The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem – A Science Fiction Book Review

Many years ago, I read some short stories by the Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem.  I remember they had futuristic elements like interstellar travel but they also included a certain amount of communist doublespeak about socialist this and soviet that.  And that seemed really odd.

But recently War Dog mentioned favorably the “The Cyberiad” collection of stories and its mathematical love poem so I decided to give Lem another whirl.

The stories in this book are the adventures of two robot inventors, or as they are called in their world Constructors, named Trurl and Klapaucius.  And when I say robot inventors I mean to say that they are inventors who are themselves robots.  They are friends and rivals and from time to time enemies.  They go on assignments together or separately taking on contracts to build just about anything imaginable.  And sometimes they build things for themselves that don’t always seem to be very sensible.  For instance, one- time Trurl constructed a machine that could create anything starting with the letter n.  It could make needles, negligees, nepenthe, narcotics, nimbuses, noodles, nuclei, neutrons, naphtha, noses, nymphs, naiads but not natrium.  And why not?  Because natrium is Latin for sodium and in English sodium starts with s!  Later on, being told to make nothing almost puts an end to the universe but luckily Trurl stops the machine just in time.

So as you can see this is comic science fiction. It’s something sort of in the same vein as Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” but what it also reminds me of is Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland stories.  There is an enormous amount of wordplay and punning going on in the stories.  The interesting thing is that a lot of the word play is specific to English and these stories were written in Polish which makes me wonder if the translator had to find English equivalents for Polish puns.

The Constructors become involved in adventures that take them all through the cosmos fulfilling contracts for kings and emperors and pirates and sometimes for common people who just really need help.  They build monsters and demons and story telling machines and even machines that know everything about the whole universe.  Interestingly it seems most of the universe is populated by robots and other cybernetic beings.  Organic beings exist and seem to be pretty generally looked down upon by the robots.  But the robots are very human in their foibles and behavior and none more so than our heroes Trurl and Klapaucius.

Mixed in with the zaniness of each of their adventures is a good dose of irony about the human condition.  The selfishness and cruelty of many of their employers and the vanity and greed of the Constructors themselves is often the point of the stories and the fantasy setting is there to add humor and interest to the tale.  And also Lem is enjoying the poetic aspect of the words.  Sure, we can’t hear the Polish words to know it’s poetical but based on the English words you can see that Stanislaw Lem is like a “drunken lord of language” always using twenty words for effect where one is needed for meaning.  Here’s an example:

“Multitudinous are you?”

“We are!”  they shouted, bursting with pride.  “We are innumerable.”

And others cried:

“We are like fish in the sea.”

“Like pebbles on the beach.”

“Like stars in the sky.  Like atoms!”

You get the idea.  Lem is a poet.  And his stories are parables.  And because of this I find that it needs to be broken up and digested in small chunks.  Each of the chapters is a separate story and should be approached as such.  With all of the word play and digressions you can lose track of the nub of the story if you’re tired and not paying attention so I wouldn’t suggest reading them at night before going to bed.  This happened to me once or twice and I realized this wasn’t the kind of material that can be enjoyed at high speed like an adventure novel.  But if you give each story some time and attention it will reward you with a smile and a chuckle.  I’m glad now I was made aware of The Cyberiad.  I will enjoy returning to the adventures of the two intrepid Constructors Trurl and Klapaucius on some cold night in January when my world needs something lighthearted and clever to get me through the short days and long nights of winter.  But if you don’t like an airy, poetical style of writing this might not be for you.

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 3

So, on Thursdays I usually headed downtown for dinner at the Club.  The food was okay.  The service was slow.  The drink selection was limited.  The dues were outrageous.  But the company was never bad.  Not that it was always exceptional, but it was never annoying.  There was a rule against annoying.  You could be boring or quiet but if management saw you annoying one of the other guests you would be gone very soon, and you wouldn’t be back.  Or rather you might be back but the Club would be gone.  It was a by-invitation-only organization that could and did change venue seemingly at random.  If you didn’t show up for a week (or a month or a decade) no one would bat an eye when you showed up next.  But if you didn’t get a change of venue notice then your presence was no longer desired.  So, who was invited?  Well any member could recommend a new member.  But only the Owner sent out invites.  And if someone was brought along by any member uninvited then both men would not be returning.  Oh, and all members were men.  Also, a rule.  The first few times a new member attended he might mention the lack of women as an oddity (or even a relief) but soon it just became the norm.  Now you might think that such an arrangement would dissolve sooner or later due to the friction that such arbitrary rules would create.  Or that the desire to continue in such a seemingly mediocre establishment would not be strong enough to maintain a decent showing.  You’d be wrong.  On any given night twenty patrons would be in attendance.  Some nights there might be forty.  This popularity must be attributed to the ability of the Owner to pick men.  He had a profile that provided almost fool-proof selection.  His vetting process was scrupulous and thorough.  The selection failures were few and so far, the fallout from these had always been repairable.  Apparently, his damage control methods were effective and discrete.

