Every day we read about things going unheralded: people, deeds, disasters and things that have broken through other things. We, in the media, are to blame. Just like every other problem in the universe.
To make amends, I offer this listicle. I will let others lavish praise on mundane human achievements such as fire, electricity and the turducken. This belated heralding is to heap a streaming pile of acclaim on advancements that have truly altered our lives in this, the 21st century.
- Flannel-lined dockers. Cotton was not invented to keep people warm. Mankind built sheep for that. Clothing that is mildly comfortable during the summer is little more than icy, well-ventilated decoration in winter. But not if you can effectively keep your jammies on all day. Sure, we’ve had flannel-lined jeans since grade school, but now you can dress for any occasion—ballgames, coronations or, on the odd chance you get asked, the prom—with stylish khaki comfort and bedtime warmth.
- Golden Oreos. After years of getting it wrong, Nabisco stumbles onto the right formula for a cookie. I am not talking about those repugnant “double-stuff” calamities either. Nor should this be considered an endorsement for the more freakish versions, such as banana split, candy corn and watermelon, to name a few. If you think I’m kidding, ask The Google. Fun fact: Oreos are not named after the famed Maryland bird.
- Toilet coatings—considerably closer to godliness. (Full disclosure: I have no firsthand knowledge of this particular innovation, but according to people who do, it’s a big deal. In fact, it’s more than a little uncomfortable when they gush about it during Sunday school class.) If you haven’t shopped for a new toilet you are in for a thrill. Admittedly, shopping for toilets suggests you have a low thrill-threshold to begin with. It’s not just about picking a color that will date your bathroom like Roman numerals over the door (remember “avocado?”). Now you can pick from seat height, bowl shape, water consumption and background music. Best of all, most models are now coated with some amazing slipperiness that makes Teflon seem like Velcro. I always wondered why the bathroom looked so much cleaner on Saturday afternoons. Now, thanks to this miracle surface, I am never sure what day it is.
- Autocorrect. While this computer and phone feature is roundly disparaged as frustrating and the cause of embarrassing communication “fox paws,” who are we kidding? We can no longer detect a misspelling even when it’s right below our nostrils. Besides, about 70% of the humor in modern texts would disappear without it.
- Cable ties. Nothing says “modern farm” like an operation where baling wire, tarp straps and duct tape have been replaced by cable ties. If you are not an artisan who carefully clips the sticking-out leftovers, those bristling spines of shiny plastic fairly scream “cutting edge craftsmanship.”
- Chicken nuggets. While technically not a 21st century food, in either sense of the words, this brilliant breakthrough in food processing leftover management has become the childhood staple sustenance for an entire alphabetical generation (either Y, or possibly R). Children can grow to what inexplicably passes for adulthood eating little else, at which point they slowly adapt to more traditional food—such as pizza.
- PowerPoint. Younger readers will find this hard to believe, but back in The Day, most people were deathly afraid of public speaking. This phobia has been replaced with an equally powerful desire to read verbatim incredibly long, unrelated bullet points and show hundreds of fuzzy photos, bewildering graphs and videos while droning on unobserved in the shadows. Thanks to PPT, anyone can be not just an orator but a “borator,” too.
Our future as a species holds even more promise of better living through science. If these advancements are any evidence, it will be broken.