@Gene Weingarten: The Bezozoic Era


(Eric Shansby)
Gene Weingarten
Columnist August 23, 2013

By now you’ve heard that The Washington Post has been sold to Jeffrey Bezos, the multibillionaire founder of Amazon.com. Bezos paid $250 million cash, which is said to be less than 1 percent of his net worth, meaning it’s about as formidable a venture for him as it would be for you to buy a nice sectional sofa.

Still, Bezos-watchers predict he is going to take this seriously and innovate out the wazoo. I believe it. I have been reading up on my new boss. He’s not a status-quo kind of guy.

Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

In 1982, he finished first in his South Florida high school class of 680. When interviewed at the time by the Miami Herald, little Jeffy Bezos said his goal in life was to build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 or 3 million people orbiting Earth. “The whole idea is to preserve the Earth,” he said. Eventually, he told the paper, he wanted to get all people off the planet and see it turned into a huge national park.

This is a guy who has always thought BIG. He plays the long game, and he isn’t daunted by issues of practicality. As you have probably heard, he is building a $40 million mechanical clock inside a remote mountain, designed to last 10,000 years. It will mostly run on fluctuations in atmospheric temperatures, and, oh, yes, it will periodically play music without ever repeating a song. Just because.

No one seems to know exactly what Bezos is planning for The Post. Let me guess:

Time travel. Bezos will invest heavily in this technology until all reporters will have time machines to research stories more effectively — forward and back. As a marketing tie-in, subscribers will be able to buy a link to the home page for the day of their death.

Personalized lexicons. Each subscriber will be able to call up a story written to his or her level of sophistication. Level 1 might read, “Two men walk on moon, is good yay!” Level 50 would have subtle but amusing references to Copernicus’s 1543 thesis, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.”

REM circulation. The Post will beam overnight news feeds into the brains of sleeping subscribers, where they will dream the developing stories and awaken fully up-to-date, ready for the latest news on washingtonpost.com. For additional fees, subscribers can dream full-length new-release movies or, for premium customers, porn.

Simian City. The Post will have a room the size of an airplane hangar that is filled with chimpanzees sitting at old-fashioned Smith Corona typewriters, on the theory that eventually they will produce The Greatest Story Ever Written. Remember, Bezos is famous for his patience.

The Bezocabulary. The Post will gradually, almost imperceptibly, introduce changes in language, slowly creating a vastly more expressive form of communication featuring words enhanced by “Wingdings,” musical notes, colors, aromas and tactile experiences delivered through the keyboard. The new language will be so rich and textured that other news organizations will be forced to follow suit, literally altering the way humans interact with one another.

A new launch. All the people will be in space colonies, orbiting the planet, which will be converted to a giant national park. What, you think he’s forgotten?

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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