So, what was the profile?  Married with children, wife raised the kids and made a home for the family, husband supported the family (employed or a businessman), over thirty-five years of age and intolerant of the presence of idiots.  Who decided what idiocy was limited to?  In this case the Owner.  He looked for signs and circumstances.  Negative evidence was probably more important than positive.  A lack of bumper stickers with slogans like Coexist and Tolerance was a given.  The absence of financial support for any organization that explicitly or implicitly supported involuntary redistribution of wealth was a bare minimum requirement.  Mostly he used second hand accounts followed up by field work.  He was very thorough.  There were no idiots.  Finally, the smoking prohibition.  You were prohibited from bothering anybody who wanted to smoke.  There was a no-smoking section but that was pretty empty most nights.

Oh, and once a year you had to be able to tell a truly interesting story.  So, either you were someone who had interesting things happening in your life or you had to be a great story teller.  Either would do.  Of course, how would you know if the story were true?  Well, you couldn’t ask (another rule).

So, it was a Thursday.  It was a warm night for early October.  Barely jacket weather.  No clouds and a bright moon.  When I arrived, I was greeted at the front desk by Dave and buzzed in to the main hall.  I could see it was a slow night, maybe twenty-five patrons were milling around and waiting for seating.  I noticed the Owner (Dan) standing in a corner talking to a new face.  I headed over to say hi and find out what was on the menu.

“Hey Dan, what’s good tonight?”

“If you ask me, nothing.  I’d stick with the chicken fried steak.  Unless you’re well insured, then go with the fish.”

“Wow.  That’s grim.  Maybe you should lie until the new members have ordered the special.”

“I’m not worried.  Have you met Jim?”

“Nice to meet you Jim.”

“Jim, this is John.  He’s a regular.  Guess his wife is sick of looking at him.”

“On the contrary, I’m adored and pampered by the missus.  I only come here to allow her a night to visit her family.  When she gets home from seeing her sisters, suddenly I seem like more of a catch compared with her brothers in law.  They’re quite a group.”

“Hi John.  Nice to meet you.  Yeah, I know what you mean.  My wife’s got three sisters and from how they describe their husbands I’m guessing someone’s going to be on a most wanted show sooner or later.”

Dan broke in:

“So, Jim here is new, can you introduce him around and find a spot for him?”

“Sure.  Jim, you interested in some penny ante poker before dinner?”

“I like poker, but I’m a pretty lousy player.  I tend to bet over enthusiastically.”

“Great, you’ll be the most popular guy here tonight.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.  Seriously I’ve only got a few bucks in my pocket.  Will that get me through?”

“Sure, it really is penny ante.  We only use money to keep it from getting too boring.  Mostly we play to slow us down while we’re scarfing down cold cuts.  Come on.  I’ll introduce you to the boys.”

We headed over to a table of regulars that had a few empty seats.  I introduced Jim and we all got to talking about the latest travesty in D.C.  This proved very popular with everyone.  Within five minutes Jim was right in the thick of the grumbling and indistinguishable from the veterans.  A few minutes later the waiter came by and took our orders.  As I mentioned earlier the food was so-so.  But tonight, rib-eye was on the menu and the steak was usually very good.  I think it was something Dan liked so we benefited from his choice in that respect.  I ordered it along with a couple of baked potatoes and got back to the conversation.  Consensus had built to the effect that if Obama was not actually Satan then at the very least, he was a close relation.  The usual fifty-seven states and “corpseman” jokes were worked over again and everyone settled in for the dinner.  Someone asked Jim where he was from.  “I’m originally from Brooklyn but I’ve been living in various places in New England for the last twenty plus years”.  This elicited the obligatory “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” responses and a few heartfelt shots at the Sox and Pats from the mostly New York City group.  He laughed it off and said he was a die-hard Yankees fan but that he didn’t pay any mind to the rabid New England fans.  “Mostly I just wait for the bad years and feign sympathy while they wallow in misery.  It really is fun to watch.”  Then I asked Jim if he had given his first annual story yet.  He looked troubled and confessed that he was dreading it.  “I’m not much of a public speaker.  It’s gonna be like getting a root canal without Novocain.”  “Hey, it’s a piece of cake.  First of all, have a couple of belts before you get started and we don’t get started until we move into the sitting room.  The chairs are very comfortable in there and really reduce the stress levels.  Concentrate on someone sitting next to you and it won’t seem like public speaking.  More like just a bull-session.”  After that we got caught up in an argument over whether “The Maltese Falcon” was a better Bogey movie than “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”  This lasted about half an hour and introduced all kinds of heretical views and produced much heat but almost no light.  Luckily at that point the food arrived.  Sure enough, the rib eye was just about perfect.  By the time I was done with the second spud and was sopping up a little juice with a hunk of  French bread I had reached what I imagined Gautama must have been hoping for when he started sitting cross-legged under that tree.

