Last Literate Person On Earth Dead At 98

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Issue 3204

'Hands Across Liechtenstein' Raises $30 For Liechtenstein Charities

VADUZ, LIECHTENSTEIN—Citizens of the tiny European principality of Liechtenstein turned out in full force Saturday to participate in "Hands Across Liechtenstein," a special fund-raising event that raised more than $30 for Liechtenstein charities. Nearly 150 citizens joined hands in a line that stretched from one end of the country to the other, forming a human chain one-and-a-half football fields long. "This is a great achievement and an inspiring tribute to the great spirit of our people," Liechtenstein's Prince Hans Adam II said. "I can barely see the end of the line from where I stand." The $30 raised will go t

Local Audience Deemed 'Great'

BOSTON—The 88 people in attendance at the Chuckle Barn's Saturday 8:30 p.m. show were uniformly praised by comedian Tony Campanelli as "great." "You guys have been great," Campanelli told them at the conclusion of his 20-minute performance."Thanks a lot and good night." Audiences previously called great by Campanelli include the Friday 8:30 p.m. show and the Friday 11 p.m.

Fans Beg Aerosmith To Go Back On Drugs

LOS ANGELES—A national coalition of Aerosmith fans, frustrated by the weak, power-ballad-filled mediocrity of such recent Aerosmith albums as Get A Grip and Pump, has collected three million signatures on a petition imploring the veteran rock quintet to return to drug addiction. "We, the united fans of Aerosmith," the petition read in part, "plead with you to resume the type of liberal use of heroin and cocaine that fueled kick-ass albums like 1976's Rocks and classic tunes like 'Back In The Saddle.' We would additionally like to see a marked increase in alcohol abuse, particularly from one-time 'Toxic Twin' Joe Perry, who, regrettably, has not had a monster riff since 1980."

Copdale Made A Mockery Of Our Stalwart Policemen

Whenever I have trouble around the home I can always count on the Men in Blue to come to my house and help me. Like the time when my wife Toots and I could not find our wrench and the sink was dripping like the River Jordan in the Holy Land. Well, we called the policemen and they came screeching to our home with their sirens and whistles and told us not to call them unless it was an emergency, and they gave us a ticket. But by that time the sink had stopped leaking.

We Can Put A Man On The Moon, But We Can't Make Killer Robot Police?

Every time I watch the news, I see another story about all the wonderful things NASA is doing in outer space. I know, I know, it's all supposed to be very impressive and exciting. But to be honest, it just boils my blood. I mean, the federal government can put a man on the moon, but it can't build a killer robot police force to keep the cars from roaring down my street at 45 miles per hour? What kind of priorities do we have in this country?

Is Divorce Too Easy?

With the divorce rate continuing to soar, some family advocates are calling for legislation making it more difficult to dissolve a marriage. What do you think about toughening divorce laws?

WNBA Fever

The Women's National Basketball Association has been a big success, with fan interest and attendance high and attendance high throughout the league. Why are people flocking to the games?
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Last Literate Person On Earth Dead At 98

ROUEN, FRANCE—Béatrice Berceau, the planet's last literate person, died Monday, marking the end of an era. Berceau, widely renowned in her native France and around the world for her remarkable ability to decipher coded inscriptions of symbols printed on paper, was 98 years old.

Above: France's Béatrice Berceau, seen last year deciphering a complex system of ancient coded symbols contained in a bound paper volume <br>known as a "book."

"Béatrice's death has officially ushered in the Post-Literate Age," said Roland Habusch, head of Harvard University's Department of Sound Bites and Pictograms. "No longer will we as a species have access to the information stored in the bound paper volumes known to Béatrice and our ancestors as 'books.'"

Those who knew Berceau claimed that the elderly eccentric did not own a television, could not operate an ordinary fax-modem and neither left nor received a single voice-mail message in her entire life.

Berceau, authorities said, died late Monday after being struck by a car at an intersection near her Rouen home. Police attributed the accident to her inability to interpret the glowing red hand pictograph at the intersection's crosswalk, which replaced the "written" message of "Don't Walk" on most crosswalks in the early '80s.

"She just wasn't cut out for the modern era," said Berceau's granddaughter, Los Angeles-area video-game design consultant Lisa Hamilton. "But she was a wonderful woman. She always kept in touch, even though we were so far away, and she even sent us a card every week. I never had any idea what all those shapes drawn on them were supposed to mean, but the fronts of the cards always had such pretty pictures of France."

Described by friends and neighbors as a kind, quiet woman who often sat staring at indecipherable rows of symbols for hours at a time, Berceau dedicated her last few years to the preservation of so-called "classic" works, translating them into modern, non-written formats for future generations to enjoy.

MTV vice-president of project development Hal Mirsch, who worked closely with Berceau in her final days, said: "We are saddened by the death of this venerable, longtime 'reader,' even if we're still not quite clear what that word means. We are especially grateful for her pivotal translation work on our newest animated series, Albert Camus' The Stranger. The tale of a mysterious costumed hero outsider who travels from town to town battling the Xenophons with his turntable-based DJ powers, The Stranger will rock your way this fall."

"Without Béatrice's help," Mirsch said, "we never would have been aware of this 'Stranger' character and its tremendous potential as a licensed property, and we never would have been able to bring Mr. Camus' vision to the small screen."

Following Berceau's death, the New York publishing industry announced the closing of its last print-based publisher, The Béatrice Berceau Press, which for over 40 years specialized in books that Béatrice Berceau might enjoy.

Also hurt by Berceau's death is the Béatrice Berceau Book-Of-The-Month Club, a division of Time-Warner.

"Sadly, we no longer have a market for all the 'books' for which we have reprint rights," said Henry McGrew, president of the mail-order club which, prior to Berceau's husband's death in 1991, was known as the François And Béatrice Berceau Book-Of-The-Month Club. McGrew noted that the club's sales plummeted to an all-time low of two books last year, due largely to Berceau's increasingly poor eyesight.

With Berceau's passing, the world's many repositories of symbol-inscribed paper volumes, known as "libraries," have been temporarily closed. Authorities have already begun the arduous task of converting the libraries' printed materials—once considered precious storehouses of human knowledge and culture—back into valuable wood pulp. The libraries are expected to complete the transition to all-audio-visual format and reopen by spring 1998.

Persons wishing to express sympathies to the Berceau family are encouraged to send flowers, song-o-grams, videotapes, and CD-ROM and voice-mail messages in care of this newspaper, or e-mail them to www.B-Br-sO.com.

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