Time Travel For Fun And Profit

By: Benjamin C. Thornton

Is a trip back in time in your future? Here are some helpful tips for today’s savvy inter-temporal travellers:

* Dress appropriately. Layered clothing can help keep you comfortable through sudden changes in weather, like ice ages. Also, if you’re going way back, bring some decent sunglasses for The Big Bang.

* Watch out for a caveman named Zog. His father discovered the magic of fire. Zog discovered the magic of gouging people’s eyes out with a sharp rock.

* Bring local currency. Confederate money, bison pelts, wampum, Spanish pieces-of-eight, or POGs can usually be obtained at your local antique store.

* Buy stock in IBM, Berkshire Hathaway, and maybe Ford. Don’t buy stock in AOL, New Coke, or Glass Tiger merchandise manufacturers.

* Invent the internal-combustion engine, the Post-It note, or the Internet. Or, if not so technically inclined, the ruler.

* If you happen to be in Pompeii in the summer of 79 A.D., get the hell out. And don’t go to Herculaneum, either, unless you want to end up as that fossilized corpse inexplicably wearing a Timex Ironman.

* An ancient-Latin phrase book can be very helpful for asking questions like, “When is the next boat out of Pompeii?”

* Study astronomical tables so that if captured by vicious natives in a distant land you might be able to predict an eclipse, thereby convincing them that you have extinguished the Sun and the gods would be very angry if you were killed. (Note: only works if captured on day of eclipse.)

* The Powerball numbers for June 2, 1993 were 5-16-21-24-29-36-42. Keep that under your hat.

* Be sure to check out the natural beauty of North America back before the arrival of the white man: virgin forests, unpolluted lakes and rivers, and, echoing across the plains, the thunder of stampeding unicorns.

* If you see Jesus hanging from a cross, leave him there. He needs to die to save humanity from its sins. If you see Jesus walking around, tackle him and strangle him with your bare hands.

* Many a friendly wager can be won by predicting the end of Twilight Zone episodes, like the one where the girl is recovering from plastic surgery and when they remove the bandages she’s beautiful, but all the doctors and nurses think she’s ugly because they have pig snouts. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, see.

* If you happen to find yourself in the Shangri-la Buffet in Las Vegas on the night of May 15, 1987, DO NOT try the clams. Instead, just hang around outside and hail a cab. Ask some showgirls “When is the next boat out of Pompeii?” while you’re waiting, just for laughs.

* Visit Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865, to catch a performance of Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, featuring the delightfully foppish Lord Dundreary. Also, you can witness the assassination of Abraham Lincoln — but don’t interfere! Otherwise, Andrew Johnson would never have been president. Think of the alternate-reality nightmare that would have been.

* IMPORTANT! Don’t kill your grandparents.


The Death Of Irony

By: Benjamin C. Thornton

The body of Michael Robert Irony was discovered yesterday morning in a deep ditch near the intersection of Main and Fate Streets, bringing an end to the massive search and rescue effort that had taken place over the last 36 hours. Investigators believe that Irony was struck by an ambulance while jogging.

A preliminary report released by the county medical examiner suggests that Irony survived the initial accident for perhaps as long as a full day while officials and volunteers scoured the area where his remains were eventually discovered. The tracks of one bloodhound used in the search were discovered to have led to within six feet of the body before veering off, apparently in pursuit of a passing squirrel.

Irony was reported missing Sunday night after he failed to appear at a surprise party celebrating the opening of the fifth outlet of his business. Irony was the founder and president of The Invincible Man Inc., a chain of full-service centers offering fitness programs and equipment, nutritional services, survival training, and martial-arts classes.

Police have not yet determined if charges will be pressed against the paramedic driving the ambulance at the time of the accident. The driver and his partner were returning from Safety Week events at City Hall when a bee entered the vehicle’s open window. The driver, who is allergic to bee stings, momentarily took his attention off the road and swerved onto the sidewalk. Neither he nor his partner realized that they had struck anything except the curb.

Michael Robert Irony was 39, exactly half of his predicted life expectancy. A memorial service will be held at the Oak Glen Calvinist Church this Saturday at 10 a.m. Interment will follow in the Irony family crypt.

The crypt was last opened exactly ten years ago for the burial of Michael’s father, police sergeant John Vincent Irony. Sgt. Irony was killed in the line of duty taking a bullet meant for his partner, Detective Striker O’Toole. The veteran sergeant was only three days short of retirement.

The crypt also holds the remains of other notable Irony family members such as William Irony, the Titanic survivor who slipped off the gangplank of the rescue vessel that brought him safely to New York, and Private Henry Irony, killed in the trenches of France, one minute after the armistice ending the First World War was signed.

All are, or were, direct descendents of the man historians consider the patriarch of the Irony clan: Dr. Nathaniel Irony (1715-1776), the English theorist, philosopher, inventor, and writer. Dr. Irony was most famous for his three-volume opus The Theories and Practise of Applicable Certainty, or, How One Might Use the Words of the English Language to Express an Idea That Is Exactly Similar to the Literal Meaning of Those Words, without Contrast, Incongruity, or Unintended Consequences, Be They Humorous or of a Tragic Nature.

A seminal work in its time, Applicable Certainty attracted the attention of many of the world’s greatest intellectuals. The in-depth examination even inspired Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) to begin work on compiling a list of English words and their meanings, an endeavor that grew into his famous Dictionary of the English Language. Irony and Johnson became close colleagues and confidants, writing to each other for the rest of their lives.

In 1776, while studying the word “inflammable,” Irony dropped a match among the many papers strewn upon his desk and caused a great fire that consumed him and his life’s work. Upon hearing the tragic news, Johnson decided to memorialize his friend in his Dictionary and give all royalties and proceeds in perpetuity to the Irony family. On January 3, 1777, he made these entries in his journal:

“To be added to the Dict. At Once: Irony, a noun, the condition of an Exactitude of intention and a Precision of Understanding of a Word, or phrase, or Circumstance, whether literary or otherwise; an unchangeable meaning as if cast in Iron.”

“Silas [Johnson’s secretary] is gone again and unaccounted for. I must be wary. I could have sworn before God and King I had four farthings in the Pocket of my Scarlet waistcoat, but now I find but Two. Treachery. Also my Golden snuff box is not to be found. Nor is the silver cannister from my bedside wherein I keep the sheaths for the lesser Dr. Johnson so that he may be Protected whilst having Relations with a Woman and not catch the Pox.”

Two months later, Johnson’s secretary Silas Hogan was convicted of theft and transported to the penal colonies in Australia. Meanwhile, Johnson’s new secretary, not yet familiar with his employer’s handwriting, sent Widow Irony the butcher’s bill for Johnson’s meat pies, replaced the Dictionary entry for “irony” with a definition Johnson had quickly drafted as a gag for an acquaintance named John Spooky, and arranged for all royalties and proceeds from the Dictionary to go, in perpetuity, to a man who had once courted Johnson’s sister, a Mr. Simon Luckey-Bastard.