Duck Soup
OO, OO, EE, EE, Twokay, Twokay


George of the Jungle fans will remember the cry of the all-seeing Tookie-tookie bird. George, you must recall, was a maladroit Saturday morning Tarzan created in the twilight of the hand-drawn cartoon era by the same brilliant cadre that gave us Rocky and Bullwinkle and Peabody's Wayback machine. Those were kiddie shows in which adult content meant literary references and whimsical puns instead of pointless sex and even more pointless violence. Give me Boris Badenov and Dr. Chicago over Beavis and Butthead any day.

    What happened? And why am I telling you all this?

    Computers happened, of course, and that is precisely what we should have heard in the Tookie-tookie bird's warning wail. Computers took over the animation business and now churn out machine-perfect art with all the grace and elegance of a well-made sponge mop. The politically incorrect but magical and enduring Snow White has been supplanted by the vapidity of the Lion King, Aladdin and a hunchback completely cut off from his roots. If such latter-day cinematic sludge looks like a committee effort, the shoe fits.

    As machines have assumed dominance, staffing has ballooned. Disney says that feature- length cartoons which once required 100 employees now demand 600.

    And voila, instead of a good loaf to feed our souls, the result is video olestra -- nuggets guaranteed to slide through your brain while you don't gain a thing. Aladdin's only salvation was a massive transfusion from Robin Williams, whose mind dances a quantum jump ahead of the fastest cursors on Earth and resists committee control like wax under water.

    But enough digression. "Twokay twokay," what does it mean? The millennium, natch. Twokay is the year 2,000, the epochal rollover into never-never land, and the end of time for most microprocessors.

    As you have likely heard, twokay is a way big problem for little things like airlines and banks and traffic lights and Wall Street and governments and other systems that are not run by MacIntosh computers. It seems that far-thinking silicon designers saved a few bucks by using just the last two digits on dates. For many computers the year 2000 is equivalent to the year 1900 and they will work like Professor Peabody's Wayback machine. The electronic brains of the modern world will reboot the 20th century after Dec. 31, 1999.

    Who is to blame? Didn't someone know it would happen?

    Yes and no. Belief alters vision more than any of us likes to admit, and computer nerds are no exception. What the high priests of IBM, Intel, Microsoft and the rest won't confess is that they really don't believe the next century must inevitably arrive.

    Unlike other doomsday cults, they have an alternative to standing on top of Devil's Tower waiting for angels or aliens to take them home. Techies are convinced they can make this whole century happen again. Think how good the 1900s have been for the electronic entertainment conglomerates who own or control most of your trinket, information and food sources. Why should they take a chance on unknown territory?

    It is obvious that this is the real reason corporate heavyweights are trying to deep six Apple Computer. The renegade nerds who created the MacIntosh knew that this century belonged to Big Blue and had to believe the next epoch would be better.

    Like quick little mammals scurrying between dinosaur legs they sucked eggs and bided their time. No, they went one better, they depended on time and designed Scarlet O'Hara machines which knew there was always tomorrow.

    Now the four-digit dates on Macs threaten the lumbering giants' Wayback plan and the high-tech tyrannosaurs are not happy decampers. Their only hope is to kill off the warm-blooded little upstart before time runs out, to turn Apple into cyber cider.

    At the beginning of every George of the Jungle episode his graceful vine swing slammed into a palm trunk -- clearly a millennial metaphor: a tape loop of a century designed to repeat forever. Above it all rang the raucous warning, "Oo, oo, ee, ee, twokay, twokay!"

    Get a good grip on your grapevines, folks, and watch out for that tree.


    C.L. Bothwell III hails from the other Carolina. Duck Soup is served at 8:40 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday on WNCW 88.7FM Spindale, 100.7FM Charlotte, 95.5FM Beech Mountain,92.9FM Boone, NC, 97.3FM Greenville, SC, and 96.7FM Knoxville, TN.

© Copyright by POINT, 1997
Last modified 2/20/97