The New Millennium

A thousand years ago life was not that dissimilar to today.

Oh, sure, technology has made a major impact on society; computers, airplanes, cars, telephones have all made the world smaller. Information is at our fingertips. Answers to almost any of life’s questions can be revealed in seconds by searching the Internet. But the same basic functions exist today, just in different forms. And perhaps merely sped up.

The great libraries of Alexandria and other legendary repositories of past knowledge pale in comparison to today’s modern libraries, used primarily by those immersed in academia as were the ancient equivalents. Weddings and other festivities in years past lasted one to two weeks, primarily due to the rigors of travel and the pitfalls of communication. Now, since everyone can travel so quickly, the ceremonies last a fleeting day. In the past, only scholars and learned professionals penned plays and other written records. Anyone with a few hundred bucks and an account at Barnes and Noble can create a bound published book for all the world to read. Today’s Toyotas and Hondas replaced yesterday’s horse and cart, their speed, convenience, endurance, and reliability making them indispensable. As a child in Germany, my mom and I walked to the local grocery store as needed, as opposed to now driving the gas-guzzler to the modern supermarket on a weekly basis. Even the supermarkets of today offer foods unheard of a thousand years ago.

Photo © Richard D. LeCour

But they all still have the same purpose and functionality, even thought the methodology has changed. You can still find farmer’s markets on the occasional weekend day, peddlers offering wares to weekly regulars, restaurants, and the odd tourist or two.

Next time you visit one of these open-air markets, picture a shift in time back a thousand years. Change the clothing, remove the cars, alter the façades of the buildings, and replace the pavement with grass, dirt, or cobbled stones.

You are transformed back in history a thousand years — where the musicians of today selling their CDs are the musical entertainers of the past; the ever-present earring-salesmen behind 21st-century, glass-covered display cases were once hawking their handcrafted wares from a rickety wooden cart. You can still see the same stray dogs, the bums looking for handouts, the street performers juggling flaming batons.

Our family is visiting Walt Disney World in Florida over the next two weeks. Instead of waiting for the traveling fair to come to us, modern “conveniences” have made it possible for us to go to them. The rides are safer, the food is cleaner, the sunscreen has been well applied. Those, coupled with the marketing frenzy pushing the icon that is Mickey Mouse, defines the modern festival experience. I myself brought my laptop computer as a carry-on item, now typing by the light of a USB keyboard light instead of the more traditional quill scratches on parchment by candlelight.

Spend some time today looking at your current surroundings. Then activate the mental time warp, hurtling yourself back a millennium. Odds are that if you can filter out the “improvements” of modern technology you’d see that you would probably fit right in unnoticed.

Those Stupid Americans

I recently stumbled upon an AOL-hosted web page from 1996 titled The Evil of Pippi Longstocking in which the author claims that Pippi is the Antichrist, the devil, an evil concoction dreamt up by Germans and Swedes to fill the power vacuum left by Hitler’s death. I have to assume that David Nagel’s purpose in publishing his rather idiotic theories were to drum up controversy and revenue from the traffic the angered hordes would bring.

I can’t argue against that motive because that’s precisely the idea behind Richard’s Ramblings — find something interesting or informative to write about, slightly twist it around if it’s fictional, gratuitously sex it up with a sprinkling of bøøbs, bosoms, and breasts (oh, my!), and dish out a few comments designed to heat up the conversation. The extra traffic should increase revenues from click-through ads. Millions of websites have the same revenue model, as do Fox News and Howard Stern.

None of that works without the other side of the equation — the visitors. And, boy, are David’s Swedish readers riled! The visiting Swedes (Sweden being the country of Pippi’s origin) let their opinions fly:

  • Another stupid American; the world is full of them!
  • You’re probably a stupid American åsshølë!
  • I wipe my åss with the American flag and spit in your face.

Being a citizen of the United States myself, I was curious as to the sentiment of others. So I decided to find some additional opinions by searching the Internet with Google, spelling left intact:

  • The only thing Americans can teach is how to corrupt countries and take their money. All Americans are is greety båstårds.” — I think countries have been corrupting themselves for thousands of years without the help of the United States. Also, most people worldwide work hard to better themselves and provide as much as possible for their families. Americans included. Yes, there are some really bad, greedy Americans that can ruin things for everyone, even on a global scale — but not everyone fits that description. Personally, I have no idea how to teach someone to corrupt an entire country.
  • Photo © / Michael Ciranni

    [The] US is the laughing stock of the world. American cars suck, American people are stupid, fat and ignorant, your technology sucks.” — Yes, spoken out of prejudice and ignorance, Americans can be conceived as being the laughing stock of the world. So would whichever country happens to be in the economic and military lead at the time.

    Some American cars do suck, but the Yugo hasn’t won too many awards that I’m aware of. Interestingly, when I lived in Germany as a child, the fantasy car of choice by most Germans was a Pontiac — not a Mercedes or Porsche. I never understood that.

