Whatever X, Day I

September marks the 10th year of Whatever, and also the release of the site’s ten-year retrospective Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, both of which occur, officially, on September 13. To celebrate both, I’m instituting a special feature for the entire month of September: Whatever X: A Whole Damn Decade of Things and Stuff. Each day, I’ll post a long-lost piece from the vasty Whatever archives, not featured in Hate Mail, for your enjoyment. Depending on how long you’ve read Whatever, some of these you may have seen before, while others you may have not. But either way it’ll be fun.

To start things off, let’s go back to the first week of September, 1999, and the news that Ty Warner, maker of the Beanie Babies, made the announcement (later rescinded) that his company would stop making those little plush money pots.

SEPTEMBER 4, 1999: The Beanie Babies Are Retiring

Yes, the Beanie Babies are retiring. And damn it, isn’t it time? After all they’ve done for this country, haven’t they earned a well-deserved rest? Most of us are too young to remember those dark days in the late 20s, after the great stock market crash of 1929, when the Beanie Babies, who had heretofore hidden their existence to humanity by living in the sewers and the storm drains of America’s great cities, crawled forth, shook the grime from their adorable little pelts, and then set to rebuilding this great land of ours. It’s well known in Democratic circles that it was in fact the Beanies that engineered the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, and gave him the blueprint of the social plans that would later be known as “The New Deal.” Before that, he’d just been another smug Brahmin from the upper classes. It was the Beanies (and specifically, that great egalitarian Ewey the Lamb) who helped FDR get with the proles.

Later, when war loomed on the European continent, many Americans clamored for our country to hide itself in a veil of neutrality. But not the Beanies. Historians remember that fateful day in 1940 when Britannia Bear marched in the Oval Office and outlined the Lend-Lease deal, which would ship 50 mothballed US destroyers to an England that so desperately needed them in those days of German aggression. And when war came, the Beanies more than did their part, rolling their fuzzy sleeves and working the swing shift on the aircraft assembly lines, churning out one Mustang P-51 after another so that we could win the war and bring peace and democracy to the world. Think of how hard it is for a four-inch high toy to wield a power tool — especially with nothing but a plush, fingerless paw to control the thing.

The Beanies contributed in other ways. While it has been kept hush-hush for more than half a century, it can now finally be confirmed that Beanies were integral to the Manhattan Project. Sparky the Dalmatian was on hand in 1942, when Enrico Fermi produced the first self-sustained nuclear reaction in the squash courts underneath the University of Chicago’s football stadium, and so integral was a certain Beanie duck to the construction of The Bomb that when Robert J. Oppenheimer first beheld the power of the weapon on July 16, 1945, as it blossomed like a fiery mushroom on the New Mexico desert floor , he was heard to remark, “I am become Quackers, destroyer of worlds.” Later the OSS, fearful of an assassination attempt on the selfless Beanie, convinced historians to change the quote to refer to Shiva, an Indian deity who was neither a Beanie, nor present at Los Alamos.

Pinchers the Lobster painted the initial broad strokes of what would later (and erroneously) be labeled “The Marshall Plan.” While the world hovered on the brink of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was Scoop the Pelican, whose own Key West home was in the cross hairs, who counseled strength tempered with caution. Garcia the Ty-Dye Bear was at Woodstock, tending to Abbie Hoffman’s wounds after Pete Townsend beat him up onstage. The world held its breath as Wrinkles endured the 444 days of captivity as an Iranian hostage. And today, Wise the Owl acts as informal adviser to Alan Greenspan, helping our nation achieve the longest continuous economic expansion in our history.

Through every major world event in the last 60 years, the Beanies have been there, providing their calm, wee little voices, guiding our Republic through the rocky shoals of history with a selflessness that, frankly, we as a nation have come to take for granted. What have the Beanie babies ever asked of us? One thing: To be loved (well, and occasionally to be traded to another owner for a ridiculously high markup). Never have so few been so cuddly and so wise for so many.

Some say we can’t afford to lose their wisdom. But I say, look around you. Our nation is prosperous. Happy. At peace with its neighbors. The Beanies have worked hard so that we can survive their departure from public life and their return to the sewers and storm grates from whence they came, 70 years ago. They’ve earned their rest. I, for one, intend to let them have it. God bless the Beanie Babies. A grateful nation thanks them.

15 Comments on “Whatever X, Day I”

  1. Ha-haa!

    Oh, how they mocked me…but I’ll have the last laugh, when I hit Social Security age, and then cash in on the six boxes of Beanie Babies I squirreled away in the attic in lieu of a 401(k).

  2. Marko: Indeed, and I with my McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, which I keep in a plastic wading pool and occasionally swim in like Scrooge McDuck! MWAHHAHhahaaa….

  3. No no no, Beenies were never meant to be investment vehicles, that was merely the cover story to keep the law from finding out that they were the delivery system for designer drugs.

  4. Whew! Good thing, too. We were just getting around to forcing the site to change its’ name to “Whenever.”

    I keed, I keed. Laugh with me, Mr. Scalzi!

  5. Does anyone else feel like the beanies were responsible for the birth of those olympic mascots, the whatever they’re called. Oh… just me. Okay.

  6. *blink*

    Dear God, bring them back! Look at how we’ve gone to hell since you wrote that column!


    These’ll all be new to me. I just started reading your blog this week. I’ve actually never read any of your work, but I attended one of your panels at WorldCon and found you to be a hoopy frood. I’m sure I’ll rectify my ignorance of your fiction soon.

  7. So, we have Wise the Owl to blame for the housing market problems! No wonder Alan Greenspan has been so defensive.

    Perhaps if Obama and McCain really want to show they are for change and reform, they’ll get Ty to “Bring Back the Beanies” to save our nation!

  8. As a loyal reader since only the mid-Aughties, I’m thrilled to see these historic pieces from before the turn of the century.

    They may go a long way toward explaining my utter ignorance of how things really work in the good-ole-U.S.of A.

    (And Jeff, you’d better behave. Don’t forget, I’m about a hundred miles closer than usual today.)

  9. “Our nation is prosperous. Happy. At peace with its neighbors.”

    So. The Beanies DID abandon us after all, following this post.

    And can Barack Obeanie really reverse the missteps of the last eight years?

  10. Ah, a pre-911 view of the Whatever. I liked it so much better back then, before Scalzi implemented all the security and body cavity searches. It was a simpler time, and a simpler Whatever. Oh I miss those days.

  11. We have the still in the box, numbered, Star Trek, the Next Generation figures which, I’m sure, will amply pay for our retirement.