The beer and wine were flowing pretty freely at our table and the dishes had been removed and someone asked if we should start the card game up again but there were no takers so we wandered into the sitting room and the group continued with a discussion on the latest movie.  It was a science fiction adventure yarn with Earth being invaded by super-intelligent lobsters from the Andromeda Galaxy.  Many rude comments were expressed over the lack of actual proof that shellfish had what it takes to invent a really convincing warp drive.  Interestingly, Jim was extremely quiet when disparagement of the idea that extraterrestrials might visit the Earth was being discussed.

Dan showed up and instructed the wait staff and the members to drag the chairs into the traditional half circle around the speaker’s seat by the fire place.  By this point I could see that the crowd was about thirty men.  And surprisingly Dan was leading Jim over to the speaker’s chair.  As he settled himself in, I could tell that he was pretty nervous.  Dan introduced Jim as a new member and applauded him for the courage to tell his story on his first night in the club.  Jim thanked him, looked around the circle nervously and cleared his throat.  Everyone expected him to proceed so a very noticeable silence built up for about two minutes while Jim seemed to be staring at his feet.  Finally I could see several men fidgeting in their chairs and scratching their faces in a sort of impatient way.  Then Jim cleared his throat again and began.

“As the subject of my story I’d like to tell you how I saved the Earth almost single-handedly from interstellar invasion.”

I could tell it was going to be a really good Thursday.

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 2

Professor Gordrow arranged his thoughts and began his lecture again.  “Now before I was interrupted, I was touching on the general topic of First Contact and I mentioned the classic Earth example.  But to provide the background for that remarkable event I will remind you neophytes of the underlying mathematics.  As anyone who has the intelligence to understand it knows Gordrow’s First Theorem of Quantum Chrono-Cosmo-Moiro-Dynamics states that when the probability of historical change uniformly approaches zero in a volume of space that continues to increase toward infinity then the quantum time-space probability reversal will be centered on the asymptotic fault line.  This theory in fact was proven following the First Contact we are considering.  At that time Earth was at the periphery of a rapidly expanding galactic civilization that had spread from the galactic core over the course of a billion years and was now so rapidly expanding that the odds of any possible combination of events halting its engulfment of the entire Milky Way galaxy was essentially zero.  What a perfect test of the theory!  Now if you inspect the terms in the denominator of the third term you’ll see …”

“But Professor Gordrow!” exclaimed Dorson Tendandren.  Gordrow radiated annoyance and shot back, “Why are you interrupting me now you idiot?”  Dorson continued, “Professor none of this is clear to me.  How could such a regression occur?  What possible sequence of events could reverse such an unstoppable force and in such a short time?  It seems inconceivable.  Can you show us the historical record?”  Gordrow was disgusted and his aura reflected it.  “Show you?  What is this kindergarten?  Would you like me to sing you a lullaby too?  Would you like me to count from one to a googolplex just to prove that there are numbers in between?  Wasting my time in this way is a sin against intelligence and a victory for entropy and just one more fatal step toward the heat death of the universe.  Neophyte Tendandren, I intend to see that you suffer exquisitely during my final exam.  I will recommend to the professional board that your truest vocational assignment would be as gravitational ballast.”

Professor Gordrow summoned his composure for a moment and continued.  “For the intellectually challenged who are very temporarily among us I will now play the historical record of the singularity event.  Those with normal intelligence are free to take a nap.  Dolts, attend!”

Need A Laugh?

In the classic movie “The Caine Mutiny” the petty tyrant Captain Queeg assigns the deceptive title of morale officer to one of his unfortunate junior officers.  His responsibility in this position was to ruthlessly enforce the dress code down to the buttoning of shirts and the length of hair on the enlisted men.  Whereas this was a mockery of the concept of morale I believe that a morale officer is exactly what the country needs right now.  And to a large extent that is what President Trump has been attempting to do with his COVID-19 press conferences.  He’s trying to provide helpful information and an optimistic assessment of the progress we’re making in the dreary business of navigating through the pandemic swamp.  But we need more than that.  Trapped in our homes and deprived of even the opportunity to work we need some distractions.  We need some entertainment.

In a happier time, even just a short generation ago we could turn on the television and we would find on every network at least one show that was funny enough to distract us.  Back in the early 1990s you could watch Home Improvement with Tim Allen as a tv dad with his wife and three boys stumbling through the foibles of American family life with gentle humor and a very muted take on the battle of the sexes and the revolt of the young against their parents.  Later on, you could still laugh at the misanthropic but relatively harmless antics of Seinfeld and his neurotic associates.  Even during the 2000s you could see a show like King of Queens where the humor was more like a pitched battle between the husband and wife and the dysfunctionality of the older generation was on full display with Jerry Stiller’s portrayal of Arthur Spooner more resembling a mental patient than a normal adult.  But it was funny and the characters somewhat resembled real people.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  The loss of any originality on network television seems to have killed off the sitcom.  The stupidity of the writing and the restrictions on the plot dictated by political correctness have rendered these shows unwatchable.  Maybe the better writers have moved over to cable stations like HBO and Netflix but the darkness of most of what passes for comedy on cable is pretty extreme.

