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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gail Collins, "Meet Me at the Fair": What a 2014 New York World's Fair Might Resemble

"Ich bin ein Berliner"

- John Fitzgerald Kennedy, June 26, 1963

"That's some good sushi right there"

- Barack Hussein Obama, April 23, 2014

Can you imagine President Obama traveling to the Ukraine tomorrow and declaring "I am a Kiever"? I didn't think so.

But as long as we're on the subject of things past, are you old enough to remember visiting the 1964 New York World’s Fair? I am. I remember stopping at the AT&T pavilion, where the difference in dialing time between a standard rotary dial telephone and a new touch tone phone was demonstrated. I also remember at the time how my grandfather expressed the wish to wake up again in another 50 years and see how technology had changed.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Meet Me at the Fair" (, Gail Collins also dredges up recollections of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Collins concludes:

"Just this week, The Times reported that Canada may have outstripped the United States when it comes to middle-class wealth. That seemed like a double-whammy. First, it was still more evidence of growing income inequality. Second, the Canadians didn’t even seem all that excited. Trish Hennessy, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said besting the American middle was 'like comparing ourselves to a sinking stone.' Ouch.

It’d be nice to go back to the old utopian futures. Dream you fell asleep in 2014 and woke up 50 years down the line. What do you want to see? Re-imagine the schools and the housing and the public enterprises. Don’t concentrate on computers. The computers will take care of themselves. Also, no more highways. If we’re going to talk transportation, let’s work on those transporters they have in 'Star Trek.'

Think positive, or move to Toronto."

Query: Can you even begin to imagine a 2014 New York World's Fair with parents walking around with children on leashes for fear that their little ones will be kidnapped? And then there would be the snipers on the roofs, seeking to avert a terrorist bombing, all behind a backdrop of fiscal anxiety regarding what cost overruns could do to the budgets of the state and city.

But more to the point, as I near the age of my grandfather at the time of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, I have no interest in being placed in suspended animation and waking up in another 50 years to witness technological change. I don't like the direction in which the world is going.

Move to Toronto? I don't think so. Too cold. More to the point, I'm tired of being singled out for questioning by their immigration authority:

"Why are you here?"

"Well, I've come to discuss human clinical trials with your hospital system of a new retinal device intended to restore vision."

Although fast approaching the age of 60, I still appear suspicious. As indicated earlier, I did not inherit my grandfather's optimistic outlook, and perhaps I need to write in my will: "Do not resuscitate under any circumstances."


  1. Boy would your grandpa have been sorry to have woken up in 2014, not the least of which would be having to read Gail Collin's whiny humor.

  2. Wow. Really enjoyed this one.

    I remember vividly the NY World's Fair. It informed my love of futurism and kindled my optimism about the future which found expression in my Trekkie-ist identity ever since. Agreed that a fair today would provoke cynical laughter at any optimistic prognostications.

    I look back at that fair with romantic nostalgia despite the fact that there was a disconnect between the Vietnam war, the breakdown of the "nuclear family," and the conservative family values and brightness the fair promoted.

    These are dark times insofar as capitalism has dislocated the continents and nations even more so than it managed to do then and created new and more efficient ruling classes with more advanced weapons and covert ways to use them with impunity. The terrorists are freedom fighters and progress has receded. Remember the fair's mantra as symbolized by the unisphere--"Peace Through Understanding"?

  3. "Ich bin ein Berliner"
    There was a huge problem with this sentence. No, not the one people enjoy. Who was in 1963 a "Berliner?" Mostly the Nazis and some young people raised by them. It looks like Kennedy said: "I am a Nazi." peoperatnetnitHERE