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Social networking services like Twitter and Facebook have served to reacquaint millions of old friends and family members. It’s like a perpetual high school and family reunion out there. For good or ill, many of us are now permanently in touch with everyone we’ve ever known.


It got us to thinking: What if Twitter were invented 100 years ago? And what if other technological and conceptual discoveries were made earlier in history? 15 Second Theater explores the possibilities…


15 Second Theater Presents
If Twitter Were Invented in 1909


JASPER and CONSTANCE GUNDERSON, Carolina homesteaders, sit on the porch of their modest farmhouse. A CARRIER PIGEON alights upon the rail. JASPER removes from the bird’s leg a rolled-up sheet of parchment.


CONSTANCE: What news is this?


JASPER: My dear, you will be astounded! You remember those fellows from merry Frisco, with whom I matriculated at the Agricultural College? Well, we correspond by carrier pigeon, you see. It allows us, after a fashion, to remain intimately acquainted, even as we have settled variously across the land.


Why, with the speed of the racing pigeons, we are practically neighbours again! We can exchange correspondence within the span of a fortnight, provided the missive is succinct and epigrammatic. In honor of the birds, we call it “twittering”.


CONSTANCE: Splendid, my dear! And what does the missive say?


JASPER: See for your-self!


CONSTANCE: (reading) “@Jasper: FYI UR a noob PITA!! JKBF! luv ya - Thaddeus”


JASPER: Oh-ho! A touch, I do declare it!


FINI


15 Second Theater Presents
If the Concept of “Zero” Were Known to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs


AAMON, an elderly Egyptian slave laborer, returns to his mud brick hovel after a long day hauling stones atop a pyramid. A fellow slave, IMHOTEP, busies himself over mortar and pestle.


IMHOTEP: Aamon, my friend! How go your labors?


AAMON: Good tidings, Imhotep. Today I received my first paycheck! We all did! The Pharaoh, in his infinite compassion, has taken mercy on us!


IMHOTEP: What is a “paycheck”?


AAMON: Well, from what I’m told, it entitles us an abstract numerical quantity of a certain value which can then be exchanged for goods and services.


IMHOTEP: Oh. Well that sounds all right. Open it up!


AAMON opens his paycheck. A pause…


AAMON: What the f-


FINI


15 Second Theater Presents
If the Blackberry 9500 Hit Stores Prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis


PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY sits behind his desk in the Oval Office, hunched over a small consumer electronic device. He giggles. Suddenly, the door bursts open and U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ROBERT F. KENNEDY enters the room.


RFK: Jack! Jack! You’ve got to get downstairs right now! EXCOMM is holding an emergency meeting—the Soviets are ignoring the blockade!


JFK: Just a minute, Bobby. I’m texting those stewardesses we met on the Brazil trip.


RFK: Jack, listen to me! This is serious! We’re at DEFCON 2! The Chiefs have wired the radar bases directly to NORAD!


JFK: Hee, hee—oh, such a naughty girl…


RFK: Goddamit, Jack, put that thing down!


JFK: She’s asking about you, Bobby. [pause]. Wow, read this—is that even anatomically possible?


RFK stomps around to the front of the desk and pulls the President up by his lapels. The President barely seems to notice as he continues texting.


RFK: Jack! Snap out of it! The U2 photos show they’ve already fueled the missiles! Cuba has fired SAMs at our recon planes! Troops are massing on the Berlin border! We have to do something!


JFK: Hmm, how do you spell “ménage”?


RFK grabs the Blackberry and slams it to the ground. Just then, a blinding flash of light illuminates the room from the outside window.


JFK: Uh-oh….


FINI

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


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