Friday, December 30, 2005

The Halfway Game

When my mind wanders, it occasionally comes to rest on the Halfway Game. I first read a newspaper or magazine article describing the game several years ago. It always changes my perspective on things, and the New Year is the perfect time to play it.

The game works like this: think of a landmark event in the past and then count back twice that number of years to see what the event was "halfway" to. For best effect, the second event should have some relevance to the first. For example, in 2006:

* The debut of the television series "Star Trek" 40 years ago (1966) is halfway to the release of Fritz Lang's classic silent science fiction film "Metropolis" 80 years ago (1926).

See? If you play it right, the Halfway Game has two salutary effects. First, if you're old enough to remember "Star Trek" you probably think of it as fairly modern and "Metropolis" as absolutely ancient. Now you have to make an unsettling mental adjustment: either "Star Trek" is half-ancient or "Metropolis" is half-modern. Second, I think the game instills a good gut feel for time's passage and, in this case, the pace at which science fiction and the film industry have changed as well. In any case, you feel old.

More, in reverse chronological order:

* Madonna's "Like a Virgin" (1985) is halfway to The Beatles' Ed Sullivan appearance (1964).

* The Stephen King novels "Pet Sematary" and "Christine" (1983) are halfway to Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960).

* The start of Ronald Reagan's first term (1981) is halfway to Dwight Eisenhower's second (1956).

* "Star Wars" (1977) is halfway to "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948).

* The memorable television season of 1973-74 ("All in the Family," "MASH," "Mary Tyler Moore," "Bob Newhart") is halfway to the first commercial television broadcast (1941).

* The beginning of the Apollo program (1966-67) is halfway to Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight (1927).

* John Kennedy's election (1960) is halfway to the start of World War I (1914).

* The debut of Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" (1950) is halfway to the debut of "The Yellow Kid" (1894), generally considered the first newspaper comic strip.

And finally: if you haven't already, double your birthdate and see what you are halfway to. And try to have something intelligent to say when a kid asks you what it was like being an eyewitness to history. Like it or not, you were. Happy New Year.


ronnie said...

Having been born in 1965, I am now halfway to 1924 -

- Walt Disney creates his first cartoon, "Alice in Wonderland".
- The Ottoman Empire is founded.

The Ottoman Empire, people.

I'm going to my room to cry now.


BrianFies said...

Ronnie, I was going to pat you sweetly on the head and point out that "Alice in Wonderland" wasn't made until 1951 and everyone knows that "Steamboat Willie" was Disney's first cartoon, until I remembered the whole series of "Alice" shorts he made in the '20s that mixed live action (Alice) with animation. Although none were titled "Alice in Wonderland" there was an "Alice's Wonderland" released in 1924...but it wasn't Disney's I'll give you 58% credit for it.

I'll take your word on the Ottoman Empire. And I'm older than you, so no sympathy from me.

Thanks as always!