Thursday, July 3, 2008

Humor Me: Red, white and Rubik


This week Americans will flock to the nearest open space for Independence Day. We’ll put out our flags, watch fireworks explode into beautiful colors and ooh and ahh at the patriotic feeling we get when Calamine lotion is rubbed on our mosquito bites.

That’s what celebrating the greatest country in the world is all about. Finding a fire-ant-free spot in the park, watching people dance around with glow-in-the-dark tubes on their heads and listening to patriotic Americans unintentionally remix The Star Spangled Banner:

The bombs and their glare,
The rockets burstin’ in the air,
Gave proof ‘til one night,
That our fight wasn’t fair ...

Independence Day is a great time to be an American, obviously. But I hope you enjoy the long weekend, because the next national day of
rest –- and/or intoxication –- isn’t until Labor Day. That means eight straight five-day weeks, unless you have vacation plans or can finagle time off next week for International Puzzle Day.

Yes, I know that International Puzzle Day isn’t a recognized holiday. But to help convince your employer of the validity of this day, and hopefully justify another paid day of rest and/or intoxication, here are some details.

International Puzzle Day is every July 13. The day was chosen because it’s the birthday of Erno Rubik, the Hungarian inventor of the most challenging puzzle ever:

The Dallas High Five road project.

No, Erno the Great created the Rubik’s Cube. If the name Rubik didn’t clue you in about the invention, then you probably never mastered the Cube. You probably never even got one side the same color on the toy of the ’80s.

Or maybe you never even tried to unlock the secrets of the Cube. That’s disappointing because it means you ignored an icon of ingenuity. It’s more disappointing because it means you wasted less time than me on that blasted toy.

I spent a huge chunk of my childhood twisting and turning that multicolored torture device. I immersed my 10-year-old mind into the Cube and never got close to the goal. It was so frustrating that I was actually relieved when our dog turned it into a Rubik’s Chew.

Now that I’ve ranted about Rubik’s Cube, you might ask how a column that started with America’s Independence Day steered its way to Hungary’s most infamous export. Well, you should know not to ask. But here’s an answer:

The Rubik's Cube is a great example of the power of America. It was invented in Hungary, but the Cube didn’t make much green until it was introduced in the country of red, white and blue. That’s when America’s marketing machine and voracious consumer appetite drove Rubik’s Cube into everyone’s consciousness.

First there was the standard Rubik’s Cube. Then there were giant Cubes, mini Cubes and Cubes hanging off keychains. There were dozens of how-to books, “speedcubing” competitions and –- I hope at least one other person remembers this –- a cartoon called Rubik, The Amazing Cube.

Yes, there was a cartoon! It featured an animated Rubik’s Cube with legs and a purple face that looked half space alien, half Elmer Fudd. I can still recall how he said to the kids, “Hello ... my name is Ruuuuuuubik!”

I wish I didn’t remember that. But we should all remember what made Rubik Mania possible: the Declaration of Independence. Issued in 1776, it declared that every person has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That means we Americans have the right to take on a tremendous challenge like the Rubik’s Cube. More important, it gives us the freedom to solve the Cube by peeling all the stickers off and sticking them back on.

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