Bracing for the apocalypse

Charles Gordon October 27 1986

Bracing for the apocalypse

Charles Gordon October 27 1986

Bracing for the apocalypse


Charles Gordon

From time to time, the suspicion becomes overwhelming. The jig is up for us—especially in North America, but not exclusively. As a people we have been so bad, so selfish, so thoughtless, so just plain stupid that any minute the skies are going to open up and a Big Voice is going to say, “You bug me!” or whatever Big Voices say under the circumstances. And that will be it.

As the earth quakes, or the floodwaters mount, or the fires approach, or all three at once, the only consolation we will be able to take is in the knowledge that we deserved it. Consider the evidence.

A character who died a year earlier in an episode of Dallas, a television show, reappeared, and his season-long absence was explained as a dream by his TV wife. Writers scrambled to unwrite all the events of an entire television season, in order to make everything consistent with the actor’s nondeath. An estimated 40 million Americans, or 38 per cent of the viewing audience, took the trouble to watch this on television when they could have been outside killing insects.

The CBS television network in the United States decided to ask viewers if they thought the use of instant replay cameras by National Football League referees was working well or whether the system could be improved. Viewers were invited to phone in their opinions, and on a Sunday afternoon in early fall 174,947 did.

The travel page of a weekend newspaper noted that Heritage USA, the $175-million religious theme park in North Carolina, features baptisms every Tuesday afternoon in the hotel swimming pool, communion at 2 a.m. for night owls and a book store that sells a book called The Exodus Diet Plan.

When the character on Dallas died, the actor who played him was earning $55,000 a week. When the character became undead, the actor got a raise to $104,000 a week.

A Gallup poll revealed that 72 per cent of respondents thought that Canada was doing more than its share of accepting international refugees, and that 58 per cent thought we should accept fewer.

Meanwhile, floodwaters have been rising in the middle of the continent, ruining crops and forcing thousands

from their homes. Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair and Georgian Bay are at their highest levels in 110 years. More flood damage is anticipated in November. Does an alarmed North American populace rise up and take every precaution? Read on.

United Press International published an article on the secrets of gourmet magazines in North America, revealing the following secret of food photography: “It takes an enormous amount of money to do food right— and potential readers will tolerate nothing less. With the mandatory visual elegance, color photography is a must—with many individual shots costing three or four days (and $14,000) to get on film.”

The authorities in Newark, Del., have drawn a bead on an old menace: cruising, the practice of young people driving up and down the main streets of America. Lower oil prices, the de-

As the fires approach, the only consolation we will be able to take is in the knowledge that we deserved it

stroyer of a good portion of the continental economy, have made cruising feasible again. In Newark, the city council has passed a bill making it illegal to pass designated points on a four-km loop three or more times between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Every Friday and Saturday night, police officers sit in their cars and write down licence plate numbers.

A Canadian newspaper published a recipe for stuffed zucchini-mushroom boats.

North American imagination, technology and know-how have made it possible for men to buy a razor that leaves a uniform length of stubble on their faces, allowing them to look like their heroes on television, without having to give up shaving. “The Stubble Device,” says a magazine ad, “helps you maintain the length of stubble that looks good on you, because it’s easy to shave clean and it’s been easy to grow a full beard; but it’s hard to keep a uniform stubble day after day.”

An article on the travel pages has revealed that a shrine to the singer Conway Twitty exists in Tennessee.

As relief officials struggled to find a company that would agree to insure a flight to deliver food to famine-stricken Southern Sudan, shoppers in Washington, the American capital, flocked to a food department store featuring 600 kinds of cheese and 300 brands of imported beer.

An American actor, Robert De Niro, was trying to put on 30 pounds in four weeks so that he could play the role of AÍ Capone. A publicist said De Niro had gone to Italy to eat pancakes.

More than 10,000 representatives of newspapers, television and radio stations accepted free transportation to, and free accommodation at, Disney World in Florida “to both enjoy and report on one of the most exciting and patriotic events ever conceived,” according to the invitation. The exciting and patriotic event was the 15th anniversary of the resort.

A recent Toronto study showed that lower mortgage rates and economic recovery have increased demand for houses, resulting in prices rising so much that fewer people can afford houses than could a year ago when mortgage rates were higher.

A poll taken by the magazine Ladies’ Home Journal said that the most admired man in the United States is an actor, Bill Cosby. Second is President Reagan, third is Bob Hope, followed by Pope John Paul n, Jacques Cousteau, Lee Iacocca and Billy Graham. Conway Twitty is not mentioned in the poll.

A month ago Ottawa columnist Frank Howard suggested, satirically, he thought, that the drug-testing fad among employees could lead to a profitable new industry. Now, the new industry has surfaced in Nashville, Tenn. Price of a urine sample there: $70.

Stock-market research in New York revealed that the most common reaction to the sudden death of a senior executive is a rise in the price of shares in the executive’s company. “One might think the reaction is negative: our leader is gone,” said an analyst. “But it is a favorable reaction when the leader dies suddenly.”

Dozens more examples can be found easily in your daily newspapers, not to mention real life. You’ll probably need the newspapers to soak up the water. Look out the window and see how high it is.

Charles Gordon is a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.