June 6, 2011
Evidence of time travel to the year 2041
Your humble curators have found that it’s possible to travel to the year 2041. Sort of. In the bowels of the Harvard University archives is one sealed copy of the bicentennial history of the fabled Porcellian Club, with strict instructions that it is not to be opened until 2041 — a year when most or all of those whose names and stories appear in it will be dead. However, as enterprising sleuths, we have been able to see the book: and it’s charming. Anecdotes abound from the Long Room at 1324 Massachusetts Avenue, as does the witty ode composed in 1948 by literary maven and man about town George Plimpton. Interestingly, the membership includes some with a definite Central European flair, including financiers (the late) Michael von Clemm and Stanislas Yassukovich (Jasiukowicz), and several generations of Colloredo-Mannsfelds.
As the preface puts it, “The Club flourishes, not as a relic of the past, but as a living band of Brothers which grows each year as it accepts within its fold new members drawn from the ranks of Harvard College. It is one of the unique features of the Club that it can initiate young men from all places and backgrounds and mold them quickly into Porcellians appreciative of its rich history and ready to enhance its glory in the future…” (The “brothers” bit makes it seem more of a fraternity that we expected, and less of a private club.)
Anyway, look for the book sometime in early 2041…
The Immortalization Commission
Speaking of books, perhaps you’ve also seen London School of Economics professor John Gray’s new book, “The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death”
— a fascinating and chilling read. Who knew that Soviet morticians and scientists anticipated the 1960s cryonics fad by several decades, initially freezing Lenin in hope he could be resuscitated in the future? The details are fairly gory, not to mention the antics of the Soviet Committee for Psychical Research. Liverpool-born, Cambridge-educated, Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty of the The New York Times is also shown for the scoundrel he was, principal apologist for Stalin’s atrocities and disciple of Aleister Crowley too (who knew that?). Reassuring to know that he received his comeuppance, eking out his last days in near-penury, struggling to buy groceries (a luxury never offered to the millions of deliberately starved Ukrainians whose sorrows he worked so hard to cover up). By 1951, “even the FBI… had lost interest in him.” His remaining worldly possessions were two old suitcases.
Make mine a Truth Serum, stirred not shaken
If all this is too rich a concoction for you, we might recommend a cooling drink at San Francisco’s retro, speakeasy-style Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency bar. Ask for a Truth Serum.