And that is where we are.  As a society we are surrounded by joyless dysfunctional productions that are supposed to be entertainment.  The action shows aren’t good but they’re just supposed to tell a simple story of good versus evil.  That’s easy enough to do.  Comedy is harder.  It takes intelligence and an actual sense of humor.  Those two things are mostly absent now.  But that’s what we need.  A good laugh.

Luckily, there is a lot of old comedy available.  And there is probably something there for all tastes.  Everything from the tame antics of the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello and the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, to the early modern comedy of George Carlin, Mel Brooks and Rodney Dangerfield, to the outrageous Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, right up to the current rants of Dave Chappelle.  Of course, the definition of funny varies enormously depending on the audience.  It’s probably safe to say that generational tastes will divide the audience into several camps.  But what is undeniable is that the modern entertainment industry has destroyed comedy.

But we still need a laugh.  So, go looking for something that is funny and put it on and have a good laugh.  You need it and the rest of us do too.

What I would recommend is do a search online for what movies, tv shows and comedy recordings are considered the funniest for the time periods when your concept of comedy was formed and see if you agree with the opinion.  Look at general lists of comedies for these time periods and make a list of your own favorites.  Then rent or buy or stream a few of these comedies together in your own film festival.  Make sure you have your favorite popcorn or other snacks and enjoy.  Maybe tell a friend or two and have a virtual movie festival in separate homes.  You can make a deal to swap favorites and compare notes after the fact.

Just to show that my heart is in the right place I’ll throw a few out.  Now mind you, I’ll start off by saying my tastes are peculiar.  But there they are.  I’ll go with two W. C. Fields movies, “It’s a Gift” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”  I always enjoy his henpecked husband routine and the melodramatic actress who plays his wife in both these movies is perfect.  I love telling Camera Girl that she treats me just as badly as Field’s wife in the movies.

Add in the first installment of the “Thin Man” series.  And finish off the early movies with the Marx Brother’s “A Night at the Opera.”  For the later decades we could take a couple of Bill Murray movies, say “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day.”  Maybe add a Jim Carrey movie, say the “Mask.”  And finish off with a cartoon that’s mostly a comedy like “The Incredibles.”  For a classic tv series I’d go with Jackie Gleason’s, “The Honeymooners.”

If you have any picks you’d like to volunteer leave them in the comments and share the wealth.

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 1

[I’m working on an outline for a series of stories.  Here’s a starting point for the framework.

photog]

 

Dorn had been daydreaming through the first period of his Quant class and now he realized he had lost the thread of Professor Gordrow’s lecture just as the professor called on him.  “Well, neophyte Dorn, I notice that your cortical penumbra hasn’t changed potential since the lecture began, so you must already know everything I’ve transmitted.”  “Yes, your sagacity, I mean no, your sagacity.”  “Well which is it?  Are you now conversant in the primary examples of the seven first order patterns of First Contact, or aren’t you?  Answer me, you vacuous waste of neutrinos.”

Hearing the question, Dorn relaxed, for he had spent last semester studying First Contact under the foremost Quantum Historian in the Multiverse, Banstat Fabobble.  For this reason, Dorn confidently answered, “Yes your sagacity I am.”  “Well then tell the class what you think is the most unlikely quantum outcome for any First Contact scenario.”  Dorn raised his transmission to the highest polite output level and declared, “As proven by Fabobble’s first theorem of interspecial dynamics, no species below the level of independent interstellar travel can ever compete successfully against a species above that level.  In fact, it’s axiomatic.”  Feeling very proud of himself Dorn allowed his cortical penumbra to pulse through the electrogravitic spectrum for a noticeable time.

Professor Gordrow replied, “Very glibly stated Dorn, and also utterly wrong!  Banstat Fabobble is a hack and a fraud who has made his reputation kowtowing to administrative nincompoops who wouldn’t recognize a quantum paradox if it swallowed up their own boring corner of the multiverse.”  Dorn’s penumbra shriveled up and he retreated to the periphery of the academic cloud and Professor Gordrow continued.

“Now attend to what I say.  Every First Contact is unique and the seven first order patterns account for barely 99.999999999% of all known cases.  This leaves an infinity of less probable cases, of which some subset, which itself includes an infinity of examples is composed of just the type that that fathead Fabobble claims is impossible.”

“If it please your sagacity, can you give us an example?” asked a nervous thought from the front of the class.  Gordrow was silent for a moment and then continued.  “Of course, I can.  In fact, I’ll use the most famous First Contact of all.  I’ll use Earth.”  “But Earth’s First Contact was a case of two advanced races meeting in neutral space” corrected the nervous interlocuter.  “Hah!” exclaimed Gordrow, “that is what we teach the dust clouds before they coalesce.  But you are ready for the messy truth.  Record this data.  Attend!”

