The week the world
Mind if I step inside for a mo-
ment? See, there's this nomadic pack
of cannibals outside, and...
Thanks. Hey, love what you've
done with the place. Me, I'd prefer a
few old refrigerator boxes to a
burned-out warehouse - more mo-
bile, you know - but I guess we
can't be too picky now that civiliza-
tion has collapsed, right?
You seem confused. I can't blame
you; who could have seen it com-
ing? Hadn't we just made peace with
the Russians? Weren't we just about
to get HDTV? Well, we've got a lit-
tle time to kill, so why don't you
throw another rat on the fire for me
and I'll explain to you how the
whole mess got started.
I actually wrote this on Sunday,
Oct. 15, but everyone knew by then
that the world was going to end the
next morning at precisely 8 a.m.
That was when the stock market
opened, after dropping 190 points
the previous Friday, and the global
economy collapsed. As I wrote this
column, carpenters were busy in-
stalling diving boards on the win-
dows of skyscrapers around the world
and financial analysts were advising
their clients to sink their stock
money into something more stable
and predictable, like lottery tickets.
No one was quite sure why the
economy was collapsing. But by
then, nobody was quite sure why the
economy did anything. That was be-
cause money had become a "con-
cept," kind of like "love" or "God,"
only much more abstract. We
happily embraced phrases like
"revolving credit," "prime lending
rate," and "Excuse me, I'm here to
repossess your car." Money became
like your pineal gland - you knew
you had it, but damned if you knew
where it actually was.
Thus, by 1989, most of the
world's money existed in the imagi-
nations of about 30 bank presidents
and CEOs. There wasn't enough ac-
tual cash left for the world to go in
on a pizza together.
Remember when you played
"grown-up" as a kid, and you'd go to
a pretend office, and your pretend
boss would give you a handful of air
and say, "Here's fifty gajillion dol-
lars"? Well, you didn't know it then,
but that's exactly how the economy
worked. The status of the economy
was no longer gauged by silly things
like whether or not anyone had any
money; it was judged by the
"Leading Economic Indicators." The
Leading Economic Indicators were
three old men who met every month
in a Manhattan office, got really, re-
ally drunk and had conversations like
(Sound of a quarter bouncing off
Leading Economic Indicator #1:
Damnit! Is this table slanted?
LEI #2: Ha! You've gotta drink
and raise the prime rate another half
LEI #3: OK, new rule - if any-
body says a word starting with the
letter "C," gold drops $20 an
Of course, somebody had to do
the day-to-day work of running the
economy. It says somewhere in the
Book of Revelations that, just before
the Apocalypse, "the princes of the
Earth shall render forth control of
their kingdoms to dorky stockbro-
kers in three-piece suits who ate
paste in grade school." This is ex-
actly what happened. The lifeblood
of Western civilization was placed in
the hands of people who had spent
most of their formative years getting
swirlies in public bathrooms, and
hence were, well, excitable. There-
fore, if, say, "Roseanne" dropped
two spots in the Nielsens, Wall
Street would conclude "Good Lord!
Marx was right! Capitalism has
failed! SELL! SELL!"
Last Friday the Dow Jones col-
lapsed because of a hitch in the sale
of United Airlines. Now it might
make no sense to you and me that an
airline company's troubles could
have an effect on Kellogg's, but
when you consider that the trans-
portation industry impacts the fossil
fuel business, which in turn affects
the precious metals trade - well, it
still makes no sense to you and me.
But then, that's why we're are now
using our CD certificates to toast ro-
dents and getting plutonium poison-
ing instead of drinking Beaujolais in
an underground bunker. r
Because, you see, the world ended
again the next morning. That's when
NASA launched the Galileo probe.
Galileo was intended to fly into
space from the space shuttle and ex-
plore Jupiter. Without it, we stood
in danger of falling behind the Sovi-
ets in the area of Having Lots Of
Cool Color Photographs Of Other
Planets To Show On The Nightly
News, but some activists tried to
stop the launch because Galileo con-
tained plutonium, which has a scary-
sounding, five-dollar-word name and
therefore must be dangerous.
The issue of Galileo's safety was
a complicated and technical one, but
commendably, NASA and the ac-
tivists explained it to the public in
objective, rational terms: 1) "Quiet,
you foolish mortals; we're NASA",
and 2) "Plutonium! AAAH! Pluto-
Anyway, the world ended again,
either because the shuttle exploded or
because the activists won a court in-
junction to have the planet contami-
nated with plutonium anyway, argu-
ing that NASA "just got lucky."
Nobody was sure which, because we
were all too busy trying to figure
out in what year Columbus ordered
the Bay of Pigs invasion. Or some-
thing like that.
You see, they had released an-
other of a series of studies showing
that America's youth have the col-
lective intelligence of a nine-piece
See Poniewozik, Page 13
Jacques Cr oissant of dreams
Eight Years ago... October 20, 1981
"Oh sure, the Daily has always been a haven for typos and factual errors.
But the problem is especially acute this year. And the Daily's editors are to
"...taken as a whole, the Daily is a shoddier newspaper than most.
Everything you see in this paper has been reviewed by two editors - that's
about the saddest comment I can make..."
[From an article by a Daily columnist]
Forty Years ago... October 20, 1949
"(AP) - A student rebellion against regulations at Bowling Green State
University began fizzling late yesterday as a strike by part of the student
body died down.
"The protesting group had been pressing for sale of 3.2 beer, more
tolerance toward students by the campus police and the abolition of a rule
which prohibits unmarried coeds from riding in automobiles."
