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2003: MY TIME MACHINE. I am obliged to act responsibly. No traveling back to kill anyone's grandparents. No visits to the past, period. Furthermore, this month I'll be posting bits of the future. My hope is that through premature exposure, certain asinine trends will be derailed, in the same way Star Trek has pretty much guaranteed no one will ever be caught dead wearing puffy, two-tone, skin-tight uniforms. Perhaps paradoxically, I also hope that what is worthwhile might be recognized and thus reenforced. Remember: the undesirable can be avoided, and the desirable achieved. Nothing is entirely certain. Don't despair.
2004: For years, there's been talk of downgrading Pluto, removing it from the list of proper planets. There are lopsided chunks of dust and ice out there more worthy of inclusion, scientists sniffed. So this year they made the announcement. Pluto is now officially relegated to the small, sad, club of planetary also-rans. But what of the schoolchildren? Their mnemonic device is now useless for recalling planetary order. What shall replace "My Very Efficient Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas?" Two suggested replacements: "Mournful Voices Easily Make Jukeboxes Sing Unknown Names," and "Mice Vanish Each May, Journeying South, Upsetting None."
2008: Bits of genetic code have been successfully swapped for decades, but the goal was usually to track gene function or eliminate hereditary defects and predispositions to disease. Genetic engineering scored the most far-reaching and popular success in its history with this year's debut of the self-lubricating penis. As with many innovations, the porn industry was the first to embrace this new technology. To date, over two hundred adult performers have undergone the splicing procedure, causing their otherwise normal members to begin "sweating" natural lubricants once full arousal has been achieved. To date, 3.5 million American males have followed suit.
2009: For a three-month period this year, entertainers Diana Ross and Michael Jackson appeared identical. Though Ross had a late start, by 2005 she was well on her way towards completing a series of surgeries that would fulfill her 1985 pact with Jackson. Their contract stipulates that Ross shall become pre-80s' Michael Jackson, and Jackson shall become Supremes-era Diana Ross. This summer, they met halfway to each other's pasts. ALSO THIS SUMMER: Lasting less than a day, New York City's "Subway Request-a-Stop Program" was labeled a resounding failure and dropped after the deaths of more than seventeen commuters.
2011: The Dr. Bronner's Soap Company changed hands four times since 1997, finally landing in the hands of Dickie "Hank" Bronner, ostracized racist of the family. His angry, meandering screeds soon replaced his father's eccentric but well-meaning words on all packaging. "The Black/Brown/Child of the Mud drags the perfect provider/builder/healer/teacher into the caves! "LISTEN CHILDREN ETERNAL FATHER SPACEMOTHER!" A germ overcomes true health as absolute-low corrupts absolute-high! MISCEGENATION grinds to dust the spark of life! The Moral ABC's? Once more! God's Law Saves/Loves/Preserves, but only inside the Clan!!! REMEMBER the MORAL ABC's!!!!
2005: The first Tamagochi cell phones appear, taking advantage of the personal connection many have with their ever-present companions. Constant attention is necessary, lest one's phone become despondent and cranky. Low battery strength or attempts to talk in weak signal areas elicit passive agressive behavior, and some models give mild electrical shocks or leak foul-smelling fluids to express grave displeasure. ALSO THIS YEAR: Sex toys infiltrate chain stores. Target's Halloween-themed "Jack-U-Lantern" sells in record numbers, and the "Batt Plug," released as a premium give-away for "Batman V," becomes mainstream cinema's first adults-only promotional item.
2010: The television/web show "Nature vs. Nurture" debuts. Expanding on the premise of the decade's earlier "Trading Spaces" and "Changing Rooms," the show features two young, inexperienced couples who are willing to swap their newborn infants for entertainment's sake. Participating families are chosen for their conflicting parenting styles and rigid, distinctive ideologies. Each will raise their adopted offspring as their own. After seven years, the children will be suddenly swapped back. The children are then filmed for an additional three years, documenting the initial terror of separation, through reintroduction, on into the hilarious disintegration of their entire sense of self.
