Wednesday, July 27Somebody Must Have Stepped On A Butterfly.
This essay is about Time Travel. We must first, however, start at the beginning.
I didn’t have many talents as a child, but I did learn to read at an extremely young age. Thanks to the tireless urging of my parents, I remember going into Kindergarten already knowing how to read just about anything. To this day, relatives at family reunions will inevitably remark about how I was reading the local newspaper at age two, or reciting Pro Wrestling magazine articles verbatim before preschool. It’s something I never thought too much about, but I do suppose it’s a nice little achievement. I don’t recall a time where I didn’t know how to read; it was always just one of those things that brought a rotating cavalcade of counselors and ‘gifted class’ invitations to my doorstep back in the 80’s.
One of the first book collections that I ever obsessed over was the Berenstein Bears. Since 1962, over 260 Berenstein Bears books have been published, along with numerous television shows and video games. The Berenstein’s, an anthropomorphic bear family of four, taught me about not talking to strangers, minding my manners, budgeting my allowance and not throwing tantrums in supermarkets. The Berenstein Bears were good people, just trying to raise a family in a hollowed-out tree, just like everyone else.
Now, when I say I obsessed over the Berenstein Bears, I absolutely mean it. I got every book on the day it came out and read every one of them cover-to-cover, sometimes dozens in one night. When insomnia got the best of me, I would stay up all night counting the words in each book, literally disseminating every scrap of literature I could from within the page. The Berenstein Bears became a part of me in a way that not even the authors could have possibly predicted. They were my sanctuary, my confidant, my escape and my anxiety medication. The Berenstein Bears were my second family.
So imagine my brain-melting surprise when I turned on my television last week to see the Berenstain Bears looking back at me.
Berenstain, not Berenstein.
A quick dash to the Internet left me baffled. Apparently, the Berenstain Bears were always the Berenstain Bears; always written that way and always pronounced that way (‘stain,’ not ‘steen’). For the last 25 years, I had been incorrectly attributing a name to what I thought was a family I knew absolutely everything about. After all the books, all the memorization and all the obsessing, how on Earth could I have overlooked the fact that I’ve been reading and saying their name wrong for my entire life?
Surely, this had to be incorrect. I went to the Children’s section of the bookstore. All Berenstain. I traced the lineage of the book series back to 1962. All Berenstain. I even looked at old photographs of me reading the books. All Berenstain. It was like a cognitive blockade. I was wrong, and I had always been wrong, about the true identity of the Berenstain Bears.
I initially felt bad for myself, but only because of my egotism. I was never wrong about these sorts of things. I am always the guy that knows the correct name, pronunciation and spelling of everything. It’s something I take pride in, and a huge pet peeve of mine when I see others lacking it. More than anything, I was left really, really confused. This all seemed...wrong. Like my childhood had changed on me when I briefly had my back turned. Some sort of divine episode of Candid Camera.
Then, something interesting (to only me, perhaps) happened. I started talking to people my age about the Berenstain Bears. I made a point to A) Talk to people that read the books as a kid, but hadn’t really thought about them since, and B) Initially pronounced it ‘Berenstein’ as a way to see if they caught my error right off the bat. I didn’t think it was fair to talk to parents that now saw the books as part of their daily routine and could answer the question with the clear, present logic of an adult. I specifically wanted to see if the collective childhood experience of everyone from my generation was bizarrely shifted for one reason or another.
And you know what? Every single person I talked to was as baffled as I was. They were all certain, so damn certain, that it had always been the Berenstein Bears, even to the point of becoming sort of confused and frightened afterward (they almost always asked for proof). Weirdly, I was not the only one this had happened to.
How does something like this happen? How does a seemingly vivid childhood detail get incorrectly remembered by nearly everyone in the exact same way? Statistically, the odds were astronomical. There had to be some sort of explanation; some way this cosmic hiccup could be explained away.
Time Travel. Hang on tight.
My theory is this. At some point between the years 1986 and 2011, someone traveled back in time and inadvertently altered the timeline of human history so that the Berenstein Bears somehow became the Berenstain Bears. This is why everyone remembers the name incorrectly; it was Berenstein when we were kids, but at some point when we weren’t paying attention, someone went back in time and rippled our life experience ever so slightly. Perhaps other things have changed as well, but this is the only detail we’ve discovered so far.
We all know how the Butterfly Effect works. Someone travels back in time, being mindful to not break anything and alter the future as it’s supposed to play out. However, this person accidentally leaves a toolbox behind in the year 1410. Because of this, 1400’s technology rapidly evolves and advances faster than our known history dictates, so when our time traveler returns to 2011, he finds that the planet is significantly more futuristic than he remembers. Or perhaps when he was in 1410, he sneezed on someone, giving them a virus that no human was immune to in the 15th Century. He then returns to 2011 to find that he’s the last man on Earth, having wiped out the entire species 600 years ago with what we now think of as the common cold.
This is the only explanation I can surmise. At some point in the last 24 years, someone went back in time, spilled some ink on a piece of parchment, and permanently changed the last names of Stan and Jan Berenstain forever. Poof! The books changed, the photographs changed, the very text on every last page changed. The only thing that couldn’t be changed was our memory of how it was before the Incident occurred.
