MAD DOG: Burying The Past

As humans, we have a natural urge to want to make our mark and be remembered in future generations. This is why the Pharaohs built the pyramids, Shah Jehan built the Taj Mahal, and Kevin Costner made Waterworld and the Postman. Okay, so some people have a better understanding of what will stand the test of time than others. Now, with the dawning of the -- let's all say this together! -- new millennium, people are trying to preserve the present as a gift to the future by stashing things in time capsules like there's no tomorrow. Actually, if there was no tomorrow there wouldn't be a need to do this in the first place, but that's another story.Since we all firmly believe in the Official Slogan of the 90's, "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing", we've gone a little nuts with this. Like to the tune of 10,000 time capsules which have been buried in the past year. To put that in perspective, that's 5,000 for every man, woman, and child that gives a rat's ass.The reason people bury things is simple: to document their life and times. This is in stark contrast to dogs, squirrels, and Jimmy Hoffa's murderer who all bury things in the hopes they won't be found by others. And what are people burying? Among other things they've filled capsules with parking tickets, Furbies, a six-pack of Budweiser, a Glock 9mm automatic (complete with bullets), the script to Eddie Murphy's "Holy Man", and a pair of Super Bowl tickets. Now what are the people who dig these up years from now supposed to think about our lives, that we're drunk outlaws with insipid mechanical pets who watch bad movies and pay big bucks to see grown men get concussions? I don't know about you, but I really don't think this is the way I want my life to be remembered. Of course, we may not actually have to worry about this since most time capsules are never seen again. In Corona, California they've buried 17 of them since 1930 and they haven't found a single one of them. In 1976 President Gerald Ford helped bury 22 million signatures that were collected by the Bicentennial Wagon Train and they're nowhere to be found. It turns out someone stole the capsule. And in 1983 20th Century Fox buried a container filled with M*A*S*H memorabilia, only to have the site paved over. Or possibly have a hotel built on top of it. They're not sure.But the days of lost historical mementos may be over thanks to the International Time Capsule Society (motto: "Take one and call me in the morning"). They've set up an online registry so future generations will know exactly where and when to dig up each capsule. This is a great idea and has a lot of people listing their capsules at the site. The only problem is it relies on the Society's website not only existing years from now, but working, something anyone who tried to shop online this past Christmas knows is about as likely as there being a Richard Simmons, Jr. Despite their long-term image, most time capsules are only meant to sit for 20 or 30 years before being unearthed, though there are some with a much longer shelf life. The one Westinghouse buried at the New York World's Fair in 1938 is supposed to remain sealed until the year 5,001. Of course, "supposed to" is the key phrase since it means surviving Y3K, Y4K, and Y5K. Not the capsule, I'm sure it will be fine. It's us surviving the media onslaughts that worries me.But the Mother of all Time Capsules may be the one at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta (motto: "With a name like ours, it has to be good") which is maintained by the International Time Capsule Society. This 20-foot long "Crypt of Civilization" was hermetically sealed in 1940 and isn't scheduled to be opened until 8113, which will make it a whopping 6173 years old. That's a long time. Hell, that's almost the estimated half-life of a package of Hostess Snowballs.To those of you who are still thinking abut burying time capsules, I say do it. Gather up things around the house, throw them in a container, and bury it in the backyard under lots of dirt. I figure if nothing else it will help us get rid of a lot of things that have been driving us crazy. I say bury the Beanie Babies, every ugly supposedly collectable one of them. Bury Pamela Anderson Lee's breasts. Bury the Starr Report. Toss Furbies, Pokémon, those obnoxious dot-com TV ads, and people who talk on their cell phones in restaurants and movie theaters in a great big time capsule and bury it deep at the Earth's core. And please, for god's sake, bury that infernal Kenny G "Auld Lang Syne'" piece of crap and do it now so I don't have to hear it for the 0.0027 seconds it takes me to slam the OFF button on the radio.Do it now! And do not -- I repeat, do not! -- list it at the International Time Capsule Society's website. Trust me, we don't want to wish that stuff on anyone anytime anywhere.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close