Futurists predict we'll trade the real thing for virtual reality


January 09, 1995|By DAN RADRICKS

The Bethesda-based World Future Society marked the new year with its most thought-provoking forecasts for 1995 and beyond, among them: "Virtual reality experiences may lead to personality afflictions that will send people to psychiatrists. People may forgo their 'real' identities for the perfect bodies created in the world of virtual reality." Life as Super Mario. I can't wait.

Arnick on emissions

Regarding Maryland's new auto emissions test -- you know, the one that requires state employees to actually touch a guy's car -- Del. John Arnick says: "I've gotten more messages on this thing than any issue since I've been in political office." I'll bet. We haven't heard a clamor like this since Arnick was forced to withdraw as a nominee for a District Court judgeship.

Accepting the unacceptable

Which reminds me: Arnick withdrew as a judicial nominee after a lobbyist reported his crude and disparaging comments about women in general and battered women in particular. According to General Assembly testimony, Arnick used the same word to describe female lobbyists that Newt Gingrich, by his mother's whispered account, used to describe first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. But it appears use of that word does not, by itself, condemn a public man. Arnick lost his judgeship but, within less than two years, loyal voters of Dundalk (presumably both men and women) elected him back into the Maryland House of Delegates. Gingrich is still Speaker of the House of Representatives (and 47 percent of Americans in a Time/CNN poll said Connie Chung should apologize to Newt's mother for televising her remark on CBS). Last week, a prominent pundit -- a man, I should point out -- stated that the word has lost its offensive impact, "possibly from overuse." If that's the case, one might trace this usage/overuse/acceptance back to 1975, just the morning after the dawn of modern feminism, when Gilda Radner spewed the epithet at Jane Curtin on "Saturday Night Live." And later, Sigourney Weaver used it to describe the mama monster in one of the "Alien" films. Given the cultural ambiguities, I guess this is -- what? -- another vulgarity we no longer consider vulgar? Another allowance in the wrestling match over political correctness? Chung's solicitation of the comment from Newt's ma was bad form. But had Newt called Hillary this word outright -- 51 percent in the Time/CNN poll believe the speaker "too often says improper things" -- one wonders whether it would have made any difference. Doesn't look like it would. Marion Barry used the word, most memorably, to describe Rasheeda Moore when he was busted by narcs in a hotel room a few years ago, and he's been excused for all infractions, major and minor. He's the mayor of the District of Columbia again. Snoop Doggy Dogg uses the word as a noun, a verb, a preposition, a definite article, and when he's not in court facing criminal charges, he's a chart-topping rap star. So we have progressed. We have learned to accept what was unacceptable. Who says American civilization is in decline?

No lights, no helmets, no brains

Spotted, more than once, at night on the Jones Falls Expressway, near the Maryland Avenue exit: Three young boys on bikes, no lights, no helmets, cycling north on southbound shoulder as if they were cruising along a sidewalk at high noon. Where are the brains? Where are the parents? Where are the cops? . . . Sign on Fallsway, near Maryland Penitentiary: "$ For Schools Not 4 Prisons." That's not exactly the sentiment in the "Contract With America," is it? . . . Bumper sticker spotted in Baltimore: "Re-Elect Clinton/Gore -- and their husbands, too." . . . Gripe of the Month: This one goes to supermarkets and produce suppliers for a bit of point-of-purchase marketing we don't need -- the little stickers on every single Red Delicious and Granny Smith apple in the bin. Besides annoyance, what's the point?

'Swanky Frankie'

A deli in downtown Westminster had a special the other day called a "Swanky Frankie," consisting of "a kosher hot dog stuffed with CHEESE and wrapped in BACON." Of course, last I heard, keeping kosher meant never having meat and dairy in the same meal. (And never mind the bacon bit.) But, in Carroll County, not too many know from kosher.

Love that Jell-O

I love green Jell-O. Some people love it so much they could just wrestle in it. So I see where such an event is scheduled for Atholton High School in Columbia Saturday night at 7:30. Boys against boys, girls against girls, and the faculty match features Lee Stevens, band director, against Neil Steen, math teacher. Tickets are $5. Sounds like a smile.

Desperation marketing

Baseball card collectors are starting to panic because of the devaluation of their collections as a result of the major league strike. The Wal-Mart in Abingdon, overstocked with the remains of last year's baseball cards, has come up with a marketing theme that gets the Silk-Purse-From-A-Sow's-Ear Award. Over a display hawking the leftover cards hangs a sign billing 1994 as: "Historic Season . . . The Season That Never Ended." Give us a break.

Free on bail

A reference in Friday's column to Nathaniel Hurt suggested that he's in jail awaiting trial in the shooting death last fall of 13-year-old Vernon Holmes. Hurt is actually free on $200,000 bail. Last we heard, his trial was set for March.

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