January 17, 2001

Maybe It's the Decade
of "The Ginger"

By Roy Rivenburg

The Anonymous Decade:Thomas Edison was way ahead of his time. In addition to inventing the light bulb, the phonograph and Spam, he correctly predicted that the 1950s would be nicknamed ''the Fifties'' and the 1960s would be dubbed ''the Sixties.''

He was wrong about the 1970s (he thought they'd be called ''Burt''), but he redeemed himself with a forecast that the last two decades of the century would be ''referred to as the Eighties and -- I'm going to go out on a limb here -- the Nineties.''

Sadly, Edison never applied his mathematical genius to the current decade. Today, 70 years after his death, commentators are still struggling to find a label for the early 2000s.

Suggestions have included the double-O's, the zilches, the preteens and the aughts, but so far nothing has stuck. In an online survey by teen.com, the most popular tag for the new decade was ''something else.''

This is chilling. When the realization sinks in that the decade might never be named, the U.S. economy will collapse.

The New Yugo?: Rumors are flying about a purported invention that promises to revolutionize life as we know it. Code-named Ginger, it is billed as a replacement for something that is ''dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating, especially for people in cities.''

Robots to replace the homeless? Self-deodorizing taxicabs? Diapers for pigeons? Details are under wraps, but those who have seen the contraption (including computer guru Steve Jobs and Amazon.com boss Jeff Bezos) are said to be astounded. The inventor, Dean Kamen, previously developed the portable dialysis machine and a stair-climbing wheelchair.

Theories about his new gizmo lean toward some sort of Jetson-esque transportation device -- a flying scooter or a personal jetpack. The Washington Post described Ginger as ''a wearable car.''

Then again, maybe it's a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer. Or perhaps it is powered by mules. Earlier this month in Yugoslavia, a mule train managed to outrun a helicopter and NATO troops. Whatever Ginger is, it can't possibly be more revolutionary than the following inventions, all 100 percent real:

  • The Last Supper Musical Pillow. Embroidered with Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, this $28 head cushion also features a wind-up musical component that plays the Beatles' ''Hey Jude.'' See it at ship-of-fools
  • Teflon socks. A New York company promises to eradicate blisters by taking nonstick technology out of the frying pan and into your feet.
  • The toilet bowl water dish. Tired of your dog drinking from the toilet? Lighterside.com has a solution: Canine water bowls that look like a toilet, complete with a working handle that triggers a ''realistic flushing sound.'' Price: $33.

    Inauguration Almanac: In honor of George W. Bush's swearing-in, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington ordered 600 chocolate cowboy boots.

    Press Releases and Scientific Papers We Ignored This Week: ''American Phytopathological Society: It's Flu Season for Houseplants Too'' and ''Altruism and Social Cheating in the Social Amoeba Dictyostelium Discoideum.''

    E = MC Hammer: A recent study of junior high school science textbooks uncovered a multitude of errors, including maps that show the equator passing through Tucson, Ariz., and a photo of singer Linda Ronstadt labeled as a silicon crystal.

    Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ''Lose 2 Pounds a Week on the Amazing Pie-A-Day Diet!'' (Weekly World News)

    Unpaid Informants: www.inside.com, U.S. News & World Report, Rachel Dunn, Associated Press, Wireless Flash News Service, PR Newswire, Annals of Improbable Research (www.improbable.com).

    Copyright © 2000 by Roy Rivenburg
    Distributed by Creators Syndicate