The age of panic

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;

Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,

Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,

And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—

“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;

“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;

And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;

He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;

But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”

But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,

And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,

He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

During my fifth grade year at mighty Ridgecrest Elementary, a student group I had selective engagement with launched an effort to put a statue of Philo Taylor Farnsworth in the National Statuary Hall found in the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (a city built on a swamp). By act of Congress, each state of the Union could commission two statues of dead local notables to be placed in Statuary Hall. At the time, the great state of Utah had one statue there, a man blessed with the hand of great-great aunt Emeline. After a long process, where my own transient role primarily involved learning that legislative committees are the worst form of sleep aid (except for all the other sleep aids), the thing was done.

A statue of Brother Philo now stands in Statuary Hall, yet another reminder to visitors from the other 49 states of Utah’s innate superiority.

Born in Beaver, Utah but raised in parts northward in Utah irredenta, Brother Philo received a vision one day of how signals could be broadcast through the air and projected onto glass with a particle ray. It was inspired by the back and forth pat he traced when plowing the fields of his family ranch. From this, Brother Philo, later joined by his wife Pem, was led onward to develop the first versions of what would become cathode ray television, a technology only now passing from the scene in the First World. The first person to appear on TV was Sister Pem, who I met once selectively and transiently near the tail end of Brother Philo’s end in marble.

Like many technical innovators, at the beginning Brother Philo was optimistic that the impact of his invention on the condition of mankind would be positive. Like many technical innovators, at the end Brother Philo was optimistic that the impact of his invention on the condition of mankind would be negative. Instead of cultural touchstones like opera and the other fine culture that edified the Rigby set he originally envisioned, Brother Philo lived long enough to see TV bazooka mind-gnawing nonsense onto a humanity with little immunity from the spell of moving visuals in the home.

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