Eighty Years ago... October 20, 1909
"...a large number of University students are disregarding the custom of
saluting the highest officials of the University and the deans of their
respective departments. There is nothing servile in the raising of one's hat
to these men as it is but a recognition of honored position which they
occupy and a deference to their ability. The military salute given a superior
officer in the army is not so much a mark of obedience as a symbol of
loyalty and respect and the saluting of the president of the University or the
dean of a department should mean the same to a student."
[From an unsigned editorial]
Items in Weekend Almanac are culled from past issues of the Daily on this
date in history. All articles are taken from Daily files which are open to
public perusal in the Daily's library.
A fool and his calculus are soon
How can any student at U of M
claim to be liberal? How
bourgeoise. If mom and daddy pay
your tuition, you are not the
protester you think you are. Send
your tuition $ to South Africa,
famine relief, etc. Come back to
reality, you're all capitalists at
heart or you wouldn't be here. Ask
your parents about it. They were
probably hippies before they were
materialistic doctors, lawyers,
You can do more for a cause
with a college education than
Q: What's the difference between an
atheist and a dyslexic?
A: A dyslexic doesn't believe in
By Alex Gordon
I first heard the voice whisper to
me freshman year.
"If you eat there, he will come,"
the voice would say to me as I left
my Psych 172 lecture in MLB 3.
Returning to the pre-neon South
Quad cafeteria for some Canadian
Cheese Soup and shrimp jambalaya,
the voice would get louder.
"Eat what!" I'd shout, much to
the dismay of my friends who were
beginning to think I was crazy. Then
one day I had the vision. I was star-
ing at my chicken patty topped with
Cheez-Whiz when, for an instant,
before me was a majestic looking
chicken salad sandwich on a fluffy
It finally occurred to me: all these
days I had been passing Jacques
Patisserie on North University on
my way back to the cafeteria and the
voice was trying to tell me to eat
For the ne:at weeks I was ob-
sessed with trying all the different
sandwiches at Jacques. I worked hard
day after day eating the turkey, the
tuna salad, even the ham and cheese
on those fresh-baked croissants. My
friends told me I was insane to waste
my money while I had free meals at
the dorm, but I obeyed that voice.
By the end of my first year "he"
still had not come. I was deeply in
debt and about to lose faith. Sitting
at the outside tables, staring at my
"Special Sandwich" (cream cheese,
avocado spread, and veggies) one
day, I looked up and suddenly sitting
across from me, ready to eat a
shrimp salad sandwich, was
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
I could barely hold in my excite-
ment. I had a million questions to
ask him, but he just nodded at my
sandwich and indicated he would like
a bite. We ate, and then he just got
up, thanked me, and trotted off to the
Shoeless Joe came more and
more often after that. He finally ex-
plained to me one day during my
sophomore year why he enjoyed re-
turning to Jacques so much.
"The whole Black Sox thing -
well I was innocent, Alex. The rest
of the guys, they got money. Me, I
got nothing, except one day by my
locker there was this box of crois-
sants. I ate those croissants and went
out and hit a home run that day.
Next thing I know, I'm in court in
the middle of this great big hulla-
baloo about fixing the series.
"All I did was eat a couple of
croissants, and they banish me from
baseball. No Hall of Fame, no
records, no .357 lifetime batting av-
erage... no nothing."
"Not anything," I said, correcting
my friend's bad grammar.
"Anyways Alex, I got some
friends who'd like to join us for
lunch from now on. Is that o.k.?" he
"Sure, as long as you don't bring
So it went, all sophomore year.
Every day I'd spend hours and hours
eating lunch with Shoeless Joe and
other old-time greats. My school
buddies would come by, but they
wouldn't see my new friends. They
didn't believe. But I knew they were
All was fine until junior year,
when I heard the voice again: "Ease
his pain." Ease whose pain? Who did
I hurt? I was stymied again.
Sitting in my Core I class one
day, writing the phrase out over and
over again on my copy of Paradise
Lost , it came to me - John Mil-
ton. I was to ease John Milton's
pain. But he was dead. Another im-
passe... until I had a dream.
In the dream I drive to Chicago
and take not John Milton, but Cubs
Broadcaster Harry Carry, to Vie De
France in Northbrook Court. We
both order croissant sandwiches, and
then I wake up.
Immediately I left for the Windy
City and found Caray loitering at
Wrigley Field. Wooing him into
sharing a lunch with me at the North
Shore's croissant capital was easy: I
told him they had beer.
Amidst the mothers and daughters
clutching Neiman-Marcus bags, we
settled down for lunch. "Go the dis-
tance, try the shrimp ziti salad," said
the voice again, but Harry heard it.
"Holy Cow! Alex, we have to go
back to Jacques and try that wide ar-
ray of salads they have and not forget
to wash it down with a cold Bud.
But first let me mention that Mr.
and Mrs. Rob Mantuse from De-
cataur, Illinois are eating lunch here
today," Harry struggled to say.
We hopped back into my Olds
Fierenza wagon and hightailed it
back to Ann Arbor. Harry pointed
out the entire trip how the names of
the towns would be pronounced
backwards: "Wap wap, Oozamalak,
Noibla, Robra nna."
Thankfully, we were back at
Jacques in no time and we could join
Joe and the gang for tubs of fruit
salad, sesame chicken salad, seafood
pasta salad, tuna twist salad, and
crunchy orzo salad.
There was only one trouble now
as I headed into my senior year. I
was deeply in debt from all my eat-
See Alex, Page 13
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Page 10 Weekend/October 20,1989
Weekend/October 2Q 1989