"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 25 February 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Condemned to Kill Time



If it's true, as the press

literature provided by

Day-Timers Inc. states, that the

"quest for more hours in the day

goes back to the beginning of

time," you might wonder why the

problem ever existed, or at

least speculate on why "metric

time" never took off. Obviously,

adding more hours to the day is

a banana-republic solution to

our collective date debt - but

if we see the folly in simply

printing mazuma to pay off

bills, how come we're still

trying to buy off Chronos with

paper time?



From Day Runner's 4-1-1 line

(designed, in part, "to help

preteen and teenage boys

remember homework") to Filofax's

menstrual cycle tracking insert,

the "time- and life-style

management industry" (as these

glorified clockwatchers call

themselves) has become an

$800-million-a-year business,

predicated on the notion of

selling us back our lives, one

loose-leaf page at a time. And

it is still dead trees which

help us keep our candles lit at

both ends. Though every major

player has introduced some sort

of software or digital plug-in

to complement or replace the

familiar pocket agenda, most see

PDAs - for the time being - as

margin-dwellers. The obscurely

occult physics of Newtons and

Wizards threatens to steal away

only those early-adopting execs

for whom hand-held thin screens

are the technocult's communion



But don't mistake the daily

planner companies' slow embrace

of digital assistants as a sign

of being behind the times - the

business and technology of

personal minutiae metrology has

come a long way since 1912, when

Filofax introduced its telephone

and address books. In terms of

what can only be called surplus

utility, it's come even further

since the early 1950s, when,

Day-Timer's corporate history

again informs us, "Calendars...

were primitive, consisting of

dates on simple pages or blocks

of dates on a page." Imagine.

Though not exactly sundials,

those staple-bound booklets were

still a far cry from the

leather-bound "personal

information managers" of today,

intimidating compilations of

chronophilic paraphernalia whose

contents not only perform the

quotidian task of reminding us

what the date is, but also can

be augmented to include "Mayo

Clinic Personal Fitness Forms,"

"Thirty-Year Goals" and - let's

not get too laborious, here -

"Fun Stickers."


These matrices are all

provided by Day-Timers. The

50-year-old company is the

current leader in the field,

credited with originating the

vaguely obscene-sounding

"tickler reminder system," a

plan of such punctiliousness

that it necessitates not only a

nicotine-like addiction to

increasingly frequent calendar

refills, but also a four-hour "4-

Dimensional Time Management"

seminar, where attendees learn

to "Get in sync with all the

people who help you on and off

the job," "Create and

prioritize achievable goals by

the 3-step process," "Manage,

instead of juggle, all the

personal and professional

demands made on you," "Make

realistic daily action lists,"

and, oh yes, "Achieve balance in

your life."



If these results seem somewhat

miraculous, don't be afraid to

knock on heaven's door for a

little help. The personal

planner trade has a surprisingly

close relationship to the Great

Timekeeper himself, suggesting

that while cleanliness might get

you in the proximity of God,

punctuality will ensure you

don't miss each other. Indeed,

it's not just a nice metaphor,

but entirely appropriate that so

many describe their daily

planners as their "Bible" -

Day-Timers and industry

runner-up Franklin Quest both

have ties to the Mormon

Church. And like Day-Timers,

Franklin Quest's product line

has a certain ecumenical

quality, an insidious

catholicism which turns every

facet of one's existence into a

series of appointments, "daily

task lists," and "project

reports." Franklin Quest

also evangelizes their own set of

training seminars and tapes, a

phenomenon which one essayist

described as a "familiar yet

bizarre... combination of

capitalism, traditional family

values, and idealism...

quintessentially American -

simultaneously wholesome and




Divine dementia, of course, is

what drives men and women to

seek in their agendas not just

order, but a kind of stuporously

frantic peace. Chronic

chronography produces an

obtundity rivaled only by the

effects of ABC's Friday night

line-up. To be sure, those who

have come to think that

television long ago replaced

religion as the masses' drug of

choice need look no farther than

a recent study which found that

71% of Americans would watch

less TV in order to have more

time to work.



It makes sense - television never

really replaced religion, it

just gave us a different altar.

What we've been worshipping,

and what we've been sedated -

or at least distracted by -

hasn't really changed. Seduced

by success, the collective

hallucination that we call the

American Dream, we turn to

television for visions, and to

daily planners for our

catechism, hoping to schedule in

some ecstasy as we crucify

ourselves with a six-hole punch.

courtesy of Ann O'Tate


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The Fish

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The Barrel


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The Gun

Fish Teaser

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Other Work By
Ann O'Tate
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