    This 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air — the big yellow thing under the half-naked, non-fat girl, who herself was created in the United States — was made possible by the first mass-produced automobile perfected by Henry Ford in 1896. As, too, were headlights (on the car, not the model) by Horatio Allen in 1831, polarizing sunglasses (sunglasses invented by Sam Foster (Foster Grants) in 1929, and polarization by Edwin Land (Polaroid) in 1932), and the digital camera used to take the picture by Kodak in 1975.

    You’re probably viewing the picture on either a personal computer (thanks to IBM in 1981) or a cellular phone (Motorola in 1973) over the Internet (sometime between 1960 and 1995, depending on your definition).

    American scientists at Dow Corning invented the first silicone breast implants in 1961. The bikini, however, is French, and the fingernail polish is of Chinese origin.

    Sadly, according to the OECD, the United States does lead the developing world in obesity rates, followed by Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Finland. The WHO also includes United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait in their fattest countries list. And, yes, some Americans are a combination of stupid, fat, and ignorant. So are some members of any other country in the world.

    If Microsoft products are used as the sole measurement of our technology, then, yes, it sucks. But I haven’t seen any other countries that provide the number of major innovations that have stemmed from America in the last hundred years. That the Swedes could read David’s diatribe on the Internet at all is thanks to the United States.

  • Americans are full of shìt. ignorant, yet stuppied people. they are bvery norrow minded and veyr materiolistic.” — I already agreed that sum Amurikanz ar bvery stuppied. But not all; the first spell checking software was invented at UC Berkeley in 1972 — by an American.
  • You have a handful of smart and educated people who drive the country, and then you have this humongous blob of utterly clueless people who are hardly able to make a living.” — Can’t really argue with that. But, again, the same can be said for every other country.
  • You are all non-sensical inbred morons.” — Actually I don’t personally know anyone who is the result of inbreeding in the United States, although it may be common in certain areas of the country such as Tennessee (pronounced “Ken-tuck-ee”, if you’re from Tennesee). You think inbreeding didn’t occur within the European and Asian royals of the past? The Spanish Habsburgs died out due to inbreeding. Consanguineous marriages were also common in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and India, and 20-25% of marriages within many Muslim and Hindu societies are between first cousins.
  • Americans are generally loud and stupid.” — Yeah, I hate American tourists, too. Again, I’d qualify that as “some”, rather than generalizing the population as a whole.
  • U.S.A is the biggest shìt hølë.” — According to Google, it seems that people all over the world are calling just about every country on the planet the “biggest shìt hølë”. And half of them claim that wherever they’re living now is the world’s biggest shìt hølë. I say we just all take a vote and decide once and for all. That’s the democratic way.
  • I thank God that I’m not a stupid åss-fûçkìng American.” — I thank God I’m not a stupid åss-fûçkìng American either. I can’t understand people’s obsession with anal sex. Sorry, I’m not into that. I’m just a regular American of above-average intelligence, eking out a living, trying to fulfill the dreams of my family.

I’d rather be considered a stupid American than have to resort to pointless name-calling in a vain attempt to gain national stature. I am hardly a Bible-toting, born-again Christian, but I find it difficult to disagree with these Proverbs:

“The proud and haughty man, ‘scoffer’ is his name; He works in the arrogance of pride… When pride comes, then comes shame, But with humility comes wisdom.”

Don’t lump every citizen of a country together under a single label; it just makes you look stupid.

Alcohol Served in Disneyland

Since before I was born (and very likely long before you were born), Disneyland has been serving up alcoholic drinks and offering exclusive gourmet dining in its well-known family-oriented themepark. Surprised?

Photo © Disney

Smack in the middle of New Orleans Square, right next to the entrance to the Blue Bayou restaurant, is a mysterious door with an ornamental “33” to its right. Without a $20,000 corporate sponsorship or a $7,500 individual membership, along with $2,250 in annual dues, you will not be allowed to step inside the doorway to the elegant Club 33. Unless, of course, you have a well-to-do or well-connected friend who himself is a member.

“I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.” — Walt Disney

Glancing upward, the ornate iron railings and picturesque flower arrangements on the second-story 19th-century New Orleans French Quarter-style balcony give no clues that inside is a private adult club adorned with original works of Disney artists, Napoleonic furnishings, glimmering chandeliers, fresh flowers, parquet floors, and antique bronzes.

Walt Disney envisioned this secluded haven as a special place where he could entertain visiting dignitaries and others where “superb cuisine and distinctive decor would complement one another.” Many of the antiques on display were selected by Walt himself during frequent trips to New Orleans. It took years for his original idea to come to fruition, and unfortunately he died five months before its grand opening in May of 1967.

One of membership’s most intriguing perks is permission to ride in “Lilly Belle”, Walt’s private and luxurious rail car, the only caboose on the four trains that circumnavigate the park.

Thrills: 0. But, coolness factor: a definitive 10.

Don’t think you can rush right out and charge up one of these memberships on your American Express Platinum card. The current waiting list is approximately two to three years.


It is reported that as of 2011, the wait for membership may be as long as 14 years. Corporate members pay an initiation fee of $27,500, while individual members pay $10,000 — in addition to annual dues, which are about $6,100 or $3,500, respectively.