...the Journal

Refrigerator Door

This is another of the magnets Peggy and I bought when we visited the San Diego Zoo.

Alien abductions
Most people will never have the pleasure of being abducted by aliens. This sad but true fact is the basis for Alien Abductions, Inc., which specializes in reproducing alien abductions to the most exacting detail. Doctors, hypnotists, and memory implant technicians collaborate to help customize your abduction experience. View a map of the Alien Abductions Research Facility and Spa. Read through the many customer testimonials. To find out how likely an actual abduction might be, test your abduction quotient on The Abductalizer (the Ross Perot question is optional). So why wait for those rascally aliens to decide if you've been naughty or nice' Alien Abductions can do it just as well and without all the annoying probes.

Alien messages
And now that you know all about abductions, perhaps you'd like to take Marn's suggestion and check out the SETI website and do your own search for intelligent life in the universe.

I am a theatre critic

OK...so it's a new "career", but if you're interested in reading my reviews, go here


House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III

Lynn left this book for me; I'd just seen a discussion on Oprah about it and was anxious to read it.

That's it for today!


February 5, 2001

They don't make cracker jack prizes like they used to. That used to be one of the best parts about buying a box of cracker jack -- rooting around inside looking for the prize. It could be a whistle or a little figure or a book or something else. Now all of these things are recognized as hazards, so I don't even know what they're using for prizes these days.

But when I was a kid there was a certain magic about special prizes like this. You had to work for the prize. You would eat through the box of popcorn, or the box of cereal until you finally got to that all important prize.

The problem with the prizes, though, was they never quite turned out to be the way they were advertised.

I remember sending away for a Lone Ranger "kit" of some sort. I have only a vague memory of it now, but it was supposed to be this very special thing and when it came it was a plastic bullet-shaped object that broke soon after I got it.

Likewise the decoder ring I ordered was just a cheap piece of plastic jewelry (what did I expect for 25 cents') and soon discarded.

We were new to the age of television and watched Winky Dink and You each afternoon. The gimmick on Winky Dink was that he would give you clues--I'm not sure what the clues were for. Maybe they were secret messages, not clues. But you had to have this special screen in order to understand them.

I saved my money and went off to the television station to buy my Winky Dink kit. It consisted of a plastic film that you stuck on the TV monitor, and some crayons. When the first part of the message came, you took the crayon and traced it on the plastic sheet. Then when the second part of the message came, it turned those lines and squiggles on the plastic into actual letters. You had your message.

It really was just a cheap trick. But there was magic in pretending.

I remember when Ned was little and he read a Charles Atlas ad in the back of a comic book. Charles Atlas could build strong muscles on that little body and all he had to do was send in the money. Ned was so excited. We tried hard not to discourage him and we helped him send away for whatever it was that he needed to get. As he waited for the package to arrive, he believed so strongly that it held the answer to all his problems. He would magically become the person he dreamed of being and the kids at school would respect him at long last.

In due time he did receive whatever it was that Charles Atlas (who was probably dead at the time!) promised to send, only of course it was not what Ned expected and after the first rush of enthusiasm, he realized that it wasn't going to change him the way he thought it was, and it went the way of all things, discarded.

The whole infomercial industry is built on the cracker jack fantasy that what's inside the special prize box is going to change our lives, make us stronger, thinner, more beautiful, more efficient, more desirable, cleaner, or turn us into gourmet chefs overnight.

We are mesmirized by the whole idea of what this one special thing can do for us, and when the product is finally delivered, we discover that it wasn't at all what we expected and it ends up taking up room on a shelf, unused. (Ever try that crazy "onion blossom" thing' I have always been intrigued, but never bought it. Someone gave me one and it's the dumbest thing you've ever seen. And it doesn't work at all.)

Only once did anything like that ever meet up with my expectations. As a kid, I dreamed of owning one of those really fancy dolls. The beautiful kind with wonderful hair and beautiful eyes and gorgeous clothes. The dolls I always had were baby dolls, or utilitarian dolls (I was pre-Barbie). But one day I saw her. Just exactly what I wanted. She was tall and slender and beautifully dressed and I fell in love.

I saved my money to send away for the doll and when it arrived, it was exactly what I hoped for. This was the real thing. I loved that doll. And I treated it very carefully to insure that I wouldn't spoil her or lose her.

I guess we'll always believe in fantasy. Once in a while the prize in the package lives up to its promise. It's like the intermittent reward that one gets when playing the slot machine. So much goes down the drain in unfulfilled promises, but every now and then you hit the jackpot.

The trick is not to lose the prize once you've won it.

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Created 2/2/01 by Bev Sykes


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