Laughing at the Corona Virus

One of my oldest friends sent this to me today.  I’ll have to say that as ridiculous as it is, the laugh I got out of it did me a lot of good.  And the vindictiveness of the last holiday decision rang completely true to the spirit of all the paisans I grew up with.  Revenge and spite were their two favorite past times.  Tell me what you think.

 

 

The Absolutely Final, Last Stand of the Losers, 2020 Democratic Kamikaze Debate

Dramatis Personae: Bernie Sanders (BP); Joe Biden (JB); Elizabeth Warren (EW); Amy Klobuchar (AK); Mike Bloomberg (MB); Mystery Candidate (MC); Christiane Amanpour (CA); Rudy Giuliani (RG); Joy Reid (JR); Anderson Cooper (AC); Rachel Maddow (RM);

 

(Scene 1: Inside the media booth at the final Democratic Debate in San Francisco)

 

CA – Hello, I’m Christiane Amanpour with my interesting British accent, and we’re here at the final 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate in beautiful San Francisco, California.

RG – Beautiful?  You call trying to navigate around a sidewalk festooned with human feces and vomit beautiful?  Christiane, that’s some weird alternate reality you live in.

CA – And as you can see and hear, I’m joined by the always cantankerous, former Mayor of New York and current attorney for President Trump, Rudy Giuliani.

RG – I can live with cantankerous.

CA – And we’ll be here to see who will step up and try to knock Bernie Sanders off his trajectory of winning the Democratic Presidential Nomination.

RG – Actually I’m here for the laughs.  These losers are trying to stop the Crazy Party from nominating the King of the Lunatics.  That seems to be an impossibility.

CA – Despite Rudy’s penchant for Right Wing propaganda, it will be interesting to see if the more moderate candidates attempt to make an issue of Bernie Sanders flirtation with socialism.

RG – Flirtation?  I would say that it was consummated to use a polite word.  To continue your analogy, if this were seventy years ago, we’d be seeing a shotgun wedding between Bernie and Communism.

CA – Well, enough of this banter.  Let’s go to the debate stage.  The seven candidates are now advancing to their podiums and the moderators are seated.  We have CNN’s Anderson Cooper and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid.

RG – Ah yes, the voices of reason.  Where did I put my barf bag?

 

(Scene 2: Wide shot of the moderators and candidates on the debate stage)

 

JR – I’m Joy Reid and welcome to the audience here at the Palace of Fine Arts here in vibrant San Francisco.

(A voice from the audience gives a loud bitter laugh and an epithet.  A struggle is seen in the audience and a man is tased and carried away.)

JR – Spirits are high and let’s meet our panel and the candidates.  I’m joined by my colleagues Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper who know in their hearts that that wasn’t me who allegedly said those homophobic remarks all those years ago because that is not who I am.

(Maddow and Cooper glare at her over rigid smiles.)

JR – And here are the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates.  In decreasing order of electoral relevance, Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist democrat from Vermont; Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City; Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend Indiana; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Billionaire Tom Steyer of San Francisco California.  Welcome all of you or Zae, Zee, Zi, Zo, Zou and sometimes Zy.

(The candidates look confused and mumble some replies.)

RM – Hey wait a minute, that’s not Tom Steyer there at the loser end of the podium.  It’s a masked intruder in an ill-fitting white pantsuit!

MC – That’s right Rachel Maddow, I am the “mystery candidate” and Tom Steyer has voluntarily surrendered his place on the stage and his billion-dollar fortune to me in my run for the presidency.

AC – But that’s nonsense.  This is the end of the campaign and there’s no way that can be justified under the rules of the debate or the DNC campaign requirements.

BP – Wanna bet Anderson?  How do you think they justified screwing me out of the nomination last time?

RM – Alright but why the mask?  You’re obviously Hillary Clinton and you’re not fooling anyone.

MC – That’s ridiculous!  Hillary Clinton is so beloved by the people that she would never disguise herself.  It would be throwing away her natural advantage.

RM – If that’s so how come you lost the last two times you ran.

MC – That’s a damn lie.  The Russians stole the election from me.  … I mean from her.

JR – Alright, whatever, we don’t have all night let’s move on and get this show on the road.

AC – The first question will be answered by all the candidates.  Why do you want to be President of the United States of America?  Senator Sanders?

BS – I wanna say that when I am President the first order of business will be to make the minimum wage $500 dollars an hour.  That way all Americans will be earning a million dollars a year.  Then I will make the tax on the million-dollar bracket 100%.  That will flood the treasury with cash and balance the budget.  I would seize all businesses and nationalize them and all profits would be divided equally by all the people.  And finally, I would declare all humans and some primates American citizens and allow them all to enjoy the fruits of this land.  To each according to his needs and from each according to his abilities.

RM – Hey that’s misogynist!  You should have said her or at least their.

BS – Yes, that’s what I should have said.  But, I am very old, you know.

MB – Hey can I say something in rebuttal?

AC – Well Mayor Bloomberg, it’s your turn to answer the question.  If you want to discuss Senator Sander’s answer feel free.