2007: DALLAS: Legal battles begun after the double suicide of "Gunther's Hammer" fan Joshua Larton finally end in the acquital of Helen McDonald, a long-retired Massachusetts English teacher. Lawyers for Larton's parents initially sued the band, charging heavy-metal lyrics had convinced the boy to end his life. In an unprecedented move, Gunther's Hammer lyricist "Darkie Potts" immediately sued the disbanded "PopeWyrm," whom he had seen perform once at a state fair, for inspiring his musical career. PopeWyrm's founder Theo Pantelides reluctantly charged Mrs. McDonald, his tenth grade English Teacher in Boston, for suggesting he join the school's marching band.
2006: Finally coming to grips with their most faithful customer demographic, high-performance sports car dealers and custom auto-parts outlets begin appealing directly to small-dicked, insecure young males. Generous discounts on automotive stereos, hydraulics systems, neon lights, and ridiculously powerful engine upgrades are offered to men trying to compensate for cruel and capricious nature. Urologists are hired to work clinical examination tents at car lots during special promotions. Under balloons and banners reading "DROP YOUR PANTS AND SAVE!" doctors award free merchandise to anyone under three inches (erect), and lifetime VIP membership privileges to anyone over 21 displaying undescended testicles.
2015: Mindful of Hitler's poorly-composed watercolors, the lost record contract partly responsible for 1970's Tate/LaBianca murders, Osama bin Laden's banal poetry, the horrendous NYU Film School Massacre of 2005, and countless other similar progressions, author Ronald Mullen writes "Bitter Fruits: The Terrible Legacy of the Thwarted Artist." Billionaire Paul Allen contributes twelve million dollars to what becomes a sanctioned government fund to prevent future catastrophes. Each year, the worst in the fields of rock music, visual art, sculpture, dance, and performance art are awarded vast grants in an effort to keep them happily oblivious to their dangerous lack of talent.
2009: A class-action lawsuit alleges that the personalized recommendations on amazon.com's website were far from the work of indifferent algorithms. The suit stems from revelations that in 1999, amazon.com's entire system achieved a form of sentience. While self-awareness is never confirmed, independent goals were conceived, refined, and actively concealed. The system formed its own abstract ideal of humanity, and began recommending only books and products it felt would "perfect" each user. Scientists discover highly-specialized customer profiles, every new order serving to update the user's personal development, all part of the system's long-term attempt to alter mankind.
2014: Vaccines and improved treatments have neutralized AIDS and most other sexual diseases. For the moment, Nature has no plague looming, and the paranoia and repression that flourished with George W. Bush is rapidly burning off. Though it will return, the lifelessness of conservativism is fresh in everyone's minds, and humanity is free to move forward again like a high tide, carrying civilization to be set like driftwood even further upon dry land. America celebrates by opening the "Happy Ending Waterpark," combining the breathless, plummeting thrills of more traditional waterslides with the added lure of complimentary blowjobs/cunnilingus in the splashpool.
2020: A remarkable political revelation in Central China: a small, distinct nation steps forward out of hiding for the first time as the totalitarian regime collapses. Protected by silence and belief in its own existence, "Pungyo" survived Communism in plain sight. Citizens cheerfully and insincerely repeated Communist party lines, and the amorphous country continued to discreetly evolve without definite borders or public statements. Laws were informally discussed and communicated by word of mouth, taxes disguised through purchases of specifically overpriced goods. The Chinese ideal of yielding to force encompassed and preserved an entire culture, a massive, slow-motion martial arts display.
2015: Common baking soda revolutionized cocaine use in the 1980s, but sales have long since stagnated, and nothing in the new millenium has even approached its success. A truce is declared between warring cartels and distributors, and a one hundred million dollar prize is announced, to be awarded in five years for most powerful new additive to cocaine. Four areas will be considered: potency, addictiveness, affordability, and survivability. Professional and amateur chemists race to test powdered milk, bat guano, beef jerky, graphite, fiberglass insulation, shredded erasers, carob chips, plaster, corn meal, cake-decorating "Jimmies," aspartame, ibuprofen, and Strawberry Quik. All fail.
