Thursday, 11 September 2008

I always knew it would be the Swiss who'd end the world. Or at least announce the exact timing of it with a loud 'Cuckoo!'

Despite the concerted efforts of hundreds of absurdly intelligent men and women in white coats - not to mention the bloke who soundtracked New Labour's 1997 rise to power (surely a sign of nascent evil genius) - ensconced for years in what sounds every bit like the ultimate underground lair of the ultimate Bond villain, it seems the world rather conspicuously failed to end yesterday.

Unless it did, of course, and I'm writing this from a rather disappointing ghostly afterimage of everything that no longer exists...*

Still, while the world may not have ended (or a new mini-universe been Big-Banged into existence somewhere beneath Switzerland), Esquire magazine brings news that my old foe 'reality' may not have escaped the goings on at CERN entirely unscathed: "The 21st Century Begins Now!", proclaims the front of its latest US edition.

The magazine's clinching evidence for this alarming glitch in the fabric of time?

Er, well, none. Except that stuck on the front of 100,000 of its 725,000 print run are some e-ink panels each stating quite definitely that "The 21st Century Begins Now!"; it's also Esquire's 75th birthday, which would indeed be a more impressive event if it could somehow coincide with the beginning of a new century - so why not wipe out eight years of history? They weren't exactly some of the better ones anyway.

But facetiousness aside, well, yes, I can certainly appreciate that the inclusion of e-ink panels in a magazine might indeed be a (small and badly trumpeted) herald of something new and exciting in publishing - see the afore-linked Guardian article for suggestions of what - or of magazine publishing, at least. The beginning of a new century, though? Or the re-beginning of an existing one?

If e-ink continues to be used solely as an advertising gimmick, it won't even be the beginning of a new century for magazine publishing, never mind a re-beginning of the actual century - readers will no doubt soon tire of the new novelty ads, and surely more readers (and more advertising revenue) would be attracted if e-ink was used to genuinely enhance their reading experience?

Incidentally, the only person who can possibly know what it must feel like to be the inventor of e-ink right now must be the guy who invented a tiny device for producing sound only to later have his birthday ruined when he heard the words "Lovely jubbly!" tinnily emanating from an unthinkingly sent Only Fools and Horses card. Unless that was his diabolical intention all the long.

So, if Esquire's declaration of the beginning (again) of this century can't possibly be a reference to its thus far mostly pointless use of e-ink, what was it prompted by?

As this post's title suggests, there can be only one explanation: reality as we know it is, after all, being subtly eroded by impossibly tiny things failing to get out of each other's way in a giant tin tunnel. In short, we are doomed. And it is now merely a matter of time.

Say 'Goodbye', then, to your loved ones, 'Good riddance' to your unloved ones, shrug 'Meh' at everyone else, and in the time you have left convert to as many religions as possible, just in case. Then just sit back, wait, and - if you can - take comfort: for if there has to be an apocalypse, and it appears there does, a nice tidy one accompanied by cow bells, Toblerone, and the scent of Alpine edelweiss probably won't be so bad.

At least, so long as there aren't any yodellers... [shudders].

*Don't worry, I'm not. As I write, things are neither shimmery nor spectral, nor fading mysteriously in and out of focus like you see in sci-fi films. Therefore, a) the world can't have ended, so this must be the exact same hand-me down, frequently soggy existence to which we've become grudgingly accustomed; and b) I'm clearly not drunk - at least one of which is a definite anticlimax.