MB- Thanks.  Bernie Sanders is a dangerous lunatic.  What he just laid out was a delusional plan that would bankrupt the country and collapse the financial system of the entire planet.  I can’t actually calculate how bad it would be but I guess that tens of millions would starve in the first few months and the urban areas would devolve into cannibalism within the first year.  Shortly after that the Chinese would invade and occupy the more desirable farming and mining areas and allow the rest to revert to primitive tribalism.

BS – This bloated plutocrat is lying.  He has grown fat on the forced labor of the lumpen proletariat.

MB – Hey looks who’s talking about bloated and fat.  I keep my weight at a very optimal point and you look pretty flabby to me Mr. Millionaire Communist.

BS – Liar, I’m a Democratic Socialist!  And a millionaire isn’t a billionaire like you!

MB – Socialist, Communist.  Potato, pattata.

AC – Well Mayor Bloomberg, you’ve critiqued your opponent’s plan.  What is you reason for running?

MB – I see the most urgent threat that America is faced with is what to do about the “Big Gulp.”  Are you aware that the fifty-ounce beverage is killing more Americans each year than cancer and opioids combined?  And also, the average American butt size has increased by eleven inches over the last twenty years.  I am on a crusade to bring health and longevity to the people of this great country.  Once my War on gulps is victorious, I intend to go after the Big Mac, the Whopper and, God willing, the all you can eat Lobster Fest at Red Lobster.

AC – Well I see what you mean about butt size.  It’s a pet peeve of mine too.  Well Mr. Vice President, it’s your turn.

JB – You know when I was the right-hand man of a certain clean articulate President named Barack Obama, I suppose you remember him, he said to me, he said, “Joe, old friend, what can be done to stop the Big Gulp?”  Well I drew up a plan and pushed through the legislation in record time and that’s how we defeated the Big Gulp.

MB – That never happened.

JB – Listen you lying, dog-faced pony soldier, why don’t we have a push up contest or go out behind the barn and decide this the old-fashioned way with chains and straight razors.

AC – Please Mr. Vice President, try to stay on track.

JB – Well as I was saying, back last year when I was Vice President, I set up the program that made the minimum wage $500 an hour and that’s how we ended poverty in our lifetime.

(Stunned silence descends on the stage and crowd.)

AC – While the former Vice President is being escorted to the emergency room for treatment, can you tell us your reason for being President, Mayor Buttigieg.

PB – Thank you Anderson, we all acknowledge the terrible struggle you’ve endured at the hands of the rampant homophobia that is America’s scourge.  I too have tasted the whiplash sting of its cruelty.

AC – Ahhhh?  You do know I’m a Vanderbilt and have hundreds of millions of dollars, right?

PB – No amount of wealth can make up for the whiplash sting of cruelty.

AC – Sure, but it really helps, don’t you think?

PB – Well, maybe.  Anyway, my priority will be ensuring that every American child knows the name and correct pronunciation for the names of all the Latin American dictators, uhhh … I mean leaders in our hemisphere.

AK – Screw you, you little jerk.

AC – Please Senator Klobuchar, your turn isn’t next.

AK – He sucks!

PB – Homophobe!

AK – Ahhh, grow a pair you little weasel!

AC – Please, please!  Let’s get back to business.  Senator Warren it’s your turn.

EW – Thank you Anderson.  One of the most important parts of my candidacy is bringing a woman’s perspective to the presidency.  Women are the practical money handlers in their families.  We know how to avoid debt and live within our means.  Looking at Senator Sanders’ ridiculous proposal it doesn’t take a CPA to see that a $500 an hour minimum wage is insanity.  The fact that he doesn’t recognize its absurdity is proof of his unfitness to be President.  Applying a real-world perspective along with a woman’s social justice instincts points to a minimum wage that is absolutely no higher than $450 an hour.

MB – Is it too late for me to get a MAGA hat?

AC – Alright let’s hang in there for a few more minutes. This thing is almost over.  Senator Klobuchar have you got some brief comments you’d like to make.

AK – You betcha.  I can’t win this thing.  I’m too close to normal.  What I would like to do is throw something at that little weasel Buttigieg.  If someone will just hold him for a second, I’ll kick his skinny little butt.

AC – Security please escort Senator Klobuchar from the stage and get Mayor Pete some smelling salts.  Alright, “Mystery Candidate,” would you like a shot at the question?

MC – I’d be delighted Anderson.  For all of my life I’ve strived to educate the American people about their unworthiness and what they needed to do to atone for their sins.  And at the top of that list is making me their President.  I’ve suffered as no other woman ever has.  I’ve been ridiculed for my looks, my weight, my voice, my husband’s womanizing and for the very large number of coincidental suicides that seem to occur all around me.  I want to be President so that all this persecution will end.  I will set up a Presidential tribunal that will adjudicate all these capitol offenses fairly and once these people have been brought to justice, I intend to eliminate the 22nd amendment by executive order and give the United States the permanent and hereditary leadership it has always deserved.