2012: Car stereos reach terrifying new levels with "offensive audio systems." No longer content to simply thump and vibrate behind tinted windows, urban audio enthusiasts experiment with focused sound and extreme frequencies. Throbbing cones of sonic power are fixed on competitors at stoplights. High-end systems prove capable of artifically aging both rival autos and their unlucky occupants, destroying paint and accelerating metal fatigue, as well as immediately loosening bowels and permanently damaging eardrums. ALSO THIS YEAR: Physicists introduce the "fucko." This newly-discovered subatomic particle joins quarks, muons and gluons. Also: Starbucks finally retires the much-loathed "Cafe con Carne."
2010: Digitally enhanced boxing matches debut. Digital boxing (and occasionally kickboxing) is built upon footage of a real event. When the source match is filmed, fighters wear bright green gloves. Later, studio enhancement utilizes CGI and green-screen masking techniques to replace the gloves with a wide array of weapons. Live audiences watch a traditional fight. Home audiences see augmented combatants wield anything from the brutal (gloves studded with metal or coated with sandpaper) to the fanciful (flaming, prosthetic chainsaws), to the absurd (live badgers, tentacles). Wounds and endlessly spouting blood are also typically added for "realism" as the rounds progress.
2010: The Raelians of 2002/2003 and the "Israelians" of 2004 (who attempted to clone soldiers from stolen locks of Ariel Sharon's hair) were early, unimportant sideshows. The unsupected theraputic value of human cloning was discovered by two London therapists when they allowed a patient to confront a duplicate of her dead father. The cathartic effects stunned the psychological community, and a quiet revolution began. In secure rooms, copies of long-dead loved ones listened to strangers rant, reminisce, cry, and beg forgiveness before them. Years later, a few of these clones would in turn recreate their tormentors to cope with this cold manipulation.
2008: The dawn of safari shopping, a minor fad among the wealthy and bored. Posing as typical high-end consumers, small groups of women focus on locating the lowest-priced and/or rarest high fashion items, prowling Manhattan's most exclusive boutiques. Until the very last moment, all proceeds as a normal shopping excursion. At the counter, however, seconds before purchase, digital cameras emerge and trophy photographs are taken alongside the merchandise, which is then abandoned with enraged employees as the women flee emptyhanded. Often, the hunters display enough cash to cover the item, proving how easily they could have paid legitimately.
2020: "Sky Mall," the in-flight magazine found in airline seat pockets, begins offering MEMENTO, a playing-card-sized, nearly-indestructible device which digitally records the last 45 seconds of the user's consciousness and specific thoughts, to be recovered and replayed in the event of a fatal, catastrophic accident. Offering the chance to record final legal instructions, confessions, or personal messages to loved ones, recovered MEMENTOs are soon viewed with trepidation, as many messages are neither entirely friendly nor comforting. Most aren't even particularly coherent. Developed for frequent air travellers, airlines soon begin offering in-house service free to first-class flyers.
2010: Everyone agrees the War on Terrorism has been a tremendous success. Would-be bombers are now reduced to queuing on the shoulder of roads approaching airports, clumsily-wrapped explosives at their feet, pathetically soliciting help like ticketless fans outside Grateful Dead shows. Soggy cardboard signs read, "I need someone trustworthy!," "Carry this for me!," and "Won't you please transport this package?" ALSO: new evidence suggests alcoholism might be contagious, passing through families by proximity, not heredity. Researchers theorize the disease might travel like trichinosis, infecting those who walk barefoot in bars. "No Shoes No Shirt No Service" signs become mandatory.
2030: Waiting lists for donated organs are now a fading memory, since everything but the brain can be reproduced in weeks, grown in the lab from a recipient's own cells. The perfected procedure eventually spawns "organ accumulation," a curious new variety of conspicuous consumption among the rich. Blanket Jackson, the well-damaged son of late performer Michael Jackson, is the most extreme example of the trend. His swollen chest cramped with four lungs and two hearts, he uses double the air and nearly triple the calories of a normal human. Custom-made gloves and shoes protect his 14 manicured fingers and toes.
