Friday Fable. Aesop's “THE MOUNTAIN IN LABOR”*

Posted by jlubans on April 22, 2016

Caption: Illustration by Richard Heighway (1832-1917?)

“IN DAYS of old, a mighty rumbling was heard in a Mountain. It was said to be in Labor, and multitudes of people flocked together, from near and from far, to see what the great Mountain would produce. After long expectation and wise conjecturing from the bystanders, out popped—a mouse.”
“A magnificent promise, but a paltry performance.”

More than a century ahead of cable news and its often fevered “much ado about nothing” coverage, Heighway’s cartoon shows a bug-eyed public, abuzz for results. Heighway even anticipates the expert bloviator on-the-spot in his beanie cap interpreting the event and what it portends (or not) for all who care to hear.
And so it can be at work, when we suspend our critical incredulity over the claims and promises made by someone who wants to sell us something, be it a job interviewee or a sales rep.
I recall Ellsworth G. Mason’s exposé article, “The Great Gas Bubble Prick't; or, Computers Revealed by a Gentleman of Quality” which warned against the unquestioned earth-shaking promises being made about library automation. Ellsworth anticipated “vaporware” well before the term was invented. The results from our early automation efforts, while helpful, were more mouse-like than volcanic.

*Source: J. H. Stickney. “Aesop's Fables / A Version for Young Readers.”

© Copyright John Lubans 2016
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