AC – Okay, I think my colleagues will agree to skip their questioning so that we can escape before the voters storm this building and drag us off to Alcatraz for summary execution.  I apologize heartily to the American people and promise to find a real job where I can atone for my connection to this lunatic asylum.

(Scene 3: Inside the media booth)

RG – Well there you have it.  Christiane Amanpour has fled the building with Joe Biden in hot pursuit trying to grab her shoulders and smell her hair.  I haven’t had such a good time since the Yankees won the World Series from the Mets in 2000.  Well anyway, it doesn’t look like there’ll be much drama in November but I suppose that’s best for the country.  But I hope you’ve enjoyed the show.  Sorry it couldn’t have gone longer but these people really do need to get back to the hospital.  Good night and Keep America Great in November.

#1 in Customer Service, The Complete Adventures of Tom Stranger (Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent #3) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review

For the sake of accuracy let me say that his is actually an audiobook.  It’s found on Audible which is an Amazon company.

This is the third installment in the Tom Stranger saga but Audible has bundled all the earlier episodes in with three new chapter in the series adding up to eight hours of listening time.  The Tom Stranger stories are a goofball joke that Larry Correia of “Monster Hunter International” fame spun out in 2016 as a lark.  But he got Adam Baldwin (of Firefly and Chuck fame) to do the narration and the first one was so much fun to listen to that I’ve kept up with the nutty series ever since.

The idea is exactly what the title implies.  Tom Stranger is an interdimensional insurance agent.  He travels throughout the multiverse settling claims on any policies meant to protect a client in one dimension from interference by any being from a different dimension.  So, as a for instance, while in our dimension back in 2016 Barack Obama was president of the United States, in another universe Adam Baldwin wasn’t just an actor but was also elected president.  So, when something from our universe threatened this alternate reality, Tom Stranger was called in by the policy owner, Adam Baldwin, to restore the balance and repair the damage.

Now Larry Correia was the originator of the Sad Puppies campaign against the SJWs of pink science fiction so tweaking liberals and other weirdos is a healthy chunk of the content and motivation for the stories.  But everyone else, including himself, Adam Baldwin and even nominal allies like President Trump come in for abuse somewhere in the story.  The only group that consistently escapes abuse are manatees.  Tom is presented exactly like the earnest insurance agent he is, humorless, efficient, extremely uncool and incorruptible.

I will say right up front that if you don’t like goofball humor and don’t appreciate pretty heavy handed SJW bashing this may not be your cup of tea.  Also, right now the book is free if you start a trial membership of Audible.  I guess if you cared to you can get it free and then cancel the trial membership. But I just bought it because I’m a trillionaire.  Otherwise it is $28 dollars which seems like a lot of money for a goofy book.  So, I’ll say that this book is definitely not for everybody.  Also Audible is one of those services where the audio file doesn’t reside on your computer but streams from their servers.  Being a geezer, this annoys the hell out of me.

Going back to the story, it’s something that I like but it has several things going for it for my tastes.  First off, I was a participant in the Puppy Wars and enjoy anything that tweaks the SF SJWs.  Secondly Larry Correia is a very funny guy and writes a really clever satire.  And finally, Adam Baldwin is great fun as the narrator.

So, there it is.  A specialty product that isn’t for everyone but satisfies a niche for a special audience.

The Dog Days – 2019 Edition

As I’ve mentioned too many times before, there are only two seasons in New England; Winter and July.  And a glance at the calendar tells me that this week it will be time to have the snow blower tuned up and order a couple of tons of road sand (I stay away from salt on account of respect for my well water quality).

But before the horror truly begins it’s allowable to savor the brief ecstasy that July represents.  July this year has been undeniably full-blast summer almost from beginning to end.   It’s been one sunny hot day after another with only a torrential thunderstorm thrown in occasionally to keep the lawn from turning to straw and blowing away.  The only irregularity was a soggy May and June where the lack of sunshine has offset flower bloom and butterfly schedules by at least three weeks.  Only in the last few days have the monarch caterpillars finally appeared on the milkweed and the Black-Eyed-Susans are behind in their flowering by about the same amount.  But actually, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.  It will make August much livelier than typically and will allow me the illusion that Autumn is far, far away.

The other thing that the end of summer heralds is the beginning of the political season.  July and August are the silly season in the news business.  Everyone is on vacation and no one reads the news.  Even blogs see a downturn in readership during this time and compensate by featuring human interest stories, conspiracy theories and scantily clad women.  Here at OCF we can’t afford these fripperies so we make up for it with good old fashioned hard-boiled investigative reporting.  We make the deep dive into the who, what and why behind those headlines you see splashed across the top of the News.  We’re not satisfied with echoing the news.  We’re determined to break the news.  And that is why I’m honored to announce our first scoop of the New England Winter Season.

Creepy Uncle Joe Biden will select Michelle Obama as his running mate.