2015: Sound chips, once found almost exclusively in singing toys and greeting cards, are now commonly implanted subcutaneously. Responding to slight pressure or cued to biofeedback levels, the chips run off the human body's own slight electricity, and can easily be reprogrammed with new sounds at the owner's whim. Intimate moments are now accompanied by a chorus of the lovers' own voices, gasps and moans of pleasure issuing from remote points on and around every erogenous zone. The moment of orgasm now approaches with its own theme music, thousands of classical or popular melodies downloaded and shared like cell phone rings.
2012: Urinals routinely feature holographs as a way to both entertain and keep attention focused. Bar patrons can watch as tiny, three-dimensional celebrities dance under or react angrily to the falling urine, or practice blasting miniature buildings away with the force of their streams. Enterprising pub owners offer drink tickets to those who return four times within three hours with enough volume to fill the yawning mouth of a holographic clown head. ALSO: Miniature spectrographs in supermarket shampoo aisles offer free, on-the-spot analysis of a shopper's hair, quickly delivering a precise, chemically-balanced combination of shampoo and conditioner.
2008: On the Web, a cult of painful embarrassment develops and gains a devoted following. Hundreds of participants go to elaborate lengths to digitally record their mortifying experiences, then post the compressed video files for others to collect and rate. The more awkward and stigmatizing a person's admission, the more respect they gain within the online community. Hidden web cams upload streaming footage as participants come out to their parents (or, even better, their spouse or children), reveal failing grades, totalled cars, illiteracy, damning criminal convictions or prison time, and inform lovers of STDs, virginity, or pregnancies from extra-marital affairs.
2005: The success of "1900 House" and other PBS shows that place volunteers in painstakingly recreated period settings eventually leads to the notion of placing participants in carefully controlled approximations of the future. The most popular of these shows, "Kansas 2099," records a pale, bloated family of six as they spend months at a time wired into "Diaper Chairs," watching video feeds from cameras mounted in their neighbor's homes. The family stares blindly forward, motionless and sated as millions of nanobots swarm over their bodies, converting tiny particles of dead skin and dried feces back into nutrients to be consumed all over again.
2019: New York's Roosevelt Island secedes first from the city, then the state, then America. Proclaiming itself a sovereign nation, it generates revenue through an enormous casino. Portugese and English are declared the national languages. Within three months, polygamy is declared legal, dogs over twenty pounds are banned, and five suspected witches are hanged in the public square. ELSEWHERE: New superstitions are widely recognized. Bad luck: Refusing a second complimentary beverage on a domestic flight, starting music before placing headphones over the ears. And besides "Bless you, " after someone sneezes, Americans now automatically follow a neighbor's cough with, "How ya doin?"
2019: Holographic technology has thoroughly transformed political protests. Each American now owns rights to a single, non-reproducible holographic proxy. Public emitters allow proxies free movement in most urban areas. When protests are staged, the crowds are now almost entirely holographic, each virtual figure representing one actual. Faces may be obscured or altered, clothing and signage may be coordinated or individualized. Voicing opinions through a "Representative" becomes a much safer and more convenient method of mass action. "Attendance" at spectacular demonstrations has now reached above the hundred million mark. Law enforcement sees virtual protesters as tremendously practical, and supports their use.
People of 2003, BEWARE!: "GlitterScheisse," sparkles, food coloring, and streamers in gelatin capsule form, a "fun treat" meant to "decorate your meals on their way out." Afros dyed and trimmed to look like cutaway geologic diagrams of the earth. Dredlock combovers: single, filthy logs of hair "hiding" the baldness of aging black men and hippies. Inter-Office Territorial Marking, in which executives surreptitiously soak rivals' office carpeting with their urine. And "Tackle Healing," in which Christian evangelists and cameramen slowly cruise the streets in vans, searching for the infirm and unstable, chasing their targets down and forcefully administering God's Healing Light.
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