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A 2020 vision that’s crystal-ball clear

Deep within the labyrinth of the L.A. Times building there’s a tiny office hidden in a dank basement corner. Its purpose is so top- secret that even the publisher doesn’t know it exists.

It’s the newspaper’s Anti-Futurology Dept., and its mission is to report on things that haven’t happened yet, and probably never will. This department isn’t known for its high productivity. In fact, this is the first, and hopefully the last, article it ever will generate.

But, wanting to get a jump on the competition a decade from now -- including Fox News, Gawker and no doubt a couple of future bloggers currently enrolled in middle school -- we’ve asked the department’s intrepid staff to round up the entertainment and cultural highlights of 2020.

Of course, being Southern Californians, we can’t decide whether these predictions represent a utopian or dystopian view of the shape of things to come (you know, that “sunshine-noir” thing).

But if you don’t like the looks of the future, take comfort in knowing that you’ve got 10 whole years to have your avatar flip the channel or click to a new Web address.

1 Tens of millions of Americans watch the cliff-hanger ending of Season 2 of the nation’s top-rated reality TV show, “First Family,” chronicling the lives and loves of the colorful clan at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In the season’s shocking climax, President George P. Bush and his vice president and spouse, Chelsea Clinton, agonize over whether to run against each other for the Oval Office in 2024 and have a tiff over who gets to use Air Force One for campaign stopovers. The First Couple’s marriage, in 2016, had united the country’s premier Republican and Democratic dynasties, apparently putting an end to the bitterly partisan “culture wars” that had wracked America since the 1960s, and satisfying the national penchant for reruns in politics as well as in prime-time soap operas. Co-hosted, amicably, by Glenn Beck and Arianna Huffington.

2 After becoming America’s most beloved and powerful talk-show host since Oprah Winfrey, whom she replaced, one-woman conglomerate Sarah Palin announces she will be leaving her syndicated afternoon TV program, “Sarah!” to spend more time working out a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. During her reign as the so-called Queen of All Media, Palin had used her talk show’s bully pulpit to assemble a $1-billion empire in publishing, book-of-the-month clubs and moose-hunting package tourism.

3 Barack Obama receives a record $50-million advance for the rights to his presidential memoirs, provisionally titled “Dreams From Rahm Emanuel.” Publication of the book had been delayed for several years so that Obama could include a chapter on passage of the healthcare reform bill, which was held up until 2018 by Sen. Ben Nelson’s insistence that the new legislation include a provision allotting a matching washer-dryer set and a year’s supply of Rice-A- Roni to every registered voter in Nebraska.

4 In an outpouring of technology-assisted grass-roots democracy that inspires the world, Iran holds its first Twitter-based presidential election and votes out the ruling conservative party of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in favor of a progressive alliance. Ahmadinejad promptly follows the lead of other deposed politicians by becoming a contestant on Iran’s version of “Dancing With the Stars” and wins first place with a killer samba. However, an international incident is narrowly averted when the show’s guest judge, Adam Lambert, attempts to congratulate the former Iranian president by throwing his arms around him and nibbling his left earlobe.

5 Gustavo Dudamel, 38, the Venezuelan former wunderkind, now one of the world’s premier maestros, signs a 10-year contract renewal as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. To mark the occasion, Dudamel leads the Phil in a marathon performance of all 10 Mahler symphonies, which he conducts entirely from memory, in backward order, while dribbling a soccer ball. Philharmonic patrons in the “bleacher” seats behind the orchestra, the section known as “Dude-o-wood,” wear “Dude” wigs made out of surplus recycled faux-dreadlocks once sold at Dodger Stadium to honor a long-forgotten slugger named Manny Something or Other.

6 The top file-shared rock band of 2019, a Chinese neo-punk quartet called YuToo, sets the West on fire with its power-guitar protest anthems and incendiary lyrics calling for the Chinese people to take to the streets and denounce the country’s sclerotic Communist regime. Making innovative use of social networking platforms, YuToo attracts a massive global following -- except in China, where they are blocked from Internet search engines under an agreement between China’s rulers and Google. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin promptly announce they are changing the company’s famous motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Better Red than forfeit market share.”

7 Golfer Tiger Woods, ending his decade-long “sabbatical,” returns to the links and proves that he hasn’t lost the golden touch that made him one of the world’s most bankable athletes before a cheesy sex scandal nearly ruined his career. Woods finishes dead last in the Masters but is named “Sexiest Celebrity Endorser Alive” by People magazine. Corporate sponsor Gillette, which had distanced itself from Woods after the affair, announces it will launch a new ad campaign built around Woods with the theme of “redemption,” after the athlete makes a tearful public confession on the top-rated “Sarah!” show (see No. 2 above).

8 Bad-boy British artist Damien Hirst gives up his attempt to become a great painter and returns to the “Conceptual” artworks that made his reputation: cutting up dead animals and preserving them in formaldehyde. Hirst had declared in a 2009 interview that “anyone can be like Rembrandt,” and he also submitted that he did not consider the 17th- century Dutch master to be a “genius.” However, Hirst’s efforts to become a painter himself were severely compromised by his propensity for attacking his human studio models with a chain saw while they were posing for him.

9 Roland Emmerich, director of bejesus-scaring sci-fi parables such as “2012" and “The Day After,” unveils his latest apocalyptic epic, “The Day After 2025,” at a specially-designed “green theater” built on a large chunk of Antarctica adrift off San Diego. Based on an ancient Maori prophesy, the movie envisions the destruction of Earth by human greed and venality. It wins the Oscar for best documentary and is immediately attacked by global-warming skeptics as another “Climategate"-style conspiracy by the liberal Hollywood elite.

10 The sole proprietor of America’s last independent bookstore, in Madison, Wis., holds police at bay for 13 hours while refusing to leave his store so that it can be bulldozed and replaced with the first of a new chain of Tiger Woods Pro Shop and Marital Counseling Centers. Hearing loud explosions from inside and fearing that the man might be heavily armed, the cops break into the store and find its owner quietly reading “Remembrance of Things Past” while blasting a pirated copy of “Terminator 9" on an illegal flat-screen television.

He surrenders peacefully.

reed.johnson@latimes.com


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