By Ron Scopelliti
So I was online trying to identify an action figure I had as a kid. He was some sort of evil mastermind, and the top of his head was a clear plastic dome, so you could see his brain. I can’t recall his name, and I can’t recall what color he was, though I remember the color being something decidedly non-human; maybe magenta.
I Googled to see whether I was thinking of the original, pre-Austin-Powers Dr. Evil, who was the nemesis of Captain Action. But it turns out his brain had no transparent cover – he was simply missing the top of his skull, with his brain completely exposed to the elements. I never found an explanation for this deformity, but I suppose it was either an experiment to improve cooling, or some type of horrible Flowbee accident.
I’m not sure why I found that transparent brain cover so fascinating, and why it still sticks in my memory today. But the more I think about it, the more I’m intrigued by the concept of transparency.
It’s amazing when you consider that there can be a solid substance which you can’t pass through, but which you can look through just like it wasn’t there. It’s one of those miracles of physics that we take for granted, but that would change our lives forever if it ceased to be. Like ice being lighter than liquid water, making it float on the surface of a pond in the winter, rather than sinking down and crushing all the fish beneath it.
I remember visiting the American Museum of Natural History in New York when I was about eight years old, and the display cases were so clear that I kept leaning in to see items more closely and banging my face into the glass. Imagine being an alien from a planet with no transparent substances, then wandering into that museum and trying to figure out what the mysterious barrier is that’s preventing you from leaning in and taking a bite out of that delicious-looking coelacanth specimen.
As baffled as that alien would be, we’d be in even worse shape if we were forced to exist on a world with no transparency. Think how annoying it would be living in houses with no windows, and not even having lightbulbs to make up for the lack of sunlight.
Not having transparency means there would be no traditional glass mirrors, so we’d have to resort to other reflective surfaces. On the one hand, I can imagine myself carving my face into a bloody mess while trying to shave using my convex reflection on a spoon. On the other hand, it would be a good excuse not to shave.
We’d have to get used to driving without windshields, and we couldn’t even compensate by wearing goggles, because they’d have no lenses. When it came to sunglasses, we’d be reduced to wearing those novelty louvered-plastic glasses that cheesy new-wave bands wore.
I’m not sure how you’d make a computer display without transparency, so all our computer output would probably have to be printed. And if that were the case, our smart phones would have to be equipped with tiny little printers. I can picture people walking around with paper-tape streamers of tweets and text messages trailing behind their phones. But now that I think of it, no transparency means there’d be no lenses in our eyes, so the paper tapes would probably have to be in braille.
I suppose I can’t talk about literal transparency without talking about figurative transparency. We’re always looking for transparency in government and journalism, and both seem to be letting us down lately.
Oddly, despite Donald Trump’s opaqueness when it comes to Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, I have to admit that in a certain way he’s offered Americans a level of transparency that’s rare among presidents.
We know he’s at his most transparent when he’s far away from a teleprompter, sending out tweets about “liddle Bob Corker” and the “little rocket man,” and other people who don’t meet his apparent height requirements. In the interest of journalistic transparency, I have to state that I’m sure to be in that category.
And based on one of his tweets, we know that he “had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Oh wait – he says that was his lawyer’s tweet. Now we’re back to opaque Trump.
Despite obfuscating his actions, Trump’s tweets give us a clear view inside his mindset. Sometimes the insults that people hurl reveal their worst fears about themselves. “Fake,” “failing,” “crooked,” “bad ratings.” It’s hard to ignore the irony when he uses those terms to describe others.
So when I go back to searching the web to find the identity of an exotically-colored villain with a transparent brain-case, I probably shouldn’t be surprised if his first name turns out to be “Donald.”