It seems to be the perfect way for a campaign ticket fronted by Creepy Uncle Joe to add the requisite number of intersectional victim points that he so obviously lacks.  Also, that way, when Biden loses it adds the marginal credibility of having been a VP running mate for when Michelle runs for President in 2024.  For the Dems it’s a win/win.  This lets them vote for an old straight white guy who has the best chance of actually winning but without feeling like sellouts.  And it gives the Obamas a foot back in the White House door.  And now they can reuse all those Obama/Biden buttons and bumper stickers.  They just have to cut the year off.  And flip them around or something.

Now you may ask where this bombshell report originated.  Well, let’s just say that the research was a combination of powerful artificial intelligence search algorithms and the intuition that only comes from decades of good old fashioned hard-boiled investigative reporting.  That’s right, we had Walter Cronkite’s engrams uploaded into a cloud-based matrix and then overlaid them with the programming from the HAL 9000 system.

Well, actually, we really couldn’t do either of those things.  We don’t really know what engrams are and even if we did, we wouldn’t be allowed to mess with Walter Cronkite.  And the HAL 9000 computer never really existed.  So, no, we didn’t do those things.  But we really thought about this a lot and we really think we nailed this.  It’s definitely Michelle Obama, definitely.  Well, there is a small, small chance that it’s actually gonna be Oprah.  Like three to six percent.  And maybe like a half a percent Beyoncé but that’s like not even worth mentioning.

Well there you have it.  Hard hitting news gathered by good old fashioned hard-boiled investigative reporting.  You heard it here first.  It’s Biden/Obama!  Or /Oprah.  Or just possibly / Beyoncé.  One of those for sure!

I think.

 

 

Trump vs the Kevin Hart Oscar Depart MAGA Restart

Dramatis Personae:  Robert Iger – (RI);  The Ghost of Walt Disney – (GWD);  Steven Spielberg – (SS);  Robert De Niro – (RD);  President Trump – (PT);

Scene 1 – Robert Iger’s Office, Steven Spielberg and Robert DeNiro are sitting facing Iger’s desk.

RI – Look Steve and Bob we’ve got to do something about this Oscar mess.  ABC is hosting the Oscars this year and we’re depending on the ratings to get us through the doldrums between the Superbowl and Spring training.  And considering the money we’re losing on the ESPN fiasco we need this bad.

SS – Robert, why don’t we have Bob over here do the hosting?  Everyone loves him.  He’d be great.

RD – Yeah, Robert, I’ll kill it.  I can start out with a Trump bash and end up with a #MeToo medley of monsters we’ve purged this year.

RI – Are you insane?  We’re trying to expand our base beyond the weirdos and cat ladies.  Can’t you try and be human?

SS – Robert, what’s wrong with playing to our base?

RI – Look, other than Marvel superhero movies and cartoons this studio hasn’t made a dime on any of these other pictures in years.  We’ve got to start bringing in normal people soon or I’m going to sell off the other business to China and just keep Pixar and Marvel.  Now who do we have who can bring in the normies?

SS – How about Tom Hanks?

RD – No good.  Back when he was doing Bosom Buddies, he called his co-star a fruit while the camera was rolling.  That’s hate speech.

RI – Great Caesar’s Ghost!  Doesn’t GLAAD ever take a break?

SS – I’m sorry Robert, Tom was our last straight man that hasn’t been #MeToo’ed.

RI – Alright you two idiots, get out of here.  I’ve got to have some quiet so I can think.

Scene 2 – Robert Iger’s bedroom that same night.  Iger in his bed alone talking to himself.

RI – What can I do?  I’ve tried every actor, singer, politician and intellectual in the country and every one is either compromised or unwilling.  What can I do, what can I do.

Suddenly the ghost of Walt Disney appears over Iger’s bed.

GWD – Iger, you idiot, how did such a loser end up running my company?

RI – Is that really you Walt Disney?

GWD – No I’m Tupac Shakur.  Of course, it’s me, you idiot.  You’ve got a life size picture of me on your office wall.  What’s the matter, are you blind?

RI – I just can’t believe you’re really here.

GWD – Well, it’s not as if I had a choice.  I can’t let a congenital imbecile like you chloroform my company.

RI – But what can I do?  The only man who isn’t afraid of #MeToo is Rosie ODonnell.

GWD – The answer is staring you in the face. (Disney punches Iger between the eyes)  And when you wake up you’ll have the answer.

Scene 3 – Host’s Dais at the Dolby Theater for the Oscars.  President Trump walks to the microphone to the sound of screams and boos.

PT – Good evening weirdos and losers of Hollywood.  I’m here because I’m the only living man in these United States who isn’t afraid of the Outrage Police.  So, I’ve been tasked with announcing the nominees and keeping it under four hours.

Well I can do a lot better than that.  How about four minutes?  All you need to know is that no one who voted for me will see a single one of the pictures you’ve nominated.  And I’ll tell you something else.  If you don’t start making movies like they did in the last century you’ll be lucky if the Oscars make it to the next decade.  My vote is for Deadpool 2.  Oh, and DeNiro, you suck.  Trump out.