Dumb and dumber
'Our Dumb Century'
April 1, 1999
(CNN) -- The editors of "The Onion" bills it as one of the most popular humor publications in the world, and they're probably right. Misinforming readers each week with unique social satire both in print and online is their specialty, all done from remote offices hidden in Madison, Wisconsin. Now the editors of "The Onion" take on all those stuffed-shirts out there who think stuff should be ranked by importance just because it's the end of a century. "We can do that, too," they said, and they did, with "Our Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years of Headlines".
It is with a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment that I look back upon this great Twentieth Century of ours and say that The Onion news-paper was able to document and, to a great extent, shape this wondrous time in human history, as this fine tome demonstrates.
As of this writing, I am almost 132 years old. I edited and published The Onion from 1896 until 1958, when my court-ordered retirement forced me into the medical wing of my 648-room estate in the East, with only my pudding-headed nurse-maid and my iron lung to keep me company. O, how I so yearn to relive my heady hey-day! The Onion was my very life, and I loved it more than any woman or fine buggy. I'm a news-paper-man to the very core! Printer's ink flows through my veins! For it is the right of every citizen of our great American Republic to be told what is going on about them, and it is the sacred duty of The Onion to tell it to them.
It all began in 1756. Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel, an immigrant tuber-farmer from Prussia, shrewdly bartered a sack of yams for a second-hand printing press and, according to legend, named his fledgling news-paper The Mercantile-Onion after the only words of English that he knew. The earliest existing Mercantile-Onion dates from 1765.
We know not what happened in the years 1774 to 1837, because little record exists from this time in U.S. history. It is widely assumed that the American Colonies fought for and won independence from their wicked oppressors, the Tartars, and that our Founding Fathers established what we know today as the Great Republic Of The American States. I also believe that the cotton-gin was invented arourid this time.
I am getting very tired and wish to take a nap. This is the problem with books. I myself don't believe in them. I once tried to read a book by an English fellow named Dickens, and, after a few pages, I cast the thing into the fireplace in great disgust. I'm a news-paper-man, damn it! Come to the point with me, sir, or take your business elsewhere! I want the plain, hard facts, not who kissed Lady Beverly behind the wisteria bush! All these words, they numb the soul.
Herman Ulysses Zweibel, my father and the grand-son of the founder, took the reins in 1850, and I grew up under his astute tutelage. Upon my father's death in 1896, I assumed the editorship, and although reverent of my father's great memory, I wished to modernize the news-paper a bit. Rechristening it The Onion, I moved the operations to the bustling new industrial metropolis whose name I forget, but it was an electric place where the smell of rancid cow entrails and human feces intermingled in a distinct aroma that invigorated the spirit. As I look back, I realize that these were the golden years of The Onion. I was in the very bloom of youth, and, with our ever-growing profits, increasing prestige, and strategic garrotings of various rivals in the news-paper trade, we stood poised at the brink of the Twentieth Century, ready to take it on and make it our own.
I only wish I could remember the Twentieth Century. It starts to get a little hazy after 1912. But I've been assured that it was quite eventful. For example, there were several wars in Europe, something I wholeheartedly endorse. Goddamn Europeans, with their leathern short-pants and their wooden-shoes and their keeping of billy-goats upon the roofs of their houses. To hell with them all, I say -- they deserve one another! I have also been informed that, during this century, music and the sound of the human voice has been captured, stored, and conveyed in lacquered boxes fired with the electrical-power. This intrigues me, but I can see how listening to the spoken words of others could very quickly become vexing and tiresome. I believe I will stick to my favorite past-time of lapsing into a coma every now and again.
I have also been told that not only does The Onion news-paper still thrive to this very day; it is still published by my distant descendants in the Zweibel clan. They're lousing it up, too! The last time I saw The Onion, I was so furious, I had to be administered laudanum. Do you realize there is now a section in The Onion called "Features And Life-style," in which subjects such as health, personal hygiene, calisthenics, aging, and nutrition are treated as news-items? And that actors and actresses of the movable-picture photo-plays are solicited for interviews and opinions, simply because they happen to be celebrated public personages? I can scarcely believe I have lived to see such lily-livered folderol in the august pages of The Onion! I am surprised that the so-called newspaper-men of The Onion do not volunteer to come to the readers' homes and wipe their behinds! I do not require a news-paper to tell me how to live my life, nor do I wish to read about how some vapid chorus-girl loves the porpoises.
Anyhow, here is the Onion-Through-TheTwentieth-Century book, and you are welcome to the wretched thing. Don't ever interrupt my nap again!
-- T.H. Zweibel
Copyright ©1999 by Three Rivers Press, a division of Crown Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
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