This is the only logical solution. Me being incorrect is unpossible.
Example #1 and Example #2. (NOTE: Links have gone dead over the years.) - I like these threads, because in each one, my theory that the titles changed at some point fits in with the claims of people swearing they had copies of the book where the name was spelled Berenstein (with no visual proof). I felt the same way; my brain had never been so photographically incorrect before. Something is afoot; there is only truth and credibility on Yahoo! Answers and websites about the dreadlocked lifestyle.
Example #3. (NOTE: Links have gone dead over the years.) - This is my favorite example. This dude proceeds to write a (not so) humorous blog post about the 'Jewish' nature of the bears' namesake, seemingly unaware that he's got the name totally wrong. Funnier still, the essay is woven around a half-dozen photos of the books, making him look like a complete dumbass in the process. My theory is that he wrote the essay before the Incident, only to return to his website to find that all of the images had changed on him to reflect our newly-altered Universe. I also surmise that this realization caused him to go insane and kill himself.
The only naysayer to this theory, so far, is the Missus. Every time it comes up (more often when I’m drunk), she gets extremely annoyed, proclaims my memory to be faulty and begs me to just shut up already so we can play Scrabble. She can’t stop the conversation fast enough, and even claims that she ‘always remembered it as Berenstain.’
This leads me to yet another airtight conclusion: My wife was the time traveler in question, futilely covering her tracks as to not be discovered. I have found you out, woman. You may have had a good run working as an intergalactic spy, but you weren’t going to fool me forever, Miss Reptile In Human Skin That Married Me So She Could Suckle My Marrow While I Slept. She thought she could shuttle back and forth through time without anyone noticing, and she did for awhile, but eventually slipped up and depended on the collective apathy of Generation X to doubt their childhood memories and overlook the ole’ Berenstein/Berenstain switcheroo. What she didn’t expect was that her husband, the man closest to her, happened to be a historian of the very book series she forever altered.
The jig is up, Skinwalker. I'm solving this mystery, and I want a divorce.
Monday, July 25CDP Wayback Machine - New World Lunatic Edition.
('The Conspiracy Starts Now.' - Originally published July 24, 2006.)
It was almost 100 degrees that day. I blame the government.
I had heard about Dundee's annual 'UFO Days' convention a few weeks prior, while scouring the internet for interesting places in Wisconsin to visit. Me and the Missus try to do this once every few weeks; get out of the house, visit some unincorporated shell of a town, eat grilled cheese and buy antiques.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that the 'UFO Capitol of the World' was less than 80 miles from my doorstep! To be fair, there were at least two other Wisconsin towns that proclaimed themselves 'UFO Capitol of the World;' I think someone needs to regulate that title a little more closely. Nonetheless, we packed the car and hit the road before 10am on Saturday.
Okay, this would normally be the point in the essay where I would get into how this convention wasn't even close to what I expected, but I'll let my notes speak for themselves. These are the blurbs I scribbled to myself on the way home, as to not forget what I had just witnessed. Take a look:
a) Expected something lighthearted and fun, did not deliver.
b) Heat index of +100 with no air-conditioning; people blamed the weather on a worldwide conspiracy to shut the convention down, seriously.
c) Main speaker guy looked just like Dale Gribble; initially thought he was kidding, was not.
d) Ranting old man was carrying around a Weekly World News; also not kidding.
e) Casual conversations about chips in your head abound.
f) Government-controlled weather. government-controlled weather.
g) New world order, concentration camps, aliens, George W. Bush, Jesus and the NWO.
h) Speaker mentioned in passing that someone was in telepathic contact with an alien.
i) Stuck around for a couple hours; got the hell outta there and didn't look back.
j) Had to leave rad alien mask in the car, didn't want to scare locals who were actually quite scared of aliens.
k) People had poor attitude; didn't like aliens and didn't welcome them. Sad, really.
Yeah, that's right. It was so hot in there that I went temporarily insane and drank a Budweiser. I hadn't been that oily since high school.
What I thought was going to be a fun and lighthearted romp concerning the UFO phenomenon more closely resembled a room full of folks suspicious and afraid of absolutely everything. As the speakers' allegations got more and more outlandish, the people around me just nodded more and more. Every few seconds, me and Missus exchanged glances as if to say, "Glad we brought the camera, nobody's going to freaking believe this."
I must say that for a few seconds, I was actually agreeing with what they had to say. For example:
Speaker: "All of these bad things are because of the Bush administration."
Me: "Yup, can't argue with that."
Speaker: "They want to make your lives miserable."
Me: "True 'dat. Preach on!"
Speaker: "They have a machine that controls the weather."
Me: "Where are my keys?"
Still don't believe me? I have some video I'd like you to take a peek at. I must warn you, however, you're going to forget what life was like before you watched this. I shot it myself:
So, what have we learned? To be honest, I don't really know. I still believe in the idea of UFO's, but I also believe in truckloads of medication to treat paranoid delusions.
Sound off in the comments section before I'm located and burned at the stake.