ speech.”

There are times when we have talks with our kids that really make me wonder.  While I’m sure – largely because they enjoy telling the grandkids – that the Sister of the BUMD and I used to bring up topics that made my folks shake their heads, I am dead certain that we never once sat around the dinner table and discussed the viral mechanisms, epidemiology, survival rates, and best practices surrounding the zombie apocalypse and the rising.  As we did last night, for example.  “They only want to bite you to spread the virus, Daddy.”  Oh, right, I’d forgotten.  “Daddy, you need a clean head shot, but you have to be outside the range of the blood spatter because it can infect you.”  

At first I asked Number One Son if he wanted to read a really good book about zombies, Mira Grant’s Feed – which is the best written and most authoritative book on the topic I’ve ever read.  About five minutes later, I asked him if he’d already read it – you never know, with him, but he hadn’t.  (Yet.)  Nor was he the only one talking – both girls seemed more knowledgeable about the topic than I would have suspected, even from our little self-rescuing princesses. 

I am equally sure that, while my sister and I might have, very occasionally, sat around discussing celebrities, not once did the dinnertime talk turn to who looked better than whom while dressed in skulls – skull prints, or actual skulls, human or otherwise.    Somehow, it just never came up.  (“Well, I suppose I couldn’t very well have expected the ‘I did the same thing when I was your age’ speech.”)

And yet, while things change, and some cutting edges blunt over time, some things remain unexpectedly razor sharp even 40 years on.  When I was a young boy, the topic of nuclear proliferation popped up over breakfast more than once.   Over today’s breakfast, the 12-yr-old Human Tape Recorder (which still sounds better than Human MP3 Recording and Playback Device) asked why it was that the world had so many nuclear weapons – where was the need?  So, needing a quick history lesson and never being one to let another’s work evade my eyes, I used the immortal Tom Lehrer’s “Who’s Next?” as my lesson plan. 

And do you know what?  Recorded in 1969, it’s just as topical, just as cutting, just as ironically funny today as it was then.   Have a listen, and tell me if I’m wrong.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!